Saturday, May 18, 2013

In Which I Stop Silencing Myself and Tell You the Truth

Mother's Day 2013

I don't know how to write this.  It's been too long since I've leaked crimson soul into the world through these words, and I've forgotten how.

Or maybe I am just afraid.

So I take a deep breath and start spilling.  I'll try not to pause, because that's when the fear slips in and the truth gets buried.

Because the truth is -- I've lost my voice.  Not my physical voice, but the one that matters far more.  I've been silenced.

Or really, I've silenced myself.

I don't know when I started editing myself.  I think maybe it was when my son was born.  I think maybe I stopped telling the truth -- the whole of it, anyway -- out of fear of judgement.

Because the amazing support and love I found in the online community of grievers after Eve died has been amazing.  But things can go wrong fast online, without the benefit of inflection and facial expression to fully convey the meaning of words.  And I was afraid to offend those who had shown me so much support by saying that life with a newborn is hard.

I was afraid that people would think that I was ungrateful, that I did not count every single breath of his a gift.  I was afraid that those who are still waiting for their rainbow babies and those who are still waiting for a baby, period, would look hard at me and judge that I had too fast forgotten what it feels like to have empty arms when you so long for them to be filled.

I will never forget that emptiness.  Never.  Sometimes, when the grief feels too heavy, I wish I could.

But even though I know the nauseating betrayal of having your baby who you were supposed to be able to dress in purple tutus and finger her ringlet hair instead die your very own body -- that does not mean I do not struggle.

There, I said it -- I have struggled since my son was born.  I struggle still.

Did you know that he was hospitalized at six days old because his weight was dwindling away too fast and he couldn't stay awake to eat, and when the PICU doctor slipped a needle between his vertebrae to test for meningitis he did not cry or flinch or blink even a little?  I did not tell you because I was afraid of what you might think, how you might judge.

I did not tell you that when my sn was a few months old, a dog launched itself over its fence and raced toward us as we neared the end of a walk with him in the stroller.  The dog did not greet me, but instead silently fell in step behind me and followed, menacingly, until it had deemed we left its territory.  Since then, I have hardly dared to go out for walks again, and only do armed with pepper spray, and each venture out is an exercise in managing terror.

I did not tell you that I am feeling overwhelmed.  My son hardly sleeps these days, and so I sleep even less.  My breastmilk supply is tenuous.  I have overcommitted myself in a variety of ways.  Our house is no longer beautifully messy but is quickly descending into chaos.  My husband suffers from chronic pain and so while he does his best to give me self-care time, the reality is that he is unable to offer as much as he would like. 

I did not tell you that I have not been taking good care of my emotional and mental health.  I did not tell you that I succumb to the pressure of a family member who wrote to me that I should "get over it," that I should "move on."  I started to believe this lie myself, and stopped writing about my daughter, my grief.  And because writing (and art) is self-care, this has led to a rise in disordered eating behavior and depression.

I did not tell you that it's been hard to breathe, literally.  That it's been hard since December, and has gotten worse.  Yesterday instead of enjoying the massage I had scheduled, I spent the morning at the hospital instead having my heart watched and my chest x-rayed.  I learned that I seem to have a very healthy heart, and that it's anxiety that is snagging at my breath.

I did not tell you that I haven't called my therapist yet for help with the anxiety, that I'm feeling stubborn.  I don't want anxiety.  My mother was constricted by it for decades, and I don't want that for me, for my family.  So naturally I avoid seeking help (don't worry, I did finally ring my therapist up yesterday). 

I did not tell you that May has been hard (again).  There are so many reminders this month -- regular and Bereaved Mother's Days, the first anniversary of Still Standing Magazine opening, the second unbirthday that Eve is not here to celebrate (she would have been one and a half this Monday), the third anniversary of discovering I was pregnant with her.

I did not tell you that I find it hard to speak at all.  I am something of an introvert and stay on the quiet side when out and about, but this is different.  I cannot speak when I am at church or at the breastfeeding group or our women's Bible study, because I am afraid that if I open my mouth all the tears I have been storing up will pour out and drown us all. 

I did not tell you that my faith has been rocked to the core by all this struggle.  I have lost sight of who I am, and of who God is.  I feel like a sail torn loose from its moorings during a windstorm, and I don't know what kind of torn up I will be before I can find a resting place.

I did not tell you these things because I was afraid.  Afraid that someone would be offended, that someone would think that because life has been challenging or sleepless or scary I don't appreciate the immeasurable gift of my son breathing in my arms.

I'm sorry that I trusted you so little, friends.  For not giving you the benefit of the doubt you have more than earned.  You who have shown me so much grace.

I did not know how to write this, but I wrote it anyway, sloppy and unsure and wholly cathartic.   And now I do not know how to end this mess of hard truth.

So I will say thank you.  Thank you for the grace, thank you for entering this space with me where I dare (when I'm not silencing myself) to unveil the ugliness of this life's pain, where I dare to hope that the telling of my ungainly tale can transform it to an unlikely creature of beauty.

I will not let my voice be silenced again.  To speak is to heal and to stifle truth is to swallow down poison.

I hope I do not need to learn this lesson more than once.

(And also -- can you pray for me, please?  I know many of you do, without my asking even, and I am so very grateful for it.  So may I call upon you warriors who have more faith than I do at the moment to pray for healing, for free breathing, and for whatever thing it is that I need and don't know?  Thank you, friends.  Thank you.)


  1. Speak friend speak! We love and support you so much! Yes, prayers are offered for you...with much love and many prayers!!!

  2. If you were near me I'd give you a big hug and tell you not to hold back the tears. Little ones are hard, especially when they don't sleep. It will get better... you'll move on to horrible tantrums... ha! No really, it gets easier, there will be many hard times but lots of laughter will come too. Try to stay focused on the positive. Your family member shouldn't have written you such a thing. What happened with Eve will always be with you so don't let anyone guilt your pain. They have no idea what it would be like. Focus your thoughts on positive energy of Eve dancing in heaven... she can't be anything but happy there. :) Stay focused on your little man, your husband and God who love you so much. It's okay to let other things go, they won't remember a messy house. Take time to close your eyes for a few moments and take deep belly breaths while thinking positive thoughts. (It has helped my anxiety a lot.) You are an amazing person. Take care of yourself and I'll be praying for you! ♥

  3. Always praying for you my friend. No need to silence your voice, your soul. Those of us that have been there understand that dual life of joy and grief that coexist, um forever now. Its not fair that a Mom that has not experienced loss be able to voice her daily struggles and one that has known the worst pain not be able to express the same pain. Having a newborn, toddler, um pre-teen! is hard! I have learned much of this life is perspective and I choose to see the other side. You are worthy of grace, you are worthy of a child, you are worthy of all the good that is to come. So I will pray for your days to be lessened of the anxiety that grips you. Just breathe love!

  4. Oh Big Hugs sweet friend. We struggle. Our thankfulness for our blessings should not hide that we struggle <3

  5. Oh Beth, yes we are praying for you! You have been such a comfort to so many for so long. I understand the silencing or the silence. I almost never spoke of Jonathan at ALL for fear people would think I was ungrateful for the children I have. I have struggled to tell the truth about how HARD and depressing this pregnancy has been. I have always rejoiced in pregnancy. And even at this moment there are many word I CAN NOT or WILL NOT let spill out of my head, they seem way to sad and vulnerable. I think I started editing myself when I realized many people I know in real life read and think things like.. She has made way to much over this. SIGH) I have loved all your truth telling from the beginning of reading your blog and I pray that your voice would be ever true to who you are, because you are BEAUTIFUL!

  6. I feel like I could have written this myself about six months after our son was born... I am so sorry Beth. I wish I could give you a real life hug. We get it, we really do. Rainbow babies are priceless, much wanted and waited for gifts... but they by no means make our grief journey any easier. I think for me since we got pregnant almost right away after she died, I didn't fully grieve like I should have after losing Jenna. And then after he was born, and I become somewhat comfortable with mothering him and learning to be a mom, that raw grief took me by storm. It was one of the darkest times in my life since Jenna died. Be gentle on yourself dear friend.

    Sending massive love and prayers xoxoxox

  7. Your transparency in writing what you grieve is truly beautiful. I feel the ache in your words and I will pray.

  8. Praying! It takes a lot of courage to be honest about struggle. Fear doesn't make you less courageous. I think you're braver than you know. Hugs

  9. When you write from this place, Beth, it's pure magic. Your voice is clear and strong. I applaud your courage in writing this and your courage to publish it.

    Also? The pain - the knot in your stomach, take your breath away pain - it will lessen as time goes on. But in my experience THIS is precisely how it lessens ... as you tell your truth and let all of it in its messy beauty spill out.

  10. OK. You write well. Called to this pain in order to hone that skill & heed the mission to be His instrument in His way by His might/strength. May I propose the BEST vehicle for processing this journey? CELEBRATE RECOVERY. Because who wants to ring a therapist when you know it's gonna ding the family budget $100-200? Hope there's a CR group nearby. If not, pray for one to start.

  11. No words....except this: No one, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON, who tells you to get over it and get on with it has the right to speak that into your life, and you are not to listen to them. You are to listen to the Lord, who says "You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are HIS everlasting arms". Only the Lord, your husband, and your child are what it is all about for you right now.....NOTHING and NO ONE else matters. Don't let them in.! Praying for you sweetheart!!!

  12. More context from a blogger of like-minded poetical stripe:

  13. More context from a blogger of like-minded poetical stripe:

  14. I don't know the pain that was in your life two years ago, but I do know the feeling of your child seeming impossibly hard. I have a hard time talking about it too. I feel like a wimp when I share with mothers of many children. I feel like a crabby person when I talk about it to mothers of a few little angels. "Oh, my kids never did that!"

    Babies are hard! And some babies are exceptionally hard. They change so fast, too. You get to the edge of your sanity and then suddenly the clouds break and light shines through. I'm praying for you that you would see that break in the storm very, very soon. Love you from across the inter webs!

  15. Oh, Beth, I hate how judged we feel as mothers. I hate how people offer "advice" we never asked for, and tell us about how their kid slept through the night from day one, as if they deserve some kind of medal for giving birth to a kid who sleeps or eats or rolls over better or faster than ours did. To some people, motherhood comes as easy as breathing. They are fine with getting up every fifteen minutes during the night, they have a stroller that matches their diaper bag that matches their outfit that matches all five of their kids' clothing. They don't look like zombies, they don't even feel like them...or do they? More likely, they don't want to ADMIT that it's not easy. Not for me, anyway. Every single day, most of parenting for me is survival. YES, you can have a cookie, if you take is somewhere else and eat it so I can get my freaking homework done. YES, you can watch TV while I take this call from my boss. YES, I will buy you a happy meal if you'll be quiet while I drag you to my NTHS meeting. NO, I will not find whatever it is you lost. NO, I will not buy you a new whatever it is you've broken. No clean school uniform in the morning? Dig one right out of the dirty clothes hamper. Need some breakfast before school? Have a Pop-Tart. I hate parent/teacher conferences, t-ball, field trips, fundraisers, etc. This doesn't mean that I don't adore my son. His laugh lights up my life. His beautiful little face grinning and holding up his honor roll certificate makes me heart soar. He is the best thing that I've ever done. The ONLY good thing I've ever done. That doesn't mean it's not a struggle.

  16. Wish I was closer. That I could drive over, give you big hugs, and offer you whatever you need... time, organization services, whatever. Since I'm so far away I'll send all my prayers, love and light instead. You are a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice to share. *biggest hugs ever*

    And I'm going to try to sing "you are exactly where you need to be" louder than all the voices telling you to "get over it." Loves... D

  17. I'll be praying. I'm not stunned by these words (except in how beautifully and skillfully you penned them) because life is like this. It's beautiful and ugly. It's wonderful and terrible. And these conflicting truths are not on two ends of a spectrum but back-to-back with one another. I'm saying they're ever so close to being one and the same.

  18. Beth, never feel ashamed that life can continue to be hard and doesn't get instantly easier as time goes by, like new challenges don't come every day. Being already shaped by what a person has been through sometimes makes it harder to face new challenges. I haven't been through some of the things you have, but I know the feeling of having to put on a brave/stoic face because there are things you should be "over" by now, or because you "should be tougher" than you feel. I think it frees a lot of people to be more honest when someone like yourself is willing to be honest about how they really feel, and while doing it, worry about facing possible rejection. I hope you know I'm always willing/able and free to talk to whenever... Love you, girl.


  19. Thank you for your brave and honest post! Please do more of them. This is real. This is life. And this is healing in its own way for those that read it. The healing comes from the fact that you allow yourself to be honest about the hard parts, therefor giving us permission to do the same. Thank you.

  20. Oh my friend...I don't know the pain of what you've been through but I do know what it feels like to have choked back tears for so long that you literally forget how to breathe and all your attempts are painful and terrifying. To feel like a walking wound just waiting to be exposed. It's especially painful when it comes at the time of life that everyone around you assumes is magical, and daring to whisper the whole truth of it opens you wide up to judgment. I'm so sorry you've been feeling this way and felt like you had to hide it. I'm sending hugs from far away and saying prayers for your sweet soul to find the rest and strength it needs. I love you so much.

    Thank you for always being the friend who gives me the space and freedom to feel and express what I need to - without judgment. I hope I can always return that kindness. Speaking the hard truth takes great courage and leading other women to find freedom and acceptance and a voice is no small thing. I am incredibly blessed to call you my friend and my sister.

  21. *hugs* (And I'm not a "huggy" person.) I'm praying for you.

  22. Oh Beth - your words are beautiful and I feel like I'm exhaling with you, with the relief of getting it all out.

    I stand with you for the right to find this hard.

    The fact that it's a different kind of 'hard' to losing your baby does not make it easy. Sleep deprivation is a torture in some countries...

    I don't think that sharing our struggles makes us ungrateful. I can see it in you more clearly than I can see it in my own situation (what right do I have to moan about my health when I have an amazing husband and son?)

    Sometimes I think we can buy into the 'happy ending' narratives - ie I'm unhappy now but if X happens, then I'll live happily ever after. But the reality is that life is always shifting and we're always in the middle of something...

    Anyways. I love your courage in loving yourself well. Hoping that others can stand with you and facilitate that. Sending you much love and prayers.

  23. Just beautiful, and honest, and powerful and...
    Where two or three are gathered....and we're all gathered here so He WILL be in the midst.

  24. My eyes are teary after reading this because I can, in some ways, understand and relate to your heartache and pain. Even though I have not experienced exactly what you have, I have had people tell me to just move on, get over it, and forget about it. It hurts, and it's silencing. you are very brave to post this, and it is a good thing to admit to our weariness and not hold up that face anymore! Much love to you!

  25. Beth! Hi!
    After reading your post I thought of this: "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you Free."

    Sounds a little off to think of this verse in relation to your post... as it usually relates to knowing God's truth and placing it over our life and our circumstances.

    But, I wanted to share a statement my pastor shared during one of his sermons I heard when I first started attending...

    He said, "How can you true to God if you can't even be true with yourself first?"

    Ugh! Ugh! how that hit me in the heart and gut when I heard that. Too many things, especially one so BIG, I had kept quiet to myself because I was so ashamed, da-da-da-da, all those things along the line that made me feel like less of person and such. I cried, and cried, and cried, and cried AND CRIED ----until I did just like you in this post of yours. And it did, God DID begin to give that special kind of truth- truth in love and never condemnation and though it was a process of being set free- free indeed it was.

    Nothing of that is to minimize your pain and what you are feeling- it's all true how you feel. And I hope you know that it is not to feel how you are feeling... it is just "true" how you are feeling.

    You're such a good, good, good mom as I can tell to both your baby girl and her memory that is forever with you and your baby boy too- and when he is older to know about his sister I'm sure it will be a special day and all the more meaning as to why heaven is going to be such a wonderful place!!

    God's love and God's Grace, Deanna

  26. Dear Jesus, please be with Beth right now. Please grant her peace and the wisdom to identify the lies of a very real enemy. Give her balance - between celebrating her sweet son and mourning her sweet daughter. Give strength to her marriage relationship and healing to her husband. Prompt her to lay her burdens at your feet, and follow those heartfelt requests with thanks. Let her know that above all you are gracious, and kind, and forgiving, and loving, and gentle. Be near to her tender heart. And thank you so much for her story and her testimony and for encouraging us all here. In Jesus's name, Amen.

  27. I enter this precious circle of online community, support, and love. It's an honor to hear your heart; and you are speaking the very same words my own heart wants/needs to speak. You have helped me, even in sharing your own grief.

    If I were closer, I would come over to your house - and if you wanted, we could just sit quietly, or I could watch your baby and do some cleaning so you could have alone time.

    I love so much of what you said here, but especially this: "And because writing (and art) is self-care, this has led to a rise in disordered eating behavior and depression."

    I hope you will plunge into the healing stream of art... I pray you can sleep, that you can breathe, that your Papa God in heaven gives you a glimpse of Eve and her joy in waiting to see you and her family again.

    I pray for the Comforter to embrace you fully, that all the walls are melted down... and for your husband to be healed, to be fully alive - both of you.

    In a few days the decision will be made if we can move to Plains... if all goes well, perhaps we can meet in Missoula. I would love to help lift some of your load. I'm a Gramma who once made a promise to myself as a young mom that I would keep my eyes open to help young mothers, if ever a chance should arise. I know what it's like to walk in your shoes, my friend... at least, as much as my personal experience allows... and I pray you feel extra loved today, embraced by this online circle of friends. <3

  28. Beth, don't be silent, and never, never feel you have to censor yourself! Yours is the only blog I really read consistently and, while I don't always comment, your words never fail to inspire or touch me in one way or another. We both lost our daughters around the same time and I feel very strongly we are on this journey together, witnessing the ups and downs and transformations that life and loss has brought us. You have been very supportive of me (maybe you don't see how, but it's the little things that count--like when you leave comments on my blog, or how you graciously answered my fearful questions when I found out I was pregnant with my rainbow).

    I wish you lived near me so I could give you the biggest hug. I totally understand where you're coming from; I've been fearful too (that's why my blog has been majorly silent lately). Big hugs and love to you. xoxo

  29. To speak is to heal and to stifle truth is to swallow down poison. These words resonate. A very wise friend once told me that anxiety is 'a feeling of overwhelming terror.' It is very real to you and your body, whether or not there is a physical cause. You do not cause it. It just is. And it sucks at your soul and makes life so much harder. Do what you need to heal, write what you need to write, feel what you need to feel. My friend also said about others "they don't know what they don't know. " And it is probably impossible to explain to someone who thinks you can just decide to be happy.
    Raising children is so hard. It really doesn't get easier (sorry bout that) . But you can take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it, and it will become less overwhelming. And sometimes you can sit in church and just sob. Or in your car in the parking lot. And let God know that this is really really hard. A little help would be appreciated. And He will listen.
    I'll be saying prayers for you, hoping you find peace. Yours is a special soul, remember that. And you are loved.

  30. Thank you so much for your honesty, and for taking the risk to share your voice. Your opening paragraphs resonated so, so deeply for me -- for very different reasons, I have silenced myself for the last year as well. Your courage illuminates the path for so many, for so many reasons. The mamas who struggle in silence, the grieving who feel they can't be honest about their grief, and those of us who have fallen silent. I hope for you that breaking your silence brings the gift of just a bit of relief, even for a moment.

  31. Beth, words of comfort feel trite. Thank you. I too stand with you in this fight to own your life and your story. It is your truth to tell even if it causes others to question their own stories.

    This God we live and move and have our being in - He seems to have made a life of duality. We are the ones who try and only see one side or think we should only see one side. Both sides - pain and joy - are always, always with us and in God.

    Love and freedom to you my sister!

  32. Thank you for sharing the real you, your real struggles. I believe it's important to share these things. You are so courageous. You are truly wonderful.
    Much love to you.

  33. How DARE someone tell you to just "get over it" and "move on"!! Everyone has their own path to follow and their own speed of healing. What works for me may not work for you..and if I lived close to you I would come with a big pot of soup, do your dishes, hold your precious son while he was awake so you could sleep. I would. When we don't have that, we have to learn to "self-parent". It takes practice...but it's so worth it. Listen to your "self-talk"...and teach it to be kind. You are so dear.

  34. Beth.... :(
    you can tell me yours and I will tell you mine. I treasure you. I understand the part about the tattered sail. a lot. Thank you for putting this into words.
    Love, Jenny

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    1. My googleplus and I are not getting along today. :)

  36. Thank you so much for sharing what is so hard to share. I am in tears but tears that need to be shed. I have lived the guilt of struggling with my new baby although she is the miracle that I never thought I would have . I have lived the shame of paralyzing anxiety during postpartum issues. I have lived in the silencing of myself -how could I admit my miracle was hard? (I have since discovered miracles can often be hard) I do want you to know I appreciate your amazing courage and talent in writing this. I do want you to know it gets better. You will NOT feel like this the rest of your life. I held onto the belief that "it gets better" like a lifeline the first 4 months after having a baby. I did seek out help. One of the hardest things I have done was to make that phone call and make an appointment to get help. I remember all to well driving myself to that appointment utterly sleep-deprived and barely holding myself together. However I also remember a brief respite of humor as on the way home from that visit a country song "when God-fearin women get the blues" started playing. My child is 13 months old and for the past 6 to 7 months I have been happy and I have FELT happy. When she was a newborn I knew that deep down there was joy over her. I did have moments where I could marvel at her. I now FEEL like the joy. Yes I admit to feeling guilt over my not feeling that utter bliss at first that people talk about. I also have felt anger that I was robbed of this bliss. Although I do believe for many women those first months are all about survival and the bliss comes later. I will pray for you. It does get better. I just discovered your blog and it looks like you have a wonderful community of support that you are a blessing to. You have blessed me today. I will be more than happy to offer an email, telephone number, smoke signal :) - any way you might wish to communicate if you would like. You are lifted up in prayer today and I do hope that you are already feeling better since it is a few weeks since your post.

  37. I found your post via your article in Still Standing. My breath caught as I read of your daughter, and her name. You see, my little heavenly daughter is named Eva. Far enough apart but close enough to give my heart an extra beat. It's not like I haven't known there are other girls in heaven with her, or very close to her, name but this is the first one I've met. I don't know. Some days just grab you more than others, you know? My Eva would have been 2 years 9 months old on July 15th 2013. She has been gone 1 year 11 months. Anniversary month is coming up and the pain is increasing already...I also have older living children and a rainbow. I know I am the luckiest of the unlucky but I am also crippled by the pain of losing my sweet daughter.

    1. Hi, Em. Hearing other girls (living or gone) who are named something like Evelyn or Eva grabs me, too. I'm so sorry for your sweet girl's death. It's so sad and unfair and hard.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King