April 18th

I remember the first time April 18th became a significant date.  I had just taken a positive pregnancy test and plugged in the date of my last period into an app.  Due date: April 18th.

I remember the second time April 18th became a significant date.  I sat in a sonogram room 8-weeks pregnant for my first OB appointment of that pregnancy.  After measuring the size of the baby with an already beating heart, “April 18th should be your due date,” confirmed the technician.

Then it was sometime on the afternoon of December 6th as I sat in our living room trying to grasp the fact that my baby’s heart had stopped beating that I realized April 18th would now be a day I would dread.  A day when something was supposed to be due, a something that would never arrive.

It felt so far away in December, as any woman 21-weeks into pregnancy can relate to, the due date feels so far away.  What a roller coaster the past 19 weeks have been.  There have been many sad days, several days where I just feel numb, and a sprinkling of joy-filled days that remind me it will be different one day.

It has been my empty belly that I have been mourning, but now it is my empty arms of which I am aware.

There are days where I feel crazy.  Crazy that it still hurts this bad.  Crazy that I can’t be the person I used to be.  Crazy that I can’t handle my old workload or pace of life.  Crazy that bellies and babies make me cry.  Crazy that I can miss someone so deeply whom I never met.

Some of the most comforting things over the past 19 weeks have been reading the words and listening to the stories of women who have been through something similar.  Though the stories are different, the sentiments seem to be the same.  In reading their words, I feel less crazy.  My grief seems more “normal.”

I thought by April 18th I’d be holding a newborn or headed to the hospital to deliver one.  Instead, I’m headed to the beach, thanks to the generosity of some friends.  As thankful as I am for this gift, I wish I was at Medical City hospital or home exhausted nursing my days away.

I thought I was crazy enough to have myself fully convinced this baby would come by April 4th and that this week wouldn’t be so bad.  But this week feels like a rude awakening.  40 weeks since conception.  No baby here.  No baby coming.

On December 6th, part of me died.  Since then, it feels like a lot of me has been dead.  I sat in church on Easter Sunday this past weekend and cried my eyes out.  He brings back life.  He brings new life.  He brings life to things that were dead.

I’m hoping with all I’ve got that my Maizie girl is alive, that God’s mercy and grace for the unborn and the infant is unparalleled.

I’m hoping that He will bring new life to the parts of me that are dead.  May flesh return to these dry bones.  May something pure and beautiful emerge from the ashes of this fire.

As I’ve thought about new life, I thought back to a summer in Colorado a few years ago.  Forest fires had swept through the area the year before.  A local explained to us that new vegetation was beginning to grow.  It wasn’t the same trees and plants that had been there before, but a new variety that was fit to grow in hostile ground.  This plant would change the soil and over time, different vegetation would return to the land.  It wasn’t the same as it was before, but it was new life beginning.

I’m hoping for the same.  I can’t go back to life before December 5th.  Maizie’s life and death will forever shape my existence.  But, new life, different life, can grow.  This is the promise of the resurrection: life after death.

Maizie bibleOn Friday as Jesus died, His people mourned.  On Saturday as He was gone, they waited.  On Sunday as He returned, they celebrated.  We live believing that the resurrection has happened but that many of the promises of new life will not be fulfilled until Jesus returns again.  In many ways, we’re living on Saturday.  We grieve.  We wait.  We hope for what is to come.

On the day I thought I would hold you

Our sweet Maizie girl was not due till April 18th, but I had convinced myself she would come today so that our family could make it to an out of town wedding we are ALL in on April 8th.  Yes, I am crazy.

 

Maizie,

Today is the day when I thought I would hold you for the first time; but, it’s not going to be.  That reality still hasn’t fully hit yet.  There have been so many times where I’ve looked down at my stomach over the past three months and been surprised by what I see.  You haven’t been with me for some time now.

I wanted to meet you today.  I wanted to take in all your little features.  I wanted to hear your little gurgles and cries.  I wanted to introduce you to your daddy and your sister and your grandparents and maybe even an aunt and uncle or two.

I wanted to snuggle you and nurse you.  I wanted to delight in you and love you.

On December 6 when I found out you had died, it wasn’t just my little daughter in my tummy who had died.  It was my newborn who had died.  My toddler who had died.  My teenager who had died.  My grown-up daughter who had died.  It was not simply the end of a pregnancy.  It was the end of a life I had dreamed about, planned for and clearly envisioned in some ways.

I wish today was the beginning of a new type of journey for us.  The journey where you are out of my tummy and in the world.  The time where I get to love you, parent you, shepherd you, read to you, feed you, play with you, laugh with you, cry with you and sleep with you.  These are all the things I am missing today.

You will forever be dear to us.  We gave you your name because you are our treasure.  Your worth was not determined by the fact that you were wanted by your parents.  Your value is intrinsic because you are a created person with a body and a soul.

I’m sad today that I won’t know you here.  I won’t know what you like and what you love.  I won’t know what bothers you or what excites you.  I won’t know your passions and heart.  I won’t know your dreams.  I won’t know your quirks or your attitude.  I won’t know your giggle or your different types of cries.

Your big sister Emerson loves babies right now.  I think at least half of the words she says in a day are “baby.”  Pointing out babies we see.  Asking to find a baby.  Playing with her baby doll.  She would have loved to have you here.  She probably would have loved you a little too hard.  We all would have loved you hard.  We all still do love you hard.  And it’s been really hard.

I was sad when I heard the words “there is no heartbeat.”  I was sad after your body left my body.  Sad when my breast milk came in and sad when it left.  Sad when my body returned to giving me a physical reminder that I wasn’t pregnant.  Sad when I saw tummies that were the size mine “should have been.”  Sad when my friends had their babies.  Today, I’m sad my arms are empty.  I’m sad that you aren’t here.

empty handsWe would have loved to teach you all the important things.  Bow-wearing.  Playing.  Having joy.  Praying.  Loving God.  Loving others.  Welcoming people into your home.  Rodeo-ing.  Dancing.  Serving.  Forgiving.  Bible reading.  Leading.  Singing.  Exercising.  Cooking.  Sharing around the table.  All the things we love.

You’ve forever changed me sweet girl.  You’ve made me acknowledge life in the womb in a deeper way than I knew before.  You’ve made me experience deep sorrow, but stretched me to empathize with others in their suffering in a new way.  You’ve made me not take life for granted and to appreciate each day I have with any of my children.  You’ve opened my eyes to the delicateness of life in the womb and have forever changed the way I will carry a pregnancy.  You’ve driven me to Jesus in a way I’ve never known before.  You’ve made me look to your daddy for strength and comfort in new ways.  You’ve made me acknowledge my own weaknesses and limitations.  Loving deeply opens the heart to great hurt, but I wouldn’t have wanted to love you any less.

My hope is that you’re in heaven now and that your reality is far greater than mine.  My hope is that you’re near to Jesus and delighting in Him.  In just a little while, we hope to be there with you.

I’ll love you forever and miss you always.

Love,

Your mom

 

For all those who have longed for babies they wished to hold and all who will in the future, my aching heart is with yours today.

 

wishing for

What I wish my reality was today

Even if

I don’t think I will ever figure out the relationship between prayer and faith and how God answers some prayers and others go seemingly unanswered.  I don’t think we’re meant to figure it out until Heaven.

The whole time I was pregnant with Maizie, I prayed for a healthy baby.  I prayed in the exact same way I prayed for a healthy baby during my pregnancy with Emerson.  When we found out Maizie had died, it was the first time we had learned that anything with our baby was not healthy. God doesn’t answer prayers differently than we hoped because we didn’t have enough faith when we prayed.

In prayer we lay the desires of our hearts before the Lord.  We ask for Him to move.  We plead for Him to have mercy.  We ask in faith, believing that He has the power to do whatever we are asking.  It takes faith to ask for God to do something that seems impossible.

“It takes great faith to say to God, ‘Even if you don’t heal me or the one I love, even if you don’t change my circumstances, even if you don’t restore this relationship, even if you allow me to lose what is most precious to me, I will still love you and obey you and believe that you are good.” – Nancy Guthrie in Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow

But it may take greater faith to say to God,  “Even if you don’t do what I desire, I will still love you, follow you, and trust your goodness.”

This is where I currently live and wrestle.  Even though.  Even if.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I still love you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will still follow you.

Even though you didn’t give me the healthy baby I prayed for, I will trust your goodness.

These truths.  On repeat.

Today I made a list of all my even though’s and even if’s:

Even though you took my daughter from me.

Even if it happens again.

Even if we never get another little girl.

Even if a third sonogram picture never makes it onto the fridge because we never get pregnant again.

third sonogramEven if my heart aches for a long time.

Even if my next pregnancy is really hard.

Even if JR and I struggle in our marriage through this loss.

Even if I feel unheard and unloved in my loss.

Even if some of our strained relationships never heal.

Even if Emerson is the only child I raise.

Even if I’m stuck in a battle with fear and anxiety when it comes to pregnancy for the rest of my childbearing years.

Even if people hurt my feelings with their insensitivity.

Even if everyone else I know seems to have easy pregnancies that work.

Even if all these things happen, I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

God doesn’t owe me anything.  I haven’t earned extra blessings by years of vocational ministry.  I trust and submit to Him, even when it leads to my pain and my worst fears.

Isn’t this the example that Jesus gave us in the garden and then at the cross?

In Matthew 26 he prays these prayers in the garden:
“My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39).
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

Jesus made his even if list.  Even if I have to go to the cross.  Even if I have to be separated from you.  Even if I have to endure torture and ridicule.  Even if I have to take the blame for sins I didn’t commit.  Even if you can’t take this cup from me.  I will still love you, follow you and trust your goodness.

He went to the cross with great faith that God would do what only He can do.  It lead to suffering, but it was out of God’s love and goodness.

I don’t know what fears, heartaches and trials are on your even though or even if list.  But they are probably the very things that could cause you to doubt God or give up on Him. They are probably the things for which you pray most passionately.  These are the areas where God is asking you to have even bigger faith.  Even if all of those things happen, will you still love Him, follow Him and trust His goodness?

Even if I never marry.

Even if I never have kids.

Even if I never get the promotion.

Even if my brother never conquers his addiction.

Even if my marriage falls apart.

Even if my parents die.

Even if I fight cancer.

Even if my child dies.

Even if my child is disabled.

Even if my strength or speech never returns.

Even if my kids are taken away from me.

Our situations do not determine the goodness or trustworthiness of God.

Even if all of your worst nightmares happen, God still loves you.  God still leads you.  God is still good.  He sees with an eternal perspective that is difficult for us to understand.  He let everything happen on Jesus’ even if list so that you and me could spend eternity with Him.  That is the greatest gift.

I know that God is good.  I believe that.  But honestly, He doesn’t feel good right now.  So I’m telling myself these truths on repeat.  He will work all things out for good for those who love Him.  Eternal good, not necessarily present-tense good.