fostering a grateful spirit

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely." -Roald Dahl


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Miscarriage: how to help (and how not to help)

My sweet husband and I recently suffered our second miscarriage. I was eleven and a half weeks pregnant when I miscarried. Even having miscarried before, I was not prepared for this. Everything was different this time. Our sweet baby, with fingers and a heartbeat and toes now had no heartbeat. He was gone, but still a part of me, and it was (and is) absolutely terrible.
Nothing I can say could ever prepare someone for a loss like that, so hopefully I can help your people love and care for you better if you do ever find yourself in this horrific situation.
We are so blessed to be surrounded by people who love us, pray for us and support us, but I feel like a lot of people didn’t have any idea what we needed, and to be totally honest, we had no idea what to ask for. The only thing we really wanted, no one could give us, so we just didn’t ask anyone for anything.
It is absolutely not my intention to make anyone feel guilty. It’s almost impossible to know how to handle such a terrible situation, and I know the people who love us have tried so hard to figure that out. We are so thankful. I just feel like if no one tells you what helps and what hurts, we might keep accidentally hurting the people we love, and I don’t think anyone wants that. I hope and pray no one ever needs this list, but I suspect that will not be the case, so I am praying that sharing this will help all of us love each other better and more.

DO

Pray. A lot. I have experienced some pretty unexpected and significant losses, but the loss of this baby is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through. Not everyone deals with a miscarriage or loss the same way, and many will keep it pretty quiet, but regardless of appearances, it is a physically, emotionally and spiritually trying time. It can’t hurt to pray for peace, strength and comfort for them.

Check in. Regularly. Even if they don’t respond. I know it’s hard to know what to say, so just say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I’m here’ or ‘you have every right to feel that way.’ If they don’t respond, be patient. I have treasured the words of my loved ones over the last two weeks, but I’ve said very little back. We don’t know what to say either. There’s just not really words.

Do something. Whatever you would do if one of their parents, their spouse, or their sibling died, do that. Send flowers. Send a card. Drop off a meal or have one delivered. There is this really strange and hurtful feeling that a miscarriage is somehow less than other losses, that if your baby dies before he’s born instead of after that it hurts/matters/counts less. This is ridiculous, but often unintentionally compounded by the words, actions (or inaction) of the people around the grieving parents. Their child just died, and whether they were 5 weeks pregnant or 30, I promise you they had hopes and dreams and plans for that sweet baby starting the moment they saw that positive test, and they are grieving the loss of all of that. The best comparison I’ve been able if come up with is this: if a young woman lost her fiancĂ©e on her wedding day, she would not just be mourning the wedding day she’s dreamed of, but the loss of the one she loved and also the loss of the life they imagined and planned together. The same is true for parents who have lost their unborn child, there is so much to mourn.

Offer specific help. We had tons of sweet people offer help, pretty much all something like ‘If there’s anything I can do, just tell me.’ I really, really appreciate these sweet offers, but the truth is that we couldn’t possibly figure out what we needed. The only thing I actually wanted was my baby back, and no one can give me that, so everything else just seemed overwhelming to plan. For example, we had to eat, but I didn’t care enough about eating to try to coordinate meals, so we just didn’t ask anyone for anything. So if you are able, please offer something very specific. And if you’re very close, don’t even offer, just do. Bring a meal. Have one delivered. (<– In my opinion, in most cases, these two are the best. They need to eat, and they very likely don't feel much like eating and really don't feel like figuring out what to eat.) Pick up some staples at the grocery store and drop them off. If there's other kiddos, pick them up from school or take them for a few hours. Do dishes. Send books, movies, or trashy gossip magazines. Offer to return maternity or baby items if they want, or offer to put away baby things if they don't want them out. If the parents are family or very good friends, you may also want to offer to help notify friends and family of the loss so they don't have to keep sharing it over and over. The only thing I'd note here is that you should not plan on staying if you stop by. The physical part of a miscarriage is painful and scary and horrible, your sweet friends may be most comfortable dealing with all that without anyone else around.

Use the baby’s name. One of the fears of miscarrying is that no one will remember or honor the life of the baby that is gone. If they’ve chosen to name the baby and shared it with you, use it. It is hard but wonderful to hear someone call your sweet baby by name.

Go to the memorial. If your loved ones choose to honor their sweet babe with a service, please go if they ask you. If they tell you about it but don’t explicitly ask you to attend, maybe ask if they’d like you to attend. They may want to be alone, they may want people to honor the tiny life with them. Whatever they’re most comfortable with, do that.

Be sensitive if you’re newly pregnant and announcing shortly after your friend’s loss. I promise you, your loved one loves you and your little and wants to be happy for you. Really. But unexpectedly seeing announcements all over social media right after a loss can be really, really hard. Announce and be excited, you deserve to be, but maybe give your grieving friend a head’s up so they can avoid the pictures and comments for a bit if they need to. Same if you’re announcing at an event they will be at, maybe give them a call and let them know beforehand so they can react in private instead of in front of a group of people. I hate so much that This hurt permeates so many relationships in my life and I have a lot of guilt about the fact that dear friends’ pregnancy announcements sometimes make me sad. The truth is that deep sadness and joy can exist in the same space, but that’s hard to explain to a group of really excited people who likely don’t understand what you’re going through.

Along those lines, DON’T:

Take it personally. The not answering texts, not wanting to talk or go out, the having a hard time with your pregnancy, none of it really has anything to do with you. Grief looks and feels very different for every person, so please give them space to do what they need when they need it. There is also often A LOT of internal guilt for the mama who loses her baby, there should not also be guilt for not being able to or not wanting to talk, how she feels, not wanting to go out, etc.

Say nothing. I know it’s really hard to know what to say, but please don’t say nothing when you do see your friend. Your friend or loved one may not want to talk about what’s happened, but it feels isolating and hurtful to have people you consider friends say literally nothing. Like I said, I know it’s really hard to know what to say, but for grieving parents who may be fighting to get out of bed in the morning, it just feels so stinking lonely. I know some people are concerned that checking in will remind the parents of their loss, but rest assured you saying something will not remind them of their loss…they remember. Every single day, they remember.

Say these things:

‘It was God’s will.’ I believe in a good God who loves me. I also don’t ever want to hear someone try to tell me that my sweet baby dying was God’s plan. That’s a cruel thing to say. Someday, in Heaven, I will see things how God does and I will snuggle my sweet babies, and until then being a mama with no babies in my arms is never going to feel right – and I think Jesus probably gets that.

‘There was a reason’/’Something must have been wrong’/’It wasn’t the right time.’ None of these things do anything to comfort anyone except the person saying them, and feel dismissive to the person grieving. Please just stop saying any of these things.

‘Maybe you should adopt.’ Two things about this one: 1. Adopting will not, cannot and should not replace a lost child. (Neither does having a biological child.) Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t change what has been lost. 2. It’s not the same. It is so beautiful and I absolutely believe that adoptive families are just as “real” as biological families. But if your loved one is grieving the loss of a child and fearing they will not be able to have a biological child, let them process that without trying to find another solution for them. There is not a solution that makes that not hurt. If adoption is the best step for their family, they’ll decide that when they’re ready.

‘Better now than when you’re further along’/’At least it was early.’ Seriously? Just no. The only thing even remotely “better” about miscarrying now instead of later is that it may be slightly less physically painful. Maybe. Pretty much everything else about the process is equally painful and terrible no matter how long they’ve been carrying and loving their precious baby.

‘I understand how you feel.’ There is a time that it is comforting to have others who have been where you are share their stories. The first week is not that time. All loss is so different, and each person interacts differently with their grief, so your story is probably very different than theirs. YOUR STORY MATTERS. But for now, please let them share theirs. Even over and over if they need to.

‘You can try again.’ This is another might make you feel better but almost definitely won’t make the other person feel any better. They might be able to try again. They might have to wait. And no matter what happens no baby can replace the baby they just lost. In addition, it is very likely that if there is a next pregnancy, it will be scarier and far more stressful. A lost baby completely changes future pregnancies. It changes everything.

‘I know you’ll be a mom.’ Two things about this one, too: 1. A mama with a baby in Heaven is still a mom. A hurting mom, but a mom for sure. 2. I think what people mean by this is ‘don’t give up hope’ but the truth is that you don’t know the future and the mama who just lost her babe feels less sure of the future than ever, so this is of very little comfort.

Sweet friends, if you’ve experienced a loss like this, what would you add? What did you find the most helpful or comforting? What was said or done that hurt more than helped?

Let’s all try together to learn how to love each other better.


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{held}

“this is what it is to be held
how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.
this is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, you’d be held

First, please let me say that Drew and I are humbled and amazed by and grateful for your prayers, words of encouragement, text messages, emails, snacks, visits and phone calls in response to my last post. I cried often as I read your words of encouragement, prayers, scripture, and deeply personal stories of your own pregnancies and loss. Losing a child, no matter at what stage, has to be one of this world’s most painful experiences. I hope and pray that none of us have to have that experience again. Statistically, though, I know that is unlikely, so if one of us must, I pray that you are encouraged and understood well.

We are still early in our grieving and processing, but I am so grateful that we have occasional days now that feel almost normal. I don’t forget- I think about our sweet baby every single day. If she had lived and been healthy, we’d be safely into out second trimester now, telling the world, celebrating and planning. Instead, we try to laugh and be silly, not to lose hope, and to continue to be kind to ourselves and each other when a day is harder on us than it “should” be. On the days that hurt the most I try to cling to God’s promises, cry, and try to do something that relaxes me. I joke (but it’s sort of true) that I’m drowning my sorrows in scarves because I’ve made more than 40 (no joke) in the 12 days since I learned how. It sounds ridiculous, but keeping my hands busy with something other than the internet or obsessively playing dots or temple run has been good for my soul. Sweet friends continue to send me songs, Scripture and words of encouragement that remind me that there is hope and point me towards Jesus.

I am still struggling to understand this season in our life (and, in truth, likely never will understand), but I am beginning to feel “held.” I know that every text at the perfect moment, song that speaks to my heart, and verse that gives a glimmer of hope are just a part of the way that God has been and continues to hold us close. It hurts. I can’t and won’t pretend like the being held makes me thankful for the pain. I am not. I want to hold my precious baby. But just as I know that holding my baby would not protect her from the pain of living in a fallen and sometimes cruel world, I realize that my expectation to be protected from this kind of pain isn’t realistic. I still pray from the depths of my heart that Drew and I will never have to experience this pain again, I also know that I wasn’t promised a rescue from the pain of this world (quite the opposite, actually). I deeply long for my baby, but I know that the biggest reason I so long for her is because I was created in the image of God- who is full life and joy and love. Truly, this world feels far from Home in this stormy season.

As I said, we are very much still processing and still, I’m sure, have much to learn about ourselves and God. Please continue to pray for us as we grieve and slowly heal.
Thank you, again, for your support and love. Thank you for helping us to know and feel that we are truly being held during this painful time. We are blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people.


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{worn}

Image

I am going to start this post out with two disclaimers:
1. What I need to write about tonight is a pretty difficult topic and deals with some very personal things going on in my life. If you don’t want to know about the deep and difficult things we’re dealing with, that’s totally fine (truly, I understand), but then this blog post is not for you.
2. There are many people that we love dearly that we have not shared this news with. PLEASE, if you are someone important to us that is finding out this news from this post, please be gracious and know that we love you and desire to share our lives with you. You are not, by any means, in the minority by not knowing what’s been going on. I was not planning on blogging about this, as it is difficult and deeply personal, but have, for various reasons, felt like I am supposed to. Even though I am writing about this news, it is still extremely difficult for us to actually say out loud, and besides the initial discussion with Drew, I’ve only actually said this news out loud once. I am sorry that you’re finding out this way, but its the best we can do right now, so please love us anyway.

A few weeks ago Drew and I found out that I had a miscarriage. I didn’t even know for sure that I was pregnant until I had miscarried, and though, in theory, that should make this easier, it doesn’t actually do much to ease the pain. I have been feeling very sad, angry, lonely and ashamed.
I was not planning on blogging about this. I actually have told very few people. I think, besides it being an extremely painful topic, the other reason that I haven’t talked about it much is because I felt ashamed–partly because of my tendency to determine my own value in my identity as a woman, and partly because no one talks about miscarriages. The statistics on miscarriages are widely varied, but (on the conservative side) 10-30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (and that is not counting fertilized eggs that implant incorrectly and are never viable, which skyrockets the percentage to 50-75%). If any other single thing was taking the lives of 10-30% of our children, there is no chance that people would be so quiet about it. Why are we not talking about this? If I had lost my baby at any point after birth, my grief, hurt, and anger would all be completely understandable. Why then, when a woman loses her unborn baby, does she feel alone and ashamed? It isn’t right, and that is why I’m writing this difficult (to write, and probably to read) post.

My body feels weird. Empty. Like something is missing. I feel it pretty close to all the time. I can’t get away from my own body, as much as I’d like to. So I have spent a good portion of the last few weeks dealing with feelings of anxiety, grief, anger, frustration and fear. Though I know logically that at only 4 weeks and 3 days old, there is nothing I could have done to save our sweet baby. I know that it wasn’t something I ate or drank or medicine I took. Apart from heavy drug or alcohol abuse, there is pretty much nothing you could possibly do that would cause you to lose a pregnancy that early. I’ve read tons of articles. I know it is not my fault. It would have happened no matter what I had done or not done. But I still feel responsible. I still wish, with every fiber of my being, that I could have known that I was pregnant so I could have done everything imaginable under the sun to keep that sweet baby safe. I know it wouldn’t have worked, but I still wish. On top of all of that, I also feel like a failure as a woman, wife and mom. Our bodies were created to nourish and protect our babies, and for whatever reason, mine did not. As I said, I know that there is nothing I could have done, but it is still a very real daily struggle to convince myself that I am not worth any less because my baby did not survive.

I am scared that I will not be able to carry a baby to term, although 80% of women who experience an early (in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) miscarriage go on to have completely healthy babies. I am afraid that this will keep happening, and that even if I have a healthy pregnancy, I will be so terrified that the baby will not live that I won’t be able to enjoy the miracle and beauty of pregnancy. I am worried that though, as my mom said, I was “born to be a mom” I will never get to have that experience. It’s discouraging and frustrating and sad. What if this is just the beginning of a very hard journey that still ends with me not having the kids I’ve always wanted and prayed for? The what-ifs are enough to make even the most sane person crazy.

I am also just so sad. A few days after we found out I was having a particularly rough day and started sobbing while cutting potatoes. I was alone in the kitchen, cutting potatoes, sobbing. I felt (and sort of still feel) like a crazy person. How in the world could I possibly miss someone that I didn’t even know existed until she* was gone? It doesn’t make sense. But I do. I miss our sweet baby every single day. I am heartbroken that I will forever be a mother to a baby that I will never get to hold in my arms (on this side of Heaven). I had a baby growing inside of me- our sweet baby– and now my arms and my body are empty. It feels absolutely cruel.

And God, God and I are not in the best of places. Because I have been through difficult times before, in this situation I haven’t even really asked “why?” I am not, by any means, okay with what has happened, but I will not know the answers in this life (and even if I did, there is no answer that could be good enough for this mama who just wants to hold her baby). In all honesty, even if God Himself told me the reason that our sweet baby couldn’t keep living, it likely wouldn’t feel like a good enough reason for me. I am human and my mind cannot comprehend all that He knows and sees. I want what seems good from my perspective, and from down here, a growing, healthy baby seems pretty damn good. All that said, I know and believe that God is good. Even in my worst moments, there is something in me (the Holy Spirit, I believe) that absolutely refuses to stop knowing and believing that truth. When I am the most sad and lonely and angry, I still can’t help but believe that, somehow, God is still good. He is still in control, and He still loves me dearly. He knew and created my sweet baby, He knit her together in my womb, and about the only shred of comfort I’ve been able to find is the knowledge that I know the One who is holding our sweet baby, although we desperately wish it were us holding her. Some days I cling tightly to Him, to the Word, to the promise of life with Him and our baby. Some days I feel too hurt and angry, and I keep Him at a distance. I don’t want Him to go away, but I also don’t really want Him to come near. Thankfully, He is a gracious and loving God, who knows my heart and understands my pain, so He patiently waits until I’m ready to let Him get close again.

This is a process- a very painful one- and we are certainly still in the midst of it. I don’t have amazing insight or answers that will fix everything (or anything). But I couldn’t let this chance pass to tell you, if you stand where I do now, you are not alone. Certainly I believe that God is with you, but also the number of women who have been where you are is staggering. It doesn’t take away the sting, and it shouldn’t. “It happens to a lot of other women” is not meant as a platitude like “well, you’re not even close to the only one.” It is meant as a comfort that you are not alone. You don’t have to walk through this alone.

If your husband (or significant other) is anything like my sweet husband, he will try really, really hard to comfort you and to understand and to do whatever he can to make things better. He will tell you over and over that it’s not your fault, that it is okay you’re crying a river into your potatoes, that he’s not going anywhere. But his experience and grief will still be vastly different than yours, and that’s normal and okay. But please don’t believe that no one knows how you feel. Your experience is unique to you, your significant other and your sweet little loved one, but I promise you that you are not alone in the grief you’re experiencing. It is a tragic loss whether it is your first pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage, or you have had several, or you have several healthy children before you lose your baby. It is unbelievably painful and horrific whether your sweet baby is 4 weeks and the news of the pregnancy hadn’t sunk in yet, 10 weeks and only you and your significant other knew, or 16 weeks and you’d told everyone under the sun because things were going so well. I’m so sorry for your loss, and there is nothing I (or anyone else can say) that will make it right. It isn’t right, it’s tragic. But please don’t believe the lie that you don’t have the right to grieve or that your feelings aren’t valid just because your baby was not yet born. I wish it hurt less because of that, I really do. But it doesn’t because that sweet baby was part of you, and now that part is gone.

To close this very long post, I wanted to share with you just a few of the things that have made me feel understood, given me a moment of comfort, or even a moment of hope. Every person’s process is different, but I share some of mine in hopes that it may help someone, someday, with theirs. Thanks so much for bearing with me through this post, and thank you for letting me share such an important and personal part of my story.

ImageI found this on Pinterest (and cried) but love the Truth and grace of this quote. My sweet baby, who I love and miss, opened her eyes and saw the face of Jesus. The first, and only experience, she will have is perfect fellowship with her Creator. I long for her, I wish I could hold her, but I am thankful that she will never have to experience the painful parts of life or the sting of the effects of living in a fallen world. Jesus, hold her close for me please.

This song has been meaningful to me in my grief. I especially like this line: “I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn.”

This song is older, but helps me put words to some of my feelings, and also reminds me that, though this pain is unimaginable, I am still being held by my Creator as well. Sometimes I think “peace that passes all understanding” looks like God supplying you with just enough (peace, energy, encouragement, faith, hope) to get through a day you never wanted to have to live through.

I also found the following quote “How terrible it is to love something that death can touch,” which I have drawn up with our sweet baby’s details and framed in our room. This was therapeutic for me (I think it was the first thing I did that made me feel like I was actually doing something) and was the thing that really helped make the loss real for Drew.

*I find myself referring to our sweet baby as “her.” Clearly at such a young age, we have no confirmation of the gender of our baby, but we believe that our sweet baby would have been a girl and it’s simpler to just refer to her as such, instead of a constant “her (or him)” every time she is mentioned.