Month: September 2017

Great Strides and Lost Dreams

Grief and Infant LossMatt's Musings

In just a couple of days, we will hit the twins’ first birthday. It will mark the end of one laborious year of hospital stays and surgeries for Asher and one year of soul-crushing grief after losing Luke.  Sara and I are so incredibly thankful to God for how He has protected Asher through some harrowing times that included a bowel perforation and ileostomy, a brain bleed, a blood transfusion for extreme anemia, sepsis from a UTI, an ileostomy reversal surgery, and two major bouts with a virus. As I sit here and type, he’s sitting on the floor playing with toys as if he has the perfect life. He’s the happiest baby we’ve ever had despite the things he has gone through in his short little life. He has made so many great strides that most people would probably never know what he has dealt with. We just love him to death. For us, as parents, each event was emotionally stressful, but with each successive trial we learned to be more calm and at peace, knowing that God was in control of everything. We learned to trust hard and pray hard. He’s had so many people faithfully praying for him I believe that the throne room of God was flooded with his name (and ours) over and over again. I am incredibly thankful for the support we have received from our families, our amazing church family, and people from as far as halfway across the globe.

Even though the grief of losing a child can make you feel as alone as Elijah (1 Kings 19:10), I know we were never alone in the least. For those who read this that have been a part of our lives over the last year, I thank you from the depths of my soul for the way you have ministered to us during our hardest times. You may never know what even the smallest act or word of encouragement meant to us.

On one side of the coin is indescribable joy over Asher making it to his first birthday. Though he has some hurdles to overcome still, we count it a monumental blessing to head into year two with this little nugget.  On the other side, though, is the profound grief over the loss of his brother, Luke. Parents who have endured the loss of a child know that there is nothing in life that can compare to such an upheaval of the natural order.

For Luke’s funeral, I penned a poem that attempts to describe one aspect of that loss:
I dreamed some dreams for you, my son
Of your life with us once it had begun
I dreamed of singing and cuddling you at bedtime
And of the midnight bonding between your heart and mine

I dreamed those dreams of holding your hand
Of walking on my feet and learning to stand
I dreamed of fixing boo boos with a kiss
And of long-held hugs I can’t bear to miss

I dreamed some dreams of ice cream and bikes
Of learning to read and camping and hikes
I dreamed of graduations and wedding bells
And of singing together and unprompted “I Love You’s”

I dreamed those dreams of watching yours come true
Of you having children and loving them as I do you
I dreamed of you coming to know Christ as Lord
And of serving Him together and loving His Word

I have come to realize that those dreams are not yours; they are mine.
I have come see that my plans are not God’s; they are but mine.

God planned a plan for you, my little love
He planned for you to show the comfort from Heaven above
God designed you to display His mercy to all who come
He designed your story to lift up those who have come undone

God worked a work for you, my baby boy
He worked your time here into a season of joy
God intended you to show the peace we can have
He intended you to be a grand flourish of his love

God purposed a purpose for you, my son
He purposed your life to inspire faith where there is none
God knew you in the womb and long before
He knew you could bring sinners to Jesus’ door

I will love you forever, though I see you no more
I will embrace you forever, when we meet at Heaven’s door

That…is the daily struggle…living every moment pulled between the joy of Asher and the grief of what was lost with Luke. With the loss of a child, it is not just the loss of their company. It is the loss of the life you had planned with them. In every moment, it is almost impossible to look at one and not think, “There should be two.” One of the biggest struggles I have had as a father is in being able to hold Asher. Babies naturally want and need Mom more than Dad in the first couple of years. That’s nothing new. However, I can remember so many times thinking to myself as we sat in church or on the couch in the evenings and looked over at Sara holding Asher (after he refused to be held by me) and thinking, “If Luke was here I’d get to hold my baby, too.” There just aren’t many things sweeter than a baby sleeping on your chest.

Those are the little dreams throughout life that I miss. I have learned over this last year to focus more on the second half of that poem. If God’s Word is true, and I know that it is, then I have to believe that God is using our son to shape us into what He wants us to be (Rom 8:28). As painful as it may be at times, God can and will use this tragedy to both become more like Christ and lead people to Him in the process. Sometimes it is hard to see how that is working, but I know that it is. That, in itself, is the greatest comfort anyone could ask for. As I have pointed out from James to my Bible study class, we should rejoice during our trials because we know God is working in our lives. That doesn’t mean I have to like what happened and be happy about that, but it does give me something to rejoice about in the middle of it. It is during these times that we have the greatest potential to draw closer to Him.

As I look back at our first year with Asher and without Luke, I have to marvel at the perspective I have gained in that time and the personal growth I have gone though. It has been arduous at times, to be sure; but if I look at who I was at this time last year and who I am as I am about to step into Year Two, I have to praise God. None of it has been easy and much of it has been painful, but I believe I am a better husband, a better father, a better Bible teacher, and a better servant than I was on September 26, 2017. I hope you’ll continue to pray and grow with Sara and I as we do our best to walk with God through Sep 27, 2017 and on.

Broken but Beautiful

Grief and Infant LossSara's Space

Back in the beginning of July, I had a series of really bad days. I was lonely and felt like no one cared about me and my broken heart anymore. I am now just “the girl whose baby died” to a lot of my past friends.  People don’t treat me the same as they once did and I have definitely lost friends during this last year. A lot of friends, in fact. Infant/child loss is a very lonely road to walk down and that lends to some very bad days because sometimes you just need one person to reach out and say they love you and are thinking of you and your baby…..but it doesn’t really happen often at all. Most days I’m able to function and even put on a smile and laugh. I think of Luke every day, and I’m sure that I always will. Most of the time now I’m able to think of his adorable little nose and precious little kissable cheeks without collapsing into a pile of broken pieces. I will always long to see and touch him again, but I don’t always fall off the deep end when thinking of him anymore. Some people reading that may think “you must be moving on.” Wrong. I’ll never “move on” from the loss of my baby boy. The truth is, I’m still very, very broken. But I am finally learning to allow God to repair my brokenness. In doing so, I hope that one day, I will be made into something more beautiful and useful than I ever have been before.

On one of those lonely days in July, I actually picked up my phone (bad idea, by the way) and I sent a mass text to several of my family members. I have a huge family and they are truly all amazing people. Anyone of them would go to the ends of the earth for any of the others. But one area we all fail at (myself included) is reaching out to one another in the hard times. We will at first, and then eventually we begin to assume one of the aunts or one of the other cousins is following up; and we just…..drop the ball. Seriously, I’m so guilty of this very thing myself. Guys, if you’re reading this, know that I love you all and I know that I’m just as guilty of it and I don’t fault you one bit. So…out of my loneliness and honestly out of desperation, I sent them a message letting them all know how much they’d failed in making sure I was ok and that I was drowning and needed them. I didn’t come out and say the last part, but every one of them got that hint loud and clear. (They also stepped up to the plate too. They really are wonderful people.) One of my cousins sent me something that I have kept in a note on my phone since our conversation that day. I’m going to share a little of that with you now…..

“Most of us are more broken than we would like to admit. It’s in allowing God to repair us that He shines through the best.”

Wow. He could have stopped right there and it still would have been amazingly inspirational for me. It made me realize that I wasn’t allowing God to repair my broken heart. How dishonoring to the One who created me to tell Him “No! You can’t fix this!” But he didn’t stop at that simple (but profound) statement. He went on to tell me about Kintsugi. I added a little link there for you to be able to read all about what Kintsugi is, and I encourage you to google some images of it too, because it’s seriously beautiful stuff. Here’s a little breakdown of it though:

Back in the 15th century, when a bowl or vessel of some sort was broken, the standard for its repair was to use metal staples. This method was not very pretty and likely did not restore full functionality to the piece needing repaired. As a result of these issues, a Japanese craftsman developed a method of repairing pieces that not only restored functionality, but also looked better as well. Most people obviously would prefer the cracks to be completely hidden, as if the damage had never been done at all. This applies to our damage too, doesn’t it?? Can’t my heart be put perfectly back together again??? Can’t we just be the way we were before…..? I don’t want people to see my brokenness.

The problem is, when something is broken, the pieces can never be fit back together again and smoothed over perfectly showing no signs of previous damage. Rather than attempting to cover up the damage, Kintsugi actually uses the brokenness of the piece as part of its beauty after it has been restored. It is done with the use of a lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, copper, bronze or silver to essentially glue the pieces back together. Even items that are missing pieces, either from completely shattering and basically turning back to dust, or from simply being lost; can be repaired using this technique.

 

Check out that vase. See those huge gold pieces in there?? Those would have been massive holes in the vase had they attempted to repair it without using this method. Those holes would have rendered this vase useless and something to be simply thrown in the trash. And that bowl….how pretty is that bowl?! The gold cracks running throughout it make it stand apart from other bowls that were essentially just like it.

 

Right now, I envision my heart looks something a bit like this…..

Not quite complete still, but the beginning of healing. There will always be a couple big gold chunks that stick out, but if I let them, they can be used to make me something far more beautiful than I ever was before. God can piece my heart back together again and fill in those huge holes where Azaliah and Luke are missing with something beautiful that will actually honor them far better than I could do on my own. He can take my brokenness and make something amazing out of it. I will always bear my scars of infant loss. I will always remember my babies and think of them, and even cry for them. But if I let Him, God can use those scars for good.

 

 

No one has a perfectly unbroken heart. We all have scars from our past and maybe even our present. It’s how we choose to repair those broken pieces that determines much in our lives. Will you continue to live in brokenness & despair and maybe even in anger and bitterness? Or will you allow God to make something more beautiful out of your scars??

PS: Ken, thank you for impacting my life. I love you, cousin.

Embrace the Now

Grief and Infant LossSara's Space

Matt & I were married in February 2010. Before we got married, we devised a great plan for our lives; we were going to travel and have fun as a newly married couple for about 5 years and then have babies. Remember what Matt said before…. “we plan, God laughs“?? Yeah, that applies here. In July 2010, we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting. This was NOT in the plan. In fact, my first words when seeing a positive pregnancy test were “oh, crap!” But that shock and extreme terror quickly turned into excitement, although I will admit I was still quite terrified by the thought of having a baby. We immediately told our families and made an announcement on Facebook for all the world to know. We were going to be parents. Despite how scary that was, it was miraculous and wonderful at the same time. Our excitement lasted for approximately 17 days. I began bleeding and cramping. We rushed to the ER on base, and ended up leaving hours later with hope. I had a subchorionic hematoma, but we saw the baby. It was still too early to see a heartbeat, but my bleeding had already stopped. As the weeks rolled on, our hope and excitement grew. My FIL even ordered a crib to be delivered to the house. Sadly, just a month later the bleeding began again, but this time it did not stop like the first time. It was confirmed that we’d lost our sweet baby. We never found out the gender of this baby, but after weeks of mourning our little one, we decided to give our baby a name. We chose Azaliah for our little love.

For several months after we lost Azaliah, I went into a deep depression. I was obsessed with having a baby. Something I hadn’t desired to happen for years to come, suddenly became my only desire. Month after month went by, each marked with a negative pregnancy test (or 5-6 negative tests…). I became angry and bitter. And also scared that I would never be able to be a mother and that because of something surely wrong with me…..Matt would never be a father. I feared that our hopes and dreams for a family full of babies would never be fulfilled.

If you’ve read any of our other posts up to now, you obviously know that that was not the end of our story for babies. But for the next 10 months, I walked around thinking that it was just going to be Matt & me for the rest of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I would have been perfectly happy with just him for the rest of my life, but I didn’t want to let him down. I wanted to see him with our babies. I wanted to make him a daddy.

Our second pregnancy, I was a mess. I worked in an oncology office at the time and literally would draw my own blood to be sent off for hCG and progesterone levels because I simply could not relax and believe this baby would end up healthy and whole and in my arms.

Despite several complications in that pregnancy, Mason Paul did end up healthy and whole and in our arms. To be honest, I had a really difficult time bonding with him after he was born. I loved him beyond measure, but I still had a wall up that I’d built from the moment I saw a two lines on that pregnancy test. I had not let myself get excited about his sweet little life. And then I had pretty bad pre-eclampsia and had to be induced at 37 weeks, was on IV magnesium for 3 days (1 before his birth and 2 after) and he got stuck and had to be vacuum extracted to get out! It was a pretty traumatic birthing experience altogether, so that made the disconnect even worse. I hated myself for ever struggling with this connection that every other mother out there seemed to have the instant they laid eyes on their baby. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t tear that wall down?! We had longed and prayed for this little miracle and yet I couldn’t connect the way I desperately wanted to. Ultimately these feelings just continued to make the whole thing worse! It was a vicious cycle.

I wish I could tell you that I sought help with these feelings or that something happened and things quickly and instantly got better, but that wouldn’t be true. I kept my feelings and my depression hidden because I was so ashamed for ever having felt them. But something positive did eventually come from this experience. I realized what I had done to myself by building that wall of disconnect out of fear of losing this baby too and I promised myself I’d never let that happen again.

Cherish the time you have while you have it.

This goes for everyone, not just babies during pregnancy. Don’t live your life in fear of loss. Imagine all the joyful moments you will be missing out on if you let fear control you in this way. I will never get those moments back from Masons pregnancy or early infancy and I truly wish that I knew then what I know now….

And I am so thankful that I learned this lesson so that now I can look back on our time we had with Luke and cherish those memories of his sweet kicks and hiccups and watching him interact with Asher on the ultrasound screen. If I’d been living in fear of losing him…..I would have nothing but sorrow to look back on.

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