Yesterday we decided to spend some family time at the arboretum to enjoy the pumpkins. I found myself a little miserable, partly because of the 90 degree heat in October while 35 weeks pregnant; but, also because I remembered last year we took a family picture at this same place during this month to announce our previous pregnancy. When I logged in to Facebook later that day, it actually told me on the home screen as part of my memories that I had posted Maizie’s announcement exactly one year prior. I remember being so excited to finally be “in the clear” of miscarriage and share our news publicly with the world.
The past year has been a complete roller coaster. From December to June, I lived in a dark valley. The loss of our daughter and some other hard things on top of that put me in a place where I have never dwelt before. These events weren’t the first time I’d experienced loss or suffering either, but they sent me further into sorrow than I had ever known before. From the moment we found out Maizie’s little body was not made for this world and she wouldn’t join us outside the womb, I think we did a lot of things right as far as grief goes – also realize we did some things crazy, but grief. We let people in to care for us (Thank you Jesus for the meal train for 2.5 months). We started going to counseling both as a couple and separately. I made spending some sort of time in prayer/scripture a non-negotiable even on days when I was just flat out mad at God. We gave ourselves freedom to feel all the feelings; we didn’t try to press them down or cover them up. Even with all these things, at times the darkness and pain of the loss were overwhelming, especially to me.
But June marked a change in the darkness and that was not the month we became pregnant with this third child, that happened in February. It was not a new pregnancy that lifted the darkness. Read: please don’t tell anyone going through this type of loss that the next healthy child will make it better or help them get over their loss. I want both of the babies that were due in 2017 to be in my arms. I will forever want both of them. What I want to focus on sharing today are some of the ways God worked in my life to break the darkness. The situation has not changed: Maizie is still gone. There is still sadness, complicated feelings, and fearful thoughts; but, the sense of total despair is gone.
In June, I started on a consistent work out regimen. I had been walking and doing some weights beginning once my body physically recovered from the time in the hospital; but, between the grief and then becoming pregnant again, (and all the vomit that comes with it for me) I hadn’t pushed myself very hard. I started attending Barre3 classes 3-4 times a week and it is consistently one of the most life giving hours of my day. It is hard, especially with a pregnant body that keeps getting heavier. God and I have had some good conversations in those hard places. He’s reminded me that He carries me through hard things. He empowers me to do things I can’t do on my own strength. As I physically hold my body in a position, I’ve been reminded that He holds me when I feel my strength failing. I’ve used the hour to breathe, to pray, to repeat scripture or memorize new verses on index cards. I’ve watched my body be able to do hard things and I’ve been reminded that God can and will get me through hard things too. Not to mention, the people there are wonderful, the childcare is only $5 for an hour, and endorphins are just a good thing. One thing I’ve learned here is next time I face grief (I know there will be a next time, because bad things happen), I will be getting my butt to some sort of gym consistently.
Only God could have known who I would need in my life during this time. He perfectly placed a handful of friends into my social circle over the previous 3 years in Dallas who all have walked through late pregnancy or early infant loss. Some of these friends I walked along side during this hard season for them and some I only came to know months or years after their loss. But this group of women have been a life line for me.
They have been able to graciously and lovingly tell me truth with the knowledge of what it looks like to walk this road. They are able to tell me when I’m not being crazy (or when I am) in a way that others do not understand. They have shown me what it looks like to walk in hope and faith, while being all too aware of what the worst-case scenario truly looks like. When fear arrived a few weeks ago, God placed three of these friends randomly in my path the very next day (all three of whom have gone on to have perfectly healthy babies following their loss). I told them about what had happened and what my thoughts were, all of them were able to say they’d felt the exact same thing. Each time, we cried together and acknowledged the loss we feel. We were able to talk about the difference between living in fear (which is not of the Lord) and having fearful thoughts come in that we have to acknowledge as real possibilities. They shared that they too will never be confident a baby is going to arrive until it is safely nestled in their arms. We share faith in a God who we know will be near to us, loving toward us, and for our eternal good in any situation. I am forever thankful that God put these soul sisters into my life before I had any clue the way I would need them. There is something so comforting about a friend who can look you in the eye and say “me too.” If you don’t have those people as you walk through something hard, find them. Other people have not walked your road, but they have walked a similar road; find a few who can be your guide a few steps ahead of you on the journey.
Lastly after a six-week leave from my job with YoungLives, I returned in time for the most difficult part of the year: signing girls up for camp. This job is hard – emotionally and physically draining, leading a team of volunteers, dealing with girls from traumatic pasts – I often describe it as herding cats trying to get this motley crew to all move in the same direction. My start back was hard, a lot of things had gone wrong or hadn’t been dealt with during my leave. I came to the conclusion that either 1) Satan had a big target on my back and was trying to take me out in every area of my life or 2) God had been telling me softly it was time to transition out of the role and now was screaming it. JR concluded it was far more likely to be the first option and that I needed to fight. At that point, I was sick of fighting. Tired of fighting my way out of the pit of despair. Tired of fighting for relationships. Tired of fighting to be a functioning human while so sad. Tired of fighting to still be a mom and a wife. I was ready to quit. JR reminded me if there was one thing I was passionate about fighting for it was Jesus and these teenage mamas so I needed to fight for them.
It was terribly hard, but as I fought for these girls, I saw my fight return in other areas of my life. God and I went on battle together for their butts to get on a plane to camp and for their souls. I saw him work in mysteriously small creative ways to open doors to get girls to camp. I’ve got lots of good stories about this if you’re ever bored, or a YL leader needing some encouragement to knock on every door to get a teen to camp. As I saw Him fight through me for these girls, I remembered that He had been fighting for me all this time too. I saw the way He creatively pursued them and it opened my eyes to some of the small ways He had been pursuing me. He spoke to me that there is a bigger purpose for my life and that He put me in this role with design. While fighting for these girls, God gave me the will to fight again in every area of my life. He was with me in the battle. He is with me in the battle.
Along this journey, we’ve needed some time and space. There was a season to take a break from work and spend some time on myself and my family. There was also a time to put my big girl pants on, pray a lot, and start fighting with God again to push back other peoples’ darkness. I’m thankful God used JR and YoungLives to get my feet really moving again. Sometimes it takes putting the focus on someone else and their need to realize you aren’t the only broken and grieving one.
As I sit here today on pregnancy and infant loss day, there are some parts of this journey for which I am thankful. Now, I’d still wish the pain away in a second and prefer to be snuggling a six-month old; but I am beginning to catch glimmers of how God has been truly good even during the darkest of days. For those still sitting in the deepest darkness, God’s light will shine. Until it begins to break through, my heart truly aches with yours.