Sunday, November 18, 2007
Hurt and affliction will run a believer back to her knees more than any other emotional event. Loss has a profound affect on a person's faith. It can either enhance it, taking the believer to new heights or it can break it, casting the person into more despair.
When in your darkest hour, commit to run to your God. Follow Job's example. After his fortune, property and 11 children were wiped out; after his body was afflicted with disease, Job said this of God, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him ..." (Job 15:11, KJV)
It's not that God caused all of that to happen to Job, or even us as bereaved parents, but now that we're in this mess let's thank Him anyway. Submit yourself to Him (despite your unanswered questions and deepest pain) and thank God because the thing the enemy tried to use to destroy you, your faith and your testimony has only made you stronger. (Although you feel weak, and can barely lift your head, you have the strength to get through this moment, and the next ... and the next ...)
Fueling our faith doesn't just benefit us. By overcoming we serve as examples for others struggling with the same hurts. Stay encouraged friend and know that "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Psalm 126:5. So there is hope.
P.S. As for me, I have a LOT of joy coming my way.
*Much of this message was taken from a sermon by Pastor William Luffman on November 18, 2007).
Monday, October 15, 2007
If everyone lights a candle at 7pm and keeps it burning for at least 1 hour, there will be a continuous WAVE OF LIGHT over the entire world on October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
For more information please go to:http://www.october 15th.com
Monday, October 01, 2007
I wanted the audience to imagine - just for a moment - the devastation losing one's baby brings to the affected family. Then, I planned to share how they can reach out to the women in their lives who experienced losses. This would have been a wonderful opportunity that would have had great impact and not one lady would have ever viewed miscarriage (regardless of gestation) or a baby's death the same.
I was just asked not to discuss this topic in all but the simplest terms because there would be a lot of pregnant ladies in attendance. I DO understand the logic behind this decision. I am not upset. Not even a little bit. The world isn't ready for loss ... we're okay with sad stories as long as they have happy endings. But when a baby dies, it's final. There is no happy ending. My speech would have pushed these women to deeper levels of compassion and caring for the bereaved.
They would have reflected on the many ways they could make a difference in the lives of those who suffer in silence. They would have thought twice before walking past the lady who was pregnant one month, but came to church without a baby the next. But ... the world isn't ready for loss.
But you're ready. You've stuck with me this long. October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month ... do something different this month, by making a difference in at least one hurting parent's life (even if you are the hurting parent!).
5 things you can do ~ today!
1. Buy a blank card and write a thoughtful message of encouragement inside. Drop it off at the nursing station of a NICU or on the Labor/Delivery Ward with instructions to hand it to a parent whose baby has died. You'll never know the impact this simple act of kindness will have.
2. Purchase a grief book (or several) and donate them to a local hospital. Tip: Send them to the hospital chaplain or the Labor/Delivery ward.
3. Donate grief resources to a local library. These can be new or used, but should be in good shape.
4. Choose to remember the name of a friend/family member's baby who had died. Don't be afraid to ask the baby's name and never forget it.
5. Find 5 blogs written by bereaved parents and post encouraging messages, acknowledging their babies and showing that you are a stranger who cares! Tip: A great place to start is using by clicking here and scrolling through the list of topics/blogs down the left side of the page.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
After our babies died, I asked God to take away the pain ... I didn't just want to "function" my way through life while a secret pain stunted my spiritual and emotional growth. I wanted to be free - free to laugh, live, love and hope for a better tomorrow. I wanted to hope for a future with children. I didn't want to be the sad lady who sucked joy from every new or pregnant mom, every holiday, and every happy occasion. I was tired of pain.
To break free, I did the hard work that grieving requires. I've had a lot of practice. After our 10 day old son, Christopher, died in the NICU; I joined the joy sucker club. I was a loyal member for a long time. I turned from my husband and had no desire to seek employment or make friends (we were new to the area when our son died). My only focus was getting pregnant.
I didn't try to work through the grief process because I thought having another baby would heal my grief. I was wrong. When our second son, Kasimir, died in the NICU I tried to distract myself (which was only a temporary fix). I found a demanding job, joined a church and became active in every ministry they offered. My lips smiled, but my soul ached. The unresolved grief began to chew at my insides making me bitter toward all my "friends" who were oblivious to the pain hidden in my heart. How could they not know the turmoil I endured every moment of every day?
Despite the pain, I did grow in my faith. During my third pregnancy, we relocated to another state. I had high hopes and my faith was in tact. A routine doctor's appointment dashed those hopes and almost took my faith along with it (I will be forever grateful for the prayers that poured in on our behalf!!). Our daughter, Elyana, was born still and in that excruciating silence I purposed to break free from the pain!
I asked God to heal me of the grief and I did a Bible study (using a concordance) to see how others handled grief. I was most moved by Jesus' grief. His dear friend Lazarus had died ... he cried and went off into the wilderness to grieve in peace, but thousands of people followed him begging for healing. Through his example, Jesus provided the key to my own healing! Jesus had compassion on the crowd and healed thousands upon thousands of people. So I decided to help others, too. I mean, I really poured myself into it. I set out to help hurting parents by creating a book written by bereaved parents for bereaved parents. It was to be sold to hospitals so they could give it to parents after their babies died. After Stolen Angels: 25 Stories of Hope after Pregnancy or Infant Loss was born, I became a grief counselor and support group leader. I also started this blog.
I began to journal through my pain and I believe the combination of prayer, service to others and writing about my pain helped permanently heal my broken heart. You see, the joy of the Lord is my strength. In Philippians 4:8 God instructs us, "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Don't get me wrong, I'm still human and there are unexpected moments when I feel a knot ball up in my throat. I allow myself to feel the pain and reflect on it, but I also allow the moment to pass. Note that I said, these are moments, not days, weeks or years!
Grief is healthy, but left unchecked it will sour all things good in your life. Choose to release the things that can't be changed and hold fast to a hope for a brighter tomorrow! It takes a while to grow to this point, but with patience, perseverance, purpose and God, all things are possible!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
To want something so badly
that it hurts--
To pour your heart out into a dream,
And then to receive it,
May be life’s greatest privilege
Who can put a price
On a vision brought to life?
And what joy would it bring
To achieve it easily?
Though the pain may be real,
Unbearably real and
Soul-discouraging at times,
This much I have learned--
Each day that passes,
Each sobering moment
of doubt and despair,
of struggle and strife,
Heaps a spoonful of sweetness
Atop the joy to be had
On that glorious someday to come
When dream meets reality.
When what once was a curse
Turns to blessing,
A great magnifying glass
For the joys that abound.
Joys that exceed your fondest wish,
Your wildest dream in fervent prayer.
Joys only heightened
by the memory of longing.
What great fortune to be that mother.
What greater fortune indeed to bethat precious child,
born to such a love as this.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
My son was born healthy in Budapest Hungary in Feb. 2001. He was really quite advanced for his age because he was already focusing his eyes on things around a couple days old, and he even noticed when we moved the furniture around in our bedroom.
He was really quiet, ate well, slept well and was just a really good baby. When he was three weeks old, we woke up because he hadn't woken up for a feeding, and when I picked him up out of his crib, I noticed his cry had changed, and his body was limp. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. We took his temperature and the mercury in it shot up past 101 F. We rushed him to the hospital, where he was taken into the intensive care unit and 4 hours later the doctor came and told us our son had meningitis and was in critical condition and that they were suspecting Group B Strep.
He had become a victim of a late-onset GBS infection. He was on ventilators and monitors for almost 3 months. Even with the anti-seizure medication, he would have uncontrollable seizures. he swelled up several times to almost twice his original size. He was able to be taken off the machines around 2 and a half months, because he finally was breathing on his own, but he stayed in the hospital for another month and a half because they had to monitor him.
I stayed with him during that time and pumped milk every 2 or three hours because he couldn't eat for a while. Eventually he did start breastfeeding, and that was a miracle in itself. He never cried after he became sick, and he didn't respond to sounds like a normal baby would because his brain damage was so severe. In the final days of that hospital stay we were told he wouldn't ever recover and would die and that we needed to prepare for it.
We were sent to another hospital for another month. There frequent tests were done to evaluate the extent of his injuries. We were told he had very little brain activity and that there was little if any hope of his survival. We were discharged, and we went home, but he needed constant care as though he was still in the hospital. Anti seizure medication every 8 hours, muscle stretches and exercises every three hours, even in the middle of the night because he was so stiff. We took him to many therapists and doctors to try to rehabilitate him. He would develop, but he would take one step forward and two steps back. Usually he would lose what he developed after a seizure.
He was hospitalized frequently because his immune system was shot, and he would develop pneumonia from even the simplest colds. That is because he was stationary when on his own. There were exercises we did with him, but if you can't move yourself, you usually develop an infection in your lungs because you can't clear them out by moving around.
Sepsis (blood poisoning) was a common diagnoses in his paperwork, and that was because the bacteria still lived in pockets inside of him. He became sick in November 2002 with a cold that progressed to pneumonia, even while we stayed in the hospital with him for three months. He had shown an improvement, and was sent home with us. We were on top of the world to be back home, and have him responding to us again. Two weeks later he died. Blood work showed that he had no platelets in his system, and his body had used up its last resources to survive. He was 2 years old.
Many of the doctors at his hospital told us that they had never seen a baby as sick as he was, live as long as he did, and I am sure it is because he knew we loved him. That gives me peace. My son's death could have been prevented. Because his infection was late onset, there is a 50 percent chance that he got it from me even though I was tested for it in the States before I traveled to Hungary to give birth. Perhaps I picked it up in Hungary because I had a fever the week before I delivered, and the doctors prescribed penicillin for me and sent me home without even checking on my bag of waters or running any tests. This could have killed the bacteria in small amounts but left enough to infect the baby. Or he could have picked it up in the hospital after birth.
Symptoms of GBS
Many infants that are born to GBS carrying parents are not even affected by it. but those who are, can suffer from asthma to meningitis, and even death. Typically, the symptoms of an early onset GBS infection is breathing problems at birth. But late-onset GBS infection can be meningitis, and/or death. One source states that of those infants that develop meningitis, up to 50 percent suffer lasting neurological damage that can include cerebral palsy, sight and hearing loss, mental retardation, learning disabilities and seizures. (March of Dimes)
* High-pitched cry, shrill moaning, whimpering
* Marked irritability, inconsolable crying
* Grunting as if constipated
* Projectile vomiting
* Feeds poorly or refuses to eat
* Sleeping too much, not waking for feedings
* High or low temperature; hands and feet may still feel cold even with a fever
* Blotchy, red, or tender skin
* Blue, gray, or pale skin due to lack of oxygen
* Fast, slow, or difficult breathing
* Body stiffening, uncontrollable jerking
* Listless, floppy, or not moving an arm or leg
* Tense or bulgy spot on top of head
* Blank stare
Please don't wait for signs to present themselves, as it may be already too late. Rather, get tested for GBS and follow through with the treatment that is offered.
Self-treating GBS - a dangerous thing
It is dangerous to pre-treat yourself, as many of the holistic methods suggest. I recently read a posting on the NaturalChildbirth.og (read it here) that suggested putting betadine in your vagina, eating garlic and fresh fruits for a number of weeks and then the GBS will go away. That is not true. Treatment must be given during labor.
Strep B bacteria can live in your rectum, or your urinary tract, or your vagina. Betadine swabs in the vagina may help, but you won't get all of the bacteria out of your system. Garlic might help boost your immunity, but it is not a cure all. Food should not be a substitute for medical care.
Prevention is key
Most cases of group B strep infection in newborns can be prevented by giving those pregnant women that tested positive for GBS or are at risk for it antibiotics during labor. Antibiotic treatment before labor does not prevent group B strep infection in newborns. Some women refuse to be tested for GBS, but it is a serious thing, and that decision can mean life or death for your child. Even though the chances of your child becoming sick are somewhat small, it is not impossible. I can't imagine any good parent willing to put their children at risk.
Mothers who test positive for GBS are not usually tested in future pregnancies, but are treated as though they would be positive for it. GBS comes and goes...and even though there are NO false positives for the GBS tests, for mothers' peace of mind and as a precaution, they will be treated. Human beings are made up of and are vehicles for bacteria. GBS does not normally affect adults, unless they have weakened immune systems, or the bacteria were to enter the blood stream.
Further, the Directors of Health Promotion and Education website states: "Any pregnant woman who has already had a baby with group B strep infection or who has a urinary tract infection caused by group B strep should be given antibiotics during labor. Pregnant women who are colonized with group B strep should be offered antibiotics at the time of labor or rupture of the membranes.
"Colonization with group B strep can be detected late in pregnancy (35-37 weeks' gestation) by a special test of secretions from the vagina and rectum. Unfortunately, some babies still get group B strep infection despite testing and antibiotic treatment. Vaccines to prevent group B strep infection are being developed."
A needle stick now vs. long term care later
That site also mentioned how painful poking the infant with needles to do blood work with are, and the possibility of the child getting thrush from antibiotic treatment. Imagine how painful it is for that infant to have his brain and spinal cord inflamed and to be fed by tubes for 4 months? Imagine living a short but painful life...and imagine the pain of losing your child in the end? I believe that the pain of needles poking the baby and thrush is a small price to pay to avoid the latter.
I was reading yesterday that GBS is starting to be recognized as a disease because it is becoming the biggest danger for newborns and pregnant women. Statistics show that It affects 1 in every 2,000 babies born in the US. Between 10 and 30 percent of pregnant women carry the GBS bacterium in the vagina or rectal area, but few babies of these women actually develop an infection.
Group B vs. Group A Strep
Group B streptococcus should not be confused with Group A streptococcus, which commonly causes strep throat and, rarely, a potentially deadly destruction of flesh(March of Dimes).
GBS and sexual activity
One of the newest rumors I have seen about GBS on the Natural Childbirth board is that Group B strep is a sexually transmitted disease. It is not. Bacteria can be transmitted sexually, but it can also be picked up any number of ways. One source stated that GBS bacteria usually do not cause genital symptoms or discomfort and are not linked with increased sexual activity. According to Group B Strep International, women found to carry GBS do not need to change their sexual practices. This information might be helpful to some people who feel the need to become suspicious of their partners should they come up positive for GBS.
The Group B Strep Association This site has great links with short answers to questions but very good information on GBS as well
Maternal and Child Health Problems A government site with links to more information and phone numbers.
Friday, August 03, 2007
I only met two people who struggled with infertility without yet experiencing a successful pregnancy. (The same two people mentioned previously, mind you)
In support group, all the ladies experienced loss, but they also had at least one child to return home to ... to snuggle with ... to hold, watch grow and love. But not me. I often wondered who would be an example for women like me, the childless mother?
I've been following the blog of a young couple who were infertile for 2 seemingly endless years. They clung to their faith and have posted a beautiful picture and lyrics that offer such complete hope. Miracles still happen.
Read the post here.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
I know, I know ... we could never forget our precious bundles especially since many of us have prayed and cried for our blessings. Hear is an article about a loving father who did just that. He and his wife underwent infertility treatments for 5 long years and were down to their last egg when a miracle baby was conceived - in love. Little Mikey was left in the car while dad rushed to work one morning. Mikey died strapped in his car seat.
Admittedly, I couldn't read the entire article because I was physically sick with grief for this baby and his family, but I took away key information I'll never forget.
1. Accidents/negligence can happen to anyone. The minute I start thinking I'm above it is the same moment I could lose a child to a fall, a bath or a trip to Walmart.
2. Educate myself on the risks. Check out the Safe Kids USA Web site to get informed.
3. Apply what I have learned each and every day.
Read the articles I referenced below. Have tissues handy.
Charges vary when kids die in hot cars
Keeping kids out of hot cars
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Two couples prayed, cried and hoped for babies to add to their little family unit.
Two couples took varying fertility treatments to meet that end.
Two couples got pregnant -with six babies each.
These same two couples delivered their sextuplets within 10 hours of each other.
One couple's babies were born 10 weeks early. Their babies are expected to spend 6-8 weeks in the NICU.
The other couple's babies were born 4.5 months early. Sadly, four of the latter have died.
Read more here and here.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I imagine that mom climbing the balcony to save her babies as the flames and toxic smoke engulfed the home. She fell back to the ground and broke one or more of her limbs. I can see the father jumping out the window with his 18 month old daughter cradled in his arms. And I can see the two little ones left behind ... the image keeps a knot in my throat.
I think of the pain of losing my children and don't want to imagine the horror this family will face in the weeks, months and years ahead. They have lost more than seems fair.
Please pray for the Smallwood family ... you can read the full article here.
*all information provided in this post is second hand information not verified by a family spokesperson.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
1. Develop your faith
2. Cling to your joy
3. Praise God
I firmly believe that true healing comes when God is at the center. I had to build a foundation of faith before trials arrived, so that I was less likely to turn from the Healer. When Christopher and then Kasimir died, I fell to pieces. I had done little to nurture a relationship with Jesus, and I didn't know what the Bible said, so I couldn't even cling onto those promises.
I have found that faith is developed through prayer (ask God for faith), Bible study and hearing the Word of God. After hearing the Word I had to apply it to my life. I couldn't grow without both hearing and doing. Although I easily heard the Word on the Internet and through spiritual CDs, I found it was best live and from the pulpit. I also had at least one faith-filled friend to encourage me in times of doubt. After our third child died, and when facing the roller coaster of a fourth pregnancy ... I was able to lean confidently on the Lord.
Cling to your joy
The enemy knows that the joy of the Lord is the believer's strength. If he can successfully steal our hope, joy and love ... he can easily defeat us! Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit ... so if one has the Holy Spirit living on the inside, it is next to impossible to stay in a depressed, defeated, hopeless state of mind. Ask God to fill you with His Spirit and renew your joy. When you get it, never let it go!
I have learned that if I am believing God for any miracle (for me it was a live, healthy baby) ... I have got to open my mouth, lift my hands and voice and give Him praise! I must praise Him even when I don't feel like it (and it is hard to "give thanks" when feeling destroyed and disappointed after a loss). My advice: Don't wait to the battle is over, praise God now. For when the praises go up, the blessings truly do come down.
Praise activates our blessings ... just take a peek through the many examples of praise equaling victory throughout the Bible.
I stand as a living witness that growing spiritually in these areas will do wonders for healing your pain. I am a woman who has longed for a baby for 5 years. I've experienced hurt and devastation that few can imagine ... but God has healed my heart and provided countless miracles for our family (including the birth of a healthy baby boy). The same can happen for you!
See for yourself. Take a risk, turn to the Lord (right now) and He will answer your prayers.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The good news is that organizations are now working harder than ever to collect and share more information about why stillbirth happens and what can be done to prevent it.
Read the full article here.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Infant or pregnancy loss is one of those topics people seem to shy away from. The only topics that can cool a conversation faster seem to be abortion or AIDS. Even parents whose babies have died, don't want to talk about what happened. The astounding truth is that millions of women experience infant/pregnancy losses each year!
Check out the staggering statistics:4 million newborn babies die each year - world wide. Medical News TODAY
800,000+ women, in the U.S., experience the devastation of miscarriage each year ... that is 1 of every 5 women! Sound Medicine (The last 5 years there were 4,000,000 miscarriages!)
So ladies, we need to speak out about this thing that has traumatized our homes and the homes of millions of others around the world! This entry is directed to the parents who feel unable (or unwilling) to tell others about their life-altering experience. Although many of us will never understand why tragedy has struck us, I think it is important to use our pain to help others out of their own pit of despair.
10 reasons why you should reach out:
- As women, why should we struggle with our pain privately - forever?
- Think of 3 reasons why it is a bad idea to offer a tip to a mom who is devastated by the death of her baby? Take a risk!
- Doing well always comes back around. So does doing nothing.
- Reflect on how alone you felt after your loss. Choose to be there for others in their grief.
- Why not?
- Talking and sharing has always been a healing past time for women. Think of other, more trivial, topics you'll readily share. Reflect on how good it feels to offload that bit of baggage. The same is true for the major luggage, too.
- Take a risk (by opening this discussion) and build your own confidence.
- The more you talk about what happened, the less like a "can of worms" it will seem.
- As a Christian, we should develop a burden for the brokenhearted. James 1:27 speaks of visiting the widows and orphans in their afflictions. Is it too great a leap to say this love can include the childless, as well?
- Because you care about the hurting and want to make a difference.
How to reach out:
- When in a group of women we're always talking about our children. So, casually start a conversation that may encourage others to open up and share their experiences. Try: "when I had my miscarriage, I didn't know we'd be able to go on to have Mirabel and Joey." You'd be surprised at who else has a story to share.
- If you know of someone whose baby has died, immediately go to them (overriding your brain, following your heart) and say: "I also lost my baby/had a miscarriage. Do you mind if I call you later? You can also call me when you're ready to talk." Exchange phone numbers and follow through with the call.
- Simply say: "If you need a friend, or if you'd like to know how I worked through my pain, call or e-mail me."
When you hear of a loss, try the following:
- Send sympathy cards with a message saying you've also experienced loss
- Send flowers with a personalized card "you are not alone"
- Start a blog
- Send an e-mail to a grief-stricken parent
- Visit the bereaved (even if you barely know them)
- Write a poem for a bereaved parent
- Buy a preemie or miscarriage themed scrapbook online as a gift to someone in need
- Make a quilt square and donate it to your local NICU
- Enfold a hurting parent in a empathetic hug
- Think of your own creative way to connect
With so many of us affected by loss each year, there is no reason why even one mom or dad should feel alone after their baby has died. Reach out to one of the broken 4,800,000 women and their families today, and make a difference in your home, circle of friends, community and the world.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Christine is also one of the contributing writers in my book Stolen Angels: 25 Stories of Hope after Pregnancy or Infant Loss. An article recently ran in the Fresno Bee March 23, 2007 about this amazing couple. This link will be good for one week; after that you can retrieve it from here:
Stories of pain and hope: One mom's journey through miscarriages
Monday, March 19, 2007
It was two days before my husband's birthday when we said goodbye to our little man. It was so incredibly sad to look at his bruised little body and his perfect little hands that no longer searched for something to grab.
I wanted to stay and bathe Christopher, but my husband wanted to go home. So we just left. There was nothing to talk about, nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for, there was only an empty space in my heart -my life - that couldn't be filled. I lost interest in everyone and everything. My mom came to visit us in Hawaii for a week, so I put my game face on for her benefit. I remember even going to look at giant sea turtles and beach hopping for her enjoyment. But, on the inside I had died.
My relationships with my mom and husband all but dwindled to nothing. I truly didn't care about anything except how I felt. I didn't even see it as "our" loss ... It was mine. No one understood, no one could penetrate the depression I lived in. I finally went to a psychologist who listened, but couldn't give me what I needed most - a reprieve from the pain. I tried anti-depressants ... didn't work. Nothing worked. In the meantime, my husband paid the bills, cleaned the house and cared for both our needs. I laid in the bed. I didn't believe it was possible to live after this level of complete devastation. This went on for months, but I had my first big breakthrough, in October, about a month after the baby died.
I had been obsessing about having another baby, but husband said he didn't think I was ready. I told him he either needed to give me a baby or give me something else to pour my love into. We finally agreed on a small dog because he refused to budge on the baby issue (I can hardly blame him).
I poured through newspapers and websites in search of the perfect "baby" but all the puppies were always sold out. Just as I gave up hopes of ever finding a dog for less than $1,000 (Hawaii was a real hot spot for pedigree dog sales) a neighbor gave me renewed hope.
Through her, I connected with a cream and gold Shih Tzu named JoJo. He was 9 months old and has been the perfect companion ever since. Once I had a little helpless being to parent, I was able to find just a little motivation to live.
A month later, I nailed a job in a public affairs office which I absolutely loved. I was making a decent income and in December 2002, we were pregnant again. Now I had purpose, direction and thought I might actually survive the pain of the past.
I began Bible studies and a serious quest for Truth. I got involved at church for the first time and my life felt full ... I felt so good. But, five months later, we were burying that baby, too. He was only 25 weeks (I'll share Kasimir's story in a separate post).
Purpose was lost and I was back to square one, or so I thought. God stepped in and in my broken state, He helped me out of that seemingly bottomless valley and slowly began filling the void in my life. My attitudes changed. My marriage changed. My view of self changed. That transformation has continued throughout 2003, 2004 and 2005 when we said farewell to our precious Elyana. In 2006, we published Stolen Angels: 25 Stories of Hope after Pregnancy or Infant Loss - to help hurting parents find hope after a baby has died. This was truly a God-thing!
In 2007, God is doing a new thing in our lives. I stand in awe at His faithfulness and his plan for our lives even when I couldn't have - would never have - chosen the path we had to travel to get to this point in our faith and in our relationship with Him.
If you've read this far ... stay encouraged and know that we may never understand "why" but that isn't the question that matters. Instead ask: "What now?" If you stand firm in your faith, He will show you. Stand firm, stand tall and know that our tests and trials will make us stronger. Like it or not.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
I encountered this dilemma firsthand. A few months after discovering I was pregnant, I announced to the support group that I wouldn't be back until after I had the baby. They were in an uproar over my decision. I thought they would hurt every time they saw the pregnant me, so I wanted to spare them the discomfort.
They assured me that my experience gave them the courage to face pregnancy. It gave them hope for their own babies' futures. Pretty soon, the support group was even beginning to look like a pregnancy after loss support group!
I've continued to attend meetings but make a point to do the following:
- I share openly about my current fears and past pain. I tell them, I just want to go full term. I just want my chance to be a mom. Their reaction has always been one of compassion.
- I never, ever, ever get all exuberant and happy about what's going on with baby. I never offer to show off ultrasound pics or talk of baby showers, etc. It truly isn't the place. I make it clear that we need each other and their time will come one day, too.
- I give a baby update only when asked. I will quickly tell a person that we'll talk about it after the meeting, which spares those who might not want to hear about the (living) baby.
The ladies are some of my biggest supporters and those who know the extreme pain and heartache we've endured, are encouraged as we continue to make progress. Just know that the support group is for any person who has a need for it -pregnant or not.
Hope this helps.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
As a bereavement counselor, author and mom of 3 angels, I consult with a variety of sources -including experts and other bereaved parents - to help you get the info you need.
Pregnancy after loss is one important topic, so I've created another blog where I share the uncertainties and hopes uncovered during my present quest for motherhood. Please visit my baby update blog at: http://uncomplicatingpregnancy.blogspot.com.
Of course, I'll continue to update this blog as well.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The follow-up appointment ~ Every bereaved mom's nightmare. You have to go back to the same place you once frequented with a swollen belly and high hopes. Now you must see everyone else's swollen bellies and possibly hear their murmurings and complaints. Will the nurses remember me? Does everyone know what happened? Why is everyone oblivious to my pain? These are a few questions that may run through your mind.
To get past this pit stop, pray for strength in the days leading up to the appointment and consider taking a friend or your spouse. Consider waiting in the hall rather than the crowded reception area, bring a purse full of tissues in the event of a sudden crying spell, carry and read a book for a much-needed distraction.
The pregnant friend ~ A possible source of contention. You want to be happy for her. You really do. But your wounds are fresh so it's hard to muster the enthusiasm. Your friend might avoid you (for fear of saying the wrong thing) or she might want to share every juicy detail of her pregnancy (including the complaints). Either one can be hurtful to a newly bereaved parent. Understand that most people just don't know how to behave or what to say. (Remember the last time you heard so-and-so had breast cancer, or when your neighbor's mother died ...? It is really hard to say and do the right thing in these situations.)
To overcome, be open and honest about your feelings. If she's a friend, she'll at least try to understand. Expect some pregnant friends (and they'll seem to be everywhere!) to act oblivious to your inner turmoil ... this is to be expected. For your own peace of mind and healing, exercise lots of grace and stay in a forgiving spirit. It is okay to decline invitations to baby showers and dedications ... again, be open and honest about how you feel.
The midnight hour ~ when the sun can't shine. This is that valley of depression that can happen at any time or location. A dark cloud gathers overhead and sucks away all traces of joy, positive thoughts, energy and even your desire to seek the Lord. This is a time when you feel as though no one understands, no one cares and no one can say the right thing. If you stay here too long, depression can set in and all but halt the healing process.
This is where good friends come in handy. Everyone needs a friend who will drag you out the house, tell you the hard truth and pray with you when you can't utter the words. This is why it is crucial to seek out a group of people who understand grief and can help you through this time of darkness. A spouse, family member, pastor or caring friend can all serve as a life preserver when this phase hits.
Traversing the path to wholeness is extremely difficult, but with God all things are possible.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I think both approaches are harmful. As believers it is crucial that we don't do or say anything that would hinder our prayers, spiritual growth or relationship with God.
I found two wonderful articles addressing anger and questioning God in our anger. Read them and let me know what you think.
Resolving feelings of anger
Asking God the hard questions
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Read the post Responding to Dumb-itity here.
Questions that still stump me go like this: When a person knows of my previous losses and they discover I'm pregnant again or trying to get pregnant, they usually ask:
"Well, have you considered adoption?" (read: You can have a live baby!)
"So, how far along are you this time?" (read: Is the baby viable yet?)
What questions have totally stumped you?
On one hand, when I meet a bereaved mom, I want to rush in and share my experiences and let her know that the solutions uncovered in this pregnancy came at great cost (the loss of three 24 weekers). I want to over-explain and convince her that I'm really still a member of the hurting mom's club.
On the other, I just want her to know that this child is a blessing and I've worked hard (through the grief process) so that one day I'd be able to turn in my membership card! I don't want the looks of pity. I don't want people to fearfully ask, "well how far along are you now?" ... I just want to enjoy the gift God has given and not feel like I betrayed anyone.
I'm still 100% committed to raising awareness of the effects of infant and pregnancy loss. I'm still committed to comforting hurting parents.
I finally realized that my sad face and apologetic attitude for my "condition" isn't going to take away a hurt that only God can heal. I can be supportive without being apologetic for my miracle.
If there are a few things I've learned from being on both sides of the grief fence it's this:
- Allow yourself to feel the pain without hating those whose babies have survived.
- Reach out to those who you have much in common (found in support groups on and offline) instead of fixating on those who can't understand your experience.
- Write your thoughts in a journal, talk to a counselor ... do something positive to release the pain and anger.
- Lean on Jesus. Never turn your back on Him. It hurts so much more when you do.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Share in my amazement as you read about a 21 weeker who is not just alive four months later, but is actually going home from the NICU! Read it here.
Friday, February 09, 2007
It was the day before my 24th week and my heart couldn't forget what happened the last time I went in for a 24 week appointment. I couldn't forget the time before that, or the time before that either. I was in such a zone I couldn't even hear the nurse's pre-admission questions.
At this particular hospital, the staff on the labor and delivery floor knows me very well because I work so closely with their grieving patients and my book, Stolen Angels, is a part of their bereavement package.
My husband was sending me "I love you" vibes from his seat by the bed. The nurse nervously fiddled with everything in the room. The doctor tried to engage us in comforting banter, but everyone was really just waiting to find out what the exam would reveal.
Well, it turns out the bleeding had nothing to do with my surgery or the baby. It was just some old blood that had collected under the placenta and finally decided to drain out. Can you imagine my relief? Probably not, so I'll just say it was beyond any euphoria I can describe.
I learned so much about myself after this experience.
First, I have to emphasize that if you have experienced a previous loss, please -PLEASE - PLEASE - achieve some level of true healing before trying again. It is so much easier said than done, but peace of mind may be a thing of the past if you haven't allowed time for emotional and spiritual healing.
Second, faith truly is an action verb. As a believer, if I tell myself and others that I trust God to heal my body, I must speak it, walk it and live it. To ask for healing then continue to worry and speak as if I’m not healed says a lot about what's in my heart. I have to sometimes block out what my senses tell me, what the doctor says and what friends say and cling to that which I cannot see. That’s how I know I’m walking by faith. Also, it’s important to use spiritual wisdom as my guide, not fear.
Third, just because I experience human reactions throughout my pregnancy doesn't mean I don't have faith. When I do experience fear, what do I do next? Do I pray or do I worry? Do I speak the Word over my body and situation? What types of messages do I tell myself? ("I am healed"; "Help me have faith, Lord"; or "Oh my goodness, my baby is going to die!") At times, I feel completely discouraged, I'm reminded of the past and I break down and cry, but I won't allow myself to stay broken.
Fourth, if I ask God and believe, I will receive - If it is God's will. I'm in a place where I don't keep trying to figure out if it is God's will for me to have this baby before I'll start believing. I won't let the past dictate whether I'm going to trust God with this pregnancy. Besides, I want God's will for my life. Don't get me wrong ... I don't want or like the accompanying pain that can come with God's way, so I have to continuously renew my mind through prayer and study.
Finally, faith is hard work, and I found I can't always do it alone. I have the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer partners that help me when the strength to believe is no where to be found (or so I think).
If you are experiencing a complicated pregnancy after loss, stay encouraged and empowered ... your hope, faith, joy and peace are truly worth working and fighting for.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Because you worked out, had sex, ate poorly, had a drink, had a smoke, lifted a toddler, scared the baby, didn't want to be pregnant, had stress, etc. your baby died.
Recovery from miscarriage is as simple as "just getting over it."
The level of pain a parent feels is dependent on the baby's gestation before he died.
Having another baby will just make a parent simply forget about the pain of her present loss.
The death of a baby is the same as any other loss (death of friend, pet, grandparent, etc.).
A miscarriage that happens before you feel the baby moving wasn't even a baby.
After a miscarriage the grieving parent welcomes any and all pregnancy and infertility advice/explanations (especially if that parent has experienced multiple miscarriages).
Someone is to blame for the miscarriage... it's either the parent or God.
Not many women experience miscarriage.
Women who have one miscarriage are more likely to experience another one.
For more information about miscarriage, its causes, symptoms and treatments visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Web site here. Be sure to check out the list of known causes and note that none of the misconceptions mentioned in MM#1 are listed!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I've been a bereavement counselor and support group leader for over a year. I've also experienced the death of three infants. Sadly, I know my fair share about grief, but I've learned quite a bit about healing, too. The support group is a great place to start!
Here's what you need to know before you go to your first meeting:
Be yourself. If you feel comfortable sharing your story at the first meeting - do so. If you feel uncomfortable, it's okay to sit quietly. Know that the more you talk about your loss, the more free (from grief) you will become. Sometimes it takes a few meetings before you feel comfortable opening up.
It's okay to cry. Crying is therapeutic both physically and emotionally. Initially, I felt embarrased about crying in public. I was never one who showed that type of emotion in front of strangers ... but when I allowed the tears to flow that first time, my discomfort gave way to relief. I could finally release the tension that had been buried for so long.
Express yourself. When you are ready to talk about those hidden feelings and experiences, let it all hang out! That is what the group is there for. For example, one person confided that she felt the urge to dig up her baby's casket. To some that may seem a foreign concept, but others related to her experience.
Don't judge. In a group setting, you will encounter people with differences in the way they dress, speak, believe and so forth. Just know that we're all united by tragedy -- we've all lost a child we love. Just as you will be embraced and allowed to express yourself, extend the same graciousness to others.
Don't gossip. Meetings should remain an intimate place where it is safe to open up. It's a place to get and receive feedback. Never betray that trust by talking about what so-and-so said simply for the sake of gossiping.
Give back. When you've reached a point where you've "received" from others ... don't forget to give back. Give feedback, advice and above all love, support and encouragement to other members (only when you are ready). We need each other.
Give the group a chance. Try to attend at least three meetings before you decide a support group isn't the place for you. The first meeting may (or may not) feel awkward, the second gets better and by the third, you would have made a friend or two and the tears won't fall so easily anymore. After six or more meetings, you will see a tremendous difference in how you feel.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I know only a couple of people who seem genuinely happy and blessed by their young children and most others seem to find that happiness once their kids are adults. BUT still ... most moms want more babies (despite their seeming misery).
As a childless mother, I want a baby more than anything else I can think of right now ... I just hope it isn't some hormone problem or empty arms syndrome or something.
So, callling all parents out there ... what are we (childless parents) getting ourselves into? Dish the good, bad and ugly.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I spent some time mulling this over and realized two things: First it is fruitless to try to convince someone that you're not "strong." They feel if they were in your situation they'd be curled in a corner somewhere. The truth is, if you actually reacted the way they think they would, they probably wouldn't come around!
Second, regardless of how much you want to help someone understand your weakness and emptiness, they could never completely understand.
The solution? Build a network of people who can come very close to understanding your feelings. There are numerous groups on the Internet, but I strongly urge you to find a local parent's grief support group. Try it for three sessions and see if it doesn't help.
Don't get me wrong, while in the throes of grief it isn't a wise decision to cut yourself off from friends and family. After all, they make up a huge part of who we are and can truly help us in more ways than we know.
BUT. There comes a point when you have to understand that as much as friends and family love us, they aren't very likely to understand our experience. They may share our pain for a short time, but then comes a point when they need to see you stop hurting. We can't hold this against them.
It is agony for loved ones to see us in a perpetual state of pain, so they begin to rush us forward. This is where the support group comes in handy.
Support Group Benefits:
- They won't get tired of your stories
- There will be others there who've been wearing these shoes longer, and have wisdom that will help your healing
- You will have the opportunity to help someone else through their grief. Right now you may not feel able (or willing) and that's okay, but it won't be long before a nugget of wisdom tumbles from your lips that can change someone's life. It may even be your own.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
For me, part of it is a choice the other part is a gift from God. On most days I choose to believe in God's ability to make my life better than it was before our babies died. I choose to believe that He will bless us with a healthy child regardless of what has happened in the past. To fuel my faith I do several things:
- I ask God to give me faith ... I pray that He will help me believe in his ability to take my hurt away and to give me a happy, healthy baby ending.
- I try very hard to eliminate negative words from my vocabulary. I won't allow myself to get caught in a cycle of talking about what went wrong last time, the time before and the time before then. When I do that, it makes me feel anxious and fearful which cancels what little faith I had before I began the vicious cycle.
- I read my Bible. I especially like to spend time reading about Jesus' ministry in Matt, Mark, Luke and John. Hey, if miracles happened for them, why wouldn't it happen for me? After all, God is the same now as He was then. It's also important to read the Word because it says ... faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
- I take little spiritual risks everyday. Sometimes I'll attempt something that I know I couldn't accomplish in my own power ... I ask for God's help ... and I get it. Every accomplishment increases my faith in God's abilities to work in my life. A good example of this is writing Stolen Angels and doing all the marketing and networking necessary to promote the book. Impossible on my own ... but I asked God for help and He really showed up and showed out!!
- I listen to other people's testimonies about how God has blessed them. I also reflect on the many ways He continues to bless me. It's been soooo easy to forget that I had a past or a future before my babies died.
Make no mistake, getting and keeping your faith is a struggle, but it's a habit that must be established before you find yourself weighed down by the cares of this world. For those who read this blog regularly ... our "cares" are usually centered around getting and staying pregnant.
Try a few of these faith fuelers and see if it doesn't make a difference.