In that moment

d354cf5ae5eeafeab3c80f291ea007dbIt began with one sentence, “I’m so sorry, but the situation is very grave.” It was that one moment, the moment that began a new chapter in my life. It was then that I knew my life would now be the before this loss and the after. It’s a line we create when experiencing a great loss; a loss of any kind, really, one that cuts down to your soul and creates an ache that doesn’t go away. Oh, it may ease with time, but the scar remains. And it becomes almost welcome, one that we are loathe to miss.  Because in feeling the ache, we remember. And in the remembering, comes the validation of the precious thing that was lost.

We all experience various losses throughout our lives as I had before losing my little boy.  The year before I had an early miscarriage.  Brimming with excitement, I had barely begun sharing my happy news, when it was over. When I finally became pregnant again, it was with a mixture of such hope and anxiety.  The joy was complete as I passed that “magic” number week 12, only to be dashed as I ended up in the emergency room. Put on bedrest, I was determined to make it through to the end.  My family and friends rallied around us. My parents, who lived close by, along with a friend who came to stay with us for days on end at a time, took care of my two little boys and our home. Friends came with meals, bearing gifts of books and magazines to pass the time as I lay in bed or on the couch.

Then one day I went in for a checkup. I had been very lightheaded for a few days, actually passing out at times. I asked for an ultra sound to make sure things were ok.  The doctor didn’t think I needed another one and recommended that I start to move around a little more. It is still with regret that I remember that day, wishing I had had the courage to stand up to him and demand an ultrasound. But, we chose to trust his knowledge and we went home. I tried to do what he said, even having short bursts where I felt better. One morning as I woke up, I knew that something was wrong. My belly was so large, far bigger than it should have been at the time. And every time that I tried to do anything, I felt as if I would faint. As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting to be seen, another expectant mother came to sit next to me. Eager to share and connect over swollen bellies and ankles, we compared due dates. “You’re so big, you must be having twins,” she said. With that comment came the confirmation that something was indeed wrong.  As soon as the doctor saw me, she measured me and immediately sent us to the hospital. It was there that I received the ultrasound I had requested days before. The screen showed a belly full of blood, a placenta almost fully abrupted, and a sweet, baby boy not long for this life. The doctor’s next words as he sat on the side of my bed were, “I’m so sorry. I missed it.” And that is how the next week in the hospital became my new timeline. The one I refer to as my before and after in my journey of motherhood.

People are so kind. They want to help, to comfort, to take away your hurt. The love that was poured out on us was amazing. But, there are some who said things like, “it wasn’t the right time,” or “try not to think about it,” or “just be thankful for the boys you have.”  And I didn’t get frustrated because I knew. I had been the one before who tried to find the right thing to say or do, even though I had not experienced that pain. There were also the ones who seemed sent from heaven to comfort my heart. It was these few who stood beside us and a tiny hole in the ground. On a beautiful, warm May day, my husband and I were surrounded by those few.  There was the dear friend who did truly know my pain, a pain that I had not understood as we buried her little boy on a cold, wintry day just a few years before. The family members who stood by my hospital bed and prayed for a miracle for our two lives, helping me keep my faith when only one of our lives was saved. And my two little dark haired boys, who only knew that now, instead of just one, two of our babies were in heaven. They stood there next to us as I looked down at them with very different eyes. I had loved being their mother, devoting my whole life to them to do it. But, in that moment putting that tiny box into the ground, I had a new perspective; one that I had never wanted to have.

A few weeks ago, I ran into someone I went to college with over twenty years ago. Full of hope and anticipation, we had stepped out into our futures. In that time, our only contact had been the recent peering into each other’s lives through social media. As we stood there, trying to fit twenty years into a few minutes, I was amazed at how quickly the subject of losing a child came up. We both were fortunate enough to have four children, but with quite large age gaps between a couple of them, explained by the losses of our babies. How quickly the invisible bond that draws two hearts together is woven.  Because in that moment you are understood.  Another mother who knows the heartache of knowing one or more of her children are missing. A child that she loved from the moment she saw the line on the test, a child that she dreamt of holding and loving, a child whose future is not in her arms, she understands. I looked at her beautiful face, more lined, her hair laced with gray, and saw not the young woman twenty something years old, but a mama who has experienced that joy of expectancy and the pain of loss. We spoke of this bond. We spoke of how sad it is to have it, and yet so comforting to just be known. We spoke of how perspective changed from the moment that line is drawn. It’s in the after, that we begin to see how precious life is. We see how fragile it is, and how quickly it can change. The loved ones we have begin to be seen through different eyes. We don’t always remember to appreciate the moment, but when we are reminded of what we have lost, we remember that difference.

In the end, there are some mamas who don’t show the heartache, suffering silently, wondering if people will understand. Any woman who has lost a baby to miscarriage, a stillbirth, and even an abortion, has lost their child. I learned so much during that time from those around me who showed me that they understood, that shared their stories with me. And those who may have not had the same loss that I did, but still reached out, willing to hurt with us, bringing comfort in our loss. I learned it’s ok to grieve, and it’s important to have something tangible to remember the one who was lost to us by. Every year we go visit that grave, to remember, to feel, to not forget, and to look at the boys we have with us as the miracles they are. We watch them grow, some looking down at me now as they wrap their arms around me, and we know that as full and as wonderful, and as miraculous it is to have them, there are ones missing. Ones not with us now but never forgotten.  And when I am privileged enough to have a precious woman share her story with me, I get it. I understand. And somehow, whenever that happens, a tiny piece of my heart heals.

Claire

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Walking among the tombstones

My mother thinks it’s creepy, how I love to walk through the cemetery. Just a short walk from my house, as soon as I enter the gate, I am stricken with the sheer magnitude of it. Rows and rows of beautiful headstones, graced with menorahs or the star of David, stand dwarfed under towering trees. The winding path beckons us to walk and wonder at the lives lived here before us.

 I bring my littles here so they can ride their bikes safely. As they race in front of me, I can see the tips of their helmets over the tops of the headstones, the neon green spikes of a dinosaur mohawk ensures me that the littlest is within earshot. These two are so full of life as they race and laugh, playing police officers or clone troopers, unaffected by the sorrow that surrounds them. Full of life, full of potential, living in the very moment they are given. My mind wanders between the never completed to do list awaiting me at home, the worries over situations that family or friends may be facing, and even regrets from yesterday. How quickly I can become overwhelmed or question if I’m doing it right. But as I walk further in, I am reminded of how fragile life is, how we are only given this one life to make a difference. I want my memories to be a gift, not a burden filled with regrets. I have to let the list and the worries go for now, to enjoy the moment, to learn from the headstones, to watch my boys live without hesitation. I laugh as the littlest rides to me, pushing up his helmet higher so I can see straight into those big hazel eyes, and tells me I’m under arrest for walking too slowly. I treasure the moment when his older brother comes along to walk in step with me, for just a few minutes, to talk about the beloved fathers, mothers, and children laid to rest among us. We are sad together for the families whose loved ones are gone, remembered in the engravings in the stone. We talk about how our lives matter. We talk about making a difference, showing God’s love to the world around us. And then he tells me he loves me, and races up to join his brother in capturing the bad guys.

I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder quite often. It brings me perspective and thankfulness for the chances I still have before me, to let the past go and live in the moments we have now. You should try it, a walk among the tombstones. Just go during the day….way less creepy.

On Unexpected Rest

For the last 2 days I have been in bed. This long slumber was totally unexpected, but probably very necessary. Usually my days, as most people’s, feel like a never ending to-do list. Even if I do force myself to try and chill for a bit, my mind will keep racing with lists and thoughts of things to get done.  So, these past 2 days of forced rest to heal from whatever has taken over my body have been rather nice.  It allowed me to reflect on some things, to which I then felt more peace. I watched Pride & Prejudice, read several encouraging articles, finished a book, and started 2 more.The best part was that I started feeling like I wanted to do laundry again, I wanted to cook, and clean. Well, maybe not the cleaning part. I wasn’t feeling that well rested, but this forced rest did revive me (at least mentally, not fully physically). I started remembering my goals and and felt encouraged to find our rhythm again.  All from a little rest. A couple of days of minimal.

It mostly reminded me….and I have no idea how I forgot….that my family and I thrive when we have margin (open, unplanned time) in our day. Somehow with the beginning of school we lost that margin. I want it to be a regular habit, part of our natural daily rhythm. Some white space in our day for rest, however it is we define rest.

We’ve never been a fan of being too busy, and thankfully we’ve been fairly good at keeping things that way. I guard our family calendar fiercely. Rest was a whole other matter. So, the first thing I need to do is reprocess my thoughts…rest and margin in my day brings me joy and fills my house with calm. Busy days make me a bit cranky. Simple realization there. As we go through our days, I will remind myself of those things because FOMO (fear of missing out) will sometimes creep in. I know that I will wonder if it is really ok not to do such and such, or if I’m a good mom if I don’t have my kids in x,y, and z. Shouldn’t I be busy? I know the answers…yes, yes, and no! I need to push out the lies and fill myself with the truth (our truth-rest is essential). At the same time, I hope to start filling my table with hot dinners (where we eat together), and I will start un-filling my random sock basket, as I find more time to catch up on things that I never had time for before.

I have found encouragement for my pursuit of rest by devouring various books and articles on the anti-busy movement. I’ve started with It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil, and The Best Yes. As I flip the pages I feel relieved and hopeful. It’s as if the authors are cheering me on. And heck, who doesn’t like knowing that they aren’t alone in their thoughts? I’m eager to read a new book that has joined my pile, Simply Tuesday.

In a season of school, activities, and work travel happening….it may be hard to slow down a bit, but I’m going to do my best to try. If a couple of days of rest could make me want to do laundry and go through my unmatched sock basket, I can only imagine what 365 days with rest included in our day could inspire.

-Mary

How should I choose?

Let me set this up for you with a nice little description of this moment.  I went into my room to dry my hair after my shower. In one bedroom was Mr. College playing his drums. Have I ever mentioned that he is a musician? He’s very good…but it’s still…drums. Enough said. In the next bedroom was the high schooler who was drowning out the drums with his own Jeremy Camp blaring. My two littles were dressed in some sort of star wars/ medieval knight combo running through the upstairs doing a light saber battle culminating on my bed so I could “watch”. Don’t let me forget to mention that they had kazoos in their mouths at the same time from a random birthday party. (on a side note, mamas, let’s help each other out and not give noise makers as favors, please?) So, there I am, drying my hair with all this noise going on, rushing because I had to get out the door. My first instinct was to turn off the hair dryer, march myself over to the big boys’ rooms and use my best scary Italian mama voice demanding silence! Then, get those littles locked in their rooms sitting quietly doing anything, as long as it was quiet, with those kazoos in the garbage.  I was not handling the noise very well at this moment, the chaos making me feel frustrated. This scenario actually plays itself out quite often in my house, as many of you can imagine and relate to.  But, all of a sudden, amidst the noise and the chaos, I remembered what I say to my boys on a daily basis…choose life. And I looked down on my dresser at an ultrasound picture of one of my boys, the only thing left of him I have, and a purple bracelet that I wore for months as we went purple for Amanda looped around the neck of a bear given to me. Choose life, Claire. Look around you.  Your boys, they are healthy, they are happy (for this moment!), they are loved. ENJOY this moment of your house filled with life. Someday they will be gone making their own lives and you will look back on this day with nostalgia. Sweet perspective.  I wanted to be able to look back on this moment and remember how I chose. So, I chose life. I laughed as I turned off the hair dryer to hear it all in full force, turning around to give the littles my attention. The battle was waging hard and they needed an engaged spectator. And do you know what the littlest stinker actually said to me? “Wow, Mama! That hair dryer sure makes a lot of noise!”

my littlest warriors…different day, different battle

My Hormone Haiku

My Haiku

Hormones wreak
Havoc on the heart and mind
I need chocolate

Is that how you spell havoc? It didn’t show up wrong in spell check, but you never know. It’s been a day. A day where I feel all weepy, wonky, and annoyed. I decided to try and make myself laugh at the day instead. That’s why I wrote that little haiku up above. It represents my day. Seems that my husband had a similar day. He just came home from work and showed me his pants. Apparently, first thing in the morning they split up the back. Can you imagine? I chuckle just picturing it. Fortunately, he’s the type of guy that would laugh as soon as it happened. Still, it’s a good representation of the day.

I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to go with your hormones…..or split pants. Accept and understand how you are feeling…..knowing that tomorrow will be a new day. Those around me are learning this coping mechanism, too. My husband just walked in the room with a bowl of soup…..I asked him to please go in the other room because right now the sound of someone eating soup would just about send me over the edge. Fortunately, he’s the type of guy that also would chuckle at that and then leave the room.

Please don’t judge me. It’s just one of those days.

Have you ever written a haiku?

My husband just dictated one to me…..

Pants split
Man swallows pride
Coffee

Thankful for mercies new each day {and that there are another pair of pants in the closet}.

-Mary

Mom Quilt

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of needs around me. So many good causes to give to, injustices to fight against, that I wonder if my little part amounts to anything. I long to step out of my own world to make a difference in the wider world around me.  Awhile back I started to follow the blog of Kirsten Welch and Mercy House Kenya, along with reading her book (which is awesome, by the way). There was a call put out for mom stories to be compiled into a book which would be sold to benefit Mercy House. 100% of the proceeds to go to building a well for these precious young mamas and their babies, plus helping the community around them! I could definitely put myself behind this project, so I submitted a chapter and was so very honored to have it selected to be included in the book.

The chapter is very precious to me, written about my loss, and the hope and healing I have found. It is my hope that other women who have lost will find a bit of themselves in my story. As I read many of the other stories in The Mom Quilt, I found parts of myself in their stories as well, a true weaving of the hearts of mothers together. And as we ourselves are blessed by this amazing book, we are indeed reaching out to the wider world of mamas, as we support and give to this Mercy House project together.

Purchase The Mom Quilt