Thursday, July 9, 2015

What if Your Rainbow Never Comes?

Rainbow baby. 

For those in the fetal loss community, we know this term well. Quite simply, a rainbow baby is a live birth after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. A rainbow baby represents hope after the pain of loss. A rainbow baby is the panacea in this loss community. 

But what if your rainbow baby never comes?

I, just like so many others on this painful journey, had high hopes for a rainbow baby. After Robert was born still, I hoped and prayed that I would become pregnant and hold my rainbow baby. My doctor confidently assured me that it would happen. So when we got the green light to try again, we did so in hopeful anticipation that our rainbow would come. When pregnancy didn't come so easily this time, we chalked it up to scar tissue and trauma - but we kept trying. 

When I got the initial diagnosis of unexplained secondary infertility, I never even knew such a thing existed. What do you mean you can suddenly be infertile after two spontaneous pregnancies and births? The very idea seemed so incredulous. And unexplained? In other words, I could no longer become pregnant on my own and the best medical professionals in the field of infertility could not tell me why - talk about frustrating. But in spite of it all, this obstacle would not prevent me from getting my rainbow baby, so we embarked into the new infertility unknown.

I was poked, prodded, and tested for all kinds of acronyms. Bob wasn't left out of the fun, and subjected to some rather humiliating testing and sample gathering. As far as fertility testing goes, we both came back "perfect." My Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) coined us a "sure thing," all but guaranteeing us pregnancy. I could just feel that I was getting closer to my rainbow baby.

But then the first IUI failed. And then the second. And then the third. We felt the sting of disappointment, but weren't ready to give up. After all, there were other procedures we could try. Sure, they weren't covered by our insurance and would mean dipping into our savings and retirement, but it would all be worth it in the end when we were holding our rainbow baby. 

So we moved forward with our first round of IVF. And it failed. 

So we picked ourselves up and went for a second time. And that one failed, too.

So we took our last three, beautiful little frozen embryos and went for a third and last time. And when that one failed too, we knew we were done. 

After almost 4 years of loss and heartache, I once again sat with empty arms and an aching heart - my rainbow baby would never come.

It's been almost 7 years since Robert's death, and about 3 years since we moved on from trying for another child. As I look back now on that time and my struggle, I've begun to look at the idea of a rainbow differently than I did before. I think that deep down inside, I will always have that ache of loss - the loss of a child and the loss of a dream of having another - but it doesn't mean that I don't get my rainbow. 

Perhaps I do get my rainbow, but it just looks different than how I thought it would. I could never have foreseen how this would turn out, nor, given the choice, would I have necessarily chosen it. But nevertheless, here I am. 

I am absolutely convinced that had my plans succeeded, that I would not be back in school pursuing my calling. - a calling that will give me the awesome privilege of walking with others down this road of loss and infertility. Had I not known what this felt like, I do not believe that I would have possessed the empathy necessary to enter into the pain of other women and families who face a similar loss. THIS is my rainbow. Could I have learned this and had another baby? Sure! But that's not what God had for me.

I think we all have a "rainbow." Something in our lives that we hold onto and hope for. Perhaps it's a rainbow marriage. Or a rainbow career. Or a rainbow prodigal child. Or a rainbow life! What if the preconceived notion of what our rainbow should be or look like doesn't come? What then? Are we able to let go of what we think it should be and surrender to what it is? 

As a follower of Jesus, this journey has been all about surrender. I've had to surrender my body and accept that I would not bear another child. I've had to surrender my dreams to holding and bringing home another baby. I've had to surrender my hopes of siblings for Mason. I've had to surrender my dreams for His, but isn't that the essence of the Christian life? The daily surrender of my desires for His?

My rainbow may not have come in the form of a 7lb. infant, but my rainbow came, and it's just as precious and valuable. 

Today, I can finally enjoy my rainbow. And I think it's beautiful. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Because it's Okay to Grieve Again

Sometimes it just hits you.

I have a lot of friends sending their little ones to Kindergarten this year. Getting caught up in the excitement of school registration, new backpacks and sneakers - sending their babies off to a new milestone. 

And then I think of Robert. 

There won't be any first day of school picture with his big brother on the front steps of the house. No telling Mason, "Keep an eye out for your little brother - that's what big brothers do." 

Sometimes grief comes back around. And that's okay.

If there's anything I've learned over the past five years, it's that grief and death (especially when it comes to a baby or child) makes people very uncomfortable. If it's a feeling that doesn't make someone feel good or happy or comfortable, they reject it - even if it means rejecting the person that comes along with it. Grieving is not a bad thing.

Grief comes in waves.

Feeling sad over a loss 5 or 10 or 15 or even 30 years later is okay. Sadness over the loss of a loved one doesn't have an expiration date. It doesn't mean that someone isn't grateful everyday for all that God has done for them or for the children they already have. It just means that we miss them. That they are still valued. That they are forever loved. 

The holidays this last year were rough. After all the love and support I've received from friends since Robert died, I got my first sad reality of someone who couldn't handle the loss of my son for the long-haul. For the first time, I heard the words, "Get over it" and "I don't want to hear about your 'baby' anymore." It cuts even deeper when those words come from your own mom.

Just know this - some people will never understand, and that's okay, too. 

And then there are those that do, and that's all you need. 

Just One who understands that it's okay to grieve again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Walking Wounded

Child of divorce
Estranged daughter and sister
Daughter of a raging, abusive alcoholic
Recovering anorexic
Sufferer of situational depression
Mom of a dead son
Flawed wife
Imperfect mom

If I were to look at this list and try to sum it up, there are a lot of things that come to mind. Messed up. Sad. Worthless. In a word: Broken. 

But what if I told you that this wasn't just any list, but that it was my list. A list of just some of my flaws and "issues." And not even a full list. Nope, I could definitely add more to this. Probably enough to fill pages.

We all have our list.

But this isn't just a list; it's a person. A person who you know and see and talk to every week or even every day. A person that is not just a list of words and things and flaws, but a person who matters. A life that matters and was made for so much more than all the bad, horrible things I could come up with to describe myself.

What if I were able to view myself the way that God sees me? I think that list would look something like this:

Child of God
Daughter of a King
Blessed mom to one angel and one living miracle
Blessed wife

What if I could replace my list with His list? What would my life look like? How could I impact the lives of others? How could God really use me if I viewed myself through His eyes? And even more, what if I could view others through His eyes?

My friend Kelly and I always joke about how great it would be if we all wore our "stuff" on a tee shirt for everyone to see. That we'd walk into a room and see someone with our same faults or failures or struggles and we'd squeal with delight as we ran to them because we'd know that they could relate. There's certainly comfort in knowing that someone gets it and that we're not alone. 

But the truth is, we shouldn't have to broadcast our crud in order to give or receive kindness or understanding or love or support or encouragement. We need to realize that we're all wounded. We all have a story. We're all just a bunch of broken people who have a laundry list of faults and regrets who on any given day, are just trying to make it. 

But, we have Jesus. Oh, how grateful I am for just the thought or whisper of His name! We may feel broken at times, but there's One so much greater who always puts us back together. 

Despite all of my shortcomings, there's someone who loves me so much that He gives me grace and forgiveness And once you have that gift, you can't help but to live and breath and walk in that truth.

And in that truth, there is Hope.

Monday, September 16, 2013

With Love, by Grandma

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of times spent at my Grandparents Michigan home. Picking warm tomatoes and strawberries from my grandma's garden and eating them in delight as the juice ran down my face. Watching summer hailstorms from the porch swing. Learning how to cross stitch when I was seven years old. And perhaps my favorite, watching my grandma in absolute awe while she sat at her sewing machine.

I could find her busy in her sewing room at all times of the day (or night), working on her latest project. The small, cozy room was strewn with fabrics of all colors and patterns. Files contained patterns for everything from curtains to dresses to pajamas. I was always so intrigued by the sewing patterns. The idea that you could take pieces of fabric that looked like nothing and turn them into something that could actually used. 

And she was always working on something for us grandkids. New flannel pajamas for Christmas morning. A new dress for my first day of school. Beautiful flannel quilts, perfect for snuggling. And perhaps my favorite part - a tag that finished each and every gift that simply said, 'Made With Love, by Grandma.' I would run my little fingers over the tag and I just knew that the words were true. 

When Grandma was in the midst of a blanket, her sewing room looked like chaos. Tiny patches would lay in piles around the room. I would hear the forward of her machine as she would sew and sometimes, the reverse when she didn't get it quite right. She would take it off and pull out the seams by hand until they were straight. For grandma, it had to be perfect.

I would peer over her shoulder to try to catch a glimpse of what she was working on and often leave in frustration. It was taking too long and didn't really look like anything but a mess of inside out fabric squares. I would nag her about when it would be finished because I wanted my gift now, but she always emphasized patience. She said that she could hurry through, but that it wouldn't come out right. That I had to wait and she then would reassure me that what she had planned would be worth the wait. And it always was.

And finally, she would present to me with her gift. What began as small, multicolored squares was now a beautiful flannel quilt made just for me. A quilt that I would sleep with every night. A quilt that I would snuggle with during Saturday morning cartoons and would accompany me on overnight trips. A quilt that would cover my head at night as I heard the distant yelling of my parents fighting again. And finally, the comfort I needed as I said goodbye to grandma when cancer took her from our family. 

So often when I think about what God has done and continues to do with my life, it usually doesn't make much sense. It looks like a pile of accomplishments and disappointments. Good and bad choices. Love and heartache. Life and loss. 

I see the events of my life strewn around me and I can't see how it's all going to fit together. I beg God to hurry up and let me see even just a glimpse of what He's doing. I feel parts of my life being torn apart, but not without Him lovingly putting them back together again; each time a little stronger than before. As the years go on, He reveals small sections that have been pieced together and always bring me one step closer to looking more like His son.

Although I may never see the full realization of what God has planned for my life while I'm on this earth, I have absolute trust that it is good and perfect. And finally, one sweet day, I will look back at the finished piece and like all of my grandma's projects, I will see His fingerprints all over my life and I can  absolutely certain that it is all 'With Love, by God'.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Because We're All in this Together

I am so blessed. Everyday, all around me, I am constantly blessed. 

I have a wonderful husband who loves me. I wake up each morning to the most amazing coffee and my cup already sitting next to the coffee pot. It may seem small, but to me, it's true love and it blesses my day.

My cup overflows from the love I receive from my sweet Mason. A tender, sweet eight year old son who smoothers me with hugs and kisses every chance he gets and can't leave the room without adding, "I love you so much mommy."

The support and love I have from friends humbles me on a daily basis. Friends new and old who pour into my soul seeds of encouragement and accountability.

And in this age of technology, I am blessed by some of my online friends. I've been a member of the site (TM) for over seven years now and this site and it's amazing members have blessed me in so many ways.

TriangleMommies is an online community of women from all over the Triangle who meet together online (and sometimes, in real life (IRL)) to offer support, advice and help on this mom road so many of us walk. We're a community made up of so many different types of women and although we may not always see eye to eye, we have one common core - we're all moms or want to be a mom. 

I've walked some of my darkest days with women on TM. Losing a son. Depression. Secondary Infertility. And every step of the way, I've been loved and supported by the women of TM, many of whom I've never even met IRL.

One of the most lovely things I've seen TM do is to have members leave gifts outside another TM's house when they need a pick-me-up. These are little "fairies" who spread cheer to other women who often need it desperately. The absolute beauty of it all is that the women who deliver the gift have no idea to whom they're delivering and the women who receive a gift don't know who brought it; it's completely anonymous. And even more, the women who give are spending their own money and time to bring a gift and bless a woman that they don't even know. In the words of Martha Stewart, "It's a beautiful thing."

I'm fortunate to have been on the receiving end of these TM gifts on several occasions, but the ones that mean the most to me are ones that come at the same time every year around August 21; the day we said goodbye to Robert. These women remember me and the pain I've experienced and they remember it every year. You have no idea how much that means to me. 

If you look around and notice the world around you (or even those people directly within your sphere of influence) there are opportunities all the time to bless others. It may mean just being available when someone needs an ear to listen. Maybe it's helping a mom with a screaming kid at Harris Teeter by loading up her car while she takes care of her kids. Or perhaps it's grabbing lunch for someone in back of you in line at Chick-Fil-A. Ways that we can bless people and expect nothing in return.

We get so busy with our own lives that it's easy to miss opportunities to bless others. I challenge you today to be more aware. Ask God to give you a spirit to notice people and ways that you can help. These "divine appointments" are all around us if we just take notice.

Soon enough, you'll become so aware of ways to bless others that you'll come to expect them. And in time, you'll find that you are really the one who's truly blessed.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Out of These Ashes - a Wholly Committed Heart

I've always had a love of learning. A love of knowledge. A burning desire to know more, read more, learn more. But knowledge can be wasted if we only use it for ourselves and don't share what we know.

And as much as I love learning, there are things I wish I had never learned. 

I wish that I didn't know what a baby looked like at 22 weeks gestation. A perfect, beautiful, baby boy that had all of his fingers and toes, but not a single breath left. 

I wish that I didn't know that hospitals mark your name outside your recovery room differently when you've had a stillbirth, so that any hospital staff entering that room know. (The next time you're visiting a friend who's just had a baby, look around and see if you can't tell the difference - ask God to give you a heart to notice).

I wish I didn't know that urns come that small. Tiny little jars that can hold a whole person.

There are so many things that I wish I hadn't learned, but now that I do, what do I do with it all?

When we're in the midst of a storm, we can't see the other side. We don't know how it's going to turn out. But we don't forget. We hold onto what we've been through and we have two choices: do nothing or use it for good.

I've felt for sometime now that God was calling me to a new place. Somewhere that can take my experiences, His love, and new knowledge and use it for more than just myself. A place where I am wholly committed to His plan for my life and to allow what was meant for evil to be used for good (Genesis 5:20). 

That's why I'm so excited to share that I'm officially applying to the online program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Liberty University! My prayer is to become a licensed therapist and certified grief counselor, where I hope to specialize in pregnancy loss and infertility. And maybe, someday, to write a devotional for women who've experienced a loss like mine.

Now if God had told me five years ago today, after twelve hours of labor and holding my son that I wouldn't get to bring home that this is where I'd be, I would have never believed Him. But I wasn't ready, and He knew that. That was just the beginning of getting me ready for what lies ahead. Where He began His plan to use me, but only if I let Him. Where He allowed me to go through the worst night of my life in order to help other women through theirs. 

If you hold on long enough, you do get to see God's plan; His beautiful, absolutely perfect plan. It's often very different than how we thought it would all play out. But that's the beauty of it all. When we completely surrender to God everything we have and everything we are, when we are wholly committed to His will, we get something so much better - a life that can truly be used.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


"How many kids do you have?"

Even five years later, this is always a tough question for me. It shouldn't be, but for someone who's experienced loss, it's a struggle. I often have to assess the situation and decide who I let in to my conflicted mind. Sometimes it's simple and I stick with the easy, comfortable answer of one child. Even after I say it, even if it's right for the situation, I always feel a hint of guilt that I've betrayed my son. If I'm feeling brave, I say one living child. And if I'm comfortable enough with you, I tell you that I have two children. Two boys. I just don't have them both with me. And one would have been five today.

I recently read a book called Sifted by Rick Lawrence. It's based upon Luke 22:31-32, in which Jesus' gives permission to Satan to metaphorically "sift" Peter, his most beloved disciple. The author aligns Peter's struggles with our own struggles and God's role in what happens and why. My mom sent me this book almost two years ago. It's been loaned out once, but otherwise, it sat on my nightstand for almost two years until one day, I felt a nudge at my heart and I knew it was time.

Sifting wheat is a tough process. It goes through many stages of being stripped down, tossed around and rinsed clean until you get to the part of the wheat that can actually be used. 

God uses struggles in our lives to "sift" us. He allows things to happen in our lives that are hard and painful, even if it feels downright cruel and unfair. But it's not about the struggle; it's about what we look like after it's over. It's about what's "usable" when we're done being sifted. It's about looking more like Jesus.

Losing Robert has been a major sifting in my life. It left me broken, exposed and never more aware of just how little control that I have on my life and just how much God does. 

I could have turned from God and there are those who would not have blamed me for it, but then I would have missed out on so much. 

I would have missed out on my church. We didn't have a church home at the time I delivered Robert, but we felt compelled to call this little church we'd visited a few months back called Journey Church. A few hours later, Lisa Bauer walked into my recovery room with a plant and a smile and let me know that I was not alone. It's been our church home for the last five years.

It could have destroyed my marriage. We were both grieving and could have turned inward, but we allowed God to use us to support one another and our marriage not only survived, but it flourished and remains stronger than ever.

I would have missed out on friendships. Wonderful, Godly friendships. Women who love me and support me, even when I'm at my worst.

Losing Robert has never been in vain. It's never been meaningless. It's been hard and painful, but I'm so grateful to God for where He's brought me through it all. And the further I am, the more I know and that I'm absolutely certain that there is a much bigger plan in all of this. That had I not gone through losing Robert, I would have missed out on God's very best for my life.

I want to finish this post by sharing an amazing song by Shane and Shane called "Though You Slay Me," featuring John Piper. It wraps up so much of what this has felt like for me and why even now, missing my son like crazy, I will continue to praise the only One I need.