Saturday, January 30, 2010

This is me, tonight

I think the reason I have been avoiding my blog lately, is because I really don’t like a lot of the thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. I’ve also been feeling so scattered that to sit down and try to make sense of it all at the keyboard is no easy task. My feelings and my faith have both been on a roller coaster lately, so much so that my mind cannot even keep up with what is going on inside my soul…Some days I feel a strength and a peace from God that keeps me going, and even brings a joy to my heart. Other days I just feel so conflicted, confused, lost really. Even after 8 months I still don’t know how to navigate in this unfamiliar territory of loss, and especially pregnancy after our loss. I’ve felt so many different things since our last appointment for Baby June, some triggered by the problem seen on the ultrasound, some by a decrease in his movement that turned out to be nothing, and some by finding out we’re having a boy.

I had a feeling there would be some issues attached whether we were having a boy or a girl. In fact, if we were having Eliana’s sister instead of her brother, I would probably be wrestling with a similar set of thoughts. But, in all honesty, I have been missing her so much more intensely since learning Baby June is a boy. I feel guilty to even type this, but at the same time, it is the truth, and I will feel worse if I don’t face my struggles head on.

It’s not that I am actually disappointed to be having another boy. We’ve been so happy each time we’ve learned we’re having a son, and love them so much, all three. When I was pregnant with Eliana, I was completely prepared to hear we were having another son, and so surprised when they told us she was a little girl. During her pregnancy, we thought we would probably have at least one more, and would have been equally pleased with a boy or a girl. I am completely happy that my 4th child is a little boy. What I am hurting over so much though, is that I didn’t get to keep my third baby, my little girl…

I have always wanted a little girl so much. I was so happy to have our two boys first. We planned to have a larger family and wanted some of each, so I always thought I would get to raise a daughter. I grew up with two sisters, and we had so much fun together, I imagined reliving some of those things with my own daughter someday. Once I found out I had indeed been given that little girl I had dreamed of, I was so in love with her, and couldn’t wait for everything her life would bring to our family.

I wanted to see how she would melt her Daddy’s heart, and how her big brothers would want to protect her always. I wanted to brush her silky hair and put it in little pigtails and dress her in the cutest clothes. I imagined her as a little ballerina, and also hoped I would have a shopping partner, especially on family vacations that are currently often spent going to zoos and reptile museums. But, I knew that even if she hated shopping and the color pink, and was more interested in going fishing with the boys than wearing tutus, it wouldn’t have made a difference to me. More than anything, I just wanted to be her Mommy, and love her for whoever God intended her to be.

Now, she is gone and I will never know how she would have turned out. There is nothing that can ever change that. Of course that would be true even if we were having another girl. It is not just the idea of having a daughter I am missing, it is her sweet little spirit that my spirit aches and longs for. She was given to me, and then taken away, and nothing can ever fill the hole that is left permanently in my heart.

There are so many unfulfilled dreams I had for her, and still just so much love in my heart that is meant only for her. Sometimes it’s so much I feel like I will fall apart because I can’t contain all the love that I am not able to pour out in the active role of mothering her. My soul still longs so much to hold her and take care of her. God creates a mother with a boundless overflowing sea of love for her baby for a reason, because that is what the night and day, exhausting, beautiful task of caring for a baby requires. But, I will never get to do that for her. I think it is even more exhausting to long for her than it would be to take care of her. Caring for a baby is a physical drain, but grieving for a baby is an emotional and spiritual drain that leaves you ragged and scattered.

I look for ways to remember her, and honor her life, and while it feels good to do something for another person in her name, at the end of the day there is still just a restless kind of emptiness that nothing can lessen. No amount of good things I can do in her memory can ever make up for the fact that no one will ever call her by name, see her smile, or hold her close in this life. Even if I succeed in keeping her memory alive, it is only the memory that she existed, because no one has a memory of who she is. We didn’t even get to catch a glimpse of that.

Even as I type these words, I know in my heart the spiritual truth that has comforted me in the past, that she IS known, fully and intimately by her heavenly Father, who calls her by name, and loves her perfectly for who she is. He is the only one who she needs to be known by. It is me who needs for her to be known and recognized on this earth, she has no need for that, and isn’t really missing out on anything.

Still, even as that knowledge comforts my heart about her current state, it doesn’t change the way it feels down here. I am lonely and broken, lost and disoriented without her. I try to move forward, only to find myself so many steps behind. I try to bring God glory only to find myself stumbling in the dark. I know He is there, helping me take every breath, every step, and loving me all along the way even as I falter. But sometimes it is so hard to feel it down here.

My sister who is due a month before me, and already has the only granddaughter on my side of the family, just found out yesterday, she is expecting another girl. I’m happy for her, but at the same time, it also hurt to see how brightly her face lit up when she came back from her appointment and told us. Then I sat and listened to her call our list of loved ones saying each time “It’s a girl!!” and sensing their excitement on the other end. That same excitement they are supposed to have over my little girl, instead of just sympathy and sadness. It made me relive the feeling of overwhelming joy from that day we had Eliana’s ultrasound and found out she was a girl. I know I had that same look on my face, and made those same phone calls. Now those happy memories can sometimes feel like daggers when I think of how quickly all our joy turned into this sadness.

That’s one thing I hate the most about all of this pain. The way things that once brought me the greatest joy in my life, have become sources of sorrow that I sometimes have to avoid. Everything to do with babies has always made me so happy. I have always loved seeing new babies, whether children of strangers, or of friends and family, and while I still enjoy them now, there is always a sadness that accompanies it. Pregnancy used to be such a joy, and now it is accompanied by so many fears and so many reminders of the pain. It hurts to look at my son’s baby pictures and remember their births and newborn days, because it reminds me too much of what I didn’t get to have with Eliana. Those were some of the very best moments of my life, and I can only pray that my heart will heal to a point where I can look at them that way again. And of course, those few precious memories of Eliana, that I will treasure in my heart for a lifetime. I wish so much that every memory of her could bring nothing but joy, but they still bring such sadness, hurt, and disappointment over what could have been.

I know all of the other mother’s out there who have lost children understand where I am coming from. I wish this wasn’t the place I am in right now, but it is. I wish I had a more encouraging, uplifting post, but I just don’t have that tonight. Ask me tomorrow, and I am likely to be on a much better plane. It’s funny how grief can do that to you, one day can be one of the most difficult, and the next day can be a happy one. And of course, being pregnant I am shifting that much more easily between emotional states. This post doesn’t reflect my overall outlook, or my constant train of thought by any means. It reflects some of the worst of me, and my thoughts at this specific, tired moment.

I am still holding on for dear life to my faith, and God really is carrying me along with His mighty strength. I am loving this baby He has given me with all I have, and just doing my best to move forward for him, and his two big brothers. Most days I really am okay, but I have been feeling all of this underneath the surface lately, and a couple of recent meltdowns have prompted me to just sit down and try to figure out what is really going on inside of me.

I’m so thankful that when I am at my weakest, I have an opportunity to rely on the strength that only comes from God. When I feel my steps begin to falter, I can count on Him never to let me fall. When I can’t walk on my own, I know He will carry me.

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.
Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.
Psalm 68:19-20

When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Psalm 94:18-19

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

PS: To my pregnant sis if you ever read this, you know how much I love you, love my niece and nephew, and now love this new little niece on the way. She will bring so much happiness to all of us, and I look forward to seeing J. with her little sister. My feelings described here are just that, my feelings, that only have to do with how much I miss my own little girl. Don’t feel bad about your happy news, or being excited around me. I know you can understand how I can be both happy for you, sad for me not having my daughter, and yet happy about my baby boy, all at the same time!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Please Pray for Baby June

Yesterday we had an ultrasound for Baby June. The main reason it was scheduled was because of a cyst they had seen on my ovary during a previous scan. It was large enough that if there was no change, a surgery might be recommended to remove it during the second trimester. Since that time, we have been praying that it would go away, and waiting until yesterday's appointment to find out the outcome.

The first thing the technician said after looking around a little bit was "So it was on the left side, right?" This was great to hear, because I immediately knew it must have gotten smaller or completely disappeared. Once she located it, it had gone down to less than 2 cm, from a measurement of 6 cm before. This was great news, and a direct answer to prayer. At this point it will likely continue to disappear altogether during the upcoming months, and even if it remains, it's small enough not to pose a risk.

We had also let her know that we would like to find out the gender if possible, so she started to look for that. It really didn't look very promising at first. The baby was tucked into my hip, and the legs were crossed, completely hiding the view. I thought we were going to walk away in suspense when she turned of the monitors, but seeing that we were disappointed she had me try a different position and checked one more time. Still, Baby June was being elusive, and she said "I'm not getting a good view at all, but if I had to guess, I would say this is a little boy. I wouldn't go out and buy a bunch of clothes and paint the nursery, though, because I could definitely be wrong." Hmmmm...I knew that was going to drive me absolutely crazy not knowing for sure, so I was relieved when she finally got a very good angle, and it was quite obvious that we are indeed going to be the parents of three wild and crazy boys!!

After that we saw the Dr. I expected him to pop in to say everything looks good and send us on our merry way. It didn't go quite as planned. He sat down at the end of the table and flipped through the photos from the ultrasound.
"We did see something on the ultrasound that I want to show you..."
At this point my eyes already started welling up with tears. Whatever he was going to say, I just wasn't prepared to hear there were any issues with our baby.

He went on to say that the baby's small intestine appears more prominent than it normally should. He showed us the photo and explained how they could tell. He assured us that sometimes these things show up on one scan, and the next time it appears normal, but...he also was obligated to tell us that it could be an indicator of cystic fibrosis.

At this point I am just trying to hold it together, because I am so unprepared to face the possibility of him having a potentially fatal disease after losing our daughter so recently. I don't think this Dr. had looked closely enough at our chart to know what had happened with our previous pregnancy. He was very calm about the whole thing, and didn't seem very concerned. He told us we will monitor it closely, and if we see it next time we may need to visit the Dr. upstairs, meaning the specialist.

When I got home I immediately started researching on the internet and discovered that the chances of this ultrasound finding actually indicating cystic fibrosis are very slim. There is a very good chance that everything is still just fine with our little boy. Still, it is hard to swallow because percentages haven't exactly been on my side lately, and I know all too well that that is certainly not a guarantee that everything will turn out fine. We are hoping and praying that it will, and from a medical standpoint it probably will. I am asking you to pray along with us that whatever is showing up on the scan will resolve itself, and our little guy will be as healthy as ever, born crying and wiggling into our waiting arms in June. Also that he won't have a life-threatening illness, but will lead a long and healthy life. If you are willing, please comment and let me know you will be praying with us.

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Big Day

Dear Baby June,

Today is the big day we've been waiting for. The day we will get to take another peek at you, and this time, hopefully find out if you are a boy or a girl. I am so excited and nervous! I can't wait to see you wiggling around on the screen. Last time we saw you, you were a tiny little peanut at 8 weeks, and your little heart was blinking away so beautifully. You have grown and changed so much since then, and I can't wait to see you.

I feel you rolling around in there now, and it is so much fun! I'm so thankful to be able to feel your movements so much earlier than I did with your brothers and sister. It makes it seem so much more real. Of course you have been real from the start, but feeling your movements just makes it seem a little closer to the day I will hold you.

I have to admit, I have been a little scared to write about you, to dream about you, and to hope. The thought of losing you is so scary, and somehow the more attached I feel, the more real that possibility of loss seems, and of course the more painful the thought of loss becomes.

There was a time early on when I was just gripped with so much fear, it was almost paralyzing. I found it difficult to trust God with you life, and to place you in His hands. I just wanted to hold onto you with a grip so tight my knuckles would turn white, and even God couldn't loosen the hold I had on you. But the truth is, it just doesn't work that way. No matter how much I might like to think I'm in control, I have learned through many life lessons, that just isn't the case. You are His, you are His, you are His. And it is in that knowledge that I must rest. Knowing that as your creator He loves you so deeply, knows you so intimately, already. He has you in the palm of His hand with a great plan for your life already mapped out before you. Only He knows the hours, the days, or the years. Lord, please let it be years!! A lifetime full of them. Today, I am anxiously waiting to find out your gender, while He already knows your entire future. When I think of it in those terms, there is a freedom in relinquishing the control I never had to begin with, and surrendering it to Him.

I know I am certainly not guaranteed a free pass, but I am trusting in the promises that God is good, that He will work all things for good in my life, and that He loves me with an everlasting love. If that somehow meant another loss, I'm not sure I would know how to interpret that, but I do know I would still cling to those promises. Knowing His deep love for you and for me allows me to place you in His arms, trusting that He will give you right back to me. With your sister, it will not be until heaven, but with you, I hope and fervently pray He will give you to me in the here and now. I want so much to hear you cry, look in your eyes, feed you, hold you, tell you I love you, and watch you grow. I want to mother you and raise you all your life, and never have to see the end of your days.

Soon we will find out if God has chosen a son or a daughter for us. I can't wait to find out more about you, but all I know in this moment is, I love you today, so much little one. I love you for who you are and who you will become, and I can't wait to see your little life unfold.

Forever loving you,

Jeremiah 31:3-4
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."

Romans 8:28
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Psalm 139:13-16
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Waiting with Hope

So, I am finally back in blogland, after surviving the holidays, bouts of illness with me and each of the boys, and lots of time at my Mom's without an internet connection. I can honestly say, having our first Christmas and New Year's since losing Eliana behind us feels like I've made it over a huge hurdle. Breathing is coming a little easier now, and I am thankful for that.

Each of our Christmas celebrations went very well. I continue to be so amazed and thankful at God's grace shown through the eyes of my two little boys. They are so full of excitement, delight, and ENERGY, that I can't help but feel their joy. Our family celebration at home the night before Christmas Eve was great. They were so excited about their new trains and train table it was hard to get them away from it to look in their stockings or open their other presents! My oldest son gave me a beautiful silver butterfly necklace with little diamonds on it. He said he picked it out himself, and "doesn't it make you think of Eliana, Mommy?" It was so sweet of him to be thinking of her at Christmas like I was. Of course, he didn't count the stones or think of their significance, but there are five-one for each of my babies, two in heaven, two with me every day, and one in the womb. It's perfect.

Christmas Eve we drove to my hometown to go to church and celebrate at my Grandma's house with all the relatives. Again at church, my children were such a distraction I didn't have a chance to get into an emotional frame of mind like I might have. They were good for about the first half, but after a while I was focusing more on keeping them quiet than thinking about how I was feeling. I had brought some little toys for my 2 year old to play with, and pretty soon his 4 year old cousin wanted to play with them, and then my five year old, so they were all fighting! Still, it was a beautiful service, and I was able to worship amidst the chaos while being thankful for God's gift of His son, and His gift of my son's, daughter, and baby June.

We visited with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins that night and had our gift exchange. It was so fun to watch the little kids get up front to sing Christmas carols before opening presents!

Christmas morning we opened gifts with my Mom and sisters at Mom's house. She gave me a little ornament in memory of Eliana, and again it touched my heart that she was remembered. Overall, things went very well and we had such a good time with our children and niece and nephew.

Somehow, it was New Year's that was bothering me more than Christmas. Maybe because there was so much anticipation of Christmas, and I was more prepared to focus on the boys and the reasons to be joyful. New Year's just sort of crept up on me unnoticed. I felt a heavy weight on my soul with each passing thought of the new year. I think because, as difficult as 2009 was, it was Eliana's year. I found out I was pregnant in December of '08, but it was in '09 that I carried her for most of the pregnancy, and it is the only year I will ever hold her in my arms on this earth. To say good bye to 2009 feels like our separation is becoming greater and greater, and somewhere inside of me I'm afraid that she will be forgotten. I know, of course, that I will never forget, but by moving ahead in time I feel others will forget, and expect me to move on and "get on with my life." I guess a part of me felt like staying in 2009 kept me closer to her, and moving on was leaving her behind.

We celebrated New Year's Eve at my husband's parents', spent the night, and had Christmas with them on New Year's Day. As we sat in the living room waiting for midnight New Year's Eve, my sister-in-law pointed out the little snowman ornaments she had gotten her parents. Each one had the name of one of the grandchildren-6 little grandsons, two born this year who would have been Eliana's playmates. But there was no little snowman for Eliana. Soon the ball dropped and we kissed, and toasted the New Year. I sat on the couch while everyone talked and laughed trying so hard not to cry in front of everyone.

We went to bed and that night ended in tears. Tears that she wasn't there to roll around on the floor with her little cousin James, just her age. Tears that I had to start a new year without her. Tears that her name was missing among all her cousins, and I wished she had been remembered. I was just missing her so much that night, wishing I could go backward instead of moving ahead. Back to that elusive happiness before her life was cut short, that time when life seemed too good to be true, and somehow, it was...

But God is so good, because somehow on that first morning of 2010, I woke up with Hope. I woke up thinking of Baby June, and how this was his/her year,(hopefully the first of many!) and knowing that God was with me. I know He will continue to carry me through this year as He did the one before, and as He has all the years of my life. This Bible passage came into my mind that morning, and has continued to echo in my heart during the following days.
Lamentations 3:21-26
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

And so I quietly wait. I wait for Him to continue the healing of my heart, I wait for the safe arrival of my Baby June, Hope personified, and I ultimately wait for the day of salvation, when I will be in heaven with Jesus, and will be reunited with my daughter. Until then, I move forward with Hope, and I wait.