I do not want to write this story. I certainly did not want to live it.
Life happens. It happens hard... around you, to you and through you, daily.
This story does not end the way one may hope, but it does end with hope.
I am going to tell you the facts, then take you through my emotional journey of grieving.
So here it is.
We found out June 20th. Those two exciting pink lines were thrilling to see. Another WAY too early in the morning test left me giddy and terrified as I climbed into bed next to Matt. He already knew that there was a high possibility, so the news was not too shocking. I sent him the photo of the positive pregnancy test as soon as I took it. 2:42am.
We were planning a trip to Austin for the first week of July so most of our energy the next week went into that. I spent very little time on thinking about being pregnant. I tried very, very hard to not think on it. The miscarriage from this past January haunted my each thought like a shadow; I was determined to not get attached. It was not until we had passed the 6 week mark, that I felt any wisp of relief from that fear.
Yet it is impossible to not get involved with your pregnancy. From the moment of seeing those double lines, your whole life plan shifts. You look at what your due date is - Feb 18, 2016. Then you picture how differently the next twenty years will look. Not to mention all the little thoughts that engulf and consume you. "Where will baby sleep? How will we tell everyone? When will we tell anyone? What if it's twins? What if it's twins!?"... the list of thoughts are endless, and at some points, quite hilariously detailed.
We scheduled a doctor appointment for July 30th. After too long in the waiting room, I was taken back to get checked out. Weight, height, medical history...then the ultra sound. I lay on the little table in a cold sweat of fear. Out of sheer panic, I began telling the ultra sound tech about my past. Joshua, the last miscarriage, etc. She was a kind listener as she prepped me. Her first look was directly on the baby.
Oh if there had been a camera on my face. Relief and Joy.
What a wiggler!
Our little kicking and punching eleven week old baby was as clear as a bell. My heart was happier than there are words in the english language to describe.
I had come up with this "brilliant" plan, that I enforced upon Matt, to not tell anyone about our pregnancy until we knew the sex of the baby. Other than a pair of close friends, we stuck to the pact. It was fun coming up with new ideas of ways to tell people. I think that the real reason I didn't want to tell was because I was afraid. I did not want to have to un-tell people. As much as I trusted God was good and loved me, I knew that His plans for my life had lead me to places of heart crushing loss.
August 11th, I spotted. Something minimally light. I remember sitting on the toilet and thinking, "Well, there is nothing I can do to control this." Then with complete peace I went about my day. Without fear, and without more spotting.
August 12th I spotted again, but this time something inside my heart snapped. All the fear I had caged, sprung forth in torrents of tears and broken pleading before God. Thankful I had already put Sam down to nap, I spent the next two hours in absolute anguish. Pouring out my brokenness and fear before God in tears and uncontrollable crying. Wailing. (This is an uncomfortable thing to admit because like most, I try very hard to be "strong", but strong is something that I don't think we can ever be alone. We need others, we need God. It is just an illusion when we do it on our own.) Laying facedown on our couch, my body shaking, I told God how little I trusted Him. I told Him how broken I was still from losing Joshua. How there was nothing in my physical life I was sure of. I reminded God of the promise I thought He had made with me about keeping Samuel. I asked with all of my heart to keep this child. I told God that I would not make it through another loss. I did not want to, and I did not need to.
Then Sam woke up. I washed my face and played with him. I held his little hand as we walked to get the mail, then cuddled close beside him as we watched a movie; holding back the tears that threatened to give away my anxious thoughts. It is amazing what you can DO despite where your mind is.
At some point that evening, probably while making dinner, I made a plan. A survival plan. I recognized my fear and lack of committing to this little heartbeat inside me. It hurt to think that I could be wasting precious time loving this little one because of my fear. So I would chose to be "all in." There is a blood test you can take between 11-14 weeks that can separate the babies DNA from the mothers. It tests more accurately for fetal abnormalities, and can also tell you the gender. Matt and I had previously decided to bypass the test due to its irrelevance. When Matt came home that night I asked him if we could take it.
"Matt, I want to find out the gender now."
His faced questioned.
"Because I am afraid to lose the baby. I have been trying to stay unattached, but I can't do that any longer. I want to love without fear. And I think if we find out the sex, and name our baby, then even if we lose it, I can say that I gave my whole heart."
He smiled sadly at me.
"We are not going to lose the baby Crista."
Matthew has always had so much more hope and faith than me.
I looked back at him through my tears,
"But, if we do, I will put up a photo of the ultra sound on the wall. I don't want my fear to keep me from loving the most important thing that life offers."
(The most important thing that life offers us IS life.)
"And we can find out the sex and name our baby now. Still keeping it a secret until we want, but embracing him or her now, as the person they are."
Matt stepped forward to hold me while I cried out my fear, and embraced determination. Finally, I felt peace.
The 13th, Thursday, I called the doctor and informed her of what was happening. She asked the basic "have you been" questions: exercising, having sex, heavy lifting...no, no and no.
"Well if you keep spotting tonight or in the morning, call and we will have you come in."
The next morning it was no longer excusable spotting. So I called, and was directed to immediately come in.
I texted Matt to call me as soon as he could, then texted my dear friend Allie that I was headed to the doctor, and asked her to pray. When Matt called, I told him the situation. Thankfully, I already had Sam's backpack filled with toys and entertainment, so I tossed in some treats and we left. I felt real peace when driving to the doctors office. It was only eight minutes away. I remember thanking God for the short distance, and that I had a doctor to go to. I thanked Him for many things during those eight minutes, and I again I felt peace.
Waiting room time passed quickly. It was not twenty minutes later that I was laying on the ultra sound table again. Sam sat in a seat watching a movie with headphones. The moment the doppler was on my stomach, I knew.
It is not hard to miss the stillness. The absence. No heartbeat. No movement.
My heart stopped for a second too.
"No heartbeat?" I asked, not comprehending what I was saying.
The ultra sound tech, Candice, played the audio of my uterus.
"No. No heartbeat."
The words snapped me into focus. I could hear myself gasp, holding back a sob. Then all I could say was, "It is okay. It is okay." over and over and over again. I could feel the words holding me together as I rocked back and forth. It felt like forever, but I know it was only ten or twenty seconds before the doctor, Brooke, asked me if she could call someone for me.
"Want me to call your husband? I can tell him, if you don't want to."
Her mention of Matt recalled me to the reality that this was not over.
"Oh my poor husband." I could feel the tears coming now.
"He will be devastated. He is so excited about the baby. No, I will call him after, I need a minute."
I cried for for a few seconds with Brooke holding my hand.
"Did you want pictures?" Candice asked, whispered from the other side of me. I looked at her and saw her tears.
"Yes. Please. That would be really special. Thank you."
She smiled sadly, going about her business.
"Okay," I said again as I looked over to Brooke. "Now what? What are my options?"
Options were discussed, I told her that I was leaning towards a D&C, like she suggested, but would need to talk to my husband. They measured the baby. A little over eleven weeks in size meant it had not been growing for most of the last two weeks. Probably just days after our first ultrasound. I told the ladies, as the measuring was taking place, about my conversation with God two days earlier. About the firm choice I had made to celebrate this baby and love it fully.
"I don't know how God works but I know that if He had not prepared me, met with me on Wednesday, I don't know...it was grace I think."
As I left, Candice hugged me, crying again.
"I am sorry I am crying. My best friend just lost a baby at 13 weeks too."
I hugged her and expressed my sorrow.
"Life just punches you straight in the face sometimes."
Her face hardened, "all the time."
Sigh, "yes, all of the time."
D and C
I will be refrain from defining this procedure besides saying that it is, "the removal of the fetus and placenta" from the body, surgically.
I called Matt as soon as we left the appointment. He cried on the phone. He came home from work, and waited with me to hear back about an appointment time for the procedure. 5:00pm. It was time to call our the parents. We did not want to bring Sam up to the hospital. We had to drive about 45 minutes to the one our practice was affiliated with. The best hospital in this part of Texas for neonatal care. (Our history made that a priority for us.) Even though the procedure wasn't supposed to take too long, there are always unknowns to consider. With that, we needed to find someone to watch Sam. I called Jackie, Matt's mother, and shared the situation with her. Her bosses were kind and allowed her to leave work early so she could get Sam, and keep him overnight. Then I called my mother to share the situation, but more because I needed, wanted prayer. This was surgery, I would be fully sedated and... that is terrifying.
Then we waited.
Our friends discreetly left a gift on our doorstep including tissues, a little plant, chocolate, and a note expressing their share in our sorrow, and willingness to have a pizza delivered that night. (Thank you Tim and Lydia.)
Still, it felt like forever because I was not able to eat. No food for eight hours before you are sedated because they want to eliminate risks to your breathing. I had eaten one bite of Sam's granola bar that morning, but one bite had been enough for them to ask me to wait eight more hours. Matthew did not eat either. Solidarity. I asked him to eat a few times, offered that we stop somewhere, but he responded, "I will not eat in front of you. We can get something together after the surgery."
How did I get such a man? It is such a simple sacrifice that many may scoff at or dismiss, but it was an act of love. Matt's willingness to accept discomfort so that he could partner with me through this is just the surface of his love for me.
Finally at the hospital, we found our way up to our room. We got lost a handful of times when a kindly nurse finally helped us out. In the midst of being poked and prodded by needles, while wearing a draft gown in an uncomfortable bed, I was blessed by the presence of our first nurse Sarah. She was immensely kind and answered all the questions I asked. Mostly, I just wanted to know what was going to happen. The play by play of what I could expect: wait time, surgery time and recovery time. She was cheerful and helpful even though the situation was less then exemplary. I was thankful for her.
She was then replaced by Whitney, whom was also very kind and helpful. She assisted in the surgery and was with me after.
It was three hours before the anesthesiologist came to our room. Three hours of boredom and anxiety. We watched Ratatouille and talked about how glad we were that we did not bring Sam. Poor guy would have been bored out of his mind.
Right after the anesthesiologist came in, the doctor followed.
I do not have good history with doctors. The NICU doctor on call when Joshua was born literally told my husband there was "no hope" in the hallway, when he had gone to find out why Joshua had been whisked away. Then I had to argue with him to keep Joshua on life support another day (the 3rd day) so that my father could meet him, and say goodbye. He told me, "The body will decay if we leave him on."
Needless to say I was not expecting much from the new man who stood in front of me now. Jaded, callused bedside manner is what I had seen, and is what I expected.
Was I wrong! Dr. McLaughlin walked in and asked me how I was feeling, first thing. Followed by the normal series of questions. Then he asked how many pregnancies I'd had.
"Four." I replied.
"How many children?"
I knew that he needed more information.
"My first was full term, live delivery, but immediately on life support, passed away a couple of days later, six years ago. This January, I had a miscarriage at six weeks, and now this one at thirteen weeks."
He was silent for a long moment. He lifted his head and looked at Matt, then me.
"That is a really rough history."
He finished with a very detailed explanation of what was going to be done to me, and then what the recovery would look like. More than I would have ever thought or known to ask. When he left the room, both Matt and I looked at each other shocked. The way he expressed his sympathy for our history, our life... it was exactly the right way to share with us. As a stranger, hearing about someone's hurt is awkward. You want to say, "I am so sorry." Yet the truth is, as kind as it is meant, it doesn't fit.
"That was the perfect response." I said, looking at Matt. He nodded. We sat and talked a few minutes about how much his words made us feel validated and seen. It was like he was saying, "ya know, crap, that sucks", while also recognizing the hardness that our lives had seen.
An hour later the anesthesiologist assistant swooped in, and he whooshed me out. I looked at Matt with what I can only imagine was a terrified look. He kissed my hand. I was mostly flat on the table as they moved me through the hallways. Staring at ceiling tiles pierced with fear. Everything was loud. We passed a family, a little girl about 3, was waiting to meet her new little sister. There was real fear in her eyes when she saw me pass; I forced a smile at her. I could only imagine the questions that Sam would be asking if he had seen the same. It was a hard smile to make, but she should not feel fear yet.
Once we had passed though too many double doors, we stopped in the coldest room I had ever been in. Frigid. The huge lights above the operating table looked exactly like those in any medical TV show. A lady in dark blue scrubs, from head to toe, and elbow length gloves with a clear plastic mask that covered her whole face, waited. They told me to move beds. I awkwardly scooted myself from one horizontal table to the other while trying to not crush my IV or reveal what my hospital gown was barely hiding. Once situated, the anesthesiologist assistant put an oxygen mask on me.
"Just oxygen for now. But I will be adding pain medicine to your IV in a moment. Once the doctor is here, I will give you the medication to put you to sleep."
Then it was all sounds. I heard the grating and clanking of metal on metal as the tools were rearranged. I heard the guy ask where the doctor was.
"Is he scrubbed in yet? I am not putting her to sleep until he is scrubbed in."
Pause, "Well go get him now."
I heard my nurse talking to the lady in blue.
"I have not done one of these since I was pregnant." (She did not look anything like she had had a child recently.)
Another sweep of fear gripped me.
"Okay, here is the pain medicine."
It was not seconds later that the ceiling that I had dutifully been staring at began to sway.
Nervous I asked, "Um, it is normal to feel dizzy now, right?"
A chuckle, "Yes. I am going to give you something that will put you to sleep. It will take less then 12 seconds."
I started to count: one, two....
"You already said that."
"What?" I asked. I felt loopy, but also sure of what I was saying. Where was I?
"You have already said 'thank you' like three times."
Again, I felt confused. Had I said something? How long had I been gone? Was I done? How did I not remember anything? Back in the room, already?
"Can I go to the bathroom?" I asked Whitney, my nurse.
She looked at me concerned for a second.
"You are probably just feeling the sensation to use the bathroom from the catheter that they put in." Oh, I had told them I had to go before surgery but everything seemed too rushed then.
"Oh. Okay. Thank you."
Matt laughed on the couch beside my bed.
"How long was I gone?" I asked him, now that he had caught my attention.
"Ten, maybe fifteen minutes."
I felt dizzy again. How? The missing part of my memory felt a mile wide, or at least an hour. "Really?" We laughed.
"I have to go to the bathroom." I said to the nurse again.
She appraised me.
"Can I at least try?" I pleaded.
Catheter or not I am not one who can wait to use the restroom.
"Okay." She gently helped me off the bed.
"Thank you." I said, apparently for the tenth time.
"Crista, you already said, 'thank you' so many times." He was laughing and Whitney joined him then said, "I will take it. We don't get a lot of thanks around here."
I made the 10 step journey in an exorbitant amount of time. OUCH is an understatement. Apparently a catheter leaves your body a bit torn up. When I finally relaxed enough to do my business it burned like...like... I have no logical comparison to make, it is that unique of a feeling. "Oh, I guess you did have to go." I heard the nurse say when she heard me finish. Matt stood at the door waiting to assist if needed. He watched me gingerly reach back to wipe then waddle over to wash my hands, gown still wrapped around my arm, exposing my stomach. He heard me sigh as I caught my reflection in the mirror. Still loopy, I did not immediately feel the onslaught of emotions that the image unleashed. But I remember seeing my stomach, noticing it's sag. No longer showing the firm bulge that I had been consciously hiding the last few weeks. I remembered this look, this feeling of emptiness from the night we lost Joshua. Looking in the mirror at the hospital, and knowing I had nothing left. I was no longer the vessel.
"Are you okay?" the stress in Matt's voice brought me back to real time.
"Oh, yes. I just, I am empty now. I can feel it." I said it warmer then the words were meant. Disassociation. It was not until two days later that I was able to process what I had experienced in that moment, the gravity of it. The pain.
An hour later after eating ice chips, drinking water, and going to the bathroom six more times, we were all checked out to leave. Thanking Whitney a few more times, naturally.
Matt walked, and I waddled, to the car. Not much talk at first, until we were on the highway headed home. Forty-five minutes to kill, as we drove on the new lane our life had been forced onto.
Close to home, after we had settled upon getting Whataburger for dinner, we talked.
"Ya know those meme's with the Archer character on 9gag?" Matt asked me. "I feel like sending one to God that says, 'Do you want me to be bitter and cynical...because this is how you make me bitter and cynical.'"
We laughed. The serious topic shared lightly is how we spent the rest of the drive home until we got dinner at 10:30pm. It was the best burger I have ever had. Second only to the one I had after Samuel was born, a Carl's Junior's Big Carl. It had been over 24 hours since I had had a meal. Except the half of a bite of Sam's silly granola. I did not fall asleep until it was way past being Friday, August 14th, 2015.
These are the feelings and stages of my grief immediately after the loss, until now. I am copying them from the "notes" portion of my phone. I am not adding or subtracting from them. Try not to judge as you read. This is real life... real moments of mental struggle. They are the ONLY way for me to work out the tornado in my head. Are you picturing a tornado? One that is moving through a field, and along a road, picking up items and twirling them around and around and around until they reach the outer rotation and are thrown out haphazardly and without warning. There is no limit to the number of what it can carry. It grows and shrinks illogically with contents unseen from the exterior.
This is an inside view of my tornado. Please know I speak only my experience.
Saturday, August 15th
Shock. There is little you can do but survive the first couple days. Matt keeps asking me if I am crying. I am not. But he said I have RCF. (Resting Cry Face) ha! Yup. That I do.
Saturday, August 16th
My very first instinct is to run away. Go anywhere else then where I am. My second instinct is to do something impulsive. Like spend all of my money (our money) on something foolish, or anything that would make me feel happy, just for a second. Like 50 different kinds of chocolate bars. Then, I want to break something. The idea of throwing all my glass items on the floor feels right. I want to watch them shatter into a million pieces that will never be reassembled. Then they might look like me.
Of course I am a grown up and can do nothing of the sort. I get to watch the days fly by because life never stops when s*it hits the fan. Healing on the run. No stopping.
Sunday, August 17th
I hate having to tell this story. Telling people hurts. It feels like a failure. "Here, look. I've failed again."
Sunday Night, August 17th
Made a shadow box and painted today. It occupies me, and makes me think of how to make what is inside available on the outside. It is okay to display our sadness, because sometimes it is also our greatest joy.
Monday, August 18th
Am I overreacting in my sadness and sorrow? Should I be able to let it go, let it slide off? So many people can, or at least seem to. Why then do I feel betrayed and paralyzed? Given over to my deepest fear after consciously choosing to give my heart and be "all in." Two days later, my hope, my heart is smashed to pieces. I am left on my hands trying to pick up each shard. Mangled bleeding hands, bloody knees, just trying not to miss anything important. Alone.
"I will never leave you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6/ Hebrews 13:5
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
I remember exactly when I memorized that last verse. Sitting in a faded pink pew at Willamette Christian Center in Eugene, Oregon at 16 years old.
But THIS, this does not feel like prospering. This does not feel like hope. And as for the plan...You planned this? Why? What am I suppose to learn, did I have to learn like this? What are You doing?
Who will be left, what will be left of me? I will not hide these broken places in me. I will not pretend that they did not happen. They are my children, whether I lost them at 6 weeks, 13 weeks or 3 days old. They have a part of my hear,t and hiding that would be a lie. I would be living a lie. I will not go bouncing my pain into people of course. In fact, it is only those who stay close who will see the shadows of my heart, the gaping holes. But they will see them, how could they not?
I am thankful for all those who are willing to share with me. SO many who care and walk with me. Who choose willingly to carry the hurt with me. I am not alone, even if I feel it.
But I do process alone. I don't like others to see this part of the struggle. It is harsh, bitter, sour and leaves me too vulnerable to be near anyone. Once I am past the worst, then I share. Past the struggle of pilling up each sharp broken piece, then I will let people in. It is self defense, but it is also to protect those who care. Those shards will hurt others if I don't at least gather them into a pile first. My doubt does no one a service. My anger does not encourage. My sorrow is inconsolable. At first.
I know I need people during this time, even if it is just to seek out help in the forms of prayer and shallow contact. People rise up, they encourage sending notes, little gifts, dinners, and prayers. It is the practical needs that remind us we are not alone, and that we are loved.
Wednesday, August 20th
But the rain, the wild storms. They are what washes away the stains, the dirt and grime that builds up. You can accept they will come, as rain, or as tear drops. Maybe you can jump in the puddles a little. Joy is possible, if I want to see it. If I ask God to take away the past, wash it away. Then I can start new. Broken, but not useless. Sam's joy in the rain inspired me.
Wednesday Night, August 20th
Maybe there will not be another child. I know that I don't want to try again. I HATE it when other people tell me there will be another. That they are praying and God will answer. They don't know. That just may not be what He has planned. It hurts to hear others confidence when I have zero.
When do moms know it is time to stop trying?
Wednesday Night-Later, August 20th
Forgot to take medicine today, and did too much. My body is angry at me. Aching knees and back, cramping tummy, spotting, and of course my immediate response is panic. Ugh. I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I've not been able to sleep. When I finally do, I have bad dreams. I am not interested in eating, except when Matt is home. I have had a headache the last three days. Desperation breeds need... I am in need.
Standing in line at the grocery store, Sam leans over the side of the cart and rubs my belly.
"Your tummy is bigger. Do you have a baby?"
Sigh. "No, Sam"
He gestures to his tummy and mimes it growing. "With a baby you grow bigger and bigger."
This child is perceptive. His words hurt my heart a little. I am glad we did not tell him about this. His little heart does not need more then it can handle.
10 Days-August 24th
David was ANOINTED when he was a teenager. Anointed as the KING of the people of Israel. Chosen by God. Confirmed by Samuel, the well known prophet of God. He returned to the flocks after that, played his lyre, sang praises to soothe king Saul, whom tried to spear him. THEN he faced Goliath, then he worked his way up the army, battle after battle. It was his fighting, triumphing over the enemy, that brought him honor and the love and respect of his men and the people of Israel.
David was on the run...he could have killed his attacker, but instead honored God and the king that He had placed.
ALL of this happened after David had been anointed king. AFTER (Samuel 1 and 2)
Don't we all imagine a king as one in the lap of luxury. No cares, no worries, no work. Freedom. HA!
The hardest part of this is NOT the loss, though it is devastating. The hardest part is knowing that I KNOW God. I know He is good. I know He is most powerful. I know that He loves me. More then that, even in all my fear and doubt, I KNOW God could have made 'life' happen inside me.
He could have breathed life into Joshua. He could have made life grow well, successfully. He COULD have.
Those truths are what hurt the very most. Knowing that God caused or allowed this for "the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28) or because He "knows the plans He has for me. Plans to prosper and not harm..." (Jeremiah 29:11)
Hope. I am encouraged by David. He was dedicated to God. Even in his deepest sorrow, he was open with God. He shared his heart and God did not leave him. Even when he felt alone. THEN, the GREATEST part was when David looked back over the past, the hurts, the battles. He saw God was there, His fingerprints over the whole situation. Photobombing each moment, good and bad.
"Oh God, help me see You here. Help me trust You farther then I can see you. Help me be able to turn back the pages of my life and see You in my memories. Jesus name, Amen."
2 Weeks-August 30th
Check Up. Finally. I am okay. Deep sigh. Good.
I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to.
Yet here it is, all I can think about.
So many lies. Lies about who I am, what I have done, who I was, who I will be. Lies Lies Lies Lies. I am swimming in the lies. Some moments I feel like I am drowning in them. They exaggerate the truth just to the point that you want to believe it. Or calls us out by our failures, a hand held mirror that only reflects ourselves.
Truth is like an overgrown hiking trail. When you first start walking it you have no idea where you are going. Are you still on the path? Have you misstepped? But then you reach your destination. The more you walk the trail, the more visible it is. The easier it is to get to your destination. You can start to bring others with you. First in a single file line. After a while you can walk side by side. Making the trail wider, more clearly seen, more open. One day a stranger will walk the path out of curiosity, maybe only having seen you disappear down it a couple times. Your work proves beneficial for others. Instead of a hand held mirror you see the reflection of a whole lake. So many more important things to focus on besides yourself.
Someone bought doughnuts for Sam and I today. Sitting in line at the Dunkin' Doughnuts drive-thru, waiting for a special treat. The car behind us had let us cut in front of her for some reason, so I kept glancing back. I planned to pay for her order as a thank you. When I pulled up to the window, I was handed our bag of doughnuts. The attendant smiled.
"Paid for by the car in front of you." She said.
I sat dumbfounded for a few moments. What? Had I even looked at the person in that car? I asked to pay for the lady behind us, then spent the rest of the day with the sweetest little joy in my heart. Such a small little action, but someone had sacrificed for a stranger. As a result, I felt taken care of.
4 Weeks- September 15th
I have a choking fear that my husband or Samuel will be taken away from me. I lay in bed gripped by it, as I force myself to not overthink, or over worry about the hundred million ways that I will lose the two most important people in my world. It is worse when I think of Matt. As a mother, I feel a little guilt there but the reality is that Matthew Nice is the most important person in my life. He means more to me then anyone. Thinking about losing the one person who knows the very core of me, the depth of my person; good, bad and ugly, makes my blood run cold. Sometimes it makes me want to emotionally detach from him. Thought being, "maybe if I do it myself, it won't hurt as bad when he is taken away,"
Loss seems to slam your mortality into your face. There is no running from it at night. During the day I can stay busy, occupy myself mentally and physically, but at night, I am defenseless. Or at least the defenses that will help me requires a constant and conscious fight. I have to repeat over and over again that I am not alone, and will be cared for no matter what happens. It is a hard thing to think. It is a hard thing to choose to believe when you don't want to imagine yourself without the loves of your lives. Yet, that is not what God is asking of me. He wants me to give it all to Him. To let Him do all the busy work and for me to rest. It is not without effort on my part, for giving back those I love, and my own life, is sacrifice. Sacrifice hurts and it is a CHALLENGE. A mental battle of lies versus truth that breeds fear or freedom.
So each night I lay in bed knowing as soon as Matt is asleep, I will be at war. The best solutions I have come up with are staying up playing Yahtzee on my phone until my eyes literally will not stay open. Or listening to my Bible app with a timer until I feel peaceful enough for sleep.
I don't want to have more children. Yet it hurts to think about Sam being the only one. I don't want to be pregnant again. I don't want to go through all the wishing, hoping, waiting, waiting, waiting...I don't want to lose again. Can you understand that? Can you try to sympathize? Please, oh please, stop asking me when I will try again. Please. I feel the obligation in your words. I feel it in myself. I feel the shame when I look at Sam because he is growing up alone. And dammit... I have no control. I mean, look at my life. Please stop asking me to have control. Let it all happen if it will. You don't know what you are asking of me. You don't know the depth of the pain that question causes.
Forgive the anger read here. It is present, but mostly as a defense from the shocking pain and failure I feel. I have tried. I have tried so much to have more children. They have not stayed. So please, have mercy and don't ask. All my trying has just meant loss.
I had a little baby girl in my arms. She was brand new and someone asked me what her name was. I looked at Matt and we smiled as we said her name in unison. Joy spread over my whole body as I looked into her little eyes. Seeing her perfectness, her presentness. Pride and joy overwhelmed me.
My eyes opened.
Surrounded by darkness, I sat up in bed and sobbed. Desire is an intense thing.
I am so grateful for my family. Being home in our little apartment, gathered around the table eating dinner, and my heart is happy. God, thank you for this. It is from You.
Did you know that the Israelites, the group of 2 million plus people who were saved by God from slavery in Egypt, who crossed the Red Sea on dry land, who experienced God's presence visibly (in form of a cloud during the day and cloud with fire at night) never made it to the promised land? Only two people from the original Red Sea-crossers stepped foot into the promise land to keep.
Do you know why?
When the spies came back to give their report, after 40 days, carrying wildly huge fruit, they brought with them a story. The land was filled with giants. There was no way to win. The people were filled with dread. Only two of the spy party objected. Caleb and Joshua urged the people to not be afraid and to have faith that their God was Bigger, Stronger and would keep His Promise. But these people, those who had seen God's miracles, who had literally walked out of Egypt filthy rich, seen all of the Egyptian army swallowed by the very Sea they had escaped, DOUBTED the God who had orchestrated it all. And (this part is super key) in their fear they disobeyed God. They rebelled.
Their fear may have felt real, but it was unnecessary because they had God on their side.
Literally on the edge of the promised land, able to look forward and see it. They could have had ALL they had been promised, yet they choose unbelief. That lack of trust in God brought unrest. 40 years of wandering and death. They said, "No" to believing God. They said, "No" to doing what He had asked them. (Numbers)
I am chained down by fear. These restrains are so real, so tight, so binding around my heart and head. I know better. Yet, so often I choose to believe that the chains around me are real, and that they are too much for God to handle. When they are really just a shadow. Step back, look at them, and you will see. I am bound, held in place by no more then shadows. For some reason, I believe they are real.
Why have I allowed these shadows to trick me into believing God is small, incapable, and human? I have seen His goodness, His bigness, over and over again. Just like the Israelites, I am making God small. My complaining and grumbling is an attack on God's character. It is verbal rebellion, followed often with disobedience. It is... a hard pill to swallow. I would rather not believe myself capable of it. Here I am though, paralyzed by fear instead of trusting the God who parted the waters of the Red Sea. Who dwelt with His people as a cloud by day & fire by night. Who sent prophet after prophet to warn and reconcile His people to Himself. Who quite literally offered Himself, His Son, to be the sacrificial, pure Lamb; to die for the sins of those who could not have cared less. Who sent His Holy Spirit afterward, so that His people could know Him better. Who knew me in my mothers womb and hems in before and behind me (Psalm 139). Just to name a few. This is the God I doubt.
"God, I have sinned in so many ways. I have embraced these shadows that chain me down. I have made You small, made You human. I am sorry. Forgive me. Help me know better how great You are. Remind me of all the Red Sea moments in my life, that I may be filled with trust in who You are. Help me remember that, You are Holy and call me to be such. Allow me to be a pleasing a sweet sacrifice before Your throne. "An aroma that pleases the Lord" (Lev 3:5). Thank You so very much. In all this hurting, doubting, and fear, You had stayed beside me. You have been present. God, I give this all back to You. I have ripped it from You out of fear. I am a mess because of it. I surrender it back, trusting You, even if it means it will be fully taken away from me. I will trust you. I will trust You, and I will have rest.
I love you.
In Jesus name, Amen."
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my Salvation and my God." Psalm 43:5
"I sought the Lord, and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fear." Psalm 34:4
Right Now, Tomorrow, Next Week, Next year...
This story does not end the way one may hope, but it does end with hope.
Thank God the story is not over.
Oh this little boy saved my heart. He was the sweetest comfort and promise to me. God heard my pain, and sent this little one to cheer and encourage me. He hugged, cuddled and entertained me so much these last months, but specifically right after the surgery. He kept bringing me books "for you to read momma" while I lay on the couch. I clarify, books for me to read to myself. Little sweet heart. He kept asking me, "is your tummy feeling better? It will feel better soon." Even now when I make any little complaint of pain he comes over to check on me, "you sick now momma?"
Little heart, I love you. One day you will know this story. I will boast of how well you took care of your mommy. You may roll your eyes and shrug it off. But you, my son, are a life changer. You will comfort more than just me. You will take care, protect and love people in a way that will soothe to the core. I am so grateful to be your mother. Proud of you little man!
Sam at the doctors office the day we found out there was no heartbeat, and holding my hand a few days later.
I don't think there are really words in any language that will fully express how perfectly this man matches me. We are wickedly flawed and selfish, but somehow... somehow in all of that we can come together, and be kick butt awesome, with each other. I basically owe this man my sanity. He has helped me sort thoughts, fight demons, wrestle with self loathing, self doubt, and pride. He was by my side when he needed to be, yet took steps back too. Reminding me that he is not the One who can meet all my needs. Thank you Matthew. You have my heart, I am sorry it is not whole. But then again, I am thankful it is not, because you get to help fill it. I am grateful for you. So thankful that I have been able to traverse this life with you, and look forward to the future, good and bad. I love you so much more than I will ever be able to express or show.
Well, I love you. You have known this journey before me, and were willing to travel with me through it every step of the way. There is power in our friendship. Thank you for always being present, even with the two thousand plus mile separation. Thank you for listening to my heartbrokenness. Thank you for not pushing me to move or be anywhere else but where I was, yet somehow encouraging my journey with scripture and prayers. I love you.
Heather, Kayla, Connie, Katrina, Jessica, Hannah, Kathy, Grandma Norma
Thank you for hearing me, listening and being near at heart. Being available but also seeking out. Asking how I am doing and encouraging me by being real. Realness is friendship. The more real, the more friend. I would we are super extra friends by now. Especially, for the things you have done, you know what they are. Thank you. We love you all so much.
Gosh, I love you. I am so grateful for our friendship. Thank you for being there for me in the joys and pains of the past, and being with me still. Thank you for sacrificing your own time to edit this. It was longer then I thought, and definitely needed your help. You are a talented woman, editor, and writer that I trust implicitly with my own work. I can not wait for the day I get to carry your writing up to the Barnes and Noble counter, and tell them, "I know the woman who wrote this" as I purchase it.
Tim and Lydia
Do you know that you two were the first answered prayer we had when we moved here? Literally. Through our connections with you, Matt got his job. But God did not stop there... He answered our deepest needs for friendship. It took a little while, but you have to start somewhere. Thank you for being literally present through the last 2.5 years. Thank you for living life with us. Lydia, thank you for listening to me. Wink Face. That is really silly to say aloud, but it is just the most true. You heard so much of my life and processing first. It is such an honor to have a friend that listens. I know you think that it is not enough somedays. But I would suggest that it is exactly enough, more in fact, than anyone else offers. Thank you. We love you both so much!
Parents: O'Neill and Frees and Nice
Thank you for your prayers. We know you prayed. Thank you for your physical gifts. Thank you for parenting us. We are able to have hope because of your examples of faithful consistency, even in the hard. Thank you for being open and real with us. It is a hard line as a parent, but when you allow us to see your struggles, we feel hope and comfort that God will never leave us. Your lives are the proof of that. I cannot imagine what it is like to see your children suffer as you have seen us. It chokes me up to imagine seeing Sam struggle like that. So I ask that God will smooth out the wrinkles that these struggles have unearthed. That He will iron them into place, pieced into the puzzle of faith that we, the family, are putting together. There is no piece that will not find a place. May God encourage your hearts when you are unsure and confused by its placement. We are excited to one day see the puzzle complete, together. Finally seeing the beauty of our lives being broken.
Thank you for loving our children, here and in Heaven. We love you.
Brooke, Candice, (office staff at Zeid), Sarah, Whitney and Dr. M
There is no way to say thank you enough for your care for me during these last 4 months. You treated me like a person, you saw me and helped me. May the work you do, the sacrifices you make uplift your heart when there is no one to say, 'thank you.' Your job matters. You matter.
To Matt's boss and Jackie's boss
Thank you for the meals you brought. Thank you for your prayers and open hearts. You were willing to walk into a storm to care for us. We are so deeply grateful.
To all our other family and friends who have chosen to walk this trail with us
Thank you. Thank you for not leaving us alone. Thank you for your sacrifices, honesty, willingness ,and presence. It is a hard thing, but you have offered to be with us. In doing so, you have taken a little piece of pain upon your own shoulders. Baring it up for us. It has made our pain ever so lighter. We are not alone. We love you. You have been the silent soldiers that follow the front lines. You are where our daily victory lies. You are not forgotten. We love you.
I know You love us because of these people. These people showed us. Pour out Your love and blessing on them one hundred times what they have given us.
Thank You for this struggle. We can do nothing without You. There is no success that I can count as my own, though we both know I would love to take the credit. You are every success in me. You are the good in me. You are.
I will keep struggling. I will keep hurting, wrestling, wondering, crying. I will keep hoping. You are my hope. You are good. You are.
One more giant, "THANK YOU" to Alicia McCallum for editing this, looooong piece.
She is amazing. Fact.