Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out To Love Us


"Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus."

~ Ephesians 2:7 MSG

Last night I started reading through the book of Ephesians before bed, and I wanted to share something that impacted me -- that God is out to love us, not out to get us.  I find it so easy to think the latter.  

Thank you all so much for your amazing, supportive, and kind comments on my Right Where I Am post.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your words.  I am also enjoying discovering of your blogs, for those of you that I had not "met" before.  Thank you for those gifts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

20 Weeks

17 weeks
Us at 17 weeks

To the sweet rainbow baby that I think of as Jacob,

Today I am twenty weeks pregnant with you.  How have the past five months flown so quickly?  At first the hours passed with excruciating slowness, but since your daddy and I saw you for the first time at twelve weeks, it seems that the time has raced by.

It scares me, actually, just as it thrills me.  It scares me because your sister is dead.  Because she died in the last few weeks of her pregnancy, without warning or cause, inside of me.  And now you are living inside of me.  I want you to keep living, to be born living, to outlive me.  She died at 31 weeks, and now you and I are quickly falling toward that gestation.

I am afraid.  I don't want to lose you, too.

But I am also excited.  I am just beginning to feel you move in ways that I know it's you, and not digestion.  I love feeling your gentle bumps, and am looking forward to the day that your bumps are not so gentle.  It is amazing to me that someone so small can make himself known, but you are.

I wonder what you will be like.  I wonder if I will be able to know if you are different than or similar to your sister in nature.  When she was alive inside me, she felt so strong and feisty.  At her mid-pregnancy ultrasound, she could not stop moving.  I think that she might have been a wild woman.

When we saw you on the hazy ultrasound screen in the doctor's office a couple of weeks ago, you were moving, too.  But it was gentle, subtle.  Nothing like the crazy tumblings of your sister.  Perhaps you were asleep.  I wonder if you will be a peaceful man.

I could see your little legs and feet bobbing.  I saw the bottoms of your feet for the first time.  I saw you looking like a human being, tiny and precious and so loved, for the first time.  In a couple of weeks, we will be able to see you more clearly through a 4D ultrasound.  We will find out for sure if you are a boy like I think, and more importantly we will find out if you have any determinable health problems.  I don't care if you are a boy or a girl or something in between, as long as you are healthy and alive.

Please still be alive at that ultrasound, little baby.  Please be alive at 31 weeks, outliving your sister.  Please stay alive, and be born alive, and stay alive for a lifetime of decades.  We love you, and want to be able to show love to you more as you grow up and grow old.

But if you don't . . . if you don't, I will be so sad.  But sad for me.  I will be happy that you will get to live with Jesus for all of your waking life, you and your sister never knowing the cruelty of this world.

I am trying not to plan on that.  I am trying to plan on bringing you home. 

Do you know why they call babies that come after their older sibling's death a rainbow?  It is not because that pregnancy is easy, or the mommy's and daddy's previous loss is suddenly cancelled.  Sweet baby, it is not easy to be pregnant with you, and we do not expect you to "make up" for Eve's absence; that would be unfair to you.  But we call you our rainbow because even though life is hard and grief is terrible, beauty can still be found.  Hope can still be found.  In nature, a rainbow comes during or after a storm, and sometimes the storm is terrible.  But that does not negate the beauty of the rainbow.  Perhaps the storm even enhances it.

God is bringing good things out of your sister's death.  Of those things, you are the very, very best.

Please know that it is not your fault that this pregnancy is hard.  I am grateful for God giving me the chance to carry you.  Every bit of fear and difficulty will be well worth it.  I begrudge you nothing.  

I cannot wait to meet you face to face.  I cannot wait to look at my baby and have him look back at me.  I cannot wait to nurse, and to be frustrated by nursing.  I cannot wait to be kept awake for nights on end by your screams, instead of the cold silence of grief.  I cannot wait for you to drive me nuts with your little boy naughtiness.  I cannot wait for snuggles and baby gurgles and dressing you in cute outfits while you'll let me.  I cannot wait to see if you will be curly-haired like your sister and I, or if you'll be gray-blue-green-eyed like your daddy.

Baby, we love you.  Thank you for blessing me these past five months.  Grow strong, sweet one.

your mama

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Right Where I Am: 6 Months 4 Days


I have noticed a shift in how I feel over the past few weeks.  Since becoming pregnant a mere two months after our first child's death and stillbirth, numbness has ruled the day.  There were a few brief days of joy and excitement, but they were soon replaced by . . . nothing.  I couldn't cry and my laughter felt cold.  I couldn't grieve my daughter, and couldn't be happily expectant of her growing sibling.

But these past few weeks have been different.  It began with physical changes.  I feel achy, run down.  I am utterly exhausted all the time.  In spite of the exhaustion, I sleep poorly.  I feel ill, but am not ill.  My morning sickness is making a comeback, and I am vomiting more, a rare thing for me in pregnancy.  I have no energy for anything more than cuddling up under some blankets and hoping that the day will be over soon.

And then there is how I look.  This week I moved my desk and computer into our bedroom, and it just so happens that when I sit at the desk I can see myself in a nearby mirror.  One day, while I was blogging away, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror -- and froze, aghast.  I looked old.  Haggard.  There are lines and hollows on my face that didn't used to be there, even though I am dutifully gaining pregnancy weight, and I feel like my eyes are sunken.  I have also been finding new gray hairs.  Even my therapist mentioned that I look different, although she did not say it was due to aging.  But I think that's what it is -- that Eve's death has aged me, is aging me.  That this rainbow pregnancy is diminishing me where Eve's pregnancy made me glow.  I don't know who I am, and I don't recognize that exhausted, aged woman I see when I look in the mirror. 


The best change I have noticed is in my emotions.  Yes, I am exhausted.  But I am also sad.  I feel sad!  I feel!  I cannot express what joy this is (albeit a somber joy).  For months I have wanted to continue to grieve my daughter, but have been unable to because my emotions shut themselves down.  But now, I can!  I can cry, and I cry often.  It is hard, but it is also good.  I had been so worried previously, because I felt like an automaton.  No more.  I am grateful for this.  But the feelings of fragility, of utter brokenness, that come along with the resurgence of feeling are less comfortable.  I feel that I could shatter at a word.  I wonder if I have not already shattered.

I am also afraid.  Every day takes me closer in this pregnant to the gestation that Eve died at -- 31 weeks.  Only twelve weeks to go now (where has this pregnancy gone?!).  When I think of being at that gestation again, I feel physically sick to my stomach.  I expect that the physical stress I am feeling will only increase until we pass 31 weeks -- and even then, I don't know how I'll survive those last couple of months, when I know how easily, how quickly and silently my second baby could join his sister in Heaven.

19 weeks

In a word, I suppose that I am tired.  Devastatingly tired.  I just want it to be October, to be holding our only living child in my arms (please, God!), to cry with joyful gratitude for his life while simultaneously mourning the life that we never got to share with his sister.

I am so tired.  When can I be done?

Linking up with Right Where I Am over at Still Life With Circles

How are you, right in this moment?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All I Need To Know

Last green
Something from today's God/journaling time . . .

I am sitting on the couch with my open Bible in my lap.  I have put myself in God's presence as much as I know how.  But I still feel flighty, distracted.  My mind wanders easily.  And I wonder what I'm supposed to be getting, what I'm doing wrong.  All I know is that the tree outside the window, with its leaves clapping in the breeze, is lovely.

I seem to hear God say, "That is all you need to know right now -- that the tree I made is lovely, that it is outside your window, and that you enjoy it."  It is said gently, with love.

Is this what life with God is?  Not earth-heaving messages about the day, about how to be useful to Him or productive, but instead a quiet whisper to enjoy the simplicity of this tree, and not even a tree that is particularly spectacular or stately?  

I wonder.

"God is supremely esteemed.  His center holds.
Zion brims over with all that is just and right.
God keeps your days stable and secure -- 
salvation, wisdom, and knowledge in surplus,
and best of all, Zion's treasure, Fear-of-God."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Comfort of Creativity When Your Baby Has Died

Pregnancy and birth, reproduction – these are basic things that it seems any human couple should be able to accomplish. And yet my pregnancy, that blissful time of growing and waiting and expecting the new person growing within me, failed. It did not bring about life. The only thing I birthed was death.

And so I wondered, and still wonder, am I a mother? Am I a woman? Am I even still human?

These are questions that I do not know the answers to. Not yet. Perhaps not ever.

If a mother is someone who creates, what do you call a person whose only pregnancy ended with tears and sorrow and pain? With an empty crib and piles of little girl clothes that will never be worn by the baby they were bought for?

Creativity has helped me to survive this feeling of exclusion, of non-motherhood, non-humanity.

It began the day after we arrived home from the hospital. . . .

Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!  

Monday, May 21, 2012


On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts — both large and small, hard and comfortable — that God has been giving me.  Start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.

... crying
... eating oranges for the first time since Eve died
... Joel 2:25
... cleaning and decluttering
... sliding into a made bed at night
... a non-scary trip to the Best Dentist Ever
... beginning to feel Baby #2 moving
... washing walls
... the pups snuggling in bed with me for an afternoon nap
... sourdough bread
... rain
... praying with the Best Husband Ever about God's timing
... oatmeal for breakfast
... surprise gifts for our rainbow baby on Eve's half-birthday
... a new art creation
... drawing outdoors

{in progress}

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Six Months


Dear Eve,

Six months.  Today, it is six months since we held you for the first and last time.  Since you arrived in body, but an empty body, your soul already living somewhere far better.

I am happy that you are with God, precious firstborn, curly-haired daughter.  I would not have you give up Heaven for my arms.

But I miss you.

Every night, I think of you.  Of how it felt when you fell from my body.  Of how still, how silent you were when your daddy showed you to me for the first time.  Of how deeply the sweetness and sadness of you pierced me.  Of how afraid I was, of the future.  Because how could we survive when you had died, so suddenly and without cause?

But surviving we are.  Surviving because it is our only option, besides despair.  But when we know that you are with God, and that we will join you one day, how can we not press on past despair?

Even though sometimes survival feels impossible.  It seems impossible that we are still alive.  That I have lived six whole months without you.  I have dreaded this day, and yet here it is.  It crept up, gentle and soft as your skin.

I don't mind that it is here at last, I suppose.  It is just another day to remember you, just as the memory of you permeates my every moment.

But still.  It is hard.  Do you know how much I miss you?  Do you know that I am carrying the baby who I think is your baby brother, living the same space within me where you lived and died?

That reality is strange, too.  How is any of this possible?  Is this truly the life that I am living?

It is.  And it is a daily challenge.  But not without blessings.

It is a blessing to have had you in my life, sweet girl, even if it was for so short a time.

It is a blessing to know that God is using all of this for His glory and my good.

It is a blessing to be hoping for a second child, even when the hoping is hard, and even though I know that it is probable that his life will highlight your death, unlike what many might think.

It is a blessing to be married to your father, to be walking through this with him.  I wish you could have known him in this life.

It is a blessing to be alive, even though it hurts.

It is a blessing that we all belong to God, and so death is not the end, but a beginning.

You are a blessing, baby girl.

Happy half-birthday, my daughter who Lives.

your mama

Baby Girl November 20, 2011-12

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What is Grief?


Since Eve died and was born, I have often found myself wondering -- am I doing this dance of grief properly?  Is this right?

I hear other bereaved women asking themselves the same thing.  And I am coming to realize more and more that there is no "right way," just as there is no "getting over it."  There is no out, only through.

I am slogging through, as best I can.

But what is grief?

Grief is feeling nothing.

Grief is feeling everything.

Grief crumbles and grief builds.

Grief is anger.

Grief is evidence that you loved what was lost.

Grief is healthy.

Grief is more painful than you could imagine, before grief came into your life.

Grief is terrifying.

Grief is recovering from amputation of the soul. 

Grief is a part of you dying.  A large part.  An important part.

Grief is the birth of the person you are becoming.  A different person.  A better person.

Grief is long.

Grief is a seemingly endless marathon of sleepless nights, even after months have passed.

Grief is exhausting.

Grief can be traumatic. 

Grief is life-altering, permanent.

Grief is waiting.

Grief is patience.

Grief is wondering if you will ever again feel as happy as you look in pictures, even photos taken now, in the midst of it all.

Grief is hard.

Grief is ever-changing. 

Grief is learning a new way to trust God, and yourself, and others.

Grief is suffocating.

Grief is freeing.

Grief is a seemingly unending free fall without a parachute.  

Grief is learning what's important, really.

Grief is lonely.

Grief is intimate, and grief is close.

Grief is not a mental illness.

Grief can be a gift.

Grief shows us a new way to pray, a new way to connect with the God who grieved His Son's death.

Grief is ugly.

Grief is beautiful.

Grief both requires and cultivates courage and endurance.

Grief guides.

Grief instructs.

Grief refines.

Grief can contain joy, and can lead to joy.

Grief is feeling fragile, feeling like you are walking around with your skin torn all off.

Grief heals. 

Grief is everything, and grief is nothing.

Grief is love.

Grief is.

What is grief to you?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Gratitude

On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts — both large and small, hard and comfortable — that God has been giving me.  Start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.

... the best first Mother's Day I ever could have hoped for
... sleeping in
... an extravagant brunch with the Best Husband Ever
... a gift of flowers
... a walk along the river with my hubby
... seeing The Hunger Games movie . . . and nearly crying my way through it from grief and hormones
... egg rolls and noodles and tomato salad for dinner at my inlaws' home
... playing rummy and losing spectacularly
... laughing hard
... my husband's hands steady and gentle on my hips
... the Best Husband Ever telling me that I did a good job navigating Mother's Day
... teary eyes and a grateful heart
Flowers from the hubs
Hunger Games!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day


I had thought that she would be here with me today.  When I thought about Mother's Day at all, that is.  I thought that we would be holding our first child in our arms, that we would be seasoned by four months of new parenthood, that what started out as the hardest thing we'd ever done would suddenly start feeling more routine as we grew steadier and she grew beautifully.

Instead, Eve's ashes live on a shelf in our living room, and the only part of her that was ever truly her lives in the arms of Christ. 

When I first saw that positive pregnancy test nearly one year ago now, I knew that we were in for the challenge of our lives.  I knew that it would be so difficult, so scary, and so worth it. 

I was right.  Being a parent to a stillborn child has been the hardest, scariest thing I have ever done -- and it is so worth it. 

Parenting a dead child is unlike anything I could ever have imagined.  There have been so many difficult things -- the sleepless nights, the endless ways that you second guess yourself, the tender and aching chest, the fear that you are doing it wrong, the way that your marriage is shifting and changing before your eyes.  And yet . . . are these things not also experienced by new parents of living children?  Moreover, I think that parents of living children would agree with me -- that being a parent (regardless of whether your child lives or not) is endlessly worth every bit of pain and fear and sacrifice. 

That is what I am celebrating on this, the first Mother's Day that I know that I am a mother.  I am celebrating the first life that we were gifted with that ended before we wanted it to, and the second life that is growing within.  I am celebrating the fact that in the past year, my husband and I have become the parents to two children who have and are changing us for the better. 

A mother is a mother.  I am a mother.  If you say that you are a mother, regardless of whether you have children tugging at your hem today, I agree with you.  Let us be mothers together, and celebrate the blessing that God has so lavishly given.

Wishing a happy mama's day to you, friends.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Massive Sale in My Etsy Shop!

I am having a massive sale in my Etsy shop.  Get 20% off of everything (that includes gift certificates) with the code CLEAROUT.  Woohoo!

You may have noticed that I am now offering prints and cards via RedBubble.  I am doing this for two reasons.  First, because RedBubble offers superior quality prints that I am extremely taken with, and for reasonable rates at that.  Second, because they handle the ordering, print, and shipping process without me having to do anything. 

So, I am having a clearance sale for my Etsy shop to find homes for the prints and cards I already have on hand from other printing sources.

Do not fear, though -- my Etsy shop is not going to disappear.  In the near future I am going to start using Etsy to sell only originals as well as exclusive wood-mounted prints.  In other words, I am going to use Etsy as it was intended to be used -- to sell original creations, not just reproductions.

I am so excited.  This will be the first time that I have offered original creations for sale (besides custom work)!  I am busily working on making this transition happen.  Until then, I hope you'll take advantage of the sale!  It will be going on through 12:00 AM on Monday, May 14 (which means you can use the coupon code to buy your mom a gift certificate for Mother's Day!).

To receive your 20% off discount, follow these simple steps:
  1. Visit Epiphany Art Studio on Etsy.
  2. Add items to your cart, then go to checkout.
  3. Click on the words "Apply shop coupon code," located  beneath the payment options.
  4. Enter the coupon code CLEAROUT (no spaces) in the space that appears.
  5. Complete your order as usual.
  6. Smile.  You've just bought yourself some art!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How I'm Doing, Really

It's been nearly six months since I held my daughter in my arms for the first and last time.

How am I doing?  The truth is that I have no idea.

People ask me how I'm doing, and how our rainbow baby is doing, all the time.  They do this out of love, and I am grateful that they ask.  But I feel frustrated, because I just don't know, and don't know how to answer.

But there are some things that I do know.

I know that becoming pregnant again less than three months after our first baby died and was born has halted my grief.  I am shut down emotionally.  I expect that when our second baby is born, the terrible emotions of grief will rise again.  I think that I am looking forward to this, because feeling nothing is even more terrible.

I know that being pregnant again so soon after Eve's stillbirth is scary.  This week I have begun to wonder if our rainbow baby will be our last living biological child, because I don't know if I have the courage to go through a third pregnancy.

I know that I am dreading Mother's Day.  This is not because of the day itself, but because of the deep and painful questions that I am grappling with going into Mother's Day.  It is my first Mother's Day as a mother, and my child is dead.  So who or what am I now?

I know that it is hard to do anything.  Every task is overwhelming, even ones I found enjoyable before.  I just want to go to sleep and not wake up until I feel like a real person again.

I know that I love my children, both the daughter more alive in Christ than I am and the tiny little one growing within me.  I know that grief is a product of love, and even though grief is hard, it does not make me afraid to love recklessly.

I know that I am exhausted.  All I want to do is rest, and yet when I finally slide beneath the bed covers at night, sleep eludes me. 

I know that every night, I remember.  Once the lights go out, the memories of Eve's labor and birth wash over me.  I remember what it felt like as she made her way out of me, and how devastatingly alone and empty I felt when they took her away to clean and clothe her.  I remember how I sobbed when my husband showed me our daughter's body.  I remember the purse of her lips, the smoothness of her cheeks, the dark curls of her hair.

I know that I am loved by the Great Lover of our souls.  I know that I am not forgotten, even when I feel forgotten.  I know that I am held, even though it feels like I have plunged off a cliff and will be falling forever.

I know that death is not the end of our stories, for those that make their home in Jesus.  I know that He longs for us all to come Home.  I know that I will meet my daughter again in His heart.

I know that I am alive, that I am surviving, even if I don't want to be, even if I don't know how that can be.  I am here, I am breathing, there is life and Life within.  I am not yet finished.

How are you doing, really?

Linking up with...

Monday, May 7, 2012


On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts — both large and small, hard and comfortable — that God has been giving me.  Start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.

... hearing Baby #2's heartbeat for the third time
... Still Standing Online Magazine for infant loss and infertility going live
... chicken in the crock-pot for dinner
... the dogs chewing on their yellow bones
... a swept floor
... a cleared kitchen table
... a walk along the river
... the Best Husband Ever, all the time
... worshiping along with my iPod
... knowing that He is using Eve's life and death to change everything

Sunday, May 6, 2012

International Bereaved Mother's Day 2012

To the women whose children died before they breathed . . .

To the women whose babies lived for just a precious handful of not-enough days . . .

To the women whom SIDS visited . . .

To the women whose children cancer or accident or ailment claimed . . .

To the women who lost teenagers just as they ventured toward adulthood . . .

To the women who outlive their adult children . . .

To the women who desperately want children, but grapple with infertility . . .

To the women who long to mother, but whose life circumstances have conspired to leave childless . . .

You ARE a beautiful mother.  Believe it.

Wishing you all a blessed International Bereaved Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Still Standing Online Magazine is LIVE!

It's finally here!  At 12:01 this morning, Still Standing Online Magazine for babyloss and infertility went live.  Founder Franchesca Cox has put months of planning and love into this incredible project, in honor of her first child, Jenna Belle, who was born 11 weeks premature and lived for only 13 days. 

I continue to feel so honored that Fran asked me to be one of the 16 contributing writers to Still Standing.  And already the magazine is taking off big time!  Fran has been kicking off the magazine's launch with a week's worth of amazing giveaways, including a sweet 20% off coupon to my Etsy shop (it's not too late to enter!).  And just a couple of hours ago, Yahoo News featured Still Standing on their site.  Wow! 

If you haven't checked out Still Standing Online Magazine yet, I encourage you to do so.  There are a myriad of resources on babyloss and infertility, a forum that I am so excited to see start being used, and new posts that go up daily (my first article goes live on May 22, and continuing every third Tuesday thereafter).  Isn't it amazing that such devastating life events can bring us together in such a beautiful way?

Now if you excuse me, I'm off to check out the forum again . . .  

Friday, May 4, 2012

New From the Art Studio: Mother-Heart

I am so pleased to unveil the finished version of my latest mixed media art creation, Mother-Love, just in time for International Bereaved Mother's Day this coming Sunday.  This piece was born out of all the confusion, pain, loneliness, and sense of exclusion that I am feeling as I approach my first Mother's Day as a mother, but with no visible living children (of course I count our rainbow baby as a living child! ...but he is not very obvious to those who don't already know about him).  I can't tell you how good this felt to make. 

This piece is called "Mother-Heart" because you don't have to have living children to possess the heart and love of a mother.  (On a semi-unrelated note, I don't think that women who have living children necessarily have the heart of a mother, either...but that's an entirely different, rant-alicious subject!)  The text on the piece reads, "Your mother-heart is so lovely."

I wanted to create Mother's Day art for women who long to be mothers, but aren't.  This includes women who have survived the death of a child at any age, including before birth; women grappling with infertility; women whose much-loved children are dealing with serious disabilities or health problems of any kind; and women for whom life circumstances have commiserated in such a way that they do not yet have the children they long for.  My hope is that this piece will comfort women in sadly find themselves in these difficult situations.

You can buy prints and cards of "Mother-Heart" in my shop, here.

Read more about my art adventures at my art blog, Epiphany Art Studio.  If you would like to win a 20% off coupon for my Etsy shop, enter the giveaway here.

I'm linking up with:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Change is Coming

Yesterday, as I sat at the kitchen table adding to my one thousand gifts gratitude list, I glanced up -- and traveled through time.

That's how it felt, at least. 

In that single glimpse of the sun shining outdoors while I sat writing at the table was enough to transport me back to October 2012, when I sat painting at that same table during a similarly sunny afternoon.

Back to before -- before stillbirth rocked our lives, changing my world forever.

It felt shocking.  To plunge, even for a moment, back into that time of innocence, when I never dreamed that babies could be lost once the threshold to the second trimester was crossed.  To a time when the safe arrival of our first child in January was nothing less than a guarantee.

I can never go back there.  The innocence, the blissful believing -- I don't know that they can be regained.

Here is the strange part -- I'm not sure if I even want to go back there.  It seems like to try to do so would waste the death of my precious Eve.

Because here is what I'm realizing -- her death and life are changing me in more ways than I could at first see.  This goes beyond being forced to reexamine my beliefs about prayer and death and life and Life.  It goes beyond her absence leaving space within me for empathy to be sown.  Beyond burning off some empty behaviors, beyond the loss of innocence.

There is more that she is giving me.  So much more.  I don't fully understand it yet . . . but I can feel it.

Values and priorities . . . relationships . . . habits . . . how I act and how I think . . . plans for the future . . . hopes, dreams . . . creativity -- nothing is safe.  Nothing will be left as it is.  As it was, before. 

I don't know who I am, or who I am becoming.  But change is coming.  It is nearly here.

Going back to before, even if it was possible, is no longer an option.

I think that I am grateful.  Nervous, but grateful.

People who have gone through devastating loss, they call this the "new normal."  Perhaps now, nearly 6 months after her body died and was born, I am on the brink of discovering what mine will be.

I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, and an earthquake is churning the ground behind me, its rumblings racing toward where I perch.  My only choice is to jump.

I am ready.  I want to be ready.  Make me ready, Lord.

I know Whose arms will catch me.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What to Say to a Bereaved Mother on Mother's Day

Yesterday, after posting about International Bereaved Mother's Day on Facebook, a friend came back with a really excellent question.

She asked, "I'm just wondering what to SAY to a Bereaved Mother on her day?  Happy Mother's Day clearly doesn't apply. Do I say I'm sorry or I'm thinking about you? Can I ask how she's feeling? Does she want to talk about it?"

Great question, right?  It really made me think.

Then I realized that there are probably a lot of friends and family of bereaved parents out there wondering the same thing.  And so this blog post was born.

Obviously I cannot speak for all bereaved mothers and how they would like to be approached on difficult days like Mother's Day.  But given my daughter's stillbirth and the fact that I have come to know many women in the babyloss community, I like to think that my insight on this matter is fairly keen.  So here are my do's and don't's on how to relate to your bereaved friend on Mother's Day or International Bereaved Mother's Day (which falls on May 6 this year).

  • Recognize that your friend is a mother.  Just because her child is dead doesn't make her any less of a mother, nor does it erase her child's life.  Recognition of that is life-giving.
  • Acknowledge that Mother's Day is probably a strange or difficult day for her.  It is an especially upsetting day if she has no living children.
  • Say her child's name.  Every bereaved mother wants you to talk about her child.  Remembering her child in a loving and honoring way is an immense gift.  You cannot hurt a bereaved mother by bringing up her child in this manner.  It's not like she has forgotten her child.  Don't be afraid of reopening a wound, because the wound left by her child's death will never close.
  • Say, "I'm so sorry that your child isn't here with you today."  When in doubt of what to say to a bereaved mother, this always works.  It doesn't dismiss her pain or trivialize the loss, and it does give her and her grief that all-important recognition.
  • Give her a big hug, and don't be alarmed if she cries.  Personally, I love hugs from my loved ones, especially when I'm hurting.  But often hugs can trigger tears.  Don't be afraid of those tears, though.  It is a gift to be a able to mourn your child with your loved ones.  
  • Give her a card or a gift if you feel so inclined.  That would be very honoring of her motherhood and her child's life -- both of which are priceless gifts to the bereaved mother.
  • Respect that she might not want to go out on Mother's Day. Being out and about on Mother's Day, seeing other mothers celebrating with their living children, is likely to be intensely painful.  I know that for myself, I have not yet decided if I will attend church on Mother's Day.  Respect her wishes, and support her by dropping a note or card into her mailbox.  
  • Ask her how she's doing -- but only if you're prepared for an honest answer.  Our culture is afraid of pain.  When people say, "How are you?" they usually don't want to hear anything else but "good" or "okay."  But a bereaved mother is anything but "okay," especially on difficult days like Mother's Day.  So be sure that you want an honest reply when you ask -- otherwise, it's probably best to leave this one alone, so that the mother doesn't feel like she has to lie.
  • Ignore her on Mother's Day.  If she is anything like me, she is grappling with intense identity issues.  To ignore her (and her motherhood) on this painful day is likely to be immensely hurtful.
  • Dismiss her loss or her grief.  If a bereaved  mother chooses to say things like, "God needed my baby in Heaven," "Everything happens for a reason," or "It's God's will," that's up to her.  But it is not okay to say things like that to her.  These are flimsy explanations of her child's death -- and the harsh reality is that there is no explanation that will make her child's death okay.  Don't try to explain her pain away.  It won't work, because there is nothing logical about death and grief, and any such attempts are likely to be very hurtful.
  • Tell her that she'll be "over it" by next year's Mother's Day.  The sad truth about child loss, whether that loss occurred before or after birth or well into adulthood, is that the mother will never "get over it."  A significant part of her died along with her child, and grief has changed her forever.  
  • Assume that because she has living children, Mother's Day is not difficult.  As every parent knows, every child is unique and special in his or her own way.  As a result, no amount of living children can ever "make up" for a deceased child -- nor should they be expected to.  
  • Place blame.  It is NEVER okay to tell a bereaved mother that it is her fault her child died.  That is up to the mother's doctors, who will tell her the truth.  To try to blame a bereaved  mother for her child's death is inappropriate all of the time, especially on difficult days.  (And yes, incredibly, I have had someone blame me for Eve's death, although it was not on Mother's Day.)
In summary, on Mother's Day a bereaved mother is desperately in need of recognition.  She needs to be known as a mother.  She became pregnant, and loved and cherished and bore a child.  The child's death does not change her love for that child, nor does it negate her motherhood.  So the name of the game in interacting with your bereaved friend on Mother's Day is recognition.  Tell her that she is a mother, and that you wish her child could be here with here, and you are golden.

Don't be afraid to talk about your bereaved friend's dead child or grief -- ever.  I know that many people are afraid of making an already difficult situation worse.  But if you honor her motherhood and grief, and remember and mention her child, there is no hurt being done -- quite the opposite in fact!  Even if she cries, this honoring and remembering are gifts that are more precious to your bereaved friend than you can fathom.

For the bereaved mothers -- what else would you like to hear/not hear on Mother's Day?
For the loved ones of bereaved parents -- what other questions about relating to your bereaved friends would you like answered?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Turbulent May

May.  I have been dreading it.  It seems like every time I turn around, there is another "big day" during this month to cause me pain. 

May 6 . . . International Bereaved Mother's Day.  Although I am grateful for the recognition that this provides, I feel anxious about it.  What will I do on May 6?  Probably not much, because I'll be gearing up to survive the following week . . .

May 13 . . . Mother's Day.  I cannot tell you how much the thought of this holiday makes me feel physically sick.  I am certain that I will be forgotten, that my motherhood and my daughter's death will not be recognized on this day when I desperately need them to be.  I have been grappling with serious identity issues since Eve died, and I feel like this holiday will grind salt into my wounds and mock my questions.

May 20 . . . the six month anniversary of Eve's death.  Again, the anticipation of this makes me feel physically sick.  I ache for her.

May 27 . . . the one year anniversary of Eve's life.  On May 27, 2011, the Best Husband Ever and I found out that we were parents.  It seems strange that a year has already cycled from the excitement of that day, bringing with it such a mess of life and death.

May 30 (or so) . . . our rainbow baby's 20 week ultrasound.  It is strange -- I am both looking forward to and dreading this ultrasound.  I am excited because it will be the first time we get to see our baby looking like a baby, and we will find out for sure if it is a boy (I still think it is!).  But it will be so emotionally difficult to see our second child before his birth, knowing what happened to his sister 11 weeks after that gestation's ultrasound.  And now, due to my involvement in the babyloss community, I know exactly what kinds of awful things we could find out at 20 weeks.  And so, I am a mess.

On top of all that, there are many babyloss friends who will be remembering their lost children's anniversaries birth and death.  Sometimes life just feels too hard.

May, will I survive you?