Still Wondering…

I am still wondering why I lost Jude and Pax. It is always in the back of my mind. I know exactly why we lost Lucy, my immune system thought she was something dangerous and it attacked her. My own body killed the baby it was supposed to protect. I know that the same thing will happen to any other babies who get their Daddy’s blood type- a 50% chance. I also know that it is only possible for my body to attack the baby after he/she starts making his or her own blood in the second trimester.

There is no possible way that my anti-kell antibodies killed Jude and Pax because I lost them early in the first trimester. So what was it? I never had any problems before, never had any miscarriages before. They ran so many tests with Lucy (just to be sure to rule anything else out) and they all came back perfect. She was perfect, Liam and Asher were perfect. After losing Jude and Pax I had a couple of tests done and everything looked great. Just a few weeks ago I was tested for hypothyroidism because it runs in my family and can cause miscarriages/infertility. I also read that it can be triggered by a pregnancy, so I thought maybe my pregnancy with Lucy triggered it and that’s why I lost the next two. But my thyroid is functioning beautifully, which was surprisingly disappointing. I’m tired of wondering why I lost my last two babies and questioning whether it will happen again.

When we decided to try to conceive our rainbow baby after losing Lucy, it took SO much courage. I was ready to fight for him/her in the second and third trimesters, ready to have a NICU baby for as long as it took, ready to try the new treatments and see if they might save our baby. But I lost them before I could even start to fight. I lost the race right at the starting line.

We might never know why we lost them. So many women lose babies and they never know why. I do know that God is in control and He is not surprised by any of this. I also have a strong feeling that we are NOT done trying. Right now we are so excited about our baby that is coming through the gift of adoption, but I do think we will try again naturally one day. Although, my friend who tried for a baby for five years and then adopted a sweet baby girl last year said that adoption has totally changed her heart and her perspective. She said now, she honestly does not care if she has any biological children, she is so in love with her daughter, she can’t imagine her family any other way. So, who knows? I could have a total change of heart after I meet my next baby. Maybe she will make our family complete, maybe we will adopt again or try embryo adoption?

I am so sorry to all the mothers out there who lost babies and have no explanation why. It is a haunting question that lingers in the back of your mind, nagging and irritating. The best thing I know to do is to file this question away, along with my many other unanswered questions, and to ask God when I see Him in person.

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Baby Pax’s Due Date

Today is our baby Pax’s due date. It is also Father’s Day and my Dad’s birthday, a loaded day, full of emotion. I was so excited to have a baby due on “Grandbarry’s” birthday, to have a fifth child. I always wanted five kids. Before I would commit to dating Josh I asked him if he wanted at least five kids and he said he did. I never could have imagined that one day, we would have five children together, except three of them would be born into heaven. Regardless, I am thankful for the five little people that God has given me to call my own. All of them are special, all of them are deeply loved and all of them had their days written out in God’s book before even one of them came to pass.

I always thought Pax was a boy, although I won’t know for sure until I get to heaven. I wonder how Pax is feeling today in heaven. I have a suspicion that he might be saying something like, “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to skip all the pain, darkness, sadness and sin, and letting me to come right to paradise. I am so blessed to be one of the lucky ones.” Who knows? Today might be a huge celebration for Pax in heaven. How beautiful that he never had to experience sin or pain, rejection, worry, loneliness, hunger or tiredness. I am glad that I never have to worry about the wellbeing of my babies who are not with me. I know they have been given a better life than the ones I got to keep with me.

Baby Pax,

I love you so much and I miss you every day. Your Daddy misses you too, especially today, on Father’s Day. You are our answer to prayer, and one day we will get to celebrate you like we hoped we could here on earth (but I know it will be so much better there.) Your big brother Liam prayed so many times for God to give Mommy “two lines” on her pregnancy test, and you are our beautiful answer to that prayer, our gift that we don’t get to unwrap until heaven. We can’t wait to meet you, to know who you are, and to let you show us around your amazing home. You were so wanted, you are so loved, and one day I’m going to cover you in kisses. I am so blessed and so proud to be your Mommy.

Shattered Dreams

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Our baby Pax’s due date is coming up on June 15th. I feel like there have been so many pregnancy/birth announcements lately and each one is painful, especially now so close to my own due date. A lot of these birth announcements are my answers to prayers for other people, and I am thankful for God’s goodness, but they are still reminders of my shattered dreams for my life. Each announcement usually takes me about two days of extreme sadness to accept and move on. I used to be frustrated with myself for feeling this way. I felt guilty and tried to fight it, but now I have learned to accept it as part of my grieving process and I just get through it and then move on. I am also painfully aware when I go out in public that my two sweet boys are probably someone else’s trigger, a reminder of their own shattered dreams. Lately, I have been working less while my students are on vacation, and Josh is home more to help with the boys, so I have more free time to think and remember my many losses.

Of course I am still mourning my Lucy every day. Yesterday I felt especially sad and was missing her so much. I had to go to a doctor’s appointment and I cried all the way there. I finally pulled it together enough to wipe off my face and clean up my smeared make-up, walk in and put on a fake smile for the other people in the waiting room. I decided to look at a magazine while I was waiting and when I picked it up I noticed the date on the front “July 2013.” It made my heart sink. Anything that has to do with July 2013 makes me instantly sad. I remember after losing Lucy I dreaded that month like the world was coming to an end in July. I remember I almost couldn’t eat or drink anything that had an expiration date of July 2013. Fourth of July decorations still make me feel sick to my stomach. That was the month I should have welcomed my sweet daughter and now I should be planning my girl’s first birthday party. I fought back the tears and quickly put the magazine back on the table. I reached for another one to try to distract myself and immediately noticed the date on the front “February 2013.” You have to be kidding me. That was the worst month of my life, the month I lost my baby and my hope of any more healthy pregnancies. I basically threw the magazine back on the table like it was contaminated with the plague. It was so hard to hold it together for the whole appointment. I cried as soon as I got back into the car. I still miss Lucy every minute of every day.

I am just realizing, though, how deep of a loss it was for me to lose my ability to have healthy pregnancies. I think most of my emotional focus over the past year and a half has been on mourning Lucy. Now I am feeling the deep pain of the fact that I will never be able to just get pregnant and have a live baby. Almost all of the women who lost babies last year now have big, round bellies stretching with the life of their rainbow babies (which is what I have prayed for them.) How wonderful and hopeful that must feel. I can’t even fathom how amazing that must be, to get to the age of viability, to feel your baby kicking every day, to feel your breasts swell in preparation for the baby that will come. All of that is lost for me, and I am still mourning it now.

Adoption is beautiful and full of hope, but it is not for the faint of heart. It means putting your hopes in God’s hands. It means you don’t get to have nine months of bonding with your baby before you meet them face to face. You have to wait for that paper to be signed before you can allow yourself to love freely and give your heart to the baby, because that is when she is actually yours to love. It is hard to wait and not know, to keep releasing your hope and giving it back to God. It is hard to trust Him with your new dreams when you trusted Him with your former dreams but now they lie shattered all around your feet. I often think about how hard it would be to go through a divorce and see your dreams for your marriage shattered. I think about how hard it would be to lose someone you love and have had with you for years, like your spouse, your sibling, your parents. Shattered dreams.

As I said in a previous post, I am currently reading “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb. I had low expectations for this book since my friend randomly bought it for me from the Salvation Army and we both knew nothing about it. It has been surprisingly insightful and encouraging. If you are struggling with your own shattered dreams, I highly recommend you read this book. I’m still not even half way through it, but I’m learning so much. I’m learning that the dreams I had were good, but God has a plan for me here on earth that is better, and He has a life, waiting for me in heaven that is the BEST (and it’s sweet in a way that Lucy, Jude and Pax got to skip right to the BEST.) Sometimes my good dreams have to shatter in order for me to realize my deep need for God and to see His plan for me that’s better.

It’s harder to discover our desire for God when things go well. We may think we have, but more often all we’ve found is our desire to USE God, not to ENJOY Him. Shattered dreams are the truest blessings; they help us discover our true hope. But it can take a long, dark time to discover it.

-Larry Crabb

It is taking me a long, dark time to discover God’s truest blessing for my life and even when I stand here surrounded by the shards of my broken dreams for my life and for my children, He is working on my behalf. None of my pain will be wasted.

Dreams for good things may shatter, but our pain will always have a purpose. It will not go away, but it will do its work. It will stir an appetite for a higher purpose- the better hope of knowing God well enough now to love Him above everything else…and trust Him no matter what happens…We will not suffer in heaven. Every imaginable dream, everything from good parking spaces to good health, will come true. Pain will have no purpose then, so it will not be allowed….For now, while we still have such a hard time realizing that what’s good is not always best, suffering still has a function. As nothing else can, it moves us away from demanding what’s good…toward desiring what’s better…until heaven provides what’s best.

-Larry Crabb

Having Lucy alive and with me right now seems right and good, and it is. Being able to get pregnant easily and have live, breathing babies seems right and good, and it is. Healthy marriages, good jobs, siblings who are alive, they are all good and right. My instinct is to cling tightly to what is good and scream at God, “It’s GOOD, it’s RIGHT! If you are good you should let me have what is GOOD!” But it is only when my dreams for what is good shatter that I am able to see God’s dream for me, something even better. I know that God is saving the best for last. My story will end with the best. And for the mothers who lost babies, our stories will end with a beautiful beginning- the beginning of our eternity with our babies, and that is one of the few dreams that cannot be shattered.

Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Baby Jude’s Due Date

Today is yet another hard day for us. March 19th, 2014 was Jude’s due date; our precious baby Jude, our fourth child that we know absolutely nothing about. We are so sad that we have to wait until heaven to meet him or her. We are comforted by the fact that Jude is with Lucy and Pax and most of all, Jesus. We are thankful that Jude was not stillborn, and we think that God might have been sparing us from that deep pain by taking Jude early.

When we found out that we might be experiencing a miscarriage, we cried out to God to spare this baby’s life. I sat down with my journal and my Bible and begged God to speak to me, to comfort me or prepare me for whatever was coming. I flipped back to a special promise that God had given me a few weeks after Lucy died-

It was about a month and a half after I lost Lucy. I was still bleeding heavily (6 weeks later, which isn’t normal) so I had to go back to the doctor to have everything checked out. This meant sitting in the waiting room full of happy pregnant women. That morning I woke up and wanted to die, I was so overwhelmed with sadness. To get to my OB’s office you have to walk right past the newborn nursery at the hospital and see the tiny, beautiful newborn babies. I literally didn’t know if I could do it. God reassured me and I felt like He said very clearly, that He was going to tell me something important at my doctor’s appointment. I doubted that anything good could come out of this appointment. When I sat down in the waiting room I looked up and there was a woman from my church who was pregnant and due about a month after Lucy. She was there to find out the sex of her baby and was thrilled. Her face was alight with joy and excitement and innocence. How different our two ultrasounds were going to be that day. I died inside and begged God, “Help me, Jesus, help me. I can’t do this. I want to die, Jesus, help me.” He said, “Look at Psalm 21. It’s for you. I will do this for you.” I was skeptical, but I turned to it right then in the waiting room and read this (I have replaced “The King” with my name, since it was a personal promise for me):

O Lord, in your strength Bethany rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly she exults! You have given her her heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of her lips. For you meet her with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon her head. She asked life of you; you gave it to her, length of days forever and ever. Her glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on her. For you make her most blessed forever; you make her glad with the joy of your presence. For Bethany trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High she shall not be moved.

How sweet is my God to give me that promise right then when I needed it most? It brought me so much peace and it got me through that horrible doctor’s appointment. They had to do an ultrasound to make sure nothing was left in my uterus. There in front of me was my empty womb where Lucy should have been. I turned my head to look away and my eyes landed on the stack of onesies they give out when you find out the sex of your baby. Heartbreak. I thought about the promise God had just given me and it got me through.

So, when I sat down and flipped back in my journal to read that promise I noticed the dates. Do you know when God gave me that promise? March 19th, 2013. Baby Jude’s due date was March 19th, 2014. My heart relaxed with relief because I thought surely this was a sign that this baby would survive. But Jude didn’t make it and our hearts were completely broken. I felt silly for hoping.

Now, here we are on March 19th, 2014. No baby Jude, no baby Pax, no baby growing in my belly, no 8 month old Lucy. But I have the amazing promise that God gave me one year ago today. He will give me my heart’s desire and will not withhold the request of my lips. What have I requested, again and again and again? Lord, give me more children, Lord heal our hearts, Lord be glorified through our pain. He will do it.

This is what is sweet about this promise to me. The thing I have asked God for the most this past year is LIFE. Life for Lucy, life for Jude, life for Pax, more little lives for me to mother. And He promised me specifically:

She asked life of you; you gave it to her, length of days forever and ever.

Lucy, Jude and Pax have been given life, length of days forever and ever, and so have I. I get to have my babies forever. Over the past year I have often wondered if God’s blessings have just run out for me. He blessed me so much for the first 32 years of my life, maybe all He has left for me is suffering. But on this day last year He promised me specifically-

You have given her her heart’s desire…you meet her with rich blessings…for you make her most blessed forever; you make her glad with the joy of your presence.

And yet another beautiful contrast- Since losing Lucy I have felt so LOW- embarrassed, ashamed, sad, hopeless…but with these verses God has promised to bestow on me glory, splendor and majesty. One day He will set a crown of fine gold upon my head. I am trying to focus on this promise today instead of the painful emptiness that should be filled by my sweet little Jude. Would you pray for us today? We are so very tired of grieving and hurting, but we are still trusting.

For Bethany trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High she shall not be moved.

For Eternity

It’s amazing how dates cement themselves in my mind. As I get closer to Lucy’s birthday, I feel all the things I was feeling a year ago. Sometimes it feels like no time has passed and it was just yesterday that I was losing my daughter slowly, day by day, waiting until her heart stopped forever. A year ago today my baby Lucy was given a blood transfusion while still in the womb. She was extremely anemic and the doctors thought this blood transfusion could save her life. It was deemed a miraculous success, and everyone thought she would be fine. I never felt her kick again and I knew that it wasn’t a success.

I have written about it in Letting Lucy Go, but on this day a year ago I felt God ask for my daughter. It was probably the hardest decision of my life. I know that if I had said no to God, she still would have died, but I think it has helped that He asked first. I knew He was asking me to follow Him into suffering and I am thankful that He gave me the choice before He took her. I told Him He could take her if He needed to. Here is my journal entry from a year ago. I wrote down the truths that comforted me that day that I gave my baby back to God. These truths have comforted me throughout this past year and they are still true today.

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  • I have her for eternity
  • I will give her life for God’s glory if He asks
  • She is His anyway
  • Abraham gave his son to God. God gave His Son for us. I will hold my daughter’s life with an open hand
  • My life’s purpose is to glorify God (and enjoy Him), not to keep my daughter with me
  • He will sustain me
  • I will be strong and courageous in Him

I think my favorite truth is that I will have Lucy for eternity. I don’t know if I will get to keep Liam and Asher for eternity. They have to decide whether or not they will trust God and love Him. I pray that they will, and I think they will. But I know for sure that Lucy and Jude and Pax wait for me in heaven, and what a sweet promise that is. As I wrote in my journal a year ago today, He will sustain me and He has through the worst year ever. He has given me strength and courage to keep going and not give up, and for that I am thankful.

And by the way, I know God did not kill Lucy, but He did allow it. He could have saved her and He didn’t, so I trust that He has a purpose for allowing such a tragedy. My gain will be greater than my suffering, as was Lucy’s.

Here’s what I posted on Facebook the night before Lucy’s blood transfusion. I want to repeat it today because I think it is important:

As I sit here thinking about the fact that there’s a good chance my baby might die in my womb tomorrow, one thing keeps coming to mind…I have her for eternity. If things don’t go well tomorrow I know that I will spend eternity with her in heaven. If you don’t know God personally I challenge you to consider it. There’s just no better way to do life. God is real. He carries our burdens for us and offers peace and joy and eternal life. What could be better than that?

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Our Baby Pax

It has taken me a while to write about our baby Pax because it was just too painful at first and I needed a little privacy to work through my fresh grief. I’m feeling healed enough now to share a little bit about our baby Pax.

Pax is our 5th child, who we lost to an early miscarriage in October. We thought he/she would be our rainbow baby after losing Lucy and Jude, but it wasn’t to be. We were so excited to get another positive pregnancy test, but very cautious with our hope. The exact same thing happened with Pax that happened with Jude in July. I got a positive pregnancy test, and another and another. I even tested with a few different brands to make sure it was right. After several days I noticed the second line on the tests stopped getting darker and a few days after that I noticed them getting lighter. We lost the baby at the exact same gestation as Jude. Strangely, I had a lot of peace the whole time. I think I’m learning to hold my children with an open hand (or maybe I’m just getting pessimistic.) Either way, God blessed me with peace as I was losing my third baby in eight months. That is a miracle.

My doctor reminded me that this early loss is not connected to anti-kell antibodies at all, since that can’t affect the baby until about 16 or 17 weeks at the earliest. The doctor couldn’t find any reason for this miscarriage, just like my last one with Jude.

We decided to name our baby “Pax” because it means peace. I always wanted to name one of my babies Pax, but Josh said absolutely not because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have a kid named Pax and he didn’t want people to think we were copying them. Well, after we lost this baby he said we could use the name, so I finally got my baby Pax. I always wanted five kids and now I have them. I feel blessed, but it feels strange for my children in heaven to outnumber my children on earth.

Unfortunately, I never got an ultrasound picture of the baby, but I do have pictures of me while I was pregnant with Pax. Here I am with my boys (and baby Pax) at the Memphis zoo. It was a fun, sunny day and I remember feeling so happy, almost buoyant. I am blessed to have this one happy memory with my baby Pax (and my other two lovies, of course.)

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Pax was due on June 15th, my Dad’s birthday. It has been hard to see other women who are due in June announce their pregnancies. It is hard to see their bellies grow round with the life of their child while mine, yet again, remains flat. And it is hard to see my boys lose the heart to keep praying for a baby they can keep. Losing a baby is so hard, at any stage. Losing THREE is devastating. But God, He is my redeemer and He has given me peace. Nothing can separate me from His love and nothing can separate my children from His love. Even though I am not full of joy right now, it is well with my soul.

“JOY”  -One of my favorite songs since losing Lucy. I cry every time I hear it.

Another Lost Baby

This is hard for me to write. I had to gather all of my emotional energy just to sit down and write this post. We are losing another baby to a very early miscarriage. This is our third loss in eight months. We are disheartened and discouraged and just so tired. These last two early losses are totally unrelated to anti-kell antibodies, so this seems bizarre to me. I’ve never had any problems conceiving or having healthy pregnancies before losing Lucy. We are trying to figure out what has changed since then to cause these early losses. We are wondering if it’s something hormonal (stress/anxiety or low progesterone?) and are looking into it. Please pray that we figure out what is going on.

This pregnancy was a bit different for me because right from the beginning I said to God, “Thank you for this new life, do what you want with it. Whether this pregnancy progresses is up to you and I’m giving it totally over to you.” Honestly, I didn’t let myself get too excited (which is sad in a way) because I knew anything could happen. I didn’t expect to have a screaming baby in my arms next June. I just gave it over to God again and again and He has allowed us to face another loss. I still trust Him, but I am so very tired of all the loss and hurt. I know one day He will do something wonderful with it, but it sure is taking a long time. I just have to trust.

When I was in the hospital after losing Lucy I had a very vivid dream that I felt was from God. I had a perfect rose in my hand and it was in bloom. It was beautiful, but it had been uprooted. I knew that if I didn’t plant it in the dirt, it would die. I was digging frantically and trying to force it into the ground, but it wouldn’t work. I knew even in the dream that the rose symbolized Lucy. I wanted to keep the rose alive so badly, but I couldn’t. Next to me, lying on the ground, were two more roses, uprooted. They were waiting for me to try to plant them in the dirt. Just then a huge dragon-bird creature came flying at me. It’s claws were stretched out in front of it and it looked terrifying. It swooped down and snatched my precious rose out of my hands and flew off into the sky with it. I was devastated. I woke up drenched with sweat and breast milk (that’s when I realized my milk had come in.) I was so scared and told Josh about the dream and said, “What if those other two roses are our next two babies? What if that means we’re going to lose two more babies?” He tried to be optimistic and suggested that maybe the two roses signified two more healthy babies or they were for Liam and Asher. I had the strong feeling that it meant we would lose two more babies. Here we are, eight months later, with two more lost babies.

A few weeks after losing Lucy I decided to try to figure out what the dragon bird was. It kept coming to my mind and it seemed confusing because I knew God didn’t let some terrifying beast come take Lucy. I googled it and guess what it was?

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It was a phoenix.

It looked just like this in my dream. The phoenix is a mythological bird that lives for a long time and then bursts into flames and burns. Out of the ashes, the phoenix is reborn and restored to life. The phoenix symbolizes regeneration, rebirth and new life. Some say it symbolizes the victory of life over death. Life from the ashes. How sweet that God would send me that dream to tell me that even though I couldn’t plant my rose here on earth, He would take it and restore it to life by planting it in heaven. My roses are alive and blooming, and they are planted right where they are supposed to be. I only hope that as the dream showed, only three babies of mine won’t be able to bloom here on earth.

Please pray that we don’t lose any more babies. Please pray that we don’t lose hope. God promised me that He would redeem it, so I will cling to that promise with all I’ve got.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.