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