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


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