Thankfulness

This is a very hard day for me. Last Thanksgiving we announced that we were pregnant with our third baby. I was 8 weeks pregnant and it was so hard to wait that long to tell people because I had been so sick (as usual.) It was really hard to keep the secret from my Mom, especially, because we had been teaching Children’s Church together and I felt absolutely awful. I remember standing in front of a big group of kids with my mom sitting in the back and I had to smile and teach while I swallowed down vomit. I was so determined to keep the secret until Thanksgiving. Both my family and Josh’s family all get together in South Carolina for Thanksgiving, so it was the perfect opportunity to share our exciting news. We let Asher announce the surprise with his big bro shirt.

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It was so fun, one of my sweet Lucy memories. It makes my heart ache now, though, because here we are a year later and Asher still isn’t technically a “big bro.” I feel her absence with every breath I take on this day, my sweet baby girl who I wanted so much.

But with all this pain as a backdrop, the things that I am thankful for stand out so brilliantly. So, what am I thankful for this year? This year that has been the worst year of my life. I am thankful for so many things and the thankfulness does not have to be conjured up or forced to be recognized. These things I am thankful for come to my mind almost daily and they are a respite for me and they refresh me and they bring healing. Thankfulness is a bright and shining thing in this year of darkness for me.

I am thankful for the blissful ignorance that I was able to have with my first two pregnancies. How grateful I am that I had my two healthy pregnancies before these losses of mine. I know the beauty of a “normal” and innocent pregnancy and birth and I am thankful for that. I had to include this awesome picture of me right before giving birth to Asher.

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I am thankful that my boys have each other. After Liam was born I felt this constant burden to give him a brother. SO many times as I watched Liam play I would say to Josh, “He needs a brother.” I felt like the reality of Liam having a sibling was something at jeopardy and I couldn’t breathe easy until he had his brother. They are the best playmates and they love each other so much and when I see them brothering through their day it soothes my heart.  Nothing has brought me more joy on this earth since losing Lucy than my boys have.

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I am thankful that the trees are losing all their leaves because it’s easier when the world around me mirrors my inner heart. I remember how painful it was to see the fresh, bright green leaves emerge in the spring right after Lucy died. The world’s cheerful beauty seemed to be mocking me. The new life of spring was bursting all around while my heart and my dreams died. Now I feel much more at home with the cold air and the soon to be bare trees.

I am thankful for those who have the ability to mourn with me, who choose to connect with my sorrow even though their lives are in a joyful place. These people feel like Christ in the flesh, easing my sorrow. They refresh me.

I am thankful for the comfort I have found on the internet. I was able to google “stillbirth” right before Lucy died (I had a feeling I was losing her) and it explained what to expect. It gave me a little time to decide how I would birth her and to choose whether I wanted to see her or not. The internet connected me to my lifelines- baby center and blogs from other baby loss moms and so many other resources that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

I am thankful for my most favorite new friend, Sara Hopper, who lost her baby Luke earlier this year. I have never met her face to face, but I feel like I know her well. She found me through my blog and we have been good friends ever since. At first I was so happy because I was able to support her in those horrible first dark days after she lost Luke. I thought God was bringing us together so that I could encourage her, but now I am sure that the opposite is true. Sara has encouraged me more than anyone else on earth since I lost Lucy. She has listened to my heartaches and frustrations and she understands completely. Sara always urges me to hope and when I just don’t have the strength to do it, she hopes for me. Her baby Luke feels like part of our family. My boys love looking at pictures of Lucy’s friend, Luke and talking about what Luke and Lucy are doing in heaven together. I am so thankful for these sweet new friends and the comfort they have brought.

I am also thankful for my best friend Shelly, who understands me and lets me be me. She encourages me so much. She doesn’t get weird when I say things like, “I can’t wait to be in heaven” or “I just can’t be around people today” or “I’m starting to spiral.” Shelly knows that if we are out in public and a woman with a baby girl sits next to us that we need to move and find new seats. She knows what I need. She is a place of refuge for me.

I am thankful for the slow healing that I’m starting to feel. I’m starting to enjoy things like food and tv and people more. The pain is (usually) not so excruciating anymore. The weight on my chest is slowly starting to lift and I can feel that I am starting to move from the “losing Lucy” stage to the “finding hope” stage. Even my hair has stopped falling out (gross, I know) but that is something I am thankful for.

There are so many things I am thankful for, but these are the ones that stand out the most right now. I am also so very thankful for all of my blog readers and fellow baby loss moms. Your support means more than you know and has had a HUGE impact on my healing. I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Moving

We are moving to a new house for the second time in 11 months. I have moved so many times in my life, but this has been, by far, the weirdest move I’ve ever been through. A very sweet family from our church offered to let us stay in their house while they were in Africa for 11 months. We were so excited because we had been in a tiny two bedroom apartment and we were expecting a third baby. Five people just couldn’t fit in that little apartment but we couldn’t afford a house. So we were excited about this big, beautiful house with a huge yard that we got to stay in. We moved in one week before Lucy died. When we came home from the hospital there were still boxes everywhere that needed to be unpacked. It was mayhem. Our lives were completely overturned.

The family insisted that we use their stuff while they were gone (which was fun because their stuff is way better than ours) so we put our things in storage. Now we have moved to a new little three bedroom house and we are unpacking all of our things that we haven’t seen since January. Since Lucy was alive. It feels like I’m unpacking some other family’s things. It’s the strangest feeling. I was a totally different person then. That family was happy and excited about their new baby. They were EXPECTING a baby. There is evidence everywhere. I found this in one of the boxes that I unpacked-

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I keep finding little reminders of the hope we had for Lucy. Her cute little clothes, a Gamecocks baby towel from her Grandma, the nursing pads I bought right before she died (thank goodness I didn’t buy the video baby monitor that I originally had gone to the store to get.) We are also putting away all of the baby things, which is so strange. I thought it would be at least ten years before I was putting away the baby things. No more crib or Bumbo seat or bottles or breast pump or onesies. I’ve also had to gather all of my maternity clothes and store them out of sight. I had some really cute, new maternity clothes for the summer because my boys were both born in the winter and all I had were winter maternity clothes. I was so excited about a summer baby.

And here’s the irony. When we lived in the little apartment or the “6B house” as Liam calls it, all I could think about was moving out. I wanted a bigger house and a yard for my kids and I complained about it to God day after day. It took up so much of my mental and emotional energy. I thought if I could just have a real house and yard then everything would be perfect. So, God gave me the big house and the huge yard and it was the worst 11 months of my life. I barely even noticed my surroundings I was so deep in my grief. Right after Lucy died so many people asked us, “How is the new house? Are you guys enjoying the new house?” and my first thought was always, “What house?” No, I didn’t care about the house at all while I focused on learning to live life without my daughter. Now, I think back on the “6B house” with so much affection because we were happy and all of my babies were alive. How did I miss the blessings that were right under my nose the whole time? I should have been basking in the innocence of a family untouched by tragedy. Our family was whole.

When we moved last week Liam kept begging us to move back into the 6B house. We asked him why he wanted to go back there (our new place is much better) and he never could explain why. He said he just wanted to. But I know he remembers that apartment like I do. My guess is he felt secure there and his Mommy was full of joy then and that was before he had to deal with death at such a young age. Here we are last Christmas in the 6B house when our family was still innocent and complete. I like this picture because Lucy was thriving inside me at the time.

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I see God’s providence through this other family’s generosity and their wonderful house even though it was such a hard time for us. It was big enough for us to have lots of visitors and we needed those people so desperately after Lucy died. I am so thankful that we were able to use all of their things because now I associate those things with tragedy. I have so many sad memories in those rooms, and I can leave them there. I’m hoping to leave all the tragedy there too. I have enjoyed unpacking our things, even though they remind me of who we’ve lost. The feelings I associate with my own things are joy and hope and they encourage me. God has protected us through our mourning time and I am thankful to Him for that. I am also thankful for the way He met me in that house while I was so broken. I learned so much about Him while I was there. I leave that house with a much deeper understanding of my God.

So, I am starting this new chapter of my life with a feeling of hope and healing. I needed this new start so much. We also left that house with a new addition to our family- the boys’ first pet ever, Ollie the cat. A neighbor was also moving and couldn’t take her cat with her and asked if we wanted her. The boys are smitten and it makes my heart happy to see them able to nurture Ollie cat. I wish they were cuddling their sister instead, but we are thankful for sweet Ollie who we have to love and take care of. We also now have an attic and a fenced in backyard, which are two things I have always dreamed of having. I feel blessed.

Here’s Ollie cat doing her nightly no-legs pose

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The Rescue Plan

I know that this is probably not theologically correct and it’s definitely not in the Bible. It is just an imaginary scenario of mine. The other day while I was doing dishes (which is usually when I do my deep thinking and hard crying) I was thinking about the trinity: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. I wondered how they decided that Jesus was going to be the one to come to earth and die. I imagined them before the world was even created, having a discussion about how they should rescue the world. They knew that man would betray their trust and sin would corrupt everything and a rescue plan had to be formulated. I can see them trying to decide who should be the one to lower Himself down into the dismal skin of a human. Who would be the one to suffer for all humanity and die a shameful, painful death?

“Well, it only makes sense for me to take the shape of a man because I will live inside men anyway,” says the Holy Spirit. “After I die on the cross and rise from the dead I will just transfer from my human body to the hearts of the men who love God.”

And the Father says, “Well, it makes sense for me to go and die because I am the Father, and isn’t that the Father’s duty? To die for His children? To give His life so that His children might live?”

But Jesus counters, “That is exactly why you shouldn’t be the one. It is what makes sense. Of course a father would die for his children. It is only natural. But what father would sacrifice his own son? To sacrifice your own child to save someone else is the most ludicrous act of love anyone can imagine.”

And so they agreed that the biggest sacrifice and the best way to prove their love for us would be for the Father to lose His only Son.

That was all made up, just to make that clear. The rest is not made up. I honestly think if God the Father had died on that cross instead of Jesus I would be thinking this very moment, “He has no idea how it feels. Of course I would give my life for my child. But He cannot relate to the deep, wrenching pain of living while your child is dead.” Instead, God made the most difficult, impossible sacrifice for us, giving up His baby boy.

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When my heart aches with the slow burn of my loss and I feel God tugging me towards Him I can let my guard down because HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS. I can let Him comfort me. The pain of watching your child’s heart stop beating; He knows exactly how that feels. He is not some cold, aloof God dismissing my agony with a wave of His hand. He is a parent who has lost His child and knows the grief. The unbelievable thing about it is that He willingly let His Son die for me, for Lucy, for you, for your baby, for all of us. That is how deep His love is for us. That makes me feel special and loved and worthy.

Isaiah 53:4,5 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.

Once again, I am so deeply grateful for this ultimate sacrifice that allows my daughter to dance with her Savior at this very moment. What a beautiful gift we have been given. If you have not accepted this amazing gift of life, it is being offered right now. It is the most expensive gift ever bought, and the price has been paid and it is being held out to you now. Don’t turn down your opportunity to live in paradise forever with the God who gave His Son’s life for yours.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”