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New Beginnings

When everything burns to ash, be a phoenix and rise and begin again.

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It is the beginning of the school year and what better time to start afresh? It’s been a crazy, super short summer and frankly an awful year, so rather than wait until 2018, I’m happy to begin a “new year” now at this, the beginning of the new school year. My kids are loving their new teachers and I’ve decided its a great time to start a new blog, learn some new things and share it all with you here.

In the awfulness of 2017, we all got into some bad health and fitness ruts and our bodies were suffering. I had shingles, my husband had a gout attack and I lost 2 teeth. In short, it’s been a physically bad year. After that, we decided to reclaim our health and fitness. We are reclaiming our health as a family by making simple changes – drinking more water, eating more fresh fruits and veggies and less processed foods, being really intentional about what we put in our bodies consistently and fueling our bodies well. We are reclaiming our fitness by exercising on a regular basis, being more active during the day so we can sleep better at night and really trying to get enough sleep. Its not easy, but we are doing our best. We are not only trying to reclaim health and fitness, but wellness and wholeness, too.

Our physical new beginning started months ago when we started making simple, healthful changes. My mental new beginning started July 31 when school started for my kiddos. My blog new beginning is now and I invite you to begin again with me. Let’s get fit and healthy together, beginning now.

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Triumph, despair, hope and courage

If you knit, then you already know that a baby blanket is a labor of love. If you don’t knit, then let me tell you — it is. A baby blanket is a commitment. A large time commitment. The simplest of baby blankets takes days to make if the yarn cooperates. Months if it doesn’t. Here’s my story of a time the yarn (and life) did not cooperate.

When I was pregnant with Maggie, a friend told me about a yarn store that was going out of business. I was already past my first trimester and had no reason to expect that I would lose her because my losses to that point had occurred very early. So I was ready to make her a blanket to welcome her into this world with. I remember my excitement in that yarn store when I found organic cotton yarn for 75% off with a large enough quantity to make a baby blanket. And then I found a bunch of other organic cotton yarn that I was going to make preemie hats with for the nicu. I thought I’d get it all done before Maggie was born. And then I got started.

There’s some yarn that cooperates and works well with certain patterns and there’s some yarn that doesn’t. Maggie’s yarn didn’t. And then some.

Part of it was my fault. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my knitting. I want it to look a certain way. I am not a fan of pooling or puddling or anything that involves a random patch of the same color in one spot when I’m knitting with multicolored yarn. I want it to look like stripes or random colors here and there.

Unfortunately, the yarn didn’t agree with me. It had a very strong desire to pool. I had a stronger desire for it not to pool, but just barely. Knitting this blanket was a constant battle of wills and I didn’t even know a skein of yarn could have a will of its own until that point. But they can.

I am not exaggerating when I say I probably took that blanket apart at least a hundred times. I tried starting with different numbers of stitches, different sizes of needles, different skein orders, different levels of tension with the same needles and then with different needles. Nothing worked. Nothing worked for so, so long.

I almost gave up. I had this vision of what I wanted this blanket to look like in my mind and it just would not come together. It was so frustrating. Months of so frustrating. But I couldn’t give up because it was for my precious baby. And then one day, it just started working.

I should have written down the solution because I can’t remember it now and I wish I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Probably because at that point, I didn’t expect anything I tried to work. It was just one more attempt that I expected to fail so what was the point in making note of the specifics of it?

I was delighted with the final product. Delighted and relieved. After months of frustration, it finally came together. I could not wait until Maggie arrived so she could use it.

And then she died. Talk about the ultimate something not coming together the way you wanted it to. It was almost like the frustration with the blanket was trying to prepare me for the ultimate disappointment of losing her. And all of a sudden instead of it being a triumphant expression of love for my beautiful daughter, that beautiful blanket became a triumphant symbol of despair.

Yes, it’s still a symbol of my love for her. Yes, I am still glad I made it. But my happiness at finally succeeding is completely overshadowed by my grief that my daughter is not here to enjoy it. I’m glad I have it to hold, but I wish I had her instead of or with it.

Yesterday was kind of like that. Only not. I hope. It’s amazing how sometimes things can be so similar and yet so different at the same time.

I was 34 weeks pregnant yesterday. My son is due in 5 weeks and 6 days. Unlike last time, I have every reason to expect that something could go wrong. I’m 34 weeks now and Maggie was stillborn at 38 weeks and 6 days. It could happen. Anything could happen. This is my tie breaker baby — half of my babies are in heaven and half are on earth. I really hope he tips the scale on this side and I’m able to bring him home, but I have no reason to expect that anymore. I know now just how wrong it can go.

Despite this, yesterday I went to another yarn store that was closing. And the sense of deja vu was not lost on me. In fact, I almost didn’t go because of it. It seemed like asking for trouble. But I went anyways. I had the feeling the perfect yarn was there and it was. And then I sat at a table and asked myself if I could really do this again.

“This” is such a slippery slope. It starts with can I really fight with another blanket? Can I really make it through that kind of frustration again? Do I have that much fight left in me? Am I going to put in that much effort again to have only a blanket to hold in the end? Am I jinxing us? If I do the same thing, will it end the same? Can I handle losing another baby at the very end?

I don’t think I can survive that again. I’m not sure I even want to try to survive that again.

I sat at a table for probably 30 minutes, weighing my options. There’s no denying that this yarn is perfect. But so was the other yarn.

I haven’t bought much for this baby because I’m scared to. But in that moment, when it was either buy the perfect yarn or leave without it and let fear win, I took a deep breath and got it.

Because this baby needs a blanket. Because right now he is alive and I love him and I need a way to express that. Because today fear doesn’t win. Because I know, come what may, I’ll have no regrets about making him a blanket. Whether he’s here to enjoy it or not. And because today I have hope that he will be here to enjoy it.

And today, with the yarn sitting beside me, so far untouched, I’m reminding myself of the differences. This is a different baby. A different yarn store closing. A different kind of yarn (wool instead of cotton). A new and different gender. And hopefully a different result.

So today I’ll find the perfect pattern and start making the perfect blanket for my precious son. I hope the yarn won’t fight me, but if it does I’ll fight it back. Until I win. Because it’s for someone I love. And I’ll do it with Maggie’s blanket beside me.

In conclusion, just to clarify, for the purposes of this blog, this is what triumph looks like:

This is what despair looks like:

This is what hope looks like:

And when I put it on my knitting needles, that will be what courage looks like.

Knitting (and grieving) on. And doing it all with love. . .

Grief Strikes

It still happens to me.

It will be 21 months on Monday since the day my beautiful daughter was still born so early in the morning after a long night of back labor and torture in the form of cytotek. And it still happens.

I still think of her and miss her every day. I still see her little haze like a shadow following behind my nephew who just turned 2. I still see her in the moments I glimpse of my friend’s baby that was due the same day she was due. I still see her everyday I live and everywhere I go.

Some days I feel ok. I feel like I am going to make it through this. And then it happens. Grief strikes.

It happened to me yesterday. I was driving through a parking lot to get to 5 below to buy my kids gingerbread houses for a Sunday school party they are going to today. I stopped to let a pedestrian cross and he took his sweet time. So I looked farther into the parking lot out of boredom and saw a dad and his little toddler walking to the car. Dad has baby girl’s hand in one of his and a Dick’s sporting goods bag in the other.

It was so sweet, but it broke my heart. It was like seeing into an alternate universe where my daughter didn’t die. In that instance, I knew that would have been my husband if she had lived. He would have been the dad walking through normal life with his baby girl in tow. Doing life with her. But he can’t. Because she’s dead.

Grief doesn’t always strike like that. It’s kind of like lightning. Some days the skies are grey and I expect to be shocked out of normal life and knocked to the ground with the weight of it all.

But yesterday wasn’t like that. Yesterday was like walking through the park on a beautiful spring day, no clouds in the sky, no electrical storm warning. And then boom. I’m hit. I’m down. I feel like I’m dying and only half of me is sad at that prospect. The other half is ready to see my Jesus and those who have preceded me.

In Georgia, they say if you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes it’ll change. In grief it’s more like if you do like how things are going enjoy it while you can because any second grief can strike. And everything changes.

If you’ve been struck, I’m not going to lie, it takes a lot longer than 5 minutes for that mental weather to change. Each strike is an injury that has to heal. Or a loss that must be grieved. And walking through grief and healing both take time.

I’m beginning to accept that I will not get over this. I may heal and process the grief and injuries I’ve sustained so far, but there will always be more, new ones to process and heal from. Because I’m not dead yet. And I carry her with me.

I’m not naïve enough anymore to think those aha moments will stop. There will always be milestones she won’t ever see. Milestones I won’t see her pass. She lost the ability to experience them, but I lost just as much. I lost the ability to watch her and help her and love her through them.

As long as there are people in this world experiencing what she never will, I will have opportunities to miss her and grieve. And I will take them. Because I’ll never stop missing her and thinking of her. She is my baby that I almost got to bring home. She will always have almost got to do everything.

It won’t matter how long had passed or how many babies (if any) I get to bring home because I’ll never have her here on Earth. I’ll never get to see her live. No one can take her place because no one else is her. Babies are not interchangeable or replaceable.

I accept the grief and the injuries because I love her. And love brings pain. Raising children brings pain, and so does not raising them. Life brings pain. Death brings pain. Living after death touches you brings pain.

It wasn’t an uneventful walk through the park before I lost my babies and it’s gotten more eventful with each loss. But the way I see it, I can either walk through what I’m given or lay down and die.

So I walk. Grief strikes. I rest and recover and process. And I get up and walk again. That is the life I grieve. And I’ll grieve it until I die.

And for now, I’ll grieve that beautiful, normal daddy moment my husband will never get to have with our baby who never got to walk as long as it takes and then I’ll get up again and keep walking. Because that is my life now. That is the life I grieve.

Grieving on. . . And as I walk, my heart repeats these lines.

I’ll grieve you for always,

I’ll love you forever,

As long as I’m living,

My baby you’ll be.

Still Waiting For The Storm to Pass

Pregnancy after loss is a coveted thing. I think it’s normal to long for a baby when you’ve lost one. It isn’t just wanting what you’ve lost, though. You’ve spent time preparing your heart and home and mind and world to accommodate another person, a tiny person who will need you. And then they are gone but they’ve left an empty hole. You have all this energy to devote to mothering and no one to use it for. It’s frustrating. It’s even more frustrating when you realize pregnancy after loss is not necessarily the end of the storm.

For me, I lost Baby B at 7 weeks and then I waited and prayed and hoped and it took 3 years to conceive. Then I lost Maggie full term. And then I waited and prayed and hoped and it took 8 months to conceive. Then I lost Ruth at 12 weeks and almost died in the process. And then I waited and prayed and hoped and it took 4 months to conceive and here I am now, 27 weeks pregnant with my first (confirmed) boy and my 9th confirmed pregnancy. And the storm continues.

It has been a long, hard process and I feel like I’ve learned a lot through it. I wanted to take a moment and pass some of what I’ve learned on to those who are still waiting for their rainbow (and possibly for myself to read later when I need the reminder, as I often do). It is a beautiful experience and worth anticipating, for sure, but it isn’t all good. You don’t get a rainbow without going through a storm and the storm isn’t over until you’re holding your rainbow.

You see, pregnancy after a loss is not the same as pregnancy before a loss. Your naïveté is gone. There are so many ways this reality rears it’s ugly head. Here are just a few:

  • Panty checks. Pregnancy tends to make it a little moister down there, but after a loss every bit of moisture can send you to the bathroom for a panty check just to make sure there is no blood. This also makes wearing pink or red or stained undies a bad idea because it can cause panic where none is warranted.
  • Toilet paper checks. Scrutinizing after every wipe to make sure there’s no telltale tinge of red.
  • Anxiety, worry, pessimism. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the contestant feeling that something might be wrong. Which is completely reasonable because something has been wrong before so something could go wrong again.
  • Questioning everything. “Should I feel kicks by now? I don’t. Does that mean something is wrong?” “Baby is kicking more/less than usual. Does that mean something is wrong?” Basically wondering if everything that happens means something is wrong. Or if whatever you are doing could cause something to go wrong. Because something has gone wrong before. You not only know it’s possible, you’ve felt it happen in the past. That is a hard thing to forget. You may feel the need to prepare for “worst case scenarios” because you’ve already lived one or more of those.
  • Difficulty connecting and feeling excited even if everyone else you know is excited for you. Because you know how quickly it can go wrong. You can’t feel the excitement without an edge of worry with it. If you acknowledge the excitement, you may feel the need to also acknowledge the worry that the excitement won’t last, if not to others then at least to yourself.
  • Anxiety before doctor appointments. A feeling of foreboding like maybe this is that visit where they will say the words you dread the most “there is no heartbeat.”
  • Hesitation. Hesitation announcing the pregnancy. Hesitation about accepting hand me downs or gifts. Hesitation about having a baby shower and really celebrating. Because what do you do with all of the baby supplies if this baby doesn’t make it?
  • The ability to go from calm to panicked any time there is any hint of something being wrong. Because you have a foundation of worry already that it is easy to build on. Google is not your friend. Statistics do not help you when you’ve already been part of the 1% who experience a late term stillbirth or part of the 25% who’ve experienced a miscarriage.

If you’ve experienced any of these, please know that it is completely normal. If you’ve experienced all of these, you are not alone. I have experienced all of these. Sometimes all in one day.

Fear and anxiety are my constant companions and with each pregnancy and each loss it gets worse. Because that foundation of fear and worry gets thicker and bigger and stronger each time. The struggle is real.

What can you do about it? While nothing can completely erase all the worries and anxiety, there are some things that can help:

  1. Accept that your feelings are a normal response to grief and loss. Feeling them is the only way to process them. Burying them and denying them just delays processing them. If there’s any way to get past them you must first process through them.
  2. Buy some new panties. Not white or pink or red.
  3. Remind yourself that as far as you know everything is ok at this moment. As many times a day as you need to, remind yourself of this.
  4. Find a doctor who understands your concerns and is willing to see you as often as you need to. If there is any reason for concern, call your doctor and let him reassure you or work you in to check and make sure everything is ok. If your doctor is understanding of your fertility history, he will have no problem working you in to reassure you.
  5. Find a support group. Search for Pregnancy After Loss Support. It helps knowing there are others who are experiencing the same thing you are. It helps to have a safe place to share your concerns with people who understand. It helps to talk and not hold it all in. Some hospitals have local PALS groups, too, so you can see someone who understands face to face when you need to. Some of them even match up moms who’ve been there with moms who are there. Kind of like a mentoring thing.
  6. Blog or journal or (even better) find a friend in real life who you can talk to. There are so many people who have felt this pain and anxiety. It helps to get it out on paper or on screen but being eye to eye with someone who understands and is willing to walk this journey with you helps, too.

Fertility issues are hard. Including the rainbow pregnancy. The hard part doesn’t stop when egg meets sperm. It only changes from anxiety over if and when conception will occur to anxiety over if and when loss will occur. And that is normal.

But it is also normal not to know what’s normal for you until you’re in the midst of it. I think pregnancy after loss is much like grieving. Everyone does it differently, there is no set time line and no right or wrong way to do it. We are all just stranded in the wilderness trying to find or make a path. Trying to enjoy this experience as much as possible as long as it lasts. Hoping that it lasts this time. Unable to forget the time(s) before.

Whether you are still waiting and hoping and praying for your rainbow, baking your rainbow or holding your rainbow, I wish you the best. It’s a hard journey every step of the way and you aren’t alone. There are more people who have walked in these shoes before you and with you than you know. Don’t be afraid to find some. It helps to have a tribe. It helps to know you aren’t going through the storm alone.

At least, it helps me. And I hope it will help you, too.

God bless you on your fertility journey. May you find what helps you heal. We can wait for the storm to pass together if you want. . .

Ohana holidays. . . Little and broken, but still good.

I lied and I’m sorry.

A couple weeks ago, I told someone that I thought year 2 of holidays without Maggie and Joanna would be better, but it isn’t. I could say it’s our first holidays without Ruth and firsts are always the hardest, but the truth is I never really expected Ruth to be here this year. When we lost her, I was still in the first trimester and I knew that I could still lose her because most losses happen in the first trimester. So I hadn’t allowed myself to expect her to be with us for the holidays yet. That doesn’t make it hurt any less, but expectations aren’t why it hurts.

I really thought I was telling the truth when I said I thought this year would hurt less. I thought this year would be easier because I had no reasonable expectation for my dead baby or my dead sister to be with me for the holidays this year. Last year I did. They both died when I didn’t expect them to. I already had holiday plans in my head and heart with them. But this year I didn’t.

But this year isn’t any better. Because grief isn’t reasonable. And because I had holiday plans in my head and heart with them for forever. It’s written in cement. It’s not erasable any more than it’s attainable. It is what it is. It hurts. It sucks. And it continues.

Grief is not logical. You can’t reason it away. Telling myself I knew last year that they wouldn’t be here this year doesn’t make me any less sad. They still aren’t here. I’m still grieving the loss of their fellowship during the holidays. I don’t feel any better.

I guess the only good thing about thinking this year would be easier is that I wasn’t dreading it until it came. But I also didn’t immediately recognize my general crankiness for the past week and a half or so as a grief thing. But it is.

I don’t know what to do about it, though. Last year, I made a big deal about the holidays and tried to gather all my family together. I hosted Thanksgiving, didn’t ask anyone to bring anything but their appetite and seven of the nine people I invited didn’t show up and didn’t tell me they weren’t showing up until hours before dinner time. That did not make me feel better. So I’m not hosting this year. But I don’t think that’s going to make me feel better, either.

This reminds me of when my Grandma died. Everyone used to get together at her house for the holidays. And then she got sick and we didn’t get together as much but we still communicated. She died 4.5 years ago and I can’t tell you the last time I heard from my aunts. I’m in contact with some of my cousins and I’m thankful for that, but I still feel disconnected from my family, especially at the holidays and that hurts.

Now I feel like I’ve lost touch with my family all over again with the loss of my sister and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just loss heaped on top of loss with a little family disconnect for dessert. Or is it for deserted?

So I guess this year I’m just focusing on my little family unit. It is little and broken, but still good. I don’t know if focusing on my family will make me feel any better or not, but at least I won’t be cooking a Thanksgiving feast for days in an effort to hold my family together just to have the majority not show up. I’m pretty sure putting that much effort into an epic failure made it a little worse.

I wish I had a solution to share because I know I’m not the only one who’s dealing with family disconnect due to grief at the holidays, but I don’t. All I have to offer is the truth and the fact that you aren’t alone in dealing with it. Grief is hard. Grieving doesn’t stop for the holidays. There is no holiday from grief and in fact it gets worse at the holidays for me. Because for me, the holidays are family affairs and experiencing them without part of my family just emphasizes the people who are missing. It shines a bright light on what I’m missing and I feel the pain more keenly.

It’s also harder for me because I think holidays are supposed to be especially happy times. So being unhappy on a day that I think is supposed to be extra happy just makes everything feel that much wronger.

It’s all wrong. It isn’t what I want it to be. But it’s what I have been given. I kind of just want to go back to bed and hide from the wrongness of it all like a 3 year old throwing a tantrum because it isn’t what I want, but my little, broken family still needs to enjoy their holiday and make happy memories as best we can. So I will do my best to make it happy for them. And for me.

I will feel the pain as it comes in waves and feel the happiness as the grief waves ebb. I will thank God for my family I miss with tears and thank God for the family I’m able to be with with smiles and hugs. And sometimes I will do both at the same time. I will do the best I can with what I have and hope that when my kids are grown that my best is enough for them.

This is my holiday. I am figuring it out on my own. It is little and broken, but it can still be good. Ih. It can still be good. Even if I can’t leave my grief behind. It can still be good. That is the concept that keeps me going and keeps me trying to make it good. The idea that it can still be good.

It can still be good.

Grieving on. . .

Does anyone else feel like they always have to rewind after their loss? Like everything “after loss” requires you to return to the loss to make it make sense? Or is it just me?

Anyways, I did something a couple months ago that has help me in my grief journey a lot and I’d like to share the ups and downs of it with y’all. But first, as usual, I need to rewind and give some back story.

When I was pregnant with Maggie, I had a great job. Not great paying. Not even close to my house (one hour away, in fact). But every day I worked I was surrounded by great people. So that made my job great. I loved it.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with Maggie, they restructured and my job no longer existed. Which was fine with me because my sister was really sick and I wanted to spend time with her. I had gotten to the point where my job became exhausting. I needed to prepare for Maggie to come home. It seemed like a good thing for me at the time.

Two weeks later, my sister died. I felt a little lost because I couldn’t spent time with her anymore like I’d looked forward to. But there was still a baby to prepare for.

The next month I got shingles and spent a month laying down on my couch because it was the only place where I could find a comfortable position. So it was good I didn’t have a job then.

And then Maggie died. I gave birth. I planned her funeral. I spent months in bed recuperating physically. All of which made it good that I didn’t have a job at that time.

And then one day I woke up and I realized I was a stay at home mom with no children at home with me. I felt useless. It was depressing. I spent most of the time between kids getting on the bus and kids getting back off sleeping. Because I couldn’t handle the nothing to do, the no one to take care of, the empty hours that shouldn’t be empty, the silence that screamed at me, the wrongness of it all.

I started to feel like my husband had it “more together” than me. I started to wonder if he was handling the loss better than me because he had a job to go to during the day. I started to feel like maybe I should get a job and see if it helps.

But I had 4 kids in school so I needed to work during those school hours. Or have a job they could go with me to. And we wanted to move. So I didn’t want to find a job then move and not want to drive to it anymore.

So I procrastinated. Procrastination is really easy when all you really want is something you can’t have. Like to be a stay at home mom with a living baby.

It’s easy to make excuses when you want something so badly that is just not in the cards for you at the moment. It’s easy to coast by and not fight when you’re drowning and feel like you just can’t swim anymore, especially if you no longer care if you drown. It’s easy to take the easy way out. It’s easy to stop pushing yourself to do better. It’s easy to settle for less when you can’t have what you want anyways. It’s easy to feel like it’s all or nothing and all isn’t an option anymore. So I did easy. Because everything was hard and I just couldn’t do the hard anymore.

And then we moved. We moved right where I wanted to be. Ten minutes from the job I had loved so much. So I gained a little courage and asked if there were any availabilities there. And there were.

So in August, I went back to work. I became a preschool teacher for 2 year olds 4 days a week. And I love it.

It isn’t always easy. Some days it has been really hard to walk the halls I walked while pregnant with Maggie. Remembering her kicking and alive. Remembering my innocence and hopes for her. Remembering how they all got dashed.

Some days it’s hard to see the baby that was due the same day Maggie was due. The child who lived. My eyes are drawn to her as if magnetically. I can’t not look at her. I love to look at her and imagine how she is is how Maggie would be. But it hurts sometimes.

Sometimes it’s hard to teach children just slightly older than Maggie would be now. Two year olds are probably my favorite age group. They grow and develop and learn so much over the course of a year. But I never quite lose sight of the fact that Maggie would almost be this age. And I’m missing seeing her growing and developing and learning. So much.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the names of my babies said out loud to other babies. I love hearing their names but it hurts that they aren’t here for me to hear their names used in reference to them.

So now I am doing the hard thing. Lots of the hard things. And it has been so good for me. It gets me out of bed. It gives me a purpose. It stretches me and grows me.

It gives me such joy to be teaching sweet babies about Jesus and life skills and letters and numbers and colors. Having their sweet voices sing along with mine and say the pledge with me. It is so sweet.

But it’s not just sweet. There’s an edge to it sometimes, a bitterness I can’t deny. But that’s just a reality of my life now. No matter where I go or what I do. It’s something I have to live with. It’s part of my new reality.

So I have been working hard and loving it and learning and growing. It keeps me busy, body and mind. But it doesn’t give me nearly as much time to process what I’m feeling or blog. There’s so much I want to say but it’s like I have a hard time putting it into words. I’m learning the benefits of a quiet time to think. I’m learning how badly I need it.

So this week, while I’m out of work for Thanksgiving and spending time with my kids, I’ll also be processing the feelings I’ve been dealing with. Putting what little quiet time I’ll have to good use. And probably blogging more because it’s part of my processing.

Going back to work has helped me a lot, and I hope this break will help me a lot also. I know God can use it all for my good and His Glory.

So that’s where I am and what I’ve been up to. That’s what’s been helping me now. But there was a lot of grieving and healing that I had to do before I could get to this point. A point where I was able to come back to work. It wasn’t something I could have done right away. It was 17 months between losing Maggie and going back to work. It was 6 months between losing Ruth and going back to work. And I needed most if not all of that time to be ready to go back to work.

We are all different. We all grieve differently. All griefs have a different time line. All grievers have different needs. So while I’m telling you going back to work helped me, I’m not telling you it will help you. Only you can know when you’re ready to work or volunteer or commit to doing something on a regular basis.

All I’m saying is I got to a point where I needed something to occupy my time and mind and hands. A time when stay at home grieving was like spinning in place. I felt like I was a hamster on a wheel and I needed to concentrate on something else to continue to grow and to go somewhere.

Not everyone who loses a child can work with children. Not everyone is at the point where they can be around other people on a regular basis. Wherever you are in your grief, I hope you find what you need for your growth and healing. I have such hope for us all to learn to live again. And I am so thankful I am no longer in that awful phase of barely surviving all day long. So thankful for the healing.

Work is not a one size fits all solution. It isn’t a solution for everyone. But in this time, it is helping me. A lot. And I like to share what helps me. So there you have it.

Grieving on. . .

Friendship and fertility speak in grief

Fertility is a sensitive subject for anyone who has lost an unborn child or had difficulty conceiving. It can be an automatic painful trigger. And the worst part is that it is a socially acceptable subject to speak about from the moment you meet someone new.

“Hi. How are you? Are you married? Do you have any kids?”

It seems like from the time you become a legal adult and certainly as soon as you’re married, the state of your uterus is suddenly an open topic of great interest. It is automatically on the table to make small talk about. Whenever. With whomever.

“Howdy. Lovely weather. How ’bout them dawgs? Are you pregnant yet?”

It is treated as something that should be common knowledge. Like the presence of storm clouds in the sky. Or the current ranking of your favorite sports team.

Even though it’s no one else’s business, everyone acts like it is. Oh, no one really wants to talk about pregnancy loss with a stranger, but it’s often a stranger that will open that can of worms with gusto and thoughtless questions. Only to back away in horror when the answer is not a happy one.

It isn’t just strangers, though. Or people who don’t know about your struggles. Sometimes it’s a well meaning friend who asks the question that is the most difficult to discuss.

I’m always surprised when a friend says something that triggers me or cuts me to the core. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I shouldn’t be because I don’t believe God gives us friends to make us have warm fuzzy feelings all the time. I believe He gives us friends to refine us, make us holier and wiser and sharper, and that can’t always be a comfortable process.

“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” PROVERBS‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭

A true friend does not speak to intentionally hurt and never speaks to harm, but when you’re grieving and in pain hurt can come from the most well meant and innocuous of comments. But that’s ok. That’s what friends are for. To make us think. We need our friends, especially when we deal with difficult circumstances.

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” PROVERBS‬ ‭17:17‬

I would even go so far as to say that it’s better to have a friend whose words can sometimes hurt than to have a thousand acquaintances who will smile at you without meaning it. Who will never know you or your pain because they never take the time to look below the surface.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs‬ ‭27:6‬ ‭

What do you do, though, when a friend wounds you without meaning to?

I like to take a deep breath, remind myself that my friend loves me, answer as honestly as I can and then change the subject until I have a chance to think about why that comment or question hurt and how I really feel about it. That is much easier typed than done. Because it is definitely not my first instinct to respond nicely to anything that hurts. My instinctual reaction is generally much more like the lion with the thorn in its paw, to lash out in pain at whoever is nearby. I need time to process both the question and my reaction to be able to really discuss it, but I don’t want to leave my friend hanging or lash out at them. It’s tricky talk territory, to be sure.

Like everything else in my life, grief has changed my friendships. It has made them trickier and more complicated. And so I’ve had to adapt and learn how to navigate this altered territory and I’ve found myself refined in the process.

If you’ve suffered a loss, it’s almost certain that you’ve experienced the wounds of a well-meaning friend. How do you react without turning your friend away? Are there any other ways grief has impacted your friendships? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. . .

So much hope in the wake of grief

Eight years ago today was my first experience with a late term stillbirth. My sister had lost a baby at 20 weeks prior to that, but it wasn’t the same. Not that any two losses could ever be the same, but I don’t know any other way to describe it other than “not the same”. It was a long journey, learning there is a difference, though. What I wouldn’t give some days to go back to when I thought all losses were the same. But I’ve digressed. . .

Eight years ago, I was in the midst of a very tumultuous time of my life. My husband had left us a month before and I was due in 2 weeks with our forth child. I was leaning heavily on my due date club for support as my life was imploding. I was very much distracted by the crap I was going through.

I was in a fog. I felt very self absorbed at the time. I was eagerly awaiting my baby’s birth as a much needed moment of good in the midst of the storm I was going through.

I was eagerly awaiting the birth of all the babies in our due date club. For months, we had shared all the ups and downs of pregnancy and life itself and all of that was building up to the month ahead.

We were all due in November. We were all ready to see our sweet babies faces. We were all getting to the done part of pregnancy. It was almost our time to count fingers and toes and hear that first cry.

And then it happened. Eight years ago today, a sweet baby was born sleeping. She was 7 lb 1 ounce of beauty and perfection. But she was dead. That was not perfect.

Her birth shook me to the core. This baby that I had looked forward to being born alongside mine was born dead. How could this happen? In that moment I felt the tiniest bit of the feeling that consumed me almost 6.5 years later when Maggie was born still.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think. I so badly wanted to comfort my friend who had lost her child at the very end of her pregnancy. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t even comfort myself.

Our group was full of knitters so over the next couple of months, we took turns kitting yarn that other members who didn’t knit contributed to make her a far away, so close shawl as a physical representation of our desire to wrap our arms around her and comfort her. Because we all wanted to comfort her.

I’d like to say it assuaged my desire to comfort her, but it didn’t. Because 8 years later, here I am thinking about sweet baby Stella Grace and Krystal’s sweet mama heart, still wishing I could reach out and give her a hug. Maybe even more so now that I know how she felt. It’s a permanent entry in my calendar and a day I spend thinking about them.

I’d like to say it comforted her, but I really don’t know if it did. I hope it did. But on this side of a full term stillbirth, I know it could go either way. It could have been a comfort, all of us embracing her, as we meant it to be. Or it could have been a reminder of all the other babies who weren’t born still. Or it could be both. I may never know so I just hope it was a comfort.

Krystal wasn’t in our group much longer and now I understand why. It’s so hard to be around pregnant women and newborns when you’ve suffered a loss. In the almost 20 months since I lost Maggie, I’ve been to 2 baby showers. One for a friend who had lost one of her twins during the pregnancy and one for a very close friend who was there for me when I lost Maggie. And both of them were awkward and hard. Even though I was rejoicing with my friends over their sweet babies who I was eagerly anticipating meeting, there was so much pain.

There is still so much pain.

I’d like to say that grieving for a friend’s late term loss prepared me in some way for my own. But it didn’t. I don’t believe there is any way to prepare to lose a baby. Even if you could see it coming, you can’t imagine how much it will hurt until it happens. I know now there’s no preparing for something like that. “Preparing for pregnancy loss” is just another urban grief myth perpetrated by those who clearly don’t understand.

Today, at the end of pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, a time I didn’t know existed 8 years ago when this day became all about pregnancy loss in a very real way for me, I am still thinking about Stella Grace. She is not forgotten.

I like to think my baby I miscarried 7 months before she was stillborn greeted Stella Grace at Heaven’s gates. I’d like to think that together, they’ve greeted my 3 other lost babies and all the other babies gone from earth too soon. I’d like to think they all learned to walk on holy ground and are happy in Heaven with Jesus and with each other. And I can’t wait for them to greet me there one fine day.

A lot of my life is lived on hope these days. Along with all my other hopes, I hope that wherever Krystal is she knows that Stella Grace isn’t forgotten. I hope she’s happy and comforted. I have so many hopes and good wishes for her to this day. And I hope somehow some way she can feel them.

Fly high, Stella Grace. You are not forgotten.