Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why it Matters to Have a Day of Remembrance

Breast Cancer Awareness.
Down Syndrome Awareness.
Domestic Abuse Awareness.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

The buttons and banners and articles pop up all over Facebook, all over everywhere really, and those are only for the month of October. We are almost bombarded with things to remember, things to be "aware" of, and it makes some people wonder, "Why is it so important to have a day, a week, or an entire month to raise awareness for a certain topic?" Or more specifically, why does it matter to have a month or even a day set aside for something like pregnancy loss? It won't change anything. Not one less baby will die because I changed my profile picture to a pink and blue ribbon or lit a candle in remembrance of the babies who have already died. So what's the point? Why all the fuss? Why is my Facebook being overrun with sad articles and tiny footprints?

This is why.

Go through your Facebook friends list. Run down in your head all the women you know and love. Now take one fourth of those women and say to yourself, "All of these women have lost babies, have had miscarriages, have had infants die early on, have delivered babies born still, have carried babies that died with either no explanation or one that just wasn't good enough."

This is not a statistic I pulled out of thin air, this is reality. One in four women have dealt with some kind of pregnancy loss or early infant death. I actually went through my friends list tonight just to see if the statistic held true for me personally. Guess what? Not only did it hold true, my statistic was closer to one in three. One in three women who have a reason to be remembered today, October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. And that's only counting the women I know for a fact to have had pregnancy losses, I am positive there are more who just aren't as open about their experiences and have kept quiet about their pain. And to add to that, more than half of the women I counted on my list have had more than one loss, some more than two, some as many as five. How many babies is that? I lost count.

So if that many women have dealt with this kind of pain, have experienced this kind of life altering occurrence, why, why, why is it not all over the place all the time? Why are there not talk shows interviewing Miscarriage Survivors every other day? Why are there not billboards declaring undying support for men and women who have lost children in this manner? Where are the walks and the marathons and the telethons raising support for burial costs for families of stillborn babies or counseling services for women experiencing post traumatic stress disorder or depression after their pregnancy loss? Why aren't ribbons in every grocery store checkout line and why aren't football players sporting a specific color with their cleats and their jerseys and their helmets showing their support for the women fighting to get up in the morning after losing a baby? One. In. Four. Women. Why?

Years ago, there was no such thing as Breast Cancer Awareness. Years ago, breast cancer was considered a "women's problem" that was not to be discussed in polite conversation. It was talked about in whispered voices, usually only by women, and was not something the general public thought about or talked about or felt affected by. Sound familiar? It does to me, because that's where Pregnancy Loss Awareness is right about now. So what changed? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it had something to do with the fact that at some point, somebody woke up and realized that this was not just a women's health issue, this was an epidemic. This was everywhere you turned. Her mother, his sister, my grandmother...all of these women affected by the same thing. People looked up and said, "Hey, wait a second, I currently know four or five women fighting this battle right now. Why is no one talking about this? Something needs to be done! We need to support these women and their loved ones!"

And so Breast Cancer Awareness was born. And at some point, it exploded. Save the Tatas. I Heart Boobies. Pink ribbons, pink shoelaces, pink cookie boxes, pink everything everywhere shouts "BREAST CANCER AWARENESS!!!" Turn on a football game this month. I dare you not to be bombarded with macho manly football players wearing pink something. And every time we see these pink reminders, we are reminded. There are women, everywhere, fighting like hell to stay alive after a shocking diagnosis they had no control over. Remember them. Support them. Don't make them fight their battles silently. Stand by them.

This. This is what I want for the women fighting a silent battle after losing a baby. I am so proud of our country for how it has risen up to support women fighting breast cancer. But sometimes I wonder, where's the support for the hundreds of thousands of women affected by pregnancy loss? Why is this something most women still feel they must endure alone, quietly? Why is this still a topic whispered about mainly by women because men won't touch the subject with a ten foot pole? Why has my husband had one, maybe two friends even acknowledge his losses? Why do I have women quietly message me and tell me that they, too, experienced pregnancy loss twenty, thirty, fifty years ago but have never talked about it with anyone? Why is this subject so hush hush? Why was breast cancer once so hush hush? Because it is sad? Because it is uncomfortable to talk about? Why?

I won't pretend to know the answer to that. I will only say that bringing awareness to these kinds of issues and topics takes time, and it takes voices. Lots of voices. Unfortunately, the voices of pregnancy loss are usually silenced in their grief. And if that doesn't do it, it usually only takes about one or two idiotic and insensitive remarks to make a woman vow to never talk openly about their experience again. And maybe two or three other women overheard or read those insensitive remarks and vowed to themselves to never talk openly about their experiences for fear of having someone say something like that to them. And then there is the common misconception that one shouldn't bring up such a painful topic for fear of reminding the person experiencing pregnancy loss of their pain. As if saying, "I was thinking of you and your sweet baby today, and I am so sad you are missing them," might somehow make that person go, "What!?! Thanks a lot! I had COMPLETELY forgotten about my baby until JUST NOW when you said that!"

Let's do a little comparison shall we? Let's say a friend is diagnosed with breast cancer. She is currently being treated and starting on a hard road to recovery. What might one do? Well, one might change their profile picture to a pink ribbon. One might leave encouraging messages for the woman fighting this battle on her Facebook wall. One might offer their assistance in the form of meals, child care, or grocery shopping. One might send a card in the mail reiterating their love and support. One might offer to drive their friend to their doctor's appointments or even sit with them during chemo. One says, "I am praying for you! You will get through this, and I will be here by your side all the way!" One signs up to do a 5k in honor of their friend. One wears a pink ribbon on their work badge. One does anything and everything they can, because their friend is fighting a hard battle, and the least they can do is fight it with them.

One does not say to themselves, "Well, I don't want to rub in their faces that I myself do not have breast cancer, so I will just not speak to them until they are cured." One does not say, "I don't want to remind them that they have breast cancer, so I will just pretend that they don't have it at all." One does not tell their friend, "Friend, this was just God's will. It is something you must accept and move on from." One certainly would not say to their other friends behind said friend's back, "That friend of ours. When is she going to get over this breast cancer thing? I mean, sure, it's sad, but isn't it time she move on with her life?" Or maybe this friend lost a breast to her battle with cancer. Would a friend say, "Oh, well, at least you have another breast. Be thankful for the breast you have."?

Atrocious. Anyone with a friend such as this should immediately run in the other direction and never speak to that person again. Yet...things like this are said to grieving mothers every single day.

"I don't want to rub in their face that I have never had a miscarriage. I can't relate to them. I will just avoid them."

"I don't want to remind them of their loss, so I will just not mention the baby ever again as long as I live."

"I know it's hard, but it's God's will. You must accept it and move on."

"When is Suzy going to get over her miscarriage? It was months ago. I mean, sure, it's sad, but when will she move on?"

"At least you have other children, Suzy. Be thankful for the ones you have."

I myself have been the recipient of some of those gems, and know at least one woman who has been the recipient of all the others. It used to make me gawk in disbelief. I have come to accept it as ignorance. As not knowing any better. As the product of an environment where people don't discuss the issue, so no one knows what to do when their friend or loved one is faced with it.

This. This is why it is important to have these "Awareness" months, or weeks, or days. It gives mothers like me permission to shout from the rooftops, "MY BABY DIED, AND I STILL STRUGGLE WITH THEIR LOSS." It opens the door for others who might not otherwise have the courage to talk about their loss to do so. It starts conversations. Conversations about how to support women and men experiencing pregnancy or infant loss. Conversations about what is not appropriate to do or say. Conversations about why these losses occur, how they affect the parents and the siblings and the grandparents. It shows women that they are not alone in their grief. That so many others have been through it and can relate to their pain. That what they are experiencing is not only normal, it is okay.

It is okay that I still miss Lily, over a year after she was buried. It is okay that I feel random moments of grief for the three babies I will never hold again in this lifetime. It is okay that I cry sometimes. It is okay that I laugh sometimes. It is okay that I grieve however I choose to grieve. It is okay that she did a balloon release today in honor of her baby and she only lit a candle in honor of her many lost little ones and I did nothing but write this blog. It's okay. Because we're in it together, and the only reason we know we're in it together is because we're open about our losses, and we are open about our support.

Please, please understand my heart as you read this. I am not in any way saying, "Darn those breast cancer survivors, they get all the glory." As I said before, I am so, so proud of how our society has stepped up to support those women and love on them during their battle. I use them as a comparison because I think they were once in our shoes, fighting a battle silently, a battle no one felt comfortable talking about, a battle practically no one showed their support of. And look at them now. The entire world takes pride in standing up next to those women, in making sure they know they are not alone.

I don't wear a ribbon or have some badge of honor showing that I have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss, not one the general public recognizes, anyway. I wear a bracelet with Lily's name on it. I wear a necklace every minute of every day with three tokens for my three babies that are no longer here. But if there was some recognizable, universal badge showing support for the survivors of pregnancy and infant loss, you better believe I would proudly wear it every day.

And maybe, if we keep working at it, someday there will be.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Last Wednesday night, I cried myself to sleep.  

I don't know when I actually drifted off or when Jesse put the covers over me, or at what point the exhaustion finally took over and the tears subsided.  All I know is that as I woke up in the morning clutching the blanket I had made for my second child, it was still damp from the night before.  And as I stumbled around that morning, fumbling with my hair and clothes, squinting as I opened the blinds downstairs, I thought to myself---now where did that come from??  

There was a time where this sort of evening and subsequent morning weren't out of the ordinary.  But months have passed since our third loss of a child, and I hadn't been this out of it for a while.  And as my "self psycho-analyzing" continued as I drove in silence to work, it hit me.  

I was missing my babies.

Let me back up just a little.

September 26, 2013 was the last time that we found out we were pregnant.  I don't remember that morning or that day at all.  But I remember that it was the last time we learned we were expecting a baby.  I remember taking more tests as the days went on, watching the lines get darker and darker and I remember thinking : maybe this time.   I remember taking walks at work with my closest friend as we cautiously talked about the news and I made very clear my intentions to wait to call the doctor.  They could send me for every test under the sun, but it wouldn't change the outcome.  All it would do was raise my anxiety level as I waited every couple of days for the phone to ring to find out what my levels were.  No.  Not this time.  This time, we wait and see.  And I remember the following weekend, deciding with Jesse that we were done living this way.  That yes, we were terrified, but that we still had a reason to be joyful-- and we would be darned if we would let the enemy steal even just one more second of our joy.  And so.  We went out for a celebratory dinner.  We smiled and we breathed and we even let ourselves revel.  Just a little bit.  And we left and went to Hobby Lobby to that first aisle of Christmas ornaments, to the section closest to the front of the store where two feet of wall were always devoted to pastel colored baby ornaments.  And we chose a tiny elephant and we got back in the car and drove to my parents' house.  And we clumsily told them that there was another baby and that we were afraid but we got an ornament for that baby and we wanted them to have it.  And it may have been weird and early and kind of out of the blue, but we did it anyway.  We wanted to do it, and we did it.    

We were taking back the joy.

And I remember the afternoon of October 7th, 2013, when I jumped up and down and screamed with tears running down my face in the locker room after work as my friend told me over the phone that they'd heard a heartbeat today.  That after five of their babies being taken to heaven, that today, they heard a heartbeat.  And I made her swear to bring a picture to that night's ministry meeting, and I thought to myself, maybe it will all be okay after all.  

And finally, I remember that evening, 5 minutes before I was to be out the door to a very important ministry meeting-- I remember calling my husband from the bathroom, screaming at him that it was happening again-- I remember when I realized, we were losing this baby too.  And unfortunately I remember the ER doc who told me that up to five miscarriages was normal as he spoke to me as though I were a five year old.  And I remember leaving hours later, empty, hurting, and confused.  And I remember the few days after, waking up to the blinding anger that overtook me, as I lay in my dark bedroom, mindlessly watching Cake Boss reruns, not saying a word, but silently cursing this sentence that I couldn't seem to escape, and wondering why God hated me.  I remember the second or third night when my friend came in the room, carrying a teddy bear, and as she took her shoes off, and just lie down next to me, not saying a word.  And I remember when she left, some time later, kissing me on the forehead with tears in her eyes and telling me that she loved me.  

There are bits and pieces but I don't remember much else.  

And at some point, I stopped crying for my babies, and started crying because it seemed that I would never have a baby.  What became the journey not to lose our babies, became a journey to even try to have a baby at all.  And what I realized a few days ago as I was knocked down by a fresh wave of grief that seemed to pull me under the current out of nowhere was that in grieving the seeming loss of a dream to ever have children of my own had somehow pushed my grief of the loss of my children to the backseat.  And I had been neglecting them.  And as I lay in bed, last Wednesday night, and my thoughts drifted to my children who aren't here, I got sad.  And I realized how much I miss them.  And when I would normally be caught up in charting and calendars and medical treatments, instead, these past few days, I have been overcome with grief for my children.  And that hurts.  

And I realize that this will sound crazy to a lot of people.  But I just don't care.  I miss them and when they were first born, Gabriel, and then Nadia Larayne, and then Pearl-- I missed them then but I also mothered them.  I thought about them.  I planted flowers for them.  I made things for them to put up in my home or hang on my Christmas tree.  I held their stuffed animals and wondered what they would have been like.  To some that might sounds completely nuts.  But I just don't care.  Every baby is born.  And I don't need anyone else's understanding or permission to grieve them and to mother them for the children that they are.  And I deeply believe that whether a baby is born at 5 weeks gestation or 35 weeks gestation there is an inherent desire and need for that mom to mother her child.  Sometimes that means she needs to hold him and sing to him, dress him, read to him, and pray over him before she leaves him there at the hospital forever.  And sometimes that means that every once in a while, she needs to pull out her one ultrasound picture, or the many sympathy cards that she received, or cuddle the blankets and stuffed animals that she was given as tokens of memorial.  And sometimes that means that even years after they are gone, we need to stick up for them in conversation and to total strangers who devalue their lives and their brief existences with the words that they carelessly say.  And we become defensive and we become passionate.  Because those are our children you are talking about.  These scenarios all look completely different.  But I believe the deep down desire that a mother has to be a mother to her children even after they have died is God-given and never goes away.  And for me, it's a need that I often overlook or maybe even distract myself from recognizing because even though mothering a child who has passed away allows me to function in the role of mother that God gave to me, dang if it doesn't hurt like crazy.  

And I didn't have a point or a theme to writing any of this tonight.  I simply opened my laptop after an hour of going through my babies' things and started typing.  And really, I'm writing this because it's a way for me to mother my children.  To think about them, to remember what it was like when they were here and when they went to Heaven, and to let them and everyone else know that I have not forgotten about them. And this week or next I will probably take some time to do something for one or all of them.  Make something for them, write something to them, wear some of my mommy jewelry for them, talk about them-- or write about them.   

This is just me, mothering my children.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Something New

As I sit staring at the open Bible in front of me, focus blurring, mind wandering, I am suddenly aware of the remnants of hot glue stuck to the tips of my fingers.  I begin rubbing my fingers together until the glue forms little balls that fall from my fingers onto the couch.  And I think to myself-- when did my life get like this?  How did all of this happen?  And when?  Because all of a sudden, I cannot remember a time before this one.

The hot-glue-fingers were just the tip of the iceberg.  While it's not unusual for me to be covered in bits of glue, paint (that's still on my fingers from yesterday too actually...), glitter, bits of ribbon and paper, this time was a little different.  See, the hot glue wasn't from a just any old project.  It was from delicately and carefully trying to glue small sections of satin fabric into teeny tiny chipboard boxes.  It was from trying to get the corners right, the sides even, and to avoid getting glue on the visible fabric.  I'd never made a teeny tiny baby casket before.  This was my first time.

And as my thoughts are drawn back to those teeny tiny boxes sitting on my craft table upstairs, I can't help but continue to wonder how I got here.

Sometimes the things I find myself doing seem so surreal.

Like last night (after making the teeny baby caskets but before I washed the hard boiled egg [I'll get to that in a few minutes] as I sat in the guest room, furiously scribbling as fast as I could, quickly filling 4 sheets of paper, not wanting to miss any detail, as I sat and listened on the phone to a woman til nearly 1 am as she was trying to process the delivery of her 24 week gestation stillborn son that had just happened less than a week ago.  And as I listened to her talk about how perfect he was and about how she had just had to pick out his urn, I couldn't help but think over and over again how unqualified I am to be doing this.  At any moment, I could say or do the wrong thing and add insult to the already deeply injured soul on the other end of the line.

And so as my mind had wandered to the boxes and this grieving mother who had asked for someone from the ministry to call her yesterday, I figure now is as good of a time as any to get one part of this week's homework for Bereavement Doula training out of the way.  So I walk to the kitchen, retrieve the egg that my husband had hard boiled for me (I can cook but I can't boil eggs to save my life...), I ran my now glueless thumb over the smooth service, raised it 6 inches from the counter, and smashed it back down.  I repeated this motion a few times as I rotated the egg, ensuring that every surface now bore countless cracks.  And I looked at the now extremely fragile egg in my hand and considered that although it was meant to represent something entirely different, it sure looked like a pretty accurate representation for how my heart felt on this day.  But I've never been one to turn in homework incomplete, so I grabbed a clean towel, gently laid the egg down on it, and filled a shallow dish with warm sudsy water.  Ever so gently, I held the egg over the water and used a washcloth to squeeze the soapy water over it, careful to make sure that the excess ran through  my fingers rather than pooling in the palm of my hand.  That was how the instructions had said to do it.  Once the egg was thoroughly washed, I laid it back on the towel and carried the dish back to the sink.  I dumped out the suds and replaced it with clean water and went back over to where my little broken egg lay.  I gently picked it up, noticing that small fragments of the shell were threatening to dislodge and fall off, held it over the dish, and again squeezed clean water over it.  Once it was rinsed thoroughly, I laid it back down on the towel and left it there as I decided to leave the kitchen and go clean another room in the house.  I needed a second to breathe and be distracted.  This was my first time practicing the simulation of bathing an early gestation baby who was not alive.  I'd never done it before. And I needed a second.

And as I sit here now, recalling these events of the past 24 hours, I am again struck with the thought-- I can't believe the things I find myself doing these days.

But I have no choice.  Well, I do have a choice.  But the next time that we get a call from a mom who has lost her 6 week gestation baby and has no where to put him, or hear of a precious young woman who feels that her only option is to carry the ashes of her baby around in her purse, we will have something to offer her.  So that a woman who has given birth at 6 or 7 or 8 weeks doesn't have to feel that her only option is to flush the physical form of her baby down the toilet.  I've been there.  And so.  They aren't much.  But it's something.  And I would rather offer something than nothing to a woman who has already lost so much.

I am completely and totally unqualified for this.  For all of this.  I often find myself at a loss for words and just plain scared about these situations in which I find myself.  But something very interesting has happened in the midst of all of it.  I can't put my finger on a specific moment when it happened.  Or what the catalyst was.  But something changed.  I still find myself sad on some days and scared when faced with these stories of devastating and life-altering loss that find their way into my inbox.  And my deferred hope remains still and causes a deep ache in my heart.  But.  I have something for the first time in a very very very long time.  It's as though I have been furiously swimming, struggling to make it, and my head has finally broken the surface of this ocean of grief, and I can suddenly breathe.  And the air.  It feels.  So.  Good.  And I may still be paddling my way through the ocean, waiting to hit dry land, but I can breathe.  And.  I am okay.  And there is a part of me that has wondered in these past few weeks of new found peace what the next trigger would be that would plummet me straight back to the depths again.  But as I had sat with my hands on my chin, searching through my Bible this morning, searching for answers, for comfort-- slightly reeling in the events of the morning that confirmed that yet another month had gone by and my rainbow was still not coming--waiting to feel that anchor of despair that would take me back to the ocean floor, waiting for the air to disappear and the anger to take its place--and it never came.  And I sat.  and I breathed.  And I was okay.  And now I know.  this peace is not circumstantial.  It isn't because I've learned the right balance of sitting with my grief and welcoming distraction.  It isn't because the past few weeks have been a fluke.  "a good streak."  It's because in his great and infinite mercy, God has dumped a bucket load of peace on me.  And I am going to sit.  And breathe.  And let Him.

And there will still be hard days.  And there will still be those triggers, lurking in the most unsuspecting of places and conversations.  And I am still sad.  And I am still desperately waiting on my rainbow to come.  But.  I am okay.  And as I had run across this several months ago on Etsy:

and immediately thought that it means my rainbow will come, I wonder now if it means something entirely different.  I am still a mother without a child.  And I have trudged through the deep valleys of pain and despair that the Lord has allowed in my life.  And my rainbow has not come.  But.  now I wonder.  Maybe the something new to be born isn't a baby.  Isn't my rainbow baby.  Maybe the something new is me.  This new girl.  Who I barely recognize.  Who spends her free time on the weekends reading about the transitional stage during labor, milk banks, NICUs, and who bathes eggs, calls hospitals and funeral homes, and practices taking plaster molds of her friend's baby's feet.  Who  is knee deep in a ministry to grieving women when she herself is still grieving and barely has it together most days.  Who somehow manages to listen and counsel a woman about her stillborn son until 1 am.  Who very suddenly wants to spend all of her spare time making teeny tiny baby caskets and gluing burlap to box lids.  Who bares her soul and most intimate of moments on this grief journey with total strangers.  This woman.  This ministry.  They are so far beyond me.  Beyond my capabilities, beyond my strength, and beyond what I ever would have chosen for myself.  I didn't do any of this.  Which is how I know that something new is in the process of being born.  I am.  Totally inept.  Totally unworthy.  And totally undeserving of the blessing that comes from sharing in another's grief.  But God has given them to me anyway.  What a gift.  And a privilege.  And I can still breathe.  So I think I'll stay here.  Until such a time as the Lord leads me elsewhere.

Romans 12:15
"Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn."

Matthew 5:4
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
"And then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Forget Me Not at Christmastime...

The staff at Forget Me Not is SO excited to officially launch our very first fundraiser! Many many many hours, blood, sweat, a few tears, and a whole lot of love have gone into preparing these beautiful, unique Christmas ornaments which have each been lovingly wrapped in a delicate keepsake box. Each ornament was handmade by a baby loss mama, and our hope is that it will hang on a Christmas tree every year in someone's home as a sweet reminder of the child who will always hold a special place in their family's heart, even if they are not there physically.

Not one ornament is exactly the same as another, and this was intentional. Each baby is unique, and each family grieves their loss uniquely, so we wanted these precious ornaments to reflect that. For those of you who have not experienced baby loss, Christmas can be an especially painful time of year for families who have. Thoughts of "what could have been" creep into our minds, and grief can sneak up on us in small moments such as hanging one less stocking than we should be and watching a child that would be about the same age as ours opening presents or dressed all fancy for Christmas. Because holidays can be difficult, it is especially important to reach out to those you love who are missing someone, and let them know you remember. One of my favorite things about Christmas is decorating my tree (and I know Becky would say the same!), and every time I pull out the ornaments I was given in remembrance of my babies, I smile. I cry, but I also smile. It is so important to me to represent them on our family tree, and I display them front and center.

Okay, now that I have tugged on your heartstrings a little bit, here are the details of "Forget Me Not at Christmastime"! Each ornament costs $20. Additional footprint charms can be added for $1 each to represent multiple losses if desired. Ornaments come in pink, blue, and yellow. Each ornament is beautifully and carefully giftwrapped in a keepsake box. You may pay in cash, through the Paypal button on the right side of this blog, or checks written out to Palmcroft Baptist Church with "Forget Me Not Ministries" in the tagline. You can place your order by contacting us through our Facebook page or by the emails listed below. Ornaments will be available for pick up at our "We Remember You" conference on October 11th, or on Sunday mornings at Palmcroft Baptist Church (must pre-arrange with Karen or Becky for day and time).

At this time, Becky and I simply do not have the time, resources, or funds to ship or deliver ornaments, but if you know that you'll be seeing one of us or one of our many volunteers, let us know and we can definitely figure out a way to get yours to you!

We have made 100 ornaments, and it is our goal to sell each one!!! For each ornament that is purchased, one Forget Me Not Box, long distance packet, or Snuggles for Siblings package will be funded. Your purchase will not only go to reaching out and encouraging, uplifting, and supporting a grieving family, it will also buy you a beautifully handcrafted Christmas ornament that you can hang on your own tree in remembrance of your child or grandchild, or can be given as a gift to a friend or loved one to tell them "I remember" at Christmastime.

We can't thank you enough for your ongoing support of this ministry. If you can't purchase an ornament at this time, we ask that you consider sharing our fundraiser with friends and family! Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement!

To order you ornament, contact Becky at Becky.forgetmenot@gmail.com or Karen at Karen.forgetmenot@gmail.com.


Monday, July 28, 2014

What Eisley Taught Me About Trust (by Karen)

This entry was originally written on my blog (ouradoptionfaithwalk.blogspot.com) shortly after we learned about Ember's fatal diagnosis. One big lesson God taught us all during that time...trust...

Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for families
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing
For prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness
We doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win we know
That pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointment, or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest night
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw that song plastered all over Facebook months and months ago. I never clicked on it, just saw that people were "so touched by it". I don't know why I never clicked on it and listened to it. I just didn't.

I was at a friend's house awhile back and we were talking about old memories of Psalty the Song Book and his wonderful repertoire of children's music, and my friend was flabbergasted that I didn't have my kids listening to the very CD's (which were at that time cassette tapes) we all grew up on. She offered to burn me a copy (thanks Rachel!!!) but there was still some room left on the CD after Psalty. She told me she'd burn some Laura Story onto it, she was sure I knew her.

"No," I told her, "I don't think I've heard her."

"What!?!" she said. "How have you not heard her song 'Blessings'"? It's like written about you!!!"

Well alright then, I better listen to it! And I did. And she was right, I felt like it was written about me. (I realize I say that a lot, but you know what I mean) After our many losses, especially our experience with Lily, I often found myself wondering what in the H-E-double hockeysticks the Lord was doing. Did He not hear my prayers? My cries to keep my babies healthy and my pregnancies uneventful? Why, why, why did this keep happening? I often felt ignored by God. Like He simply wasn't listening to me, or didn't care, or both. In my heart of hearts, I knew the Truth, of course. But when you are in that much pain, you don't care for the truth much.

And then, once again, the Lord allows yet another unspeakable heartache to enter our lives. We have grown to care and love very much this woman and the baby girl she is carrying. That happens when you spend so much time in prayer for people. But once again, it is as if our prayers fell on deaf ears.

We SPECIFICALLY prayed for this baby's health. "Lord!!!" I cried. "WHY can't you just hear me just ONCE!!!???"

I have cried that so many times.

The other day Eisley asked me if I could dig out the Psalty CD. After we got it, we listened to that thing until I was literally dreaming in children's worship songs, so mommy decided to put it away for awhile, replacing it with Adele, which I realize isn't the most uplifting of music, but the change I needed after months of non-stop Psalty in the car (Yes, I do own an Ipod, but we only have one car dock, and Josh keeps it in his car for reasons I am now thinking I should debate...).

Anyways, I stopped for a moment to find the CD, and stuck it in. We listened and sang along, and it was just a Psaltastic time. Yesterday, I was in the car by myself, and the CD had moved along to the Laura Story song "Blessings" my friend had burned for me. I literally had to stop the car because I was just crying and crying over the realization that I, in fact, do not know everything, and God is not ignoring me, but He is aware of a heck of a lot more than I am. Who am I not to trust Him? I have to believe. I have to believe that there is a greater purpose in all of this, that He does hear me, that He does love me more than I can fathom, but He knows something that I don't.

Our greatest aspiration as Christians is to live for the life beyond this one. What if all that He is allowing into our lives, as painful as it is, is fulfilling a purpose that may not be apparent in this life, but will be in the next one? Which life do I want to live for, this one, in its blink of an eye, or the next one, which will last an eternity? As hard as it is to do, I definitely want the latter.

I was out shopping with Eisley today. She begged me, begged me, in her sweetest little Eisley voice, to take her shoe shopping for school. Even though it was totally past a time I like to leave the house and she was already in her pajamas, I just really couldn't think of a good reason to turn her down. It's summer, we are starting school soon, she slept really late this morning, and it would just make her entire day if I said yes, so I did.

She has had her eye on a specific style of shoe ever since I broke down and let the kids start watching Nikelodeon (which I specifically did not allow up until this point because of the commercials and the direct effect they have on my children's begging). They are high topped Sketchers Twinkle Toes, and Eisley simply can't imagine herself starting at a new school without them, especially since I dropped the bomb on the Style Queen that she would be wearing one of six school uniform shirts in a bland variety of colors every single day of the first grade.

So we ventured out on this little shoe shopping adventure hoping to find a cheap pair at Ross or something, but were totally unsuccessful. She was so, so disappointed. I looked at her sad little face and I just melted. It is not often she gets her heart set on things, but when she does, it is simply a travesty not to fulfill her wish. I had these sudden overwhelming feelings of sadness for her, not because of the stupid shoes, but because her greatest wish at this point in her life is to be a big sister. And try as I might, I just can't seem to make it happen.

But I can buy shoes.

So we continued, and we went to store after store and failed miserably at each one. WHERE ARE THE SHOES??? Why would you advertise something and then make it impossible for normal people to find?!? I was feeling like a failure as a mother. I felt so sad that I couldn't grant her this simple thing. I wanted so badly to give it to her. And then I had this thought...

God loves me so much more than I love Eisley (which, I have to tell you, is an unfathomable amount, because I already love her an unfathomable amount, so, you do the math). When you love someone that much, you want to give them the desires of their hearts. You go out of your way to do it. You stay up past your bedtime and go to more stores than you'd like to admit. You spend more money than you probably should. You work extra hours, you spend the time and the effort, you do it. Because they want it, and you have the power to give it to them, and it won't do anyone any harm to grant them this tiny thing, so you do it. I wondered to myself, why? Why, if God loved me so much, wasn't He granting me the one thing I have been asking for these past two years? What was the hold up?

As we walked out of the last store into the dark of the dead of the night, I told her we needed to give it a rest and try again tomorrow. Or try the internet. The internet will not fail us. She sighed. And then she told me she needed to go potty.

Well, okay. We were in a parking lot, and she's six, so I figured her bladder could handle the five minute ride home.

I was wrong.

As I rushed home as fast as my conscience would allow on a very busy main road, she yelped at me from the back seat that I needed to hurry, hurry mommy, don't let me have an accident mommy!!!

I finally made it to the stop light right before our house. I had to turn left, and as I said, it is a super busy road. I waited in the middle of the intersection for the clear space needed to turn left, but cars just kept coming. Eisley is literally crying in the backseat telling me to turn. I'm telling her I can't, it isn't clear yet! She screams that I have a green light and she is going to pee in her pants if I don't turn RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!

"But I can't!!!!!!" I say.


Now, I am an adult, with twelve plus years of driving experience. She is six. The extent of her traffic knowledge is "Green means go." To her, I was torturing her. All she wanted was to go potty, if she didn't get to a potty RIGHT NOW, the worst of the worst of the worst in the world of a six-year-old would become her reality. She would pee in her pants.

But I knew, being the wise and highly intelligent adult that I am, that if I turned, we would crash into another car and die or be severely mangled. Does Eisley know that peeing her pants is nothing compared to being severely mangled? Yes. But she did not understand that these were mutually exclusive. To her, I was simply being mean. That, or I didn't understand the severity of the situation at hand.

Remind you of any other situations you've been in?

I realized, as we were sitting at this stop light, Eisley crying, me panicking, Laura Story singing about Blessings on the CD player, that this situation is not unlike what God must experience on a daily basis. Us humans whining about peeing our pants when He is only trying to protect us from being severely mangled in an automobile accident!!!

This analogy might seem like a stretch to you, but it really hit home for me.

He knows more than I do. He is listening to my first prayer, my greatest prayer, to honor Him with my life, to serve a greater purpose for Him, before my second prayer to have another child. I have to trust Him. I have to trust His love for me, even when what is happening makes no sense to me at all and seems almost cruel.

Eisley thought I was being cruel. That I wasn't listening. That I didn't understand how very badly she needed to go potty. She was mad at me! To me, her pleading broke my heart. I hated seeing her like that! I could relate to what she was experiencing as I myself have been six and had a bladder the size of a walnut with a brother who would have teased me endlessly had I peed my pants. Her situation, through her eyes, was dire. I wished so much that she would just trust my love for her and the fact that I did understand her pain, but I had to make a different decision, for her own good. Even though it broke both of our hearts to do so.

But I know better than her. I love her so much, that I would allow this awful, horrible, no good thing to happen to her, because I wanted to save her the pain of what would come had I turned left when she wanted me to.

Josh and I struggle with the trial that God has allowed into our lives right now. We are so hurt that we are going to lose another baby girl that we have grown to love. We are so sad and especially heart broken for her mother. But if God were to sit me down and explain to me that He is allowing this because of this amazing reason and that amazing reason, that this person may come to Christ and that person may finally turn back to God and showing "Kim" this kind of unconditional love may cause this chain reaction and that chain reaction, I am sure I would understand. He loves us so much. He allowed something awful, in our eyes, to serve a purpose for Him. And I am pretty confident that one day He will have that conversation with me, and we will both cry, and I will thank Him for allowing what He did for the reasons that He had.

Does that make it less painful right now? No. Honestly, no. But it does make it worth it.

Josh and I are determined to find and help create purpose from each tragedy the Lord allows into our lives. We will never, ever waste a sorrow. Ever. We will do everything we can to make the tears and the heartbreak and the utter brokenness of what is happening worth it. At this point, that means sharing with all of you what God is teaching us. I'm sure He is doing a lot of behind the scenes action that I'm unaware of, and that is comforting as well.

We will not shield ourselves, our children, or any of you from the pain of what is happening, because we are fully confident that the Lord will create something totally awesome from it. We will continue to love this little girl and her mother. Even if it means another piece of our hearts is taken from us.

My sweet cousin Lisa sent me this video, that so much better says what we are feeling about this whole situation. Please take a moment to watch it, and if you have two moments, listen to Laura Story's "Blessings".

You won't regret it.


"All of Me"
Matt Hammitt

Afraid to love something that could break
Could I move on if you were torn away?
And I'm so close to what I can't control
I can't give you half my heart and pray He makes you whole

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

I won't let sadness steal you from my arms
I won't let pain keep you from my heart
I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I'll share with you

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

Heaven brought you to this moment
It's too wonderful to speak
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grief - A Man's Perspective - By Josh Harrison

Karen asked me to write something from a man’s perspective for FMN this week.  I put it off for a couple reasons.  One reason is that it’s hard for me to write what I’m thinking sometimes.  Lucky for me I married Karen and she can do any required writing for me now.  The other is that the topic is a difficult one to talk about.  All week long I was thinking about what I could write and I came up with a few things, sorry if they don’t fit together perfectly.
                I’ll start by stating the obvious, pregnancy loss sucks.  I wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy.  For me each of our losses was very different but they all were terrible.  Our first loss, Grace, was very difficult.  We had Jake and Eisley and their pregnancy went smoothly especially considering that they were twins.  Looking back we didn’t realize how amazing it was that everything went so smoothly with them.  Karen convinced me that we should have another kid so we gave it a shot.  At the time my biggest fear was that we would have twins again.  Karen got pregnant quickly and we were very excited.  She went to the Dr. and like I said before, I was just hoping and praying for one baby this time.    The Dr. said that they couldn’t find the heartbeat but that it was probably just too early.  We were both shocked by the news but I wasn’t too scared because I just figured that it was indeed just too early.  We spent the next few days praying and praying for the baby.  I was convinced that everything was going to be fine and that we would see a heartbeat.  I can remember the next part very vividly.  Karen has some Dr. friends who were able to do an ultrasound at night after I got home from work.  Well there was no heartbeat again.  This hit me very hard because I was convinced that God was going to make everything ok and that we would see a heartbeat.  The miscarriage was a lot more difficult for me to handle than I had anticipated.  Karen was just so sad and there wasn’t anything I could do to ‘fix’ it.
 It took us a while but we finally got to the point where we wanted to try again.  This time we were much more aware of what could be the outcome if/when she got pregnant.  Well she got pregnant again but things were different this time.  We were not very excited and we kinda kept our hearts guarded.  We didn’t want to get too excited and attached in case we had another miscarriage.  She had many appointments and each time we went in half expecting to hear bad news, but everything was going smoothly.  Once she made it to her second trimester we started to let our guard down a bit and even get a little excited.  We even told the kids and had an amazing experience bringing them to an ultrasound where we found out that it was going to be a girl.  Eisley was soooooo excited to have a little sister.  Jake was a little bummed but was still excited.  Shortly after Karen had another routine appointment that I almost didn’t go to because she had so many and everything was looking good.  Everything seemed the same at this appointment, little did we know what was to come.  We were talking about possible names in the waiting room then they called us back and started going through the routine.  I always got a little nervous at the beginning of the ultrasound until I could see or hear the heartbeat.  Right away I could tell something was wrong.  The ultrasound tech said that she couldn’t find the heartbeat and left to go get the Dr.  I looked over at Karen and she had tears rolling down the side of her face.  I just sat there in shock and stared at the screen with no heartbeat.  I said to Karen that her name is Lily and she nodded.  I could go into great detail about the next couple days but I’ll just touch on a few things that stick out the most.  I’ll never forget the stupid fake fish tank in that room and when I see one like it now it makes me sick.  I’ll never forget the sad faces of the nurses as we left that appointment.  I’ll never forget having to go pick up the kids from VBS and explain to 5 year olds under a tree at church that their baby sister didn’t have a heartbeat anymore.  I’ll never forget having to call my mom to tell her and not being able to get the words out.  I’ll never forget picking out stuffed animals in the hospital for the kids to bring for Lily.  I’ll never forget the kids coming to visit Karen in the hospital and feeling heartbroken for them.  I’ll never forget sitting in the dark room waiting for Lily to come and realizing that God is in control of this terrible situation and somehow have some peace about it.  I’ll never forget seeing Lily’s perfect face and her lips just like Jake’s.  I’ll never forget the 2 hours we spent with her holding her and singing to her and reading the Bible to her.  I’ll never forget walking to the car and not going back up with our car seat for Lily to go home in.  I’ll never forget seeing the nurse roll Karen out who was just broken.  I’ll never forget going to the flower shop to pick out some Lilies for my daughter’s funeral, and realizing this was the only time I would get to buy her flowers.  I’ll never forget having to tell my sister who was on a mission trip that we lost the baby.  I’ll never forget sitting down and writing what I was going to say at the funeral.  I’ll never forget carrying her little casket the size of a shoe box from the funeral home to the grave site.  I’ll never forget seeing everyone put those flowers I bought on her little casket.  I’ll never forget that I had to be strong for Karen and for Jake and Eisley even though I was crushed.  I’ll never forget that I’ll see my sweet baby girl in heaven someday. 
A couple years have gone by since we’ve lost Lily.  Things didn’t really get easier, but I guess you could say that we weren’t so sad as often.  Even now a couple years out, there will be moments that it feels just as bad.  Like a couple weeks ago I was playing with Jones and he was laughing and all of a sudden it struck me that I never got to do that with Lily and I had a mini breakdown when I was telling Karen about it as we drove by the cemetery where she’s buried.
A while after everything with Lily, we tried one more time to have another baby.  Again, Karen got pregnant quickly.  This time we were very guarded and not excited because we were scared.  Well Karen had another miscarriage.  This one wasn’t as hard for us to go through but it did lead us down the adoption road because it seemed like God was trying to tell us something.
I’ll try and make this long story short.  We went through the very long adoption process and got picked by a birthmom.  She didn’t have any ultrasounds until real late in the pregnancy.  At the ultrasound they told her that the baby had some real issues and wouldn’t live long after she was born.  We went down to the hospital not knowing what to expect.  Well the baby was born and she looked perfect.  But they did an ultrasound on her brain and they found that she only had a brain stem and that her brain didn’t develop.  They said that she wouldn’t live long and that she would need special medical care.  We couldn’t put Jake and Eisley through another sister dying.  We prayed and asked God to show us what to do.  (Oh I almost forgot this funny part)  Somewhere in the middle of all of this Karen found out that she was again with child-more on that later.  We spent a lot of time at the hospital loving on Ember.  One trip to the hospital we went to Jack in the Box nearby.  We sort of laughed at our crazy situation: everything with Ember and the fact that Karen was pregnant again.  We talked about how we have no control over anything and that we just need to rely on God even though we have no clue what His plan was.  When we tried to head back our car wouldn't start.  We just laughed and cried at how ridiculous things were going and walked back to the hospital.  On the way back it was hot and clear skies but we saw a rainbow and felt like that was God telling us that He’s right there with us.   The adoption agency found a lady who had experience with the issues that Ember had.  We felt at peace about this lady taking care of Ember.  Ember was adopted by an amazing family who loved on her for the short time she was here on Earth. 
Back to Karen being pregnant again.  This definitely came as a surprise and we did not expect to have a good outcome.  We were very guarded and not excited.  Even up to the moment when the doctors pulled Jonesy out I was convinced something was going to go wrong.  But God had a different plan this time.  Thank God.  The pregnancy went smoothly and Jones was born perfectly healthy.  And now because of all that we went through we definitely appreciate and love Jones that much more.  We still hurt for our losses but even less often. 
Well that was way longer than I expected.  I guess I like talking about my kids that aren’t here with us since I don’t get much chance to.  Each of our losses was very different from each other but they were all very painful.  My advice to guys when dealing with a loss themselves is to let your wife know that you’re hurting too and that it is a big deal to you too.  My advice to guys that have a friend who is going through a loss is to talk to them about it.  I know this type of stuff isn’t the normal surface level sports talk that 90 percent of my chats are with guys, but just mentioning something about their loss goes a long way.

For me, the only thing that got me through the losses was knowing that I would get to see them again someday.  And trusting that all of this ‘mess’ was part of God’s plan.  

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." -Proverbs 16:9


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grief. A Man's Perspective by Jesse Brimhall

       I was asked to write a blog post for Forget-Me-Not from a man's perspective. I guess I should start with some of my credentials. I am a 31 year old father to three children that died before they were born. I am a horrible blogger, having come to the conclusion that whatever I have to say of value is usually intermittent and is usually much to short to warrant a blog of its own. Some of the most profound things I have ever said have been limited to 180 characters, and are lost in a jumble of social media materials that supposedly are now being logged for posterity in the Library of Congress. I guess my profundity is not lost. 

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I began trying to start our family. I guess you could summarize the experience in that it has not gone how we expected. We have lost three children to miscarriage, and we have lost a lot of hope along the way. This is not an easy way to go about life, just in case you weren't aware.

It has been an uphill battle. We have shared excitement with our friends when we have found the illusive blue line, and have shared grief with those that would accept it when we got bad news. The truth is, those who want to share in the grief seem to be smaller in number. Honestly, I think it stems from difficulty in knowing how to share grief. 

I lost my father a few years ago, and a list of things to say and not to say to someone in grief caught my attention. All of the things on the do-not-say list were said to me, and very few encouraging things were said. It was an isolating time for me. Good friends didn't know what to say, so they never wanted tot talk about my loss. Subjects were changed and my grief was ignored, and I became more and more introverted and isolated. 

Eventually, I came out of the depression I felt, but it was definitely a dark time for me. I later met and married my wife, and for some reason, still feel like my feelings about my father's death are mine to bare alone. She did help me a lot with it at the time. She was understanding and supportive, but the feelings sometimes return, and as a man, I feel like they have to be mine to deal with.  Similarly, we seem to have been placed in a position in which our grief of the loss of our children is sometimes not easy to share. 

As a man, it's the pain of grief, of loss of a loved one as well as loss of a potential future, combined with the responsibility of taking care of my wife in her grief. The burden is heavy. Traditionally, it is the responsibility of the husband to be stoic and strong, to carry the burden if the family on his shoulders and to never show any sign of strain or fatigue. His role is to tirelessly lead, love and support his family. It's not easy. It's exhausting. 

A lot of people will tell you that the grieving process gets easier as time passes. A more accurate statement would be that grief is always hard, episodes just become less frequent. There are times that everything is fine for months, and then, instantly, something will set me off. For my wife, these triggers are much more common. Sometimes it comes in the form of seeing a pregnant friend, a cute infant, or even just a small situation in which having our kids nearby would have changed the entire experience.

I am not an expert at the grieving process. If I were to speak candidly, I'm pretty horrible at it. I am, like a lot of men, an emotional pacifist. I am pretty content, if not compelled, to ignore all feelings of grief as long as possible. It's when they resurface that things get messy, but only until I am able to sweep them under an emotional rug again. One of the most inappropriate things that I have ever heard was said to me by a volunteer social worker a couple hours before my dad died. It has been one of those profoundly horrible things that has probably mutilated my ability to grieve in a healthy matter ever since. I tell myself sometimes that it was a mostly innocent comment, but the ramifications have been ongoing for years, and I hear them now as I consider my position in my own family.

"It's a good thing you have those broad shoulders to carry your family through this."

It left me questioning, for years, when it would be ok for me to be carried. 

We named our children, and although we never got to meet them, I imagine their personalities based on those things I have seen in the children of friends of ours. Our oldest, our boy, is a spitfire. He is constantly into things he shouldn't be. He is like me, and is going to light our garage on fire with the welding torch before he has a driver's license. He climbs everything, harasses the dogs, shaves off his eyebrows before his first day of school, and is fiercely protective of his two sisters, who he also talks into snatching snacks out of the pantry for him.

The two little girls, are inseparable, despite having opposite personalities. They are adorable little troublemakers, getting out of all sorts of trouble with innocent smiles and innocent quips. All of the rest of the details are very private and guarded. 

There are days that I get lost in thoughts of them. There are also many more days that I can't. The pressures of work, supporting my wife, and just dealing with everyday life cause my grief to be delayed. They have caused my mind to be overwhelmed, at times, and empty at others. In a recent conversation with my wife, we talked about how I deal with the pain, the loss, and the frustration when she can't. My methods, as misguided as they are, have always been to seek solace in distraction. It's why I enjoy owning cars that require tinkering, I watch cartoons late at night when I should be sleeping, and it is probably why I have made a hobby out of having hobbies. It's one of those things that probably largely hereditary, but helps me connect with my father and my absent son. 

Teaching a grade-school aged son to rebuild a carburetor or change brake pads, or teaching a kindergartner how to slow dance at a father-daughter dance. These are the thoughts I have of my children. They are the happy experiences I wish I would have a chance at, but they are the things that I can think about while I absently fix up the car that would have taken my son and I years to finish, and I would have driven my daughter on her first date in.

        This post is an expansion on the thoughts I had while drawing these sketches last week. Becky bought me an iPad for my birthday, and I had started messing around with a new drawing app, and I realized that I had something to say with it. My hope is to turn them into a small book for her some day. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

"It's still a birthday"

As I re-read my answers one more time and finally click the "submit" button, I think about how it feels as though more than a week has gone by.

One week and one day ago, I sat with my head in my hands, the glare of the laptop screen piercing through the darkness as my husband snored next to me.  If he had been awake, he likely would have been wondering who in the world I was talking to.

"This is insane, I am the least qualified person on the planet to do this."

"I SERIOUSLY don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies either--for real."

"But I don't WANT to."

And as I argued.  Wrestled.  With God as to why He had put this seemingly impossible thing in front of me, before my excuses were even mumbled, I knew that He wasn't asking me.  He was telling me.  He was telling me that He knew I was scared, that He knew that "all this baby stuff" really and truly freaked me out--and that He knew that there was no way to come out of this emotionally unscathed.  And a wrestled a little more.  And then a little more.

And as I tried to explain to my husband a little while later what had been brought to my attention (again--not that I told him about the other two times this had been placed in front of me), we talked and prayed about what to do.  See, it was July 6th.  And the next Stillbirthday Birth and Bereavement Doula Certification Class began on July 7th.  And I sat and listened to my husbands thoughts on the matter I was genuinely surprised at how on-board he was.  It isn't that his support took me by surprise, it was more the fact that I heard actual genuine excitement in his voice.  Did he have reservations?  Sure he did.  There was the concern about how this would affect me as a person, as a currently grieving and broken-hearted loss momma.  There was concern about whether or not I was in a place where I could handle reading and watching this type of material in my current state--not to mention the cost.  But we prayed and decided that as we parted ways for the day, we would both continue to pray about it and see where God led us at the end of the day.  And as I found myself a few hours later, sitting on the floor of our Sunday School classroom,  re-organizing 100 FMN boxes, I thought more and more about what this would look like.   And I had nothing but questions on my mind.

How is this going to feel?

What if I get halfway through the material and it's too much for me?

Am I really capable of even making it through the class?

If I even get through the class and I pass the exams, what then?

What in the world would I ever even use this for?

Why me?

But every single question was met with the same response.

"Come with Me."

And the more I thought and the more I talked it over with God, the more I knew He was inviting me to jump.  To take a leap of faith, or whatever you want to call it.  To follow Him on the next path of this journey.  And to come and see what He had planned.  What He had in store.

And so, a week ago Sunday, I talked with my husband one more time.  And to my surprise.  We were on the exact same page.  Now I don't know about you, but I implicitly trust and respect my husband deeply.  And if something doesn't smell right, doesn't line up, I know he will have the wisdom to discern that--and I will follow him wherever he leads our family, for that reason among others.  And so I nervously texted Karen one more time to make sure she was doing this with me (please, like I could do something like this without her...!?), I punched in my debit card number.  And as the welcome information from the head of Stillbirthday began to pour into my email, I blinked back tears as I considered how significant this was.

See, the thing about this certification, about Stillbirthday, is that the whole idea is to be equipped to walk through and support any mother in any birth outcome in any trimester.  For close to two years, I have been surrounded by one birth outcome and one birth outcome only:  death.  This was a result of my own experiences and the experiences of the women that had crossed my path, but it was also a result of my own choice.  I gravitated towards it.  It's all I know.  With the exception of one friend--one friend--I have chosen to not be involved in or participate in any other pregnancy outcome.  Showers, gender reveals, announcements, even most of the meal set ups--I have run in the other direction.  And so, one of the reasons that this decision is so very significant for me is that I am willingly choosing to be exposed to healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes, in the training material if nothing else.  I could not, with words, describe to you how much of a stretch this is for me right now.  It's huge.

But there has not been a single day that the Lord has not confirmed that this decision was the one He had for me to make.  First, there has been the incredible sense of community and support that I immediately began receiving from the other women in my class.  They are kind.  They are genuine.  Many have suffered a great deal of loss.  They are supportive.  They speak the same language.  And they get it.  Then there has been the huge perspective change that has happened in my mind and in my heart.  I had never previously considered that a woman might choose to quit talking about the baby she lost altogether, for fear that her choices in the matter would invite only ridicule and hatred rather than compassion and understanding.  That she might just start saying that her ectopic pregnancy was a miscarriage because the thought of admitting that she induced a chemical abortion so that the baby growing in one of her tubes would not kill her was just too much to bear.  I never even would have thought about that, or how that might feel.  And then there was the new phrase I learned.  "my baby was born through miscarriage."  It took me an entire day to let that one sink in.  And for any woman who has ever had a first term miscarriage, or two, or three, you will understand why.  And the course content is no joke-- the videos, pictures, discussions, and reading materials-- and the "open book exams"?  They should call them open-heart exams.  Those questions cut deep.  And then there was the live birth video that I watched.  And I only made it halfway through and I felt a little nauseous when I turned it off.  But I watched it.  Voluntarily.  There was also the other video that I only made it halfway through for the time being-- the 40 minute training on how a birth and bereavement doula might bathe/help the mother bathe a stillborn 16 week old baby.  And as I watched it, I wept for the women who have needed and will need to know how to do something like that.  

And I have thought to myself more times in the last week, " I am so unqualified for this...That is the weirdest thing I have ever seen/heard...I had no idea that's what that meant...I never knew that...I never knew that....I never knew that...I could never ever do that."  And I truly have never felt so inadequate.  So freaked out.  And so in the right place.

So to those of you who might be looking at me and thinking, wow, are you really ready for this?  Is this really something you are going to actually do?  I don't have any answers for you.  I will be the first to admit that I have zero clue why God is asking me to do this right now.  But as a wise mentor reminded me last week, He would think nothing of moving heaven and earth, of taking me through all of this, for one person.  For one woman.  Who would need this kind of support, this kind of compassion, this kind of friendship and ministry, somewhere on down the road.  He loves each person so much that He would think nothing of that.  And I believe that is true.   And until such a time as He chooses to let me in on what He has planned in all of this, this is where I'll be.