A long journey

It feels like we’ve been living at doctor appointments the past year and a half now.  My 2.5 year old knows how to get from the parking lot to the right places in the hospital.  When she plays pretend at home, she can tell you if she is being Dr.Waldrep (OB) where she will get out the stethoscope and listen to baby’s heartbeat in my belly or Dr. Kerr (blood doctor) where she will check my blood pressure and draw blood from my arm.  This has been a long journey.

Dr. EmersonUntil recently, I’ve tried to mainly focus on the present with this pregnancy.  To be thankful each day for the growing life in my womb and my body’s ability to nurture and provide.

But over the past month, we’ve started to look at the future more.  We’ve talked about what we want the time in the hospital to look like.  I’ve imagined actually making it to week 40.  While this is a good thing, it has also served as a reminder of how much we can lose.  Even as I look towards the finish line, even as I consider how perfectly healthy this pregnancy has been, it’s hard for me to imagine a baby coming home.

Two weeks ago, I had four different friends approach me in a five day period and tell me that they had a vivid dream of me holding a baby, this baby.  It’s almost as if God was giving them hope for me and encouraging me to keep being hopeful as well.  I wouldn’t say I’m currently a pessimist and believe something bad will happen this time.  I’m simply all to aware that everything could go wrong in the blink of an eye.

Monday I went in to the labor and delivery department for my pre-admission appointment.  I walked past the newborn nursery for the first time since we lost Maizie.  I had to turn my eyes away as I thought about my baby girl.  I walked into a nurse’s office around the corner and had to talk through my medical history – prior pregnancies and deliveries.  We spent a lot of time on Maizie and the effects of that loss on my body.  Sitting there feet from the nursery where I thought she would have been made the pain sear all over again.  Fear started to creep in as we discussed my bleeding.

“Are you planning to breastfeed?” the nurse asked.  “Yes, I want to actually use the milk that comes in this time,” I thought while remembering the milk that was never used with Maizie, while giving her the verbal answer, “Hopefully yes.”

I started to worry about being a patient again and thought about the medical trauma both my body and soul have endured.  I left that office and went to an appointment with my blood Dr, to test my clotting factors and begin making our plan for this next delivery.  How do we prevent bleeding?  I’ve never worried about my bleeding disorder before (although it’s been a constant source of angst for my mother – you should have seen the way she opposed me playing contact sports as a kid), but thanks to December 6th I now understand that blood loss could take my life.

I’m still hopeful that everything will be fine: healthy baby, healthy mommy.  I’m hoping all the fear, worry, and sadness will truly be swallowed up in the joy of victory.  I can see it happening.  A new set of memories will begin to be more present in my mind.  It is this current in-between stage where the past feels more real than the present or the future.  This season where I look with a degree of envy towards people who feel free enough to monogram things and talk with certainty of a baby’s arrival.

I am looking forward to the hopeful newness of this next child.  I so desperately want to meet them alive.  But, I need to continue to be honest with myself about the mix of things I feel.  Our family’s hope has always been to freely grieve the loss so that we are as free as possible to continue to move forward.  I don’t want to give pain, fear, or worry power to reign over me in the darkness.  When they stay hidden in my thoughts, they run with fury in my mind all day long.  This week I’ve sought to identify the specifics, to be sad over their presence because of my past experience, and to continue to move forward in thankfulness for my present, and to hope for our future.  It’s a very delicate dance, all amplified by hormones ;-).

Romans 8 came to mind today as I was trying to process the roller coaster this week has been.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

“For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25).

I get that groaning.  I get that longing.  I want complete redemption.  The redemption of my broken body.  The redemption of my pain.  The redemption of Maizie’s death.  I feel the pain of it all presently.  But even in this pain, I know there is a glory that will be revealed.  The birth of a healthy baby will be a taste of it, but that is not the redemption nor the glory.  My deepest hope is for the moment in eternity when all things will be made new.  That is what I’m really waiting for.  That is where my confidence truly lies.  As I’ve waited for a healthy baby to land in my arms the past year and a half, I’m learning what it looks like to wait with hope and patience.

 

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#3

Tomorrow I have my mid-pregnancy anatomy scan.  Yes, we’re pregnant again and have made it to the 19-week mark.

As I think about this appointment, the same four words keep running through my head.  “There is no heartbeat.”

It was six months ago I was in this exact same position.  Halfway through a pregnancy.  4 months of puking my brains out.  Visible bump.  A healthy sonogram at 8 weeks.  Two appointments with an audible heartbeat.  Everything looking great on the outside.

Yet last time everything was actually a mess on the inside.  We had no idea.

Over the past four months, I’ve battled more fear and anxiety than at any other point in my life.  We’re so thankful to be pregnant again.  Thankful to have spent 19-weeks with our third little love.  We’re hopeful for a future with this child.  At the same time, we’re scared to experience loss again.

People want to say things like, “Have faith it will all be fine” or “I’m sure everything will be fine this time, keep believing.”  But I don’t want to put my faith and trust in things that will fail.  It may not be fine.  This baby may not be healthy.  We may not hold this third child either.  If my faith had only been in these things last time, my entire foundation would have been dismantled.

What I do know is that what God has done over the past six months He is capable of doing again.  I want to put my faith in what won’t fail and what won’t let me down.  My situation may get worse, but my God will not.  God will be near.  God will pour love and grace out on me.  God will heal any broken part.  God will make all things new.  God will give me life eternal.  God will always work for the eternal good of those who love Him.

I am not owed a healthy baby this time.  I am not guaranteed a smooth sailing pregnancy.  I do not get to miss out suffering this go around simply because I took my turn last time.  I wish it worked that way.

I am hopeful that it will look different.  Yet at the same time, I am all too aware that it may not.

God has been asking me each day to simply trust Him.  To be with Him and to remember who He is.  I’ve been reminded to love Him for who He is and not just for what He can do for me.  He can give me a perfectly healthy baby.  He also cannot.

One of the things we are most thankful for with Maizie is that we had no idea something was wrong until after her life had ended.  I went through 21-weeks of pregnancy rejoicing in the miracle of a life inside my womb.  We opted to not perform any early genetic testing this time for the same reason.  We want to be truly thankful for each healthy day we have with this child.  The biggest difference this time is we feel afraid to have much hope for the future or to dream about days to come.

We held off on telling people for a number of reasons.  We needed to hold it close to our own hearts for awhile and to really wrestle some with God.  One of my biggest fears in beginning to share this news was to hear the word congratulations or to see other people only feel excitement for us.  I haven’t been able to get to excited or really joyful.  I have deeply tasted thankfulness though.  I was worried that I would feel like a bad mother if other people were more excited than me.  What kind of mom isn’t the most excited person about her child?  However as we’ve slowly released this news over the past couple weeks, I’ve ended up being thankful for people who can be excited for this child.  They are doing something for me that I can’t quite do for myself right now.  I think that’s ok.  It’s ok that they only taste the excitement, because they don’t know the pain.  It’s also ok that I’m not excited yet, because I am too deeply aware of what loss in this area may cost me.  My favorite response though is from people who acknowledge the tension of what we must be feeling.

I’m hopeful that tomorrow will look completely different than December 6th.  I’m desperate for it to look different.  But even if doesn’t, I know God will be with me.

Smith baby #3, We all love you and we really want to hold you.

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Do the pro-choice and pro-life movements really empower women?

A large number of women who choose to end the life of an unborn baby actually do so because they feel as if they have no choice.  Whether it is a middle class white woman who feels shame for a pregnancy out of wedlock or a minority teenager who is told her and her child will amount to nothing if she brings this child into the world.  I’ve had personal friends in these and many other similar circumstances.  Specifically in my work with YoungLives, Young Life’s ministry to teenage mothers, I have seen numerous young women visit clinics where they are belittled and pressured into considering abortion.  Hearing their stories of their encounters with the health industry and others in their community is heartbreaking.  Making a choice when you feel as though you have no other choice does not look like women have rights or choice to me.

Here is where I see both the pro-choice and pro-life movements failing.  We are so busy arguing about the principle that the majority of us aren’t actually doing something for these women.  What if we worked together to really empower these women to have a choice.  What if we worked together to show them the beautiful future they and their children can have.  I can imagine a day in this country when every women would feel that she had all the love, support and resources necessary to bring her child into the world.

Over the past day, I’ve had and witnessed many interesting conversations on this topic in light of my recent post.  One of my friends who shares a different view than me shared this thought earlier today:

“When, in reality, the VAST majority of us, pro-choice, pro-life, whatever, I really think are on the same side of things when it comes to the ‘end’ we are striving for.  We just disagree, sometimes deeply, on the ‘means.’ I want a world in which abortions don’t exist because there is no need for them because we do so well at supporting both young men and women before, during, and after pregnancy.  I think most people do.”

For the sake of discussion, let’s say that we do all want every human to feel supported and loved before, during and after pregnancy in such a way that they would feel empowered to choose adoption or personally raising their child.  What does it take to really love and care for women, specifically those who may currently feel as though they have no choice?

I know far less people will read this post than my last one.  I know far less people will share this one.  We would all rather think and speak instead of act.  It is far more costly to act.  Acting gets your heart tied to the issue, not just your brain.  Acting gets your hands dirty in the messy work of redemption.  Acting means you will know the real life stories of people, not just what if scenarios.

We are all called to care for the women and men making these difficult decisions.  A lot of this work can be done together.  If you are pro-choice, it can be to ensure that all women really have complete freedom to make any choice when they are in this situation.  Many, many, pro-choice people have told me that being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion.  While I personally still have difficulty with this statement, it does lead me to conclude that you really do want women to feel empowered to make whichever choice she wants to make.  This means that all choices should look easily plausible.  If you are pro-life, it can be to ensure that the woman has all the resources and tools she needs to continue with pregnancy, adoption or parenting.

Alright, so here’s our call to love these women and men.  To get off Facebook and comments and speeches and marches and actually get to know people.  There are a million ways to do this and when you think through the possibilities you may become overwhelmed and simply do nothing.  But I challenge all of us to do something.  It doesn’t have to be everything, but it needs to be something.

Volunteer at a pregnancy resource center.  Equip the women with the tools they need.  Have a conversation with them about their life and what they currently need to succeed.  Looking for a great one in Dallas?  Try Thrive.

Mentor a teenager who finds herself pregnant.  Looking for a great option as a Christian woman?  Try YoungLives.  We walk with girls from pregnancy to parenting.  We cheer them on.  We talk about the value they and their children have.  It’s beautiful and redeeming and brings together families from all different walks of life.

YounglivesEducate yourself about what is available through nonprofits and the government to people in these situations.  40% of the abortions done in the US today are done by black women.  Find a school in your city with minority students and ask to volunteer to educate the students on available services.  Most of the schools are desperate for help.

Decide your family should adopt.  Communicate to a birth mother that her child is loved, wanted and will be provided for by you.  While engaging in an open adoption, love that birth mother.  Tell her thank you for her courage and bravery.  Tell her thank you for giving your family something for which you have longed.  Some of the most beautiful things I have seen in recent years has been the way an adoptive family has loved a birth mother.  Show a woman that adoption is a great option.  Want to partner with an organization that communicates how adoption is a brave choice on all sides?  Brave Love.

Find a group that educates youth against violence, specifically sexual violence.  Volunteer with them to teach the next generation about how to treat others with love and respect.

This list is just a start.  You people are smarter than me and bigger lovers of others.  You are passionate and driven and relentless.  You are people that can make a big impact on this world with your life.  Don’t simply use your words and your thoughts, use your hands and your heart.

If you’re in the Dallas area, I’ve got a long list of organizations you should check out.  Just reach out.  So many places are desperate for more volunteers.  If we all do a small piece, we can make a big impact.  Sometimes big means changing the world of just one person.

Together let’s really be about women.  Loving women.  Equipping women.  Empowering women.