Pain in childbearing

During my first pregnancy, I was never nervous or full of worry.  I looked forward to OB appointments.  Besides a pretty significant battle with morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy, everything else was fairly easy.  I thoroughly enjoyed pressing the red button for more pain medicine during labor.  My daughter entered the world perfectly.  At the time, I thought I had escaped the whole “pain in childbearing” thing thanks to modern medicine.

Smith family birthMy second pregnancy started out similar.  Although, by this time I had more friends who had endured terrible pregnancy stories.  I wasn’t worried, but I also wasn’t naive this time around.  Then on December 6th, at 21 weeks pregnant, we found out that our daughter’s heart had stopped beating.  In an instant, I became very aware of the pain that can be found in childbearing.  Once we entered the second trimester, we felt free to dream and plan for this little life.  With the results of one sonogram, all those dreams and plans shattered.

Oddly enough, my greatest comfort over the past three months has come from Genesis 3.  When God created the world, He created it good.  He made Adam and Eve to be in relationship with each other and with Him.  However, Adam and Eve choose to disobey God and do things their own way.  God lays out the effects of their decision in Genesis 3.  To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).

Childbearing.  Noun.  The act of bringing forth children.  Pregnancy.

I had read this section of scripture hundreds of times before.  I always thought it referred to labor and delivery.  But in late December as I studied the words, I realized it actually means all of it.

The longing for a husband to come in order to one day have kids.

The years of infertility and of trying to get pregnant.

The jealousy as others celebrate pregnancies and welcome infants.

The anxiety and fear over what if’s and questionable test results

The unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

The abortion.

The stillborn child in the third trimester.

The early miscarriages.

The premature infant with disabilities.

The newborn who only lives a few minutes, hours, or days.

My child who left me at the halfway mark.

The lack of care and empathy from others as you suffer in one of these areas.

There is much pain in childbearing.

I’m sitting here thinking of my own pain and the stories of all the people I know.  Over the past three months, I’ve heard so many stories of loss and pain when it comes to pregnancy.  So many of my people have bleeding wounds or scars due to this area.  Many of you reading this know this pain well.  I honestly don’t know how to respond when people share about their new pregnancy right now.  Good Luck? I don’t think I’ll want to hear congratulations in the future, maybe simply a promise to pray for God to be near.

The comforting thing about Genesis 3 is that God tells us the world is going to be this way.  Pregnancy is the area for women where we are going to be very aware of the brokenness in the world.  God is not surprised by our longing, worry, sorrow, pain, heartache or disappointment.  In fact, He has a purpose for it.

Our pain in bringing forth children is supposed to be what makes us long for redemption, for a Savior.  It is supposed to be what makes us long for a new way of living and for a new earth.  It is supposed to make us yearn for Jesus.

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about this form of suffering. There are so many why questions that go through my brain.  But there is something comforting about knowing that God was prepared for this.  I may not have known it was coming, but He did.  None of it was a mistake, especially not her little life.

God wants me to want Him more.  As my longing and wanting for my daughter increases as the day approaches when I thought I would hold her, I am praying that my want for Jesus would be even deeper than the pain.

Pain in childbearing is part of His plan for the redemption of the world.  I don’t understand it.  It is not my plan.  But, I’m going to trust Him.

 

To anyone who is currently enduring this type of pain or has in the past, I am so sorry for your heartache.  I wish I could wipe it away.  But, I do know the One who promises to make all things new and who will wipe away every tear from your eyes.  He is the one who remove mourning and pain.  My prayer is that your pain will push you more towards Jesus.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world” – John 16:33

 

Glimpses of joy

This week has been one of the hardest for me.  It has been a can’t-stop-crying-please-don’t-make-me-get-out-of-my-pj’s-I-can’t-accomplish-anything week.  The closer we get to April 18th, the bigger the difference is between my dreams and my current reality.  I thought at this point it would feel like we are three months out from the loss.  Instead, it feels like it all hurts even more.

Part of the hurt is from my perception of some of my prayers being unanswered.  For 21 weeks, I had no idea that there was anything wrong with the child inside my womb.  I prayed each day for a healthy baby.  That did not happen.  With any loss, there are prayers that we feel are unanswered.  It is easy to question if we have been forgotten or simply ignored.  In these situations it is hard to reconcile what we know to be true from the Bible with what we are experiencing.

Tuesday was a particularly terrible day.  I remembered one of my friends had told me to listen to a specific song the day before but I hadn’t taken the time to do it yet.  I pulled it up on spotify and enjoyed it.  Then the next song came on, “Sovereign” by Chris Tomlin.   One of the repeating lines: “God whatever comes my way I will trust you.”   As I listened to the song, I realized I recognized it.

For our rehearsal dinner almost four years ago my amazing mother-in-law had put together a photo slideshow.  As the song played, I started seeing the photos in my head.  This song played at the end of the show as photos of JR and I together flashed on the screen.  I remember sitting in that moment – in a room full of people that I love, the night before my wedding – thinking, “Yes, God has worked everything for good.  Whatever comes my way I will trust you.”  It seemed so clear then in a moment of joy that everything in my life up to that point, including past heart break, had led me to that moment marrying JR.

As I sat crying listening to the song God seemed to whisper to me, “What you believed about me in the best of times, is still true about me in the worst of times.  As you trusted me then, you can trust me now.”

Prompted by the song lyrics, I came to a point of surrender.

All my hopes.  All I need.  Held in your hands.

Two daughters close in age, a healthy pregnancy, a big belly this spring.  Peace, joy, energy, good health.

All my life.  All of me.  Held in your hands.

My health, my well being, my blood.  My desires, my thoughts, my faith, my passions.

All my fears.  All my dreams.  Held in your hands.

This repeating again, no more kids, miscarriage, depression, problems getting pregnant, being forgotten, never feeling joy again.  A big family, a loving family, intimacy with friends and family, feeling healthy in ministry.

God whatever comes my way I will trust you.

God and I have wrestled this week.  It has not been fun.

Emerson and I made plans to go to the zoo today with a good friend and her son.  For the first time in awhile, I felt free this morning to ask God to give me glimpses of joy today.  I am so tired of being sad.  There hasn’t been joy here in awhile; not in me, not for others.

And this happened today.

Feeding birdsWe were randomly asked if we wanted to do the junior ranger program for free so they could train new staff.  We had a backstage pass to feeding animals, petting animals and setting up their habitats.  For a few hours as I watched my daughter and her friend enjoy their special treatment, I forgot about my pain.  There were glimpses of joy.

Junior rangerThis grief stuff is messy.  Some of you know it so much more intimately than I do.  It’s a heavy backpack that you are carrying regardless of what you’re doing.  It steals your energy and your laughter.  It puts you on edge.  It makes sadness, anger and apathy your best friends.  It makes you wrestle with God and with scripture and with what you’ve always thought to be true.  It can convince you that there will never be good days again and you will always feel this terrible.  It tries to tell you that God doesn’t hear you or see you or remember you.

But today I’d like to call grief a liar.  In little ways, God is reminding me that He seems me.  He has heard every prayer.  He will not forget me or cast me aside for another.

toddler plantHe sees you.

He has heard all of your prayers.

He will never forget you.

He will not cast you aside for another.

Toddler hands

Thank you

My mom taught me to write a hand written thank you note for everything.  It was terrible as a child to sit after a birthday party or Christmas and write thank you notes to all our relatives.  Now, I’m really thankful my mother instilled that value into me.  Handwritten notes are a dying art form today.  I’d like to write thank you note to every person who has cared for us well during the past few months, but that isn’t going to happen for some time, if ever.  I’m still viewing getting dressed and doing something each day as a win.  My counselor supports that belief.

Thank youIt’s been almost three months since our world flipped turned upside down with the loss of our precious Maizie.  Honestly, this month the loss hurts worse than last month.  This should have been the final stretch of our pregnancy.  Now we are in a sort of alternate reality where the things we had planned, prayed for and prepared for are not happening.  My body is noticeably different than what I thought it would be.  We had previously said no to several trips and plans that now we will be attending.  The pack of women I was pregnant with have started having their children as I’m contemplating starting a first trimester all over again.  As each pregnancy announcement is posted on social media I find myself thinking, “August?  People are already announcing babies due in August?  So even if I get pregnant now, I’m way beyond that.  I wanted April.”  This loss continues to feel pretty bitter as what I thought would be a very exciting Spring is turning into months that I’m dreading.

I’m trying to not choose despair or anger.  I’m trying to choose joy.  To choose joy, I have to choose rest, honesty and thankfulness.  I have to choose counseling, community and crying when necessary.

Before December 6th, I thought I was a good friend.  I thought I was the type of friend you’d want in the trenches with you when the battle came.   Then I went to battle and found out that the people around me are way more thoughtful and compassionate and present than I ever knew to be.  Today in order to choose joy, I’d like to choose thankfulness, by writing my thank you to so many of the people who have shown up for us.

Most people genuinely want to be a good friend to someone who is suffering.  Often times, they just don’t know what to do or what to say.  I hope that this list gives you some ideas of where to start.  I’ve learned that saying something is far better than saying nothing and it is totally okay to admit you have no idea what to do in this situation but you’d like to do something.

Thank You

To the family who didn’t hesitate to drive into town
To the cousin who drove from Austin to care for Emerson during our hospital stay
For the handwritten notes that are still showing up to my home
For asking what our due date was and putting it into your calendar so you don’t forget either
For using Maizie’s name when you talk about her
For visiting us in the hospital
To the friends who have stopped by just to pray with us
To the friends who drove into town to be with me
For all the text messages, phone calls and voicemails (some yet to be returned)
For the bottles of wine and baked goods
For letting us talk about other things and for being patient as we talk about the same things again and again
For sending us a Hannah’s hope box and a hope mommies box
For sending care packages to Emerson to help provide entertainment for her while mom isn’t feeling it
For sending books and devotionals
To ALL the friends who kept us fed for two solid months (and to anyone using my hello fresh promo code which gets us both a discount and helps me justify staying on that service awhile longer)
To the friends who said they were getting a babysitter, they would pay for ours too, and we’re going out to eat
To the neighbor who showed up the morning after our loss with hot breakfast.  And who showed up again a week later with hot breakfast again.  It’s like she knows mornings are the absolute worst as your reality sinks in all over again.  She redefined what it means to be a good neighbor
To the friend who borrowed a car seat from a friend so that she would always be able to pick Emerson up at a moments notice
To ALL the friends who have watched Emerson for free in order to send me to counseling, or to provide me with some much needed quiet, or to give JR and me time together
To friends who have connected us with people who have been on a similar journey
For sending kind notes in your Christmas cards that acknowledged the bitterness of the holiday season for us and the arrival of so many adorable baby photos from so many
For talking to me about your pregnancy announcement before posting it on social media because you want to acknowledge that it may be difficult
For not rushing us through grief and for being patient as we sit in “not okay.” For acknowledging the continual difficulty and losses we are experiencing.
To the friend who meets me at the mall at a moment’s notice to help me pick out something to wear for a big event as I’m frustrated about my current size and not styling a large baby bump
For saying things like “I’m sorry,” and “I love you”
To the friends who donated to YoungLives in honor of Maizie’s death
For offering things – babysitting, food, pedicures – and letting me decide if that’s what I needed.  When you offer something specific, instead of saying “let me know if you need anything,” it makes it easier for a got-it-together-normally girl like me to admit my need and accept help
To everyone who helped plan or prepare for my YoungLives fundraiser last week.  You people made that event happen when I felt weary and defeated.
For continuing to show up, to ask how we’re doing, praying and checking in.  You have made us feel not forgotten and you have not expected us to be over this yet.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35