I am 1 in 4

Standard

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!

 

Advertisements

All Over the Place

Standard

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.

Body Image and Expectations

Standard

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I needed to make sure I was writing from my heart and not from a place of anger and frustration. Honestly, I have struggled with weight since I was in middle school. There are many factors that have played into this over the years. Some of it has been what others have said and/ or done, others have been my own choices, both positive and negative.

A few weeks back I had two encounters within a week that left me angry and in tears. The first happened in a local grocery store. A lady approached me and started to share about a weight loss program she had created and the new store she was opening on the north side of town. Sounds harmless; right? Wrong! In her spiel she told me how she lost 93 lbs on her program and she could help me “lose weight as well.” Y’all my 8 year old daughter was standing beside me through the whole thing. I was angry, embarrassed and wanted the aisle to open up and swallow me whole. Whether she intended to or not, she fat shamed me in front of my daughter and sent her the wrong message. Her words also went against the language we use as far as health and fitness go in our home. I will also say she lost a potential customer.

The second incident happened in a private, health FB page I belong to. In a post a lady bragged about how she judges people based on what’s in their buggies. She also openly admitted to judging those she passed in the grocery store, along with fighting the desire to have “honest” conversations with parents with “fat/ obese kids.” The thing that made my stomach churn more than it already was is that so many other women agreed with her. They felt she should speak up and if maybe they all spoke up, then they could in turn save the world from fat people. It was horrifying. It was a moment I couldn’t respond. I had many responses I could have typed, but I kept scrolling.

One incident was directed towards me and the other wasn’t, but both still reduced me to tear. Y’all, I am NOT a crier. It has to be bad for the tears to come. The tears partly came out of anger at their words, both spoken and typed. The other tears fell as a result of a huge wave of shame that rolled over me.

know what I need to do. I know what to eat. I know how much exercise I need. I have a minor in Human Performance. (In some colleges/ universities this is the same as Exercise Science). I also spent 9 years working in the recreation and fitness field before starting seminary. Oh yeah, the whole my body being a temple thing didn’t help any of this. Christians are experts at the whole guilt thing. Wish I could say I was kidding, but I’m not.

Total transparency here. At my heaviest, while pregnant with my youngest, I was pushing 200. At my smallest, I was in the low to mid 120’s. Most of my adult life I have fluctuated between the 2 numbers. The cycle goes like this: Exercise, eat right, maintain for a few months to a year or so. Slowly start to let diet and exercise go. Throw diet and exercise out the window, eat all of the things and send the “skinny” clothes to Goodwill. Get frustrated and start over. I know I can’t be the only one who falls into this cycle.

There were times when I was at my heaviest I was good with being “the fat girl.” I know how to play this role. I know what’s expected. Then when I’ve lost the weight and can wear what I call “cute clothes” I love looking at pictures of myself and feel proud that I am no longer the “fat girl” in the group. It’s fun to be the “cute one.” It’s fun to have people comment on how wonderful you look.

This is what one of my seminary professors would call “stinkin’ thinkin’.” How much of what society says plays into this particular tape in our head? How many times do we pick up magazines and see what is expected of women? Most of the women’s, fitness and running magazines show women with 6 pack abs and cut arms. Their thighs don’t touch. They are considered beautiful.  There are so many diets, exercise routines, pills and shakes to choose from that should make this whole healthy and skinny thing easy. I’m here to tell you it’s anything but. All of our bodies are different. What works for one person may not work for another person. This fact can add to our frustration. As I look at all of the media around me and options and opinions it’s no wonder eating disorders are so rampant and starting earlier and earlier in our kids.

When I look at what it means to truly be healthy and comfortable in your own skin, it’s not about a number on a scale. It’s not about the number on the tag of your clothes. It’s about being able to go about your daily life and not being winded by tasks. It’s about being able to chase your kids around the backyard or the park and not feel like you’re going to need someone to hand you an oxygen mask. It’s about being able to sit through a sermon on your body being a temple without praying the Lord will look at all of the other good things in your life and letting this one thing slide. It’s being able to go out to eat with your husband or your friends and not worry others are judging you because of what you ordered. It’s about being confident to go buy new jeans or a dress without having a meltdown in the dressing room. (We all get a pass on swim suit shopping because that’s a whole other monster).  It’s about being able to look in the mirror and be content with who you are.

The crazy thing is I can give you the whole paragraph above, but I can’t tell you how to get there. I’d be a multimillionaire if I could. We all have different backgrounds. We all have different issues we’ve overcome or are working to overcome. Our hurts and hangups are different. I don’t have any of the answers. The only thing I can tell you is to be kind to others. Don’t judge their appearances because you have no idea what they may be walking. Watch what you say in the presence of your daughters, nieces and other special little girls in your life. Don’t teach them the same unhealthy thought patterns you have. Most of all be kind to yourself. Seek and ask for help when needed. Find an accountability partner if possible. While this will sound like the correct Christian thing to say, pray the Lord will help you in this area. We can’t do it in our own strength. While they are health issues the lead to issues with weight, many times it boils down to an issue in our own hearts. Only HE can deliver and redeem whatever that issue may be.

In the meantime, I’m here whether you need an ear to listen or an invitation to come join me in the gym. We can do this together.