Tag Archives: Babies

Hoping for Italy

Tuscany

I heard of the trip years before, three or four maybe, when I had gifted my husband, the writer-in-residence of the relationship, with a class studying narrative non-fiction. He’s written poems and lyrics, a screenplay, a book, an inspiring blog, sermons to change your life, and short stories that earned him English Department Scholar for his graduating class at Whitworth. He’d been to 6 continents by his late twenties and has plans to visit Alaska and Greenland as final frontiers, until the next destination calls. A writer and traveler, perceptive and proactive, I’ve loved him and wanted to live the adventures of life with him from our first encounter.

But that is him, and much as I could talk on and on about the great things he’s done and how wonderful he is, this is about my adventures though, lest I fall habitually into my most accustomed role as supporter and encourager of all that is around me, and not so much what is within.

It feels crazy to think of taking this trip at this time. My baby daughter broke her arm this week after bracing herself from a fall. We were up multiple nights caring for her in her pain, in the ER and as she transitioned to life with a cast. My husband’s busy season of work begins next week. I have so many end-of-the-year-events for my kids that I am having trouble keeping track. We are still living amongst boxes and unpacked bags in our new home. What kind of wife and mom am I to leave my family at such a time? Let alone the expense! As a church, and as a family, we are currently in a season of seeking to live more simply in order to raise money for wells to bring water to people in need in Africa. We will not draw from that donation, but still I struggle with Christian guilt around things like this. (Luckily I am married to my pastor who understands grace and celebration of life far better than I and continues to bless me with reminders)

We live a full, FULL, life with our 7 year, 5 year and 17 month old children, careers, ministries, volunteer work and activities. I am a binge and purge sleeper, rare that I get myself to bed at a decent hour, but relish it when I can luxuriate in it. What mom with any passion in addition to motherhood does get regular sleep? It is at night when all the ideas of my days that go untapped unleash. I get a few paragraphs into a blog, (but rarely have time or bravery to edit and post), pen a journal entry to one of my children capturing an epiphany of their personality, significant moment from their day or a prayer for their life, or daze out over a few hundred e-mails I must deal with at some point, so why not now? feeling that fleeting wink of a high like I have actually checked something of off my ever long to-do list. Life as a mom makes the hours in the margins bulge.

May I make myself perfectly clear though, I adore my life as a mom. I embraced motherhood like I did swimming, diving confidently, deep and excitedly into waters that felt more like home to my immersed body than dry land ever had. I have relished it, found purpose for my in life in it, and in seasons, have sought to maintain my identity as an individual with interests before and beyond early it. It is easy for these pieces of myself to feel lost, like all those little mismatched socks in the ever-bearing pile of laundry. The demands of mothering are constant, require more of me than I sometimes have to give and are wrought with rewards beyond measure.

Following my recent miscarriage (two and half years after the devastation of our stillborn son) Scott secretly inquired to see if there was still room in the writing class to Montalcino, coming to the realization that recent circumstances in our lives, including the miscarriage, could make the trip a possibility. I felt a call to write a few years ago and have sought to follow that as time and life circumstances have allowed. One of those pursuits was a writing class this fall in Seattle where I had learned of the Italy class and had kept the flyer for the trip on my bulletin board ever since, even brought it with us on our recent move to our new home. Scott and I spent our honeymoon in Italy, a whole week exploring the Tuscany and had particularly enjoyed the small hill town of Montalcino known for their Brunello red wine, the most reputable in the country. I remember reading in Anne Lamott’s book Operating Instructions about her life as a new mom that she had been a food critic at the time. How wonderful, I thought, to eat amazing food and be able to write about it. I thank God for every meal and have had experiences with food like that felt divine. I held hope that one day it would all come together to go and learn how to form gratitude for delicious food into inspired words. One day, when I was not pregnant or nursing. One day when we had a little extra money set aside. One day when we could use some airline miles for tickets and the kids could be cared for while Scott worked and I could leave my work and obligations for a bit and, and, and…one day.

There was one spot left, this would be one day. This is why I love my husband. Not because he is regularly so extravagant (he is typically wisely frugal) but because he believes in pursuing life experiences. He makes things happen.

When I met Scott at a Young Life fundraising event we were both nervous young college students speaking to a room full of respectable donors about our love for God and our love for kids and our dedication to ministry. We were each immediately smitten in hearing the other’s passion and priorities. I was volunteering at various stations throughout the evening and when Scott coincidentally kept showing up in the vicinity I gradually realized this was on purpose and gained the courage to notice and respond. Our first conversation is etched in my mind. A piece of that was discovering he was studying American travel literature and after graduation planned to travel to every state in the lower 48 states of the U.S. and write a book about it. He spoke with such assurance, humility and purpose that I knew he meant it; rare for a young college graduate, or anyone I’d ever met for that matter, to have such a vision and follow it. I knew him for 3 life bonding months before he left. Much as my heart ached to see him go, I knew he must in order to be the man he was created to be, and the man I would always adore.

In addition to securing my place in the class, Scott booked airline tickets scraping together some hidden air miles and made arrangements for the care of our kids; things I needed to come together well in order to feel any peace about going. He kept telling me it was so important for our kids to see me follow my dreams, to offset the mom-guilt he knows plagues me whenever I feel like I am being self-indulgent, much as I agreed with him. I preach self-care, but still it is hard to feel worthy of such an experience. It was also very scary to think of being apart from my family when life so recently reminded me once again how unpredictable our days can be; both a motivator to pursue my passions while I can and to never leave the vicinity of my loved ones.

So I am off to Italy, to follow a dream and a call, learn a new craft, relish some time of creativity and solitude, and meet new friends from all over the country. I will ache for the voices and hundreds of moments of physical contact I have with my husband and little ones who hug and climb and cling and fall and need me throughout the day, as I need them.

This is how we live – longing for togetherness and connection even as we seek to live out our unique purposes and passions as individuals. The beauty of it all is how we dance, in and out of sync, sometimes solo and adrift moving to the rhythms we alone perceive and sometimes in embrace aware of the joy and shelter we share in and create as we move. We sing and we cheer and we smile and we delight when we gather in our living room with music turned loud passing baby and big kids up and down and around for swings and for dips and stealing a kiss or a twirl, remind each other of why we seek so purposefully to capture and cherish this beautiful life we have been given.


Choices

There is so much I want to write, so many stories half written, or logged in my brain, that I want to bring life to, that must be told. But alas I have children who wake early and am a mama who needs her sleep to be a good mama, especially when I am flying solo as a mama.

My husband left early for a business trip this morning. He’s a fisherman, so his standards for early are EARLY, because all potential breaks at first light.

I am not someone who particularly likes to get up early, but I can rally when I need to and can appreciate the possibility of a brand new day in a quiet house. This morning though I snuck out of bed as my husband showered to make him breakfast before he left. Not that he needs me to make him breakfast, he is perfectly capable, and in fact, we have things fairly well divided that I take the night shifts and he hits the morning time with the little ones. It was so early, and everyone had gotten to bed so late after an energy packed vacation that I figured I would creep back into bed afterwards and get a few more hours in before the kids would wake up.

You know what happens next.

At 5:15 the shower goes off and in the background I hear my baby squawking, ready for someone to come get her and give her some breakfast too. Plan B, feed her a quick meal, I have already cooked most of it off, and then slide her back into bed while I got my last delectable minutes of rest. We kissed papa goodbye, said our I love you’s and I cooled some of the hot meal for her to eat.

You know what happens next.

Pitter pat, drawers shut, and two puffy eyed, sunkissed faces make their way down the stairs and climb up onto chairs saying “I’m hungry.” With a hearty breakfast warm and waiting I dish everyone up. Then drinks, and lunch preparations, cleaning baby droppings off the floor, then the baby’s face, a hairdo for a big kid and a spelling test, morning prayers and memorizing verses and checking over home work and wiping noses and bottoms and overseeing teeth brushing and squeezing in a moment to make my cup of tea and everything that is so routine and mundane about our everyday lives.

And I am on the brink of tears I am so grateful to be doing it all. As the morning scurry hit full tide, my heart was swelling with gratitude to have these amazing children to love and care for and wake up early for and get up tirelessly for through the nights and not have time to write or create or finish nearly anything personal or professional in any way that I would hope to for this season of time, oh another 20 years or so.

I am so driven and so full of creative energy that it would be all too Pollyanna of me to say I can find all that to be fulfilled in parenting. It absolutely cannot, for me. But, and I’ll add on a great big although

THAT

IS

OKAY!

There were much more profound moments in my day – in my professional life, in some playtime with my son, coaching my daughter’s soccer practice and the conversation about friendship that followed, in the mistakes I made, where weaknesses are and the epiphanies and graces – things that make for a better story than this, but, as is my life, I have run out of time. My eyes are straining to stay open, my head is groggy and I can’t remember if I shut my daughter’s window so I must pull myself out of bed to check, gives me a reason to give one more round of kisses and tuck stray limbs into soft blankets and say soft prayers.

The choice I have here is to work at something creative and life-giving on another level, or go to sleep and be ready to love on and care for my babies all over again with the energy I need. I will choose sleep, praying for late sleepers tomorrow:)


Goodness abounds

I will soon tell the more detailed story of what I have been through the past couple of days in having this miscarriage. I have also been writing the story in my mind that will need to be shared of this little one’s happy story, of 8 short weeks of believing in this miracle of life and all the wonder and love of those days, before the story fades into facts and figures and a passing acknowledgment that I am a 3 time member of a club I wish I did not belong to.

But before I get to that, I have to share of just one beautiful moment that makes all this hard stuff fade into the background, like the bits of dark cloud that give the slightest contrast to a glorious spray of color and light of a summer evening’s sunset. Without those clouds, the colors would not seem so bright, so brilliant, so warm. They just wouldn’t.

It was a good day. They are getting better one by one as real life creeps back in, and I begin to forget, for brief periods, that just a week ago I was living a completely different reality, basing every move and life plan on the new life that was to join us; the home we chose to live in, the places she would go and fill and fit in our lives. I had already begun making room for her as she was making room in my body. (My belly had grown so large, so fast, and so quickly it is gone, just gone).

Tonight I began to worry again about normal stuff of life (I remember the shock of “real life” creeping back in after huge loss, and how counterintuitive it felt to how we should really live Philippians 4:5, Matthew 6:21- 34)- And as the worry seeped back in as fog slowly moves in seemingly unnoticed until I realize I’ve lost some vision and the world appears more gray. Loss is sad and hard and starkly painful, but the hovering gray of to-do’s and unimportant tasks is a far worse on a life.

Too tired to do any of it, I snuck into my kids’ rooms to do that thing we mother’s do, check that they are still breathing and give one last kiss and prayer before going off to bed. With my littlest, my baby girl who walks and knows words and puts shoes and a coat on when she decides she is ready for an outing, is still so very little. (Even though the spacing of my second set of children would have been the exact same as my first – I loved the symmetry of that – I would look at my 16 month old girl and think I was crazy to have another baby, as she is still just a little baby herself). Next to her crib I stepped up onto the foot rest that allows me to heave myself up and over the railing enough to get my face close up to hers and give her a big, warm, silent kiss on the cheek. Her sweet baby smell, her fluffy wisps of hair, the velvety softness of her skin was more than intoxicating. My senses were overwhelmed and consumed by her and there was no doubt in my mind, in that moment that is always there to be had, that there is so much goodness in this life. So much, so good.


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.


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, seeing all the pitying faces of the last week flashing in my mind saying “you are so busy, how do you do it all?”

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.

But who knows. Maybe it was a poor choice on my part, or a moment of stress or strain on my body that I could have prevented. I will wrack my brain again and again, and promise to do better next time. Maybe I’ll start saving for that chaise lounge.

Dr. B explained what to expect over the next few days, 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 in the ultrasound, but mainly to make sure all the tissue had passed and I was out of danger of hemorrhaging.

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 sport 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 girls 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.


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.


So much, adieu


There are cupcakes to be made,
by morning
like ice cream cones
with sprinkles
and glitter

It is late
in the silent house
where life was lived well today
full and loud
I shuffle around
the remains

dishes heaped
crumbs cling to feet
annoying
on the floor
desperate to be swept,
a days’ worth of grime
maybe two
on a high chair to scour.

piles,
piles,
in every nook
to fold
sort
organize
discard
check off
re-stack
ignore again.

e-mails
endless,
of course,
how many have I already forgotten
of the thousands saved for later
when there is more time
which is never
and work things
to do, to do

too many ideas
stirring, igniting, inspiring, weighing, waiting
to accomplish,
create,
take in,
complete
better
more fully
at all

I think at night
when silence allows
and other pieces of me creep out
like the playroom toys
that come alive and play about
while children are sleeping

She cries out
breaking through the thick fog of it all
at an hour I should be sleeping
she wakes me

calling me
to comfort

20 pounds
of sleepy unrest
renders me still
calm
rest as I rock
soothing I am soothed

I get to
hold
melt
kiss
feed

a soul

escape
from all that matters
so little

as nothing
NOTHING
more eminent than this.


Sleep My Child

My baby has arrived at that wonderful age where all she does is give a few simple signs she is tired and we scoop her up, changed her diaper, possibly her clothes, and she’s off to bed.  She may fuss over her change or cry impatiently for a moment for her pacifier, but once she’s cozied in her soft sleep sack and snuggled into her silky blankets, the ones we slept with to imprint our smell upon before she was born, she’s closing her eyes and blissfully content to drift off to sleep. I swiftly glide out her bedroom door pausing to silently twist into place without a click to shut it tight.

 

On this night when I tucked her into her bed – fed, changed, sleep-sacked and blanketed – I was caught off guard by her fussing and resistance to rest.  As soon as her body touched the mattress, she was twisting over quickly to push herself to standing. She’d cling to the edge of her crib and cry.  I’d return to get her settled just so and begin my tip-toe backwards only a few steps before she’d pop up, eyes peeping across the top edge of her mahogany crib rail and cry out again.

 

As every tuned in parent knows, babies have a variety of cries, most of which we can decipher by some form of trial and error over time.  My baby’s cry tonight was her “I hurt” cry.  She begins with the usual “whaa, whaa” that could be any generic baby track background sound affect, but soon escalates to a high pitched squeal that trails off to a breathy sigh.  It is a heartbreaking attention getter that means something more than uncomfortable, over-tired or fussy.

 

Since all the usual props weren’t soothing to her, and despite two big kids waiting patiently downstairs for bed time stories and their cuddle time, I picked her up and settled into the big cozy rocking chair in the corner of her room.  Her stiff strained body melted over my shoulder and her legs went limp against my belly.  She whimpered a bit but her cries stopped with a full relieved breath.  Curious as to the cause of her pain,  I gently put a finger to her upper gums next to the two razor blade sharp front teeth she’d been wreaking havoc on me with lately and sure enough felt the swollen squishy gum tissue on either side.  I winced at her pain and rocked my baby girl.

 

She’s 13 months tomorrow, a year and then some and alive with activity.  It is rare that I get to snuggle her into my arms for more than a few minutes before she is writhing to get out and explore the world with the fullness of her five senses and pudgy limbs.  Drawers are emptied capriciously, bookshelves disheveled delightfully and then off she scoots at record speeds with that plump diaper covered bum waggling to and fro behind her to experiment with the next law of physics.  So to hold her still and peaceful in my arms felt like a sweet little indulgence that I intended to savor.  She looked up at me for a brief moment, brushed her fingers across my face and then closed her eyes drawing in a deep breath.  I could feel her head become heavy in the crook of my arm and her body sink deeper into the strength of mine holding hers safe and secure.

 

“You’ll be okay my sweet girl.  It will be okay” I whispered and rocked her slowly.

 

And the voice that reverberated in my head was not my own.  As I sought to reassure my girl, in words I know she can’t comprehend, I was reminded of my journey through incomprehensible pain, when I wondered how I would possibly survive, let alone comprehend the voice of God.  As searing as my pain was, razor blade sharp through the fragile tissues of my heart, I felt His loving arms holding me close.  I was reminded of the road I have endured and the days when He whispered these same words into my heart.

 

“You’ll be okay” He said, and I couldn’t fathom how that could be true.

 

“It will be okay”  I whispered again to my girl, knowing it would.

 

What a gift to be able to comfort my baby simply by holding her near to me.  The pain hadn’t stopped, her teeth are still tearing through her fragile flesh, as my baby boy was torn from mine with no breath.  Yet a simple touch was enough to make her feel comforted enough to close her eyes and get the rest her body needs.  What an honor to be God, the great comforter to us all.

 

We watched family movies tonight of the first year of baby pictures for my almost 7 year old daughter and almost 5 year old son.  We delighted in these captured memories, but I cried, hard, partly for the joy of their lives and partly for the baby pictures that are missing. Still raw two years later I am living out the time I thought would not come.  I am okay.  I heal and I hurt and I laugh and I cry, still.  And still God holds me, and rocks me, knowing my cries and soothing me for another day, He whispers “It will be okay.”

 

And I trust Him.

 

There is one lullaby I sing most often to my children that is truer than all the rest for me outside of a pure worship song.  It goes…

sleep my child and peace attend thee

all through the night

guardian angels God will send thee

all through the night

soft the drowsy hours are creeping

hill and vale in slumber steeping

I my loving vigil keeping

all through the night


 


Leaving and Cleaving

As I was sorting the stack of ongoing clutter in the corner of our kitchen counter, I came across a year-in-review letter I’d yet to read from a family I knew and loved when we lived in California.  I can’t stop crying.  The letter was a simple detailing of the ins and outs of bits and pieces of their lives; a few highlights fitted into the standard one page Christmas letter that I know just scratches the surface of all that is really going on for them.  It is a letter I look forward to every year, partly because I love them and partly because the love they share for each other that is evident in the letter is such an encouragement to me. They are a family I look up to and have sought to emulate in the ways they care for each other, their kids, in how they celebrate life, and live out their faith.

Jim and Angela were a couple with young kids when I was a newlywed-grad-student-young-life-staffer in California.  I was too busy, and not quite ready, for my own kids, but hopeful.  Their kids were the ages mine are now and though I have seen them growing up in this yearly letter and our facebook friendship, my mind holds onto them as little boys.  But the thing is, they are not little boys, they tower over me.   And the thing that is cutting me to the core is that their oldest son is in his senior year and will be graduating, and leaving to go to college, and really, I just can’t bear it.

He will be starting out on his own life adventures that I could so easily encourage in the teenagers I worked with when I was a Young Life leader there.  Oh how naive I was that it was all so very wonderful.  I was closer in age to them than their parents and having a wonderful time living out my newly adult adventures.  So yes, go do wonderful things with your life!  Hooray!

But now I am the parent.  And so now, I can’t stop crying, and I know the reason is partly because I know what the future might bring all-to-soon for my little ones, but also because we are in our own season of transition.

I am returning to work after a much extended maternity leave. I have spent months preparing in my heart and mind and in our home and gathering the support people we need and making a good schedule so that I am still with my kids for a majority of their hours.

Change though, as prepared for, prayed over, and good as it might be, brings up feelings of loss and worries of future regret, and I am one to fret and weigh, and consider and reconsider big decisions.  In the end, there are many reasons it makes sense for me to return, but the thought of missing one single moment with my kids, knowing that someday I would give anything to have these moments back is almost unbearable.

The reality for me though, is that I enjoy my work.  I feel called to it, created for it and find immense meaning and purpose in doing it.  The other reality for me is that I get restless in my role as mom and wife and homemaker; roles I also feel very much called to and created for, but my mind takes me other places and I long to do other things too.  As much as I seek to capture the moments of these sweet days and live content, aware of how precious and fleeting they are, I find when I take time for intellectual and creative pursuits I am rejuvenated.  I return to my family energized in a unique way that seems to actually make me more aware and intentional about the sacred time we spend with one another.  Not always, of course, because work can be hard and taxing in it’s own right, but often enough to matter.

And so this morning, with our 4 year old son snuggled between us in bed, our baby girl waking to nurse at an hour I’d rather be sleeping and our first grade girl bounding with excitement for what her school day brings, I am weepy and sentimental about it all.  I can’t seem to capture them enough in my heart to make them stay this way forever.  Because in a moment, my infant will be taking her first steps, my pre-school son will not have leisurely mornings with me building blanket forts, and my oldest will be off to college too.  My heart will be full and broken because I love them so so so very much.

My hope is that we will have created a family so saturated in love that we are free spring forth into the world to be who God has created us to be knowing we are able to return safe to welcoming arms flung wide open, emulating our Savior who delights in relationship with us.

There is a wall in Jim and Angela’s house that is lined with frames, floor to ceiling.  They are the kind of frames with many openings and are full of photos from their family activities and vacations.  When I last visited I pored over those frames, a privileged witness to all that love.  I put it into my mental to-do’s to surround our house with visual memories of our family memories too.  It is New Year’s time two years later, maybe this will be the year.  But is is not because the memories haven’t been created that the pictures have not been hung yet, I just haven’t had or made the time for the visual aids.  I do have to give myself credit for the intentional time that has been spent, both in the everyday moments and in the special experiences.  We don’t live this existence everyday, not at all, we have our very normal, chore-filled, carpool toting, budget conscious, every-day lives, but we are constantly processing and pondering how to be intentional about capturing these days, aware of how quickly they will pass.

Still, I am choosing to work, for a snippet of time. I will leave for my first day, and possibly my 30th day, back to work and I will be excited and I will cry.  But my kids will be in good hands and we will spend special time together when I get home, and when we go to the park or on a vacation or cuddle in bed after stories and talk about who they want to be when they grow up as they try to comprehend what their mama and papa do outside of their most important lives.

There is no perfect formula to all this.  Sometimes I will wonder if I made the right choice, in the right time, and things will go wrong, hopefully little solvable things, because that is just the way life is.  I am thankful to worship a God who has given me the free will to pursue Him in this life with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength.  May I honor you Lord as I walk the path before me and cleave to You above all, Amen


The Most Awful Silence Part III

I was stone-still, my heart racing, blood pumping, body paralyzed when my husband Scott arrived shortly after I received the awful news.  In a flurry he came into the small dark room dimly lit by a single small light over the hospital bed.  Searching our faces, he looked scared.  Dr. B put her hand on his arm and said “I am so sorry Scott.”

He rounded the hospital bed to be closest to my side and grabbing my hand searched my face for explanations I didn’t want to give.

“We lost him” I said.

Tears broke and started streaming down the sides of my face, into my hair and onto the pillow cushioning my head on the exam bed.  My body was starting to tremble. “Our baby is gone.  He has no heartbeat.”

“No!” His face was pained and his voice started to choke as tears showed in his eyes.

Dr. B offered to do the ultrasound again so he could see for himself.  He looked at me and I said it would be okay not to.  I didn’t want him to have to live with that image.  He said no to protect me and I agreed to protect him.  As much as I dreaded doing it again, I wanted to, thought maybe the answer would be different.  I also desperately wanted to push rewind and have him with me in that awful moment.  I wanted to go further back than that; to this morning when he had hiccups, to Saturday when I had gone into labor and contractions were nearing 5 minutes apart but just went away after I had laid down to rest.  Why didn’t I just come to the hospital then?  Just moments, moments, sooner than this moment he might be with us.  There must be something I still could do, some way to turn back time.  We were so close, so very close to having him with us.  “Oh dear, dear God, how could this possibly have happened to my sweet baby boy?”

I prayed in vain; nothing, absolutely nothing could be done to change the awful truth.  It is hard to describe how utterly painful and terribly helpless a feeling; to have such a tidal wave of life-creating momentum over months and months, building and building and growing and gaining, to be at the precipice of the crest and suddenly, sudden-ly, out of nowhere, there’s flat, lifeless calm and it is the dark of night.  I could blow and cry and howl with everything that is in me and nothing, nothing will bring back the wave of life I was courting.

Hard questions were swimming around in my head as my body took on a new sensation of pain like none other I’d experienced before.  Deep in my chest, and at the base of my throat a hard mass of hurt was taking residence in my body that covered over anything blithe I ever had the luxury of feeling.

Dr. B talked about the rarity of the circumstances, which somehow felt reassuring, affirming.  It was so very wrong to have happened, I needed to hear it was uncommon. She said it had only happened once in all her time of practicing about 20 years or so prior.  She said we might be able to discover why once he is born.

“I took some homeopathic cough syrup, could it have been that?” I asked.

“No” she said reassuringly, “it wouldn’t be that.”

“I ate brie.  I carried my kids up the stairs.  I laid on my back at night…” I confessed my pregnancy sins, desperate and terrified to find out why, horrified at the thought that I may have done something to cause my baby’s death.

“Please God, don’t let it be anything I have done.” I prayed. I am not sure how I would survive the guilt of that.

I felt like a pregnancy pro by now, having done this two times before.  I had felt so self-assured, this pregnancy was so easy, so routine.  “I’m sure women in France don’t give up Brie” I would joke.  How terrible of me.

Dr. B said she’d give Scott and I some time alone and walked out of the room.  We held each other, starting to cry, still caught off guard and in shock.  We hurt so much.

All the statistics about how hard it is on a couple to lose a child flashed through my mind.  We’d already walked through our hard year as new parents after my second child was born when we weren’t sure our marriage was going to make it.  We’d done the hard work to rebuild a solid life-giving relationship and I couldn’t bear to go back to that lonely awful place.  As our embrace loosened I put a hand on each side of his face, looking into his eyes I said emphatically “I promise to be good to you through this” as serious as I was when I said each word of our wedding vows.

He often said how important those words were to him.  This was a promise I would keep to the ends of the earth, through hell and back, which was exactly where I feared we were headed.

When Dr. B returned she gave me the option to go home and rest for the night or go directly to the hospital to be induced.  Without a doubt I said I wanted to go then.  Scott held my hand and we both asked Dr.B when we could try for another baby.  We wanted our baby.  We wanted this baby. She gave a generic answer of a few months.  It felt like an eternity to wait, coupled with a whole nine month gestation all over again.  That felt so hard to bear, so long.

A wheelchair came to get me and my sweet nurse wheeled me over to labor and delivery while Scott went to get my bag of things from the car.  Thank God I had insisted on bringing my hospital bag.  I wondered if somehow I had known.  Somewhere deep in my body where my mind was yet to bring to my conscious awareness, had I known my baby was gone?  How could I have known?  How could I not have known?

And the long night of waiting, laboring to give birth to death began.  I secretly hoped, in the dark shadow that had overcome me, like a single pale star in an overcast grey night sky, that once my sweet baby boy was born he would be the miracle I longed for and take the deep life giving breath he was always meant to take, proving all forces of faulty human technology wrong.  And I would have the boy that I, together with my Creator, had worked so hard to give life to all these long days and months; the boy I already knew and loved with the depths of my whole being.