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.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn."
"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."