Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Still Standing

We welcomed this year with arms wide-open.  It was easy to welcome 2013 since 2012 was one of the most difficult years of our lives.  Two miscarriages.  Hopes and dreams shattered.  Two children whose lives existed, yet we were unable to meet.  It was a rough year.  We looked forward to a new beginning, and longed for the fresh start a new year would bring.

This year has brought many blessings, one of which was an unexpected new adventure in my husband's career.  It has truly been an adventure, not without sacrifice, but one full of unique experiences, beautiful community, and richness, and we are thankful.

This year has also brought two anniversaries of our losses, one anticipated due date, and an anniversary of another.  YET...



It feels so good to write that.  We survived.  We are still standing.  We made it through - alive.  And we did more than just make it through, we lived.  We lived our lives - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We felt deep hurt, pain, loss, and emptiness, yet we felt joy, peace, love, comfort, gratitude, and contentment.  Only God can do that, and we are thankful.

In the midst of our gratitude, however, there is one hope, one longing, and one desire that still lingers...Our hearts still long to hold a child of our own on this side of Heaven.  

This year has been one of waiting.  Sometimes I completely suck at it and others times, by God's grace, I have peace and contentment in the midst of it all.  Honestly, I would say the first part is true the majority of the time, but lately I have felt such peace and contentment, and I am thankful.

My prayers have changed these days.  Yes, we still ask that God would give us the desires of our heart, and sometimes if I am feeling really brave, I ask for His will and His timing.  But more than anything else, I find myself asking for peace and joy and contentment in the midst of it all.   And these are such sweet and beautiful gifts, and I am thankful.

Because of God's grace and generosity, we survived.  We are still standing.  We are still hoping, longing, and praying, and at times, still grieving and healing.  We are living - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We still feel hurt, pain, loss, and emptiness, yet we feel joy, peace, love, comfort, gratitude, and, contentment in the midst of it all.  Only God can do that, and we are thankful.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Walk to Remember

There is this amazing event in our hometown every year called Walk to Remember that gives families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss the opportunity to remember and honor their babies.  The event is hosted by a local organization called Tiny Purpose.  Tiny Purpose offers year-round support to families who have experienced pregnancy and infant losses through a monthly support group, card ministry, hospital visits, encouraging events, and memory boxes and bracelets to remember those we miss and love.  I feel so blessed to have this type of ministry right here in my own community.  Their love and support have had a significant impact on my grief journey and healing process.  As a side note, if you have anything like this in your own community, I would strongly encourage you to participate (when you feel ready) because simply knowing you are not alone can bring much healing as we walk this grief journey together.

This year’s annual Walk to Remember was the second walk I have had the opportunity to be a part of.  However, my role this year was different.  This year, I had the opportunity to speak at the event.  It was a difficult, humbling, and beautiful experience simultaneously.  Something can be both difficult and beautiful when God is a part of it and He was.  I trusted that He would provide the words He wanted to share and allowed Him to speak His truth and life to those listening.  However, I just love what He said so much that I wanted to share it with you too.  I encourage you to open your heart to whatever He desires to speak to your heart as your read this.
"I would like to begin by thanking Tiny Purpose for the honor and privilege of sharing with each of you today.  Thank you for entrusting me with this opportunity.  As Alaina said, my name is Lynsey Rye.  Although I do not know many of you, I hope today can feel like we’re just sitting in our favorite place together sharing our stories and journeys over a cup of coffee or tea – depending on your preference. 

Take a brief second to look at those around you.  Each one of us has our own unique story, yet all of us have been touched by the life or lives of those we honor and remember today.  I do not know the details of your story and I won’t pretend to understand everything you have felt or experienced, but I do want to say “thank you for reminding me that I am not alone”.  I am saddened by the amount of people here who have been affected by pregnancy and infant loss and stillbirths, but I am blessed by the opportunity to unite with others to honor and remember the precious lives that have deeply and significantly impacted each of ours. 

Just as our stories differ, I realize that today each of us may be in a different place on our grief journey.  For some of you, it has been five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years since your loss.  For others, it has been just a year.  For others still, your loss is fresh - it has been only days, weeks, or months since you were forced to say “goodbye”.  Just six days prior to last year’s Walk to Remember, my husband and I were informed that we had had our second miscarriage.  Needless to say, our wounds were fresh. 

Tuesday of this week marked one year since our second miscarriage.  During the weeks leading up to this anniversary, memories from the events of last year have flooded my mind.  I have thought of our second pregnancy and the life it represented…our sweet 'Baby J'.  I have cried myself to sleep.  I have felt the vast longing in my heart to hold our babies.  I have felt the emptiness that exists in their absence.  I have felt the deep grief that comes from knowing things are not what they were “supposed to be”.  I have felt the terrifying fear of losing of another child.  I have felt the uncertainty and fear of whether or not we will ever be able to hold a child of our own on this earth.  I have felt the profound sadness and heartache and pain of losing a child.

On some days, I want to hide these feelings or run away from them because they hurt.  But today I am choosing to be authentic.  Because I know I am in the company of those who have felt this pain and cried these tears.  Although the details of our stories vary, I know we have all felt the heartache of losing a child. 

So I would like to ask you a question…Will you join me in authenticity today?  Don’t worry…I am not going to ask you to come up to this microphone and share your feelings with everyone, but I do want to invite you to tune into what your heart is feeling.

It takes courage and bravery to attend an event like today.  We all made a choice to honor and remember our babies today even if it hurts.  This is courage.  This is strength.  This is love. 

A day like today can bring a variety of emotions.  Today, I feel vulnerable as I share my heart with each of you.  I feel sadness as my heart aches for our babies.  I feel emptiness as my arms long to hold them.  I feel lots and lots of love for our babies.  And I feel proud to their mother. 

So again, I want to invite you to tune into what your heart is feeling today.  Do you feel…

Hurt?  Pain?  Emptiness?  Longing?  Heartache? Numbness?  Grief?  Fear?  Sadness?  Brokenness?  Vulnerability?  Joy?  Hope?  Peace?  Celebration?  Remembrance? 

We have all experienced an array of thoughts and feelings as we have lived our stories and walked these journeys that unite us today.  Yet, wherever you are on your journey, no matter what your story is, Jesus has the desire and ability to meet you right where you are today [Even as you read this right now] and I have been praying that He will.

So before we go any further, let me take just a moment to pray for each of you.

Now let’s get back to those cups of coffee or tea as we sit across the table from each other and share our stories.  Please allow me to begin by sharing our story with you. 

About a month after our first loss, I started a blog called Missed Miscarriages and Mourning Mommies.  This blog became a significant part of my journey towards healing.  Writing helps me process my thoughts and feelings and find healing in the midst of hurt.  My hope for the blog was that it would not only be an outlet to help me cope, but would also be a support and encouragement to others who have experienced loss as well.  I would like to share excerpts from my very first blog entry with you as it embodies where this chapter of our story – the chapter of our grief and loss – begins.   

'I remember that day clearly, which is ironic since the entire day simultaneous feels very foggy.  May 10, 2012, the day that was supposed to be one of the most exciting things my husband and I have ever experienced.  That day, we woke up a little earlier than normal to attend our first ultrasound appointment together.  We were the doctor's first appointment of the day.  I had been dreaming of this day since we took our first pregnancy test on Easter weekend.  Dreaming of the first time we would be able to see our baby and longing for the peace I hoped it would bring in knowing our baby was okay.  I had been counting down the days until our first ultrasound in much anticipation.  However, buried deep within my heart was this haunting fear that our baby's heartbeat would not be heard….

….As we entered the door to my doctor's office...I felt a certain nervous excitement, which made me even more thankful that my husband was by my side.  We had only been sitting down for about five minutes before the nurse called my name.  We headed to the room where the ultrasound would be conducted.  After updating some medical history and getting my blood pressure checked, the nurse assured us that the doctor would be in shortly.

As our doctor entered the room, my nervous excitement momentarily increased...‘This is it’, I thought to myself.  She introduced herself and I introduced my husband.  Then without hesitation she motioned me to come over to the bed so we could begin the ultrasound.  She got the machine ready and put the warm ointment on my belly and began moving the wand back and forth.  I looked at the screen for a few seconds then choose to look at my husband instead because my full fledged fear of what may or may not be seen momentarily overwhelmed me.  

‘There's your baby’, the doctor said after what seemed to be ten to fifteen minutes, although it was probably only five in reality.  I looked longingly with some peace.  Although to be honest, I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at, everything seemed jumbled and unclear.  She continued to move the wand back and forth and I watched her as her eyebrows communicated that she was concentrating intensely, searching for something that should be found.  

Again, my fear overcame me and I choose to look in the opposite direction.  Eventually after a long silence, she said, 'I cannot find your baby's heartbeat so I'm going to send you to the hospital for another ultrasound.  Their technology is better than ours and there are times when they can find it when I can't.'  I choked back my tears momentarily, but as soon as she left the room I looked at my husband and they began to flow freely.  I am certain that he could see the fear plastered on my face.     

In my mind I thought, ‘This is my worst fear coming to life’.  My husband attempted to encourage me by sharing that he thought he saw movement on the screen where the heartbeat was supposed to be.  I attempted to receive his words, but all I could think was, ‘Oh no...This is exactly what I feared would happen’.  Although my heart was full of a million emotions and my mind was afflicted by fear, I began praying asking for God to help us...

….When we arrived at the hospital, the ultrasound technician explained that she would not be able to give us any information while we were there today, but that we were to report to our doctor's office afterwards to hear the results.  We shook our heads in acknowledgement and agreement…They took picture after picture and I attempted to wait patiently.  But by now my bladder was so full, it was aching.  I closed my eyes in an attempt to escape my present reality, and began talking to God about our present circumstances with short, repetitive statements.  I do not remember everything we talked about in that moment, but I do remember saying, ‘If this is really happening, I know You'll help us get through this’.  And although I meant it with all my heart, deep down I hoped that by some miracle our baby would have heartbeat.  

After two of ultrasounds…we made our way out to the hospital parking lot.  As we were walking to our car, I said to my husband, ‘Can we just go home instead of going back to the doctor's office?’  It was a rhetorical question, but that's really what my heart wanted.  I did not want to go back to the doctor's office to hear what I thought was coming.  I wanted to avoid that conversation with all that was in me.  Plus, I was already so exhausted emotionally and physically, I did not feel like I could even survive the conversation.

After submitting to reality, we headed to my doctor's office, checked in at the front desk, and waited in the lobby for what seemed like an eternity.  It was one of the longest moments in my life.  My husband checked Facebook and I played Bubble Breaker on my phone in an attempt to not think about what felt like impending news.  Finally, my name was called and although I did not want to hear what I thought was coming, I really wanted to know what the results were.

After we entered the room, the doctor came in and began speaking aloud my worst nightmare, ‘The hospital confirmed what I thought to be true, your baby does not have a heartbeat’.  She then proceeded to say many more things that I tried to listen to wide-eyed in a feeble attempt to hold back the tears.  After she finished, she walked out to get something.  I looked at my husband and lost it, yet again.  He came over and stood by me as I leaned my head on his leg sobbing.

After we left, I felt simultaneously numb and sad beyond belief, and so incredibly exhausted.  I had never experienced something so heartbreaking before.  I had never experienced my worst nightmare actually come to life.  Yes, I had experienced painful things before and had fears and worries come to life, but never my worst nightmare.  My heart was broken.  Yet my heart clung to the prayer I had spoken earlier, the promise that God would take care of us even in the midst of this.'

Now let’s skip ahead several pages to the next part of our story [See My Worst Nightmare - Take Two for my original blog entry documenting our second miscarriage]. 

On Friday, October 12, 2012, I woke up and realized I was spotting.  I was just shy of eight weeks pregnant.  Terrifying fear paralyzed my heart.  My biggest fear:  Having another miscarriage.  I began to pray and asked my husband to pray as well.  I pleaded with God that our baby would be okay and hoped with everything within me that this did not mean my biggest fear was coming to life, yet again.

Since our first miscarriage was a missed miscarriage that resulted in a D & C, I had no clue what a natural miscarriage was like.  And as evening approached, thing were progressively getting  worse.  My doctor’s office had tried to appease my worries earlier in the day, but as things continued to progress so did my fear.  When Saturday arrived, I experienced things that were honestly traumatizing.  I knew very well that what I was experiencing could be a miscarriage, yet at the same time my hope, optimism, and denial wanted to believe something different.

After doing some research, I came to the realization that what I was experiencing was more likely than a miscarriage.  And when Monday morning arrived, my doctor’s office confirmed that this was in fact the case.  Once again, I was feeling exhausted, heart-broken, and numb simultaneously.  I knew firsthand that there were painful, dark days ahead and many more emotions to come, but I was choosing to trust that God would bring us through this since He carried us through once before.   
I know I don’t need to into great depth about the brokenness my heart felt on those days and the days to follow because I know I am in the company of others who know what it is like to have your heart broken into a million pieces.  Losing a child is by far the most painful and difficult thing I have ever experienced in my life.  And there is honestly only one reason why I have been able to survive and that is Jesus.  He desires and is able to meet us right where we are.  And He did.  In the midst of the darkest, most painful experiences of my life, He did.  In the midst of my heartache, brokenness, hopelessness, emptiness, and disappointment, He did.  In the midst of my doubts, uncertainties, questions, and insecurities, He did.  In the midst of my fears and anxiety, He did.

There are a million things He has taught me on this journey, but there is one in particular that I would to share with you today.  It gives me the strength and courage to keep going, to keep hoping, to keep believing.  It’s a truth that He speaks to all of our hearts today:  “YOUR STORY IS NOT FINISHED YET.”  Listen to His Words. 
Your.  Story.  Is.  Not.  Finished.  Yet. 

God started writing His Story before the beginning of time and His Story did not end the day we lost our children.  He loves you and cares for you and longs to meet you right where you are.  I invite you to listen to His words to you today…
"Your story is not finished yet."

The lies of grief and loss tell us that our stories ended the day we lost our children.  The lies of grief and loss tell us that God does not love us or care.  The lies of grief and loss tell us that life is hopeless.  The lies of grief and loss tell us that we are all alone and no one cares.  These could not be further from the Truth.

When you wonder if it will always feel like this,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

When you feel the emptiness
that exists in your child’s absence,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

When you feel the deep grief that comes from knowing
things are not what they were “supposed to be”,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

When you are afflicted by
the pain and emptiness of grief,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

When you feel the uncertainty and fear of
not knowing whether or not you will ever
hold a child of your own on this earth,
please remember, your story is not finished yet. 

When you are overwhelmed by fear and anxiety
during a pregnancy after loss,
please remember your story is not finished yet.

When your empty arms ache to hold your child,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

When your heart yearns for your child,
please remember, your story is not finished yet.

I wish all of our stories did not include these chapters of loss, grief, and pain.  I wish our children were still in our arms.  But I am grateful that these chapters are not the end of His Story.

John 16:33 states,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”
We have felt the trouble, the brokenness, the heartache that this world brings.  But because Jesus overcame sin, death, the world, and its brokenness through His death and resurrection, His story does not end here on earth.  For whoever believes in Him, has the hope of eternity (John 3:15). 

No matter where you are on journey, I hope and pray that you have heard God’s words to you today.  God wants each of you to know that He has not forgotten you.  He sees what you’ve been through and what you’re going through.  And He’s speaking to your hearts...
“Hold on, my story is not finished yet. 
There’s still more to come.” 
I know how hard it is to trust someone, especially in the midst of hurt and pain, but I can tell you firsthand that God is trustworthy.  He handled my broken-heart with love and delicacy and continues to heal my wounds and put the pieces back together.  And I know He will do the same for you as you trust Him as the Author of your story or rather of His Story. 

I want to leave you with an image from Revelation 21:4 that gives us a glimpse of what His Story looks like beyond this earth…

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away.”

And what a beautiful day that will be."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Light in the Darkness

Several weeks ago, some of my colleagues and I were discussing the fact that life experiences have the potential to affect one's beliefs about God, the world, others, and oneself.  For example, if a person is raised in a family where (s)he is frequently criticized and nothing (s)he says or does seems to measure up, (s)he may develop the belief:  "I am not good enough."  On a day to day basis, we typically are not aware of this process, yet we live and breathe its effects daily.  These effects are displayed through our feelings, our relationships, our decisions, our priorities, etc.  Sometimes they wear the face of fear or insecurity.  Sometimes their attire is contentment or joy.

During this conversation, my mind naturally drifted towards our recent experiences.  I began to think about our two miscarriages last year and our present journey of trying to conceive once again.  I pondered the thoughts that crossed my mind during the darkest moments of our journey.  Some thoughts I would honestly be ashamed to say aloud.  However, deep down, I know I am not the only one who has thought those things or felt that way. 

You know the thoughts I am taking about?  They are dark and hopeless and despairing.  An accurate portrayal of what a broken, grieving heart feels.  Empty.  Lonely.  Hopeless.  Afflicted.  They may sound a little something like this... 

"God hates me."

"God is cruel."

"God is not in control."

"Life is hopeless."

"I am inadequate."

"I am a failure."

"I am all alone."

"No one cares."

"Good things never happen to me."

What words have your broken, grieving heart spoken?  Don't be afraid to be genuine and honest with yourself here.  You are not alone.  We have all been there.  Although our words may not sound the same, our hearts cry a familiar tune.   We've felt the emptiness, the loneliness, the hopelessness, the despair.  Go ahead, say them out loud.

These are the thoughts of our broken, grieving hearts.      

HOWEVER, in the midst of these thoughts, we must remember:  Thoughts and feelings birthed from a heart broken into a million pieces are oftentimes void of the truth that anchors our soul.

Yes, they are real.  Yes, they hurt like none other.  But they don't have to steal the truth.  They don't have to be more than a thought or a feeling.  They can be what they are, but nothing more.  They don't have to define us.  They don't have to become our beliefs.

Let them be what they are, but don't let them be more.  Think and feel, but don't let them become. 

If you find yourself in the midst of the darkness today, remember the truth:  
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." - Jesus (John 12:46)

Monday, July 22, 2013

What if?

"What if we cannot conceive again?"

"What if we loose another baby?"

"What if my heart is broken again?"

As a counselor by profession, I often discourage my clients from dwelling on "What if's" questions, at least the negative ones.  Primarily because I have learned and experienced firsthand that there are typically no benefits from dwelling on these questions.  But I must admit that although "I know better", sometimes these thoughts plague my mind.  And I have reason to believe that you've had some "What if" questions of your own.  Whether they sound the same or look very different, I am certain we have both experienced the same paralyzing fear and overwhelming anxiety these thoughts can bring.

 At times I attempt to cope with these thoughts by pretending they do not exist.  After all, it's not very "spiritual" to have these thoughts of fear, anxiety, and doubt.  Right?  Or not?  I believe these thoughts are a very real part of being human.  In fact, I love reading the books of Psalms and Job because both David and Job had very honest conversations with God.  However, it is important to recognize one key word I mentioned earlier:  "Dwelling".

When we dwell on these thoughts, they begin to take residence in our mind and have the potential to steal life from us.  They have stolen my contentment, my gratitude, my peace, my joy, my faith, and my hope.  They have adversely affected my relationship with my Savior and blinded my eyes to His Truth.

And the truth at this point in most of our lives is that these are only "What if's".  They are not reality.  We do not know whether they will happen or not.  So in the meantime let's forget about these negative "What if's".  And instead choose to dwell on some positive ones.

"What if we do conceive again?"

"What if we carry our baby full-term?"

"What if we give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby?"

What if we dare to believe in possibilities?
What if we dare to hope again?

"No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame..." ~Psalm 25:3

Monday, May 27, 2013

"I Will Help You."

Most of the time when I write a post, I feel inspired by a feeling, a thought, or an experience.  Today I feel the need to write because of the significance of the date on the calendar and what it means in our story, but honestly I just feel numb.  When we experienced our first baby's expected due date, I had much to say.  Today, I just don't know what to say.

There's something different about experiencing this for a second time.  Part of it is simply because I have been here before.  There is something about the unknown that is terrifying - at least for me.  As our first baby's due date was approaching, I was afraid.  I was afraid I would not survive.  I was afraid of the emptiness.  I was afraid of the sadness.  I was afraid of the brokenness.  However, once you've experienced something before, it's almost as if you don't have to be as afraid.  You know you can survive because you have before.  And that's how I've felt leading up to today.  I knew it was coming, but I also knew God would bring me through once again.  And He will.

I wrote a letter to Baby "J" this morning.  I wanted Baby "J" to know he/she is not forgotten and that he/she is in my thoughts today.  I wanted Baby "J" to know what today means to us - the day (or close to it) when we would have been able to meet him/her face to face and hold him/her in our arms.  I told Baby "J" how deeply I miss him/her even though we've never met.  And this is when I start to feel.

Today is so different than what I hoped for or imagined.  I remember thinking about how my sister's graduation present would be another niece or nephew and how much I thought she would love that.  I remember praying that our baby's birth would not conflict with her graduation ceremony so we could still be there to support her on that important day. I remember dreaming of holding Baby "J" and meeting him/her face to face.  I remember my dreams of being able to be a mother in a tangible way.  

This is the mourning, the grieving.  For things are not what we hoped for or imagined.  Our lives and our family are not what we hoped for or imagined.  Yet even in the midst of this I am grateful.  I am thankful for the blessing of being a mother even though it is in a different way than I hoped.  I am thankful I have two beautiful babies even though I have not met them yet.  I am thankful for family and friends who have and continue to support us on our journey.  I am thankful that Hope is never lost.  I am thankful that we will be able to see our babies and hold them one day.  I am thankful we serve a God who cares.

The numbness is wearing off and many thoughts and feelings and memories are flooding into my mind, yet I know I will survive this day.  I know God will bring me through the significance of this day once again.  Whatever significant days you have yet to face, even though the fear or uncertainty may be great, I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that God cares and He will bring you through.

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you'." -Isaiah 41:13

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not Forgotten

I am thinking of you today.  You have been on my heart and in my prayers.  I know this day may not look like what you hoped for, dreamed of, longed for, or prayed for.  But that does not change the fact that you are a mother.  So today I am wishing you a "Happy Mother's Day"!

In some ways, your journey as a mother has been one of the most difficult of all.  Saying goodbye to a child before you even got a chance to see his or her face is unspeakably painful, and to love furiously in the midst of loss is incredible. 

You are incredible.  

You are brave.  

You are courageous.  

You are strong.  

You are beautiful.  

You are a mother.  

You are not forgotten today and neither is your precious child(ren).  Even though our children are not in our arms, sitting on our laps, or holding our hands today, it doesn't change the fact that we are mothers.  It may look different from the outside, but on the inside our hearts are so full of love for our children who changed us and blessed us with the opportunity to be mothers.  

Jesus sees you today.  He sees your heart - the parts that still hurt, the parts that ache, that parts that long to hold your child(ren), and the parts that remember your child(ren) today.  You are not forgotten today and neither is your precious child(ren).  You are beautiful.  You are mother.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Year Ago Today...

A year ago today...I remember waking up with feelings of joy and anticipation even though I stayed in bed a little longer than I should have in an attempt to get a few extra minutes of sleep.  I remember putting on my green v-neck boyfriend tee accessorized by my handmade peacock feather earrings.  I remember saying goodbye to our house guests just before rushing out the door with my husband, a little behind schedule because of those extra minutes of sleep my body demanded earlier that morning.

I remember the delicate medley of excitement and fear as we arrived at my doctor's office and sat in the waiting room.  I remember climbing onto that awkwardly uncomfortable sterile bed in preparation for our first ultrasound.  I remember feeling the warm ointment as the doctor squeezed it onto my belly.  I remember looking away from the screen for fear of my worst nightmare coming to fruition - until the doctor said with reassuring words, "There's your baby."

Then...I remember watching her as if she was searching for something that could not be found, and I vividly remember the overwhelming fear of that moment.  I remember my despair when the doctor uttered the words:  "I cannot find your baby's heartbeat".  I remember the car ride to the hospital and the additional ultrasounds to determine if our baby was "viable".  I remember that dreadful trip back to the doctor's office to await the ultrasound results.  I remember hearing the doctor mumble words that confirmed we had lost of our baby.  I remember tightly embracing my husband and leaning on him as I wept uncontrollably.

I remember the tears.  I remember the pain.  I remember the heartache.  I remember the brokenness.  I remember the emptiness.  I remember the numbness.  I remember the shattered hopes and dreams.  Yet, I remember God's promise to me that He would walk by our side through whatever the future held.  I remember the intimacy and closeness my husband and I shared as we wept together.  I remember the comfort and love we received from those who dearly love us.  I remember our baby, Ashton Hope.

In memory of Ashton today, I chose to release some balloons chosen specifically to display his/her impact on our hearts.

During today's events, I remember one moment in particular when I lost my grip on one of the balloons.  I remember desperately grasping for the curling ribbon fearing that the balloon would float away before the appropriate time.  Then, I remember tears filling my eyes as I stretched out my hand and tightly grabbed the ribbon.  For that feeling was all too familiar.  The fear of losing something or someone before his or her time, before I was ready to let go.  I was not ready to let go.  Not in that moment and especially not on that day - a year ago today.

But there came a time today when I knew I needed to let go.  So I clutched that curling ribbon in my hands one last time and I prayed.  Then it began, the process of letting go...one step at a time.

As these events unfolded today, the sun was often hidden by the clouds, but for brief moments it would gloriously shine without abandon.  Throughout this year, there were days so overcast that the radiant beams of the sun appeared hidden.  There were days so dark that it seemed like the light would never shine again.  There were days when the pain and heartache and sadness seemed to overshadow any possibility of relief or healing or hope.  Yes, there are those days and sometimes there are oh so many.  However, the sun always shines even when it is hidden by the clouds.  The light always appears even in the darkest moments.  

And it did today too.  There were brief moments in the midst of this overcast and dreary day when God in His grace allowed me to catch glimpses of the radiant sun and feel it's life-giving warmth.  

The Son always shines and His radiant Light is life-giving even in the midst of the darkest days.  Even when it cannot be seen, it still exists.  Today, I remember the healing that God has done in my heart since that day - a year ago today and embrace the hope of the Son and His radiant Light.  May you catch glimpses of the radiant beams of the Son and the life-giving warmth of His Light even in the midst of your darkest days.  And remember even when they cannot be seen, they still exist.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Meet Nilver

As our first child was growing in my womb, love for our baby increased daily.  After we found out our baby was gone, I felt like all the love that filled my heart had no where to go.  Practically speaking, that is.  I had no cheek to kiss.  No tiny hand to hold.  No smooth skin to touch.  No mouth to feed.  No practical way to express the love that was overflowing from my heart.  As a result, shortly after our loss, I had this overwhelming desire to go to an orphanage and tangibly show love to children there.  I wanted a practical way to convey the love that was in my heart.  After our second loss, this desire came back with intensity.

Four months later, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker talk about children in need and the ministry of Compassion International.  My heart was awakened once again and I remember God gently speaking to my heart.  A month later I heard another speaker share about the ministry of Compassion International and the needs of children.  I knew in that moment that God clearly placed the mission of the ministry on my heart.  I loved what I heard - the fact that they provided both physical and spiritual nourishment to children in need, and I was excited about the opportunity to love a child in a practical way - a tangible way to convey the love in my heart.

My desire and intention is not, nor has it ever been to replace our babies.  Instead, it is to furiously love in their honor.  Both times after we conceived, my motherly instincts and innate desire to love and nurture came alive, yet after our babies were gone, I no longer had someone to tangibly love and nurture.  The majority of the children who are sponsored through Compassion International have both their fathers and mothers, yet do not have enough financial resources to meet their needs.  I have no desire to replace someone's father or mother nor to replace our babies, but I love that the ministry of Compassion International gives people an opportunity to tangibly love, in Jesus' Name, by providing resources to meet the needs of children.

After hearing about the ministry of Compassion International on two different occasions, my husband and I decided to sponsor a child through their ministry.  So please allow me to introduce you to Nilver...

Nilver captured our hearts for two primary reasons.  First because he had been waiting for a sponsor for more than 200 days, and secondly because his date of birth shares the expected due date of our second baby.  I am just simply blessed by this tangible opportunity to love a child in honor and memory of our babies.  If you are interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion International, please visit their website.  It is a unique opportunity to share the love in your heart while honoring and remembering your baby and/or babies.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Trying Again, Again

For the past couple months we have been in the "trying again" phase.  I guess "trying again, again" is a more accurate way to put it.  I miss the innocence and pure joy of our very first experience of trying to conceive.  There was so much anticipation, excitement, and so much hope.  It was such a beautiful season in our life and marriage.  One that God blessed greatly when we conceived our first child.

Trying again after we lost our first child still brought anticipation and excitement, but this time it was coupled with fear and anxiety.  Knowing the joy of conceiving and the anticipation of seeing our beautiful baby for the first time, only to discover he or she did not have a heartbeat, caused our hearts to be more reserved the second time around.  However, when we discovered that we were pregnant again, we could not help, but be excited, even though we were scared to death of another loss.

Now here we are again.  Two losses later.  Trying again, again.  I think all the innocence has been stripped from this experience and oh how I miss it.  But it's almost impossible to hope recklessly and love with abandon when my heart has been broken into a million pieces...twice.  Plus, I honestly cannot deny the fear and doubt that is some times overwhelming as I wonder first of all if we will be able to conceive again, and secondly, if we will carry a baby full-term.  The fear and doubt can be paralyzing and so destructive.  At times, it steals my joy, my hope, my dreams, and possibilities.  I am ashamed to say it does, but in these moments, my humanity is ever-present.

BUT, I refuse to allow my fear and doubt to be victorious, God help me.  Even in my weakest, more vulnerable, fragile, and raw moments, I must choose hope, faith, and trust.  Not just in anything or anyone, but in my Redeemer.  This is the only thing that keeps me going.  Admittedly, there are moments when my questions or uncertainties or anger or confusion cause my faith waiver, but God always brings me back to His Truth through a song, a person, His Word, a prayer...whatever He chooses to use in the moment.

Not to say that those moments of doubt are painless or easy or without blemish.  I have failed to trust Him many times in the midst of these moments.  I have doubted His plan, His timing, and His will.  My heart has been wracked with pain and hurt and unanswered questions.  Over the past couple months, these moments have been brought on by the start of my period - every failed attempt at conception.  These have been some of the most devastating moments lately.  My heart has ached, tears have poured, questions have arose, yet God in His alluring mercy reminds me of His Truth and who He is.  He is loving.  He is merciful.  He is gracious.  He knows what He is doing.  He has a plan.  He is in control.  He is good.

When my heart is breaking, it is difficult to believe these Truths.  It is difficult to trust that He is good and that His plan is good, especially when it's the furthest thing from what I want in the moment.  Yet, because His mercies are new each morning or mourning (if you will), I can face each new day with renewed hope, peace, and joy.  And His promise is for you too.
"Because of the Lord's great love we [insert your name here] are not consumed [by fear, doubt, anxiety, hopelessness, grief, hurt, pain, etc.], for His compassions never fail.  They are new EVERY [caps mine] morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Different Story

This month marks a year since we first started trying to have a baby.  So guess what?  You now (if you so wish to continue) have the opportunity to read about some of my reflections about the past year.  Yes, I am one of those people.  You know the ones that take any and every opportunity to reflect.  I honestly feel like I cannot help it because it seems to happen so naturally.  I tend to ponder anything and and everything that could possibly be reflected on.  Sometimes to my demise, yet other times - believe it or not - to my joy and happiness.  This reflection includes a little bit of both.

This month, last year, brought much joy and anticipation to our hearts.  For a few months prior to, we had been talking about trying to have a baby, so needless to say, we were excited when that time finally arrived.  To our joy, we were able to conceive quickly and celebrated our positive pregnancy test.  Our love for our baby came immediately.  I remember writing to our baby about our excitement of God's creation of him or her and the prayers we had been praying on his or her behalf.  And although, as you know, the story did not turn out as we had hoped, we were changed by the short, yet significant life of Ashton Hope.

Months later we entered the "trying again" phase.  This time was approached once again with joy and excitement, yet was coupled with much fear and anxiety as a result of our first loss.  [Feel free to catch a glimpse into this experience by reading my post: "On Trying Again".]  However, our joy and excitement increased when we were blessed, once again, to conceive quickly.  I remember the joy and excitement that day, but I also cannot forget the overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety.  These feelings that tempted me to try not to love our baby as much (even though I am ashamed to admit it) in a feeble attempt to protect myself from hurt, just in case we lost him or her.  But truthfully nothing could "protect" me from the hurt that came when we lost Baby "J", and our story, once again, turned out differently than we had hoped.

When I look back at this past year, it is obvious that our story is much different than what I hoped for.  It's not only much different than I hoped for, it's much different than I thought it would be.  I would have never imagined that a year later we would have two babies in Heaven and empty arms. And this reality causes my heart to ache.  An ache that I am reminded of in my weak, jealous moments.  Those moments that I am not proud of, but that need to be acknowledged because I have a feeling I am not the only one who has ever felt this way.  An ache that I am reminded of when I think of Ashton and Baby "J".  An ache that I am reminded of when I see a mother and her daughter.  An ache that I am reminded of when I think about what should have been or what would have been.  Yes, there is no doubt that our story has been much different than I ever hoped or imagined.

Be that as it may be, I am still choosing to hold onto Hope.  Hope that comes from the healing God brought in the midst of my deepest pain.  Hope that comes from the peace God has brought in the midst of our unexpected journey.  Hope that comes from believing God loves us more than we could ever imagine.  Hope that comes from knowing our story is not over yet.  Hope that comes from knowing the ending of our story includes holding our babies in Heaven someday.  Hope that comes from trusting the Author of our story even though I have no idea what the next chapter of our story will be.  Hope that comes from the possibilities of trying again, again.  I am choosing Hope.  For although my arms are not holding onto what my heart has longed for, they will continue holding onto Him.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Place in my Heart

I recently saw JJ Heller perform her new single, "Who You Are", and it touched a place in my heart that I often hide from others.  You probably know the place I am talking about.  It's the place where I store my emotions when I want to keep them as far as possible from the surface.  It's the place where all my doubts and questions linger.  It's the place where the hurt and pain from our losses still resides.  It's the place where the fear of whether or not we'll be able to have an earthly child camps out.

Anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind is probably aware of this place to some degree.  And if you're anything like me, you know this place well.  Immediately after our losses, our wounds were so fresh and our hearts so raw that it was basically impossible to avoid.  The tears would readily flow and I would awake with our baby/babies on my mind and a heavy sadness consuming my heart.  However, as more time continues to pass, I realize that I do not visit that place as often.  At times I intentionally avoid it because I don't want to feel the hurt.  However, there are times, when something or someone, takes me to that place whether I want to go there or not.  In all honestly, even though I don't love going there (or hate it at times), sometimes I don't mind when it gets invaded (at least after the fact).  Mostly because I know that those are times when God brings more healing to my heart.

So back to where I started - That moment that recently took me to that place.  Below is the music video for the song that recently took me to that place.  If you so choose, watch this video (with warning that it may take you to that place) and listen to the lyrics of the song.

I am not going to dissect the lyrics or meaning of this video to me.  I am simply going to allow it be whatever it was for you.  It may or may not have touched that place.  To be honest, it didn't the first time I saw it, but I think that was primarily because I did not want it to.  In that moment, I chose not to let it in.  However, when I was physically present at the concert, I had no choice, but to allow the tears to flow and allow God to heal.  

"I don't know what You're doing, but I know who You are."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hurts like [insert heart-wrenching metaphor here]

For those of you who recently lost your baby, all I can say is it hurts like [insert heart-wrenching metaphor here].  I know there is nothing I can do or say to take away your pain, but I can say, "I really do understand."  Although the circumstances surrounding our situations may differ, we share a common bond.  I remember sleepless nights.  I remember waking up each morning with a heavy heart full of so much pain.  I remember wondering if my life would ever go back to "normal" again or at the very least have less sadness.  I remember the emptiness.  I remember the devastation and disappointment of lost hopes and dreams.  I remember longing to hold my baby, yet having empty arms. I remember the fear of wondering if I would ever be able to have a child of my own.  There is no way to sugar coat the experience or feelings.  It hurts like [insert heart-wrenching metaphor here].

BUT, I can tell you that there is a God who can bring healing to your heart if you choose to let Him in.  I can tell you that one day it will feel different than it does now.  I can tell you that there is the possibility of peace and comfort in the midst of pain.  I can tell you that you are not alone in your pain.  I can tell you that even though it hurts like [insert heart-wrenching metaphor here], it won't feel like this forever.  Yes, there may be still be moments or triggers that take you back to that familiar place, but it won't hurt like this everyday for the rest of your life.  I can tell you that this is not the end of God's story for your life.  Yes, it is a painful chapter, but it is not the conclusion.  I know that knowing this doesn't take away the pain you feel now, but it does offer hope.  This is not the end - Your story is still being written.  The next chapter will come.  Keep holding on.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Getting Older, Bad Eggs, and Risk-Free Living

After a discussion with our doctor and a multitude of encouragement from others, we decided to get second opinion regarding my gene mutation.  Deciding to get a second opinion did not come easily for me.  Mostly because I hate change and am an extremely loyal person, sometimes to a fault.  However, my love for our babies and future babies (God-willing) drove me to abandon my loyalty and fear of change to seek a second opinion.

On Monday, we met with a doctor a friend of ours referred us to.  As the doctor entered the room, she warmly greeted us.  Her earnest welcome suddenly made the sterile exam room feel more welcoming, and tentatively caused my nervousness to subside.  Following a couple of superficial comments, our conversation proceeded to the purpose of our visit and continued with a detailed discussion of our two losses, which did not come easily, I might add.  

After I shared, she responded with an alternative perspective I had never considered before or heard prior to that appointment.  She frankly said that she believed our miscarriages had nothing to do with my gene mutation.  Her theory was based on two facts.  First, I have only one copy of the gene mutation opposed to two, and second, our miscarriages were two different situations and circumstances.  She proceeded to say that she believed our first miscarriage was the result of statistics (most likely caused by chromosomal abnormalities) and the second was more than likely the result of a "bad egg".  

She went on to explain that as we get older, our ovaries are more likely to release a "bad egg".  I am not quite sure what she said directly after that statement because my brain was fixated on the word "older", which was then followed by a mini-meltdown in my head as I considered the fact that I was getting "older" and would, at times, release "bad eggs".  A reality I had never really took the time to face prior to that moment so you can imagine my surprise.  Reality hit hard.  I continued to process her words in my mind, "I am getting 'older' and sometimes my ovaries will release 'bad eggs'."  This reality brought a familiar emotion:  Fear.

I tried to collect myself and dismiss the fear, but I couldn't help but think about the fact that statistics, my "older" age, and "bad eggs" could not be prevented or cured.  So I found myself, once again, desperately longing for a guarantee that we would never have to suffer a miscarriage again.  Instead of being grateful that I don't have an incurable problem or possibly not even a problem at all, I whined and complained about not having a risk-free plan that would eradicate all my fears, the risk that comes with trying again, and the uncertainty of the future.  I was so bent on living a risk-free life without pain or conflicts or consequences that I failed to see the beauty of the fresh, new perspective I had just been offered.  

I think as human beings we naturally long for security and safety.  We long for a guarantee so we do not have to take risks and face our fears.  We long for understanding so things will feel smaller and within our control.  We dislike feeling out of control because it's scary, unpredictable, and involves risk.  But this world does not offer guarantees and definitive answers, just educated guesses and logical conclusions.  It does not offer security and safety, just impostors that falsely promise these things.  It does not because it cannot.  It wasn't intended to.

Although my humanity and finite mind still desperately long for a visible guarantee, a promise that our future will not include things of the past - I know that true security and safety can only be found in my Savior's loving arms, no matter our circumstances.  He is showing me that when I choose to stop looking for my security and safety in this world,  I am free to trust Him with our future, face my fears, and take risks.  Risks that although they do not come with a guarantee, come with a purpose and a plan beyond my scope of vision.  And in the end, I would rather take the risk of experiencing heartache and loss all over again then to live in the safety of a risk-free life and miss out on one of the most precious gifts in this world...holding our baby in our arms.  Things that are worthwhile involve risk, and this is a risk that is as worthwhile as they come.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Unexpected Moments

There is something that happens to pain as time passes.  It is not that it disappears or that the painful experience stops affecting the person - because loss changes a person - but as time passes, the pain becomes different.  In the beginning it's raw, oh so raw like an open wound exposed to all the surrounding elements, so delicate, so fragile, so vulnerable.  Then something happens.  As more time passes and healing takes place, it does not feel quite so raw.

However, there are still moments that come and seem to come from nowhere, that take you right back to that raw place.  I have had a couple of those over the past few weeks.  One of them was on Christmas day.  Christmas day began with a big southern breakfast, continued with opening gifts, and was interspersed with visiting with family.  The day was full and so were the homes we were in.  Yet, at the end of the day, I had this feeling of aching emptiness.

At first, I was not sure where these feelings were coming from.  I thought, "Maybe I am a little homesick since we are not celebrating Christmas in our own home this year".  But that failed to explain the depth of my feelings.  My feelings also failed to be explained by loneliness because I was surrounded by family who loved me and I loved back.  Then it hit me, the most obvious reason, "Our baby is not here with us".  Ashton's due date was about two weeks before Christmas and although Christmas had arrived, he or she was not in our arms.

My heart was aching for our baby and my arms were empty.  And suddenly the unexpected pain of our initial loss flooded my heart and mind.  The horror of that day.  The heartbreak.  The flood of tears.  The fears coming to life.  The pain.  Words fail to bring life to my feelings that day, but on the eve of Christmas, they were very real to me.  It was one of those moments and I felt raw.

Earlier this week, I had another one of those unexpected moments.  As a counselor, I know that people who experience trauma (or loss) can be triggered by a sound, a smell, a movement, a sight, a word that can instantaneously take them back to a traumatic moment they experienced in the past.  I know this, but had never experienced it like I did that day.  On Tuesday morning, my period started and it was more painful than it had ever been.  In an attempt to go on with my day, I took some pain medication and waited for it to kick in.

Later in the day (I am getting really personal here), I took a trip to the bathroom and realized that it was not only more painful, but also heavier than it's ever been.  And in that moment, at the sight of blood while simultaneously experiencing painful cramps, I was taken back.  Back to the moment of our second miscarriage.  It literally felt like I was experiencing it all over again.  I had been triggered.  I felt paralyzed by fear and my eyes instantly welled up with tears.  Immediately feeling what I felt then.  The fear.  The pain.  The loss.  The grief.  The tears flowed and I let them.  I could not control it.  I could not stop it.  Not that I had a choice, but I did not even try to fight it.  They needed a way out and I needed it too.

These were the moments that came and unexpectedly took me back to that place.  That painful, raw, heart-wrenching place.  And although I hate re-experiencing the heartbreak and pain, I don't mind the fact that they remind me not of where I have been, but of where I have come from.  Those moments, even though they hurt like do, do not mean that I am back where started from.  Instead, they are a reminder of what I have overcome.  A reminder of what God has brought us through and continues to.  A reminder of my love for our precious babies.  For if the love was lacking, it would not hurt so bad.  So instead of living in fear of those unexpected moments and attempting to fight the pain when it comes, I hope to embrace the reminders of where I have come from, what I have overcome, what God has brought us through and will continue to, our love for our precious babies, and our babies lives - even though short they were - they have forever changed us.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year

I love the possibilities of a new year, especially this year.  Last year was one of the most challenging years I've experienced so needless to say I am very thankful it's a new year.  Last year started out with settling into our new home, high hopes, and the anticipation of starting a family.  It was a joyous and exciting time in our lives and marriage.  Finding out we were pregnant in April brought much excitement and joy.  We went to our 10 week ultrasound with the hope of seeing our baby and hearing his or her heartbeat only to discover we had experienced a missed miscarriage.

September brought joy and excitement once again with the news of our second pregnancy, but it resulted in loosing our second baby in October when I was just shy of 8 weeks along.  These experiences have brought much heartache, grief, questions, disappointment, anxiety, and fear.  However, our story does not stop there.  God has also brought healing, new found hope, growth, maturity, and an increased awareness of His love and comfort.  They didn't come easily, but they came and they continue to.

Today I am full of thankfulness for a fresh start and a new beginning.  I am thankful we no longer have to be plagued by the year 2012.  Even though some of the wounds still remain, just the thought of a new year brings hope and possibility once again.  It does not erase the pain of last year, but it brings the possibility that this year could be different, better.  I realize that what this year holds is completely out of my control - I learned the hard way last year that very little is actually in my control - but I just love having a new beginning.

I hope that no matter what this year holds, my love, faith, and trust in God will continue to grow.  I hope my love for my husband and our marriage will continue to grow and mature, and that I will frequently exercise gratitude for the time we have to share our lives together.  I hope that the wounds in my heart will continue to heal.  In raw honesty, I hope that we will experience the joy and excitement of conception and that we will hold our own baby in our arms.  And although I know there are many factors and things I cannot control, I will continue to hope.  And in addition to hope, I will also hold tightly to God's love and trustworthiness no matter what our circumstances may be.

It feels so good to have renewed hope and possibilities, and for this moment I choose to simply enjoy these gifts and let go of everything else.