every April

I don’t remember exactly how she told me. Maybe her firstborn (just barely one then) wore a “big sister” shirt. Maybe, across half the world over FaceTime, she just gave me the wide-eyed excited-but-this-is-crazy face and told me over, “Guess what! I’m PREGNANT.” Either way, I was excited for her. We had both been awaiting positive pregnancy tests for a few months, both hoping for a close sibling pair—her first and second, my third and fourth. Her baby was a few months older than my youngest, so it made sense that she’d have news to announce first. I started dreaming about perhaps flying to Czech to see her when her baby arrived late the following April, providing I didn’t get pregnant too soon.

I did. It was literally days later when I got the faintest second pink line. But this was not my first pregnancy. I knew: a faint positive is a positive. She was one of the first people I told. We figured our due dates were perhaps a week apart. “Cousin twins!” we excitedly declared them.

And that April, she gave birth to her Sophia, and I was six months pregnant with my Lilly. There were no cousin twins. That pink line flickered and went out over the next few weeks, then my body let the baby go. That April was a weird mix of feelings: excitement at the pending birth of my niece, sadness that there was no corresponding birth for Hope, Sophie’s “twin,” and guarded anticipation of the baby girl I was finally beginning to feel moving within.

Every year, I expect grief as I pass the anniversary of the loss, and every year I’m surprised to find the anniversary is over with little feeling. I guess I see it—the prevailing symptoms of my grief when I lost her were numbness and lethargy (which turned out to be depression). I only recall crying twice that Fall; I just remember sitting in the recliner in my living room, trying to muster up a few craps to give about my three little kids’ misbehavior, and feeling generally catatonic.

But in April, it hits. This is the month little Hope would have come. This is the month she didn’t.

I’m never quite sure what to do with it. It has taken me by surprise for a third year. I remember people telling me when I became pregnant with Lilly that a rainbow baby is the best medicine for a miscarriage. My truth is a little more muddled than that. I’ve written before about the work it took to fully love Lilly and Hope simultaneously, because wishing Hope here means basically wishing Lilly gone, and celebrating Lilly means I’ve let Hope go.

To some degree, this remains.

This April, as I see Sophie’s birthday coming and picture Hope turning two just a few days later, I’m aware that it’s not really fair to picture Hope here turning two and Lilly also turning two in July. It’s not possible.

But April is a sweet month for me, too. I’m finding that, like the last two, Jesus is holding me close and quiet. The grief stings, sure. But to borrow a lyric from Andrew Peterson,

The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.

The grief means she’s not forgotten. It reminds me she was here. Miscarriage is weird—life moves on like it never was, when a mama is acutely aware of the lack of a human in her body, in her family. But April reminds me she was here, and her name reminds me (as I had hoped it would) that she’s not lost, she’s just gone. I know where she is, and I will get to love Hope beside Lilly eventually.

Friend, I don’t know what your story is. I know there’s a good chance you have one like mine, or eventually you may. I promise you know people who hold little ones in their hearts that few others remember.

If this is your story, I hope you find comfort in the sadness, as I am. I hope Jesus holds you close in the sorrow and the quiet. That the aching remains, but the breaking does not.

Because the Man of All Sorrows, He never forgot
What sorrows were carried by the hearts that He bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.


If this is you or someone you love, I want to point you to a book I’m reading right now. It’s due out 5/1/2018 (so just in time for the potentially oh-so-painful Mother’s Day!) and it’s called Grace Like Scarlett. I’ll probably share more about it when I’m done, because I believe from the depths of my soul that this book is one that the world needs, but for now, I’m about a third of the way through it, and I’m experiencing it just like April: the sorrow is quiet and deep, and the presence of Christ is palpable and deeper still.  If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find it here.

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Lilly and Hope

October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month. It’s also the month that Hope would be six months old. Miscarriage affects one in four women (according to some statistics) and it is such a silent loss that many of those women feel alone. So I will continue to bring it up from time to time, in hopes of making the one in four feel just a little less alone.

I’ve talked about last year’s miscarriage an awful lot here, and I really thought I’d processed it pretty fully. I was able to hold the tension between the joy and the sorrow and, while it’s still sad, I’d have said I pretty well found healing.

And then Lilly girl was born.

My rainbow baby.

And, for a few weeks, the newness and the chaos that always comes with a baby pretty fully occupied my mind, hands, heart, and time.

Then I went to an event where, among other things, I took a pretty solid look at the lies I was telling myself. Here’s a pair that came out:

I am being disloyal to Hope if I fully love Lilly.

and

If I am still sad about losing Hope, then I don’t love Lilly very well.

The problem that was caught in my heart was the fact that I could never have had both; they were too close. If I hadn’t lost Hope, Lilly could not have come to be. To have Lilly at all, I had to lose Hope. So in loving Lilly, it felt like I was glad I lost Hope, and in missing Hope, I felt like I wished I’d never had Lilly.

The friend facilitating the discussion about this tried to help me separate the two girls from so many different directions, but I wasn’t having it. I simply couldn’t see past the dichotomy.

After a great deal of frustration on my part, my sweet husband stepped in:

“I think you might be getting stuck because you believe that loving Hope has to mean you wish with all your being that things had been different.”

Yes. That’s exactly the problem.

But what if I step back from that definition of loving Hope? 

I had to ponder it for a little bit. How would loving Hope look if I didn’t wish with everything that I hadn’t lost her?

Trust.

Here’s what loving Hope looks like for me:

I loved her deeply for the time I knew I carried her.

I grieved her fully when I lost her (and continue to do so.)

And I trust that God knew what he was doing when He brought her home rather than allowing me to raise her. I trust that she’s fine, and that this, the family precisely as it is with four children here and one in heaven, is what God has in mind for us now. He gives good gifts, which means raising Lilly is a good thing and it means that the having and then the sorrow of losing Hope is also ultimately a good thing. (Though it absolutely does not feel that way.) I can see a few ways in which this loss has pointed some people toward God and softened me and made me just a little more like Jesus.

It’s still a really uncomfortable truth, this realization that I could never have had both.

But, while I cannot have both, I now know that I can love both just as fully as I love my others. And there is a great deal of peace and freedom there.


This post is part of the write31days challenge, where I’m trying to post every day in October. The rest of the posts can be found here.

joy, pain, Hope

We’re coming into my very favorite time of the year, and this year is extra awesome because, not only are we going down to work at the marriage conference, but we’re staying a couple extra nights, making this our longest kidless trip since Jenna was born.

And I can finally feel this baby regularly (despite an awkwardly positioned placenta) so it’s been weeks since I last convinced myself she was dead. She’s alive and kicking and there’s no way to forget for very long. (But I’m not to the Kill All The Things phase of pregnancy yet, so yay!)

Also awesome? I have a new niece this week. She’s 100% perfect. Well, almost. Her one flaw is location… she’s halfway around the world and I don’t have a reasonable way to get there from here to hold her tiny self and play with her big (toddler) sister and lend hands to her parents.

But also, my brain and heart are in turmoil.

See, while this week is completely full of joy and beauty, it’s also the week we would’ve expected Hope. Baby Sophia had a “cousin twin” that I was really excited about.

My due date would have been this coming Monday. My kids are all clustered around their due dates, but have gotten increasingly later (gah!), so realistically, if I hadn’t lost her, she’d still be in. I’d be at the part of pregnancy where I HATE EVERYTHING AND WHY THE HELL CAN THIS BABY NOT COME OUT NOW SO I CAN LIKE HER BECAUSE I CANNOT POSSIBLY LIKE HER AT THIS MOMENT BECAUSE I’M MISERABLE. But still, we’d be mere days away from meeting the tiny bundle of squishy pink perfection. I love newborns so much.

Also, I lost another niece last week. Ryan and Amanda lost Olivia Ann… another early miscarriage. And my heart hurts.

It’s hard to hold joy and pain together.

It’s costly.

It feels like dissonance. Like when someone plays or sings the wrong note, or when a guitar is playing with a B string out of tune (always B!) or just when there’s an unresolved chord hanging.

The emotional dissonance feels very much like the regular kind, which is to say, for me, it feels like a mild cringe.

It’s not the fresh pain of loss.

It doesn’t even detract much from the joy of the week.

But it’s there, just begging to be resolved.

That’s the thing about dissonance.

It isn’t without remedy.

The girls have Sally Lloyd Jones’s Jesus Storybook Bible and it talks a lot about “God’s rescue plan” and “all the sad things coming untrue.”

This world is fallen.

We’re stuck holding pain and joy together, and there’s a tension there that’s really uncomfortable.

But losing Hope has taught me (is teaching me?) that, while I lost Hope, I still have hope. I will see her again. All things will be put right. Jesus came that all the sad things might come untrue. Like a B string just slightly off, this fallenness is fixable, given the right Fixer.

Come, Lord Jesus.

the littlest girl

We had the big, long 20 week ultrasound today. (Clarification for the uninitiated: it took like 90 minutes, NOT 20 weeks. It happens at twenty weeks. In case you were concerned.)

I had some suspicions based on my symptoms that it might be a girl, but then on the way out of the house, I asked the girls to pray for the baby’s health and that we might get to find out whether baby’s a boy or a girl.

Jenna said, “Why don’t you pray, and we’ll bow our heads and close our eyes.” Ok, then. So I did, and, despite not having any particular attachment to the idea that it might be a girl, I slipped and said “she” during the prayer. Hmm. OK.

Twenty seconds later, Katherine pipes up: “Jesus told me it’s a GIRL!” What? He did? “Yeah. And he knows EVERYTHING. Because HE never does ANYTHING wrong. YOU do things WRONG. But HE doesn’t. So HE KNOWS.” (For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of listening to Katherine speak on a regular basis, there are a lot of caps.)

Well… okay. Katherine also has an active imagination and the tendency to very authoritatively share stories. For instance, she has an unnamed husband and a house underground where Fedadoh (her favorite buddy) has a bunch of toys that I don’t know how to use. She’s shared this story on a half dozen occasions in the last week. She’s quite sure. So I was curious, but a touch skeptical. (After all… Shouldn’t this one be a boy? Symmetry!)

As it turns out, the ultrasound tech sided with Jesus. (Which is good, because I did not want to explain to Katherine why or how she may have misheard Him.)

I made a bunch of predictions yesterday about what would go down, based on what I’ve experienced before and how I’ve been feeling, and I was mostly right. Except on two points. First, obviously, the baby seems fine (or this would be a far different post.) Second, in every other pregnancy, I’ve spent the hours following the ultrasound in a weird funk because knowing the gender rules out a hypothetical child (of the other gender) that had existed in my mind as a possibility. So I spent several hours (often longer) in a strange kind of mourning.

Not this time. That’s especially strange, since I really have wanted a boy for a fair part of the pregnancy, largely for the balance of it.

I’m actually overwhelmingly excited.

And basically the only words left in my head or heart are for her. (If you think she has a name yet, you’re not familiar with our naming practice. Our babies historically get names during active labor. At the soonest.) 


Hey, little girl.

I’m really, really happy that you’re coming. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that you’re coming, that you’re healthy so far, that you’re mine.

I’m excited to meet you. To feel your soft little head and hear all the crazy noises that you make and smell your warm little baby smell. I can’t wait to see who you turn into. (Well, I mean, I can. I have to. Please keep baking for another… 17 weeks or so. Wait 19 or 20 if you must. But only if you must.) I know that all our kids come out SO COOL and I can’t wait to see what kind of awesome you are.

I want to tell you something, too. We lost one just shortly before you came to be. We think she is a girl, too, and I’ll miss her always.

But here’s the thing that I want you to hear loud and clear right now: the loss does not make you less wanted or less valuable. It makes you more wanted and more valuable. I want you and pray for you with an intensity I haven’t known before because I cannot fathom losing you, too.

Our family is waiting for you. We’re all so excited to meet you. Your Daddy is such a good daddy to little girls already. (To our boy, too! But he’s got a lot of practice already with girls.)  Brian doesn’t understand yet, but I’m especially excited to see him be a big brother to his baby sister. Did you know I always wanted a big brother? And my baby brother (your Uncle Rylee) always wanted a baby sister, so we decided when he was little that we’d just swap places and he could be my big brother and I could be his little sister. It was silly, but just the same, I am really excited that you get a big brother and Brian gets a baby sister. And your big sisters… Jenna’s a little mama. She’s already so taken with you. Katherine will be at the perfect age to really understand who this little person is, and I’m so excited to see her get it. (She was a little too young when Brian came to understand how he was fitting into her world. But she’s not too little anymore!)

I’m sorry in advance for all the little people in our house that are much, much bigger than you. You’re going to get hurt. Hopefully not badly. But they’ll make you cry. They’ll love you within an inch of your life. (Their love looks an awful lot like assault.) 

But I’m not really sorry. Because you are already so loved. And that’s only going to get bigger.

I’ll see you in a few months. Feel free to get comfy on my bladder. I don’t mind. Well, I do. But you’re worth it.

Love you!
Mama.

 

THE ultrasound

Tomorrow’s the ultrasound. THE ultrasound. Theoretically the one where we see the baby’s kidneys and various major arteries and all fingers and toes and, if we’re lucky, maybe gender.

(My sweet friend got me these little sleepers the week I tested positive with this baby. I’ve had them hanging where I can see them from my bed ever since, as a reminder that this is real.)

Here’s what I expect based on all the other kids:

  • Our chances of finding out gender are POOR. Both girls evaded on the first try at 20 weeks. (We got second chances and figured it out eventually both times.)
  • If we do find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl, I’ll spend much of the rest of the day mourning the baby that isn’t. One of those sweet sleepers will not be worn, likely ever by any baby of mine. (Is this normal? I have no idea. But so far, it’s happened every time and I’ll be darned if it’s going to surprise me again. I’ll just plan for it… it’ll pass.)
  • I’ll go in with an uncomfortably full bladder (like they ask me to) and the tech will immediately send me to the bathroom. I have no idea why reception always wants me to have a full bladder and the tech never does (a full bladder makes sense earlier, of course), but it’s happened every time.

Here’s what I’m expecting because this is the most neurotic pregnancy ever:

  • An anterior placenta. I haven’t felt this baby hardly at all, and I’m pretty sure (and the midwives agree) that it’s due to where my placenta is. Perfect, right? When I’m convinced like 80% of the time that baby is NOT okay, that’s definitely the pregnancy where I should have the hardest time feeling the reassuring squiggles, yes? Sigh.
  • A dead, dying, or severely disabled baby. There. I said it. I have a few friends that have gotten really bad news at this ultrasound and I’m just sure I’ll join them tomorrow. I’m really good at math. I understand that statistics are on my side. But it’s hard to math away the paranoia.

 

I’ve been struggling a lot this week (and by “week” I mean “pregnancy”) with the verses that command people not to fear. I’ve not been terribly successful (ever) feeling differently because I think I should. I see why “FEAR NOT!” worked well when God sent an angel or preincarnate Christ to someone… They were scary, but the assurance that no harm was coming goes a long way toward assuaging fear.

That doesn’t seem to translate very well this week.

So I’m looking (after some discussion with my husband) at some of the teaching passages in the New Testament that deal with fear and anxiety.

Philippians 4:6- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Okay, so pray, ask, give thanks. Check.

Then there’s Matthew 6:27 that reminds me that worrying doesn’t gain anything.

True enough.


 

Now I’m working on choosing trust. While I’ve never had any luck thinking myself into a different emotion, I have at least a little success with acting my way into a different feeling.

When the worry creeps up and attacks (like my stinky baby brother would love to do), I at least have my to-do list. (I’m good at those!)

  • pray
  • ask
  • give thanks
  • remember the worry is helping nothing

We’ll see how it goes. If you have any thoughts or guesses on gender, I’d love to hear them! (In addition to changing emotions by changing actions, I can absorb the excitement of other people, so feel free to share some.) Navy stripes with monkey or lavender dots with polar bear? Or yet another stubborn modest baby?


(And here’s the post from the after the ultrasound!)