4 years ago today. Pregnancy and parenting after a loss

4 years ago today I got a positive pregnancy test.

I called my mother in law, it was her birthday. “Happy Birthday,” I told her. “How about for your birthday we give you another grand baby?”

It had been a year and almost 3 months since the birth and loss of my first born.

I still can remember how bad I was shaking that morning, how scared and vulnerable I was. How much I desperately loved this new life and missed my firstborn.

That morning I went into the pregnancy resource clinic I volunteered at and after all the other staff and volunteers had brought up their prayer requests I announces by asking for prayer for my poppy seed sized baby.

I was in such a daze that whole day, on the way home I ran a red light.

That high risk pregnancy after a loss was hard to say the least.

The days, the hours even of that pregnancy dragged on. When she wasn’t moving I was afraid she was dead. When she was moving I was afraid she would strangle herself with her chord.

I survived that pregnancy mentally by taking it one day at a time. I worked hard to control my blood sugar for that day, for that meal to keep my baby healthy. I couldn’t look ahead in my mind to a baby, I was too afraid. Instead I looked forward to pregnancy milestones; movement, sonograms, setting up the nursery, buying clothes, doing a gender reveal.

I also kept myself really busy. I volunteered as much as I could at the pregnancy resource clinic doing my best to help other people which helped the days go by and keep my mind off my own fears.

I talked to people on line in a group for women who were pregnant after a loss. I reached out online to moms who had lost babies the same way I had.

It was a time of surrendering continually to God as every day I had to acknowledge that this child belonged to Him and I had to surrender this child every day to Him.

I wrote Amy from raisingarrows.net as part of her Ask Amy and she wrote this post in response:

 

“Ask Amy – Fear and the Healing Process After the Loss of a Child
FEBRUARY 9, 2013

healing after child loss

It seemed appropriate on the eve of the 5 year anniversary of our daughter’s Home-going that I should answer this particular question.

Two readers submitted questions that, while not entirely similar, were of the same topic…life after the loss of a child.

One reader had lost a child at 7 months (the same age our Emmy was) and wanted to know what we had done to heal from her loss. The other reader lost a son due to complications of childbirth and was pregnant again and wondering how to deal with the fear she was feeling.

For me, the fear was one of the most ongoing things I needed to heal from. In fact, it continues to be something I must give to the Lord over and over again. Just this past week, I sat up late into the night praying through my fears as I held my newborn son. I know I will never fully conquer this fear this side of Heaven, but I do know God is big enough to handle those fears and walk me through them.

The past 5 years have been wrought with ups and downs in the grieving process. Here are a few of the things we have done to help us heal and gain victory over our fears.

*Write, write, write. On my Grieving Mother page, I have a lot of links to articles I have written, many of them typed out through tears. I grieved through my writing and I encourage every grieving mother to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a public blog. It can be a quiet journal tucked away by your bedside. Mothers need a place to write their deepest thoughts and feelings without judgement.

*Cling to the Lord and each other. I wrote Psalms for the Grieving Heart because I knew grieving families needed to cling to the Lord during their grief, but they more than likely couldn’t handle lengthy Bible studies and/or devotionals. Music was very important in our healing as well. Songs like Blessed Be Your Name and Be Unto Your Name brought us to tears, but helped us praise the Lord in the middle of it all.

We also grew as a family. We never hesitated to speak of Emily. Even our children who were not born when she passed away know of her and speak as if they remember her. And Ty and I clung to each other. We often found that when one of us was weak, the other was strong.

*Grieve how you need to grieve and say what you need to say, but do it in a safe place. My husband and a select group of friends are my safe place. I know I can say anything to them. I know I can grieve and they will listen and hug me and pray for me. Unfortunately, those who grieve often hear rather thoughtless words spoken to them that can cut like a knife. Don’t open up to those kind of people. Even if they do not mean to hurt you, it is best to only grieve openly with those who understand.

*Don’t do anything hastily, but do keep working through those difficult things. It took me several weeks to take Emily’s clothes out of the closet and put them in a box. It took me 2 years to finally go through them all and tidy them up. There are still places we do not go and things we do not do. We’re just not ready.

There came a time when we felt ready to go back to the city where Emily died. It was hard. We cried. A lot. But, we did it. And sometimes I have been ready to take a step forward before my husband, but I have chosen to wait until he is ready. We do this together even though we heal differently. I have to respect his difficult things just as he has to respect the things that are more difficult for me.

*Focus on serving others. Once the brunt of the storm is passed, it is so very important we begin to serve others with the same comfort and love we were shown. I have sadly watched women cling to their grief as a security blanket, never letting go and reaching out to others. It is okay to find joy. It is okay to live again. It is okay to heal.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that I never cry and I never miss Emily and I never feel like my heart is going to break in two. When you’ve lost a child, there’s never an end to your grief. But, I can attest to the fact that with the Lord’s infinite mercy, you can heal. Ask Him to fight the fears for you. Ask Him to steady your feet on this path. Ask Him to show you what He wants for you.

And thank you, my dear readers. for allowing me to share my precious daughter with you. It is my hope and prayer that her life and her death and how her daddy and I have walked through it all has glorified the Lord and encouraged others along the way. She was such a blessing to us and we will never be the same because of her.”

My water broke 6 hours before her planned c-section. Her delivery was rough as the medical staff denied me insulin and I went into ketoacidosis. Her blood sugar was so critically low she was dying in my arms as I begged for a sugar IV for her and finally the pediatrician showed up late yelling, “Get an IV in that baby!”

There was a lot of joy and a lot of healing in her birth and she gave me a reason to live again. The grief was more intense than we ever could have imagined though. Every one of her milestones was and is a continually reminder of all we lost with her brother. Raising a child after a loss is a continual paradigm of so many conflicting emotions.

Today she is 3. She is daring and passionate and likes pancakes and going to the park. In those rare moments when she is still, I feel her in my arms, listen to her breathing and smell her sweaty hair. I thank God in absolute amazement and awe at the fact that she is here and healthy. I trace my fingers up and down her arms as she begs for more tickles and can not believe that she is really mine. At the same time I still have to acknowledge every day that ultimately she is not mine and that she first belongs to God and is in His hands.

I also now have the privilege of spoon feeding mushy stuff to the 9 month old next to me as I type this out.

If you are pregnant after a loss, I’m so sorry for all you have been through. I pray God comforts you and gives you peace. Remember, God promises grace for today and for the moment and tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Take a deep breath and take some belly photos celebrating today and now.

Steven Curtis’ song Miracle Of The Moment was my mantra in my first pregnancy after my loss.

Its time for letting go
All of our if onlys
Cause we dont have a time machine

And even if we did
Would we really want to use it?
Would we really want to go change everything?

Cause we are who and where
And what we are for now
And this is the only moment
We can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

Theres only one who knows
Whats really out there waiting
In all the moments yet to be

And all we need to know
Is Hes out there waiting
To Him the futures history

And He has given us
A treasure called right now
And this is the only moment
We can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

And if it brings you tears
Then taste them as they fall
And let them soften your heart

And if it brings you laughter
Then throw your head back
And let it go, let it go, yeah
You gotta let it go
And listen to your heartbeat, yeah

Breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

Breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

 

 

We are the Lord’s

Wednesday morning we had an appointment for a fetal echocardiogram at the high risk doctor’s office. There was no reason to think there was a problem with baby Tanner’s heart but it is routine to take an extra close look at the heart of the baby if the mother has diabetes. The part of baby Tanner’s heart that could be affected by me having diabetes was perfectly healthy but the heart doctor did catch something else. Baby Tanner was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta. In overly simplistic terms, his aorta valve has formed with a portion of it that is to thin. Three things could happen.

1. As his heart continues to develop in the womb his heart could change shape and correct itself.

2. During the changes that occur to the heart in the 24 hours after birth the heart could heal itself.

Number three we are told is statistically the most likely event to happen.

3. The heart will not change shape and he will need life saving heart surgery within the first few days of life.

There are a lot of unknowns. I want to now the future. I want to know if my child is going to be born perfectly healthy or need heart surgery to save his life. But I can’t know. I could go bonkers worrying about a future I have no control over or I can choose to hang onto those things I do know.

And I do know some very powerful truths about my future and the future of my son.

I believe God when He says in Romans 14:8 “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s.”

I know if baby Tanners’s heart heals itself, baby Tanner is the Lord’s.

I know if he needs surgery he is the Lord’s.

Whatever scenario life brings us and God calls us to walk, we are the Lord’s.

I didn’t pick this verse because we think baby Tanner may die. This heart defect is thankfully one that is easy to fix and that babies go on to live a normal healthy life after surgery. I find comfort in this verse because I know that whatever life brings, I am the Lord’s and my children belong to him also.

I have had a child die. My first child died. But never for a moment was he not or is he not in the hand of his heavenly father.

I am blessed to have an energetic, happy healthy 2 year old. Parenting after a loss is not easy but I know Ella belongs to the Lord.

In the mundane of every day I am the Lord’s, held in His hand and kept by the power of His blood. When my life is over and my time on earth is done, I will then still be the Lord’s.

The saying has become cliche but is true, “I don’t know the future but I know the One who holds the future.”

And I know that I am His.