I am 1 in 4

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Statistics. There’s nothing overly fun about being a statistic. With miscarriage and infertility, it’s not really something you strive to be. It’s not a club anyone wants to join. Yet, here I am. Too many other friends are members of this painful club as well. Every October I am open about the journey my husband and I walked to have our children. Too many times women are silenced and made to feel their losses weren’t real or important. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. When you have a miscarriage, it IS a loss.

Growing up I always wanted to be a part of a large family. The older I got I prayed to have a girl, followed by 2 boys and then another girl. When my husband and I were first married we talked about having 2-3 children. I prayed for twins in order for us to have the larger family.  He was aware of what I prayed. It took a long while to get pregnant. When I finally saw the first positive on a pregnancy test in Dec of 05, my joy was short lived. Within a week of finding out we were expecting, our precious child was gone. The next miscarriage came at the end of April of 06, just a week shy of Mothers Day. It would take well over a year before I became pregnant again, only to lose baby #3 in August of 07.

After 3 miscarriages and it taking so long to get pregnant in between, my OB decided to run an extensive blood panel in attempt to identify the issue. After the panel was run, I was sent to a specialist to review the results. My husband and I sat in a tiny little room as the specialist looked at us and told us I was a Type 1 carrier for 2 types of blood clotting disorders as well as a carrier of MTHFR. In short I could continue to get pregnant, but chances were I would never carry a child to term. I remember standing in the stairwell of this building, overlooking downtown Nashville and sobbing. My husband had his arms around me, but nothing could bring peace to what appeared to be the death of the dream I had of being a mother. My dreams of pregnancy, cravings, picking out nursery furniture, baby clothes and hearing “mama” were gone. All I wanted was to be pregnant and my body wasn’t doing what it was created to do.

My husband had talked about adopting. I saw it as an option, but at the time my heart just wasn’t there. In the spring of 08 he broached the subject with me again and I was open to at least talking about it. He was all in. In his mind, the Lord could and would grow our family how He saw fit. All the while my husband was praying the prayers of Sarah, Rachel and Elizabeth. He had the faith the Lord would bless us with a child. Honestly, I felt like the Lord was angry with me and I was being punished for something. My walk with the Lord had been rocky at best since the last miscarriage. My faith was almost none existent at this point. It took a long while to get back to a decent place with my walk with the Lord.

Fast forward to early fall of 08. There was another positive pregnancy test. I distinctly remember telling my husband “Give it a few days and it will all be over.” My loving husband continued to pray. There were several trips to my OB. I was placed on a prenatal vitamin, progesterone, a high level of folic acid (something my body refused to produce or absorb) and a low dose of aspirin to reduce the chance of blood clots. We had multiple scares. I was placed on modified bed rest. I was only allowed to go to work because I was a school based therapist and I could sit most of the day. I had more ultrasounds than most women would have in 6 or 7 pregnancies. It took until December when we had the gender reveal ultrasound before I could get excited about being pregnant.

When the tech told me we were having a little girl, I cried tears of joy. I couldn’t believe I was staring at MY baby on the screen. Her heartbeat was strong and one of the most beautiful sounds I think I had heard up to the moment in my life. When the tech left, my husband prayed over me and our precious little girl. Two days after Mother’s Day of 09 I held my beautiful, healthy, baby girl for the first time.

Based on all we had walked leading up to her birth, all the doctors’ reports, I was positive she would be an only child. Because honestly, there was no medical reason for her to be here. She was truly a miracle baby. I became pregnant again. There were also issues early on in my pregnancy and I was put back on modified bed rest. At this point, even before we knew if I was carrying a boy or a girl, my husband and I decided this would be our last child. Pregnancy was too hard and it was emotionally exhausting. When we found out we were having a boy, we were thrilled. We were going be a family of 4. This was way more than we expected back in 07.

At this point my husband and I were on the same page. We felt a peace about being done having children because of all we had walked. Our little boy came after we had experienced the Flood of 2010 and a summer that broke long standing heat records. When I looked at the picture of the 4 of us, I was honestly content. The Lord answered major prayers and had blessed us with 2 healthy children.

Little did we know the Lord would give us one more blessing. My husband and I were not trying to get pregnant. In fact, we were trying to be careful. Given we found out we were expecting again so soon after we brought our new son home, we were in shock. While a part of me was thrilled, I knew what I had walked with our other 2 children and wasn’t sure I wanted to or could walk it again. The first ultrasound with our third brought another heartache. When we looked at the screen there were 2 babies. I was pregnant with twins! I was ecstatic. The tech would then look at me and said “Baby B has no cardiac movement.” Her tone was harsh and I was again crushed. The tears started and stayed for most of the rest of the day. Based on what the radiologist saw, we were told I was carrying identical twins. We lost baby B due to a chromosomal abnormality.

I can’t tell you the anxiety that came with the rest of that pregnancy. I had similar issues to my other pregnancies, but now there was uncertainty about the health of our baby. I carried my anxiety in private. I never voiced anything to my OB or my husband. Our child was a planned c-section because my daughter had been an emergency c-section and our older son had also been born vie c-section. As soon as my OB pulled out our son I was begging for an Apgar score. I needed to know if he was Okay. Thankfully, his scores were 9 and 9. Even though we had been told he was healthy, I still carried concerns of unknown issues until he actually started school.

Our journey to parenthood was anything, but easy. All 3 of our children are walking , talking miracles. I still mourn the loss of our other 4 children. I often wonder what they would have looked like. What would their personalities have been? What would their interests have been? I try to imagine myself as a mother of 7. Miscarriages and infertility issues caused struggles in my marriage and my faith. I can’t say I handled it with grace and dignity. There were many nights where I cried myself to sleep. I stopped going to church on Mothers Day and Fathers Day because it was just too hard. I would send gifts to baby showers, but wouldn’t attend.

Please know, as long as you are not causing harm to yourself, there is no right or wrong way to grieve your loss. Again, miscarriages are real losses to be grieved. We all handle this type of loss in different ways. One way for me to find closure and peace with the loss of my children was to name them. While I only know for certain the sex of 1 of my 4, I feel in my heart that I miscarried 1 girl and 3 boys. I had several friends who reminded me that even though my children weren’t in my arms, I was still a mother. You are still a mother!

Please don’t walk this path alone. Reach out to your inner circle. Find a group of women who have also walked this path. I was blessed with 2 incredible friends who were there through all of the losses, as well as a church choir who surrounded me with prayer. I was also blessed to find an online group of women who had losses around the same time I did. We met in a forum and eventually moved our group over to a private FB group. Most of us went on to have children. I am still friends with these women today and have had the privilege of meeting a few of them. When my husband and I were talking about adoption I joined an adoption group. Even though we never adopted, these ladies kept me in the group and are just as much a part of my story as the miscarriage/ loss group.

If you need an ear of someone who has been there, please feel free to reach out to me. I will be more than happy to listen and to pray. You are NOT alone!

 

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Love Your People Well

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Y’all it has been a long hard road since last June. That week started out with me heading to MI to celebrate my niece graduating from high school and her acceptance to college. The weekend ended with my MIL being diagnosed with cancer. Talk about highs to lows in a matter of days. This would only be the beginning of health issues and death. I shared in my last blog post about a season of death. Well, that season has been extended by the death of an adult child of a dear friend.

When things like this happen, especially with as hard as this season has hit, it causes you take a step back and take stock of life. It causes you to really evaluate who you are, where you and the relationships with the people around you. Y’all please love your people well. I have been reminded of my former pastor’s statement “There is nothing so certain as death and nothing so uncertain as the time.” You never know when the Lord is going to call you or someone you love home. Again, love your people well.

Life can get crazy busy. I am looking at the calendar for the month of May. It is crazy busy for us. We celebrate the birthdays of two of our children. There is Mothers Day and the anniversary of our engagement. Add to that all of the end year stuff/ activities for church and school and by the end I am so ready for a vacation. What if? What if you gave yourself the permission to say “No” to certain things? What if you took a step back to make sure you had time to really be with your spouse,children and friends?

I’ll be honest, I am a people pleaser in recovery. (This is so difficult for me to say and a whole blog post for down the road). I don’t like people to be upset or angry with me, so I struggle to say that tiny two letter word “No.” As I look back at all that has transpired since last June, will I really be upset when my time comes that I said “No” to others and “Yes” to my family? Will I regret staying busy over choosing to grab lunch with a friend or spending time with my husband and children? Do I want my kids to say “Mommy loved us, but she was so busy with other things that she wasn’t there for us?

The end of the school year is almost here. Summer is knocking on our door. I’ll be honest, I’m saying “No” to a lot this summer. My kids will attend VBS at our church. We will go to MI and visit my sister and that side of my family. My youngest will go to preschool day camp. Other than that, we are going to enjoy a slower summer. My husband and I will still have to work, but we are going to take time to breathe this summer. My kids will be a top priority. We will enjoy some much needed family time. I also plan on getting together with my girlfriends. Time for dinners and play-dates will be made. There will also be plenty of what my kids call “home days.” I will say “Yes” to the ice cream truck. I will say “Yes” to turning on the sprinkler for my kids and their friends. I will say “Yes” to trips to the park, the art museum and the library.

I won’t do any of this perfectly, but I will make more of an effort than I have in the past. I have several friends and family members who are hurting because of this season of death. I pray the Lord will use me to be His hands and feet and love on them. I pray that I can be the ear or the shoulder they need in this time. I pray that I can be the one who just sits there because there are no words to be spoken. Sometimes I think when people we love are hurting that is what they need the most. They just need us to sit there. They don’t need our words, even though they may be well intentioned. Sometimes the silence is more healing than the noise. They need to know they are loved. With the friend who said her final goodbyes to her son last week, all I could tell her was that she and her family are loved.

Side note on dealing with grieving loved ones and friends:
1) Tell them they are loved.
2) Let them know you are OK with the tears.
3) Let them know they have permissions to have hard days.
4) Let them know it’s OK to laugh and smile on the good days.
5) Call or text them and let them know you are praying for them.
6) Call or text and ask them to join you for coffee, lunch, or a movie.
7) Don’t give them trite responses to their grief.
8) Remind them as long as what they are doing is not causing self-harm there is no wrong or right way to grieve.
9) Remind them there is NO timeline on their grief.
10) Remind them grief is not a straight line and the emotions will cycle.

If you are in a season of grief or things are smooth sailing, love your people well and reach out and connect to those you love most.

Death, Grief and Legacy

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It’s been a season of loss. There have been tears shed as well as laughter over shared memories of the past. I tend to keep my emotions to close to me and try to only release them when I am alone or with my husband. Given all that’s transpired, I haven’t done a great job at concealing anything. A part of me knows that showing emotion and not attempting to be stoic around others isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Almost two weeks ago, on a Wednesday night, I completely fell apart. Let me back up just a little. Back in November, we lost my MIL to cancer. My husband and children still struggle with her loss, especially my daughter. At the end of January, I lost a sweet friend to brain cancer. Just shy of 2 weeks after that I walked into my office and learned a friend from church lost her husband. I had only met the husband a couple of times, but hurt for her and her children. Then I lost my beloved college president and my high school choral director within a week of each other. It was on that Wednesday that I learned about my choral director.

I thought I was doing ok. I made it through work. Went home and came back to church, even though I seriously contemplated staying home. I attended my ladies Bible study that night and headed to choir. I was holding back the emotion pretty well, until we started singing. You see I love music and it speaks to the very depths of my soul. There are times when the Lord uses the music more than the sermon to speak to me. (My senior pastor is really a great preacher and I love his solid, exegetical preaching). We rehearsed the first song and I was great. A couple lines into the second song, I was attempting to blink back the tears. By the end of that song, I couldn’t read the music in my hands. Since I was sitting on the back row, I couldn’t just slide out. What did I do? I pulled my hair down over my glasses and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. As soon as rehearsal was over and our worship pastor prayed, I bolted.

I was hoping to make it back to the safety of my van before anyone realized that I was crying. That didn’t happen. I reached the back door at the same time as a friend. She looked at me and hugged me, which only made the tears flow harder. In between the tears I shared what had happened. She hugged me tighter, told me she would be praying for me and we walked to the parking lot together. Later, I would receive a text message and a FB message from a couple other ladies who saw the tears. I won’t lie, I was angry with myself and frustrated that these 3 ladies saw it. On the other hand, it was a great reminder that I go to an amazing church and have been blessed with some incredible friends. Church “should” be the one place we can fall apart. Right? I feel like being on staff I should be able to hide the bad and pretend that all is well, even when it isn’t. If someone on church staff is falling apart, then it must mean that we struggle with our faith and in life, so wouldn’t that set a terrible example for everyone else? I get how stupid that sounds. We are not immune from life’s curveballs or fastballs. We struggle like everyone else. Tears will fall and we have people who love us and will come alongside us, IF we allow them. That is a whole other blog post for me. Death and grief suck.

The other thing death does is cause us to look at the life of those who have passed and our own lives. There are beautiful things we see and there are some not so pretty things we see. I honestly didn’t have the best relationship with my MIL, but I have watched how her death has impacted my husband and children. My husband no longer has any living parents. We lost his father when I was half way through my pregnancy with our middle child. My husband has made the statement several times “I feel like an orphan.” I can’t imagine how that must feel. I have watched my children grieve their grandmother. It’s been a struggle for them to understand why she no longer comes to the house, why no cookies appeared at Christmas and why they can’t just pick up the phone and call heaven. I’ve struggled with how could I have attempted to have made things better with her. There is frustration, sadness and regret all balled up into her death.

My sweet friend Lea Anne was an avid runner. I loved the race pictures she posted, especially when her family was involved. She and I had several conversations about running a race together. This would have meant that one of us would have had to travel. We talked about how once she defeated cancer I would make the trek to Arkansas and run a race in celebration of her defeating that nasty disease. Neither race ever happened. I regret not making the time do what we talked about. My heart aches for her husband and 4 children. Cancer stole a young, active wife and mother. She loved her husband, children and life and now she’s gone. Every mile I run this year is in her memory. It won’t bring her back to her family and friends, but it’s a way to honor her memory.

I don’t even know where to begin with Dr. Potts. You see he wasn’t a typical college president. Judson is not your typical college. There are things about my college experience that would be seen the same as most every other college experience. Then, because of the uniqueness of Judson, it was extremely different. We are small school. Between December, April and June graduates, there were only 40 in my graduating class. Judson is a family and Dr. Potts was the head of that family. Dr. Potts may have technically only had 2 biological daughters, but he treated every girl who walked through the gates of Judson like a daughter.

Dr. Potts knew every student by name. He knew our majors and what extra curricular activities we participated in on campus. He knew our family members by name. He could call them by name even if we weren’t with him. Dr. Potts chose to eat in the dining hall with the students. When we were out walking on campus, it wasn’t unusual for him to jump in and walk with us. He truly had an open door policy. You see he wasn’t some illusive figure head at Judson, he was a part of everything on campus. Dr. Potts loved the Lord and loved to find ways for Judson Girls to serve the community of Marion. We weren’t some small private college who stayed within our gates. Dr. Potts made it a point to connect students and the community.

I counted it a privilege to return to Judson to be a part of the Judson Singers Alumni Choir and sing for Dr. Potts’ memorial service. As I sat there it was surreal to sit and listen to people referring to him in past tense. Honestly, I spent the entire weekend waiting for him to appear and his office doors to open. I sat and listened as people talked about the man, husband and father he was. There were some stories I heard that I had heard a hundred times. There were other stories, I had never heard before. I look at the legacy he left and what he instilled in all of his Judson Girls and I know lives are going to be forever impacted because he lived out what he believed.

The Wednesday of the week I headed to Judson, I received word my high school choral director passed away. Carroll High School and the city of Ozark lost a great man and a talented musician. There were three men who instilled a love of music into my life at a young age and Mr. Shirley was one of them. I had the privilege of being a part of Choral Club and musical theater productions under his choral direction. I won’t admit how long I have been out of high school, but I have loved seeing posts and pictures on social media of him leading the next generation. He was actively involved in the spring production when he became sick. Knowing what I know about him, I hate these students missed out on his leadership the weekend of the actual production. His death leaves a huge hole in the music back home. Mr. Shirley also left behind a wife, children and grandchildren. I can’t even begin to guess at how many students ¬†walked through the doors of the choral room and the stage and we all feel his loss as well.

Yes, we grieve and cry. The only encouragement I find in all of this is that we can grieve with hope. You see, these wonderful people had a relationship with the Lord and they are now sitting at His feet. Because many of us share their faith, we know we will one day be reconnected with them. The reunion will be one of great joy. We will all be healthy, whole and will forever worship the Lord side by side. If you have never asked Christ to be your Lord and Savior, I am more than happy to walk through it with you. My former pastor, Bro. Jerry, used to say frequently from the pulpit “There is nothing so certain as death and nothing so uncertain as the time.” He is absolutely correct. I am grateful for my relationship with the Lord and pray those around me who don’t know Him as their personal Lord and Savior will come to a saving relationship with Him.

Please let the people in your family and inner circles know how much you love them. Tell them frequently because you never know when it will be their time or your time to go. My prayer other than people coming to Christ is that the people around us would be loved well.

If you have made it this far, thank you. If there is ever anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to ask! You are loved!

All Over the Place

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It has been long, hard several months. My brain and emotions have been all over the place. This post may end up all over the place before all is said and done. Let me start by saying that cancer SUCKS!!!! In 3 circles I belong to, 4 ladies have been taken by cancer in the past 3 months. Me being who I am have stuffed the emotions and attempted to pretend I’m ok and not hurting, but the last death brought the emotions and the tears. Cancer is a thief. It takes people before we are ready for them to go. Yes, I could get all spiritual and give the trite response of “Because they had a relationship with Christ, I know I will see them on the other side of eternity and they are whole, healed and in the arms of our Savior.” While I know that to be true, I am hurting and even angry. Last night I had the privilege of getting to see Jen Hatmaker on the Moxie Matters Tour. My favorite line of the night was “It’s not bad Christian PR to admit that you’re hurting.” AMEN and AMEN!!! She gave us permission to hurt and feel all the feelings.

Let me back up and give a little more context to this painful story. Last June my MIL was diagnosed with Bile Duct Cancer. Later Liver Cancer would be added. Cancer would take her the Sunday, the week of Thanksgiving. In my group #the4500, cancer would take 2 of our members, one in November and then one last week. Lexi and Carrie were well loved and are missed by our crew. The day before my MIL’s funeral a friend from another group underwent emergency surgery where bleeding on the brain and lesions were discovered. The following week, Lea Anne would share she was battling stage 4 Malignant Melanoma. Yes, brain cancer. She fought like a warrior. At the beginning of last week she underwent another major surgery. By Saturday night her husband announced she had been placed in hospice and not given much time. Tuesday morning I awoke to the news she had stepped into the arms of her Savior.

My heart aches at all of the loss. I know my own personal feelings are a drop in the bucket to those closest to these ladies. My MIL left behind a daughter, 3 sons, 3 daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, 12 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren with the 3rd great grandchild due this spring. Lexi and Carrie each left behind a husband and 3 sons. Lea Anne left behind her husband, 3 sons and a daughter. They all left behind a large number of friends.

While my MIL had lived to see 75 years, she still had plenty of life left in her. The other 3 were late 30s/ early 40s, so way too soon for anyone to have to say “goodbye.” All of the children, young and old, still want their mothers/ grandmother around. The 3 husbands definitely wanted to grow old with their wives. It’s not fair any of them had to leave when they did. When I think about all of the life experiences these ladies will miss out on and the life experiences the husbands and kids will experience without these ladies it’s heartbreaking. Did I mention it’s not fair. I know life’s not fair, but these losses take it to a whole new level of unfairness.

I don’t share any of this for pity, but for people to realize that we as Christians feel the same emotions as everyone else. We do have our faith, but the pain isn’t any less for us. We still ask the Lord “Why” and you know what? The Lord can take it!!! Yes, we can cry out to Him when we’re hurting. We don’t have to pretend we are fine when we pray. Plus He already knows how we’re feeling, so there’s no use putting on a mask with Him.

I think many of us are open in our prayers when we’re hurting, but we don’t let others in. The Lord gives us spouses, siblings, close friends to be His hands and arms here on earth. My husband and a couple of friends have seen the tears, but I tend to hide the tears and the pain from others. While I don’t think we need to think we need to share with every single person we interact with on a daily basis what we are walking, we do need to have the strength and the vulnerability to let our Tribe in. I have been blessed with an incredible Tribe. I don’t share the way I should, but I’m working on it.

We also need to let those around us know how much we love and appreciate them. My former pastor, Bro. Jerry, used to say “There is nothing so certain as death and nothing so uncertain as the time.” We never know when it the Lord will call us or someone we love home. Last night on the way home from the Moxie Matters Tour event I told one of dearest friends what I appreciated about her. I make sure my husband and children hear on a daily basis how much I love them. I stink at letting others know how much I appreciate them and how I feel about them. I need to be better about this.

The other thing when looking at the 3 younger ladies who passed is that I need to step out and work to accomplish my goals. I have spent too much time timid and afraid. I know the Lord has called me to do a couple of thing and it’s time to take those steps of faith and go for it.

I’ve also realized how much time I have spent wearing a mask and hiding behind walls. Masks and walls are safe. You see, you can be safe and no one can hurt you when you have your masks and walls. It’s really quite lonely. The safety is only imagined. The words to the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” have played over and over again in my head:

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.”

Because I have spent so many years with my mask tightly adhered to my face as well as kept my walls thick and high, it will be a process to figure out who I am without them. I am sure as the year progresses there will a blogpost or two on this topic.

If you have made it this far, thank you for letting me chase a few rabbits and get some feelings written out. The grief process is not quick. It is not a straight line. It’s all over the place. You go back and forth between the stages. I am sure as I walk through this process more tears will fall. I am not a perfect Christian. I am flawed. In spite of what most people think my emotions are large and I feel them with everything in me, even though most people around me never realize it. I could write a whole other post on my personality type and it “might” help people who have to deal with others with a similar personality.

Anyway, if you are walking a similar road please know you are not alone. Please reach out to your tribe. If you don’t have a tribe to reach out to, please start building that tribe. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me.