Showing posts with label loss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label loss. Show all posts

Saturday, July 2, 2016

on peace

When I talk about Charlotte's life and her sudden death people usually go back to one point: you don't know why?!

Every time I tell her story that is the follow up question, even though I always include within the telling that fact.

It shocks and upsets people to hear an infant on the verge of life can suddenly go backwards and re-enter the gates of heaven it has just exited.

There has to be a reason. There has to be a concrete fact behind the death so they can use that fact to prevent it happening to them or someone they know.

I too asked why. Over and over. Desperately. Quietly. In a state of remorse and guilt. In a manner that can only be described as begging.

And then I began to seek peace. Through the Bible. Through prayer. I asked the burden of why she died to be lifted from my shoulders, because I knew I wouldn't be able to answer the question, and continuing to seek an answer that does not exist would eventually drive me mad.

I can't point to the exact moment when peace entered my life. It might have been gradual. Often that's how God works the big changes in our hearts and souls. If he dropped all of the peace we need on us all at once we would crumple under the soul change, but he does it gradually so that we may adapt to our changed hearts.

I have to admit, having peace about why Charlotte died doesn't feel like I expected it to.

I don't know what exactly I did expect, but it wasn't this complete absence of struggle. I almost feel like it's not my battle anymore. I still approach the question in my mind, but when I pull it to the forefront I instantly shrug and think, "That's not my problem anymore." It's like I literally transferred the question to God. Or more like I asked him to take the burden of constantly asking why from me and He granted it.

I'm also in a place - temporary or not - where I don't think I'll care why she died once I get to heaven. I thought that would be my first question. Off the heaven elevator, into the arms of Jesus, my baby girl by my side, and then" Why did she die, Lord? Why? Tell me, now. Before we go. Before we join the feast. I have to know."

But after the Bible and book studying I've done in the last year I no longer think that's how the conversation will go. Instead I think I will be so happy to be in heaven, so in awe at finally being in the presence of the King, I won't care why Charlotte died. That huge earthly incidence will suddenly be put into heavenly perspective, and the why won't matter so much as how it changed me and made me behave.

I believe that if the bitterness of grief overwhelms then one has lost their way and needs to be gently guided back to life. I believe that if staggering loss becomes the focus of a life instead of a point of change then one has missed an opportunity for growth. I believe that out of great pain incredible growth can come if we allow it.

I don't think God purposed Charlotte to die, but I do think He allowed her death to shape me and make me more Kingdom minded. I know who I was in 2010, and I know who I am now, and I attribute much of the growth in my faith and belief in God to Charlotte's death.

I would not have turned my faith inside out and examined my relationship with God if she hadn't died. I would have continued as I was, knowing the church was there, knowing God was there, but never in a state of need. Need like water, or food, or sunshine. Need like, I'm not going to get through this day, or night, or minute, if you don't sit with me. And He did, and the church did, and I refined my ideas about who I am and what I want.


His kingdom.

On heaven and earth.

In our home.

In my life.

When that becomes your sole focus it changes everything. How you speak, how you think, how you act.

And how you feel about the big whys.

How do you feel about the unanswered questions in your life? Are you holding onto any big whys? How would your life change if you let go of finding out the answer to your whys?

"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 7 (NLT)

If you are seeking peace know that I believe it can come for you too.

Friday, June 24, 2016

I have a six-year-old

On the train a week ago a man sat across from me and we began chatting. Ainsleigh was keyed up after our adventure into the city to see Elmo Live so she chattered at him as well. I explained that it was my first time going to see Elmo Live, even though I was not with my first child.

"Oh, really?" he said. "How many do you have?"

Without thinking I replied, "three."

He nodded. "I have four! Your other two must be boys then."

I shook my head. "No. I have a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. 2, 4, 6. It's a bit much," I laughed.

"But you love it," he said.

"Of course," I responded. "Of course."


I lied to a complete stranger about my kids and then the conversation took an awkward turn, because I couldn't keep up with my lie. It was the strangest thing. When B was little I would say I had two sometimes because I couldn't bear not to. But most of the time I have both kids with me so I can't do that anymore. I like to pretend I have a living six-year-old, but if B heard me do it he would call me out quicker than quick and I would look really crazy.

"So," he continued the conversation, "your oldest girl doesn't like Elmo?"

"Ahhh, um, nope. She never was into Elmo. No."

We stopped at two stations then he asked about schooling.

"We love the private school at our church, but we pull our kids out after kindergarten and teach first grade on at home. So we'll do that this year. I mean, we love the school, but we've only ever been through the preschool program. And, well, kinder. Hmmm."

I attended to Ainsleigh for a moment and hoped the loud rattle of the train would disguise my inability to keep track of my own story.

The man congratulated me on my educational efforts and our conversation wandered on from there. 

I can't believe I pretended Charlotte was alive for twenty minutes on a train carrying me away from the city and back to my everyday life. Maybe I did it because I was so outside of my normal routine, and if that train could somehow transport me to the life I crave it would be one where all my children are living, and two were waiting at home for me with their father.

Yesterday I was crying about I don't even know what. It was a hard day, I read a really sad book, and tears came crashing out at the end of the day. And in the middle of the storm I asked myself, "why am I so sad?" and the answer that floated to the surface was, "Charlotte. She's gone."

Since she died her absence has been at the base of every tear and sad emotion, even when it seems as if she should have nothing to do with it. She is my catalyst; a constant thread of sorrow in a beautiful life. Sometimes I need to pretend she is with me because it hurts too much to remember she is gone.

I have three children. I birthed three children. One couldn't stay. Two did. Sometimes that's too much sorrow to share with a stranger.




Tuesday, August 19, 2014

from the heart

I have been lower than low. I have been irritated with the kids and life in general. All I've wanted is books, chocolate and alone time, but being a full time mama means alone time (truly alone) is rare.

When I was thinking about what I wanted for my birthday earlier this month my dream (which I didn't tell anyone because it seemed so selfish) was a nice meal and a good book. But I didn't want to go out to eat. I wanted to have the meal in my car, which would be parked next to water, so I wouldn't have to deal with anyone - not even a waiter.

I don't know why it takes me so long to connect the dots in these situations, but while out walking with the kids today the reason for this particular low period hit me: Bennett's birthday.

His party is this Saturday - a little early because my parents are scooting off to Europe soon and I wanted to include them - and I always feel sad around his birthday. I just want to celebrate his life, and what a character he is, but every year I cry. And every year the ache that is missing Charlotte becomes a little more insistent in late August/early September.

I've stepped waaaay back from a lot of the grief stuff. I haven't reached out to anyone in a long time. I haven't gone to grief support meetings. I didn't participate in the August 19th Day of Hope. I didn't. I haven't. I can't. And I'm not sure why.

In many ways I am tired of being a mother to a dead child. There are moments I want to set it aside so I can live for a moment without the shadow of grief hanging over me. Is that terrible? I want to see the slide show of babies born at the birth center where Charlotte was born without feeling burning jealousy on top of incredible anger that she didn't live. I want to parent my living children without the specter of the better mother I would have been hovering in the back of my mind. All the time I say, I feel like I'm at capacity" and I think if Charlotte hadn't died I wouldn't be so full all the time, and life would be more manageable in general, but as J says, you can't know that.

J and I were talking the other night about how we are still affected by Charlotte's death. We are haunted, we are bruised, we are still seeking healing, even though strides have been made and we are years away from "that awful time."

I'm not wishing her away. I would never do that. I am longing to be someone else. I am wondering why I was called to live this life. But we all wonder that at some point, right? Faith is hard to maintain sometimes. Belief too. I think a stranger could look at me and see the world in my hands, but beyond the image lies the truth, and the truth is that I am far from whole and there is so much missing.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

a mama gone too soon

On July 24 a woman from a nearby town disappeared. The story received national attention. She was found dead Tuesday night. The cause of death? Suicide.

On Tuesday, before the official cause of death was released, I sent a text message to someone close to me:

Thank you for getting help so your kids didn't have to grow up without a mama.

A message I should have sent a long time ago, but didn't realize I needed to. I hadn't thought about the effort required to seek help, or what it must have been like to admit to being broken and sad.

I don't know why this woman, Jennifer, decided to end her life. I don't know what the last straw was, or what she was thinking, or feeling. What I do know is that she was a mother. And that she was so sad, or felt so hopeless, she made a choice to leave her boys.

Day after day as I tend to and snuggle my kids I wonder, how could anyone leave this behind?

I cannot fathom being that depressed, or stressed out, or overwhelmed, but a lot of moms are. We don't care for one another like we should. We don't push beyond the surface to the broken places that need the most attention. The rise of independent living, followed by the advent of social media, has led us to live in isolation, and rendered us incapable of remembering how to push aside the screens that dominate our time and ask, how are you? with an intense stare that does not waver until the truth spills out.

The truth may be good - and when it is so let's share in the joy with one another - but when the truth is hard ,or ugly, or painful let's hold one another up and face it together. No one is perfect. No one has it all together. You are not failing. You are the perfect mother to your children. They need you. They love you. They want you - only you - not your friend, or neighbor, or anyone else you view through a jealous lens.

Has anyone asked how you are recently? Have you asked someone how they are? Do you have someone in your life you can be completely honest with? Do you have a friend, or spouse, or mom, or sister who can see when you're hurting? Even when you insist you're fine do they know how to tell help is needed?

There have been moments when I have desperately needed my friends, my parents, my siblings, but it wasn't until Charlotte died that I learned how to raise the "help!" flag. There is no shame or condemnation in raising that flag and shouting until someone hears you.

We all need to hear we're doing a great job. We all need to know we would be missed. We all need to know we're loved. We all need to learn that it is okay to ask for help. And we need to be there for each other so that when a mama feels like dying is her best option there are hands reaching out to catch her before she falls.

Friday, June 13, 2014

I ask again, who would you be?

I wish I could explain to you what it's like to miss Charlotte. How there is flex to grief, times of quiet between deep, engulfing lost in the wilderness nights. How unexpectedness is the king of emotions in this particular hierarchy. The tiniest, innocent moment can make the missing and wanting almost unbearable.

There is a ballet recital at church tonight. My friend uses her talent as a ballet dancer to minister to others and the year end finale when all of her classes perform is happening right now. There is a certain little four year old who should be dancing this evening. I thought about going because I want to support my friend, but I didn't want to put myself in a place where the unexpected could knock me sideways. A little girl running down a hallway in a tutu giggling and excited could make me cry for days.

Or at least it would have six months or a year ago. I seem to have lost my ability to cry. Well, that's not true. Seeing The Fault in Our Stars pulled a few tears out of me.

Last night I went to the monthly support group that meets at a local coffee shop. It's so good and necessary to have an in person support group for those who have lost babies. I've been grateful for it so many times. I felt a little out of place last night. I think that's more to do with me than anyone else, but it was discomfiting to feel uncomfortable. That's the place, and those are the people, I'm always supposed to fit with. So why do I feel like I don't fit?

I think part of it is just a tiredness. I'm tired of living without Charlotte. I'm tired of explaining to doctors my history every. single. visit. I'm tired of remembering what I was like before Charlotte and wondering who I would be had she lived. I'm tired of being a mother who has buried a child. But that's just life. Being tired of it doesn't make it go away. I don't get to decide I don't want to do this anymore. And I'm afraid saying I'm tired of it will come across as wishing Charlotte hadn't been, and that is definitely not true. I just want her here, alive, running around church in a tutu.

I think I've written this post a thousand times. Grief sends one spinning in circles that never end. Circle after circle after circle. From why to some acceptance to sadness to happiness to bitterness to why to resolve ... emotional cycle after emotional cycle. And at the center of it all is a little girl who I wanted to watch grow up. I still can't believe I'll never see her dance on this side of heaven. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Return to Zero - still processing

I never really woke up yesterday. I walked around in a post-watching Return to Zero traumatic haze of patchy remembered moments. I was sad and tired. Oh so tired. I am, apparently, too old and sleep deprived to stay out until almost midnight eating cookies, chatting and watching a movie.

(Although the cookies were amazing. I bit into one and nearly fell over with joy because I forgot how amazing chocolate and peanut butter are together. Plus the cookie had eggs which made it fluffy and my life is sorely lacking fluffy food because of Bennett's egg allergy.)

One thing Return to Zero brought up for me is, well, I'm not sure I should write about it. I may have written about it before, but I can't remember. There are topics I will always be a little scared to write about because of people and blogs who may use my words against me. But you can't make everyone happy, right? And you certainly can't make everyone see things from your point of view.

So here it is:

I was a little jealous of Maggie and Aaron in Return to Zero because they had a stillbirth. There is a tiny corner of my heart that boils with anger at the fact that Charlotte died shortly after an out of hospital birth. Probably because I feel like it lands the blame squarely on my shoulders. Probably because I know people attribute her death to that. If Charlotte had to die why couldn't it have been in a way that left me inculpable?

Now I know that experiencing a stillbirth does not mean one does not feel guilt. I'm not trying to say that. And I'm not saying stillbirth is worse, or better, or anything else like that. It's just different than my loss, and I've always thought that it might have made Charlotte's death easier for me to explain.

I don't mention the out of hospital part now unless someone continues asking questions and leaves me little room to skirt around it. As far as we know Charlotte didn't die because we chose to birth out of hospital, but I know there will always be questions and judgement around that decision.

In previous posts I've written about coming to peace with the why (brave questions). I've wrestled with my guilt, I've beat my head against the blame wall, and I've sat in the valley of why for many, many months. Most of the time I'm past that part of my grief. I've been able to set down a lot of the guilt. But I still wish Charlotte's death didn't have that mark of shame.

So that's the space watching Return to Zero put me in. One of memory, but also one of regrets and wishes.

Friday, May 16, 2014


I didn't cry this year.

I didn't cry, and I didn't make cookie dough.

Are we really making and breaking traditions so rapidly?

Although, crying on your dead daughter's birthday is more of a right, or expectation, than a tradition.

The cookie dough is less upsetting. I didn't need it. I ate plenty of other things chocolate and full of useless calories. When I went to make the cookie dough I realized we don't stock most of the ingredients in our house anymore. I had thought about that briefly when I bought chocolate chips, but the thought only made it as far as, I should get brown sugar too, before getting lost in the chaos that is grocery shopping with kids.

Tuesday night Ainsleigh was sick. I think she ate too much at dinner, her belly not quite used to solid foods. She threw up over and over and over. It was really awful. I was in a state about it, of course. Mad at myself, worried, generally emotional. My irrational fear that J, Bennett or Ains will die expands and takes over my rational brain in May.

I stood in the shower with her, because it was easier than cleaning both of us up over and over. About the third time we put a onesie on only to have to remove it two seconds later J said, are we going to give up on clothes now?

The night before Charlotte's birthday I stood in the shower with my sad, throwing up Ainsleigh, who would drift off in the warm water in between bouts of sickness. I thought I would cry. Bennett was asleep. J was occupied with video games. The shower was running so it wouldn't be obvious I had been crying. I was holding in my arms the very thing I had longed for four years ago when I sat in that same spot and watched the last of the birth blood weep from my legs and swirl into warm bath water. I wasn't holding the person I wanted, but the thing, the idea of what is supposed to happen at the end of a pregnancy, yes, that was present. 

I have no idea how one marks the fourth anniversary of the worst day of their life without crying, but there it is: I didn't cry.

This evening I went to a movie with friends: Moms' Night Out. It was exactly what I needed. I laughed until I cried, and I cried a bit too. I highly recommend it. Tomorrow night I'm getting together with friends to watch Return to Zero. Are you going to watch it? Are we ready for this one? I'm not sure I am, but I want to support the movie so I'm going to watch it. With a box of Kleenex in my hands.

RETURN TO ZERO - Official Trailer from Sean Hanish on Vimeo.

I have a grief hangover and I am so, so tired, but life keeps clicking on.

Ains is kicking me and saying, "mama, mama, mama," so I should probably try to settle her before she wakes Bennett.

I can't believe it's been four years. That I'm here, still writing, still trying to figure this grief thing out, still wondering what happened and why. That I have two living children. That through strength and faith and trust I've lived four years without one of my babies. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Charlotte's Day 2014

OMSI, cupcakes, a park with a creek, and a stop by the mill for flour. A day to be together and remember Charlotte.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the 13th is hard too

Easter Sunday, 2010

I felt held today.

I felt your prayers.

I opened cards and read e-mails with thankfulness and gratitude. 

Thank you for remembering that tomorrow we should have a little girl bouncing around the house excited to be four and reveling in a day all about her.

It's still all about her, just not in the way we imagined.

I was patient with the kids today. I was kind. Way, way more than yesterday. I know that was you and the prayers you rained over our house and family.

I couldn't have spoken or acted with such kindness today without Jesus on my side.

I don't feel well. I can't stomach much food. I am nauseated, shaky - that might be the fault of the diet pepsi I've been drinking all day - and focused on the nervous feeling deep inside that something horrible is coming and I am helpless to stop it.

May 13th is hard in a different way. May 13, 2010 was my last innocent day. My last happy, joyfully expectant, thrilled to be in labor day.

Mother's Day, 2010 - with my nephew

The nursery was ready.

We set up the co-sleeper.

It was the last day before grief tore into our lives and ripped everything we thought we knew and understood about life and faith and hope and statistics to pieces.

I miss that girl, that May 13th me. I hate that girl too. I hate her surety that everything is going to work out, that the cards are aligned and will fall where she expects.

This doesn't get easier. The day to day does, but the birthday that isn't really a birthday that we call Charlotte's day because it's a confusing mix of birth and death is always difficult.

I wish Charlotte's birthday was more than a day to get through.

Every time I look at the clock I think

x more hours 

at this time I was ...

Then I think about my theme for this year. Or maybe goal is a better word.

Find the joy. 

Four years ago at 7:40 pm Charlotte was alive.

Find the joy!

She lived.

Not very long, but she lived.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

goodnight babies

It's been a long day. The last few have been epic. The kids are really sick. J has been gone a lot.

J is the voice of reason. My anchor. I freak out when B coughs so hard he struggles to breathe. J calmly turns on the shower and takes care of things.

Today was hard. I'm tired. J worked a rare hospital shift. I was reminded of his on call days, although those were over before we had babies. He worked call at two hospitals when we were early married. I hated the pagers and their 3 am wake up calls, but the money was good.

I was singing to the kids tonight. Made up lyrics. All three of us falling asleep on the couch.

Goodnight babies
Goodnight babies
I love you Ainsleigh
I love you Bennett
I'm so lucky to have you
I was so sad before you came
You are light
I love you so
Goodnight babies ...

Then I cried because I am exhausted and because the grief is just below the surface of the everyday right now.

And then J came home and I forgot Ainsleigh's name while telling him about the day. The only name that came to mind was Charlotte.

I can hear the drip, drip, drip of the humidifier. It mixes with the sound of the rain outside. No one is coughing right now. Or crying. Or burning with fever. All is temporarily well.

Goodnight babies.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

easter after loss

Easter is complex. It leaves me feeling broken and makes me long for heaven.

Easter is important. For me it's not about bunnies, or baskets, or candy. My kids have no idea Easter baskets or bunnies exist. There will be time to introduce those things. For now we are focusing on teaching about Jesus and the hope of the resurrection.

Easter reminds me that God knows the pain and grief of watching a child suffer and die. He sent his Son to die for us so that we may live forever in heaven. I believe that. I absolutely 100% believe that. I believe that there is nothing we can do to turn God away from us. He loves us unconditionally. Even when there is fury in our hearts because He chose not to breathe life back into our lost ones.

We went to Easter service last night. It was strange to celebrate on Saturday instead of Sunday, but joy and hope were still present. The time of celebration doesn't take away from the meaning of Easter.

I want to share one thing with you that was stated last night. I'm not going to say it as well because our pastor has a wonderful way with words, but I'll do my best to distill it: God loves you. You don't have to earn his love, or work hard to be in his favor. There is nothing you can do that will turn Him away from you. He is always going to love you.

It's hard to feel that love after you've been through a time of darkness, or walked in a valley that seemed endless. Maybe you are in that valley now. I feel like I've been spending all of my time since Charlotte died in the valley or on a mountaintop. Right now I'm in a valley.

Easter is the beginning of my grief season. Easter comes, then Mother's Day, then Charlotte's birthday and by May 15th I am so relieved to be on the other side of May 14th I just want to lie still and breathe a while; revel in the fact that I survived.

Easter is hard because it's meant to be. Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter are about death and accusations. It is not meant to be taken lightly, though modern tradition has made it so. Easter reminds me of what we have to look forward to. It forces me to pause and be thankful for the cross and the ultimate sacrifice that was enacted upon it.

I have faith because I choose to. I have not stepped into this life of belief blindly. If you have read here for any length of time you know my struggle with faith. It is hard to believe in a loving God when your arms and heart are empty and aching. It was hard to reach a place of acceptance and understanding about God's choice to number Charlotte's days as oneFor a long time my choice to believe was based in selfishness. When it was difficult to believe I continued to believe simply because I couldn't let go of the idea of heaven and seeing Charlotte again.

I clung to Isaiah 65:17-20 when my faith was at its weakest.

17 "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered,nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 

While I still cling to those verses I have other reasons now for believing and living a life of faith. It's hard to let go and put my trust in God. It is hard to wholly believe that He has a plan for my life and is placing me where I am meant to go. Easter reminds me that He has this chaotic world in His hands, just as He did when He watched His Son die on a cross.

I really want you to know that God loves you. I want you to know that I understand how hard Easter can be when your heart is heavy. I want you to know that if you don't believe I don't think less of you. I just want you to have the hope of heaven and of seeing your baby again as I do. I want you to know that if you are struggling, or if you have lost your faith God is waiting for you. When you are ready, all you have to do is accept His outstretched hand. He loves you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

six weeks

Hey there, year four. I don't like you.

I really wanted to focus on the good this year.

How long we had Charlotte.

How exciting it is that she is in heaven waiting for us.

But I can't control the way I feel. Not when it comes to this at least.

The flashbacks make it too hard.

We're six weeks out from Charlotte's birthday.

Six weeks.

How can life feel so hard already? And why can't I control it?

On Thursday night we went to a seminar for parents of children with hearing loss. It was a really good seminar, we learned a lot about how to help Ainsleigh. At the end, in a flurry of introductions and conversations, a woman said, "I can see you're expecting." I didn't respond, because what I had to say wouldn't have been kind. When we left the room J said, "be a duck, let it roll off your back," but of course I haven't been able to do that.

Because I can feel myself letting everything go. I can feel myself not caring. I try to do something other than care for the kids and house, but at the end of the day all I want to do is put my feet up, not work out.

It's getting warmer out. It's the perfect weather for walking. But I have that swimming through syrup everything is overwhelming feeling going on and most days - to be completely honest - the thought of getting everyone dressed and out for a walk is too much.

I was in great shape when we were in Hawaii, a year and a half ago. I want to get back there, but I don't have the motivation right now. I've had three babies in four years and my body is done. I usually bounce back quicker than this, but this time I'm not being very careful. (Lately I've been thinking about grace and comfort and food, and how God is my comfort not food, but my thoughts on that are half-formed at best.)

What it all boils down to is this:

I feel bad. About everything.

I hate spring.

I want to love it, but I can't.

I don't want the kids to grow up with bad memories of spring. I'm trying. Although right now my trying looks a lot like yelling because the house is a mess again. I can't control how I feel so I try to control everything and everyone around me, which doesn't work for anyone. We played outside for hours today. I hope they remember that I tried to engage, that I did my best to be present.

I wish I could say, four years in, okay, that's fine. I'm just going to do the grief thing gracefully and calmly this year" and have it be true.

I feel pathetic, and so very sad. At least I have enough clarity and hindsight to know that this is not as bad as the first year. I feel like there's hope in recognizing that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

brave questions

I didn't hear the sermon at church on Sunday. I was in the cry room with Ains. I meant to feed her before church, but I was slow, and sleep deprived, and didn't get it done. There is a television in the cry room so the sermon can be viewed, but I still didn't hear it.

The cry room at our church has been a place where I have felt both welcomed and shunned. I could write three thousand words on that room, but this is one of the (few) topics I can't write about. There's about three thousand reasons for that. One is that I don't want to write something that can be misconstrued. So let me set this post up by letting you know that small room in our big church is a complicated place for me.

And for those of you who don't know what a cry room is, it's a small room for parents who don't put their little ones in nursery. It is not meant for just anyone who is crying. Although I have often thought it would be nice to have a cry room in various public places. Break down in the middle of Target because Easter dresses are on sale and you wish you had a baby to buy one for? Head to the cry room! Anyway, I often start with Ainsleigh in the service, but she doesn't always make it through without being disruptive (she just has to scream to go to sleep).

This Sunday I didn't hear the sermon because I was talking to the women in the cry room about Charlotte. Someone was asking me questions, and I answered as honestly and openly as I could. I credit the Lord for giving me the ability to answer intense, difficult questions about grief in a concise, clear manner without becoming emotional. I know it isn't easy to ask the questions, and I appreciate those who are open and brave enough to ask what everyone else is thinking.

What's it like to lose a child?

Do you feel guilty?

Do you blame yourself?

How do you work through it?

What's it like?

What's it like?

What's it like?

That is the question everyone comes back to. That's the one thing everyone wants to know. And all I can say is, "it's hard, impossibly hard, to wake up the day after your baby dies and know you will spend the rest of your life missing them and wishing for their presence." etc. etc. etc.

There are so many articles and blog posts on the wrong, and sometimes thoughtless, things people say when the dead baby card is dropped into a conversation. But I've experienced kind words and meaningful conversations too. Sunday's conversation opened a door to a room in my heart I didn't know was there.

I finally have an answer to the question of how I am able to be at peace with Charlotte's death. I'm going to throw out some difficult thoughts here, and if you are not a person of faith they may be hard to understand. You might even think me naive or stupid. I hate being thought of as naive, or stupid, or willfully ignorant, but I am going to put the fear aside because I really want to share these thoughts.

You may have noticed that I've been writing about faith and my belief in Christ more often. It's always been a part of me, but when I began writing here my faith was on shaky ground. It has taken me this long - nearly four years now - to figure out that I still believe in God and trust Him with my life.

So, deep breath everyone, here are the conclusions I came to on Sunday:

I believe God is the author of my life. I believe He has a plan for me and that He is in control of that plan.

I believe that God numbers our days.

Therefore I believe that God numbered Charlotte's days. And for some reason, the number he selected for her was one.

On Sunday one of the women in the cry room said, "If Charlotte was meant to live until she was 21 it would have happened no matter where she was born."

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

J and I made a considered, prayerful decision to have Charlotte out of hospital. We did not feel compelled to birth elsewhere. Every concern and question we raised was answered satisfactorily and competently. We felt secure in our decision. I believe that secure feeling of peace was from the Lord.

He numbers our days.

He is using a little girl who was only meant to live one day to change and shape my life and the lives of others.

Charlotte was only meant to live one day.
I couldn't have changed that.

And from that belief comes a difficult question:

God could have saved Charlotte. Why didn't He? Why did he choose one as her number?

And that is something I don't know. That is the point where I choose to lean into my faith and believe that I am in the hands of a wise, caring, loving God who is shaping me and my life. Just as he shaped Charlotte's life.

I choose to trust the Lord and His decision to leave us with more questions than answers about Charlotte's birth. I believe there is a purpose for that which I cannot see right now.

I find comfort in my faith.

Psalm 139: 14-16:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

It is comforting to know that God has this swirling chaos that we call life in His hands. I can't tell you why bad things happen. I can't tell you why babies die. I can't take your pain away, or ease the ache of empty arms. But I can tell you that I find deep solace in my faith, and my belief that I will see that little girl of mine in heaven when my days are up. This isn't all there is, friends. This broken world is not my home. It doesn't have to be yours either.

I know it's hard to be the one with the dead baby. I know how it feels when someone asks you about it and you don't want to answer because it hurts too much. When people honor Charlotte by asking about her I try to answer because I hope doing so will help the person asking gain understanding. And sometimes - like last Sunday - it allows me to discover something new about my grief.

So thank you to those who ask the brave questions.

Thank you for treating me like a mother to three children.

Thank you for making space for Charlotte.

Thank you for trying to understand.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

where I last saw you

Jon and I took a class on herbal antibiotics this morning at the birth center where Charlotte was born.

I hesitate to write about that place because my words have been twisted, my motivations criticized, my intentions questioned. All I can say, over and over and over, is that we acted with love.

I believed wholeheartedly that was where we were to go. You don't choose to birth out of hospital because you want the easiest route. I still believe the hand of God guided us there. We see a singular event, but He sees the whole map and He is the creator of that map. I choose to trust the hands that made me, even when it's so dark I can't imagine day will come again.

Through our decisions lives were altered. I hate the shameful pall that hangs over Charlotte's birth; that heavy, awkward burden I carry. I exhort others to lay down their guilt, but I can't shake mine. Nearly four years after Charlotte died people hear her story and experience heart and life changes. I believe that's why she was born.

As I sat in the kitchen of the house where Charlotte was born I took notes, I listened, I learned, and I felt the weight of what happened to us. The heaviness and darkness of trauma. The dreams we left in that place.

I'm still angry I didn't get to experience the postpartum haven I expected. During the class a stack of wooden trays on top of the refrigerator caught my eye and I found a well of bitterness in my soul. I ate breakfast off one of those trays mere hours before Charlotte died. 

I wanted lunch and dinner too. I wanted a baby who lived more than an hour. I wanted her life - her dreams, her hopes and her sorrows. I wanted more. I hate that some believe I could have had more; that I chose death for my daughter out of selfishness and naivete.

Things that I read, words that were said to my face, condemnations that were whispered when my back was turned are etched in my heart. When I can't sleep I run my hands over the carvings and defend myself. I don't know if that need to defend and protest will ever go away because the markings are deep and I visit them often.

Though there is trauma in that place there is comfort as well. The walls hold the echos of Charlotte's first heartbeat. The wood floors supported my pacing feet as I labored. I learned a lot in that house. I became a mother there. A mother. Then a grieving mother. But first, a mother.

And as the days lengthen and winter unfurls into spring I hope this birthday will be easier than the last. I hope for kindness and the relief of having space to remember without accusation and criticism pulling me to a darker place. I want to celebrate Charlotte's life this year. I want to find joy in who she briefly was. I want to pry the negative words from my heart so something positive can take root and begin to grow. I believe there is light everywhere, even in death, and this year I want to seek it out.

Friday, January 24, 2014

on hearing tests, grief, parenting three, and a full life


The room is quiet. Ainsleigh is sleeping in my arms. I start to drift off a bit.

"You look tired today," the audiologist's quiet voice interrupts my state of near sleep.

"I am." I acknowledge. "I'm really tired."

I shift in my chair a bit, but not too much because Ainsleigh has to stay asleep and the testing equipment is delicate. The audiologist returns to her notes while I try to stay awake.

All of the fluid from birth is finally gone so we went in to see if Ainsleigh can hear anything on her left side. After that appointment the audiologist and doctors have termed her loss left-sided deafness. If we SCREAMED at Ainsleigh she might hear a little bit on that side, but it's also possible she wouldn't even hear that. We have a big appointment for her eyes in February (a normal precaution, they should be just fine) and then we get a nice break until May when we go back in for more hearing tests.


Tuesday, my first speaking engagement in months:

It was at the grief and loss class at a local college I've spoken to before. Each time I speak the dynamic is different because the class sizes shift, but the people are always kind and open to hearing about my experience with grief. I think this was my fifth or sixth time doing this. I've lost track, but I know I've done it often enough that I hardly need my notes anymore.

Speaking drains me, but it's encouraging too. It gives me a chance to talk about Charlotte and what happened to me when she died. If you have the opportunity, and if you are brave enough, I think it is the best therapy out there. The question and answer time can be rough because I never know what people are going to ask, but I just put on my big girl pants and answer as honestly as I can.

I have this huge, overwhelming desire to do more of this. I feel like I'm using Charlotte's death in a positive way when a future social worker asks me what to do if they have a client who has lost a baby. I can tell them how to approach the situation, what not to say, what to say etc.

Every day I put that dream and hope in God's hands. I believe He will open more doors for me when, and if, the time is right. Hard as it is to admit, I don't think that time is now. Having one commitment a couple times a year is plenty right now. My hands and heart are so full with these living babies of mine. I thought I was going to show up in my jams on Tuesday. That morning was SO hard. I always say I am raising two, but I parent three, and that morning I was in the parenting three trenches.


Those are the big events that happened this week, but there were a lot of minor things too. My mom stayed over last night. I was able to get a little extra sleep and shower uninterrupted this morning, which is such a nice break. We're having a slow, quiet day after our busy week. I took the kids on a short walk around the block, Bennett still in jams, so we could fill our lungs with fresh, cold air.

I like talking about grief (as much as one can enjoy the topic) and spending time with people, and there are so many necessary appointments right now, but the introvert in me craves days like today when we don't have anywhere to be or anything to do. When we sit on the couch, listen to music, look at books, and enjoy each other's company.

As I write Ainsleigh sleeps next to me while Bennett sleeps in his room. He fell asleep while playing, which has never happened before.

This is normal life, but every now and then I break from the sweetness and step into the bitter air of grief so that others may see what sorrow looks like on a person. But I know - oh do I ever - how blessed I am to cuddle my living babies after sharing their sister with a roomful of compassionate strangers.


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