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."