Posted in Autism, Christianity, Encouragement, grief, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Uncategorized

The other side of despair

You know that part in the Anne of Green Gables movie where Anne dyes her hair green and hides in her bed?
“Go away!” she sobs to Marilla. “I’m in the depths of despair!”

“I’m in the depths of despair” became a tongue-in-cheek catch-phrase for my sisters and me as we navigated our teenage years.

Like Anne, most of our woes were trite and worthy of eye-rolling, not sympathy. I really had no idea what despair was until I became an adult.

When I had my miscarriage, I was baptized in grief for the first time.
I learned what hopelessness feels like.

My motherhood journey has looked wildly different than I thought it would be.
On many occasions, especially in the last year, I have literally thrown up my hands, saying “I’ve got nothing. I have no idea what to do.”

And all I can do is ride the wave of that moment, or day, or month, and pray we all come out intact on the other side.

Sometimes I’ve stood on the edge of that deep, black pit, wondering if I am going to fall in. Other times, it’s only when I look back, far removed from the experience, that I realize how close I was to collapsing.

I probably overshare on my blog–I know it’s one of my faults when I teach in the classroom. When the semester ends, all my students know WAY more about me (and my husband, kids, and first crush) than I do about them.

But sometimes I think that if I didn‘t share–blogging or otherwise–I’d step over the edge, into all that blackness, and tumble down, down, down.

And it’s not just the act writing, though that’s cathartic.
It’s the sharing.
It’s a way of saying, ” I have a burden. Will you help me carry it?”
_mg_2860_1We all need a good friend to listen to us vent about our bad day. The sharing helps us carry the burden. In those really dark moments, it helps us back away from the edge.

But sharing is a two-way street. Every good friend knows that you can’t just vent about your own bad day–you have to make space to listen too.

And, for me, this act of “making space” has been key to me not succumbing to despair in some of my darkest moments.

I read an amazing blog post last week by Rachel at Hands Free Mama. In her article, “Your Role in a Loved One’s Struggle” she wrote,

On the other side of despair is connection—connection that comes from recognizing a familiar look of pain in someone else’s eyes and reaching out your hand.

The greatest gift I have been given as a result of sharing about my life on my blog is that on a weekly basis, I have friends (and even strangers!) send me private messages saying, “me too.” The other night I sat chatting with three women on facebook, in awe of the gift I have been given.

They share their stories with me, stories of their grief, their waiting, their adjustment of their expectations, and always their overwhelming love for their children.

I share.
They share.
We carry each others’ burdens.
We back away from the edge, hand in hand, walking towards light, in hope, together.
_mg_2809Everybody has something. But you aren’t alone in your pain.
Take the first step–share.

You never know how God will use your story to bring hope to another person.

 

What’s your story? If you shared it, what would happen?
What COULD happen?

I hope that this story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

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Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, grief, Kelly Clarkson, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Piece by Piece, Self Care, Uncategorized

Ladies, let’s stop aplogizing for our tears

I loved watching Kelly Clarkson sing “Piece by Piece” on American Idol earlier this month. It was a moving, emotional ballad; Kelly struggled with tears through the whole song, at times even losing her voice to tears as she pushed through to the end.

The audience—and America—wept with her, as she sang about how her father abandoned her as a child, but now that she is a mother, she knows that her children’s father will never leave their children…or her. Piece by piece, her husband’s love slowly put her heart and hope back together.

When Ryan came up to conclude the show with her, she apologized for crying over and over. “I’m really pregnant!” she laughed.

There was something profoundly familiar about her tears and her response. So often, our knee-jerk reaction as women to our own sudden tears is to say, “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I am so emotional!”
Our second response is to look for a scapegoat, usually a hormonal one:
“Stupid PMS!”
“Pregnancy hormones! They get you every time!”
We even use the hormonal excuse when there is no hormonal excuse:
“I don’t know why I am so emotional. It isn’t even that time of the month!”

We believe that our tears, sudden and uncomfortable, always need to be explained away. And if they can’t be easily excused, we make jokes about the emotional weakness of being a woman.

100_4647
I am smiling in this picture I vividly remember this day. I was going through a miscarriage and tears came unexpectedly and often.

The thing is, emotions or tears aren’t right or wrong. They simply are. It’s how we act in response to our feelings that is right or wrong.*

We shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling.
But so often, as women, we do.
I have a friend who is a passionate and vibrant person. She also cries very easily—about seeing her daughter learn and grow, about her passion to help women in our community, about the beauty in the world. Her tears and apologies flow freely.
Though I know she often is embarrassed by her strong emotions, I find her tears refreshing and honest.
Crying often expresses emotions in a way that words cannot.
It can reveal truth about our deeply felt experiences.
So instead of apologizing for our emotions,** what if we looked a little deeper and asked “Why am I crying?”

Hormones may be an easy answer but, the thing is, hormones don’t give us emotions; they simply highlight or emphasize emotions that are already there.  

Kelly’s song was deeply emotional on its own. It would have been difficult to sing even if she had not been pregnant and it had not been the final season of American Idol. Adding all that together made her performance even more impressive.  The reality is, her tears were what made the song even more beautiful, raw and relateable to listeners.

I wish she didn’t feel like she had to apologize for crying.

But if I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing. Somehow it’s the socially acceptable thing to do as women.

It is a lot harder to simply let our tears be, without explaining them away (
It really is easier to blame our hormones, isn’t it?).

But owning our emotions is a part of embracing what it means to be a woman, a women who was created with God-given emotions, God-given hormones, and yes, even God-honored tears (Psalm 56:8).

When we stop apologizing and dismissing our tears, and start asking “Why?” about our emotional experiences, it helps us to build self-awareness. Owning our tears helps us to realize that our stories are real, valuable, and worth telling.

And when we can own our stories, we can more readily empathize with the emotional experiences of others.
We are able to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”  (Romans 12:15).
Tears
Our tears don’t need an apology or a hormonal explanation. Embracing our emotions and our tears is actually an act of love and respect. When we embrace our emotions as part of being a woman, we can more freely respect our own tears as healthy and normal.

And in loving and respecting ourselves, we can also more freely respond to the emotional needs of others with love and respect as well.

*Sadly, I often respond to my emotions with negative actions. When I choose to hurt others because I am angry or upset (or whatever), an apology is needed in order restore my relationships.

** I’ll admit, saying “I’m sorry!” is my first response when I cry unexpectedly! Instead of apologizing, here are a few suggestions for an alternative way to respond to our tears:

“Thank you for listening. I feel really emotional right now.”
“As you can see by my tears, I’m really passionate about this.”
“This always make me cry.”
“Hang on. I need a minute to collect myself.”
“I am so overwhelmingly happy!”
“This reminds me of my grandma. I miss her.”
“This makes me really sad/angry/upset/overwhelmed.”
“Darn you, Hallmark!”

Why do you think we feel the need to say “I’m sorry!” when we cry?

Why it is hard to accept our emotions, even our tearful ones?
What would we gain by accepting our tears as normal and part of “our story”?

TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know? If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Christianity, grief, miscarriage, Mom Confessions, My Motherhood

If you’re heartbroken on New Years Day…hold on.

I wonder if God peers into our man-made New Years traditions, and in his omniscience says to himself, “Oh, dear child, this year…this year you will grow so much. I only wish I could spare you the pain of such growth. Hold on…I am with you.”

On January 1st 2014, I spent the day in the bathroom, praying and crying and telling myself that this was not happening, that I was not having a miscarriage.

Happy New Year, right? All my hopes, expectations, and plans for the year were shattered. All I could think was, “No new baby in August. No new baby. No baby.”

The only verse that brought me any sense of comfort during this time was this:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”

You are with me. 
You are with me.
You are with me. 

THAT was the only guarantee I had for 2014.

Now it is January 1st 2015. As I look back at last year, I am amazed at how my miscarriage shaped my whole year, overwhelmed with the good that was directly related to my miscarriage. In fact, this heartbreaking experience even fulfilled desires of my heart in three specific areas: Counseling, Volunteering, and Writing.

Interestingly, at one time, I was going to pursue a Masters Degree in counseling (I even took a Statistics class in preparation for grad school. eek!). My own grief allowed me to help others grow and heal by becoming a peer counselor to women who were walking through the grief of miscarriage, still birth, and infertility. I have grown so much in knowledge, compassion, empathy, and sympathy by being a co-leader of this group.

The grief group is under the umbrella of The Motherhood Collective, a non-profit organization in Lynchburg whose purpose is to “Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child.” I had secretly wanted to be a part of the leadership of this organization in a “that’d be really cool” kind of way, but had no idea what I could/would do. The miscarriage opened this door too. I feel very privileged to serve with the amazing women in this organization.

Looking back at 2014, I see how God was able to marry my life experience and clarified beliefs with my desire to develop professionally as a writer. As I blogged about my miscarriage throughout this past year, I was not only able to work through my own grief, but I was also about to develop my theology about  God’s providence and sovereignty when it comes to pregnancy and the gift of children.

At the end of November, I wrote “Say ‘Congratulations’–It’s the Christian thing to do” and it got over 500 views overnight! To date, it is my 2nd “most-viewed” post on my blog, with over 7800 views (in reality, this is not a lot of views in the “blog world” but is a LOT for my little blog!). Even more exciting though, is that this blog open the door for me to be a guest writer for Christianity Today’s blog, Her.Menutics. My article was published on December 10 and has received over 3000 shares on social media. These publications have been huge for me as a writer. I hope it is just the beginning. But I know that without the heartbreak at the beginning of the year, the victory at the end most likely would not have happened.

So what is the point of this post? I guess it is this: If you are heart-broken today, on New Years Day 2015, and your life is taking a completely different, unwanted, horrible path than you would have ever chosen…I pray you can find hope in my story.

God had plans for my 2014, ones I never would have chosen but plans that ultimately helped me to grow, learn, love others, and even brought me the desires of my heart.

And even though I was never promised the gift of another baby, He gave me that too. I sit here typing with my 10 day old baby boy sleeping on my chest. What a gift of grace, complete unmerited favor. 

So, hold on, friend. He is with you.

Posted in Baby, Christianity, Christmas, marriage, miscarriage, My Motherhood

Symbols of Hope: Remembering Loved Ones at Christmas time

“Here, I made you something,” my husband handed me an object one night before dinner.

It was a few weeks after my miscarriage.

“Do you know what it is?” He asked eagerly.

I smiled, confused but pleased by his gift. My husband is not typically crafty person. Nor a gift-giving person.

“Uh…key chain?”

“Well, yes.” He rolled his eyes. “But look at this pattern. Do you recognize it?”
 
I shook my head.

I watched, bemused, as my husband dashed through the house and found a plastic pirate doll.

“Look!” he pointed. “It’s Izzy! See the pattern on her bandana?”

Source

 And then I did see and…Oh. 

 I made the connection and my eyes filled with tears.

You see, our 7 year old son named the baby we lost, Izzy, after the pirate from one of his favorite Disney shows. Before the miscarriage, I rolled my eyes at the name, chuckling and shaking my head, thinking, “I would never name my baby Izzy.”

But that was the only name the baby got.

I clutched the keychain in one hand and gripped my husband’s hands with the other…callused hand with strong, square fingers, hands that held me when I wept for the loss of our child, hands that wove a pink and white key chain.

“I made this for you so that you can always have Izzy with you.”

My husband, like many men, didn’t have many words when we went through this time of grief. He felt and grieved in his own way, a way that was different from my way.

But he made a key chain for me, in memory of our child.

It was a symbol of loss, of acknowledgment, of remembering.

Christmas is usually a time of hope and happiness for most families. But it can also be a time of grief as we remember loved ones who are no longer with us.

We bought an ornament for our tree this year–a plastic pirate doll: Izzy.

I was hesitant at first.

“It’s really expensive.” I told my husband as my mouse hovered over the BUY icon.

“It’s doesn’t matter.” He told me. “Get it.”

So I did. And Izzy came in the mail in a little white box and we hung her on our tree.

It’s been almost a year since I found out I was pregnant: it was December 14. And instead of cradling a 4 month old baby (boy? girl?), I am hanging an ornament on our tree.

It is sobering….but, by the grace of God, not sad.

And I do not use that phrase lightly. His grace has carried me, buffered me, pushed me, grown me…in agonizing ways in the past year. 

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, but it has been one of soul-wrenching growth as well, growth that has been fostered by faith and has led to hope.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our heart” (Romans 5:3-5).

I’ve carried my key chain this year, just as I’ve carried Izzy in my heart.
We put an ornament on our tree, not as a symbol of loss, but as a symbol of Hope.

Because His hope has not disappointed us.  His love will continue to carry us through every season.

How do you remember your departed loved ones at Christmas?
How do you seek hope, even in time of intense grief?

You can read more about our miscarriage journey here: 
Posted in Baby, Christianity, culture, miscarriage, Motherhood, My Motherhood

Say "Congratulations!"–it’s the Christian thing to do.

When I was 13 years old, my mom took my older sister and me to a meeting for a para-church organization that did puppet ministry. We were introduced to the leader and a few of the other teens.

One introduction shocked me, mostly because of my mother’s reaction.

“And this is Stephanie,” the leader said, gesturing to a pretty blond girl. “She’s 16 and she’s pregnant.”

“Oh, congratulations!” My mom exclaimed.

There were a few other details shared about the pregnancy, though I can’t remember if the girl was going to parent her baby or place the baby in an adoptive family. Either way, she was 16. She was pregnant.

And my mom told her “Congratulations.”

To my 13 year old self, this was really weird…no, not weird. Wrong. How could my mom congratulate this girl?
She was a teenager.
She was pregnant.
Everything in my narrow, black and white mindset judged this girl for being pregnant when she should NOT HAVE BEEN PREGNANT. 

It wasn’t until this week that this event crossed my mind again and I realized the amazing example my mother gave me when I was 13 years old.

You see, my mother is pro-life. She told that girl “Congratulations” because she was pregnant…and she was choosing life.
LIFE is something to affirm and uphold. LIFE is given by God, no matter the circumstances.

Even though I didn’t understand the example she was showing me at the time, I am so grateful for and inspired by my mom’s reaction to this unexpected pregnancy announcement.

Mostly because I have been disheartened and down-right confused by the negative comments and tone I have received on my 3rd and 4th pregnancies (I am pregnant with my 4th baby right now):

“Are you pregnant AGAIN!? How many is that now?
“Another baby? Oh no!!”
“You’re having another boy? I am so sorry!”
“Do you know how that happens? Oh, honey. I need to take you out to coffee and we need to have a little chat…”

Whenever I get these comments, I smile and say proudly,
“Yes, I am! 4!”
“No, we’re happy…really!”
“I’m excited to have another boy…yes, really!”
(And yes, we know. We like it a lot).

The odd thing is I feel like I am trying to convince these people to be happy that I am having another baby. (?!?!?!?)

I was struck by the similarities in judgment voiced by the author of this article, published earlier this week.  In “Your Mother is Destroying the Earth,” the author describes her constant need to justify her existence as the 5th daughter in her family, citing that it is the WACO (Warriors against Child Overpopulation) feminist leftists that give her the most grief, stating:

Content to bear their own children, they avidly seek to restrict childbearing for other women whom they apparently deem less worthy of free choice.

The thing is, none of the people who said these things to me would probably ever classify themselves as a feminist, leftists WACOs…because all of these comments have come from Christian women.

Our Pregnancy Announcement for Silas, our 3rd son

 One of the foundational elements of a Christian worldview declares this truth: Humans are made in the image of God.

And because of this truth, a Christian worldview declares life to be precious, worth saving, worth dying for, worth celebrating.

 While the comments directed at my 3rd and 4th children gave me a chuckle (and an inner “seriously?” moment), good anecdotes for facebook, and food for thought, these comments also made me mad. But more than feeling self-righteous anger,  I am deeply saddened that this attitude toward pregnancy and new life pervades our culture, even in the Church.

And even at times in me.

My 13-year-old judgmental attitude lasted well into my adulthood. I know that it has taken 3…no, even 4 pregnancies, including my miscarriage, to break the “pattern of this world” and begin to be “transformed” and “renewed” in my mind (Romans 12:2).

I’ve rolled my eyes when family and friends announced their 3th, 5th…8th pregnancies.
I’ve thought, “Good grief! Honeymoon baby? They didn’t waste any time “getting busy” did they?
I’ve dismissed the grief of miscarriage as something that “would never happen to me” instead of extending real comfort to these women during a devastating time.

Until this year.

God has been transforming my mind to truly understand what it means to value life, family, pregnancy, and babies.

Every pregnancy is a miracle (Psalm 139:13-16).
Every baby is a gift from God (Psalm 127:3).
And every baby, no matter if it is the first, third, sixth, tenth, or more, should be accepted as a miracle and gift.

Without judgment, without eye-rolling, rude comments, or snide remarks. Just celebration.

Just “Congratulations.”

Posted in Baby, miscarriage

Remembering Izzy: "Pledged to God"

August 24 would have been my due date.

I have been holding off writing this post. It was in my heart…I wanted to write it…but I kept pushing it away, kind of like I’ve been pushing the reality of my miscarriage away lately.

Because sometimes, I just want to forget, because it is still painful. Even though we lost the baby so early. Even though my belly is now swelled with new life, eagerly awaiting his birth day in December. Even though…

But there is no forgetting the memory of a child-that-would-have-been. And when I connect my miscarriage to the memory of the baby I lost (why do I try to mentally separate it? Does it make it easier somehow?), I don’t ever want to forget, despite the pain.

So, August 24 came…and went. By now, even if I was over a week “late,” like I was with Silas, I would have given birth to the baby by now, the baby Micah named “Izzy.”

In the first few weeks after my miscarriage ended, I read Heaven is for Real. A chapter that really stuck out to me was when the little boy (who, for those of you who don’t know the premise of the book, went to heaven when he was in surgery and nearly died) met his little sister who was lost to miscarriage. The parents hadn’t even told the little boy that they were expecting a baby. Imagine their surprise when he told his mom and dad that he “met his sister!”

In wonder they asked him, “What was her name?”
“She didn’t have one,” he told them. “No one has named her yet.”

For some reason, after reading this section, a sudden urgency came over me. I threw aside the book and rushed to my computer, hastily googling “meaning of names + Izzy.”

I am a big believer in the meanings of names. For our children, we carefully chose one or both of their names with the meaning in mind.

I didn’t chose the name “Izzy” for the baby we lost; my 6 year old son did, named after one of his favorite characters from the show “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” But the name stuck.

And unlike the baby in Heaven is For Real, our baby did have a name, a name that made her (girl or boy, who knows?) even more real to us.

A host of baby naming websites popped up on my screen. I click on one and typed in “Izzy,” my heart nervously pounding as the information loaded.

“Izzy, diminutive of Isabella: Pledged to God”
I stared at the screen, slowly breathing in and out, feeling the wonder of the moment.
I felt peaceful, like I had known this all along.
I felt humble, grateful…like I had just been given a rare gift.
I would have never chosen this name for my baby, but somehow, by God’s grace (and by Micah’s love for a pink-clad pirate-girl), my son did.
Pledged to God.
I believe that my little one, the baby due just over a week ago, is in heaven with God, her Father.
And it hurts because right now, this very minute, I want to be holding this baby in my arms, kissing soft downy hair, tracing perfect, tiny features, and breathing in that wonderful newborn scent. I want to be thanking God that my baby is here, with me, safe, healthy, and whole.
But instead, I must thank Him for other things:
For the gift of new life in my still-growing baby, Eli, 23 weeks strong
For the gift of each of my children, present with me or with Him
For the gift of a name that I would not have chosen, but somehow comforts me on this side of heaven.
Posted in Baby, grief, life, miscarriage, My Motherhood

Pregnancy after Loss: Survivor’s Guilt

The past six months have been a time of immense growth for me, and very painful growth at times.

I shared very publicly and honestly about my miscarriage and the grieving process that I went through. While some women prefer to grieve privately, I found that writing and sharing my story on my blog and in the support group that I now co-lead has been very healing for me.

I found community in my grief.

I was part of “The Club.” Ironically, it is a club that no woman wants to join but the support I have found in women who have also experienced loss has been a source of great strength, encouragement, and hope.

Then I got pregnant again.

In realty, my pregnancy happened very quickly after my miscarriage. At the time, it didn’t seem quick. My womb felt achingly empty as the weeks ticked by that I was NOT “12 weeks along;” rather, I was 3…4…5…6…7…weeks post-miscarriage.

My miscarriage was complete at the beginning of February and I found out I was pregnant again on April 14th.

It was a quiet joy, and a confusing time for me.

After telling my family, I nervously shared about my pregnancy with my grief group co-leader and told her that I primarily felt guilty for being pregnant again so soon.

She said, “I think you have Survivor’s Guilt.”

That odd, complicated guilt of those that have experienced pain but have also experienced a new gift of life, and feel undeserving.

My first thought was: I AM PREGNANT! We were going to have another baby.

Our precious new Little Meng

My second thought was: What about my grief support group? Will I still be accepted…wanted…needed…now that I am…pregnant?

I had my inner fears, but in my heart I knew that I was still a part of this important community.

But this was not just a question that I asked in my mind. For many people, the first question they asked me as soon as I told them I was pregnant was, “So, what about the grief group? Are you still going to do it?”

I must be honest and say that these questions really hurt my feelings. One part of of me understood because I had the same questions, in a way. But the other part of me pushed against this idea that now I was unqualified to lead a grieving mothers group because I now had the joy of being pregnant again.

I have learned that the joy of knowing a new baby grows inside my womb is co-mingled with grieving for the child I lost.

The day I announced my pregnancy was actually a very sad day for me. There were many tears. Somehow, I felt as if Izzy, the baby we lost, could never be, even in my mind, as now my womb was occupied again in the nine months that should have been hers.

Complicated, intense, illogical, yes. But those were my real feelings, even as I thanked family and friends for their congratulations and well-wishes.

It is not easy to be pregnant after loss. A new pregnancy does not replace the baby we lost.

I am doing better, well even. I am thankful every strong pregnancy symptom (even as I run to the bathroom…oh joy!), am beyond impatient to find out if we will be having a little boy or girl, and am eagerly anticipating those flutters and kicks.

But, in quiet ways, I still grieve. I still need support.

And I hope, that even though I am pregnant again, I can still offer support, love, and wisdom to other women who are walking this road.

When I shared about my pregnancy at our meeting last month, the women in my group had nothing but words of encouragement and joy for me. I hope that if and when their time comes to welcome a new life into their wombs that I can also walk this new path with them as they experience this journey of mingled joy and grief.

Posted in Christianity, grief, miscarriage

Miscarriage and Faith: Searching for Beauty

It was January 15, only about two weeks since I learned about my miscarriage. I hadn’t even shared about our miscarriage publicly yet, only privately. My prayers were still raw and desperate, crying out, “Why did this happen, Lord? Why? Is it something I did? What are you trying to teach me, show me?”

There was no answer.

Then, that morning, I got this email:

Hi friends.
So it’s been heavy on my heart to launch a Mother Grief Support Group. Once a month. No heavy pressure. No agenda. Just honest leading, sharing and experiences surrounding miscarriage and child loss. The Lord has put you two on my heart as co-leaders. The Motherhood Collective would do all the behind the scenes leg work (leader manuals, location, publicity, etc) you would just be asked to guide, listen, share and lead.
Would you think/pray about this?
I know there is a need.

I stared at my computer, shocked, stunned. I didn’t even know what to think.


I remembered a story, the one about the man born blind. The disciples asked, “Rabbi,<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>
 who sinned,<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> this man<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> or his parents,<span class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> that he was born blind?” And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2-3).


In thinking about this story, I bitterly scoffed, wondering if the man was angry–I had to suffer my entire life JUST so God could get the glory?!

Did my baby die so God could get the glory? 

This thought just makes me feel ill, and really, I don’t think it is true. I don’t believe God makes bad things happen just so he can swoop in, save us, and get the glory. 

Ultimately though, bad things do happen, like the man born blind. The man didn’t cause his blindness; the parents didn’t cause his blindness. The blindness simply happened. It was bad, evil; it caused great suffering in their family. 

But Jesus gave them a new perspective. He showed this family how suffering could be used to bring glory to God. 

As I stared at my email, I realized that this was more than an invitation from The Motherhood Collective: this was an answer to my prayer, my prayer of “why?” 
Maybe it wasn’t the answer. But it was an answer. 

It was also an invitation to deeper trust, deeper faith, deeper love. An invitation to life in the midst of death.   

I felt conflicted.

If I was really honest, I would much rather be pregnant than be the leader of a miscarriage support group. Selfish, but true.

But I felt a stir of life and of hope. I felt like I should say yes but not in a I-know-this-is-the-right-thing-to-do kind of way.

I wanted to say yes because my heart and soul were desperate for “right.” And saying yes, to walk with other women as they journey though the valley of grief, seemed right.
I told one of my best friends about the invitation to lead this group and said, “I am thinking of the verse ‘He makes everything beautiful in his own time.’ So, maybe this is the start of something beautiful, even though it really, really sucks right now. How’s that for honest?”
Someone once said, your calling is where your passion and burden meet. 
Source
The email was a call. So, I wrote a reply, and this is what I said: 

I would be honored to be a part of leading this group. I would prefer to start in March though as my miscarriage was very recent and I still need some time to grieve and find perspective myself. Thank you for asking me. I hope the  Lord will use this heartache to help bring healing to others.

So, now it’s March. And through much prayer and planning, our first meeting of The Motherhood Collective Grief Support Group will meet tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know who will show up or exactly what I will say but I, along with my co-leader, Julie, am happy excited honored humbled to be part of this. God is showing me many things, including how this truth is starting to manifest itself in my life: 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

My pain, my heartache, my suffering is real, but God is at work in my life.  He has promised to make “Everything beautiful in its own time” (Ecc. 3:11) and I am walking with him, searching for beauty. 

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You can read more about my journey here: 
Posted in Christianity, grief, miscarriage

Miscarriage and Faith: Walking through the Valley

Note: Candid discussion of miscarriage. 

Grief is a strange land.

Before I miscarried, I thought grief was kind of like sadness: a feeling that overcomes a person but a feeling that can be analyzed and dismissed when one is ready to move on.

But grief is not like that. It is a destination that you are thrust into, a place that you can’t leave no matter how much you want to leave until your grief slowly releases its grip on you.

When I first learned that I had miscarried, I felt numb. I remember laying on my bed and trying to pray but I had no words.

Psalm 23:4 came to my mind: 

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…

In my mind’s eye, I saw this Valley: razor sharp mountains, void of any vegetation, pierced the sky. The Valley was dusky, dark, grey. The path jutted sharply into shadows–I couldn’t see beyond a few steps. But I knew the way was full of pain, deep physical and emotional pain.

Source

I DON’T WANT THIS PATH! I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS PATH! My mind screamed. I mentally dug in my heels…
I wouldn’t go.
I would not walk.

But there wasn’t another way. I couldn’t make my HCG levels rise. I couldn’t make the bleeding stop. I couldn’t make the baby live. The baby was dead.

This was The. Only. Way.

…I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

Brittany, He whispered to my soul. I am already there, in the Valley.

But this did not comfort me. The Valley was an evil place; God’s presence could not change that. All I could think was if God is already there, I didn’t want to follow.

My lowest point was the day I filled a prescription to induce the miscarriage. A week had passed and though I was still bleeding lightly, my numbers were falling very slowly. My midwife recommended that I use misoprostol to “help the process along.”

After we went to CVS to get the drugs (and a strong prescription pain killer), Aaron and I stopped by Kroger to get some Motrin. From what I had read online about other women’s experience with misoprostol, I couldn’t have enough pain killers.

I numbly bought the medicine and started walking back to the car, waiting for a bus to pass before I crossed the street.

This thought entered my mind, unbidden: If I got hit by a bus then I wouldn’t have to go through this.

Then: Wow! I just had a suicidal thought. I am in a really, really bad place.

I really didn’t want to get hit by a bus, or die. But I cannot express more clearly how much I did not want to go though this, to walk this path, to go through this valley.

Please be with me. Please be with me. Pleasebewithme….

The misoprostol didn’t work.
The midwife called in a second dose.
I took it again the next day.
It didn’t work.

By this time, I was so messed up with drugs and grief that my whole GI system rebelled against me for a few days. I felt terrible.

I went in for another blood test (number 3? or 4?).My HGC levels had dropped over 100 points. Finally, some good news (so ironic..)!  It had been over two weeks since I first found out. From everything I read online, the miscarriage would be over soon.

The new semester started at Liberty and I started teaching again.
I went grocery shopping.
I took my boys to school.
I publicly shared about our miscarriage.
I wrote about suffering and thankfulness in the midst of grief.

I had days where I laid on the couch all day.
I had functional days.
I had bad days where I cried my eyes out when I saw ANOTHER freakin’ “we’re preggo!” announcement on Facebook.
I had good days when I smiled and laughed with friends and talked objectively about the miscarriage and my grief.

I was ready to move on. I wanted to move on. I wanted to leave the Valley.

But the bleeding went on and on and on. Two weeks slipped into three. Then four. Then five.

It was now February, over a month since the miscarriage began.

I snapped.

“I can’t stand it!” I screamed to my husband. “You don’t understand. This has to end! I can’t move on until it ends! You don’t know what it’s like to bleed and bleed and bleed and see red every time you go to the bathroom!  When will it END?!”

I felt utterly alone. My pain was bound up in my body, without any meaningful release. I couldn’t give it away if I wanted to. No one could carry this burden with me. NO ONE understood.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death . . . You are with me…
The verse had become a mantra, playing over and over again in my mind. At times it comforted me. Other times, it frustrated me. 
On the night of my outburst, I saw this verse in a new light. God wasn’t just with me, beside me. He had promised that his Spirit was within me, inside my soul–inside my body, my body that was filled with so much pain, physical and emotional. 
He was with me, inside my body–feeling, suffering, mourning, grieving, walking with me.
I used to think that when God walked with a person through hard times, the darkness of that person’s path would somehow be filled with His light. 
My path through the valley was not filled with light.  It was very dark, and at times, I didn’t feel God’s presence at all. But in the darkness, along this journey of death, He was there. 
Three days after I said “I can’t stand it any more!” my bleeding stopped. Two weeks later and another blood test later (7? 8?), I found out that my numbers were at 0.
It was finally over. 
I will fear no evil, for You are with me…

At the beginning of my miscarriage, I was filled with fear: fear of pain, fear of grief, fear of loss, fear of hemorrhage, fear of the disgusting horror that is miscarriage. 
At the end, I realized that the evil I feared did not ever manifest itself.  My bleeding was long, but never heavy. I had cramps but they were mild when compared to the worst menstural cramps I had experienced in my life. My emotional pain, though debilitating, was not devastating. 
I would heal. 
I am healing. 
Today is March 1st. I am wishing myself a Happy New Year.

Because on January 1st… and then on February 1st I was going through hell.

The Valley is a place that I had to travel through. Sometimes I think I have reached the other side; other days, I know I am still there. But there is light.

Source

Because You are with me…

Posted in Christianity, grief, miscarriage

Miscarriage and Faith: Giving thanks IN…not FOR.

I shuffled into the kitchen, pushing the Kreuig button and my greasy hair behind my ear.

I was awake. I was functioning. I could make eggs. I could feed my kids breakfast before school…

…before I went to lay on the couch for the rest of the day.

It was a few days since “the phone call” and I was in the “wait and see” days of what they call “miscarriage management.”

Micah pushed play on our kitchen CD player and Psalty the Singing Songbook’s perky voice and camping exploits filled the air.

“In everything give thanks! In every situation! Sing of song of thanks…and praise him from your heart!!!”

“This is such a stupid song,” I thought. “There is nothing, NOTHING to be thankful for in this situation. Everything about this sucks. Miscarriage SUCKS!”**

I put plastic plates of eggs in front of my kids and sat down heavily at the table, wincing from pain in my womb and pain in my heart.

Then I glanced over at Silas and he smiled at me…

…and I felt a little nudge in my soul.

Precious little boy. You are such a comfort to me.

I pushed through the fog in my brain and tried to plan my day…dinner tonight? Oh! That’s right. Another dear friend was bringing us a meal.

I’m so glad I don’t have to cook tonight. Thank you, Lord, for friends and the meal. 

Aaron came into the kitchen and kissed me on the forehead. “Ready to go, boys?”

Thank you for my husband. He has taken such good care of me and the kids. 

“Bye, Mommy!” My twins said as four skinny arms encircled my waist. “See you after school!”

Photo by Sabrena Carter Deal

Thank you for my children. I have three beautiful children who love me. I am blessed. I am blessed

The realization washed over me: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (and Psalty!) says, “In everything give thanks….” not for everything.

I couldn’t be thankful for…but I can be, no, I need to be thankful in. 

I need to be thankful….because thankfulness is ultimately trust in God.

In order to be thankful, I must look outside of myself–my pain, my grief–and see that God is still taking care of me. He has still blessed me with so many good things.

He holds my whole life in his hands, both the good and the bad. Thankfulness is recognizing this truth.

I can still give thanks in this situation, and really, in all things. This is the will of God for me.

**I actually googled “Miscarriage Sucks” and came up with some comforting blog posts that used lots of swear words that summed up my feelings quite nicely.