Friday, December 27, 2013

"I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm pregnant"

Sometimes it comes in an unexpected conversation.  Sometimes it comes at a big holiday or event.  Sometimes it comes in a phone call.  Sometimes it comes in a Facebook announcement to you and the whole world.  And sometimes it comes in a text message.  A very long.  Very stuttered.  Very merciful. Very kind.  And yet very painful text message.

"I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm pregnant."

She's nervous.  She's scared.  She's been dreading it.  She's been putting it off.

And she feels guilty.

And she shouldn't  She really shouldn't.  But she knows that there is absolutely zero way that she can share this huge, life-altering, joyous, inevitable news with you.

Without stabbing the deepest of daggers in your heart.

She knows that you've always been close.  She knows that you've always been there for her.  And she knows that you love her.  And yet.  And yet she wonders.

Will she hate me?  

And you have always been close.  And you have always been there for her.  And you do love her.  And you could never hate her.

But the part of your heart that jumps at the exciting, miraculous, divine new that you've just heard is overshadowed by the shattering of what's left of a heart that is drowning in sorrow, jealousy, and fear.

And never in your whole life have you ever wanted to feel something so badly.  To be able to grit your teeth, tell your emotions to shove it, and push through with smiles, laughter, and join in the excitement.  And so you try.  And you try.  And you try.  And every time.  You fail.  Because, no matter the size of the pep talk you give yourself, no matter the amount of analytic that was passed on to you by your oh so logical and wise engineer of a father, you absolutely cannot, will not succeed in harnessing the "mind over matter" mentality.

But there is no mind over matter when it comes to matters of the heart.

Because Christmas came and went, and your miracle did not come.  Because you are grieving, even still, loss upon loss upon loss.   Because your doctor has just given you news that stacks just one more odd against you.  Because you are facing the cost and anxiety of insanely expensive treatments and less than favorable odds.  Because your hope is deferred and your heart is sick.  Because you feel out of place with the people you have always felt comfortable with.  Because you are jealous.  Because you are sad.  Because there is no end in sight.  And because you are tired of being lapped by everyone else.  Again.  When you can't even get around the track once.

And as Max Lucado puts it in You'll Get Through This:
  "[You] fear that the depression will never lift, the yelling will never stop, the pain will never leave.  Here in the pits, surrounded by steep walls, we wonder, will this gray sky ever brighten?  This load ever lighten?  [You] feel stuck, trapped, locked in.  Predestined for failure.  Will [you] ever exit this pit?"

And those announcements are never easy to receive.

Even when they come from the women you love most in this world.

And you  may not be able to pull it together enough to send the congratulations they deserve.  Or to go to the showers.  Or to buy the little bunny pajamas that their little one would look ridiculously cute wearing.

But some day, you might.

Because as Max continues to point out, "[...] life in the pit stinks.  Yet for all its rottenness, doesn't the pit do this much?  It forces you to look upward.  Someone from up there must come down here and give you a hand.  God did for Joseph.  At the right time, in the right way, He will do the same for you."

And so today, I may not have the fortitude to gush out the "Congratulations!!!! <3 <3 <3" that she deserves.  And I may struggle and fight and claw and grapple to get my attitude to cooperate.  But last week?  Last week, I did something that I never would have guessed possible.  I attended and participated in a gender reveal party for one my dearest of friends.  With all of the family and the frosting filled cupcakes.  And the squeals.  And the cameras.  And the baby shower planning.

And I brought the bunny pajamas.

And it was.  One of the most bittersweet moments of my life.  There was no way that it would not be tinged with the sadness of my own loss and longing.  But for one night.  For one friend.  I looked upward and was given a Hand of strength, of mercy, and of gentleness,  to overcome.  To smile.  To celebrate.  And to be joyful for her miracle.  It doesn't sound like much.  But it was the most victorious of milestones for this grieving girl.

And the next announcement will come, just as it did today.  And it might be gentle, sensitive and kind.  And it might not.  And I will be glad.  But I will also feel the inevitable sting.  But I will try and try and try to show her the kindness and the joy that she deserves, though it will likely not be enough.  And so here and now.  You [all] know who you are-- let me just say.  I love you.  Do not, I repeat, do not allow my current calling to sorrow steal from your joy.  The enemy would love nothing more.  You can still love me (as I have no doubt that you do).  And you can still cry for my struggle, as many of you have told me that you do.  But do not.  Allow.  Your joy.  To be stolen.  I love you.  I may be distant for a time.  But darn it if when this season subsides, your little boy or girl won't have the cutest shoes in his or her closet.  Courtesy of Aunt Becky.

And in the meantime, I will try to remember this charge:

"This chapter in your life looks like rehab, smells like unemployment, sounds like a hospital, but ask the angels.  'Oh, she's in training.'
 God hasn't forgotten you.  Just the opposite.  He has chosen to train you.  The Hebrew verb for test comes from a word that means 'to take a keen look at, to look, to choose.'  Dismiss the notion that God does not see your struggle.  On the contrary, God is fully engaged.  He sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the test of today.  
Does He not have the authority to do so?  He is the Potter; we are the clay.  He is the Shepherd; we are the sheep.  He is the Gardener; we are the branches.  He is the Teacher; we are the students.  Trust his training.  You'll get through this.
[And] compassion matters to God.  This is the time for service, not self-centeredness.  Cancel the pity party.  Love the people God brings to you."  (Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

From Our Greatest Sorrows

...6 hours, 20 minutes and counting.  

Just a little while longer and it will all be over again.  Until next year.  But I can't even think about that right now.  I just need to get through today.

No idea what I'm going to do to pass the time until Jess comes home, but I have to do something.  So I pick up my phone and end up talking with one of the only other people on the planet that I know will get it.  Who will listen without judging.  Who will offer not just a word of encouragement, but one steeped in experience.  Who will, without a doubt, understand.  

And in the midst of it all, I tell her I have to do something.  Really do something.  I will not survive any of this, if I do not do something.  

And so we began to dream.

I scrambled for a notebook because suddenly, the ideas began to come.  Not just one, or two, or three.  But a flood of jumbled names, places, projects, topics, books.  Who do we know?  Where can we do it?  What should we include?  And suddenly, page after page became filled with endless possibilities.  

But as we wound down our chat sometime later, I flipped through the pages and wondered.  Will we ever do this?  I've been here before.  I've had dreams and thoughts and hopes and desires to use my pain for something lasting.  Something bigger than me.  Will this time be different?  Will we really be able to turn this into something?  Will God decide that it's worth it?  Is this really what we're supposed to do?  

I never thought it would end up looking like this.

And so we began to plan.  We furiously wrote down our ideas before they slipped out of our brains as quickly as they had come.  And all the while, I wondered.  

What is all of this really going to be?

And so I retreat to my bedroom tonight in order to sit and get this out, not because my room provides the ultimate inspiration for the amateur blogging of this tired girl, cross-eyed from exhaustion.  But rather because downstairs, there really isn't anywhere to sit.

There isn't anywhere to sit because tonight, 6 months after that phone call, my couches and my dining room table are currently occupied by yards of ribbon, lace, and burlap, by 45 brown shoe-sized boxes, by stamps, tissue paper, candles, devotionals, flower seeds, and the tiniest crocheted booties that you've ever seen in your life.  There isn't anywhere to sit because

this is really happening.

And it's all just a little surreal.   

Because of what's been provided to us, because of the support, love, encouragement, work, and resources that have been given to us, 45 women deep in the valley of grief and isolation might feel just a little less lonely.  Just a little less like no one understands what they endure.  Just a little less like no one cares.  And just a little less like everyone but them has forgotten what was lost.  

Because of this.  Because of this, my heartache doesn't have to be where it ends.  It can't be.  

I refuse to let it be.

And maybe the next Mother's Day won't feel as bad.  Next year, I won't be 3 days fresh off of my second loss.  Maybe it will feel worse.  But whatever comes, I will keep doing something.  My broken heart will not be where it ends.

B:  "Maybe my babies keep dying so that I will have more time to do this."
K:  "Oh Becky, No.  I mean.  I know their loss will have a purpose, and you are creating purpose from their loss.  And you need to continue doing it.  But this is not what was ever supposed to happen.  God never wanted this for either of us.  But He knew we'd be ones to create meaning from sorrow.  Our greatest ministries are born out of our greatest sorrows."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dear Nadia

As I stood in the baby section at Kohl's just a few hours ago, it only took a few minutes for me to realize that I was in over my head.  Everything began to blur and I knew that if I didn't make my choices and get out of there quick, I was going to find myself in the midst of a full on public meltdown.   I grabbed the closest rattle to add to my stack of onesies and made my way back to the main aisle,

much like a frantic swimmer close to running out of breath under water, I gasped for air 

and beelined for the closest cash register.  I knew this would be a challenge, but I didn't expect to affect me in such a deep and immediate way.  Perhaps it was this day, or perhaps it was the fact that I haven't been able to bring myself to walk through a baby section for the past 12 months.  Either way, it was clear that I had underestimated the emotional fortitude required for the task at hand.

A few hours before getting the spins in the Carter's section, Jesse and I were discussing ways in which we could honor our little ones over this holiday season.  In particular, I was desperate to find an activity to honor the daughter that we were supposed to be meeting

tomorrow, December 2nd.  

How does one commemorate such a day?  As I was painfully reminded, it's not like we had a place that we could go to lay flowers or place a teddy bear.  We didn't have a book of photos to look through or really any positive memories of her short existence.  We have been left with almost nothing.  I say almost because she is actually the only little one of which we ever got an ultrasound picture.  But it is tucked away in a special place for mine and Jesse's eyes only, and we both feel strongly about keeping it that way for now.  At any rate, we landed on the idea of choosing an Angel Tree child to buy gifts for each year in memory of our little girl who would have come to us so close to Christmas.  In fact, when at Walmart last night, I chose an Angel Tree card for a little 1 month old boy who is living in CPS's possession.  With tears in my eyes (as of the past few days, my eyes are just at a constant state of watering, so now I just go with it), I knew that he was the one and thought about how we would be buying this little one's gifts at the very age we would have been buying them for our own child.  As we continued to explore this idea today, we landed on the decision to, from this point on, support one Angel Tree child for each of our babies in heaven as the years go on, hopefully choosing children at the age that our children would have been.  Finally.  A way to keep their memories alive and to do something for someone else in their name.  I couldn't visit their graves and I couldn't look through their baby books,

but I could do that.  

As I sit and think of the "supposed to be's"  "could'ves" and "would'ves" that plague most of my thoughts on days like these, I also remember the journey that we took as a result of this little one.  From the moment we learned of her to the inconclusive ultrasounds that led to waiting and waiting and waiting to learn what the outcome would be.  Days of hope would crash down into days of despair.  And the next morning would bring another day of hope only to be smashed to smithereens in another day of devastation.  Until at about 9 weeks and after an entire day at Banner Thunderbird and a trip to the OR, the last flicker of hope was gone and we lost her.

There are, as you might imagine, many moments that transpired during that roller coaster of quiet madness that are not expounded upon here as just in this very minute I have chosen to leave some things to the memories of my husband and to me, out of respect for this most vulnerable and intimate of experiences.  Moments that can't really be described with words.  With that being said, on May 8, 2013 we said goodbye to our precious second little one and suffice it to say, that experience changed us forever.

Jesse felt pretty strongly that she was our little girl, and so after careful thinking we landed on a name for this little one-- Nadia Larrayne.  If we did our homework correctly, then her name bears the meaning of

Hopeful Sorrow.  

And as we received our second handmade baby quilt from my mom, ordered our second Forget Me Not made of stained glass to hang in our front window, and tucked our only photo of our little nugget into a safe place, we were most definitely living an existence that was cloaked in sorrow.  Not the kind that comes and goes when that great job passes you by or when you hear that sad story about a stranger in the news,

but that deep, pervading, gut-wrenching, ugly cry, sob yourself into hysteria  kind of sorrow.  

The kind where it feels like something inside of you has been most unnaturally and unfairly ripped from you and what's left is nothing but a bleeding, irreparable, gaping hole in your heart. And the days are dark and the smiles are few.  And yet, in the midst of it all, as ill-prepared as I may have been for what would come next, a short 5 months later, I still felt a sense of hope that this would not be the end of our story.  And in fact, it isn't even the end of little Nadia's story. Scripture is very clear that the concept of mortality does not apply to believers in Christ and to those who have not yet reached the age of accountability.  And so, our little pink Forget Me Not has not died, but rather is living in Eternity with Christ until the day that we see her again.  We are heartbroken that we did not get to meet her today as originally expected, but look forward with great hope that we will meet again.

Because in Christ, there is no death.

In closing...

Dearest little Nadia,  
First, we miss you.  Like crazy.  There are some days where you are all that we think about and other days where every tiny thing that I see or hear reminds me of you.  I realize that sounds a little nutty given the brevity of our time together here on earth, but in my mind, you are a whole person with likes and dislikes, a personality, and even a sense of humor.  I think you would have been the spunky one, giving your dad and even Juno a run for their money with your antics and your scheming.  I think you would have had my hair and your dad's eyes and I just know that you would have been the dose of stubbornness and mischief that both of your grandmas were waiting for ;-) <3 I think about what it would have been like to finally meet you and see your face, and how it would have felt to bring you home and show you our Christmas tree and your very first ornament from Auntie Rachel.  But don't you worry-- for as long as we are around, you will always have ornaments on the tree and guess what-- because of you, some little boy or girl will always get a Christmas present who may not have otherwise received one.  We will always think of you during this holiday season especially as you were going to be our most favorite present of all.  And when the hard days come, I will look at the flowers your daddy gave me when we lost you and I will snuggle the blanket that I made for you and listen to the lamb that Grandma brought for you as it plays "Jesus Loves Me".  And I will probably feel sad and I might even cry, but I will keep memories of you close by always and I will never ever forget you and will take comfort in knowing that this is not the end of your story, dearest little one.  

Love, Mom

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Bear

I sit in my family room which is currently engulfed in a sea of glitter and ribbon and can't help but be transported back one year ago. You see, the last time that I sat gazing at my Christmas tree in all its glory (more on that later), it was the morning of December 5, 2012 and I remember it as clearly as though it were yesterday.  I remember it because I couldn't wipe the grin from my face or quit dreaming for even one second about how the holiday season was going to play out.  About 2 hours prior to this day dream session, I had finally gotten my BFP (big fat positive for those who aren't up on their fertility forum lingo).  I had a whole special thing planned out of how I was going to tell my husband, but as I have learned more than once this past year, things did not go as I had planned.  Unable to contain my excitement at the shock of that "pregnant" that magically appeared on that blue stick, I began scrying (that's scream-crying--if you've ever had a moment like this one, then you know what I'm talking about...) and jumping up and down, waking my husband and sending the dogs into an immediate frenzy.  It happened.  It finally happened.  And after a call to the doctor and a chance to gain a little bit of composure, I now lay on the couch, leaning on my husband's shoulder staring at the tree.  My mind raced at a speed I didn't know was possible as my thoughts flew from ideas of how to tell our folks, ways we could celebrate over the holidays, and when I thought my due date might be.

It's amazing how much you can plan without even meaning to.  It's even more amazing how quickly it can all come crashing down around you.

As my mind continued to wander, my eyes fell on one ornament in particular.  The fact that I was able to notice and focus on one is actually kind of impressive, all things considered.  See, my Christmas tree is no ordinary Christmas tree.  It's my Christmas Tree.  I grew up with a tradition that grew more precious to me as the years went on in which every year, I was able to choose one (or two or three or four as as the years went on and I was the only kid left at home) new ornament to add to my collection. As a result, I have a good 10 years worth of ballerinas and teddy bears, but as I took it with me when I left home I continued to add to it, pretty extensively.  I should also point out that I worked for a well-known artist while in college, and every year she would have me help her decorate her 12 ft tree, stuffed to the gills with a beautiful collection of vintage glass ornaments.  She would always say "the more you put on, the prettier it gets!"  And I guess you could say I agreed with her, because as of right now my own collection is up to about 423 pieces.  (I'll give you a minute to process that one.)  Every year my favorite part of decorating the house for Christmas is when my husband lugs in the boxes (and boxes and boxes) from the shed and I get to sit down and unwrap them one by one.  With each piece comes a specific time, place, and memory.  Maybe it was one that I picked out while at a craft fair with my mom.  Or maybe it's the set of glass characters from the Nutcracker that remind me of the yearly tradition my parents started when I was very young of taking me to see the ballet.  Or the funky circus animals with tutus and feather boas.  And then there are the precious ones that Jesse made when he was little--cut from paper with cotton and googly eyes pasted on, yellowed from time, but representative of the childhood of the one I love most in this world.  Of course there is no shortage of shoe ornaments, bright colors, sequins, or glitter.  I've always had my favorites that I hang first, in prime locations and right at eye-level.  But last year.  Last year I discovered a new favorite. It wasn't one that I brought home from the Briar Patch or found while digging through the piles at Home Goods.  No, it was one that was fairly old.  About 30 years old, to be exact.  This particular piece was added to my collection when I got married, because it belonged to my husband.  It doesn't have any glitter, sequins, or rhinestones.  In fact, it's fairly simple.  It's handmade of 2 wooden beads for the body, brown pipe cleaners for the ears and paws, a red ribbon bow tie, a sprig of holly, and a drawn face and tummy.  It's a cute little teddy bear, but the best part is actually hiding on the rear side.  Written in black pen is a simple "?" and "'82."  My mother in law made this ornament for Jesse, if my calculations are correct, very soon after finding out that she was expecting.

How beautiful.

Recognizing that she was already a mother to this baby, she made sure to include him in the holiday celebration by beginning his ornament collection before ever even having met him.  Because he was real, she was excited, and

 she didn't see any need to wait until his arrival to begin celebrating his existence.

As I layed and stared at the little bear, I began to think of ornaments that I could make and that finally, I would be able to begin a collection for my own kiddo.  These thoughts brought more sentiment than I can really even articulate with words.

Eventually I was forced to pull myself from my reverie as the doctor had ordered a blood draw.  We went, they drew, and we returned home.  It seemed pretty routine and even though I had just seen my best friend go through an early pregnancy loss the month before, I don't remember feeling all that afraid or nervous.  The doctor said she would call the next day with the results, and so we went about our evening, smiling and continuing to dream.

And I realize now that it will never feel that way again.

I woke up the next morning, remembering all over again and realizing that in fact it wasn't a dream.  Against my better judgement, I took another home test and was incredibly confused when it showed negative.  Perhaps it was because it was a different kind of test, but the details were irrelevant as a shadow of doubt had already been cast and from that moment on, I waited on pins and needles for my phone to ring, to hear some kind of reassurance from my doctor.

There are so many moments in this particular journey in which you will grasp at just about anything to give you some kind of peace of mind, something to put your mind at ease.  And so you Google and you google and you google and you text your friends, desperate to find something to give you hope.  To bring certainty.

But there is no certainty when it comes to life or death.

And so when the phone rang and the medical assistant informed me that I must have gotten a false positive, I was at a complete loss for words.  I don't understand.  I didn't make it up.  It's not like I thought I saw a line where there wasn't one.  The stick told me verbatim, "pregnant" in digital letters up on a screen.  How could it be wrong?

I felt like an idiot.

How could I let myself believe something that wasn't true?  Was I the crazy woman who wants something so desperately that she begins to see something where there is nothing?

Little did I know that this struggle would continue for almost two months.  Within a day of receiving that call, nature took its course and I was definitely not pregnant.  But something was definitely not right either.  It would take me almost 8 weeks to piece together that I had experienced what the medical community describes as a "chemical pregnancy."  A chemical pregnancy is generally defined as a very early miscarriage.  Sometimes, it occurs so early that a woman may not even know that she has experienced one.

As you might imagine, this scenario is a prime breeding ground for all sorts of doubt, grief, uncertainty, anger, and confusion in the heart of the woman who experiences it.  In my case, since I didn't realize what had occurred until some time later, my grieving process was a bit stunted and didn't really catch up with me until after the fact.  It took almost 3 months of counseling and a lot of love and encouragement from my fellow baby loss mamas to really deal with this loss in a healthy way and to feel like I had the right to even grieve this little one.  Through it all, for some reason, I could not get that morning of day dreaming or that little teddy bear out of my head.  As inconsequential as it seems, I kept coming back to it, over and over again.

When we had our second loss in early May, I informed my husband that Christmas was cancelled and under no circumstances was I putting up my tree this year.  This may sound like an odd response to what was a very traumatic experience, but I couldn't bear the thought of looking at the tree, immersed in the memories of not one but two lost little ones.  Baby #2 would have been due on 12/2.  She would have had her own ornament already and it would have said her name and 2013 on the back.  And now.  Now, I was left with 423 ornaments, but the one that I had hoped for, planned for, dreamed of, the only one that even mattered to me, would not be on the tree.  Time and again I had walked the first ornament aisle at hobby lobby, full of pink and blue figures of rocking horses, teddy bears, and "baby's 1st" and thought about what that would be like to bring one home.  And now again, that dream was crushed.  And so, my husband, being the wonderful man that he is, nodded his head and said "whatever you need, babe."  And we could have left it at that, but every few weeks since then, I've brought up the "do I or don't I?" conversation.  And really it came down to a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.

Because any way that we sliced it, nothing about this holiday season was going to be easy.  And most days I just wish that I could sleep through it and wake up when it's all over.

And so, on October 7th, 2013, when we experienced our 3rd miscarriage in a 12 month period, I made up my mind that the holidays were officially out of the question.  I couldn't imagine getting dressed up, laughing and smiling, reminiscing of all the good times we'd shared this past year, and listing off things we were thankful for.  Because the bottom line was:  I didn't care. About any of it.  The food, the tradition, the merriment, the wish list.  There isn't anything that I want that anyone on earth can give me.  And so.

I didn't care anymore.

Nearly 7 weeks have passed since then, and there are still a lot of days where I don't care.  I feel sad and angry.  I don't need anyone to spout all of the "right" answers for why this happens and how I'm supposed to handle it.

Because I already know what all of them are.

God isn't doing this to punish us.  Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world.  He can see the things that I can't see and is always working for my good, even when it doesn't feel like it.  He has given me so much that I do have, and I should be thankful for it.  Paul praised him in the midst of great turmoil, and so should I.  He allows us to experience trials to bring us closer to Him and to help others who are also hurting.

I know these things.  But I would be lying through my teeth if I said that there weren't moments, brief as they may be, that I struggle to really believe and really live in these truths.  Nothing about this is simple.  Nothing about it is easy.  When your very world is shaken and darkness threatens to settle in, choosing to believe these things can be an all out, ugly, bloody, tear-soaked battle.

And that's where I'm at today.  I'm fighting.  I'm fighting to not let my grief cross over into bitterness.  I'm fighting to not let my fear turn to paranoia.  I'm fighting to let God into those moments because I am just still so upset with him so much of the time.  I'm fighting to believe.  I'm fighting to hope.

I'm fighting to not give up. 

And some days, the victory is just getting out of bed and getting dressed.  Other days, it's making a meal for my husband.  And on others, it's reaching out to a fellow baby loss momma to let her know that she isn't alone.  And yesterday, it was asking my husband to bring my Christmas boxes inside...

My tree isn't the same.  The holiday this week won't be the same--no matter how much good food there is.  And this season in general hurts.  It just does.  I can't go back in time and I can't change it.  But I can open the door just a crack to let some hope back in, painful as it may be.

I made a statement earlier about there being a lack of certainty in life and death.  And when it comes to our earthly existence, that is true.  But I know for certain that I will see my children again when we are reunited in eternity, because I know where my eternity lies.

For certain.

And for today, that's enough.  And for today, that hope is visible in the first 3 ornaments that I decided to hang on the tree.  My husband helped me craft handmade tokens of love for our babies, monogrammed and with special charms to represent each unique loss,  a promise that we will never forget them and that no matter what comes in the future, they will always be a part of these family-centric holidays, because even though they aren't with us here, they are a valuable and loved piece of our family and we will always honor their memory and do what we can to keep it alive until we meet again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Welcome to Forget Me Not Ministries' new website! We are so excited to witness the Lord work through this ministry to reach out to hurting women and offer them the Hope only Christ can give. Please take a moment to explore the site and learn more about Forget Me Not Ministries.