Monday, January 30, 2012

Still Grateful

In October, I started keeping a gratitude journal.  Inspired by Ann Voskamp, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God via thanksgiving.  I counted two hundred eighty nine small and large gifts -- and then my daughter died, without warning, without cause, before she was born.

After giving birth and returning from the hospital with empty arms, I began to continue recording my thanks.  At first, I was afraid to.  How could I be thankful for anything in the wake of such tragedy, in the caverns of such pain?  And yet, there were gifts.

Today, I have nine hundred eighty two gifts recorded in my gratitude journal.  Of those nearly one thousand gifts, six hundred ninety three were recorded after my daughter's death.

I am amazed, and I am grateful.

Here are some of the gifts I am finding as I battle my way through the excruciating passing of the days (sixty four days, to be exact, since she was born dead).

#772... spaghetti for dinner
#773... feeling energized and hopeful at some parts of the day
#774... returning to A Grace Disguised after too long
#775... snuggling with the Best Husband Ever on the couch
#776... watching the Buffy musical with the Best Husband Ever
#777... . . . and hearing him sing along
#778... receiving a letter from God (!!!)
#779... realizing just how much better (yes, better) my life is now from a year ago
#780... clean sheets
#781... making the bed with my husband

On Mondays, I catch you up on the beautiful gifts -- both large and small, hard and comfortable -- that God has been throwing my way. Read more about my gratitude adventure here, and start your own One Thousand Gifts adventure by clicking on the banner below.

I am also linking up with Small Bird Studios as we celebrate hope even through our grief.

What are you feeling grateful for today?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

They Don't Know

Since my daughter died inside me, I have been commended by many people.

You are so brave, they say.  Your faith is so great.

They say that because they don't know.  They don't know the truth.

They don't know how, the night we arrived home from the hospital without our daughter and for many nights after that, I lay on the bed, alone, and cried out to God for comfort, for answers, and heard nothing.  How I hated Him for that.

They don't know how I was crippled with fear that my daughter, because she died before she was born, was not enjoying Heaven (I am no longer afraid of this).  How I was paralyzed by the terror that my husband would also die too young and too soon (I am still afraid of this).

They don't know that I tried to stop believing in God.  How disgusted I felt that a so-called loving God would let a deeply cherished, innocent child die before she drew breath.

They don't know how in spite of myself I could not shut God out.  That, no matter how hurt and angry and hateful I felt about Him, I could not not believe.  That whatever faith I have is because of Him, not me.

They don't know how I raged at this God who wouldn't save my daughter and wouldn't let me go.  How I asked Him to let me die, too.

They don't know that I hate to read the Bible now.  That I am afraid of coming across passages that wound me with their words of how God brings pregnancies to fruition, because the first-fruit of my pregnancy was death.

They don't know how afraid I am all of the time.  Afraid of what will become of me, or not become of me.  Afraid that I have been ruined.  Afraid of the future, because the future is a gaping void threatening to devour.  Afraid that I will die alone.  Afraid that, for the rest of my life, I will only lose and lose and lose.

They don't know how God has met me in ways small and large.  How deepest grief and sharpest fear have enlarged my soul with the sweetest intimacy with my Maker that I have ever known.  That this intimacy is because He is reteaching me to interact  Him, and not because I prayed the perfect prayers or kept a perfect faith.

They don't know that, even with this reteaching of prayer, I cannot pray.  I cannot pray for material needs, for practical requests, because I do not know what prayer means now that I prayed for my daughter and she died.

The people who say that I am brave and that I am faithful -- they don't know how terrified I am, how doubting, and how weak.  They don't know that it's not me doing the things they see me doing, but God.  God, and God, and God again -- hearing every broken sob, tasting every tear, healing every part of me.

If I am brave, it is with the courage that He has given me.  If I am faithful, if I am trusting, it is with belief whose genesis is in Him.  If I lived only by my own power and strength, I would not be able to breathe, let alone stand, let alone trust.

I am nothing.  God is everything.

For that I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I feel so done.

Grief is really hard.  Yes, there are some gifts to be found within it -- but those gifts don't make the reality of death any easier.  The cavern in my soul is just as deep, just as black.  The gifts of grief only dress the edges of the darkness up a bit.

I keep wondering why I didn't die, too.

I have a really, really hard time envisioning any kind of a future for myself.  This, apparently, is a part of PTSDOfficially defined as "numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by . . . a sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)."

That doesn't make me feel any better.

Well, that's not completely true.  I suppose it's good to know that it's normal to have no sense of future in the midst of grieving traumatic loss.  But that doesn't make the future any easier to face.

I can't believe that it's already January 25.  That it's almost February.  The first Valentine's Day that I was supposed to celebrate with a baby on my hip draws closer.  And after that the first Mother's Day with empty arms, and then the beginning of the first anniversary season of my pregnant days.  A future of wondering if that family I almost had will ever exist.

I am tired.  I want to be done.  This is awful.  I can't stop crying, and don't think I ever will.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two Months Later

Two months ago today, I held my daughter in my arms for the first and last time.

It's hard to believe that it's already and only been two months.

Looking back, I feel amazed that I survived those two months, especially the days immediately we after we received the worst news that parents can hear -- that our daughter had died before she breathed, of no known cause.  I was in shock, unable to feel my grief, to cry, to wail for my loss.  I felt strangely normal.

And yet, looking back from today, I can see how dark that time was.  How afraid I felt, how alone.  I can see that every moment, every movement was torture, even though I couldn't tell in the moment.  From today, I can see how hard it was to breath, how each  inhalation was a desperate, gasping clutch at life.  I can see now that I breathed like a drowning person.  That I was a drowning person.

Sometimes -- most times -- I long to go back to those days.  My daughter felt nearer, and my husband's grief was more obvious.  I wish I could stay in the hospital cradling my daughter's body forever.  In spite of the pain all around, I felt safe there.

But every so often I want to live, live into the future, even though I cannot see what the earthly future could ever hold for me now.  Because if I keep living, then although I am moving away from my daughter's death, I am drawing closer to the Life everlasting with our Father, and with her.

That is what I am living for, two months later.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Too Small

Last night I opened Eve's memory boxes.  I hadn't looked inside them since packing the casts of her hands and feet away.  But I thought that her due date was a good occasion to take them back out again, so I did.

As I unwrapped each cast, horror rocked me all over again.

Her hands, her feet - they were so small.

How could I have forgotten already?

The photos, they make her hands and feet look big, look normal-sized.  But they were not, and she was not.  She only weighed three pounds and three ounces.  Her hands were less than two inches from wrist to fingertip, and her feet less than three inches long.

She was too small.  Too small, too early, and too dead.

Even though it hurt that I had forgotten so quickly, I sat with the casts, clumsy reminders of the strength and life that was in her.  I sat, cradling the tiny replicas of the hands and feet my daughter once moved within me, and wept.

Baby girl, I miss you so much.

"Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us."

~ Ecclesiastes 7:3

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20, 2012

Today is my due date.

Or perhaps I should say -- today was my due date.

It seems strange, and even offensive, that I made it to this date and my baby did not.

My daughter is dead.  Today, she has been dead for two months exactly.

Today is hard.


I expected it to be harder.  I expected to be lost in despair.  I expected to die from grief.  How can a mother arrive at the date her expectancy was supposed to blossom into fullness and not die?

But I am not dead.  And today, this day of emptied expectancy, has been far sweeter than I could have dreamed.

This morning the world was beautiful.  The clouds, the snow, the sun -- beauty all around.

The beauty was in people, too.  When my car got stuck in snow, strangers materialized out of nowhere to help -- twice.

I went to get blood drawn, and the man who did so remembered me, remembered that I used to have a baby.  He was kind to me.

Friends and the other babylost remembered what today used to be.  They did not leave me alone in the remembering.

Sweet sister-friends called me, wrote to me, listened to me at length, and lifted me up.  They helped me to remember that God knows the pain of this day, and the days previous, and the days to come.  That He cares.

Today I saw babies and pregnant women during my travels, and did not hate them.  This gives me hope that there is beauty yet bloom in my heart as I heal.

At the store, I found a lilac-scented candle that whispered of Eve to me.  I bought it, and the burning of it is comforting me as I write this.  The lilac smell is all around me and will forever belong to her now.

There was so much good today, so much sweetness on a day I expected to taste only bitter.

I am blessed.  God has not forgotten me.  He is carrying me, tending me like the gentlest farmer with the most tender shoot.  I have given myself to Him, and He has not failed.

So today, the day that was my due date, I will remember the good that He has given.  I would never give up this pain because that would mean giving up the good that came before it.

My daughter, you have been worth every tear.



Finishing up trimester #1

17.5 weeks

17.5 weeks

20 week ultrasound

20 week ultrasound

Baby's feet




Baby Girl November 20, 2011-14


Eve's name in the sand

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

PTSD and Me


Today I had an appointment with my therapist.  She asked me if I was having nightmares, specifically repetitive ones.  I told her that yes, I've had a few.  Then I told her how I have been experiencing anxiety and small panic attacks, especially when going into social situations that involve more than one other person.  How being in or near some places around town triggers uncontrollable flashbacks in addition to the panic.  How sometimes I can't stop thinking about a certain few moments of time from when we were in the hospital with Eve.

She told me that I have PTSD.  Post-traumatic stress disorder.

I know that this is not an uncommon thing for babylost mothers.  I know that I lived through -- and continue to live through -- something bitterly traumatic.

But a diagnosis?  It scares me.  A lot.

Because this is not the first time I've been handed a psychological diagnosis.

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that in 2008 I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.  A year after that, I was diagnosed again, this time with depression.  Both of these diagnoses were paired with intense struggle and suffering that went on for years.  That nearly robbed me of my life and my marriage.  That did rob me of countless opportunities to live and love and experience joy.  Those diagnoses were harbingers of devastation.

I don't want another diagnosis.

I'm already going through hell.  I don't need to look forward to more psychological wrestling.  I don't want that.

I'm trying to remember that my therapist also said that PTSD is experienced on a range -- that it can be more or less intense, and that in my case it is closer to the "less" end of things.

But I am scared.

Because I want to know what it means.  Will this anxiety ever go away, or will it get worse?  Does this diagnosis mean that my present struggling will go on and on long past the grief has healed?  That it will prolong this hell that I am living in?

I know that God is bigger than this, bigger than everything.  But He let me live in my eating disorder for years and years -- seventeen years, to be exact.  So while I know that He will redeem whatever this diagnosis means, that He has healing in His hands, I don't know when that redemption and healing will come.

This journey of grief and pain and trauma -- it's going to be a long haul, I think.  Longer than I can fathom.

So I will not look at the future and let wondering about when? rob me of now.  I will look at my hands and my feet, and shed the tears from the heart-well that has no bottom.  I will look around me at the sky's brilliant blue and the frosted grass.  I will breathe and breathe and breathe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gift of Carrying Death


During church today, I found myself looking around at everyone and thinking -- I am one of a very few who has held death inside of her. 

I wonder if that is a gift.

Here's what I mean: I used to be afraid of death.  Although I believed in God, in the saving work of Jesus, I was not altogether sure if Heaven was a place I wanted to be.  If God was more loving than angry.  I believed in life after death, but my view of it was gray and cloudy, and I was afraid to investigate my beliefs on it further.


When my daughter died inside of me, I was forced to consider death, and life after death, more carefully.

Here is what I decided: death is horrible.  Death was never meant to be.  God did not create death, but He did defeat it.  That in turn made Him able to offer us Life -- here, and after death.  The Life He offers in life and the Life He offers in death are of equal importance.  We are not made to wait for Life later, but can accept it and enjoy it now.


As for Heaven -- well, I still don't know much about it.  I can't, because there's not much said of it in the Bible, other than that it is different, and that it is good.  When Eve first died, a lot of people offered me their ideas of what Heaven would be like, how Eve would be when I saw her again.  At first I wondered if I'd see her again at all, and if it mattered.  After all, if she is with God, complete, then I am satisfied.


But before too long I realized that I do want to see her again -- I want it deeply.  In thinking about this, I came to another realization -- that God values relationship.  He prioritizes it above all else.  More than anything He wants to simply be with us, and to love us, and to have us love Him in return.

This makes me wonder -- would the God who values relationship above all else erase relationships from our hearts once we die?  This doesn't make sense to me at all.  So I have slowly come to the conclusion that after we die we will have relationship with our loved ones, and even the other people in Heaven with us.  Although I have no doubt that those relationships will be far different from what they were here on earth, I can't believe that God would ever throw away love, because He is love.


Of course, this is all the result of my own musings.  It is not drawn from scripture because, as I said, there are no scriptures that really describe what we can expect in Heaven.  But I know that we can expect God.  And if God is love . . . well, you get the picture.  I will live in hope that I will see the people I love here when we get there.

Here is the gift of carrying death: that I am no longer afraid of death, but long to go Home, and that I think Heaven is a place worth being.

In my mind, this is Heaven: to stand shoulder to shoulder with my husband, our daughter, and all the rest of our brothers and sisters in worship of the One who puts all things right.

I bet I'm wrong.  I bet it's even better than that.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Life Is

These past few days have been hard.

Reminders of what I have lost are everywhere.  Little girls with dark curly hair, pregnant women, families delighting in their children -- all of these things bring not only a fresh assault of grief, but also visceral physical pain.  I feel like I am being knifed in the gut.  My mouth flaps like a landed fish, lungs aching for air.  I cannot breathe deeply enough.

My throat is always raw, my eyes always aching.  There is no end to the tears.  Even when I am falling on my Father as I should, I cry and cry and cry.  Even when I take comfort in the fact that He understands better than anyone, that He was babylost, too -- even as I run to Him, I know that the pain will not leave.

Not that I want it to.

Everyday I feel like I am shrinking.  I feel lonely, yet fall prey to anxiety when I spend time with others.  I wonder what my place in this world is.  When I was pregnant, I felt like I had become a woman at last.  Now I am a mother, but I gave birth only to death.  Am I still a woman?  Where do I fit in between the new moms and older moms and singles and young couples and grandparents?  There is not space for people like me.

And then along comes the shame.  I see, everywhere, women who are carrying their sons and daughters within them, sons and daughters that will most likely be born and live and grow old before they die.  These women, they remind me of my failure.  Although I know that Eve's death was not my fault, even though I have been reassured again and again and again that there was no cause for her death, nothing that I or anyone could have done to save her -- although I know these things, I feel shame.  My body did not work.  I am a mother who is mother only to the dead.

Sometimes I feel that the people around me who know ours story wonder what I did wrong.  Wonder if I killed my daughter.

I know that I can't help what people might think, might wonder.  But it hurts.  Because how could they not wonder?  It's too senseless of a thing to believe.

And yet it's the truth -- my daughter died, and we don't know why, no one can tell us why.  She was born perfect, but she was born dead. I want to know why, but I can't know why.  There is no answer that anyone but God can give, and He's not saying.

And so, there is the shame.  I can fight it off most days, most nights.  But not today.

Last night I dreamed of the moment my husband showed my daughter's body to me.  Again and again I relived it, the moment when I first knew that this horror was forever.  When I saw her bonnet covered head nestled too still, too quietly, in the crook of her father's elbow.  I dreamed of this moment last night, over and over and over.

I awoke bathed in her death.  I cannot stop reliving it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Little Sparrow

Eve's Peace Dove

Yesterday this special photo of a sand drawing was waiting for me in my inbox when I got home -- it's Eve's peace dove, made by CarlyMarie.  I really love it.  What a beautiful gift.

It's interesting -- although I've never had any great love for birds (and often a great dislike of some), birds are tightly woven into my memory of Eve.  I feel like I've had a heightened awareness of birds since she died, even though I don't believe that their appearances have a particular significance.  They just make me think of her.

The other day, I was looking at a photo of my little girl.  And as I was looking at her face, I thought, "Hello, little sparrow."  And it felt just right -- she is my little sparrow, at Home and sweetly tended by her Daddy.

I just wish that we could have flown together here in this life.  I miss her terribly.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." ~ Luke 12:6

"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself . . . a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.   Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." ~ Psalm 84:3-4

* * *

Faces of Lost, Faces of Hope has included my guest post in their series on creative healing!  It just went up today.  I am so honored to have been asked to participate (thanks, Beryl!).  I am also giving away one of my art prints as a part of the series.  Find my post and and enter the art giveaway here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hurting, Again?


Why do I do this to myself?  I keep reaching a place where the pain subsides and I think, "Ah.  This is it -- I am finished grieving."  Why do I keep thinking that grief ever finishes?  And even if it does, why would I expect it to reach it's end so soon?  It's only been seven weeks and three days since I birthed our daughter, dead.

Today I woke up afraid.  Afraid that Eve was our one and only child.  That she really was a miracle baby, that my body cannot bring children to life, ravaged as it was by an eating disorder.

Also -- afraid that we will not be able to adopt.  That agencies will learn of our stillbirth and reject us, thinking that I am too sad, too broken to love another woman's baby.  Or that we will be asked to wait years and years, that I will be forced to be an old, old mother with a too-young child.

Or worse, that we have been called to be childless.

I don't want that calling.

What will become of me if this it turns out to be true?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Because He Wants To


I got this letter a few days ago.  It made me cry grateful tears.

Even though I am only just being able to see it, God has been pursuing me, taking care of me.  Sending me the right books, the right words at the right time.  Verses that gently guide me back into His Word when I am afraid of what I will find there.  This letter.

He is bringing me to life.  Looking back to before Eve died, I wonder if I was not truly awake to life until now.

He has been healing my bitterness, and my capacity for bitterness.  He has made me able to sing again, sing for joy and thanksgiving and praise.  Sing without angry tears and acid pain.

He is giving me new eyes that see with searing clarity just how much pain there is in the hearts of humankind, how much of a need for grace and Life.  This gift breaks me in just the right way and sends me to my knees, sends me running into His arms.

And He has been building up my heart, regrowing new flesh over the torn-away bits.  The new flesh does not make the wound disappear, does not undo the amputation of my sweet Eve, but it makes me feel that I might just be okay in the end.

He doesn't have to do this.  I certainly don't deserve it.  My emotional flailing these past seven weeks has not always been very honoring to Him.  But He does it anyway, because He wants to.

Because He wants to.

Can you believe it?

I can't help it -- my soul sings gratitude.

"I would prefer to take my chances living in a universe in which I get what I do not deserve-again, either way. That means that I will suffer loss, as I already have, but it also means I will receive mercy. Life will end up being far worse than it would have otherwise been; it will also end up being far better. I will have to endure the bad I do not deserve; I will also get the good I do not deserve. I dread experiencing undeserved pain, but it is worth it to me if I can also experience undeserved grace. . . .

"So, God spare us from a life of fairness! To live in a world with grace is better by far than to live in a world of absolute fairness. A fair world may make life nice for us, but only as nice as we are. We may get what we deserve, but I wonder how much that is and whether or not we would really be satisfied. A world with grace will give us more than we deserve. It will give us life, even in our suffering."

~ Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moving Toward Hope

"I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name."

~ Isaiah 45:3

This weekend has been filled with hope.  I feel . . . relieved, though I am trying not to stake too much on this feeling.  It is likely just a break in the grief.

Still.  Since Eve died, I have woken up every morning with the feeling that she was inhabiting my night, no matter what I actually dreamed about.  The past two days, I woke up ready for God.

I wrote to a friend yesterday that perhaps I am now ready for my life to be about life, not about death.  Not about my daughter's death.

Is that awful to say?  It sounds like I am saying that I'm eager to forget my Eve, to erase the pain of grief and her memory along with it.

That is not what I mean at all.

What I mean is this -- I tend to center my life around causes.  Around issues.  Like eating disorders.  Like body image.  I always want my life to be all about this one issue.  To promote awareness of this one thing, and healing in that area.  I think that I am an activist at heart.


And now, I have the opportunity to have my life be about stillbirth.  About death.  I could easily throw myself into this activism and never look back.

And, perhaps, never move on.  Never fully heal.

So, when I wrote that to my friend, what I meant to say was that I am ready to leave the causes behind.  To not do so much as be -- be God's.  Be still.  Be loved, and be loving as a result.

We are all going to point to something, I think.  Every life says something..

I don't want my life to point toward death, to pain.  I want it to point toward life -- or really, toward Life.

These have been the first consecutive days where I feel able to throw myself on God.  Where I can look at what I used to believe and say -- Yes, that is still true, even after all this.  Now that the emotion of deepest grief has broken, at least for the moment, I see that God is still God, still trustworthy, still good, still the firmest bedrock.  That He does indeed offer Life and hope, even -- or perhaps especially -- when horror is all around.

I feel able to stake my life on hope again.