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Releasing a Mother

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release [ri-lees]

verb (used with object)released, releasing.
1.to free from confinement, bondage, obligation,pain, etc.; let go:

2.to allow to be known, issued, done, or exhibited:

On the precipice of becoming a mama to a teenager,

after returning from a visit with faraway friends working hard to escape a life of poverty,

missing my babies at home so much,

a short reprieve from a terrible fear,

witnessing the miraculous birth of my sweet god-daughter,

I’m acutely aware of how fast and how precious this life.

The snow this morning was a perfect excuse to call off going to classes, hunker down at home, intentionally kiss my husband goodbye on his way to work, have a slow breakfast while listening to the Bible and praying with each other. We tackled a family project, and got all the homeschool work done by noon, plus living room hockey and memory games. Warm tea and cocoa in our cups, I had time and the mindfulness to answer all the learning questions, hear all the stories and ideas, stay patient and kind with the regular frustrations, guiding my kids to do the same. There was one big spill and just a few whiny moments, but all in all it was a very good day. We went to piano lessons, ran birthday errands, dance class, then dinner. We talked, and laughed, and played, and worked. It was the most normal of days, full of nothing spectacular. It is one of my favorite days, in one of my favorite times. Here I am, mom to 4 I always longed to be.

It is hard to believe my baby girl will be 13 tomorrow. When I was finally pregnant with her after a year of miscarriages and failed pregnancy tests, I reveled in that time of growing her – as with all of my babies. I studied every bit of development, journaled all my feelings and hopes, worries and fears, and promises, especially for the adolescent years. The beginning of her life was the beginning of my most favorite endeavor. Being a mama fills me up and pours me out like nothing else. It’s the most challenging, gratifying, soul-filling, exhausting, never measuring-up or feeling complete work. They refine and make me more of who God created me to be every day. Much as my focus is ever on their development, needs, and care, it is me today who feels so deeply loved and provided for in being given these lives to love for eternity.

Slow down the days Lord.

Keep my babies close,

and safe,

knowing You,

and feeling loved.

May I be the mama they need me to be, in the growing up and in the slowing down. May I get to breathe them in on hectic days and full times, through temper tantrums (theirs and mine), sibling squabbles and spilled milk, pausing to see Your glorious creation in each of their beautiful faces, most precious souls. I can barely write as my throat closes tight and tears stream down. These babies of mine are growing so fast, and who am I without them? Who will I be when they are all gone? Oh I have my work and my friends and my well-rounded life, but really, they with my husband are the very best of it. I cannot bear the thought of those goodbyes, much as I delight in every new stage and season of their lives. I can picture with future nostalgia large extended family dinners, new holidays traditions, regular visits, but oh my dear, it will be the final separating of address, no more shared hallways at bedtime, morning pitter pats that end up in sunrise snuggles, all of us piled in one car, around one table, in one heap of tickles day after day that has my heart bursting bittersweet gratitude for beautiful days that will never be lived twice.

So much about parenting is so hard. So much about juggling career and ministries and responsibilities and life is wrought with stress and burden. It is rarely as peace and gratitude filled as today, even so, I wish to hold onto it all, the good and the hard, just a little longer.

In their baby journals I would write “If only I had one of you for each day you have lived. Each day you are a new creation, the same of course and wholly different as you grow. I so dearly love you each day that the thought of never seeing you again as you are today is too painful to fathom – except for the excitement of who you will be tomorrow. I learn to let go of you every day and look to the next for the delight of discovering you again, and again. I love you my precious one.”


All I Want Is You

The other night while running a simple errand, the U2 song All I Want is You came on.

“But all the promises we make, from the cradle to the grave, when all I want is you.”

I barely made it out the door of the grocery store to the quiet alone place of my car to sob. This is what 8 years later feels like, still struck without warning by small reminders that open floodgates of raw pain.

On a similarly cold and snowy night 8 years ago, I was heading to a routine OB appointment. I was 4 days overdue, the only signs of labor were 6 days before when contractions got to 7 minutes apart and then trailed off. If only we had gone to the hospital then. So many if onlies. On this night, I was set on finishing packing my hospital bag to bring with us. My husband encouraged me to leave it for later as the falling snow might make us late, but I insisted, “I just feel like I might need it” I told him. I also told him earlier that day  “I feel like he is never going to come.” What a strange things to say when you’re 9 months and 4 days pregnant and this is your 3rd rodeo. He had hiccups that morning and my 2 year old boy felt my belly with his tiny pudgy hands, smiling at the small reverberations.

We drove in the snow and traffic, the usual way was backed up so we re-routed through downtown Seattle. I remember looking up through the sunroof at the beautiful quiet black night sky flanked by the city’s skyscrapers, big white flurries falling slowly down. I was marveling at the beauty of everything, alive with hope for so much goodness.  Worried we wouldn’t make it to the office in time, I called to tell them we were running late and asked if we should reschedule. The kind nurse who knew me well said they’d see me as their last patient of the day.

I wish I could have stopped time then, the anticipation of a year’s worth of body and heart building still with us and the lovely feeling of joyful anticipation. I am sure we were talking about what we still needed to do to be ready, what we would be up to the next day, Christmas preparations. I am sure we had plans and felt busy with them, no idea our world would stop, that our plans would become obsolete and our most imminent plan had died only hours, maybe minutes before. Turn around, go home, if there was ever a time to drive away from the irreversible. We carried on.

I weighed 1 lb less than the week before when I checked in. So strange. I never lose weight with my pregnancies. The doctor exam was routine, she told me everything was well, we laughed at the normalcy that my babies always come late. For good measure, though, she sent me for a non-stress test to monitor contractions and baby’s vitals. No contractions, and many attempts to find a heart beat, the nurse abruptly asked, “didn’t the doctor already do this with the doppler?”

“No?” I said as a question, and she wouldn’t make eye contact with me. So confusing. So strange. Something was off and I couldn’t make sense of it. Faulty equipment. A more experienced nurse sent in. Turn down the heartbeat monitors pumping loudly nearby. Close my curtain. Turn up the volume. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Finally the  the doctor was summoned. She would clear all this up.

She guided me down the hall to the ultrasound room and nonchalantly asked, “so when did you last feel him move?” If it weren’t for her steady hand under my arm I would have buckled to the ground. I could barely breath when I uttered “this morning. He had hiccups this morning….” I knew it wasn’t enough, we both pretended it was.

I tried to be strong for her, tried not to worry, I needed her to be strong for me. I sensed his hiccups were the last of him. But hey, I was busy pregnant mom with two little ones at home, I was probably distracted. The ultrasound would make it all better, would explain away all those other faulty devices and show that careless nurse she can’t scare people like that. There would be a way out of this, there is always a save, a rescue, a happy ending. My whole life of close calls, everything would work out in the end. The ultrasound would surely find that twisting, turning, flipping, flopping baby boy growing into his Fisher name all these 9 months. The ultrasound would save us.

There he was, all 8 pounds 12 ounces of him. First his familiar profile, fully formed nose, forehead and protruding baby lips, his arms, round belly and long legs…still. His body was so still. Until the ultrasound landed on his chest cavity, my doctor held it there and we all held our breath. The terrible black hollow space where his heart used to flutter made all my hopes shatter. She put a hand on my leg whispering “oh Heather, I am so sorry.” Hot tears streamed down my face as my own heart stopped and then surged with the most visceral animal ache that nearly choked me.

Scott came into the room a few minutes later, arriving as quickly as he could from an errand run during those long boring non-stress tests. I had urgently texted him “something is wrong. please come back” when the nurse turned her back, like a high school kid fearing I’d be caught using my phone during class. I wanted him to have seen the awful image too, so he could know it the way I new it, but the doctor’s words were enough. He’d rushed past a group of whispering nurses gathered outside my door who were immediately silent as he came through and knew something wasn’t right. As the pain of the terrible truth set in, the bleak marriage statistics of couples who lose a child flashed through my mind. I grabbed his hands and looked into his pain stricken face with the same fierce intention of our wedding vows. “I will be good to you in this” I promised. He looked confused and then his own tears fell as he nodded and knew we would be facing the worst storm of our lives.

My doctor asked me if I’d like to go home to get a good night’s sleep and give birth tomorrow, or would I rather go to the hospital now. There would be no sleeping for me, that sounded like the worst possible idea. I told her I had come prepared to give birth and was ready now. Through his tears Scott apologized profusely that I had to go through with this and wished he could do this for me. I felt strong and resolute. Like a soldier heading to the front lines of an impossible battle, this was my honorable duty and last opportunity to give the full strength of my body to this baby I so dearly loved.  Scott went to get my hospital bag from the car and they brought the wheelchair to take me to the hospital wing.

The birth is another story, one I have written about herehere , and here. The video of his life and our time with him is there too and it would mean so much for you to meet him and witness his life. Much as those memories are with me, 8 years later, what I am left with is the awe and wonder of God’s presence in it all, then and now. We chose a song for his funeral video by Natalie Grant called Held, because the words speak to the agony of such a situation, and because we felt so profoundly held by God and by the people He sent to love us.

In an effort to be empathic, one person told me I had permission to be mad at God. How could I possibly be mad at God when He was so evidently with us? Nowhere in the bible does He promise we will not face hard things. There were moments I was mad at the situation, and knowing what I know now about what went wrong infuriates me, but never for a moment could I be mad at the Savior who carried me. It may have been natural to say “why me?” yet the only thought that came to me was “why not me?” The words that comforted me came from the bible stories and many sermons I had heard from our pastor at Bethany Community Church, speaking to the reality that we will face hard things in life and in that He will be WITH us in those trials. In these hardest moments of my life thus far, His presence was so profoundly felt. God held us and gave us people who carried our mat, dug through the roof, and laid us at the feet of Christ where we felt His healing presence every single day. (Pastor Scott Sund, my husband, recently preached about this Jesus story, the value of relationships that bring us to God’s healing presence)

In our deepest pain and hurt God’s all encompassing power and love were evident every single day…

God’s grace is a snowstorm that made us the last appointment of the day, allowing the solace of an empty OB waiting room to be wheelchaired through to the hospital.

The Holy Spirit’s prompting is a whisper to bring my hospital bag to the appointment.

God’s provision is my mom coming to visit a few days early so that we didn’t bring our young children to the appointment with us as we usually did, and Scott was able to be with me during the birth.

Jesus’ sustenance is taking communion the Sunday before, unexpectedly crying uncontrollably at the gifts of His last supper, a cathartic foreshadowing to my grief.

God’s devotion is being alone at the hospital (Scott had quickly gone home to tell our two young children in person, to comfort them and tuck them in for the night) and my father called unexpectedly, caught off guard by the news and encouraging me with is bountiful love and devout prayers.

Jesus’ presence is dear friends with small children at home finding childcare at midnight to come cry with us and pray over us as we prepared for his birth.

God’s wisdom is an action list of another who’d recently experienced the same loss, allowing me the ability to make decisions when coherent thoughts were elusive.

The Holy Spirit’s presence is the urge to toss a journal into my bag so that I could write my lamentations as my body prepared to birth the unimaginable – writing would make me feel sane and draw me to my Savior.

God’s kindness is my own trusted doctor coming back to the spend the night at the hospital on her night off in order to be with me.

Jesus’ tenderness is my mother, mother in law and a dear friend who came to visit and lovingly held death in their arms.

The Holy Spirit’s beauty is the friend who took pictures, and the organization Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, who sent a volunteer professional photographer to capture these moments. Those images are a treasure – to remember his nose, his toes, his tiny fingernails, the family resemblances when my heart needs more than memory.

Jesus’ healing is dear friends who prayed for us when we could barely breath, fed us good food when all manner of housekeeping was hard, took our children to play when they needed to be happy regular kids for a few hours.

God’s hands and feet were our Bethany Community Church friends who planned a funeral by drawing out the wishes of our hearts – providing childcare, creating the program, designing flower arrangements, reading scripture, singing worship songs our children could dance to, creating gifts for all to ring bells for our angel in heaven, making delicious food, forcing me to eat some, braving the snowstorm to come be with us.

The Holy Spirit’s understanding is the small group friend who continued to visit us very sad people when it had to be so hard, admitting she did not know what to say, and yet in that humility brought the truest empathy we could ask for.

Jesus’ blessing is a friend who called each night after bed time to be a witness to the heart wrenching unexpected and joyful unexplainables of each new day.

God’s faithfulness was a spouse who honored my unique grieving, invited me into the uniqueness of his own, understood my pain as no-one else could and shared the life-saving efforts to honor and cherish one another well.

God’s sovereignty is being reminded of a Master of Divinity paper assigned to me 8 years prior in my Systematic Theology class at Fuller seminary – to write a letter explaining how God could be sovereign (all powerful and all loving) to a woman who had lost just lost her child.

Jesus’ preparation was gifting me with Jerry Sitter 12 years prior as my spiritual mentor while studying Spiritual Development at Whitworth – knowing his experience of great loss from his personal stories and nearly memorizing his book A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss

The Holy Spirit’s anticipation is a devotional prayer calendar in the weeks prior, buffering my heart with the words of comfort in suffering, I remember being struck by the oddity of the theme when life was so very good, but choosing to be faithful to read each day’s devotion.

God’s everlasting love is in the friend who sends pretty paper whites every year on his birthday, the MOPS mentor moms who tell me they are thinking of me and hanging his bell on the Christmas tree, the friend who brings beautiful flower arrangements like the one she made for his funeral, the texts and calls and messages from family and friends who tell us they remember our son and they love us. These small significant gestures speak volumes to the loving ways God made us to be in this world with each other.

I have not a shadow of a doubt that there were tenfold more and then some that I am not remembering or was not aware enough to notice, of God’s good gifts and graces.

And as I look at what has transpired since Fisher’s death, it is nothing short of miraculous to see the ways God has woven a beautiful grace story through our lives, in relation to this terrible tragedy. Does that make this loss good? No. Does it make God’s promise of redemption and everlasting love evident? Absolutely.

There is a trajectory of “if not for his death, we would not…” have blessing after blessing after blessing that speaks to God’s hand at work in our lives. Each and every single day the all loving, all powerful, Triune God shows up in a myriad of ways that makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt He was and is with us, that He will sustain us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

On the anniversary of the night my full term baby boy went straight from the cradle to the grave, I was struck anew by the Lyrics of U2. It not only spoke to that deep longing for my baby’s life on earth, but also to my deep desire to wholeheartedly trust and pursue the God who so clearly reigns in this world…

All

I Want

Is You

 


Time to Begin Again

I must find time to write if my soul is to bear our world. This is most definitely aligned with all the things I hope for…

Today I had the chance to talk with a muslim mom of the opposing team of my son’s soccer game, to chit chat about the game and have a normal mom-to-mom conversation. Because that is what we are, normal moms with the same heart and love for our kids. Five muslim men turned from their place closer to the game and watched me. I knew in my gut that I did not need to fear them, but I worried they might not trust my intentions and my heart began to race. It is awkward being watched and makes you feel like you are in trouble or danger – a reality they likely face more often than I would wish. I chose to smile bigger, to be even kinder to the woman and she was just as kind to me, and they gave an affirming nod as they watched.

Earlier in the day I had the chance to tell some 6 and 7 year old girls that they are strong and brave and capable and good, and that they can do amazing things with their bodies and minds! My husband and I spoke words of encouragement that we pray takes root in their hearts beyond the soccer field into their whole long lives.

A young Christian man from our church came out this week and I have the privilege of being his friend and telling him that he is dearly loved just as God made him. This man is so solid in his faith and dedicated to honoring God with his life and has blessed my family with his ministry and his presence. He is a good person in this world.

On Veteran’s Day I saw a boy at the beach with his Veteran grandfather, playing by himself while watching the nine children I was with enjoying their group activity. I encouraged my children to invite him to join them and saw their humble human nervousness as they approached him. There was instant relief and joy shared between them when he said yes. His smile was beaming and he jumped right into the action without missing a beat.

Earlier in the week I was blessed to listen to my children describe their diverse friends by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. This old lady self who is still learning and advocating hard for change, clarified by naming the skin color to get clear on the kid. I realized my own deep flaws and surged with love for the world my kids are living into.

On the night of the election I had a long talk with a friend who shared the story of having been raped. She confessed the intense fear, guilt and shame made her feel like a crazy person. I got to be a witness to her story, validate and normalize her intense emotional pain as a human response to trauma, and assure her she is not crazy. We each shared gratitude at how beautiful it is that God’s grace sees us as good and infinitely loved and we talked about some ways she could seek some professional healing and relief.

I cannot tell you about the confidential concerns of my clients, but I will tell you that they are hurting. Many are feeling re-traumatized that behavior and language we’ve fought hard to eradicate has been displayed, condoned and acted out with bravado across our country. There were way too many tears this week – wailing, hard, choking for a breath tears that come from the depths of one’s soul crying out for goodness.

This is just this week, and I confess I am tired, so physically worn down and exhausted. And I confess that I probably have had many many more opportunities for days like this that I have missed, because I was complacent, didn’t feel the urgency that day, was too tired to respond, or was not reminded of my own traumas and discriminations that have ravaged my heart and called me to action. It is time to act. The time is now. The morals, values, human decency and goodness of our world depends on us to make brave, risky, wonderful and good steps toward making this a better world.

In all the stages of deep grief I have felt in the last week, from utter shock, bargaining hard that there must be another way, heartsick tears, and raging pissed, I have felt an undercurrent of urgency to work harder for the good, and seeing that God is so evidently in this too. The people and circumstances in my path this week are a mere glimpse of what God is doing every moment of every day to call us to act on behalf of his great love for the world, and we are so lucky to be part of the love story. This goes beyond party lines and who voted for whom. Our fate has been decided on that front, but our future must be shaped by each and every one of us, in our common, every-day, extraordinary lives, to do the right thing in the moments we are given, and the moments we seek after, because we are so privileged to live in a free country that allows us to do great things with our lives.

Let us not give up encouraging one another, share your stories where God and goodness, mercy, justice and grace show up and we get to witness it. Strength and peace!


Look to the North

It is the middle of the night and I’m holding my baby.  My son Schuyler has just turned a month old and we’re remembering again what it feels like to wake up every 2 hours.  My wife Heather is doing all the hard work of nursing him every few hours but in the last week we’ve settled into a bit of a routine where I take the baby starting at about 4am and give him a breast-milk bottle of breakfast and let him sleep away from Mama and let her have 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  On this morning, the baby can’t quite get comfortable after a 3am feeding so at 3:30 we tucked Mama in and Schuyler and I hung out for a few hours.  I rocked him for a good 30 minutes while he just watched me, sucking his pacifier, his eyes intently gazing into mine.  His face…

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Here He Comes…a letter to loved ones.

We are at the hospital now and it looks like we will have our baby boy sometime today.

My prayer request last night was that I would feel ready to have this baby. I have just relished my pregnancies. Even though there have been fearful moments and strong memories of our loss of Fisher, I haven’t felt too much anxiety about the birth itself, and that has been a blessing.  But I just haven’t felt quite ready. With this being our last and after a very full summer, I was feeling like it had gone by too fast.  On top of all that, I have wondered if I was really ready for the work ahead of 4 kids!  (I am the first to admit this 4 kid hope of ours is a bit crazy!)

Last night was such a gift though! I went to bed feeling so filled up with all the encouraging words, blessings and prayers for our baby.  I felt so loved and commissioned to have this little guy, and reminded of all the hopes we have had in choosing to have him.  When I got up to use the bathroom early this morning Scott asked how I was doing and I said “I am ready to have this baby now.”

And then my water broke. I laughed because the timing felt just right. I am feeling so strong and at peace today.

So we are at Swedish now. It was slow moving, not many regular contractions at first, ironically, after all these weeks of trying to slow them down, but they are painful in the labor sort of way now.  It took a while to get a positive test result for the amniotic fluid (I did NOT pee my pants!) but it finally showed up and I was officially admitted into “Spa Swedish” as Jen called it last night.  My nurse Sarah is really great and on with me through the night and Dr. Pray from my OB office is on call until morning as well, and I feel like I am in good hands with her.  My OB Dr. Bohmke, who delivered Avery, Fisher and Harper, is coming home from New York tonight so I am sure I will see her tomorrow when she’s back in the office.  I’ve had my first favorite meal delivered and even took a little nap.  Scott and I are enjoying these last “waiting hours” together, listening to some great worship music, taking in the sunny Seattle view of this gorgeous day and the pretty flowers Amy brought by (thank you!) and can’t believe the time is here.  The big kids will join us when things get more regular, probably sometime late in the night.

Thank you so much for your love, prayers, friendship and support.  I cannot tell you how it has strengthened me for this day and for the days ahead.
In awe and hopeful expectation,
Heather

Gracias

I am on a vacation to Mexico this week that had been on the calendar for months. Little did I know how divine the timing would be. To be with my family and have the overall relaxed pace is a pure gift to my soul. The warm sun is nice too.

I have been writing in bits and pieces and have much on my mind, but nothing complete and am purposefully resisting any urges to feel I must complete anything. But I do want to take a minute to say thank you. I have received so many kind words and thoughts for such a horrible little everyday loss that I know so many of you have experienced and so many have had to endure so often.

Thank you for reading my random thoughts, thank you for your kind words and support. They matter, and I am grateful.

Be back soon…


Blood Drips Down

There is a scene in my longtime favorite movie She’s Having a Baby where hopeful parents Jake (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern) are in the hospital, about to have their first baby when suddenly things start going wrong. Jake is forced out of the delivery room as his wife lies writhing in pain screaming “I’ve got to get it out! I’ve got to get it out!” and the doctor is urgently telling her to stop pushing. They give her a shot of medication, she passes out, oxygen mask goes on, sheets are ripped off of her large pregnant belly and the tray of surgical instruments rolls in. Flash to Bacon standing alone in the hospital hallway with shock, anger and fear on his face. Piano music starts and a high pitched whispery voice of Kate Bush begins,

“Ah ha ah ahhh, oooh” in an etherial, lulling tone that forces stillness upon this imminently altering moment in their lives.

Flashbacks of their life together, of the good and the funny and the tender and sweet moments, roll in his mind.

“Pray God you can cope” the voice sings

A tear begins to fall from his face and when it lands on the ground it is a drop of blood next to his wife’s hospital bed.

That drop of blood, color of life, reference of death, leaves us hanging, scared, hopeful, preparing for the worst and praying for the best.

All of life, we do this.

Blood started to come yesterday evening, and all of these emotions settled into the numbness that allows me to function, to seem to forget what flows fiercely beneath the surface, in the face of the tragic. Will it be well?

I was going to text my dearest friends for prayer, but didn’t want to be alarmist, didn’t want to allow fear to take hold. Should I have waited to tell them the good news until the “safe” twelfth week? I have lived and known even week 41 not to be safe. We waited with my first pregnancy, had a miscarriage at 8 weeks and spent the next year hoping month after month after lonely, scary, isolating month this would be the one when we would share the good news with the bad, and confess to the pain we had endured alone. Too many months passed, the narrative when finally unfolded felt hollow, a tin bucket that echoed with a pang of the details that had once been full of tears. We told at a moment’s notice with our next, my graduation day from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, when family and dear friends would be gathering to celebrate just days before we were to move away to Seattle. We relished the joy shared with our community of loved ones and our hearts broke to leave them. Little did they know how hard earned this joy was for us, the many many months of trying and the harsh blood that kept saying no each month.

Do we wait to invite those most dear, the world around us, into our joy that might become pain? Who are we seeking to protect? Of course I’d rather not tell the bad news after the good. But I think I would rather tell the bad news than have that hollow lonely experience ever again. We waited the full twelve weeks to tell the kids and the masses of our second son, whom we lost full term, and were ever so careful to wait to share the news of the baby who followed, our baby Bird now 16 months. This newest baby was a miracle of all miracles, meant to be from the amazing details of the conception and timing. God was in this and that meant fruition right?

“I’ve often bled early in my pregnancies, when the baby implants,” I told myself and my husband, who knows my history nearly as intimately as I, attempting to reassure us.

This wasn’t early enough though and I knew it. I was too far along. I knew it was too late. So I said my own prayers and went to bed, hoping for the best by morning, when my first OB appointment was already scheduled, first thing. I would have answers.

Blood was still coming by morning. My huge belly, that popped out so quickly there was no way of even trying to hide my pregnancy from my children, and therefore the world, was already gone. Noticing my flat profile in the mirror while in the shower, I tried pushing it out, pulling on my skin with my hands, forcing it to look full again and trying to convince myself it was. But I knew. I had barely eaten dinner the night before, made it through the night without having to use the bathroom. Symptoms and signs were fading, and I knew.

I texted some friends who pray.

But I wouldn’t believe until I was in the ultrasound room, that horrible, awful ultrasound room where the black cavity of my baby Fisher’s chest proved his heart was no longer beating. I couldn’t wait to get to that room, and I almost passed out when I went in. Oh, yes, this terrible place of truth, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, where I hoped that a serpent had not taken my baby but a God who loves us would have breathed life into her.

I have known the image of that 8 week bean with the pin top fluttering heart beat 5 times now, I knew what I was looking for. The search and search and attempts to find something within the black void of a small yolk sac were unnecessary. She was gone, there wasn’t even a lifeless form of white, just that damn circle of darkness and a bit of a cloud of blood escaping from the top.

“I am so sorry,” my OB looked at me, concerned for me.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I knew,” unable to cry just yet.

She had been so happy to see us that morning, we were all so excited to bury that hard story we’d drudged our way through and add one more for the good guys to the score board.

“This isn’t anything you did” she reassured.

“We’ve been moving, life has been full,” I confessed.

This is my life. Do I sit reclined on a one armed settee like a Victorian maiden with a plate of meats and grapes by my side, my children playing silently in white batiste dresses at my feet while I rest and nap all day? No. I live a normal life. I do things. I get up and care for my children and do a bit of outside work and volunteer where I can and am needed, I help with the recent extra needs of our family’s move, but did no heavy lifting and went to bed early and avoided deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses and tuna and alcohol and too much caffeine. I followed all the rules, I took care of my baby, followed the cues of my body, had a few busy days with pressing deadlines to be sure, but didn’t feel tension or stress, stayed physically, intentionally calm and reminded myself “it will be what it will be and there is nothing more I can do” when I was too tired to continue as I would pre-pregnancy. There was no task more important than the creation of this life.

I made all my confessions to Dr. B, I have been there before, and she shook her head at me until she could get a word in to say “No, there was something wrong that didn’t allow this baby to grow.”

She measured six weeks, I was undoubtedly eight, knowing my exact day of conception which absolutely miraculously and ironically was the exact day of conception of my son Fisher from three years before. I was amazed my body would line up in such a way and it felt like a detail of redemption. Two weeks ago my life was less full than the last. That made me feel better too.

Dr. B explained what to expect, knowing I’d been here before any of my babies were born, gave me some options and set me up for a follow up appointment at the latest possible time at the end of the week in case there might be something to hope for.

The blood kept coming, bright and heavy, and hope dissipated. Once we walked through the glass door of the waiting room that held bellies full of anticipation I finally felt my stoic strength release and the tears surged and carried me down the hall, into the elevator, through the lobby and out the automatic glass doors. When the free and fresh air and the loudness of the city surrounded us, I could speak and I sobbed out, “I was so excited. I wanted this baby so much.”

My husband’s arm sheltered me tight and he said “me too,” tears releasing for him too.

“Can I buy you lunch?” I knew the abundance of work he had put off putting in extra hours on our move so that I wouldn’t have to, I knew it was a sacrifice for him to spend more time with me while we had childcare and potential work hours in front of us.

“Sure” I said, receiving the gift of his presence, “I want a turkey sandwich with blue cheese on it and a coke” I said defiantly.

That night I took iron and vitamin C to prepare for the large amount of blood loss, drank a glass of wine and made the brownies I’d been craving for a week, easing back into a life less calculated.

“How is that diet for miscarriage prep?” I texted one of my dearest dietician friends my late night snack.

She was reassuring and offered to be with me in the morning, and bring me food. Another dear friend brought dinner, others offered help and sent kind messages of their love and prayers. I felt God’s presence in their support and was grateful I had shared our joy, had weeks of time to revel and celebrate together, so that when this loss came I was not a hollow bucket trying futilely to explain the importance of a scene a you had to have been there for.

I am alone in this. No one else can do this for me, or with me, or take away the pain in my body, deep in my heart.

I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.

But I am loved in this. I am given grace and peace and comfort and the sustenance I need to endure this.

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I managed to get up and outside in the early evening when the sun was still glowing bright in our new cul-de-sac and play with my children. I shot a few baskets with the big kids who are excitedly taking to this new game their papa has been waiting years to have the right space to teach them. I pushed my baby girl on her trike and the scooter she isn’t nearly big or coordinated enough for but expresses such joy in being given a ride. We were all smiling and laughing and my body was bleeding and cramping but it felt good to be out and in the sun and in this moment. A new neighbor gave me a big embracing hug that felt like she’d been my dear friend for years. Another came out with her daughter, the same age as my baby, and the babies smiled and hugged their same size new friend. I looked around me as if my life was standing still and praised God I’d been given so much to be grateful for.

This is my body, broken for you…
This is my blood, poured out.

And I remember what He has done for me.


Waiting to Begin

My kids love Camellia trees. The way they burst forth with a million blooms and drop them generously to the ground for little hands to gather in abundance entices my children every time they come across one. Seeing their joy and their beautiful bowls of blossoms throughout the house, I have told them “in our next house we will have a Camellia tree.”

When our real life begins.

Knowing we want to sell soon has kept us on hold. I don’t hang many pictures, keep things somewhat staged and worry about wall holes and the inevitable wear and tear that a young family brings to a home. I am ready to settle in, for a long time, hang the vacation pictures that only we care to see everyday, plant perennials and trees and look forward to how they will look next Spring, not care about those knicks and flaws of an energetic family life. I know how to paint and spackle, and will worry about that again when they are grown, as it will come too fast and the perfect looking house is not my goal.

The hope is to sell our house soon, to move further north, near the new church where ministry would feel more whole, closer to my elementary aged children’s school and with all the hopes that go along with change and possibility. We of course would like more; more space for our growing family, friends and guests to gather and play and be. We live on 40 acres for 3 months of the year and find it a nice balance to our postage stamp city yard. It is in our souls to crave space inside and out. We love to see our kids roam and run and explore and all of us absolutely love to host a house full of people.

So that is our hope, be it “grass is greener” and possibly covetous, we pray, and aim to be pure in out desires, are generous in our giving and seek to follow the unpredictable formula of our faith, knowing we don’t deserve and can’t plan such a thing. Still we believe God loves us and has good for us, not that we can begin to claim to know what that might be. At this stage of life I do know some of the ways in which God has given me to be in this world. Planning, organizing, hosting and giving to large gatherings is one of my things, dare I say gifts. God has always given us the ability and desire to do that, even in our 750 square foot first home where we would shove every piece of our living room furniture into the kitchen in order to host a whole group of high school kids and mayhem for Young Life. We know it can be done anywhere and by many means, but space is on our hearts.

The perfect house hit the market this week. An amazing huge house for our growing family, on a huge piece of property complete with rock patio, play structure, sport court and creek running through the back of the big grass expanse. Exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for, but all that we could hope for. There were faults to be sure, much work to do to make it the envisioned dream home, a few broken windows, no insulation, old crumbling bathrooms. We’d done this work before and despite one member of the couple dyad claiming he’d never do it again, he wasn’t deterred and spoke excitedly of all the potential.

We imagined preschoolers on bikes, and high schoolers shooting baskets, muddy boots stomping in the stream and our very own slide to whiz down over and over and over again. So many daydreams of craft projects in the unfinished attic, family dinners around the table that overlooked the patio and “very own rooms” for my oldest girl and boy who have always shared. From the kitchen window I saw a blue heron poised out by the stream and it felt like an omen. We see them so rarely, the presence of this peaceful beast of a bird was telling of the safe expanse of space tucked into a city we’d grown to love. As my daughter launched her umbrella upside down in the creek like a bobbing boat to my son waiting near a small foot bridge to rescue it, we oohed and awed over the landscaped yard, lovely trees and quaint old shed complete with fireplace, I saw it in the corner of the yard near the back of the living room window. A long-lived abundantly bloomed camellia tree. I took it as a sign this was meant to be.

It was seemingly so of God how I found the house, only a few days on the market and I happened to take a look at what was out there on a bit of whim. It had been many months since our house was last on the market and I had felt it worthwhile to search. We can’t buy until we sell, so it is not a good practice and really is a time waster to look. But I did, felt led to, and the timing was phenomenal since it would only be on the market for a few days before it would go into foreclosure. Being a short sale we could safely make an offer pull out at any time, and have many months to sell our house. The circumstances were just perfect, signs all along the way it seemed. We were told there would be one other offer but it wouldn’t be strong so we wrote ours full priced and with gusto. The house was worth so much more, but full price was right in our budget and had good stewardship in mind. “When we move into our new house…” was how we’d all started to talk. The signs were everywhere and the circumstances too perfect to not believe God was in this.

Just before we got the news, after a parenting seminar on how to raise boys, where advice about space and activity and adventure were the themes, we talked of how God might be at work. The realist of us said “I am not so sure God wants this for us, maybe His best for us is smaller, missionary work, less stuff, more about the eye of the needle than the life of abundance.”

The optimist theologian said “I was just thinking about how much God loves us, how much He has always blessed us with more than we could imagine, so why not now. again, even after we know how tragedy works?”

The call came at 9:30 that evening. The other offer was stronger and they’d accepted it. That was it. No counter offers. No second chances. The house was not going to be ours.

We were disappointed to be sure, and each had a few hours of funk over the course of the next day. We thought of all the possibility was gone, but, and not too soon to have been disappointed for a genuine bit of time, we realized that possibility also meant alot of work. We remembered the hours and hours we put into other houses when we’d rather have been enjoying fun and down time of from the already full work-week. We saw our kids getting older and all of us playing together outside but realized we’d be inside tediously replacing old plumbing and broken windows, or we wait years and years to afford help with it and live with the run down energy efficientlessness of the place. That can be wearisome too. Much as we were excited, much as we were disappointed and much as we saw God in all of it and therefore felt it was meant to be, we still could see God’s hand at work. This is really all I can ask for. For God to be in control is of course the given, but for God to let us have some awareness of that is a blessing. I can get on board with that.

Today I was at a gardening store where new plants were being brought in and a few winter plants were on clearance. The ever thrifty shopper that I am perused the winter plants rather aimlessly, knowing there was no good purpose in plant shopping in our impermanent state. Until I saw a just one Camellia tree, small enough for a good sized pot and still with a few large blooms waiting to burst. That felt like a sign too. I bought it.

Life in between can be lived well regardless of our circumstances. I will praise Him in all things and trust the days to come.


Instant Gratification

I took a nap this morning, as my baby napped. After a late night and a few wakings, I was exhausted. I have a whole day ahead of me, and a hand full of to-do’s, household, ministry and professional and I laid there waking slowly from one of those deep long dream filled naps, wondering if I would even have the energy to rise again for the day ahead. My big kids are off to ski with their dad and it is just me and the babe. I have loved these slow Saturdays with her. The house more quiet than any other day, she is the sole focus of my attention, we get to play on her level, and her nap times become sweet indulgent down time for me. But today there are a few things to get done before church tomorrow and my big 7 year old girl’s birthday party.

I believe God has put things on my heart to do, I recognize His voice, His call, and I feel moved to act. I am motivated, excited, moved, willing, believing this purposeful thing will honor God, whether it be in how I live out my day to day life as a mom, wife or friend, or if it is tackling the Mount Everest of accomplishments. If it is God’s voice, and/or I am clear that what is placed on my heart will honor God, I am in and I will obey. And not to overspiritualize everything, I know too there are simply things I just want to do that sound fun or interesting or exciting to me. I have learned over and over again that here too God smiles at the freedom He has given me to choose these ways of spending my time, much as I fret over discerning His call and His will. These become His will (read The Will of God as a Way of Life by Gerald Sittser, my mentor and friend who taught and counseled me through this years ago and yet I still need to learn these lessons).

In addition to my day to day willingness to honor and obey him with my spirit and character in love of Him and others, the honoring of Him with my mind and body in willingess to act and do can sometimes leave me feeling perplexed, shall I say stressed? After the initial excited, purposeful “yes” I begin to think of the how and wonder about the when. The problem lies in the timeline. I don’t doubt God’s voice or purpose, I begin to doubt my abilities and wonder why I say yes to anything at all. I feel like I need to hurry, get it done now, to the best of my ability and be efficient and work hard to be faithful. There is an essence of truth to these concepts in being faithful, but mostly they are false. If I look at the bible many of the purposes God places on people’s lives take years, lifetimes. How unexciting eh? How wonderful though. God is honored. The people are ok.

Our world is increasingly instant. It used to be that I had some time before people knew if I got an e-mail or not. My lengthy average rate of return was understandable then. I had little ones, no time to sit in front of a computer. This made sense. That nagging feeling of having e-mails to get back to somewhat reminded me of the constant pressure felt in getting a college education. Always something ahead to do, no time to sit and read anything for fun, there were books to read and papers to write. I always loved my breaks and indulged heavily in “light” reading, as in I would read my favorite magazine, like Real Simple or Martha Stewart or Country Living, cover to cover, every word, from the editors letter to the last meaningless ads in the end. I love doing that! It is the ultimate down time indulgence. Such a relished time-waster, so much more fun than TV to me.

Now people know there is a good chance I see my e-mails near to when they come to me on my phone, that goofy gadget that I swear my children must think is my 3rd robotic eyeball. I kind of hate that (I can hear my mockingbird children’s voices in my head saying “we don’t say hate in our house mama”). It is almost always near, though I do manage to forget it upstairs or in my purse sometimes (I need to to that more often actually) but with the loud sounds of children in my midst or quiet ones whom I do not want to disturb, I rarely answer it at a moment’s notice. I do check it often though, for efficiency sake right? Get that e-mail read and out of the way and on to processing what I can DO about it. I still don’t get back very efficiently, takes too long to type on my phone anyway, but it is in my head all the time, and I kind of hate that too. I digress.

The point is the instantaneousness of the world, and how counterintuitive that is for how God would work in our lives, how he has historically worked in others lives. In fact, in stories like Abraham and Sarah (Genesis Chapters 15 to 21), the length of time He takes to respond after making His promises very clear that Abraham would father many is aggravatingly laughable to them. I often feel like that, complain to God that I want things to happen now and pine away wondering why they are not. He does not place instant gratification on His call.

Thank you God, now please help me to do the same; to slow down, take things step by step, rest when I need to, even when I don’t need to but after a good 6 days or so of hard work have passed.

Now off to read my fun book about slowing down and relishing mom-life before my baby wakes up and we get to play.


Who has time?

Who has time to write anything when there are sick kids to care for? (in addition to everything else…) Who has time to write when there are healthy kids to care for?

An acquaintance of mine, a newlywed with no kids, once said “you have all the time you need” as a mantra for me to embrace. I liked it, I come back to it often, but on a day like today, or week like this week, with so much more than sick kids to take care of, I may have all the time I need but I don’t have all the time I want. Probably means my faith and/or contentment is lacking in some way, but it doesn’t make me feel better or do better to think that way.

Where is God in our ambitions, goals, hopes and dreams? Are we not to be trusted or is it the voice of God? I have a lot of theological and intellectual knowledge on the subject, but still, I really wonder…

I do appreciate the slow sweet nature of sick days for a bit, it’s just hard for me to let everything else fall apart. Can anyone else relate?