Friday, November 30, 2012

The Sacred Wrong

I wanted to write a post about how I feel better.  About how now that I have birthed a breathing, screaming rainbow baby boy, things feel different.  About how when I look back on this pregnancy, I can see that I was an anxious, crazy, hormonal, emotional, grieving mess.  That I was not myself. That I am so relieved to no longer be living in a place of such deep anxiety.

I wanted to write about how I am myself again, but that it is a new self than one year ago, before my daughter died.  About how I feel okay with that.  Glad, even.

But I've come to know many other mothers who have also had babies die, and I still read their stories.  And here's the thing -- I feel better, there has been healing . . . but there is a missing part.  An aching hole in my heart, and in the universe.  It's a hole of absence -- and not just of my daughter, but of all the daughters and all the sons that just barely were and now aren't in this world.  A hole of gasping grief for those babies that are gone.

I am feeling that emptiness today.  I am not even necessarily expressly sad, but there is a yearning within me, a sort of communal keening of my heart in tune with all the other hearts that have lost.

If I didn't believe in God before, death would make me believe.  Because there is nothing more unnatural, nothing more sacredly wrong feeling, than death.

That is what I am feeling today, I think -- the vacuum of the sweet and beautiful souls taken by the ugliness of death.  Just as I was writing this post, I learned of yet one more woman who has recently experienced the trauma of babyloss, the hurt that just shouldn't be.  

We are living in a beautiful world broken  by ugliness and death.  I have become much more sensitive to, much more aware of that brokenness since becoming a bereaved mother. How could I never before see how much pain people and animals are carrying? And while I do have hope, a very real and living hope in a vibrant, dynamic, and loving God . . . the void created by that pain, and especially by my daughter's death, still yawns wide within me.

This will never feel okay.

on Eve's first birthday

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In the Art Studio + Shop: Black Friday/Small Business Saturday Updates

It strikes me that I haven't done an art update in quite some time.  Given that I have some special holiday happenings in the art shop, and that the holiday shopping season starts tomorrow (I can't believe it's already that time of year again!), I figured that I should probably pop in a little update before tucking into a quiet Thanksgiving day.

In the Art Studio 
{in progress} 

Between the arrival of our sweet rainbow baby and my gimpy (but slowly healing!) arm, it's been hard to get some good art time in, as expected.  But a few weeks ago I did manage to start a new piece -- featuring my second ever mixed media boy!  I wanted to try making some boy art to hang up in Jacob's room.  And frankly, there are precious few pieces featuring boys in the mixed media world, at least in my experience.  I'm quite pleased with how it's going so far -- my first attempt at a mixed media boy looked a bit too womanly for my taste.  

making some backgrounds 

I've also been having some fun prepping background pages in my two art journals.  I'm not really "good" at art journaling -- meaning that I've tried it in the past and quickly grown bored.  But lately I'm feeling the pull to have a space to be extra messy, and to try new things.  Besides, going nuts with paint and a brayer feels really, really great -- and it's quick, which is good for squeezing in during baby cat naps.  

The pages above are from a journal I'm making for Jacob.  Inspired by Tam of Willowing, I thought it would be a fun and meaningful gift to give Jacob when he's older.  Right now it's mostly little letters to him written over painted pages plus photos and random other things glued in, and it's been a lovely new challenge to assemble.  

In the Art Shop


I have a few fun things happening in the art shop for the holidays:
  • every purchase from my art shop from now through January 1, 2012, will come with a free fine art postcard of your choosing (just let me know in the "notes to seller" box at checkout)
  • I am offering a sweet discount bundle of fine art cards (above), which make great Christmas/holiday cards -- you can mix and match any combination of images from my shop on 16 amazingly high quality, frame-able cards
  • you can find all my holiday-themed art in a single handy section, here
Also, my newsletter subscribers are receiving an awesome exclusive discount code good through Saturday, November 24.  It's the biggest coupon of the year, which is totally fun.  And it's not too late to get in on the action -- you can subscribe to the newsletter here.  I'll be resending the discount code again on Friday for new subscribers. 


I hope that you have an amazing Thanksgiving, American folks, and that this weekend is a sweet and peaceful start to the holiday season for all.  I know that the holidays are not the easiest of times for some, but I hope that they surprise you in a beautiful, unexpected way this year. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear Eve

on Eve's first birthday

Yesterday was your first birthday.  Or what would have been your first birthday, had you been here to celebrate it.  Instead, you are safe in the arms of God, which is the best place of all to be.  I am glad that you are His, and that you are home, but I still miss you.

I have been dreading your birthday since you died.  I didn't want a whole year to have passed, but of course it did, far too quickly.  It seems like just yesterday that I was holding you in my arms.  I expected this day, the first of a lifetime of birthdays without you, to be terrible.

But it wasn't.  Sunday, the one year anniversary of the day you died, was very emotional and difficult.  But your actual birthday ended up being quite lovely.  I wore purple and put on a little makeup in your honor and spent the day visiting with various friends, going for a walk, and hanging out with your brother.

Every time I thought of you, it was only the happy memories that came to mind -- the way your hair was already dark and unruly like mine, the sweet pucker of your lips, the way your daddy buzzed you over to me making airplane sounds, the just-right weight of you in my arms even though you were so, so tiny.  I remembered how much I loved you with this impossible love that made me believe in God all the more, and how happy and proud I was (and still am) to be your mother, even though I don't get to do the typical mothering things for you.

So when I look back on your first birthday, it feels happy

I didn't expect that.

I think I figured out why your birthday felt so strangely lovely.  I remember, back in the hospital with you one year ago, thinking that this was the easy part.  That the hard part of the-rest-of-our-lives lay ahead in the grieving of you, and behind in the losing of you.  But being with you (and when I say "you," I realize that it was not really you, but your body) -- that was easy.  Because although it was sad, although you were devastatingly still and silent, it was still good.  It was you and I and your daddy, our little family, and although you weren't truly present, it was the best we'd get for the rest this life, and so it became enough.

I remember feeling safe there in the hospital, with you so far and yet so close, with the future conveniently deferred.  I'd survived birthing you, and death had not, as I'd feared, made you monstrous.  You were my daughter, my firstborn, and although you were dead I had the mother glow.

I think that I have it still.

Because so much has happened because of you.  Knowing you, and saying goodbye, have changed me -- are changing me -- and in more positive ways than I ever could have hoped for.  Because of you, the way I think and act and feel and wait and love and speak and believe are different, better.

And did you know -- my friends and I, we are donating 100 books to the hospital to help other bereaved families in your name.  One hundred families helped because of a girl that never breathed?  If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is.  It blesses my heart.

And something else -- my beautiful friends, both those from Before and those from After, who I met because of you, they remembered your special day and were not afraid to speak your name.  My church family again showed what church really should be, entering the mess with God's great love to embrace me and remember you.  I realized that because of how they have responded to your death has helped me to trust people, to trust what they say, in a way that I never have quite been able to do.  Gift upon gift from you, because of you.

So here I am, one year later, still missing you but so very, very blessed because of you.  I wish that you could have stayed, sweet girl, but death is not the end and one day we will be in God's arms together.  Sometimes I wonder if we already are together -- if God is outside of time, along with Heaven, then could it be that we are all already home, just that our bodies haven't quite caught up?  That my soul is both here and there at once?

It's crazy how much difference a year makes.  That truth is both terrible and beautiful.  A year ago, I wasn't sure that God hadn't forsake me.  Now, it seems to me that no one else but Jesus could possibly make sense of this mess of a world we live in.  I'm glad you are with Him.

I don't know how to end this letter to you, sweet girl.  I opened up your memory boxes today and took out all the few things that belong to you -- the casts of your hands and feet, the wispy locks of hair, your tiny footprints.  You were so small, so terribly small, all three pounds and three ounces of you, but you have inhabited my life in such a big way.  I am grateful for you, and I love you (and your brother) more than I knew was possible.  Happy birthday, my sweet girl.

“It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us . . ."
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

on Eve's first birthday

on Eve's first birthday 

on Eve's first birthday 

on Eve's first birthday 

on Eve's first birthday 

on Eve's first birthday

on Eve's first birthday

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Incomprehensible Reality of Rainbow Motherhood

I wonder if the collection of items currently sitting on our kitchen table might come across as rather strange to someone who doesn’t know me well. The formula samples, the how-to book on newborns, the envelope of infant-related coupons – these all make sense, because the presence of our recently born rainbow baby in our home is obvious.

But then there are the collection of books on late term and neo natal loss, and a gift that was given in memory of the baby who came before the more obvious, living one. And when the books on dead babies are sitting side by side with a book on living babies . . . well, the situation becomes even more incomprehensible. . . .

Today I am writing over at Still Standing Magazine!  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When the World Was Shattered

Eve's flower butterfly 

Well, it's here.  

On this day one year ago, we found out that our daughter had died before she was born.  

On this day, I found myself ushered into a community of shared grief that I never imagined existed. 

On this day, my heart and my sense of security (false though it was) were shattered.  We are still picking up the pieces.  

Honestly, I thought this day, the first anniversary of Eve's death, would be easier.  Even though I've been dreading this day for months, Jacob's arrival seemed to have eased the pain enough that I expected to navigate this first of the first anniversary days without tears.  But now I'm realizing that he was only distracting me from it.

I'm not ungrateful for that -- he is the best distraction a bereaved mama could hope for.  His life is a source of healing.  But his presence does not and will not and should not make up for Eve's absence.

And so the tears fell as I nursed him early this morning, remembering how November 18, 2011, unfolded.

I remember almost everything about that day with perfect clarity.  How I wore a sweater I hadn't worn in ages because it showed off my 31 week pregnant belly so perfectly.  How I ran errands as snow began to fall -- first to the bank, then to the craft store, and then to buy the Best Husband Ever a bread knife for his birthday.  How I was buoyed by the singular joy of pregnancy everywhere I went, how I shared our daughter's due date and how we hadn't yet decided on a name with the strangers who asked.

I remember coming home after my morning of errands, cars sliding all over the roads as the snow began to accumulate on the yet untreated roads.  I remember how I relaxed after a week of intense art-making, how the Best Husband Ever and I sipped hot cocoa and faced off in a computer game and watched Seinfeld together.

And then I remember how I noticed that our baby hadn't performed her usual nighttime tumblings.  How I tried to remember the last time I'd felt her move, and couldn't.  How I guzzled apple cider to try to wake her up, then called my doctor.  How my husband and I changed back out of our pajamas at 11:00 that night to travel through the still-falling snow to the hospital.

I remember checking in at the front desk of labor and delivery, how slow the receptionist seemed to be responding.  I remember how that was the first time I felt a nauseating flare of panic sweep through me, how I wanted to scream that my baby might not be okay and you have to help her now, damn it.  How we were ushered into a room and I giggled as I shyly slid out of the bathroom having changed into the open-backed hospital gown, the urgency somehow having left me as quickly as it came. 

I remember how the nurse searched and searched for the sound of a heartbeat.  How she said that the baby might be hiding, and I wondered how a baby could possibly have room left to hide in at 31 weeks.

I remember smiling at my doctor as she came into the room, how she didn't smile back but looked so, so worried.  How she, too, searched, this time via ultrasound, and found nothing.  How the perfect form of our baby was devastatingly still on the ultrasound machine's monitor.  How my doctor came to the side of the bed and told me what I could already see for myself.  How she and the doctor left me and my husband alone and the silence and questions were too much and all we could do was breathe and hold each other.

I remember how my doctor came back into the room after a little while to discuss our options.  I remember how appalled I felt when I realized that I would still have to deliver this baby, and how terrified I was of doing that.

I remember how my doctor shared that her first baby was stillborn, too, how he had died just like mine -- without warning, without known cause.  How grateful I felt that of all the doctors in the world we had this one who knew

I remember leaving the hospital feeling dazed and dizzy, knowing that we'd be coming back in one day to begin induction.  How those twenty-four hours stretched before me like an eternity of hell that I was not equipped to navigate.  (This is why I decided to donate books for Eve's first birthday -- to help other bereaved parents beat back this darkness, to make them feel a little less alone.)

How the nurse pressed a scrap of paper with the hospital's phone number into my husband's palm and said that she was so sorry, that we were in shock, that it was all so unfair.  How I clutched my husband's hand as we left. 

I remember how returning to our home made me feel sick at how much our lives had changed in the space of an hour.  How I couldn't sleep, the first night of weeks of insomnia.  How I was afraid to touch my belly, where death now resided. 

I remember how helpless, how alone I felt.  An abject loneliness that is deeper than words can tell.  That I still feel sometimes. 

I remember how I wanted to die, how I longed for it.  How I'd rather die than give birth to this tiny little being who'd barely lived.  How I wondered how we could go on after she was out of me, and how I could possibly survive giving birth to a dead person. 

The only thing I can't remember is when I felt her last kick.  This not-knowing will haunt me forever.

And now, here it is -- one year later.   

It doesn't feel like it's already been a year.  I can still taste the fear and shock and bitterness of it all so sharply. 

But we have survived.  Because of our friends from Before, and my new friends from After.  Because of the grace of God pulling me along when all I wanted was to lay down and die.

The one hope that lights my way through the endless grief of babyloss is that one year ago today, our daughter was born into the arms of God, never having tasted the pain that living in this world can bring.  I miss her and miss her and miss her, but I am so grateful for that. 

Happy Heavenly birthday, my sweet baby girl.  I love you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Miracle Babies

6 weeks + 2 days

This week I started to become less gracious feeling about Jacob.  I swore after losing Eve that this would never happen, that I would never feel frustrated with our living children if we came to have any, but of course my humanity has set in and the honeymoon is wearing a little thin.  Not because Jacob's done anything wrong, and not because I love him any less, but because I have been trying to "get things done."  Writing, exercise, a bit of art -- each day I'm on the lookout for an hour in which I can give myself one of these things. 

He hasn't been cooperating, of course.  He just doesn't like to nap during the day unless it's in my arms.  And given that one of my arms is weak, that leaves me with only a single fully functioning arm with which to take care of him and try to get some of my own stuff in.

Obviously, his needs win every time.  As they should.  But between that and dwindling sleep fore me (several times this week I [rather foolishly, no doubt] sacrificed sleep for writing or art-making), I've been feeling a bit more cranky.

Until this morning.

After even less sleep than usual, Jacob and I were enjoying some post-nursing cuddling.  I got to thinking about how Eve was our miracle baby.  We'd been told to expect me to be infertile as a result of my battle with disordered eating.  And then, unplanned and yet so wanted, Eve came into being against all the odds.  A miracle, I called it.  Our miracle baby.

And then she died, and we conceived Jacob right away.  Meaning that I likely am not (thank you, God) infertile after all, although time will tell for sure.  Which, I thought to myself this morning, probably makes Jacob not a miracle baby.

But then I felt his skin soft against my own, my skin that is so calloused by 30 years of fighting for hope in this sometimes hopeless world, and I realized -- he is most definitely a miracle, every inch of him.

The way he came into our lives in the reverberations of disaster . . . the way his every breath heals a bit more of my grief-shattered parts . . the way the slate depths of his eyes seem to be a window into God's own heart -- a miracle, without a doubt, and worth every bit of sacrifice.

I can't believe I doubted it even for a moment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Which I Start to Learn to Love the Unexpected

5 weeks + 5 days

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Jacob is on a schedule, but in the past six weeks I have come to expect a certain routine. He eats every two to three hours, then I cuddle him for a bit before I change him and put him down for a nap in his crib. When he wakes an hour or two later, we do it all again like clockwork.

Except when it's not.

It's strange how I resist him when he shakes things up. Like last night, for example. He was "supposed" to be sleeping, so I spent a half an hour trying to get him snoozing so I could sleep, too. Finally I realized I might be able to make us both happier faster if I tried nursing him again, even though it wasn't what he "should" be doing according to his routine. So I did, and he went to sleep much more easily afterward.

I'm trying to learn this lesson now while he's too young to remember my stubbornness and be hurt by it, because he's only going to buck those shoulds more and more as he grows. And I want to give him the grace and freedom he needs to be unexpected, to make his own choices. One of my goals as a parent is to say "yes" to this wonderful little boy as often as I can.

I think it's going to be a long education. I find it far too easy to say "no." But it will be well worth every lesson.

My children have already taught me so much in their short lives. I love how that works.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This Time Last Year


At this time last year, we were enjoying an uncommonly warm and un-snowy autumn, I had just begun counting gratitudes, my parents were visiting, and the Best Husband Ever and I were looking forward to meeting our first child in two months' time.

Only we didn't have two months left.  We had a week.  Seven days before we would receive the worst news parents can get.

It doesn't seem possible that this horrifying thing was headed our way and we didn't know it.  It seems that something so huge and life-altering should come with ample warning signs.

But it didn't.  She was gone before we knew that miscarriage isn't the only sad way a pregnancy can end.

Sometimes I don't know how we're supposed to live now that we know that the worst could strike in an instant, without warning, and even without cause.  It's overwhelming, sometimes, that new knowing.

And yet there's good in that horrible knowing, too, because it makes me able to see the wonder around me more clearly, to see the blessings while they're still here.  Before I was always looking to the future, eager to move ahead, blind to the beauty of the moment.  Now I can see it, and I'm grateful for that.

I'm trying to trust God to help me with the rest of that new knowing that isn't so easy to live with.  This is a work in progress.

I can't believe it's already been nearly a year since I held her.

* * * 

Book update: Forty-six books have now made their way to me in celebration of Eve's first birthday.  Amazing!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Books For Eve's First Birthday: An Update

Books for Eve's 1st birthday
I am feeling so many things.

Floored.  Grateful.  Humbled.

Less than a week after I shared my thoughts on how I planned to celebrate Eve's fast-approaching first birthday in Heaven, 44 copies of When Hello Means Goodbye made their way to our front door.

And that's not counting the copies that I ordered.

But that's not all.  When I went to order my copies, I discovered that they were sold out.

We made Amazon sell out of books for Eve's birthday.

Books for Eve's 1st birthdayI'll say it again -- I am floored, grateful, and humbled.

I am so excited to donate these books to help the moms and dads that will unfortunately but inevitably need them.  I am so honored that you all decided to partner with me.  Thank you.

But these books mean more to me than just a nice thing to do.

Each new shipment of books that arrives on our doorstep makes me feel like another person has said, "Yes.  Your daughter lived."

Each book is, for me, a symbol of the weight she had in this world: small, but powerful.

Thank you for giving me that, friends.  It means everything, because sometimes her physical presence in our lives feels so fleeting that it seems like it never was at all.

If you'd like to donate books but are daunted by their sold-out status on Amazon, no fear!  Feel free to back order them.  I back ordered my own copies, so there's no danger of them arriving too late.  You can send a book (or books) via my Amazon wishlist, and check out my original post for more details on what this is all about.

Also, if you are ordering three books, be sure to change your total to four because the fourth book is free.  This three-for-four promotion doesn't show up until the last page of checkout.

Thank you again, friends!

Books for Eve's 1st birthday

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Small Made Big

baby shower

If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you might remember that a few months ago, when I was still pregnant with Jacob, I was put on bed rest due to a threat of preterm labor.  My doctor informed me that she fully expected Jacob to arrive early.

So my friends and I moved up the mama blessing we had started planning in lieu of a traditional baby shower, which had originally been scheduled for September 30.  If I remember correctly, we celebrated with a hasty mama blessing party just a week and a half after my doctor shared her opinion.

We had a beautiful time.  A group of precious women gathered in our home to laugh and eat and pray.  They spoke my son's name, and my daughter's.  It was absolutely perfect, and just what this crazy, grieving, stressed out pregnant lady needed. 

But then I didn't give birth.  Days passed, and then weeks, and it seemed clear that my doctor was wrong.  I grew frustrated and then irritated.  Because we had rescheduled the party at the last minute, some friends I had wanted to celebrate couldn't make the new date, and it seemed that all the rushing around and stressing and rescheduling had been for nothing.

But today I had a different thought about the situation.  It struck me that Jacob was born on September 28 -- two days before the original blessing party date.  If we hadn't rescheduled, I wouldn't have been able to celebrate this baby with my friends and family before his arrival.  And I had desperately -- if nervously -- wanted to.

And then something else occurred to me -- maybe God knew that . . . maybe God knew that I needed to have a pre-baby party, and provided.

It seems impossible.  The thought of it certainly brings me to knees, because how could the God who made all of Everything be bothered to care about something as silly as my baby shower?

And yet He does, I think.

Isn't that just like Him?  It's so easy to believe that He's only concerned with the big issues, or with that other, "more important" person over there.  But really, He's into the small stuff, too, into the smallness of my life (and yours) specifically.

And maybe He's even into the small stuff more.  Because that's where real life happens -- in the nitty gritty, the mundane, the unseen.  And really, His presence in the small things of my life feel more miraculous because they are small. 

I don't know why I keep forgetting. 

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.'

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrating Eve's First Birthday: Want To Help?


Eve's birthday has been on my mind.

It's coming up too fast.  November 20 is nearly here . . . how can it already have been one year?  It seems impossible.  And yet it is.

I've been thinking a lot about what to do on her birthday.  A few months ago, I intended to throw her a little birthday party and invite our close friends.  But lately that feels overwhelming.  So I think we will probably celebrate instead as a family, just the three of us remembering the fourth.  Maybe we will blow out a candle for her.

I also would like to use her birthday to give back.  We received amazing care from the nurses and doctor who supported us through Eve's induction and stillbirth, far beyond what I would have thought to expect.  I feel so blessed, because I know that not all stillbirth mamas are so lucky. 

However, I do have one regret.  I am very sad that I never took photos of Eve myself.  I brought my camera to the hospital, but didn't know if it was okay to take pictures.  And honestly I was so exhausted by the end that it seemed like enough to leave the matter in the hands of the professional photographer who generously volunteered her time and heart to recording our daughter's image.

But now I wish I had known that it was okay.  I wish I had taken some myself.  And I wish I'd known in general that it was okay to do whatever I needed to do to enjoy her, mourn her, and make memories with and of her.

As a result, in honor of Eve's first birthday, I would like to donate copies of the book When Hello Means Goodbye to our local hospital for infant bereavement care.  I discovered this book shortly after Eve's stillbirth, and wish that I had been able to read it the day before she was born in preparation for her arrival.  The book is basically a how-to manual for navigating the early days of babyloss, helping bereaved parents make important decisions that they only have a very short time to make and that must last a lifetime, yet that they are often not equipped to make due to grief, exhaustion, or just plain old not-knowing.

I wish I had read this book in the eternally long day that spanned between the night we found out that Eve had died to the evening that we checked into the hospital for induction -- partly because I didn't know how to plan for this huge and horrible event, partly because I had no idea what to expect physically or emotionally, and partly because so I would have known that it is okay to make memories of your dead child.  Even though our hospital staff took such loving and beautiful care of us, providing us with many keepsakes that I treasure, this book would still have been a huge help to my limping, terrified heart in the very early days of this new life as a stillbirth parent.

Would you like to celebrate Eve's birthday in this way with me?  I'd love to collect copies of When Hello Means Goodbye if it's on your heart to participate.  The books are fairly inexpensive -- less than $6.00 US per copy -- so even if you contributed a single book, collectively we could make a huge donation!  If you would like to send a book, you can purchase one or some via my Amazon wishlist.  If you have any questions or trouble with the wishlist, send me an email at epiphanyartstudio (at) zoho (dot) com.  Maybe if we collect enough we can donate books to OB offices or even other hospitals, too! 

Baby Girl November 20, 2011-12