Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kicking and Screaming

So.  The new year.  Mere hours away.

I want it to go away.  I want to stay here, stay now. I'm not ready to leave 2011 yet.

Because 2011 was the only year that held my baby girl.  It was the only year that she lived . . . and she didn't even live all of it.

2012, I'm not ready for you.  Let me stay here, where my daughter's memory is fresh.  Where I can still remember what it felt like to carry her inside me, to hold her body in my arms.  To touch the smoothness of her cheeks, the soft down of her forehead.  Please.

I don't want to leave this year -- because leaving 2011 feels like it means leaving her.

I can't do that.

And I know that she's not here with me right now anyway.  That she's as dead today as she will be tomorrow.

Still.  That doesn't matter.  I'm not ready to jump into a whole new year.  The first year without her.

Especially when I remember what today was supposed to be.  Today I should have been mere days away from being able to give birth safely.  These were supposed to be the last few weeks of swollen expectation before I got to hear her cry for the first time.  Weeks of nesting.  Excitement.  Joy upon joy upon joy.

And now -- none of that.  I expect only tears, a shattered heart.  Instead of joy, doubt upon doubt.  Fear.  Anger.  Anxiety.

I know that there is God, that He does not want me to live and fester in these wounds, to not stumble forward.  I know.

And I know that He turns things around.  He has already done this, in 2011 even (ah, another reason to stay).  In March I found myself suddenly free from the bondage of seventeen years of an eating disorder.  I can see no other explanation for this than that He stepped in to bathe me in His healing.

Then I discovered the joys of art-making, and dizzying amazement when I saw that my body was home to another soul than my own.  And from there, He taught me love outside of myself.  How to eat like a human being, how to live in gratitude.  He taught me more about Himself, showing me just how unreservedly He loves us -- loves me.  He showed me what it is to live in community, and what a healthy marriage feels like.  He enlarged my heart and my family.  He gave me the sisters I had always dreamed of.  He made me a mother.

It's been a good year.

Even with Eve's death, it's been good.  God continues to teach me.  I am learning how to be broken-hearted with ones who need it.  How to love with His kind of love. What it means that He is a rock, unshakeable.

2011 has been good.  The best year of my life.  Even with the loss -- perhaps especially with the loss.


I don't want to leave.  I can't go.  I'm not ready yet.

2012 is too much.  It is filled with dead hopes, and the ever-fading memory of my dead daughter.  The thought that it could ever be spring again is offensive, abhorrent to me.

I am desperate to stay here.  The future is too dark.

Baby Girl November 20, 2011-1

"This very moment is the only one you know you have for sure."

~Oprah Winfrey

Friday, December 30, 2011


*This post contains a photo of our stillborn baby -- if you don't want to see it, don't look.*

 "He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted…To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

~ Isaiah 61:1b-3

"Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

~ Deuteronomy 31:6

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

~ Joshua 1:9

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

~ Hebrews 4:16

"'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.'"

~ Matthew 5:4

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."

~ Psalm 62:5-8

Baby Girl November 20, 2011-2

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Today was really hard.

It doesn't seem like it should have been as hard as it was, though, because there were some really lovely things about today, too.  I got to hang out with two friends who encourage me to talk openly and at length about my grief and pain and anger and doubt and faith and everything.  I am unspeakably grateful for being given this listening, and for these and our other friends.

But even though the visits were good -- great, even -- the hurt bled in around the good.  I left one friend and suddenly, driving to see the other friend, waves of horror and anger overwhelmed me.  And then, a breath later, tears, beads of pain crashing down my face.

It terrifies me, how quickly I can switch from feeling fine to feeling halfway dead.

I keep thinking the grief will bottom out, that it will reach a certain point and not get worse.  That has not happened yet.  I'm not sure if it will.

I really miss Eve.  This week I have missed her more than I ever have since she died.  Maybe it's because now I have our hospital photos and can't look forward to anything else new regarding my baby girl.  These are the first and last photos that will ever be taken of her.  Nothing else is coming.  The reality is starting to sink in, and it hurts.  It hurts more than words allow.

Yesterday I sang along to worship songs in the car as I drove to pick up my husband from work.  One particular song came on, and I remembered that a friend's little boy sings along when it plays on the radio.  In a moment's time I plunged from joyful worship into dizzying pain as I realized that I will never hear Eve singing.  I will never get to stand shoulder to shoulder with her in church and sing love songs to our God.  Not on this side of Heaven, at least, and who can say for sure what Heaven is like anyway?

I want to praise God with my daughter.  I want to watch her grow up into a woman that lets the One pursue her, and pursues Him in return.  I want her.  And I don't want her later, in Heaven, although that's better than nothing.  I want her here, now.  The rest of my days were supposed to be seasoned with her presence.  Instead, her absence is more raw and glaring every day.

I hate this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Here We Are

I painted this yesterday, on a sketchbook cover, during one of Amy’s free classes.  She guided us through some new-to-me techniques I found very exciting.  I enjoyed the new learning.

But what I enjoyed even more was how good it felt to make this.  Although I’ve painted and drawn one time each since Eve died, those attempts didn’t really feel like much.  I think that perhaps I was still in shock over my daughter’s death, because I did both within a week or two of losing her — a time when I wasn’t able to feel much at all, I can now see.

Yesterday, however, was a different story.  I was not focused on what the painting looked like, but on the act of painting itself.  With each brush stroke I felt like I was pushing my pain into the substrate, crying out my grief with paint instead of tears.

And it felt right to make a really sad girl — and the resulting girl certainly does look horribly sad.  In some ways, I feel that this is a painting of me.

But at the same time, it’s not.  Because the girl I painted looks lost in despair, in a kind of living death.  That is not how I feel.  God has saved me from that, at least.

I do, however, feel lost in pain and absence at times.  Confused about the future, since I had thought I was going to be a homeschooling mama for the next twenty years.  Afraid at what awful thing might be around the corner — because in our four short years of marriage, the Best Husband Ever and I have gone through hell in the forms of an eating disorder, depression, and near-divorce.

The hardest thing about grief (so far, anyway) are the wild swings of emotions.  I can feel perfectly normal, even happy, for days at a time — only to crash suddenly, and crash hard.  It’s frustrating, and scary.  I wish that I could just be sad consistently, because then I would know what to expect from each day of this journey.  And while the crashes are painful and terrifying, the periods of normalcy are awful in their own way, because how can I feel so fine when my daughter is dead?  When her body, instead of continuing to dance and live and grow within me toward her January birth, is a pile of plastic-housed ash on my shelf?  Sometimes I worry that I’m going insane.

But I don’t think that my experiences are unusual.  Terrible, perhaps, but not singular.  I am not alone.  That is why I scribbled the words here we are” on the side of this painting— because I am not the only one here in this place of pain and confusion.  Although I would never wish this experience on anyone, I am so glad that I am alone.  Here we are, hearts amputated, all together.

Here We Are

I painted this yesterday, during one of Amy's free live online classes.  She guided us through some interesting, new-to-met techniques that are really exciting to me.  I enjoyed the new learning.

But what I enjoyed even more was how good it felt to make this.  Although I've painted and drawn one time each since Eve died, those attempts didn't really feel like much.  I think that perhaps I was still in shock over my daughter's death, because I did both within a week or two of losing her -- a time when I wasn't able to feel much at all, I can now see.

Yesterday, however, was a different story.  I was not focused on what the painting looked like, but on the act of painting itself.  With each brush stroke I felt like I was pushing my pain into the substrate, crying out my grief with paint instead of tears.

And it felt right to make a really sad girl -- and the resulting girl certainly does look horribly sad.  In some ways, I feel that this is a painting of me.

But at the same time, it's not.  Because the girl I painted looks lost in despair, in a kind of living death.  That is not how I feel.

I do, however, feel lost in pain and absence at times.  Confused about the future, since I had thought I was going to be a homeschool mama for the next twenty years.  Afraid at what awful thing might be around the corner -- because in our four short years of marriage, the Best Husband Ever and I have gone through hell in the forms of an eating disorder, depression, and near-divorce.

The hardest part about grief are the wild swings of emotions.  I can feel perfectly normal, even happy, for days at a time -- only to suddenly crash, and crash hard.  It's frustrating.  I wish that I could just be sad consistently, because then I would know what to expect from this journey.  And while the crashes are painful and terrifying, the periods of normalcy are awful in their own way, because how can I feel so fine when my daughter is dead?  When her body, instead of continuing to dance and live and grow within me toward her January birth, is a pile of plastic-housed ash on my shelf?  Sometimes I worry that I'm going insane.

But I don't think that my experiences are unusual.  Terrible, perhaps, but not singular.  I am not alone.  That is why I scribbled the words "here we are" on the side of this creation (painted on a sketchbook cover) -- because I am not the only one here in this place of pain and confusion.  Although I would never wish this experience on anyone, I am so glad that I am alone.  Here we are, hearts amputated, all together.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Living the Paradox, Part Two

this is my grief

how am I, really?

this is my love

Submitted to the Sweet Pea Project's community expressions wall.  The wall will be a part of five, the babyloss art exhibit opening in Lancaster, PA, on January 15, 2012.  These note cards as well as some of my photographs and writing will join the submissions of many others in order to honor the too-many dead children and to spread awareness about just how prevalent miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infancy loss is.  One in four pregnancies ends in death in the United States alone, yet I never knew that it was so horrifically common until it happened to me.

Read Living the Paradox, Part One.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The First Chritmas, Part Two

Today was supposed to be our last Christmas before our first child was born into our world.  Instead, it was our first Christmas without the daughter we had hoped for.  I expected to be lost in grief today.

But it wasn't like that.  Instead of darkness, instead of heaviness, God brought us joy for Christmas.  Impossible, miraculous joy.

I expected a day drowned by tears.  But instead I was buoyed laughter and gratitude and music and love.  Celebration.  The best Christmas I have ever experienced.

How is this possible?

The only answer I can scrape together is that today, perhaps, I have finally experienced what Christmas really is: the impossible gift.

I am blessed.

Read The First Christmas, Part One . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The First Christmas

Eve's first ornament

Today should have been our last Christmas.  Our last Christmas before a lifetime of Christmases with our soon-to-be-here daughter, our first child.  This was supposed to be our last Christmas without children.  It was to be the last milestone before her birth.  I should have been rubbing my humongous belly and happily bemoaning swollen ankles and a squashed bladder and baby kicks keeping me up nights.

Instead, our child is dead, stillborn.  This Christmas is still a marker, a milestone, but not in the way that I expected.  Instead of being the last date of joyful expectancy before our two grew into three, it is the first in a lifetime of anniversaries and milestones that remind us that we are missing a much-loved part of our family.  It is the first Christmas in a life forever changed by the first-hand knowledge of how wrong things can go.  It is my first Christmas with an amputated heart.

This is made all the more difficult by the fact that on Christmas we celebrate birth.  We celebrate a pregnancy that was even more God-breathed than most, and we celebrate the Savior-Child that was born.  Everywhere I go I hear songs of the coming baby, of Mary's joy, of arms cradling life.

It is hard.

But then I remember -- this Child came to die.  His one purpose on this earth was to die, and to save us by His death.  What's more, His Father let Him go to this death, a death marked by horror and inhumanity and betrayal.  I can't imagine, can't imagine the screaming pain of choosing that for your child.  The hurt of my own child's loss is so deep, so pervasive, and she was only taken from me.  If I had chosen to let her die . . . the pain of that choice is unfathomable to me.

But God willingly chose His precious Son's death.  And Jesus willingly accepted it.  So even though the bounding Christmas festivities rub salt against my raw and wounded heart, I can't help but remember -- this Child whose birth we celebrate, He was born to die.  And so are we -- born to die to ourselves that we might have the Life that is offered and, in turning our faces toward the sun, turn others with us.

This does not take away the nightmare of Eve's death, but it makes it feel less meaningless.  I wonder if she, in her short life, lived a mircocosmic version of what all our lives should be -- born dead, but received into the arms of the Life-Giver.  Born that her death might change the hearts of others.  Born dead to turn us -- to turn me -- toward Home.

This does not make Eve's absence hurt less, but it is something.  It is something real and good and worthy.  I am grateful to have this, even if I can't have her.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Beginning of Grief

*There's a photo of our stillborn baby in this post.  If you don't want to see her, go away.*

“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of 'parties' with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.”

~ Sylvia Plath

Yesterday we received the professional photos taken of us and Eve at the hospital.  I have been looking forward to viewing this photos since we arrived home, without her.  I couldn't wait to see her again.

But yesterday when I finally got to look at the photos, it was not a happy occasion.  It was horrible.

I think I expected too much from these photos.  Maybe I thought I was going to get to experience Eve again.  Maybe some part of me even thought that, if I could just look at the photos, she wouldn't really be dead.

But I looked, and she is dead.

Looking at the photos is not the same as looking at her.

Even more horrible: I can't remember what our daughter looked like.  I couldn't remember her face even the day after we left the hospital.  I could only remember features -- her mouth, her nose, the curling of her ears, her longer fingers, the smoothness of her cheeks, the softness of her forehead, her curly dark hair.  But I could not get these features, precious memories though they are, to resolve into her face.

So now, when I look at the photos, I am not sure if I am even looking at her.  I can't remember.  My memory has failed already.  My body failed, a living death chamber, and now my mind is following.

That's what it feels like anyway.

But I am grateful for the photos.  I am so glad that we have them.  I look at them and see my love for our daughter, our firstborn, and I see the love between myself and my husband.  I see the pain of her death.  I feel the amputation, the miracle, the sorrow of it all.

Today I feel, at last, that she is dead.  She is not coming back, not ever.  I will never hold her, smell her, cry over her body, smooth the worry lines from her face.  Never again.  It is over.

I feel destroyed.

Baby Girl November 20, 2011-12

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Living the Paradox

"I see now that my faith was becoming an ally rather than an enemy because I could vent anger freely, even toward God, without fearing retribution."

~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

This grief thing is so . . . strange.  It's hard and confusing sometimes, feels good other times, and is unpredictable all the time.  That's the most difficult part, aside from the reason why I grieve -- that I can't predict when I will a certain way.  Sometimes I can't stop crying all day, then suddenly the tears stop without warning and I feel completely normal a moment later.  Sometimes I feel like I want to scream and scream at the horror of the reality that our daughter is dead, dead before she was born.  And sometimes (like this weekend) I feel angry beyond reasoning.

Today I feel normal again.  I wish I could cry, turn on the tears whenever I felt the need (which is often).  I understand tears.  I understand wildly swinging emotions.  After all, my baby died a month ago, died inside me, gone before I could even try to help her.

But this normalcy?  It makes no sense.  I want to cry.  I have a reason to cry.  Why can't I cry?

My therapist says that these breaks between the sadness, these bouts of normalcy are in themselves normal.  A part of the grief process.  No cause for concern.

But I am concerned.  Because I have a lot of experience pushing my emotions down and down, burying them under layers of self-delusion.  Because that suppression resulted in an eating disorder that almost cost me everything -- my life, my marriage, my friends, my sanity.  I have a reason to fear normalcy.

Here, though, is another example of the many paradoxes I find myself experiencing at every turn.  Because while my past makes me fear that the destructive "coping" habits will reemerge and claim me for good this time, I am also grateful that I had an eating disorder that taught me healthy ways to deal.  That my years of excruciating struggle with mental illness equipped me with the tools I need to guide me through this grief.

Another paradox: although losing my only daughter, firstborn, is unimaginably hard, I can still look back at this year and say without hesitation that has been the best year of my life (so far).  How is that possible?  My daughter is dead . . . yet I feel unimaginably blessed.  I have never felt so whole and healthy.  As for why, I can only point at God.

And yet another paradox: that while I do feel angry at God (an anger that is already fading as my heart melts before the memory of His many mercies), I can't stop talking to Him.  I can't stop pointing at Him as the source of my life.  And I don't want to stop.  If He's not who He says He is, then nothing else matters.

Another: that this loss has strengthened all the relationships in my life.  How can death do this?  It seems impossible.  And yet I feel closer to my husband, to my friends and family, and (here is the best part) to everyone else in the world.  My painful vulnerability also gifts me with new eyes to see the world more accurately -- a place that is broken, that is full of horror, that is not how it's supposed to be.  A world populated with the suffering.  I feel angry -- not the stubborn, ego-stroking anger of this weekend, but righteous anger (I think, anyway).  Anger that partners with God, that hurts with the hurt.  Anger that says I want to stand with you in your suffering -- and "you" means everyone.

And this, the greatest paradox of all: while I would never wish for Eve's death, while her death is like the amputation of a limb that I will learn to live without but will never regain, I am grateful for how I have grown so far.  I am grateful that her death and my pain are not wasted.  I am glad that there is life and gain to be had here in the midst of suffering.

Of course, I might feel differently tomorrow.  But I hope that this is where I will keep coming back to.

Look at that -- I hoped!  All is not lost.  And this, this is what I hope for with all that I am, where I hope I will land and root deeply in the end:

"Gifts of grace come to all of us.  But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts.  It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can still be good -- good in a different way then before, but nevertheless good.  I will never recover from my loss and I will never got over missing the ones I lost.  But I still cherish life. . . .  I will always want the ones I lost back again.  I long for them with all my soul.  But I still celebrate the life I have found because they are gone.  I have lost, but I have also gained.  I lost the world I loved, but I gained a deeper awareness of grace.  That grace has enabled me to clarify my purpose in life and rediscover the wonder of the present moment."

~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised (emphasis added)

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="A journal entry written just after I became pregnant. Now my heart is full of love for everyone, thanks to the love that grew in me for her."][/caption]


Monday, December 19, 2011

This Is How It Is

Today I went shopping for scrapbook supplies. I am making a scrapbook for Eve. I was going to make one for her anyway, or rather a scrapbook of my first pregnancy. Now I'm making a scrapbook to remember my dead daughter.

But all of the store's stickers and papers and such were too happy. Too pastel, too bright. They grated on my soul. One package offered the word "carefree" in bold yellow lettering. I don't think I will ever be carefree again.

Where do you go to find supplies for your dead child's scrapbook? For stickers that say, "Baby Girl, we miss you terribly"?

There was another woman browsing the scrapbook aisles with me. She was toting a baby along in a carrier, both of them painfully unaware of how wrong things can go. Or were they unaware? My wound is invisible, at least to strangers. Who's to say that every new mama I grit my teeth at isn't babylost, too?

Sometimes the world feels too horrible. But I'm glad I'm not alone in this. That I have the Best Husband Ever and friends and other mothers whose babies are dead, all of us standing together in the pain.

And then there's God.

I don't like Him very much right now. I realized today why exactly that is.

I feel like He let me down.

Of course, even as I think that, as I growl that at Him, I remember all the ways that He hasn't let me down. All the ways in which I must begrudgingly admit He is carrying me.

But still. I feel let down.

So I tell Him that. I don't know what else to do. Praying is impossible. At first, all I could pray was: I hurt. I hurt. I hurt. And now it's: Why?? How could You? How could You?

He knows what I'm thinking. How I hate Him. I might as well tell Him. I just wish that He would answer back. With words that I can hear. Discernment is a joke right now. I want the clouds to part and the words to thunder back.

So, the scrapbook. I have all of my supplies, but I am afraid to begin. It feels too painful. The pink book that will house it all is horribly cheerful looking. Is it enough to hold what little memories that I have of her? I am afraid to begin.

And I am also afraid not to begin. Already the memories are slipping away. We haven't received our professional photographs from the hospital yet, so I must turn to the two cell phone photos I have to remind me what Eve looked like. I can remember her nose, her ears, her dark curls, her hands, her lips. I can remember the softness of her forehead beneath my fingers, the cool smoothness of her cheek. I can remember how she felt in my arms. But I can't put it all together in my mind. Her face eludes me.

So I look at the cell phone pictures, and it's a shock every time, being reminded of how not normal she looked. She was perfect, my nurses and doctor told us, but she was born nine weeks too early, and dead, and she looked it. And the cell phone didn't help any, these poor quality images a paltry replacement. But they're all I have so I look at them anyway.

And after the shock my heart melts. I fall in love all over again with that little girl that was ours, for a little while. And then immensity of the loss of her hits me afresh, and I hurt and I hurt and I hurt.

"This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
Our God is in control"

~ Steven Curtis Chapman (from Beauty Will Rise)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Month Later, Part Two

All dressed up

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'”

~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Today I reached an ugly place.  A place where I don't want to hope any more.  It seems too much, too hard.

I don't want to hope that Eve wasn't our last child.  I don't want to be pregnant with anyone else but her.  I don't want to have to endure months of waiting for a child that dies before it lives.  I don't want to have to birth a dead baby again.

I don't want to hope that she's in Heaven.  Because if God is a "good gift giver" but lets babies die, lets people starve, lets husbands beat their wives, lets us live these lives of pain -- then what kind of place is Heaven?

I don't want to hope that His "good" is actually good.

I don't want to hope that God is still here, still loving.  That He sees me as anything more than a plaything, a subject to experiment upon.

It seems easier to not get my hopes up.  To not look forward with expectation.  To live only right here, right now.  To keep my head down.  To make what little I can of this life.

Hope seems foolish, idiotic.  How can I hope?

I hate hope.

(I wanted to end this post -- this rant -- there, but I can't deny that there's something niggling at my brain.  Or my heart?  Something that refuses my refusal.  Could it be God?  But I don't want to trust it.  Is it possible that God's love is more than my own wishful thinking?)

Day 26 / Feeling battered

One Month Later

So, here it is.  One month beyond giving birth to death.

It seems impossible that already a month has passed -- that only a month has passed.  Is it December?  Life stood still on the birthday of my daughter on November 20, two days after she died.

We got our autopsy results this week.  Nothing was discovered, nothing could be named as the cause.  She's perfect, my nurses and doctor kept saying after she left my body.  Perfect, except for being dead.

The lack of cause is frustrating, but also encouraging.  It means that nothing could have been done, that there was no way to predict this -- and, God willing, that there is no reason why it should happen again.

Not to us, please.  Not again.

Every day is filled with a thousand tiny reminders of what we've lost, a thousand opportunities to feel physical pain at the refreshing of grief.  Invisible knife wounds in my chest, my stomach, again and again and again.  I don't know why I don't bleed.

I want to scream all the time.  Scream pain, scream anger, scream at this nightmare, a wail that never ends.  But I'm afraid that if I start screaming at the horror of it all, I won't be able to stop.  That I'll be screaming forever.  So I feel the knife wounds and scream and scream silently, the hellish sound echoing only inside me.

Today it seemed that there were pregnant women everywhere.  Little daughters with dark curling hair everywhere.  My daughter had dark hair, curling.  Now she's ash and all that's left is the tiniest chocolate lock, tucked away in its box for fear that I'll lose what little I have of her.

Sleep has become hard to come by again.  She is in every dream.  Even if the dream is not about her, she is there, behind it all, the lack of her inescapable.

I can't believe that she's dead.  I can't believe that she ever lived.  How can this be happening?

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.   But no, that is not quite accurate.  There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can't avoid.  I mean my own body.  It had such a different importance while it was the body of [her mother].  Now it's like an empty house.”

~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (slightly altered by me)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tangled Faith

“Oh God, God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell if it is now doomed to crawl back -- to be sucked back -- into it?”

~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Thoughts and questions of faith are filling me up.  Yesterday, a friend asked the Best Husband Ever and I how losing Eve has and is affecting our faith.  Such a difficult, profound question.  How can I tell of the complexity of hope and fear and doubt and love occupying my every breath?  But it is one that every part of me longs to be answered.

There is love, and there is gratitude.  After Eve died, everything was as easy as it could possibly have been.  An unshakeable peace, a short labor, easy delivery, no complications, a quick-healing body, safety from postpartum depression -- not to mention the courageous, empathetic love that our friends and family have surrounded us with since we invited them into our loss.  God has not left us alone in this.

But there are also questions, doubts.  Because if God could grace us with every mercy in our grief, why couldn't He save our daughter?  Why didn't He stop her from dying?  How does that  not-saving speak of His love?  And if He did not spare her, what next loss and affliction is about to descend on me that He will not prevent?   The future is a tangle of fear.

And yet, the future is filled with hope.  With Eve, He rekindled my desire for a family, my desire to be a mama, to bear children.  That hope had all but died when my husband and I both thought that my reproductive system was a casulty of my battle with disordered eating.  And then, miraculously, we were pregnant.  Impossibly, wonderfully expectant.

Here the fear and confusion return, though.  What if we can't have any more biological children?  What will I think of God then?  Why would He rekindle my maternal desires only to kill them in practically the same moment?  I fear that if I ever have to ask these questions truly, bitterness will forever sour my heart against God and hope and life.

But today I discovered that one of the many other babylost women that were "introduced" to me via Facebook following Eve's death birthed her second child yesterday.  A beautiful boy, alive and healthy barely a year after her first child was born dead.  That gives me hope.

It's strange -- through it all I can't help but hope.  I can't help but believe in the God willing to sacrifice His most precious One for us, for someone like me -- no, for me specifically.  For you specifically.  Why else would He do that except for love, except that He longs for the best for us, for the way things were meant to be?  I can't believe in anything other than a grace-giving, good God.  It seems that He saw Eve's death coming and, although He did not prevent it, He prepared us for it.  He made me able to weather this horrible storm -- something that I could not have done even a year ago.  Why else would He make me able to survive if He didn't care for me?  If He didn't have good plans for me?  But now I also begin to wonder if perhaps my definition of "good" is not the same as His.

How has Eve's death affected my faith?  This post is the jumbled beginning of an answer, but I suspect that I won't know anything for years and years and years.  Right now I am too close to the knotted tapestry of this life to be able to discern anything more than tangles.

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.”

~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


P1180239God, I love you.

I hate that Eve is dead, that for whatever reason You didn't save her life.  But I love You and all that You seem to be (merciful, saving, loving, deeply caring -- and more that I don't yet know or cannot fathom).  And I know that she is with You, safe.  Complete, as the Best Husband Ever murmured to me in the hospital as we said good-bye to our precious first child, our only daughter.

I have hope for her.  That hope is strong.

But my hope for me . . . that is not as strong.  There is much fear.

Will we have living children?  I feel that the answer is "Yes," but is that just wishful thinking?  Yesterday I thought that we will have a son next (soon?) and name him Jacob.  Will this happen?

I had all but given up on having children at all, Daddy.  But then I got pregnant, and even though Eve is gone from us, the desire for a family that YOU refreshed is stronger than ever.  Please don't let me down.

You have already fulfilled many other deep desires that I had never bothered hoping for because I did not think them possible.  But you have shown me what a healthy [church] family looks like and feels like.  You have given me sisters.  And You even gave me a daughter.

I miss her so much.  I miss the life I thought we might have.

What will You do now?  What are you up to??

It seems ludicrous to trust You, to trust that You won't take another baby away, that you won't leave us childless, leave me bereft in unrealized hopes for a family.

But that's all that I can do.  I can't help but trust You.  Nothing else is certain.  Because although my heart is broken, I find you right here, with me (Psalm 34:18).  Help me to trust You more, to lean on you harder, hope in You deeper.  I can do all things in Jesus, Your son.  You lost a child, too, for a while.

Let me breathe You, Abba Father (Psalm 34:2).  I love You.  I can't help it.  Lead on. . . .

A friend sent me this song by Mercy Me.  It is ministering to my heart in such an exquisite way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011



Today should have been my baby shower.  If all had gone according to plan, I would have been getting ready right now.  But instead of preparing to celebrate new life, I'm writing this, grief-stricken.

After weeks of not knowing the date or day of the week, last night my brain collected itself enough to realize what was supposed to happen today.  I fell asleep feeling heavy, beaten, expecting to feel even worse in the morning.

But I didn't feel worse.  I felt, impossibly, better.

Perhaps I don't actually feel better.  In fact, I'm pretty sure -- I won't feel "better," permanently, for a long, long while.

But still, I felt less sad, less overwhelmed when I woke this morning.  Maybe I have simply come to the end of the extent of emotions that I can feel.  Maybe I will feel worse tomorrow.  But I am grateful for today's respite.

Especially because of what today was supposed to be.

As awful as the reality is -- my only child, my daughter, is dead before she was born -- everyday I feel more grateful for the many mercies I have experienced she she died.  The more I read of other women's stillbirth stories, the more reasons I have for saying thank you to God.

Because my labor was short and easy, and my delivery consisted of three pushes.  Some babylost women push for hours.  That might have broken me.

Because from the instant that we shared our awful news, we were surrounded by loved ones and prayer and love.  Because so many people, friends and strangers alike, continue to mourn with us, to ask after us, to encourage us to feel the pain so that we can all walk through it together.  Many babylost mothers mourn alone, abandoned in their sorrow.

Because my physical healing was fast, practically instant from how little my body was affected.  Some babylost women bleed and bleed and retain their pregnant bellies for weeks, forced to questions of "When is the baby due?"

Because my husband (truly, the Best Husband Ever), encourages me to tell him what I feel, to cry in his arms, to take the time I need to heal.  I imagine that many women are rushed along by their partners, impatient for these mothers to "get over it."

Because God really is a God of peace and hope, peace and hope that have stayed with me from the hospital to our daughter's memorial to this very moment.  Other babylost parents are imprisoned by despair and hopelessness, unable to heal.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Today was supposed to be my baby shower.  I expected to be lost in sadness right now.

But instead I am miraculously lost in gratitude.  Because my friends remembered what today was supposed to be, and loved me through it.  Because my friends don't shy away from this scary and awful thing, but invite me to share.  Because they are brokenhearted with me.  Because what should have been a nightmare is a beautiful love story of community and grace and God.  Because they are not afraid to hope with me.

And I am hopeful.  Not because I know what the future will bring -- more loss? infertility? worse? -- but because that I know I will not experience it alone.

Although today was supposed to be my baby shower, I do feel impossibly, miraculously showered in the love and hope and grace of the people walking through this with me.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Dear Eve

I took the dogs to the mountains today.  It was the first time I'd been there since you died.  I didn't expect the usual trails to make me sad, but they did, because you and I walked them together so many times.

How strange that the ground is frozen hard, that the paths I walked today are covered in snow that you will never see, never play in, never build dream castles and hideaways from.  How is it that you do not know snow, but you do know death?

How is it that the world goes on and on, and I cannot leave the moment that I said good-bye to you?

And it's not just snow that you'll never experience, but breath and sun and night and grass.  The bristling softness of your dog-brothers' fur.  Your father's arms.  My skin against yours.

We had plans for you.  You were supposed to keep us up nights, to learn to laugh, to walk.  We were supposed to be curly-haired together.  You were supposed to snuggle with you daddy at night, to giggle at the silly faces he'd make.You were supposed to make fun of our quaintness as we grew old and wrinkled.

It seems impossible that you've traveled the expanse from life to death before us.

The sun seems too bright, the snow too pristine for these feelings I have.  How can the world look so beautiful, but my chest feel so hollow?

It's a curious dichotomy:

In the midst of deepest pain,

despite death, hope

and Love --
love that will not fail

Though I feel that I am drowning in sorrow, I feel sure that I will not be lost.   When I feel alone, I am surrounded.  Although death has claimed you, I cannot feel sad because you are where I long to be, safe in His arms.

I miss you.  I missed you on my walk today -- my walk that should have been our walk, you safe inside me, me safe from the knowledge of how fast, how silently everything can go wrong.

I cannot stop missing you.  I don't think I will ever stop missing you.


The story does not end here.  I am sure of this, even while I am sure of nothing else.  The final word on the final page of the Story that weaves through all stories is hope.

I can't help but trust in that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Asking Why

And you don't realize how good you have it
There are things worse than sleepless nights with cranky infants
There are sleepless nights alone

I am starting to feel that all this is very unfair.  I can accept that bad things happen, that we live in a broken world, that tragedy strikes.  What I am starting to have a hard time with, however, is that this particular bad thing happened to us.

When there are women aborting their babies . . .

When there are parents who don't want to be parents . . .

When there are parents who shouldn't be parents, who harm their children . . .

When there are probably thousands of people who would be glad for a miscarriage or stillbirth to end their unwanted pregnancy . . . why did this happen to us?  Why were we the one pregnancy out of two hundred that ended a baby dead before she breathed?  Why, when we loved our daughter so deeply and wanted her in our live so desperately, was she the one that had to die?

I know that there are no answers, nor a reason behind Eve's death other than that bad things happen.  It helps when I remember that God knows this pain -- that He lost a child, too.  The cross has taken on a whole new meaning.  And I know that my baby is with God, and I can only be happy about that.  I am not sad for her.

But I am sad for me, and for my husband.  I am sad because we didn't just lose a child -- we lost an entire future.  I am grieving not only Eve, but also how I will never see her evolve into a woman, that I will never make her a birthday cake, that our house will never be filled with her laughter and burbles and tears.  I am sad because I am a mother without her child.  I am sad because I don't know what will become of me now.

I am sad because I have lost the safe naivete that pregnancy always ends happily.  I am sad because the joy of pregnancy is forever ruined for me, because any future pregnancies will be exercises in staving off terror.  I am sad because I have learned in the hardest of ways just how precious life is, and that makes me nearly dissolve with fear at more loss, especially of any future children we might have.

I am sad because we wanted our daughter.  We wanted her so badly.  And now she's gone.  How can I ever feel safe again?

I know that there are no answers -- well, nearly.  There is God.  There is always God.  I am so happy that, even with her tiny life, our Eve turned so many eyes to Him.  And while it is tempting to let the swelling fear overwhelm me, I know that He will carry me through -- through this moment, the coming months, any future pregnancies, and beyond.  He is big enough to withstand my questions, my anger, my broken sobs that come in the morning.

Is that -- is He -- an answer to my "why" questions, to my sadness?  I don't know.  I just know that He is enough.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Two Weeks Later

{in progress}

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were preparing to check into the hospital to birth our dead daughter.  It seems impossible that just fifteen days ago life was normal, unmarked by tragedy.  That my biggest concern was whether I'd continue to fit into my maternity pants until January 20, our due date.  I look back at photos from that time, that before-she-died time, and feel afraid.  It seems like such an awful thing should be preceded by a feeling of dread, an ominous portent, but instead my photos are peaceful, perhaps even naive.

These past two weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for me.  I have felt so many things -- from numb shock to sorrow to fear to anger to the loneliness of grief.  I've even felt almost normal at times, which seems shocking to admit.  I've been trying to get out of the house regularly, to not isolate myself, but going out into the world hurts.  It feels too rough and cold and cheerful all at the same time.  It hurts.  I hurt.

But yesterday I drew for the first time since we lost Eve.  I had been afraid that any attempts to make art in the same whimsical mixed media style would be painful.  Would remind me of how much had been lost.  So I had been putting it off . . . but yesterday I felt ready, and gave it a try.

It felt good.  Not painful, not draining.  Instead, it felt healing.  It felt like coming back to myself, the person that I was before all this happened.  I am so grateful.

It is so hard, this hurting, this losing.  And there is so much fear, which is something I did not expect -- fear of what will become of me, of my marriage, of what kind of mother I could possibly be after this should we ever be able to have a surviving child.  But there has also been grace and mercy, again unexpected and both larger than the fear.  God has not pulled away from my tears, from my questions, but instead I feel Him more closely.  The same is true for my marriage -- this loss has bound my husband and I together even more sweetly, another unlooked for gift.  And on top of all that my physical situation has been surprising; there was/is minimal soreness and bleeding, and my breast milk dried up in less than the projected two weeks.

Seemingly small mercies become large, and deep pain becomes bearable, even surprisingly survivable -- that seems to be the prevailing lesson of these past weeks.  Sometimes I wonder if I will make it through this intact, but most times I feel certain that I will.  I will be okay.  Everything will.  This story does not end with death and grief.  It ends with God and life and peace and completion.  The truth of that holds back the darkness.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Last week we had a heartbreaking thing happen -- we lost our baby at 31 weeks of pregnancy.  On Friday, November 18, I noticed that I had not felt her kick in a while, so we went to the hospital.  After investigating, our doctor confirmed what I could already see on the ultrasound machine's screen -- our baby had died.We went home that night, and spent Saturday making sure that our dogs had a home for the weekend, tidying up the house, and packing for our hospital stay.  On Saturday night, we checked into labor and delivery and began the process of inducing labor.  From Saturday night through Sunday morning, our loving nurses placed pills near my cervix in order to ripen it.  I began to get very uncomfortable, and at ten o' clock on Sunday morning I received an epidural that eased me greatly.

At noon we started the pitocin drip, stimulating contractions.  The contractions came on fast and strong, and I began to feel them quite intensely on my left side in spite of the epidural.  I received an extra boost on the epidural, which ended up coming just in time for delivery.  I began to feel intense pressure as our baby started to crown.  Our nurses and doctor cried with us as I delivered our little one in three pushes.  She was born at 3:43 PM on Sunday, November 20.  She was seventeen inches long and weighed three pounds and three ounces.  We named her Eve.

As I had requested earlier, they took Eve away to bathe and clothe her, then shortly returned her to us.  First my husband held her and showed her to me, and I sobbed, thinking how dead she looked.  But then something in me shifted, and I began to see how beautiful she was.  Soon I was cradling our daughter in my arms, so in love with this little person that we will never truly know.  She had my husband's face and my dark curly hair and the longest, most graceful fingers.

My husband and I feel so blessed that we have friends and family that lovingly surrounded us during this time.  They visited us regularly at the hospital both before and after Eve was born, and many of them got to hold her.  I am so glad that we got to share her with them.

Soon, however, Eve's body began to deteriorate.  Stillborn babies' skin is very delicate, and from our handling of her she began to look more dead.  I felt okay with this, though -- it left no room for delusions that we could keep her, that she could stay with us.  Sometime around 8:00 Sunday evening, the Best Husband Ever and I said our good-byes to our little girl.

After discussing our options with our doctor, we decided to have an autopsy and genetic testing done to see if a reason for Eve's death can be found.  However, we are expecting there to be no known cause -- at this late of gestation, we learned, the main causes of death are cord complications, preexisting conditions in the mother, or some other obvious physical problem with the baby -- none of which were present in our situation.

Although this is a tragedy and hard to bear, we are not blind to the many blessings we have experienced over this past week: friends and family standing with us, praying, loving us, crying when we couldn't, supporting us at our weakest -- extraordinarily loving nurses who were an answer to prayer -- the fact that Eve was beautiful and largely unblemished, something that is not true for all stillborn babies -- a fast and easy delivery without complications . . .

. . . and, of course, the God who is big enough.  Who knows what it means to lose a child.  Who can withstand our anger and questions, should those ever emerge.  Who hurts with us.  Who loves us.

We are so blessed.

This weekend we held a memorial for Eve at our church.  Again, our friends and family surrounded us in a profoundly empathetic way.  At the service, our pastor read an email I had written earlier in the week.  I had decided  to give him the email to do with as he liked -- to read all or part of, or just let it inform his own words -- because it was written without any thought of being shared with the world, and so is the truest thing I can say about this experience.  I've been asked to post it, and so here it is, with photos of our remembrances of little Eve to follow:

We're home now.  Leaving the hospital felt absolutely glorious, but coming home was hard.  Most of our baby-related stuff is closed up in our spare bedroom, which is good for now, but I know that dealing with it will be hard when the times comes.

I am so grateful for the people in our lives -- you and our other friends and family have surrounded us in such a special way.  I feel so blessed.  God is good.

I am especially blessed by my husband.  I already knew that he is the Best Husband Ever for me, but he is proving that even more true every moment.  I am so thankful that he is the one I get to walk through this with.  He has been so gentle and open and giving.

We have been getting visits from friends and family really regularly since Saturday evening, but we are setting aside today to just be alone together with God and our feelings and the memory of little Eve.  Tomorrow we have a doctor's appointment and perhaps some more visits.  We'll be spending Thanksgiving with J's family and my mom, and we are going to have a memorial for Eve at church on Friday morning.

After that . . . I feel like that is when the real hard stuff will begin.  When it's easy for other people to heal and move on, but we (or even just I) still feel so much sadness.  Our nurse at the hospital gave us some reading on grief, and one of the papers said that we should expect the grieving process to take up to two years.  I can't imagine.  It feels too long.


I also don't feel like that takes God into account.  Of course we are still early on in the process, so maybe things will get much worse than I can imagine...but I can't help but trust God.  I feel like Edmund in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when monsters are howling around him and the White Witch is shrieking condemnation and hate at him...and Edmund is simply gazing at Aslan.  Because that's all that he can do.  Because that's the best that he can do.

I don't know if that makes sense...but I know that God promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, and now I find that that is the only sure thing I have right now.  Because the life-giving attention of our friends and family will fade, because they are only human.  Because J might heal from this far faster than I do, leaving me alone in experiencing these feelings.  Because I might lose J, too (this is a very big fear right now).  Because nothing in this whole world lasts except God.

I don't know why the promise of God to never leave us never felt real until now.  Maybe I relied too much on feeling Him emotionally instead of trusting Him in all ways (intellectually when emotion failed, as it always does).  Maybe I never really believed that He would back up His promises.  I don't know...but now I know that nothing else is permanent except His promises.  It's so comforting.

So far we have been pretty protected from asking the "why" questions -- Why would God let this happen?  Why isn't He good enough/big enough/loving enough to give us back our daughter?  I don't know -- those questions just seem empty.  We can't know why God let this happen.  But I also don't believe that God will waste this.  I mean, I feel like He predominantly uses hard things or "bad" things to shape us, to draw us close, to change our hearts so that we can change the world, even if just in some small way. 

So while I don't know if there is a particular meaning or reason behind Eve's death, I don't feel like this opportunity will be wasted by God.  I know that I already feel my faith being strengthened by this (at least in some other ways, it's easy to doubt...but I wonder if those doubts will ease as I heal) -- and I know that God has been using infant-related hardships to shape our church family over the past year or year and a half.  My hope is that Eve's death will help draw my parents and other unbelieving family members closer to God so that He can heal their hearts and lives.  And those are just the things that I can see from here -- who knows how far the ripples of this could spread.  I am hopeful.