Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's been awhile.  A long while.  I needed space, and quiet. It's been a crazy year and a half. 

A year ago, I could hardly breathe.  No one noticed.  To most of the outside world, I looked fine.  Acted fine.  But, breathing hurt.  Not physically.  But, it took effort.  Each breath.  But, I kept taking one breath at a time.  Because I had to. 

We lost him.  The pregnancy seemed fine to the doctors.  Not to me. I knew something wasn't right.  I guess moms sometimes just know these things.  And so when they couldn't find the heartbeat with the nearly broken Doppler, I knew it wasn't broken.  The couldn't find it with the next Doppler, or the next two ultrasounds.  My son was gone, and I was thrown into a swirling darkness that lasted a long time.  I was the only one there.  It was scary, painful, and lonely.  But God was there, and He took me by the hand and pulled me through.  It's a beautiful, painful story. A love story.  Because without suffering, there can be no love.

Despite it all, God promised he would "bless our family again."  His words.  On last Easter Sunday.  Those were the words I clung to as I moved through the days.  The move, the starting over, the countless labs to find out Why.  Eventually we did find out why.  Which was a bitter sweet pill to swallow.  Treatments could have saved our precious sons.  But we didn't know.

Then, it happened.  Another blessing.  "Pregnant." I cried.  In my husband's arms.  I wept from great fear and great joy.  I started daily blood thinners, progesterone, and extra supplements all in attempt to keep this sweet tiny blessing alive.  Anxiety shook me to my core some days.  There are people who talked me through intense panic, and I'm grateful.  Prayers, so many prayers. 

I knew he was a boy. 

Right away, I knew. I've been right with every pregnancy on the sex.  And I knew this was a boy again.  Which scared me even more.  I had told myself we would never have a boy this side of Paradise.  I couldn't handle losing another.  Week by week, I crawled through the pregnancy.  Each month was a huge milestone.  18 weeks came, and I had to go between appointments, just to hear his sweet heart beating.  Because I thought he was gone.  He wasn't.  Just quiet.  Our little rainbow baby was growing.  I've always thought the term rainbow baby was beautiful--rainbows are a sign of God's covenant with man.

20 weeks, the big ultrasound.  24 weeks, viability. 28 weeks, third trimester. 32 weeks, bi-weekly NSTs. 36 weeks, almost there.  37 weeks, full term. 

And then it happened.  The very moment I had convinced myself I'd never live to see.  The moment, I had let myself envision only a handful of times. 

He came.  And he was alive. He cried and nestled on my chest for an hour before they weighed him.  One of the greatest hours of my life.  I sobbed to my husband.  "He's here! We have a son! He made it! I did it!" 

I didn't do it.  He did.  Our great and merciful God.  He didn't have to.  He did not have to give me another sweet baby.  He did not have to allow that sweet baby to be a boy.  He did not have to answer my prayers about how my labor went.  Down to the very hour. 

But He did. 

My friends, though times may be so very dark that your soul can't see, He is there.  Though it seems as though the swirling grief may never end, it will.  Though it seems no good may ever happen again, it will.  After every rain, there will be a rainbow. 

Mine is sleeping upstairs. 

Weeping may tarry through the night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I'll confess it. I haven't watched the videos. I can't. I cannot make myself push play. I cannot watch people sift through parts of a human baby and laugh and barter on its price. I can't watch people who callously set prices on the organs of an unborn, dismembered child.

But, it's all hitting a very sensitive, raw place in my heart.

In the next week, I should have been giving birth. Had things been differently, I would be waddling around, complaining about how uncomfortable I was and giddy that we would be welcoming our fourth. My maternity clothes would be too tight. I would be lying awake at night, unable to sleep and making lots of trips to the bathroom. In the next week, had things been differently, I'd be feeling the cramping turn to contractions, timing them, guessing when it was time to leave.

In the next week, I would have been bringing my son into the world.

But, I never got that chance. Because my son died in utero at 18 weeks into the pregnancy.

As I was scrolling my newsfeed on Facebook this morning, I saw another video had been released regarding Planned Parenthood's atrocities. The link read, "Planned Parenthood worker comments that 'It's a boy.'"

It came flooding back.

I prayed that night, while the world slept. I writhed with grief so painful that it was blistering my soul. I begged my sisters, my mother to pray. I prayed that this child that had already opened its eyes to God was a girl. I could not stand the thought of losing another son.

And his beautiful body was born

"Oh, God, it's a boy!" I wailed. "I'm sorry, Richard! Oh, God, it's a boy. I lost another son."
And I still weep.

He was perfect. He looked exactly like his father. It was precious and heartbreaking. He had the chiseled face, the square shoulders that attracted me to this boy's father. His nose and his eyes. Everything. He was all Daddy. 

And his feet.

He was fearfully and wonderfully made. And I should be welcoming him into our family this week. I should be going into labor, praying that he's healthy. I shouldn't know he's a boy. Because we always wait until they are born to find out.

But, I found out too early. And I held him for hours. I had a meal with him, as he laid on my lap. I slept with him on my chest. And it was the most peaceful sleep I'd had. I held him. I stared at his beautiful self.

I took pictures.

I so want to share them. Post them. So people see that he and his brother, lost at 13 weeks into the pregnancy a few years ago, are not a clump of cells. They were fully formed human beings. Arms and legs. Fingers and toes. A body and a soul.

But people get so offended. It's too graphic. It's too much to see. A lion is worth anger and photos. But not a child lost in pregnancy.

I am so upset this week. All these films wherein the Planned Parenthood workers laugh and barter and sell children's body parts.

I should be welcoming my son into the world. Instead, as I stand in the shower everyday, I mourn my very thin waist. As I flew to a wedding I shouldn't have been able to attend, I remembered his absence. I sat on his grave that week, and wept. Oh, the irony.

I held them. I mourn them. I miss them. I am empty. Because these are human beings. Infinitely more valuable than a lion. Than a cheetah. Than an animal.

Because they are more than an animal. These are human beings. And if one wonderful thing can withstand all of this, it's that these sweet babies all sit before the throne of God. They sit with my sons. They sit with the children of my friends, with the souls of my own brothers and sisters. They sit with all the children lost during pregnancy, whether naturally or through abortion.

Try to name your price, Planned Parenthood. These infinitely valuable human beings look down upon you praying for your soul.

And I need to remember to pray, too.

St. John, pray for us. St. James, pray for us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To the Woman Who Lost Her Baby

I'm sorry.

You are now a member of a group of women that no one wants to be a part of. A secret, hushed club of strong, sometimes broken, always scarred women.

You may have lost your child yesterday, last week or a few months ago. Maybe you lost your child years ago. It doesn't matter.

It is your child.

People have said, "...but I was only four weeks along." "...eight weeks along." "...eighteen weeks along." Maybe you were twenty-two weeks, thirty weeks. Maybe you had made it to that blessed finish line. And something went horribly wrong. It doesn't matter.

It was your child.

People will try to comfort you. They will tell you, "Well, at least you have all those other little ones at home." Or, "You'll have more." It doesn't matter. This was your child.

There will be people who mean well. They will say horrible things, not knowing what they say is like knives to your already searing heart. It doesn't matter. There will be people who know what they say. They will say horrible, hurtful things. And they may walk away for awhile. They make walk away forever. It doesn't matter.

It was still your child.

And life will never be the same again.

You will feel those breaths that are hard and pounding. You will feel your pain rise from your depths and come out of your mouth in guttural sounds. Your heart will feel burning, searing pain. You may be surrounded by people and feel completely alone. You will do things you never thought you'd have to do.  See things you never thought you'd have to. Maybe more than once. You will wonder how you keep breathing. But you will.  Because it was your child.

If you feel every day is a swirling drowning torment of darkness, that is okay. If you only have days like that every few weeks or months, that is okay. Because it was your child. You will watch all of those moms give birth when you were supposed to. And you will feel empty. You will probably relive all of the pain again. And that is okay.

You will maybe pick a name, pick a casket, bury that child. Keep that child's name a daily part of your lives. Or you might not. And that--that is okay. Because it is your child. 

Give God what you have left. If it is the anger, the hurt, give it to Him. He will take it. Like an angry toddler that doesn't understand, approach our Father and give to Him what you have. Scripture is full of what others saw as unworthy gifts, and our Lord accepted them with beautiful gratitude. Bread that only the poor ate. A few coins that emptied a purse. A bleeding, broken body heaped in the dirt. Give it to Him. Because that is beautiful to Him. And you are His child.

Healing will come. It will take a long time, and it will require great Faith. God will supply it. He will pull you forward. Ask Him. Ask Him to show you He is there. Ask Him to take you by the hand, and He will. He is your Father. And you are His child.

Reach out. Talk to the other mothers that have walked this path. They share your grief. Just as our Lord shared his Cross with Simon, we must share our grief with those that don't walk away. That can stand those horrible, raw text messages when it feels like you're drowing. Again. Let them hunch down under that cross and help shoulder it with you. Because it was your child. And he or she mattered. 

Slowly, over time, it will get easier to bear. The pain, the scar will never be gone. Not completely. But, long after the loss, you will realize that you felt joy. Joy! It lept cautiously inside your heart. And, in the great heavens, our children rejoice for you. Because they were our children.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Making a Home into a House

The last week, I've watched my home become less and less of a home. Walls started looking bare. Pictures started coming down. Boxes began to appear. And my heart became anxious. It's time to do it again.

Time to wipe the path of caked-on toothpaste off the sink. The path that little mouths make each night, when I roll my eyes. I just cleaned that. It's gone. The little handprints on the sink handles are gone. I wiped them away. Like no one ever lived here. Like little people never made messes here.

Wiping away the memories. Cleaning up the life that lived.

Cleaning up the afternoons of finger painting when the toddler couldn't contain her creativity to the paper. When the walls and floor became her canvases. Over and over again. When she would stray with her painted fingers into other rooms, streaking her colors onto cabinets and sinks.

Wiping away the chocolate and Doritos from the sink in the bathroom. Again. For the last time. Wiping away the crayon and marker and paint streaked down into the drain, where they washed their tiny, precious hands. Wiping up the milky handprints off of the cupboard doors, where I hadn't noticed them unless I happened to be on my knees cleaning something else. 

Cleaning up the spilled flour and sugar from the baking we  did together. Little hands clumsily measuring, held inside mommy's hands. Careful. Pay attention. It's gone. The food that boiled over from meals lovingly made. Early in the morning for the husband, in the evening for the family. Sweet treats made for special days. Holiday feasts and Birthday celebrations.

Wiping away the footprints. That paced floors with a sick baby who wouldn't eat. Holding her. Tears falling. Pacing, praying. In the middle of the night, while the world slept and he was far away. Footprints from holding crying children who were missing Daddy. Or waking from nightmares. Fevers, coughs. Rocking, cuddling, praying more.

Footprints from wandering through the house, mindlessly fingering each blessed decade. Pacing because he hadn't called when he usually did. Forgetting he said he wouldn't be able to call. Remembering why he said he wouldn't call. Which made the worrying worse.

Cleaning up the banners and countdowns. Wiping up the tears of Homecoming. He's home! He's safe! No more sleepless nights of worry and fear. More footprints to clean. Praise God. More paint on the walls. Thank you, Jesus. Cleaning up after him again.

Footprints from pacing. Timing the contractions, it's almost time to go. Another sweet baby coming. A sweet, tiny baby who nearly didn't make it. So small. Waiting. The pacing fizzled out. Leaving for the hospital. Coming home with a new human person. A precious daughter. Adding to our fold. Sleepless night of feeding and swaddling. Treasuring every second. Because they grow too fast.

Wiping away the worry and then grief. Leaving for the hospital, but coming home empty-handed. Cleaning up the shattered hearts, the tears falling. Wiping the door that opened again and again, letting love and blessings come in. Hugs, friends, food, comfort. Cleaning up the realization that even death cannot reign over Love. God conquers all.

Cleaning up after all the friends and family. Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. Grandmothers and Grandfathers. A house brimming with love, loud with joy. Wiping up the numerous little footprints that ran through the house all weekend, and then out the front door late Sunday night.

Books and plastic bangles found behind the furniture. Forgotten, lost. Now, found. Stuffing the little trinkets in the last few open boxes. Where all of our life lives.

Wiping up until it's clean. Stark. No individuality left. Just white walls, wooden floors. Wiping away the life like it was never here. Because behind us, someone else will come. They will come in and make their own beautiful mess.

And we will continue on our journey, enter a new home. Start a new chapter. A chapter peppered with inevitable struggle and hardship. A chapter overflowing with joy and blessings. A chapter with new streaks of color. God willing, new life. A chapter with new footprints.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I supposed it all started innocently enough. Or maybe naively enough. He had orders to leave for a year, and was leaving in about six months. I started reading, researching, and talking to Army Wives about deployment survival tips. Most of them said the same thing:

"Start a hobby or an activity that will distract you while he's gone. Something to work towards." 

I knew, when I graduated with my undergraduate degree that I was not done with school. I was very sure I would be pursuing a Masters at some point. My plan was much different than His. After teaching a year of high school, I would return to the East Coast to get my Masters. But, then the most amazing man walked into my life, and my goals were happily placed on hold. 

So, when the Army wives encouraged that "hobby," I could think of nothing better than starting my degree. What did I have to lose? I decided that I would start that August (of 2010) and I would take two classes each semester, finishing up shortly after he returned home. 


He was gone four days and I had just started my third and fourth classes when I found out about her. She had been there when my oldest and I had said good-bye to our hero for a year. We just didn't know it. And thus started my crazy ride through graduate school.

It's been quite a ride. 

Four moves, three pregnancies, two babies, two deployments and a few difficult seasons, and I am done. I never would have seen it turning out this way. 

But I finished. 

I finished because I wanted this. Felt called to do it. Because I needed something amidst all the upheaval of him leaving, him being gone, to pull my mind away from all the hardship. I needed this because I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. 

The semesters when I had tendinitis so badly I couldn't type. My husband bought me a voice to type program so that I could keep pushing through. The year that I took two semesters off, because we'd just added my second daughter, welcomed our Soldier home, and then moved a few months later. It added to the clock, but I desperately needed the break. The semester I thought I was going to lose my youngest daughter late in the pregnancy because her growth was behind and she wasn't moving. 

The semesters I made it through. I survived. The extremely gracious comments from my professors regarding my work. When I barely pulled off those A's. Last semester, when I was invited to join the International English Honors Society. 

I did it. 

When my daughters look at me someday and say, "I can't do this." I will say, "Yes. You can." Because I did it. Because I want them to look at Mommy and see that life is tough. Life kicks you down sometimes. Sometimes, it kicks you down and just won't stop kicking you. But you forge through. Because you are strong. You are capable. And you have God. 

I want them to see that, though life was hard at times for us, especially when their father was in graduate school at the same time, that we finished. We did the best we could and we made it. I want them to know that, often times, the best things in life require incredibly hard work. And they are capable of that hard work. 

I want them to know that they can do anything they want. If it's a M.D. from a prestigious school, fantastic. If they want to go to law school, they have my blessing. If it's dental hygienist school, I'm proud. If it's working towards your Masters as your house fills with blessed children and you are often alone while working on that degree, you will make it. You will succeed. 

Because life is hard. Work is hard. Big achievements take time. They take blood, sweat, and a lot of tears. Teary, heart-filled prayer. But, you can do it. 

I did it. 

Through sometimes insurmountable odds, I forged through. A year alone without my husband, but I finished four classes. A four month deployment that was determined to destroy me, and I finished another class. The loss of our son halfway through the pregnancy, and a week later I defended my thesis. And passed it. 

It's not only the degree. It's the odds I worked through. So many times, I could have walked away. I quit. Been done and gone back to just being a mother. But, I knew I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. And I did. Despite a crazy ride, I finished my Masters degree. 

But, I also needed to show my girls that we aren't quitters. Sometimes, though life is hard, we push through and finish what we started. When it all seems insurmountable: baby steps. Don't worry about next week, next month. Just focus on today. 

And, today, I'm done. I will cross the finish line in a couple of weeks when I walk the stage for my degree. My girls will look on. My husband will be cheering. My sweet family, my rock. My support. My beautiful life rejoicing with me.

Because, together, we did it. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Because They Matter, Too

If life has taught me one thing, it's that you can't judge the story by what's in front of you.

I get it a lot: "Only girls?! You poor thing!"

"Just wait till they are teenagers! You won't be so fond of them then!"

"Your husband needs some sons."

The last one stings particularly much.

Life has thrown us a lot the last six years. Six years ago, almost to the day, I stood on the altar in a Church, promising my life to a man who is the most incredible man I've met. Full of dreams of happiness and joy, we promised our lives to one another. I promised to serve him, obey him. Because I love him and trust him. And our life together has taken some crazy turns.

We've weathered two deployments, one that took him away for a year. The second one, I struggled to keep things together at the seams as constant illness and major house issues left me on my knees, praying. We've moved four times. Both of us have worked towards our Masters degrees. The pregnancy of our third little one was tough, and at times I would wonder if she was going to be able to hang on till delivery. But she did. And her first year she practically lived at Pediatrics and was hospitalized three times, two of which while my husband was deployed.

And we lost two babies.

People see three children. People see three girls.

I am staunchly pro-life. I've come to dislike that label, though. People become critical before they even understand what it means. I have rallied and prayed four times at the March for Life in DC. I have stood outside abortion clinics, praying hard for the women entering. I have attended Marches for Life in Birmingham, Alabama and Austin, Texas, praying for people to understand the personhood present even in the womb.

For awhile I did it because my Faith said I had to be prolife. I understood that Christians define life as beginning at conception and ending at a natural death. So, I stood with my fellow Christians, defending life. Because that was part of my faith. And I love my faith.

And then I held my first son. He opened his eyes to God first, and the Blessed Mother holds him until I get to him. He was tiny. He was sweet. And he rocked my world. I know now why I'm prolife. I know why I believe in life from conception. Because I've seen firsthand the humanity in these beautiful creatures so fresh from God and taken back too soon.

I have been pregnant five times. My body has held and nourished five children. Only three would see the light of day. Only three, all girls, would join me this side of eternity. Their brothers celebrate in Heaven.

I've lost two sons.

Despite five pregnancies, I have only three living children to show for my openness to life. Three living, beautiful girls and two cold, stone markers. Two burial services. Two moments of holding my precious sons born sleeping. Only two weeks ago, I buried my second son. He was eighteen weeks. And God wanted him home.

We march for the unborn. We rally for the unborn. We pray for the unborn. We will stand outside abortion clinics, attempting to counsel women to choose life. My Christian family hopes for the end to abortion. Yet sometimes there is still a pressure to stay quiet about these precious souls that go home too soon through natural pregnancy loss.

We told our girls about the baby coming. He was to be our fourth earthly child. We were so excited. We talked to him, planned for him, prayed for him. We told family and friends. We announced it on Facebook. I started a sweater for him. When I noticed the bump and changed over to maternity clothes, I was thrilled. Because this is life. And life is precious.

And sometimes life is fleeting.

I will never forget both times that I sat in an OB office, praying that the Doppler was broken. Praying that a heartbeat would break the terrible silence. Grabbing at my husband, begging him to make it change. I'll never forget the "I'm so sorry, ma'am..." and the awful noise that came from somewhere inside me. I will never forget losing my sons.

I cherished the inward joy of all five of my pregnancies. I will treasure all five positive tests. I will value the moments of standing in the mirror, watching that bump grow. I will never forget the kicks I have felt from all five of my children. And I would go through all five journeys, as varied as they were, just to nourish those lives again. As a family, we've celebrated beautiful life and we've mourned beautiful life. Because life is a gift.

I will not stay silent about all the lives with which I've been blessed. I will not pretend like my sons never existed. Because they did. I have ultrasound pictures to prove it. I felt their flutters and kicks. I felt their life.

I have five children. I have three girls. I have two saints.

Their names are James and John. I am so proud of them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Darling Girls, A Letter on the Eve of Homecoming

My Darling Girls,

I know you've had it rough.  The last five months have been so hard.  Everything was starting to settle down after Baby's blessed entrance into our family.  Life was starting to fall into a routine again.  Then, Daddy got orders.  And before we could catch a breath, he was gone.

And your hearts were shattered.  You didn't understand.  You were so angry.  You cried for hours at night, and haven't slept through the night since he left.  We have endured a kidney infection, pneumonia, croup, severe dehydration.  There were two hospital admissions that split us up, and countless doctor's visits.  We had to vacate the house many times for hours each time while you all were sick, so they could break a hole in our wall and fix a busted pipe.  The same busted pipe that made the house wreak of sewage for months. Strangers walked through our house for days fixing the damage.  You watched your best friends pack up and move away right after your father left.  Your hearts were broken, your family split up, and your health compromised.

But, I hope someday, my darling girls, that you remember this time. And when you do, I hope you smile.

I hope you smile because you did it!  You survived it!  We thought we caught a break with a short deployment.  Instead, we had to earn it.  You suffered greatly in so many ways.  But you did it!  Someday, when life is hard for you and you are tired, you will look at me and say, I can't do this, Mom.  And I will say, Yes you can, because you've done it before.  Despite the struggle and the suffering, you are more resilient.  No, rather, because of it.  Because of the suffering and the struggling and the sacrifice at such a young age, you are resilient.  Stronger, braver.  I hope someday, you remember all that you have walked through and smile.  Because you make me proud.

I hope you smile, too, because we did it.  We took the negative and the suffering and made some beautiful memories.  Between all the hospital runs and sick days, we had some wonderful times.  We packed into the van one early Saturday morning, and had a picnic after feeding the ducks.  We rode the train at the zoo.  We stayed up late for fun , and woke up early to snuggle.  We danced and sang at the top of our lungs.  We took a road trip to Dallas, and had a blast!  We spent late evenings at the pool, and danced up and down the sidewalk in the rain.  We played at the park and jumped into the pool in our clothes.  We rolled around the floor, laughing until we were crying.

We made joy.  We made glee.  In spite of the deployment and all the wounds this one tried to inflict, we fended them off with unadulterated happiness. There were moments when all the stress and sadness fell away and there was just the four of us, laughing.   I felt such happiness in those moments and I wanted it to last forever.

I hope you remember how Mommy could never have survived this without you.  I could never have kept moving forward if I didn't have your faces and smiles to move towards.  Our prayers together, our life together--it kept me going, it made me feel alive.

I hope you remember.  I know you won't.  You are so young.  You will forget every thing we've done.  All you will know are the stories I'll tell you and the pictures you'll see.  But the love and laughter will live on in those precious photos.  In those precious stories.

But, you will remember how much I love you.  You will remember how much I cherish and treasure you.  Because these moments, these adventures will not end when the deployment does.  We will just gain a face in them.  

Because your Daddy is coming home.