Sunday, June 30, 2013

Finding JOY During Difficult Circumstances

When you hear the statistics of anything sad and horrible you never think it will happen to you. Sure, you may worry about it, but you convince yourself that it would never, could never happen to you.. And then it does. And you are left numb and in shock and not sure that it really happened.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. That is the newest statistic that I kept hearing…That is an insane amount! But most people do not talk about it when it happens so it makes it hard to believe that the statistic is real and it can make it feel very lonely if it happens to you.

I experienced a miscarriage in February. I have always been a fairly open book when it comes to what is going on in my life. Not everyone can relate with that or may not even agree with it, including my husband at times, but the fact that I was open and honest about this loss in my life with others has brought me great comfort from caring friends and family and brought me understanding and empathy from women that have gone through what I have. Since my own miscarriage I have learned of 44 other women that have also experienced one. 6 of whom I have not personally met and those are just the people I know of.

I think that is the single most healing remedy when you are going through a hardship-- to hear that you are not alone. You are not crazy or abnormal. People think the same thoughts or feel the same way, it'

But, if you never share what you are going through how are you ever going to get to experience that?

It is scary to make yourself vulnerable and share the innermost thoughts and pain in your life but I feel that healing can come not only in the comfort that someone else feels the same but the action of talking it out. It pours the pain out of your heart and I know when I hear myself say things out loud it helps me process them better. I’m not saying you need to announce it to the world as I did/am doing, but I really believe it will help your healing process to tell someone.

A miscarriage is a very tricky thing to process. It's an invisible loss to those around you. None of them have met the person you just lost, none of them have memories that were made or attachments to the little life growing inside of you. But you, you probably starting dreaming of what they would look like, what their name would be, how you were going to set up their room. You started growing attached and maybe even falling in love with at least the idea of a sweet baby starting to form inside of you. Even if it were only for a few days that you knew. For those few days your brain was more than likely preoccupied with the excitement of your new baby. When you are pregnant you think to yourself in awe- wow, someone is growing inside me! I couldn't help but keep thinking over and over- a baby just died inside of me -and no one but the women who have gone through this can truly understand how disturbingly sad that feels.

The physical pain is one of the cruelest parts of a miscarriage in my opinion. Not only are you dying a little inside emotionally but then you have to suffer sometimes excruciating physical pain with nothing in return. We all know childbirth is insanely painful even if you've never experienced it yourself you've obviously heard about the immense pain time and time again. But you also hear from new moms holding their precious, beautiful baby that it was worth it. Out of that horrible pain you birth a miracle. An adorable darling little life you get to hold and squeeze and take home to join your family. What do you get after the physical pain you go through from a miscarriage? An even bigger ache in your heart, and you arrive home empty handed and feeling numb with shock. It is just not fair. I was completely naive and oblivious to the fact that women endure such horrific pain and even traumatic experiences of having to still labor and birth their unborn baby. I obviously knew it would be devastating emotionally but I never even thought about how the baby got out.

In our case one of the most difficult things for me was that it was not a cut and dry experience. I did not all of a sudden have a miscarriage or go in and know 100% right away that the baby was gone, never there, or that it’s heartbeat had stopped. We went through a few weeks of an agonizing waiting period before it ended.

Before our first appointment I had been spotting and having cramping which was worrisome to me, but they had me go in every other day (at least 5 times) to draw my blood to keep an eye on my hormone levels. Even though I kept being assured that things were looking good I was still very paranoid as we went into our first ultrasound that something was wrong and I kept preparing myself to not see a heartbeat or something. I remember my heart was in my throat as the ultrasound image popped onto the screen and I waited anxiously for the nurse practioner to find the little bean. It took a few seconds, which felt like minutes, and then there it was and it had a heartbeat!!

I felt a moment of relief and elation until the nurse practioner announced that it was measuring small. I froze. My breathing stopped. She continued that it’s heartbeat looked a little slow. My heart sank. I felt immediately frozen with fear and in a fog of shock as she tried to continue and sound hopeful with possible positive explanations. My mind seemed to race and yet slow down and not process all at the same time. When she left the room, my eyes were burning with tears but even though I was sure I would burst into tears the moment she left them room I instead sat there silent and numb waiting for the nurse to return.

Long story short our story continued with more waiting, agonizing waiting. They scheduled another ultrasound for me two weeks ahead to see if the baby did anymore growing. Two more trips back to the doctor and two trips to the ER later I still went to that ultrasound appointment but it was instead to make sure that everything that had once been a little life growing in me was gone because I had passed the tissue and baby along with it at home.
I had kept hoping for a miracle even though at every appointment, and every cramp, and trip to the bathroom with more blood showed otherwise but our baby’s heart kept beating. But it got slower and slower. I was starting to hope for a miracle or that it would just end because I could not decide to end it if there was still a heartbeat. Thankfully I did not have to make that decision on my own.

There were few moments when the reality of sadness hit me but that ultrasound was one of them. As I sat in the dark radiology room and the tech was squeezing the goo on my stomach I was all of a sudden smacked with the heavy reality that the last time I was in a room like that I was finding out that Ben was a boy, usually ultrasounds are supposed to be happy, joyful, exciting moments, anticipating something miraculous, this one was a sad, cold, reality of an empty womb. 

Yes, I know there are people that have it "worse" than me. There are those heartbreaking cases of women who have multiple miscarriages and never birth a child. The tech who did my final ultrasound had five..FIVE..As well as the women who carry their baby to full term only to have a stillbirth. Or those women who meet their precious little one only to have them die a few hours/days/months later. I only carried mine for 9 weeks. But why should we compare each other’s pain? Even if you only knew you were pregnant for a few days, or even hours, it is still devastating to find out you no longer are. So if you are someone who is trying to comfort a friend or loved one through this my suggestion would be don't say at least you didn't... Let that person come to that conclusion in their own brain. When others say it I feel like it just sounds like they are minimizing your pain.

My adorable son in the Big Brother shirt we got him after we found out I was pregnant. Man, I didn't think it was possible to love or appreciate him any more than I already did but I do! After this experience I try not to take any day with him for granted! He was definitely a little ray of sunshine through all of this!
Also, if you are someone who is not personally experiencing it but know someone who is realize that it is a long process of grieving just like any other loss. Grief does not have a timeline. The person may seem totally “fine” and happy one minute and then horribly sad and depressed the next because something triggered a memory.

That has definitely been my experience. Especially because it is a loss that is so easy to feel like maybe this never happened. Most of the time I don’t think about it, but then there are moments like..

-the appointment reminder call for my 12 week appointment that never got cancelled.

-people asking me when I am going to have my second baby (this experience has definitely made me realize people need to use much more tact and sensitivity when talking about babies and getting pregnant with others because you never know when someone might be having trouble getting pregnant or has already had a miscarriage- and if you don’t really know the person, how about you just don’t ask?!)

-seeing friends that I was excited to have babies at the same time with go through their milestones of finding out the gender, and feeling the baby move

-seeing a movie or tv show that involves ultrasounds or even others experiencing a miscarriage – boy do those memories come flooding back hard in moments like that.

If you are going through something like this yourself, just be gentle with yourself and give yourself grace. You just went through HELL and back and it will take time to process. Heck, it takes weeks for your body to get back to normal hormonally and only women, especially women who have experienced any form of pregnancy, understand how insane hormones are. They are invisible crazy-making sanity suckers.

 It’s okay to not want to talk about it, and it’s okay to need to say the same thing over and over again. Try to find someone who has gone through a miscarriage themselves to talk to if you can.

When it first happened as I was reading about how different people processed it I read several things and got advice from some that talked about naming the baby or doing a memorial or getting special jewelry in memory of the baby and at first I thought – NO WAY! Are you people crazy?! I just want to forget this horrible experience ever happened. But then I came across a picture of a baby someone had miscarried that was supposedly 6 weeks (the size my baby had stopped growing even though I carried it for 9) – it looked like it was probably a bit older because of the size but regardless, all of a sudden my nurturing motherly instinct or something kicked in and I wanted to honor that precious little life that had started in me.

Side note: yes, even though my baby had stopped growing at 6 weeks, it was already forming into a baby – it was not just a bunch of cells. Here is what is happening already at 6 weeks – “This week's major developments: The nose, mouth, and ears that you'll spend so much time kissing in eight months are beginning to take shape. If you could see into your uterus, you'd find an oversize head and dark spots where your baby's eyes and nostrils are starting to form. His emerging ears are marked by small depressions on the sides of the head, and his arms and legs by protruding buds. His heart is beating about 100 to 160 times a minute — almost twice as fast as yours — and blood is beginning to course through his body. His intestines are developing, and the bud of tissue that will give rise to his lungs has appeared. His pituitary gland is forming, as are the rest of his brain, muscles, and bones. Right now, your baby is a quarter of an inch long, about the size of a lentil.” Taken from
What my sweet little one might have looked like before I lost it.

 I didn’t know whether our baby was a boy or a girl and I don’t really associate it being a girl but it ended up with a girl’s name just because the meaning meant a lot to me. I named the baby Gabriella (God is my strength) Amorette (little love). I have never said this name out loud when talking about the baby and I actually don’t personally want to refer to the baby as Gabriella when discussing it, and I don’t really consider that I lost a daughter, it’s just that as I just said I strongly identified with the meaning because God’s strength is what got my through this ordeal and I liked the idea of “(our) little love”. 
A collage I made for the baby because artsy stuff always helps me process.

We then had a little memorial service that I invited some friends and family to and afterward we buried a box that I had placed the baby in. Everyone is different but for me personally that night was incredibly healing for me and gave me a lot of closure. Burying the box was definitely another reality moment for me and was the hardest part of the night because it was a sign that this pregnancy was really, unquestionably over. The hope for this baby had died and I had to let go. 

Our living room set up for the memorial

Post-its were encourage words or verses from friends that were there.
The box that I placed the baby in and some other things I already had that I wanted to put in.
Oddly enough I feel very positively about that night and remember it as a sweet time with friends, family, and most importantly God. God gave me many tender moments through this horrifying experience. For example, as I mentioned I never had a surgery- although it was an option, but I chose the option to pass the baby and tissue at home - which absolutely terrified me but I felt prompted to do it.
I feel that the prompting was from God because after I passed the tissue and held it cupped in my hands (which I know I’m gonna lose some of you at that- just hear me out) which should have been one of the most disturbing, heartbreaking moments of my life, I felt completely calm and at peace. I had been terrified thinking of the idea of seeing it or knowing my baby was within that and even though every fiber of me before that moment screamed I don’t want to have any part of that, during that moment I felt the warmth of comfort and a compelling nurturing and tender feeling toward that unborn baby. I pictured that picture of the little baby I mentioned earlier in my head and I kissed my hands that enclosed it and said goodbye. I prayed over it and prayed for God to continue to give me strength and peace, and prayed for our future child that we still hope to have and the only possible explanation to me that I could possibly feel anything peaceful or positive in such a traumatic, terrifying, horrible situation is God. He blessed me with that pericous moment of feeing that I got to say goodbye to my baby, and the comfort of knowing that it was in Jesus’ arms at that moment. God gave me peace and joy during that time.

Joy, you may wonder? Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the hardest things I have ever been through but whenever I dreaded the thought of a miscarriage I felt – I can’t even imagine, how would I get through that? But I did and I am, and only because of the strength that God has given me. Yes, I have been given much comfort, and strength from friends, and family, and my dear sweet son who brings me continuous joy, but God gives me that supernatural peace and comfort that cannot be explained or put into words.

I know many people that have a hard time still believing in God when bad, hurtful, hard things happen, and I have thought the same myself. I have looked at people that have gone through terrible loses and thought – wow, how could they still believe in God? Or I wonder if that shook their belief in God? But through this I never doubted Him.

Yes, I was angry and yes, I was devastated and yes, I was confused at why I had to endure this or why any woman has to for that matter. It is NOT FAIR. In fact on the way to the ER for the final time, when I was in the middle of the most painful contractions I have ever experienced (and yes, I did go through labor already with my son) I was crushed at what seemed to be the inevitable loss but I was also pissed. I remember telling Jon, broken up between contractions, that this was NOT OKAY, why do women have to go through such extreme physical pain when you are already dealing with losing your baby. It was horrible. At home when I was writhing in pain (I’ve heard that phrase so many times and now I definitely know what it means) alone on the bed as Jon put our son to sleep while my parents were on their way to our house to stay with Ben while Jon took me to the ER, I was filled with devastating sadness at the certainty that this was it – I was losing the baby-but I was also pounding the bed in anger that I was enduring such excruciating physical pain on top of the mind numbing emotional turmoil. No one should have to go through that. BUT I never once lost faith in my God. I know He could have saved my baby, He is definitely fully capable of such miracles. Did I understand? Absolutely not. But how could I doubt or even stay mad at the source of my greatest comfort I received during this horrendous experience.

Recently I was in a church group where the leader asked us to think of a moment where we wished we could have stayed and soaked up that moment forever because you were enjoying it so much and feeling so much love. Immediately many moments with my son flashed through my mind but later that evening I thought of the worship time during the memorial service that we held for our baby. Not the most likely answer you would think of with a question like that but for me it really fit. The night of the memorial I was in a room with some of my dearest friends and family surrounding me during my time of need, a single guitar was playing some of my favorite songs that I had picked, and I was surrounded by everyone’s beautiful voices still joyfully and loudly praising God despite the sadness. I even paused at one moment and thought, man, I wish I was recording this. But it was more than that. I was sitting there filled with complete peace and even JOY, yes, Joy, singing about how awesome and wonderful my God is. At one point all of the people in the room faded away and I just felt a sweet, tender moment as if I was wrapped up in God’s own arms. I would think that the reasonable, logical emotions at a time like that would be anger, despair, emptiness, but I felt joy. Did I feel joy over my precious baby’s death? Absolutely not! I felt joy in knowing that God is in control, giving me supernatural peace and the hope that one day I will be home with Him and will no longer feel any sadness, despair, anger, or physical pain ever again.

Jon got me this necklace from one of my favorite singers JJ Heller, with words from her song "Your Hands" and these words were very true for me during this time- "When my heart is breaking I never leave your hands" Other lines in the song that really resonated with my experience - "I have unanswered prayers. I have trouble I wish wasn't there. And I have asked a thousand ways. That you would take my pain away. When my world is shaking, heaven stands. When my heart is breaking I never leave your hands."

 I’m not trying to do some cyberspace altar call or trying to convert anyone, I think anyone that knows me well enough knows that I don’t try to force my beliefs onto anyone. I am just trying to put my experience into words to hopefully help and encourage even just one person because then that would help make this horribly painful experience not be in vain. I have seen time and time again through the crummy, heartbreaking, dark parts of my life that God turns them into good and usually it is by giving me opportunities to talk and encourage someone who is going through a similar crummy time. And I myself have gotten comfort and encouragement from others that have experienced similar experiences before me. God puts people in your life to strengthen you and give you a glimpse of how much He loves you.

I will ask you this though, have you ever felt that peace and joy even when you were in your darkest moments of your life?

Have you felt that calm, sweet, gentle presence wash over you as if to say one day things will all be okay, just hold on, and I will get you through?

When I talk about God giving joy and peace I definitely do not mean that believing in Him means you will never again feel sadness and always be happy. Obviously if that was the case I would not have had this horrible experience that I just spent 6 pages telling you about.

But we are not strong enough on our own to endure the troubles and hurts of this world alone. You may say, well, I have already. But have you been given that joy, that taste of what Heaven will be like even when suffering? To me, without getting into any other philosophical debates over the many other issues people have with Christianity, that alone – feeling JOY while going through extreme suffering – is proof enough to me that my God is real and worth believing in.

Okay, if you have gotten to this part you have already stuck with me for a very long time but I also wanted to include the words from the songs we sang at the memorial service.

"There Will Be A Day" by Jeremy Camp
We just sang the chorus from this song..
There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears 
There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face 
But until that day, we'll hold on to you always

You Are My All in All
one of my favorite worship songs

You are my strength when I am weakYou are the treasure that I seekYou are my all in allSeeking You as a precious jewelLord, to give up I'd be a foolYou are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of GodWorthy is Your nameJesus, Lamb of GodWorthy is Your nameOh, Your name is worthy

Taking my sin, my cross, my shameRising again I bless Your nameYou are my all in allWhen I fall down You pick me upWhen I am dry You fill my cupYou are my all in all
"How Great is Our God" by Chris TomlinThe splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

"Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Park Day

Today was a Park Day - we went to the park with our best buds at lunch and then went to one of the neighborhood ones with Daddy after dinner.

Wrestling with the boys before heading to the park.
Ben giving Cole some loves.
Having fun in the water at the park
Celebrating the big fountain shooting up!

Trying to catch the bubbles!
We brought the bubbles into the kitchen to play with our cornmeal box which we added beans to. :)
This is Ben's big lion beanbag/pillow that he loves to snuggle. When we first got it I demonstrated that it was "so soft" by laying my head down on it and he used to smash his face down on it like I did whenever he passed it. He doesn't do it too often anymore but I caught a shot of it today.
Feeding Daddy some dinner.

We spotted a lizard on our walk! Up on the right.
Ben was mesmerized with these girls playing that the park. 

 Funny moment with the girls:
Girl 1: She's really cute.
Girl 2: Is the baby a girl or a boy?
Me: He's a boy.
Girl 1: She's so cute!
Girl 2: (whispering) It's a boy.
Girl 1: She's a boy?!
Girl 2: (whispering) You say he

We meet again! Same puppy we saw on our walk a couple of weeks ago in the "Summer Nights" post.
This park had fun chimes attached to the bars.
My sweet little musician. :)

Sweet boy! He had a ton of fun on the tunnel slide and even went down head first a few times (his choice).

Music to My Ears

We went back to Capitola for the music night again this week, and brought friends!
Trompin' along - last week was freezing so we brought him in footed PJs to stay warm and of course this week was much nicer.  Oh well, it did cool down and those are stinkin' cute jammies!

 What?! Do I have something on my face?
Playing with berries in the sand..yum.
sand + raspberries + sweet potatoes = an adorable mess!
 He was a bit too happy to pounce on the girls' sand tower - they were very gracious with him!

Family Love!!! <3
Trying out Daddy's glasses

 Darren photo bombing our precious moments...
Woah...that was weird! Hahahahaha.
Playing Peek-a-boo with Daddy!

We love the beach!!!

 I'll be honest and admit...I do not like vegetables and I am horrible at eating them! I am trying really hard to get better for my kids and am shoveling them down Ben's throat. For dinner tonight I grinded up peppers and carrots and put them in the already veggie sauce for the pizza and then added grinded up cauliflower to the cheese.
 Sure, adding all of the cheese and BBQ sauce that went with the shredded chicken made the nutritional value go down, but it was better than without the added veggies and I used whole wheat dough! :) I'm trying people..

 We then brought our pizza to a music in the park night in Mountain View. I saw that the fun band from last week's Capitola concert was playing at this park and it was a great excuse to get outside for another fun summer night.
Peanut butter pizza face! Love those cheeks!!!
We found the playground!

 He had not been much of a fan of going down slides until tonight. He was lovin' it and even went down by himself a couple of times.

AH! I adore this child!
What wonderful summer nights filled with music and fun! :)