He lights up my heart.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Yes, there are a number of rookie mistakes here, but I had some thoughts that I was eager to share with you in a less painstaking manner than my dictation software allows, so -- here it is, my first-ever video blog! I am excited to try it again, next time perhaps using a tripod. ;)
Tell me -- what are your thoughts on waiting? How do you wait well?
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Last week I broke my arm.
It was really scary. And obviously it happened at a really bad time. That was the second thing I thought after I fell and knew that something had broken -- that 36 weeks pregnant is an inopportune time to break one's arm.
The first thing I thought was "Is my baby was okay?" -- which he is, thank God. The thought of the little guy was probably the only thing keeping me from passing out as I stumbled back to our house from the beginnings of an evening stroll, clutching my arm. I just kept thinking that the only thing that would make the situation worse was if I went unconscious before we got to the ER, so somehow I held it together.
My husband and I managed to get to the ER with me still awake, where I thought they'd tell me that I had a really simple fracture, because honestly it didn't hurt all that badly. Instead they told us that it was fairly serious and that I needed to have orthopedic surgery on my arm the next day.
Cue terror. And of course it was made all the more alarming because a) I didn't want have surgery all, and b) I especially did not want to have surgery during pregnancy. Being pregnant, they couldn't perform the surgery with be unconscious -- they had to keep me awake.
Um, what? I thought, you want to cut into my elbow and pop all the bones back in the place and drill things into them and you want me to be awake for all that? I don't think so.
But that is what they needed to do, for our baby, so that is what I had to make myself okay with, however begrudgingly. We arrived home from the ER late and I basically spent the night crying in bed wondering why this had happened to me, and why now.
It felt a lot like grief to me, a lot like when Eve died, because many of the same thoughts scrambled through my head.
And on top of feeling really terrified, I felt even more cheated -- we'd gone through 31 weeks of our first pregnancy only to have our baby die, and now we'd gone through another 36 weeks of a second pregnancy and I felt like I wouldn't even be able to hold our baby because my arm was so messed up.
I complained about it to God. At length.
But in the end there was nothing I could do but go through with the surgery, so that is what happened -- and it was really good. And what I mean by "really good" is that we had an amazing anesthesiologist, an amazing doctor, and amazing nurses that all helped me to feel really cared for in the midst of my fear and sadness. And somehow the calm sedative they gave me let me sleep through most of the procedure -- which was especially good because it ended up taking twice as long as they had expected. What a mercy.
Since then I've had a pretty good beginning of my recovery and haven't had to take much in the way of pain drugs. So now I'm just back to impatiently waiting for our baby to be born in addition to wondering how this arm thing will affect our lives, especially with a new baby.
I am grateful to my grief experience because I think that it has prepared me to handle the ups and downs of life much better than I would have beforehand. For example, when I broke my arm, instead of just complaining to God -- which I did do at length, admittedly -- I was also able to look beyond the immediate circumstances of pain and fear and questions to ask both God and myself what good thing could be hiding in this experience for me.
I have come to believe that nothing is wasted in this life -- or that nothing has to be. If we're going through a horrible time or painful time or a terrifying time, there is something that we can take away from it, something helpful. It might not be a fun lesson, and it probably won't be comfortable but I feel that there is something in everything that could make us grow, if we let it.
And I want to grow. I don't want any of my experiences to be wasted, especially the pain because the pain is the most costly. And in this example of my arm, the cost really isn't too high -- I'm still in good health; I'm young enough that hopefully my arm will heal without complications even though it will probably take a long time; and no life has been lost, although things have certainly become more challenging as a result of it.
But even in the truly costly times, I feel that there can be growth discovered. Maybe that's a really mercenary or capitalistic way of looking at things. But I think it can be a really redeeming way of looking at things, too. I believe God can make something good out of nothing, out of the worst things. That's why the tagline of my blog right now has to do with finding beauty in ashes.
So right now, with my broken arm and my impatience to be in labor, I'm trying to look for the beauty here in this uncomfortable place. I don't think I will be disappointed because I think there is something good to be found everywhere. And, as I said before, it might not be easy to find and it might not be comfortable to find, but I think that if we use the right lens we can see that there is something redeeming happening throughout this thing we call life.
~ Ann Voskamp
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Because it's my dominant arm that's out of commission, typing is s l o w for me. As a result, I expect to be writing less, and when I do it will be with the aid of dictation software (thank goodness for my iPod Touch!). Thanks for being patient with my silence and/or temporarily altered writing style -- and, I'm sure, the many typos that will ensue. :)
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
When my husband and I drove away from the hospital where our daughter, Eve, was stillborn, empty armed and brokenhearted, the future felt like a wide open blank. I didn’t know what to expect – other than to expect to grieve.
I knew that not only did I need to grieve, but that I wanted to. When we arrived home without our baby girl, the phrase “silent as a tomb” became all too real of a description and I wanted to crumple to the floor in the empty silence and sob.
Only I couldn’t. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in shock. The only thing I could feel was nothing. But even that, one of the stages of normal grief, felt expected.
What I did not expect, however, was the effect that grief had on my sex drive . . .
Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Today I went to church for the first time in a month, and it felt glorious. Well, just about everything feels glorious since being allowed off bed rest permanently. The freedom! Cleaning the house has never been so much fun.
At church, a couple of people commented that I do not seem very nervous or afraid, that I come off as calm and peaceful and happy.
They are correct -- for the most part, the fear is gone. But it isn't gone because there is no more risk. In fact, the risk feels greater than ever. Because I have let go of the last few strings I've been tugging at in desperate play for control. I have held nothing back. I have given this boy my full love and full expectation.
If he died now, it would be horrific. Worse than losing Eve, because it would be our second loss in ten months, and because with Eve we didn't really have many baby things ready. We had purchased almost nothing. When she died at 31 weeks, the most we'd done was gratefully collect hand-me-downs and put up the crib.
With Jacob, everything is ready. His things are washed and organized, and certainly beyond any hope of a return. The crib is not only up, but made up, standing ready for him.
And my heart -- oh, my heart. I didn't know that I could give it away so unreservedly again, but I have. And really, I am glad that I have. I am celebrating him, waiting to hold him with joy and anticipation that are beyond telling.
No, the risk is not gone, nor do I expect it to be. And every morning, the fear flares hot as I wait in agony for those first kicks of the day to reassure me that he did not leave us during the night.
Other than that daily morning terror, I am feeling very peaceful and very excited. I think it's because I know that at this point, we've done all that we could do. I count kicks twice a day, keep on eye on contractions, and my doctor and I closely watch this baby's precious heart and my wellness weekly.
We have done all there is to do. The rest is up to the prerogative of God. And so now we wait, and there is miraculous joy in it. I am so grateful for this beautiful time, regardless of what happens.
Maybe I will feel differently in a day, or an hour. Maybe the anxiety will return. But for now, it is being held at bay. I am reveling in the freedom while it lingers.
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The new edition of Sprout magazine is out, and some of my artwork is in it! You can check it out here. This month's theme is "playfulness."
Thursday, September 13, 2012
My little corner of the blogosphere -- it's been so quiet, hasn't it?
I don't feel bad about it, really.
Because it's what I need. There is the huge, momentous thing about to happen -- our second child's birth -- and I need to be quiet. My mind's eye has turned inward, at myself and at this precious little boy, and all of my energy is pouring into the watching, the waiting.
So I am quiet.
It is needed.
What am I doing in the quiet?
I am counting kicks, and contractions. Jacob is cleared to arrive any time he cares to now, so I am paying close attention to his movements and to my uterus. He is well and healthy, as far as can be told.
I am shying away from the fear. It is still there, never far away, but I am choosing excitement, choosing life.
I am reading. I am reading about God, and messiness, and how the two are not mutually exclusive. I am ready a massive tome on baby care, and crying at the ways that I never got to mother my daughter, and crying at the ways I was not mothered myself. Who knew that such a practical book could unearth such complex emotion?
I am resting. Even though I am no longer on bed rest, I do what I can to rest. I take naps. I don't set an alarm to wake me in the morning unless I absolutely must. I listen to my body and try to give it what it needs.
I am celebrating. We had a small, semi-impromptu baby shower last week. It was absolutely perfect, just what I needed -- a handful of friends coming together to stand intimate witness. There were words of weight spoken, prayers whispered, gifts given, food shared.
I am preparing. Last-minute baby items have been bought, and our nursery/spare bedroom is brimming with things for this little boy. I have been washing his clothes and blankets and sheets, and the faith required to do this leaves me breathless sometimes.
I am writing -- but not on this blog very much (obviously). There is something about this short season of final waiting that seems too fragile to process publicly. But I am still writing, and it is good. One day, perhaps, it will come into the light, but for now it is reserved for the sacred dark of my private notebooks.
I am loving. Everyday my heart seems to be more overflowing with love and care for my husband. And he has been particularly sweet with me, too. We are enjoying these last days without our first living child in our arms while simultaneously anticipating his arrival with great eagerness. This time feels very special.
I am waiting. I have been waiting for a long while -- since the late spring of 2011, when the Best Husband Ever and I first discovered that we were parents. By the time our rainbow boy arrives, we will have been waiting for our child(ren) for fourteen of the past seventeen months.
And I am quiet. I feel as if my soul is holding its breath. This time, it is special and it is vulnerable, and everything feels like it could come too easily crashing down.
So I stay quiet and still, and hope.
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
~ Job 1:21
Friday, September 7, 2012
Earlier this week, I got taken off bed rest. I have never so appreciated being able to go to Costco (my shopping nemesis) as when I was not allowed to. Oh the glory of being mobile!
But the glory was short lived. Yesterday, it was back to bed rest for me, thanks to the return of regular contractions, which have since disappeared with my re-relegation to the couch.
It's strange -- over the past few weeks, the threat of going into preterm labor never felt real. Although I dutifully am obeying my doctor's resting orders, it just hasn't felt very serious to me.
Until yesterday. I don't know what it was, but now I am scared.
I haven't felt scared this entire pregnancy. That is to say, I haven't felt scared only, without anxiety or doubt or hope or grief mixed in.
Now I feel afraid. Pure fear. I spent much of yesterday on the knife edge of tears.
I think I am afraid because we have passed the point of no return. Past the point where I might -- might -- be okay if another of our babies died. I am no longer able to reserve some of my heart, to guard against the umpteen tragedies that could so easily befall us. Again.
I am in this. I am expecting to take my baby home. The horrible "if" of this pregnancy has been replaced by a perhaps even more horrible "when."
I can't be numb to the joy any longer.
And it's terrifying.
The closer this baby boy's birthday draws, the more terrifying life becomes.
There are no words to describe it, really, and no words to defuse the fear. It just is.
So I am knitting baby hats like mad to keep my hands busy, trying to rest in God's enough-ness, and hoping my way through even though this is one of the scariest things I have ever done.
Monday, September 3, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, before being put on bed rest, I visited a cemetery. It's a military cemetery, I believe, small and intimate and ancient-feeling. I have gone there before, because I find cemeteries peaceful, and because they help me to think more clearly about life and God and death. But this time I went looking for something different.
I went looking for the babies. The ones who died before birth, whose graves are marked by a single date, and the ones who died weeks or months after birth, cradled in their parents' arms for too short a time.
Even though the cemetery is small, there are rows of children's graves there. Perhaps a fifth of the graves in this place died so excruciatingly young. They stand together in the cemetery's sunniest corner.
I went there, and sat. I thought of the parents who must have wept in the very place I rested, and I wept, too.
I wept for them, for the unfairness of it all. To have gone through an entire pregnancy, or most of one, only to lose your child at the end? It is such a robbery. It feels like God and nature have betrayed you, even if you don't believe that they are capable of such a thing.
I wept for me. For my loss, my daughter. My daughter. For all the ways I cannot love her, because she is not here. Sometimes I still can't believe that this happened to us, to me, to her. How is it possible??
I wept at how Eve's death and absence have changed my life forever, altered my course so that nothing can ever be the same, even though many of those changes are turning out to be good.
I wept at the grave of this unnamed baby girl because my baby girl doesn't have a grave, and sometimes I regret that. Her ashes rest on a shelf in our spare bedroom/nursery, because I was too afraid that if we buried her and then had to move away from the place that holds the primary physical remainder of her tiny life, it would break me more than I already have been broken. I am glad that we can take what little we have of her with us wherever we go, and that I have the choice to release her ashes when the time feels right -- but sometimes I just want to water her grave with my tears.
I keep thinking that I am healing, getting better -- only to realize once again that there is no "getting better." This is not something to get over. I haven't gotten better, I have only gotten better at living with the abyss of her absence in my heart.
So if I do things that seem strange, like going to cry at the lonely grave of some unnamed child who died eighty years ago, I hope you'll understand that sometimes that's the best I can do.