Tonight, over the phone I told DanI just want to get back to the old me.
Perhaps that doesn't make much sense out of context.
Let me explain, and in doing so I hope to figure out if the old me is really the former me and not likely to be me again. You follow? Probably not.
Tonight I stare at the laundry undone, the presents waiting to be wrapped. I smell the clogged garbage disposal , the wet boots and gloves. I chow down on the Christmas goodies that I just can't resist. I hear our 2 year old crying out for her pacifier and I sigh. All of these things could have described a typical December night a year ago, but the difference this year is -- me. You see, I'm not dealing with the day to day quite as well.
Maybe I can blame the pregnancy hormones which have been raging in me for 41 of the last 53 weeks, with 14 yet to go. Or maybe it's the tiring work of sorting through grief. I was/am new to it, and had to find my own way through it. Grief can be a sneaky jerk, popping up at times when you just don't want to go there.
Maybe it's the constant balancing act of hope and fear. Although God has given me so much joy and hope over this new pregnancy, it only takes a bad dream recalling the day I delivered April to send me running for the tissue box and rendering me useless when it comes to things like cleaning toilets or dusting.
Maybe it is those things. Some days I like to blame the economy. That sounds fair, doesn't it? The nation's economic crisis has trickled down to the industry in which my husband is employed. . He has to go out of state to find work and that has been a HUGE adjustment for the kids and I. Yes! that is why I am no longer the productive, stable, self controlled, person I once was-- being a on again, off again single parent to 4 kids and growing another is doing me in!
Why can't I be the me I used to be?
I get it, really I do--this post sounds like a list of woes!
But I had to get them out to see that although they are certainly the raw ingredients in the lump of dough that I think I've become--
This past year... God changed the recipe.
I may want to function at a certain level because I think that is my best.
But... perhaps God is forming (and let's just say-- baking, for the sake of the metaphor)
A new me.
I have to trust, that in His timethe new me will in fact be a sweet, not bitter creation.
Philippians 1:6 NIV
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
As with many folks, we genuinely have many repeat "I'm Thankful Fors..." year after year.
We gather around the table and offer our gratitude for many of the same blessings as years prior. When I really think about it, it is an amazing thing to do just that. As an example -- for my parents to sit at this their 39th Thanksgiving table together and be grateful yet again for that same person --- awesome!
Some years are like that , some years are not. For many, the year that lives on between each Thanksgiving holiday brings about pain, struggle, disillusionment, junk.
I am nearly positive that my personal list of gratitude on Thanksgiving 2009 included our children, Dan's job, our amazing circle of family and friends. Fast forward to 2010 and those are all abundantly true!
But, I have a few more " I'm thankful fors" to add. Some things I never thought would cross my mind, or my heart only one year ago.
I am thankful for human compassion. We had never lost a baby before. The pure love and kindnesses shown to us after April's death and delivery fill my heart with gratitude. We could not have survived those early days without- people.
I am thankful for empathetic hearts. One of the things I craved most this year, was knowing I wasn't alone in my experience. People I knew and many I do not, have shared with me their story and inspired me in knowing that God will restore.
i am thankful for freedom of expression. I realize that all people find their own way to process loss and work through pain. I am thankful that I live in this day and age. For the most part, I wasn't discouraged from talking about our loss. Blogs, face to face conversations, and many resources have helped me this year. I have learned this freedom wasn't as available 20, 30 years or more ago.
I am thankful for God's word. Where else would I to find His promises? Where else would I find true hope?
I am thankful for this guy.
Ok, this one is for sure a repeat but, surely in a new way. Dan was called upon this year to see with his own two eyes an ultrasound of a still baby-- while I wailed. He was called upon to stand by, feeling somewhat powerless, as I delivered her. He was called upon to stay with me through it all and be the a source of strength-- all the while feeling his own pain of loss and experiencing something that is really difficult for a man to process.
He was required to do all of this while going back to work full time in a ridiculous economy and a work setting that allows NO time for grieving. I cringe at the thought of how he must have had to take a deep breath when I would call... not knowing what he was about to get on the other side of the phone. He must of wondered what environment would greet him when coming home from a long day at work. It is not easy to see your wife in pain, and not being able to stop it. I say all of this not so you would feel sorry for him (or me) but to just scratch at the surface of why I am thankful for Dan this year!
Taken directly from a devotional book, "Jesus Calling" that I received from a friend this year.
Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks in everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience--at times, blind obedience. To people who don't know me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships. Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties remain.
Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective. It is this Light of my Presence that removes the sting from adversity.
She does not look very excited, but I sure was. According to my calculations, she was the only Barney for miles and miles that Halloween night. I scored a steal of a deal for this costume on Ebay. Imagine that? Barney costumes were not going for top dollar!
Each one of our kids have been interested obsessed with certain fictional characters right around age 2. Chase had Thomas the Tank Engine, Drew loved SpiderMan, Joy adored Care Bears. Juliet is charmed by Barney. Yes, the purple dinosaur from 1990.
Come on...go ahead and sing Barney's theme song with me... "I Love You, You Love Me, We're a Happy Family"...
I just had to record this pic for the family archives as I am certain this love for all things Barney will pass just as the Big Three have moved on from their 2 year old infatuations. Perhaps, this time it's for the greater good of our family. When I hear Dan humming Barney tunes in the shower and the thought of Chase at school accidentally singing a Barney jingle because he can't get it out of his head-- poor kid, that might be a tad embarassing.
The only two that unapologetically enjoy Barney's musical stylings are Drew and Juliet. As evidenced by this photo I snapped during Barney's Greatest Hits. Just a sweet moment from a seemingly never ending week with Dan out of state.
Perhaps some thought I've desired a girl because April was a girl. Since there remains a huge void for the daughter we hoped to hold and raise, it seems natural that I would want this child to be a girl to fulfill that hope.
In some ways that is true, in other ways it is not. That empty space will always be there--for the baby we hoped to meet in September 2010, for April. Having another daughter does not fill that space, just as giving birth to Juliet did not replace Joy. They are two distinct lives.
So at some point in this pregnancy when I began to let go of some of the fear of another loss, I convinced myself that we'd be meeting a boy come March 2011.
Why did I do that? I've come to a few conclusions.
I was afraid that having another girl would negate the loss we suffered, perhaps? in my heart, but maybe for others. I wanted to keep April's status as our 5th child, our third and last girl, because frankly I still long for her. In my mind, having a boy would, in large ways accomplish keeping April's status firm.
There were other things that I idealized about having this baby be a son. The big kids had hoped for another brother, Chase will be 11 years old at the time of the birth I could just picture he and a little bro years into the future.
By now most of you are probably thinking-- "what a headcase!" or "it is what it is" or "what an ingrate" Believe me, I have thought those things about myself at one point or another.
I am happy to say that most of the above feelings are past tense. Each step along this journey I have forced myself to take an honest look at what is going on in my head and in my heart. I am only human and many rational feelings and irrational thoughts weave their ways into my days and weeks. Sorting them out, and even blogging about them has been immensely helpful. An absolute constant that does not falter is our gratitude. This little gal inside is desired and wanted just as much as April was. I am down on my knees thankful for her life within. God's promises of hope and restoration are budding!
Here are a few pix from the evening of our ultrasound. We went out for pizza and let the kids open the envelope with the answer to our new baby's gender.
may I have the envelope, please?
reading the result
laughing at the revelation
tell me how you really feel?
Juliet , just happy to be the baby for awhile longer. :-)
As mentioned in my previous post, it is only October and the kids have little tolerance for each other during the morning rush to the bus. I was watching an episode of the Middle awhile back and noticed one of those Days Without Injury signs. I suppose this is some type of motivator for safety in the workplace. At my house it is a motivator for tranquility. The goal number and subsequent reward is yet to be determined...
I noticed as I was making it that they will eventually use this sign against me. They will argue that they only have to peacefully co-exist in the morning and the remainder of the day can be a fighting free-for-all! A whole day incident free? It is baby steps over here, folks!
and other things that annoy me now, but someday I will miss...
As i stepped into my shower the other morning and nearly punctured my foot on a StarWars action figure I thought to myself~~ "Arghhhhh! these kids!!!!" (or perhaps something not as nice as that)
Snack wrappers under the sheets in our bed
Grubby hand prints on every light switch, window and door knob.
That one toilet in the house that is always used... but rarely flushed.
The remains of a sucker stick that is permanently fixed to the seat in the van
Backpacks half zipped up with food and important papers falling out everywhere.
And it is worth mentioning again...their toys in every nook and cranny of this house!
the literal bouncing off the walls
oh my. the fighting and teasing and pestering.
At times I get really frustrated with how I can never keep up with their messes, their laundry, the schedules and their overall needs. Those are the days I would be mortified to have someone "drop in" to say hello. I never imagined my life with this many children, and rarely feel that I do this job well. Especially when I realize that the reason they are like this is perhaps we have failed to properly teach them how to be decent.
It is in those moments that i require a new perspective. We have 4 (almost 5) kids that have been gifted to us. They are amazing unique creatures God loves and knows. They are a perfect blend of Dan and I and we have such an amazing job to do. So, instead of my dramatic displays of dissatisfaction, today I will marvel in my children.
the bedtime conversations had by the boys, and the fact that they can't sleep without the other in the room.
Juliet singing Jesus Loves Me in her bed, in the car, in the corner where she always does her "duty"
The way Joy expresses herself through notes, card making, and drawings.
How they freely speak about a sister in heaven.
The two moments in every school day that I adore: When they step foot on the bus. Everyday I am genuinely thankful we survived the 45 minute ridiculousness that is the morning routine. Also, when they step foot off the bus. They are so happy to be home again, I am thankful to have them safely back to me.
How the big 3 adore Juliet.
Messes, artwork and even clogged toilets. These are just some of the things over the last 11 years that have made our house... a home. For this short period of time I will just have to watch my step in the shower and see my kids through the eyes of grace. These minor annoyances will someday be fond memories.
Today is worldwide Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. To tell you the truth, last October I had no idea such a day existed. This year, 6 months to the day our lives were touched by pregnancy loss we honor April by participating in the Wave of Light.
I am often asked how our kids have understood, or felt about the loss of a baby they never saw, and never got the chance to know. I would say that as painful as it was for Dan and I, the kids have not had to feel the intensity of grief. I thank the Lord for this. We decided and were encouraged early on to be honest with our children about what had happened and to never close the conversation on April's existence. Following the loss, I wanted to be strong and solid for them as a mother, I was afraid my tears and emotional spirals would frighten them. I knew the first day home that it was not business as usual. I learned that hiding my emotions and pretending that everything was A.O.K was not going to benefit them as much as showing them the realness of sorrow, and at the same time point their thoughts and hopes to the ONE who promises to restore our joy.
Looking back, knowing that she was a girl, naming her and referring to her as their sister has been immensely healing for all of us.
It did not come naturally though. I was hesitant to know her gender, name her, and accept all the momentos that the hospital staff so lovingly provided. All of these things made her life as it was, too real. At that point all I wanted to do was forget the agony of the loss. A name, momentos, it only reminded me of a life that was never meant to be on this earth. It was simply too devastating.
But what was this teaching our children? Dan and I wanted, if anything for our kids to learn and grow through this experience. NOT to be left scared and confused with unanswered questions. In the months that followed each one of our kids in their own unique way as worked through their feelings. Joy loves to see the teeny, tiny baby gown and April's plaster footprints. Drew talks often about the memorial at the cemetery and requests to go back there (perhaps it is only to chase squirrels). Chase is intentional about including her when he talks about his "brothers and sisters". All three of them have expressed sadness about not being able to have her as a sister yet a curiosity about seeing her again someday.
I guess that is all I can hope for. That they have learned a life lesson--THE life lesson-- through this loss. The lessons that feelings are meant to be felt and communicated when needed, that life does include deep disappointment, and most of all that God's promises are true-- they can trust Him when things don't make sense-- He is the road to restoration and salvation!
There is a T-shirt of mine hanging in the back corner of our closet.
It is one of my faves. I would have worn it all summer except for one thing...
I don't like to look at it.
So, you can see that wearing the shirt would force me to look at it and force me to think about the last 3 times I wore it. Yes, I am that odd. I can remember the last three times I wore said T-shirt.
Well, even though you didn't ask, may I tell you about the last 3 times I wore the T-shirt that I don't like to think about, but like so much.
1. Back in March at a doctor's appointment when Dan and I heard April's heartbeat for the last time.
2. On Spring Break 2010 when we were in Florida having a marvelous time with our kids and our dear friends.
3. On April 13 in the Dr.'s office and subsequent ultrasound that confirmed our baby had passed away.
I remember burying that thing in the closet as far as it could go. You might think I would just get rid of it altogether, but I haven't. I had the grand idea of bringing it out into the daylight and wearing it the day I would tell Dan that I was pregnant again. I wimped out. It's a good thing too, because he said he wouldn't have remembered what I was wearing that dreadful day. It is interesting how we both have individual things that we remember about that day.
My memory is strong and quirky and easily triggered. Sometimes this is an asset, other times I wish I could forget little details like T-shirts, songs, smells, dates, places, things people have said.
A T-shirt seems like such a non-issue, but it is representative of a greater struggle.
Trying not to push memories and feelings too far in the back corner of my mind's closet because they are too painful. Trying to be brave and wear with joy the T-shirt (and perhaps this baby bump) without fear.
only 25 weeks to go! oh my, that is so many weeks!
When I was still in the hospital last April 15, I completely exhaustedly cried to Dan, "I feel like the only thing that will ever take away this pain is becoming pregnant again" and having the 5th child that we dreamed of. If I could be pregnant by April's due date, wouldn't that be even better?!"
Desperate thoughts and prayers of a mother who wanted to catch up to where I thought I would be. Feelings of a mommy who would always feel that someone is missing.
Fast forward 5 months and my desperate plea became truth. Being pregnant again has brought about joy, hope and happiness, but not exactly in the way I thought it would when I spoke those words in the delivery room last spring.
I tend to keep the grief of April's death separate from the hope of the new life growing within. Being pregnant again does not bring April back. I did not get to pick up where I left off at 17 weeks. I am starting over and frankly, that has been difficult. It sometimes feels like in order to keep April's life and that pregnancy remembered I need to keep her loss and this new life on two separate sides of my heart. I have been reluctant to let this new pregnancy assist in joy's restoration. I have seen how this new pregnancy brings joy and delight to those around me. It somewhat fills the void for them. For us, the void will always exist.
Recently, after I passed April's due date I began to think that maybe I should let the two lives intersect. Open up my mind to the fact that this new baby can be a part of what God is giving me to heal the pain of April's death. I know that this baby will will not replace her, but allowing myself to really grab hold of this pregnancy sometimes feels like it pushes her significance to the side, or eventually to the far, far background of our memories.
This summer Dan and Chase and Grandpa Hopkins ventured to Canada on Chase's first fishing trip.
I am not sure how long ago this tradition started, but perhaps on and off for about 20 years.
I will admit Dan and I have a track record of procrastination. Included to waiting until the last second to get Chase a passport. The border patrol? laws have changed since my pops and brother went to Canada back in the day. Let's just say we were impatiently waiting at the mailbox in the days before the trip.
Chase did get his passport card... 2 days after he left. As it turns out, only his birth certificate was needed for this type of cross country adventure. I was so glad. I had visions of Chase sitting in some corner room somewhere with no snacks, waiting for me to come pick him up at the border while the rest of the fishing gang went on!
My due date for this pregnancy (March 28) is near or about precisely the date back in March of this year that our April passed away.
Isn't that just like God?
Let me say this... God's ways are not our ways, and I am not claiming to neatly tie up what still He wills for me-- but I sure love to ponder the significance certain dates have had for me during my child bearing years. 3 babies (Drew, Juliet & April) born/delivered on the same date. Joy born on my own 28th birthday. I would like to give Chase a birthday buddy to and have baby #6 born on his birthday (March 18), but perhaps that's getting a little nutz!
I am finding joy in this new life and in the significance of my new due date. Sometimes it is the simple things like this that are such a gifts!
do you have a cool story such as this? I would love to hear it!
This is my first and hopefully last pregnancy after a loss.
Realistically speaking, gone is the giddy glee (is that redundant?) of being pregger. Gone are the days of just knowing that after the 40ish weeks of headaches, fatigue, hormonal chaos and weight gain will be a living, breathing blessing of a babe. I have joined millions of women who anxiously count the weeks with cautious optimism. Our last experience has convoluted my mind about the normal outcome of pregnancy.
This pregnancy didn't start out that way though. Back in July in the oh, so nasty dirty grocery store bathroom I saw that blue line turn into a plus sign! I intentionally looked up into the mirror and noticed something on my face I had not seen in awhile.
In that moment, and it was brief, I felt the wonder and delight of knowing that a new life was forming within. I didn't think about heart defects, stillbirth and grief. I thought about the future. I thought about things like holding this rainbow baby, I felt joy. Perhaps I should have stayed in that bathroom longer.
I wish I could say that from there to here I have been confident and free of worry. The truth is the worry started to set in as I passed through the grocery store sliding doors. It increased as I drove back to the cottage. Panic rose as I sat through blood tests and ultrasounds. The pain of losing April in the second trimester is still so fresh. There are times my heart is consumed with fear at the possibility of going through that again.
I have to challenge what I feel with questions such as... "Is fear really what God desires for me?" and "Do I glorify Him while constantly worrying?"
The answers are no, and I don't.
...and the nagging thought..."Is all this worry a display of ingratitude or ultimately, sin in my life?"
So these days I try to balance the fear and the hope. Some days hope far outweighs. Other days fear and its cruel perpetrator seem to get the upper hand. I understand this to be normal, but I want to be back in the grocery store bathroom.
I want to look in the mirror and see that unadulterated hope in my face once more.
I believe this will be,
but feeling today that I'm traveling a new long and winding road...
Nine months, or 40 weeks. However you want to count it, pregnancy is a slow process.
So is living out a phantom pregnancy as I have been doing for the last 5 months.
Tomorrow, I have finally reached the end. It seems significant, if only for my own heart.
My feelings are mixed to say the least. Since the moment I knew I lost April I yearned for this due date to come... I wanted it to be over with. Why? Because I wanted the future to arrive at my doorstep as a expedited special delivery. I would open that package in and in it I would find healing and wholeness again. You might say that I was wishing my life away. It makes sense, right? If time heals, and God is faithful why wouldn't I want to be months farther along in my life?
Honestly, now that I've reached this due date the package at my doorstep is a big box of grief. When I really let myself think about how this very night I could have been holding my living, healthy daughter my heart finds a new place to break. The difference between now and last spring is-- I let my heart break a little when it needs to because I know that God's amazing love will fill the cracks. I have learned this time and again over the long summer season that I wished so badly to skip through.
I guess that is what the last 23 weeks have been about. I had to live out this pregnancy each-and-every-minute-of-everyday-of-it to learn the things I have and to feel the pain I have-- and ultimately to experience first hand how true God's promises are!
I am weepy and weary tonight, but tomorrow is a new day!
20I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
go round and round. (you know you just sang that! )
The second day of school brought to the end of our driveway-- a school bus!!!
For the last 5 years I have carpooled the kids to school. It had its ups and downs.
This fall we had anticipated a newborn in the house and I had successfully lobbied Dan for our school's bus service so I wouldn't have to lug 5 kids out the door every morning. Out of the pure love and graciousness in his heart, he first gave me the go ahead on the bus when I was pregnant with April. Out of a even larger and more generous heart, the bus plan remained intact even though there is no newborn to care for this fall.
It is a gift that keeps on giving every single day and I am deeply grateful.
Here's a few pix from the first week o' school, now that it is in the history books.
yes! it's finally here!
coming home much dirtier, germier, and smellier than when they left.
and of course, I can't forget about this rascal....
So many things I have desired to do in my process of healing after the loss of April, in April.
I remember scouring the internet, asking others for resources to help me through the pain of pregnancy loss and stillbirth. I have these materials. They sit in my nightstand, just ready to be read and learned from.
I am ticked because there they sit. My predisposition to procrastination lives on even in my time of grief. You would think I would have done everything possible so far to move past the pain of loss, yet I have not.
So in the midst of being annoyed at myself again, for being me. I took a step back to look at why I might not be doing these things I think will be so beneficial.
Oh, that's right. I have 4 kids. They were home all.summer.long. They are needy, fun, beings that depended on me for meals, fun, and attention.
I have family, church and friend obligations. Generally those things do not fade away during times of sadness--even when, at times I could barely bring myself to participate.
Ultimately, I am realizing that me, myself, and I am not solely responsible for my healing.
The way, shape, and form of the healing that He provides is not for me to determine. My job is just to trust Him and go to Him. Yes, the books, blogs and studies I have in my nightstand can be tools-- but God is the One who will do the work.
Certainly, He has. In ways I prayed for, in ways I never expected. Still the road continues.
It makes me glad to know that I don't have to heal myself or be surprised by joy. I thank you Lord, for bringing me to this place!
I realized this week that summer vacation is swiftly coming to an end. Our kids begin school before Labor Day (DON'T get me started on that) so i felt the need to pack in all kinds of summer goodness into 3 weeks.
You see, i spent a fair amount of the summer grieving our 5th baby, our unexpected pregnancy loss. I had resolved early in the summer break to try my best to balance grief and life with my 4 kids. And so we have outings. A couple weeks ago it was Krispy Kreme and Toys R Us (fairly harmless) and Tuesday we went to the Public Museum in good ol' downtown G-rap.
About 5 minutes in I realized that they would be my tour guide, and not the reverse. I had planned on taking a rather organized (as much as I am capable) stroll through the exhibits reading to them the detailed explanations and teaching them the history of our city and state. They had other intentions.
They zig zagged through the Old streets, and ran back out to the doll exhibit so the girls could have a tea party. They said that the furniture exhibit was "boring" but found great delight in the interactive Amway exhibit. It almost made me want to buy and sell Amway prods. :)
After a few free rides on the carousel, we crossed the Grand River and much to my kids delight they sipped on sodas from a local eatery. It was a beautifully hot day and I enjoyed watching them explore more than just our backyard and basement. Makes me a little sad that I didn't start these outings sooner than August.