Monday, December 21, 2015

Emotions

Grief comes in waves.

At least for me it does. It's not a pressing weight that's constantly on my heart, it's a sharp stab that comes from behind and catches me off guard. One minute I'm fine, thinking that we've moved past all of this and we're healing and then it hits me. I don't get to feel a baby kicking. I don't get to count down to holding that sweet child in my arms. I don't get to know who he or she is, what they like/dislike, who they look like. And it almost seems like too much to bear.

Sunday was actually a rough day. Reliving this over and over with friends who care about what we've gone through was trying on my emotions. I wanted to be able to make it through each conversation without tears burning my eyes. I wanted to be able to share and encourage without feeling my stomach tighten in knots. The lumps in my throat seemed to choke most of my words and I found myself saying over and over again "It's just weird... but God has been so good to us."

The strange thing was hearing over and over from women "I've been so encouraged by you." Most started by saying "I read your blog" and instantly my chest tightened when I thought back to the words that poured out of my heart onto the keyboard. But that the Lord would use this to encourage others has been one of the good things that has come from this. In fact, even though it's only been a few weeks, I've already seen how good this has been for my own walk with the Lord and for my relationship with Brian.

It helped to talk to women who have been through this. Most had lost their babies early in their pregnancy but I don't think that changes much. Maybe our guards were down because we felt we were past the danger zone of the first trimester but from the moment you see those 2 pink lines on the stick, you are hooked and having that taken away from you is heartbreaking no matter how much time passes.

But hopefully the waves slow down. Hopefully they come few and far between. Not that I will ever forget this child, but that with time, I will be able to make it through my story with a strong voice and words of hope and encouragement that God brought us through this and it is only by His grace that we are the better for it.

...............................................................................................................................................................

On Sunday night we were heading to the Christmas concert at church and I helped Allie zip up her boot. You would've thought that I just snapped her arm in half. She sobbed and sobbed because she wanted to zip the boot up. I calmly told her that she needed to control her emotions and stop crying. 20 minutes and a discipline session later, she was still sobbing and bursting with tears and I was losing my patience -- this approach seemed to be making matters worse. So Brian took her into his arms and whispered to her "What do you need?"

"I just want to cry."

And she did. He held her and stroked her hair while she cried about her boot. It only lasted about a minute before she jumped up excited to go to church. I am so grateful to have a husband who is surrounded by females and knows exactly how to deal with them. How many times have I needed to just sob into his chest and he's there for me? Even though, to me, her problems seemed insignificant, he recognized that she just needed to let out those emotions that were overflowing in her heart.

I think as women we're trained to think that emotions are a bad thing. The world says being emotional shows weakness. But I think that we are uniquely blessed with this gift of emotions. We feel compassion. We feel sadness and pain. We feel deeply because that is who God made us to be.

Do those emotions need to be controlled? Of course! There is a time to weep and a time to laugh and sometimes, you do just need a good cry. We shouldn't drown out those feelings of compassion or pity or sympathy. Hannah wept bitterly. Even Jesus wept. And as she grows, Allie will come to understand that there are heavier things than not being able to zip up her boot and hopefully we'll teach her to control the emotions that spring from not getting her way.

But I hope to be an example to her of someone who isn't afraid of shedding tears for the right reasons. Like when I'm reading a story to her about the 3 trees; one becomes the manger Jesus is laid in, one becomes the boat He calms the storm in, and one becomes the cross. I can't even make it through the end of the book without crying but to me, that evokes the greatest emotions of all. That Christ would die for me brings such overwhelming emotion to my soul that I can't help but well up with tears.

There definitely has to be a balance in how we're dealing with Allie and teaching her to honor God with her emotions. I don't think we've figured it out yet though. There are days when I still cry over my own "boot" scenarios. But this collection of articles from Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters has been a great help in this area and I'm hoping that someday both Allie and I will have learned to honor God with our emotions.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Interviews with Allie - Christmas Edition

We're sitting at dinner, eating pizza obviously, and Allie says to me "Mom, tell me the story about the baby Jesus." "Okay," I say, and start... "A long time ago, there was a woman named Mary..."

Then we get to the part about the shepherds sleeping in the fields and she says "But why were they sleeping in the fields?"

"Well, some people have theorized that Jesus was born close to the Passover celebration. The shepherds were in the fields because they needed to be near the sheep to watch them and protect them to make sure there would be perfect lambs for the sacrifice."

"Pay attention, kiddo" Brian says, "You're getting the deep theological stuff here."

I then go on to tell her about the wise men, who were not there at Jesus' birth, but who followed a star to find him. Then how Joseph had to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. 

"But Mom," Allie says, "Tell me about the sheep."

"....?"

"The sheep? That was like the most uninteresting part of the whole story."

"But were the sheep sleeping too?"

"..."

"Time for bed."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Love and loss

It's so hard to deal with loss. It's hard for the person going through it. It's hard for their families and loved ones who have gone through the same thing. It's hard for their families and friends who have never experienced it and don't know what to say.

But what can you say? There's nothing to do except remind yourself of God's truth and promises. The only comfort I've found is the Lord using my family and friends to do exactly that. When maybe they know there's nothing they can do but reverberate God's promises to you so when you wake up in the middle of the night your ears are ringing with the truths you heard that day. 

Monday night wasn't terrible. It was sad but I was scared that I would feel emptier or something after the surgery. But I didn't. I think my mind had already accepted that our baby had long ago been removed from my body.

I was shaking as they wheeled me into the OR and the last thing I remember was the doctor holding my hand and saying comforting words to me, although I couldn't remember just what. The next thing I knew, I woke up crying as they wheeled me to recovery. The anesthesiologist said that I might cry as a side effect of the anesthetic but I don't know. Brian was by my side in a few minutes and I just remember seeing the concern and relief in his face. I didn't think about how hard it would be for him sitting out in the waiting room for an hour just praying and hoping that everything would go well. 

I am slowly trying to return to normal in light of the things God has shown me about Himself in the past few days. Food still needs to be cooked and eaten. Little noses and bottoms still need to be wiped. Life has to keep going. And now I'm armed. I'm ready to help a friend through grief (although it's not something I would ever want to happen to another). I'm ready to teach my daughters about the steadfast love of God and that trials WILL be a part of their lives. And I'm ready for the Lord to continue stretching and molding me.

The response that we've received from family and friends has been overwhelming. From the text messages to someone showing up at our door with arms full of groceries, we have seen the Lord loving us and caring for us through the people He has placed in our lives. That quote by Spurgeon has sunk so deeply into my heart because if I hadn't felt God's love in the beginning of this, I have seen it in abundance as we've continued down this path. Not once have I felt alone or hopeless. To be hand in hand with Brian as we lean on God for strength and grace has made me realize how truly blessed I am to have married him.

It's still weird though. When I think back to what happened just a few days ago, it feels like watching scenes from a movie. Sometimes I still can't believe that this happened to us. When I was pregnant with Allie, other parents would tell us our lives would never be the same. Having gone through this now, I know it has changed us forever.

That's a pretty dramatic ending to this post. Maybe I'll be back to funny again and when I am, you guys will be the first to know. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Grief

Disclaimer: This post will probably make you cry so have some tissue nearby and I'm sorry ahead of time for making your eyes puffy and red and your nose run. Also it's really, really long.

Saturday was the day we were supposed to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. Supposed to. Instead, we found out our precious baby had gone to be with the Lord. No one can prepare you for that. When it happens to other people, it's sad but you don't really feel the devastation unless it happens to you.

But I knew. I had known and I think my brain just hadn't accepted what had happened. I noticed that my belly wasn't round and growing, I was just looking fat. I brushed that off as maybe this baby is just smaller. I hadn't felt the baby move at all but I thought, it's just not an active baby. Every fear about the death of one of our children I met with prayers that it wasn't in my control anyway.

How could I have known that the Lord had already taken our precious child home and was preparing me for the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life?

We took the girls to my appointment on Saturday, eager to find out who would be the addition to our little family. When the tech left the room after 15 minutes, was gone for 20 only to return and hand me the phone, I knew that my worst fears were materializing. I shakily answered the phone and all I heard the doctor say was "I have some really bad news." I don't remember my legs giving out but Brian was there in a second pulling me back up. The girls stared as I sobbed for what I knew she was going to say. She said the tech couldn't find a heartbeat and asked if my husband was with me.

I've never cried so much in my life. We both knew that God had already numbered this baby's days and their life was in His control. We knew that He wasn't punishing us or being mean; instead we both deeply felt His sorrow that sin has affected our world in such devastating ways. Not once did I question Him or even felt that I could, I knew exactly what this trial was for. I knew exactly why He was sifting us and allowing us to go through this.

We spent the rest of the day in tears. My heart felt like it was being pressed on from all sides. My head pounded from the tears but I couldn't stop them. I've never seen Brian so torn. And watching him grieve for our baby was heart-wrenching. Each phone call to inform our family and friends brought fresh tears and I couldn't control the sobs that came from my gut. I fell asleep in Brian's arms with tears drenching my pillow.

I woke up that night at 3 in the morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I had questions like why my body hadn't figured out the baby was gone and what we were going to do next. The doctor had given us some options and we thought we would wait it out before making any final choices. And in the darkness, the Lord gave me light. I desperately clung to His Word for hope and reassurance that He was there. That He loved me. That He was going to bring us through this.

"This I recall to mind, Therefore, I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion, says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.... For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. For He does not afflict willingly or grieve the sons of men." Lamentations 3

“Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day?.... Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice and hail to deeper snow and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Don’t you know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Be full of hope! Hope forever! For God does not fail you. Do you know that God loves you in the midst of all this?.... You will yet, midst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and works your lasting good by them. Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then forever with the Lord, your bliss shall never wane.
-- Charles Spurgeon

"I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed... O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! The righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles... The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34

And then Job. Job who lost so much and yet blessed the Lord. Job's answer to his friends: "Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him? Who could say to Him, 'What are You doing?'"

I cried and prayed to the Lord. For wisdom. For strength. For comfort. And then I just cried. I was so sad that this baby had to feel the effects of a wretched world. I was so sad that our sin grieves the Lord and yet we take it so lightly.

We explained to Allie what had happened. "But I wanted to hold the baby and feed it and help you put it to sleep..." And then she cried. For a sibling she never knew. Isn't that crazy? How much we grieved over someone we had never met? This baby was already so loved and it hadn't even seen our faces.

This weekend has been so long and at the same time a blur. Today we went back to talk to the doctor and discuss our options. The ultrasound showed that the baby was measuring at 15 weeks when it stopped growing. That meant that an induction would have low chances of working because both the baby and my uterus were still very small. And even at the end of laboring for several days, I could still require a surgery. It also meant that we wouldn't be able to know if it was a boy or a girl.

We prayed before going that the Lord would give us wisdom for any decisions we had to make and peace about what would be the best. Because the baby had been gone for so long, the longer I waited, the higher risk I stood of infection and massive bleeding. So we scheduled the surgery for 9 pm and as I write this, I'm trying to ignore dinner being made because I'm not supposed to eat. But writing it has also helped. It's like actually getting to say out loud what has been racing through my mind for days.

We asked the doctor for one last ultrasound to get some pictures. It seemed like a strange request from someone who isn't sentimental about these things. But all we had seen up to that point was a little bean at 10 weeks old. She perfectly captured a picture showing the profile of the baby and all I could do was lay there as tears streamed down my face and Brian shook with tears next to me. 

I've been so blessed to have so many people in my life to encourage us and pray for us. People who had never met me before were bearing our burdens. A friend said "I am abundantly thankful that the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning to deep to understand. He is praying for you. Your God, the living God, is praying, for YOU. He cares for you and loves you and is rejoicing even now to be with His child (your child) in glory."

And we do believe that. We have to believe that the Lord extended special grace to this baby to save them before they could understand the gospel. Brian and I even chuckled about it that our baby just skipped the hard part of living here on earth and went straight to be with Jesus. And that gives me hope. One day I'll hold that precious baby in my arms.

Maybe after tonight the hardest part will be over. But tomorrow will have new mercies from the Lord. He will provide comfort and peace for those moments of sadness as we move on. He will encompass us with love and encouragement from our friends and family. And I know that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness in His Word so in those moments of darkness when my heart feels like it can't bear the burden of grief, I will cling to His promises and have hope.