Saturday, October 15, 2016

1 in 4. 

That's the statistic I've seen.  1 in 4.  1 out of every 4 women has experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss. 

How many women do you pass each day? Walking through Target, doing your grocery shopping, milling around the park. 

A lot.

And, supposedly, every fourth woman has gotten a positive pregnancy test, but has no innocent face to show for it.  There's a hole. An unfinished story.  A life that barely started.  And in her heart, there is a raw wound that will never fully heal. 

1 out of every 4 women.

I am the one. 

Thirteen weeks into a surprise pregnancy, I laid back onto the table.  The ultrasound wand searched for the sound.  But there was none.  Where there should have been a wiggly baby, there was a still child.  Too still. My firstborn son was gone.  I grasped at my husband's chest.  And I wept. 

Eighteen weeks into my pregnancy, I was counting down the days until the 20 week ultrasound.  It was scheduled.  I was in maternity clothes and had a beautiful round bump.  Deep down, I knew this one was a boy.  I was thrilled.  One chilly, wet morning in March, I sat on the bed and laid back.  The Doppler wand searched for that sound.  It was silent.  I prayed aloud, begging God in broken sobs, "Please not again.  Please, please not again."  In came the ultrasound.  Where there should have been another wiggling boy, there was a still child.  My second son was gone. 

There was a third child, lost too soon.  Immediately, really.  I never saw her on the ultrasounds.  I hardly knew she was there before she was gone. 

I am the one.  Yet I have broken into a million pieces. 

Somewhere along the roads of grieving each of those lives, there was some sort of silent pat on the head, or not so silent when some told me to just get over it.  A silent pat, and societal pressure to not talk about them.  To not mention they were here and then gone.  People don't talk about miscarriage. We don't talk about stillbirth or infant loss.  We grieve quietly and then pretend to get over it. Like we don't have a raw, beautiful wound for every person we gave up too soon. 

What if I don't want to be quiet?  What if we didn't have to be  quiet? 


"Name him!  Give him a name.  And when you do, please tell me. He was your son. He is your son  I want to do a burial service." And my sweet Irish priest did.  I wept through John's burial service. Out there in the veteran's cemetery in Killeen, standing in that big pavilion with my husband and my daughter, who was much too young to understand what was going on. We stood there, and held each other up alone while we buried our John.  I prayed it wouldn't happen again.

But it did. They came.  That wonderful family came.  The sons carried James's casket.  The daughter sang beside his casket.  And we weren't alone.  Their mother, my dear friend, stood next to me.  Her presence held me up as I buried another son.  I didn't have to be quiet. I didn't have to hide the pain and loss.  Because she wept with me.  So many wept with us. 

I will never know why I've lost three babies.  And I know that I might lose more.  I could bury more of my babies.  But just because I never brought them home, just because their presences are not in my home, does not make them matter any less. My body has nourished seven lives.  I have cradled within me seven people.  I created seven souls.  Three of them sit at the feet of Jesus, praying for me.  I have buried two of them.  I have seen darkness and pain three times.  During one of those times, I saw firsthand the depths to which Christ will go to bring comfort. It's a beautiful testament, and I'd love to share it.  But, at first, I kept quiet about it all.  I had to keep quiet for so long.  Because it was "just a miscarriage."  I was supposed to endure it "silently." 


I've had seven children.  Three aren't here. 


Look at those beautiful names. Of all the accomplishments I've achieved in my life, the greatest are them.  Even the ones you can't see.  I've given life to this world and saints to the next. 

Just like Elizabeth's, Mary's, Anne's, and Joseph's names are spoken within our home, so are John's, James's, and Josephine's.  They are whispered at Mass, they are spoken occasionally within these walls.  Because they were here and they matter. 

All of your babies matter.  All of my babies matter.

All babies matter.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

For awhile now, without realizing it, I've been looking at those other moms.  I sometimes find myself thinking about how easy life must be for them.  How relaxing.  How quiet.  Those moms, who have most or all of their kids in school.  My life is anything but calm and quiet.

I have four kids, six and under and I homeschool.  I'm fairly certain that people think I'm crazy for homeschooling...and I am. It's something I wasn't sure I'd do permanently. And I'm grappling with the realization it might end sooner than later.  But, right now, all of my children are home.  All the time. As I watch the school children walk to the bus stop out of my back door every morning, I'm gently reminding mine to go get ready.  Those mothers' houses get quiet and less chaotic, and ours is just getting moreso because of that morning homeschool/baby-filled rush.  As their children board the bus, those moms are readying to leave to run errands alone or with fewer in tow.  I'm feeding a baby, pouring cereal for the toddler and preschooler, and calling to my first grader to check on progress as she readies for the day.  The baby screams for food, I'm wondering where I left my coffee again, and turn to see the middle two finally sitting down to eat. 

I sit and think sometimes about all the things they can do.  Work out uninterrupted.  I struggle to find 20 minutes in the day to add that habit back in.  Go grocery shopping and not worry about the Commissary closing.  I'm usually there at 6:30 in the evening, doing a Supermarket Sweeps run, nodding to the guy who's reminding me all the check out lanes are getting ready to close.  Inevitably, I forget five things.  I'm not brave enough to take my four grocery shopping.  The other moms join clubs, volunteer.  Meanwhile, I'm saying no.  Childcare is hard to come by at these events, my homeschooler has "aged out" of them, and I struggled to find a babysitter.  Especially one who will watch four young children.  So, I say no.  Again and again.  And it's lonely and hard.

Motherhood is lonely and hard.  I have been pondering a lot on that lately.  A dear friend of mine recently responded to a text of mine asking for advice saying it perfectly: "This mothering gig is hard.  So hard."  Oh, yes.  It is.  As much as we love to be surrounded by our people, mothering is difficult and isolating.  And it's easy, I think, to look at mothers in a different season and envy the silence and hard earned free time.  Every time I sit down, someone is demanding my attention.  Even during "quiet" time.  In any given moment, someone is asking me to rock them, another asking for some quality time, and then there's the trouble maker two year old who's quietly causing mass destruction in my wake.  I've been burnt out lately.  Lonely lately.  Terribly lonely. 

But, I had a thought today.  As I sat on my porch staring off into the distance, I wondered something.  I know some of those mothers look at my life and miss it.  Maybe a little.  Maybe a lot.  My life is full.  Many people ask if we will have more, are we pregnant.  (Oh, goodness.  Let me get a handle on my life with four!)  I am still adjusting to my newly expanded family.  It's loud, hectic, trying, and busy.  It's messy.

But it's beautiful.  And sometimes I forget that.

Those mothers have quiet and calm and time for themselves.  And oh, how wonderful.  But, I still have tiny feet pattering through my house.  Oh, how I will miss that patter someday.  I have four children who are desperate to spend time with me.  Imagine that.  Four people who desire my company.  Who yearn for my approval and attention.  Oh, how I will miss that yearning someday.  I have four people who are seeing the world for the first time through excited, innocent eyes.  And I get to witness that!  Oh, how I will miss that fresh excitement someday.  I get to sit down with my daughter and teach her everyday.  I taught her to read!  That is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.  Oh, I will miss teaching her one day. 

As hard as this time is, as busy and sometimes stressful, I want to remember that someday I will miss it.  I will miss holding tiny ones in my arms, even in if they are screaming and fighting sleep.  I will miss the pattering of little feet, even if it is into my shower where I am desperate for five minutes alone.  I will miss the exposure to all things new, even if they demand to share it with me while I am finally answering emails received days ago.  I will miss teaching her, even if it's while attending to the baby who refuses to nap--again. 

Because it goes so fast.  I will blink and they will be gone.  And the tough times will be over.  The sleepless nights, the gracious but aching no to another activity or meet up.  The missed workouts, the epic meltdowns at church or the store.  But those tough times are laced with beauty too.  I must not forget that.  And for every tough moment, every missed opportunity, there is a greater blessing.  For every time a dream or vision of my life that changes abruptly, there is bigger beauty.  There, in front of my eyes are four--four--tiny people who just want my heart.  Who just want me. 

They want me! They patter, clamor, call, cry for me.  And someday, they will be gone.  In school perhaps.  Or off living their own lives. And my house will be quiet.  My life less chaotic.  There will be beauty there, too. 

But there will be no tiny people. 

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Friday, September 02, 2016

Dear [Reality TV Star],

Last night, my husband was sleeping off a fever next to me on the couch.  Which meant I had full control over the TV remote.  So, I clicked on your show to watch. During one of your interviews, you said something interesting. 

"We have to talk about things that probably a lot of couples wouldn't talk about back in the States just because...
if we were back in the States, we wouldn't have to be talking about, 'Now if you die, like, what am I supposed to do from there, you, if you don't come home after you're supposed to, you know, this hour...what do I do?' It's hard to talk about those things..."

I thought you hailed from America.  Like, from the United States.  I had thought I heard you were from Arkansas.  But, there must be a different United States.  A different Arkansas. 

Because I live in America--I live in the United States.  And I know so many couples, both young and old, who's entire lives revolve around this very conversation. 

My friend Sabrina lives this conversation everyday.  She has three beautiful, young children.  A girl and two boys.  Her husband is an Oakland police officer.  Every day she sees him off to work, and everyday I'm sure she fears him not coming home.  She inspires me. Nearly everyday, I think of her.  How I would not be able endure that kind of stress, everyday. My friend Michelle lives in Georgia.  She has eleven beautiful children.  She also endures this stress everyday, as her husband is a police officer in Georgia.  She, too, I'm sure fears his not coming home everyday

My sister-in-law Angie lives this fear.  Her husband--my twin brother--serves in the National Guard.  Recently, he left for three weeks of intense military training, with weapons and large military vehicles. They were at Fort Hood, training in dangerously high heat.  I'm sure, everyday, she would worry about his safety.  I'm sure, at least a few times during those three weeks, she worried about him not coming home.  Because I did. 

I live this fear everyday, too.  I worry that my husband will die sometimes.  A lot of times.  We have conversations pretty frequently about his will, our wills.  About what would happen if he died on the job. 

Because my husband is an active duty Soldier in the U.S. Army.  And every wife on my street is a military spouse.  Wives of helicopter pilots, military police officers, former infantryman--they all live on my street.  As we've watched our children play together, we've talked about our back up plans, about what we would do if our husbands were killed on Active Duty.  And we all have a back up plan.  Because when those uniformed officers show up at your door with a Chaplain, you won't have time or the emotional stamina to get together a plan. 

You live in South America as a missionary.  You probably won't spend 20 years down there.  You'll probably mission elsewhere eventually.  Maybe even back in the States.  But my friends and I, the police officer wives, firefighter wives, military wives--we will spend a lifetime living in fear.  The fear you said most couples probably don't have to discuss.  We have wills and power of attorneys and back up plans, just in case.  Because we live this everyday

I'm happy for you that, if you were back in the United States, you wouldn't have to be talking about the what if's should your husband not walk in the door at the appointed hour.  I'm relieved for you that your life would not revolve around the possibility of him dying.  It's a hard life to live. I would wager though that, when you are home in your United States, milling around in your Arkansas, you likely are rubbing elbows with men and women who do live with this fear daily.  More couples, perhaps, than you realize. 

Because we are everywhere.  Living lives, silently praying everyday that we don't have to pull out those power of attorneys, put into action our back up plans. Hoping we never have to tell our young--or older--children that Daddy, Mommy isn't coming home that night.  That they aren't ever coming home.

Enjoy your safety in the United States.  Your comfort.  It's brought to you by a band of fearful, heroic young and old couples, silently going about our lives.  Everyday.

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