Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

I’m sure we’ve all heard or just somehow “known” the unspoken rule- do not announce your pregnancy until you are at least 12 weeks. Well, I’m not sure what Bible verse they use to back it up, but I have looked through almost all of them regarding pregnancy and loss- and there isn’t one.

I remember my very first baby loss, of baby Noah. I was 11 weeks along, and I had just announced the happy news to the Facebook world three days prior. I had four living, perfect children, and I thought that it wasn’t even a threat at this point. I was devastated. While I sobbed, one person mentioned, “You shouldn’t have told everyone. . .

Obviously, they meant nothing harmful at this statement. But I still remember it, five and a half years later. They were so, so, wrong.

I could not have gotten through that period of grief without people. One lady, that I would never have even thought to call, showed up at my door with flowers and a hug. Another, brought chopped vegetables to “throw at the kids” (I thought that was so clever) and a precious tea cup. Others messaged me or texted. I didn’t feel embarrassed at all. There was a baby, a sweet, amazing baby inside me, and he or she died and we don’t know why. That is devastating, to anyone who actually believes in the value of life. The people who showered me with love and prayer were literally God’s hands in my days, whether they know that or not, and they were not my close family or friends. They were women who had walked this path and knew what it entailed. To this day, when I think of them, I’m so humbled.

The second loss, we had decided to wait until Christmas to surprise the kids. What a cute memory that will be. Until it wasn’t, and baby Jordan left us as fast as he or she came, at around seven weeks. No one knew we were expecting, so I juggled the physical and emotional pain, with seven children and various activities, while my hubby had his wisdom teeth extracted with tremendous complications. What a time that was. Eventually I told a few friends, but it was a very alone, cold, and broken time. We had to tell the kids at this point so they would know why things were hard at home. They were devastated, and bummed that we hadn’t told them in the first place.

The third one, I didn’t wait that long. I was so, so, so sick and believe me, looked pregnant at like 13 days. I feel like I’ve gotten a bit of confidence now. I was so excited for this precious baby. We told family and friends right away, and told everyone else around 10 weeks. I think my hubby announced it at church around 8 weeks? I’m so thankful for our church family, because they hooted, hollered and congratulated us and made this baby their own. I could have waited until the hallowed 12, but it didn’t really matter because our baby didn’t die until way after that. So I still had to un-tell everyone anyways.

The point is- it’s a life, or it’s not.

It’s a baby; a beautiful gift from the Father- or it’s not.

We wonder why the world doesn’t believe that babies are babies, but we act like they aren’t until a specific undisclosed time. But what if they die early on? Yeah, what if?! And now we expect mamas to go through this alone? What a horrible, awful message we send to young moms. So then, the underlying message is, maybe only tell only a few friends or specific family. That’s all well and fine, but what if they can’t give you the support you need? I love my friends dearly, but most of them are in the same, busy season that I am. The ones I really needed the most were the ones a life stage or two ahead of me. Unfortunately, they can also be the ones that dictate the unspoken rules.

The first twelve weeks can be the absolute hardest. Sickness, fatigue, fear, and the constant loom that this baby may not make it- but you are all on your own. I don’t think that this is what God intends for new life, and for family life within the church at large. I think all life is God-breathed and created for a purpose. Yes. Babies die before the end of the first trimester. They also can die during the second trimester. Sometimes- I’ve heard so many sad, quiet, stories- they die at birth. Death is here. And it will be, until He comes again. So, I think we should celebrate when we can.

If you are expecting- or when you are- and you want to keep it under wraps- absolutely! You go ahead and do that! This is your special time, and you get to decide. Everyone is different, and some people are private. You do you, always.

But I know too many ladies, and more every week, that tell me their stories, and how they suffered all alone. I can see it in their eyes- the pain, the unspoken grief, and the bitterness at being on their own at such a sad, awful time. My heart simply breaks for them. And these are ladies who attend churches that believe babies are formed at conception, and that they must be protected. Some of them were sooo excited and couldn’t wait to tell everyone! But they didn’t, because what if the baby dies? Then it would be so. . . What?

I ask you?

Embarrassing? Hard? Triggering?

Yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to value life. To laugh when it comes, and cry when it leaves. It is very hard. It is so, so hard. It’s literally against our very culture to celebrate life, because it isn’t considered to actually be of value. But like I tell my children, and often, the hard stuff is where the blessing lies. Don’t be afraid of the hard.

So, if you are expecting something precious, and want to shout from the rooftops what God has done for you, DO IT! Do NOT be afraid! And if you want me to celebrate with you, I will bring the wine herbal tea. There is nothing like new life. I will celebrate and pray for you and your baby. If you want to keep it secret, do that! You will remember this season for your whole life. Do whatever you wish. But do not let the fear of man (or woman) make your decision for you. God is so good. He is celebrating with you, too.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

He Lived and Is Loved.

We tried for a few months. All of a sudden, there was an extra line on the test. It was faint- but very there. I tested again a few days later, and it was much darker. There was life.

And then the sickness hit. Like a forceful storm, it covered everything. All-the-things were hard. I was dizzy and nauseous. Stuff around the house went undone. I cried in frustration. The weeks went by. We saw him via ultrasound at 8 weeks. He was a-moving and a-shaking, just like all our other live babies.

We decided to announce his presence. It was a bit before the 12 week mark but I’ve never cared about that *at all.* (That’s a whole other post.) We were so happy. But I was still soooo sick. I started feeling little flutters and movements which made my day.

On my birthday

I needed to know who this was, that was giving me such a hard time! I needed to know his or her name, and just know their identity. I tried two internet blood tests that just didn’t work out for me. After crying and having a total meltdown, Sim booked me in for a gender ultrasound.

It didn’t go as planned. There was no heartbeat; we went to the hospital.

It was confirmed, baby died. I was booked for an induction the following day.

Sim went and picked up our crew from the church where they were being looked after by family. I feel bad that he had to tell them on his own. There was a lot of crying and sadness. I drove myself home, stopping at Walmart on the way. I picked out a special blanket to wrap my baby in, and bought myself the same one for the kids to snuggle at home.

I went home, to a dark, cold house, with a dark, cold tummy. I ran a bath, and weeped. Absolutely weeped. I am TERRIFIED of labour. I’ve avoided induction every time, even being way overdue.

For weeks, whenever the labour fears started to creep in, I would ask Sim. “I’m strong, right?” And he would laugh and say, “Oh yeah.” Obviously, I only mean strong in God’s power and might. I can do none things on my own. That’s just a given. But God and I have gone through over 100 hours of labour together, two hemorrhages, and so many things that scare me when I think too much. I was already afraid to birth this baby, even at week four. I kept repeating, over and over: “I’m strong, right?”

Well, now my baby has died and I have to go through ALL the stuff that scares me most- and with no life in the end. No joy, no sweetness. No new baby smell. Nothing. Just emptiness. No fingers to hold, no toes to count.

We got to the hospital at 8am, the labour and delivery ward. When I went to the desk to check in, all the ladies stood up in a line to greet me and said “Hello, Sandra. We are so sorry.” They were literally the kindest people I’ve ever met. We were escorted to a room with a purple butterfly on the door. Everyone who entered knew what it stood for, and were gentle with their tones and just so sweet. They wheeled in a cart with hot chocolate, coffee, teas, baking and chips. I laughed- I could drink as much coffee as I want, I guess. We could help ourselves all day, along with the hospital meals brought at lunch and dinner.

They started the induction at 11:30- four pills inserted high into my cervix. The OB looked like one of my friends, which made me trust her right away. I requested the full of buffet of pain relief, in case I wanted it. I’ve delivered all my babies naturally, but I had no desire to take one for the team this time. I had to lay still for thirty minutes to an hour after each round. Sim and I watched TV on his laptop, and cried and laughed alternately. Four hours later, it was repeated. And again. It got more painful each time. I heard a baby cry down the hall. There’s nothing like that sound.

My tummy started to ache. I was expecting contractions and heavy cramping, and instead I was just freezing cold and screaming hot alternately. My abdomen ached, but there wasn’t really a break in between, like contractions. It was just a constant hurt. I don’t think my pain threshold was all that high, though. I really was being a sucky. I’ve been through a lot worse, with two spine surgeries, etc. But everything just hurt.

They offered me the pain relief or sleeping aids around 9:30. I didn’t think it was “that bad” though, because I didn’t think it had really started. I asked how long the genuine labour would take when it got going. “Six hours?” I asked. “Hopefully. . . .” My nurse responded. It can go in any direction, there’s not much for predicting. I turned down all the meds, expecting it to get worse and wanting to have options available.

Around ten pm, I started to shut down. I CAN’T DO THIS. I don’t want to be here. I want to go home. I want my kids. I want it to be a week ago. It wasn’t physical pain, but just constant waiting and noticing every twinge and ache and wondering if this was “it.” It all hurt, but not all-encompassing, it was just super uncomfortable and I couldn’t ignore it. I wanted it to be done so bad, but I didn’t want him gone. I was crying and we were watching “Christmas Vacation.” I could feel myself going downhill fast. The nurse brought in a cot for Sim to sleep. They kept mentioning that when it was “go time” we would have to pack it up and make some room. I remembered the tools, the blue paper everything is wrapped up in, the smells of the latex and all the equipment. Ican’tdothis. I remembered all my other labours.

Around 10:40 I went to the bathroom. I felt pressure. When I felt ready to push, I was supposed to tell the nurses so they could get the doctor and have everything ready, start my IV since I’ve hemorrhaged in the past, and put in motion the whole thing that scares me so badly.

As I sat there, I felt God say in the pain of my heart. “Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

I gave just the *tiniest* little push, and felt my baby come out in his sack. I started yelling for Sim, and I just held it there, waiting for another contraction. I knew they were worried about my body retaining the placenta, and I knew the cord could break very easy at this stage of the pregnancy. I waited, hearing the chaos coming down the hall and in my room, and felt my body push on its own the rest of the placenta. I could tell, even without seeing, that everything had come out.

I cried and yelled, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you! Thank you!” The nurses probably though I had lost my mind. I was crying and just so thankful.

I was thankful I could do it on my own, and not have a whole bunch of people around me with yucky tools. I didn’t have to have a D&C. Seriously, so much of this stuff just freaks me out, and He totally spared me all of it. I am so thankful for His mercy, even when things are terrible.

They brought me back to bed, and the nurse cut the cord. They laid my baby on my chest- just like so many times before. He was so little. He weighed 67 grams and was 15 cm long.

He had two beautiful eyes.

Ten perfect toes, ten teeny fingers.

A look in his face that was totally Elijah.

A big belly.

Sim and I took turns holding him, touching him and thanking Jesus for his life.

The nurses took photos of him. In some, he’s holding a little, white heart that fits perfectly inside a big heart that the hospital gave me to wear around my neck. They weighed him; measured him. Every time they held him, they kept the blanket perfectly straight, adjusting it as needed. They reverently took him from me, and gave him back when they were done. They wheeled him gently in the little cart with a bassinet, carefully and slowly.

Finally, I had all the medicine I needed to not bleed out- not that it was even a thing, just a precaution that they always do to me now. We opted to leave a few hours after his birth, at 2:30 am. Then we could be home with the kids when they woke up.

We held our baby one last time, and replaced him into the bed.

They put a white blanket over his bassinet.

We left, without him.

It hurts.

It hurts, but God is good.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.

 Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

(Some excerpts from Psalm 34)

Love heals.

Well, it’s been two weeks and two days since we lost our baby. I can’t believe the outpouring of love and support that I’ve felt from friends, far and wide. I also can’t believe how many people have been touched by the loss of a miscarriage. One in four pregnancies end this way. I even know a bunch of women who have suffered multiple miscarriages, and by multiple, I mean more than three or four.

So if it’s this common, we need to equip ourselves with tools we can use when a friend, co-worker or someone we know goes through it. Not only that, but in my previous post I touched on some of the stupid things people said, and I don’t want that to be what’s left in everyone’s mind. I can’t believe how loved we are, by our Father, and our friends.

So what can we do when someone loses their baby, before they see their face? I have asked a few of my close friends who have gone through this, and these are the most overwhelming parallels:

1. Acknowledge it.

It’s easy to celebrate and go through the happy times with family and friends. Equally important is being there in the hard times. Just say something. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. If you do, say sorry and get over it. It’s way better to say something, than nothing. I can’t believe how many facebook messages and texts I got. They literally sustained me. Knowing that there were people praying and thinking of me, and that knew I was sad and were sad for me made a huge difference. I even got a few phone calls, though I didn’t answer the phone. But I saw it, and it meant so much. I can’t say this enough: Acknowledge the loss. Text, phone, facebook, carrier pigeon: whatever the case may be, if there is someone in your family or circle that is going through a loss, you say something. One said, “Suffering people don’t need space, they need love. . . when we fail to acknowledge, we run the risk of pretending that the suffering did not happen, which is entirely false. Our sufferings are real, and if we are helped through our loss, we have a greater opportunity of turning the suffering into our ever needed desire for growth in holiness.” Always err on the side of love, not space.

2. Be there

To talk, hug, etc. Just let them know you are available, whether they take you up on it or not. Just knowing that you are a safe place to vent, cry or sit beside makes the difference between being alone in your darkest moments, or being loved unconditionally. One of my closest friends texted me on and off the next week, just to say hi and check in. I knew that I was being prayed for, and cared for. Our midwife was AMAZING. She sat with me at the hospital when I was going for final bloodwork. She responded to emails right away with questions I had. She even called me at 9:00 pm to let me know the results, so I wouldn’t have to wait till the next day. She let me cry without feeling stupid, and told me to call whenever I wanted to chat. Honestly, I know I go on about midwives, but you just can’t compare.

3. Shower with love

We were blessed by meals, flowers, gifts. I am still in shock. The meals gave me a huge break in the day, especially when I was in so much pain. Chopped and fresh veggies were also a huge blessing. I had the most annoying, brutal afterpains for almost a week. Having fresh stuff in the house to throw at the kids made life easier.  One of my friends made me a cheesecake with my name on it. A friend stopped by just to hug, and brought beautiful flowers. Cards, visits (if they are wanted), flowers on the table, all of this goes back to the first thing we should do: Acknowledge the loss.

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4. Let them grieve. Don’t offer platitudes.

When a friend dies, no one says, “Well, at least you have other friends!” Or, “You can always make a new one.” There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about grieving over your baby that died. Allow them that. Don’t try to make it better by pointing out blessings. Jesus grieved over the loss of his friend. Grief is a beautiful way of acknowledging life, and a life lost. If you accidentally say something along the lines of trying to help them get over it, or to see the “bright side,” realize what you’re doing and say sorry. Then be quiet and cry with them. “Grief is not lessened by minimizing the value of the life.” Aptly put.

5. Know that no grief is the same, and there’s no time limit.

It can strike at the weirdest times. Years later, seeing a child at the age your baby would be can bring it all back up to the surface. Obviously I’m not at that place, but hearing from other women tells me that most of all, our friends just want permission to be real. To feel pain and grief and hurt, and not pretend it’s not there because it’s been a few months or years since the loss. We are created to feel and love. God didn’t make a mistake there. If a joke that you heard or funny story you lived years ago still has the power to make you laugh ten years later, so too the memory of the baby you lost can still make you cry and feel the hurt just like yesterday.

season

6. Genuine help for the friend who’s miscarried:

Some books that have been recommended include Empty Arms, Mommy, Please Don’t Cry and Streams in the Desert. I haven’t read them all, but I’m interested because they have helped friends. Obviously the Bible is full of hope. I’m so thankful I know where our baby is. This song has been hugely helpful to me, and this one has been suggested by a friend who’s been there. Don’t watch that one with makeup on.

Also, a ceremony can also be a good way for closure. A lady whom I treasure has been through six miscarriages. She spoke of having her own ceremony, with a balloon for each baby. Eventually, she had to cut the string of each balloon and let them fly away. She said that it was like cutting steel; but it helped her in letting go.

Another lady spoke of sending white roses down the river; watching the water carry them further and further away. Being surrounded by nature in its rawest form can be such a meaningful way to say goodbye.

roses

And one last strong woman spoke of asking Jesus to show her the four babies she lost. “Healing truly came when I asked Jesus to show them to me and He showed me a picture of these 4 little boys sitting in His lap – all different ages – big brown eyes – blond curls!! It was beautiful!! They looked so happy! I know they are waiting for me….”

It is so easy to love each other in the happy times; to attend weddings, celebrate with showers, host a dinner because of a new home. Let’s not shy away in the dark times, but be friends and family through it all, not being afraid of the beauty of deep love, emotion and grief. This is where love is.

Thank you for everyone who’s prayed or loved on us. We’re okay. Super sad, but okay. Today the pretty one was sitting on the floor crying. Impatiently I asked, “What’s the matter?” 

She replied, “I just miss my baby.”

I get it, girl.

I know there’s a plan. I’m not mad. 

Darn, I just miss my baby.

Life hurts.

It just does. As surely as there’s life, there’s death. They go hand in hand. 

I knew I was expecting three days before my period was even due. When you do natural family planning, you kinda know. It was so crazy: I ovulated twice in one month which completely came as a surprise. We were ready for the first, the second time (after Googling if it was even possible) we knew that God had a different plan for us.

Nonetheless, I am nothing but frugal and waited exactly 24 hours from when my period was due. I was up the whole night before, dreaming of our new baby. At 5:30 am, it was positive, and I waited for my handsome hubby to wake up. I let him take two sips of coffee before I bubbled over.

We were slightly overwhelmed, but by the end of the day, pumped. We kept it quiet for the first bit. I made plans to school through the summer so that we could be done when our baby (a boy, I’m sure of it) arrived in March. After all, isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? Making school fit around your family?

I was sick, but not as sick with the girls. They were a special brand of possibly-on-the-verge-of-death sick. This was more of a queasy, walking on a ship at sea after eating three Big Macs sick. I found that the better I ate, the better I felt. Almost all whole foods, with some grains mixed in for convenience. I drank liters of water.

All the while, we smiled at my growing belly. It goes quick, with the fifth. My pants stopped fitting at a month. Leggings and low rise jeans got me through the next one. Imagine if it were twins? How funny!

Finally, even the No Frills ladies were commenting on my new accessory. Yes, this is a baby bump. Yes, we’re excited. Yes, I know where they come from. We realized that all our acquaintances and the people who see me on a regular basis now knew, but not family.

We were so excited. Each new life that God has given us we have received as a total gift. Each pregnancy seems to go faster and faster. I LOVE being nine months pregnant. I love how close my emotions are to the surface: I feel so genuine in my feelings, and how they regularly spill down my cheeks. I love being a woman, an ambassador for life. It’s never “easy”: we have dealt with breech babies turning, a car accident at nine months, falling down the stairs at 6 months, Braxton Hicks, salsa that MUST BE HAD RIGHT NOW, nursing while pregnant, missing heartbeats (that later turned up after a few weeks) and ultrasounds, pee tests, blood work and glucose testing. Never have I needed to go for an ultrasound in the first trimester: I always know my dates (of conception and last periods). 

Pregnancy is bliss. After all, we can throw our charts out the window, because you can’t get pregnant twice! Life is good. Kids are excited. Life is crazy, but with the two of us and a whole lot of Jesus, we can swing it.

baby

Flash forward.

Sitting in the hospital for three hours, feeling my baby leave my body and not being able to stop it. Waiting through every person that gets called to hear MY NAME! Please, call me back. Please, do something. Please.

An acquaintance comes in. “Well, if you wouldn’t have told anyone, you could have pretended it didn’t happen.” 

Finally, they call me back. They tell me that the ultrasound tech is on her way home. I lose it.

They are frightened, call her back. She examines me; tells me that I don’t need any more children when I already have four! But I love THIS ONE. They are all different, and I love this one so much already. Please, tell me if it’s alive or not.

Test is inconclusive. Fetus may be dead. Fetus may be viable. Come back in a few days.

Two days of cramping, bleeding, but possibility.

Monday rolls around. “We must have school today! We want to be done before Baby comes.”

Halfway through math class I am bawling in the bathroom, feeling the hope drain out of me while the other kids fight and bang on the door.

“He hit me!”

“She was bugging me!”

“Juice! Mom. Juice!”

Please, give me five minutes to say goodbye to our baby.

After another hospital visit and more pain than I thought, our baby is gone. A life is gone.

Well if you wouldn’t have told anyone, you could have pretended it never happened. What a nightmare that would be. Because he was here. My baby boy was here, and now he’s not, and I’m sad. But he was. And I’m so thankful that I was excited and proud of my baby for the time he was in my body. What a privilege it is to have had him for as long as I did. I don’t know why any of this happened. But it did.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

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