Sunday, July 30, 2017


I've been quiet lately. Most days I feel like I have nothing to say that I have not already said. Words don't come easily any longer. It seems like when the strong tides of grief stopped pulling me under, they washed the constant flow of words away with them. Noah has always been my only reason for writing and for quite some time he has seemed extremely far away. It is hard to write when there is no muse.

My days now are full and mostly fulfilled. There is a joyful and constant string of sound that surrounds me. 2 children living beautifully healthy and very noisy lives. Animals at home and at work that are always in need of my personal or professional attention. Endless to do lists and want to do lists. A husband that is extremely busy and yet holds us all together like glue. Great friendships and family gatherings galore. My grief is often silent in the midst of daily life. It doesn't come on as hard sobs or even quiet whimpers anymore. Tears are few and far between. When they do come they genuinely surprise me and often knock the breath out of me. Missing Noah is like white noise in the background... continuous and somehow comforting but completely jarring when I stop to focus on it.

I see empty spaces all around me. I hear silence as loudly as I hear noise. I can feel the void as well as I can feel a physical embrace. One empty chair at every table. One empty space in the back seat of my car. My eyes immediately find the space where he should be in pictures and in our day to day life. I wonder if I'll ever stop wondering who he would have been. If I'll ever be able to fully appreciate all that I have now without always seeing what I do not.

I have come to a place of acceptance. It is only rarely that I blame myself or let myself believe that I could have changed something and in turn kept my Noah alive. However, my mind still continually tries to rearrange the pieces. It is always looking for a way to have the dominoes fall differently. Each scenario leads to a place where he is still alive... sometimes he is healthy, sometimes he is not. Sometimes he is trapped in a hospital room because he is so ill. Sometimes congenital heart disease took him away from me again in an entirely different scenario and stage of life. All of them are make believe.

I am struggling to let go of the idea of what our life should have been. I believe that the Lord numbered his days before there were any at all. I believe He knew each moment of Noah's 109 days down to his very last breath. I believe that if he was supposed to be here then he would be here. It's just difficult when your heart and your mind are not on the same terms. Strangely it seems like it's easier for my heart to let go than it is for my mind to. My heart hopes in and trusts in Jesus... in his plan... good or bad, my heart knows that He is for me. The mind on the other hand is a tricky place that holds on to the belief that we have some sort of control here over matters of life and death.

Though my grief has quieted temporarily, it is present in new ways. I am very easily shaken. Every day life overwhelms me. Barking dogs, screaming children, and the demands of each day while they are the biggest blessings are often difficult to process during the chaos. I equate it to what I would imagine an overstimulated baby feels like. I manage it all really well until I feel like I'm going to scream. Stressful situations lead to shaky hands, a harsh tone, words yelled, and a whole lot of guilt. Coming to a place of acceptance and understanding that I was not in control of Noah's life incites a chain reaction of reminders that I'm not in control of much. I feel frazzled, I feel angry, and I feel guilty for not just enjoying every moment of my life. When you live under the weight of truly knowing that every moment matters and that the next is not guaranteed, I think it can either free you or hold you captive.

I hope that this phase is brief. I am much more comfortable with the raw emotion and searing pain of losing Noah than I am with this. I'd rather fill a bathtub with tears than feel so overwhelmed that I could throw something. I thoroughly cherish the moments when my soul is calm. When one of my sweet babies is nestled up against me, resting peacefully, breathing softly in the dark, I breathe deeply and I find peace. I find peace in the blessing of being their mother. I find peace in the blessing of being Noah's mom. I find peace in the knowing that God stills my wandering soul when my flesh does all it can to fight against Him. I breathe in and exhale his sovereignty. I am thankful... for what was and for what is.

Grief is often likened to waves... I can attest to that truth. The calmest water can quickly turn into something tumultuous... the beauty is that it can just as quickly return to something peaceful. Usually it is a dance between the two. One thing I know for certain is that it is much easier to ride the wave than it is to fight it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Blog I Didn't Want to Write

"I'm so confused. I know I heard you loud and clear. So I followed through and somehow I ended up here. I don't wanna think... I may never understand how my broken heart is a part of your plan. When I try to pray, all I got is hurt and these four words... Thy Will Be Done." -Hillary Scott

These lyrics hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard them because they describe my struggle so well. Neither of our boys were unplanned. They were not accidents. They were both conceived out of prayer and obedience. I heard God clearly say "NOW" for both of them. They weren't my plan, although they were my hope. They were His. I was hesitant and nervous both times for very different reasons. When we decided to trust God and try for our second baby, Noah, our lives were untouched by terrible realities like disease and death. We just weren't sure if we could handle having two children. Things were going so well with it just being us and our daughter. Should we really rock the boat? What if having 2 children was way harder than we thought it would be? We were comfortable. We were in very familiar territory and trying for a second baby was a really hard decision for us but when God said move, we moved. I literally remember the moment. And just like that we were no longer a family of 3, we were a family of 4.

After we lost Noah, the thought of having another baby was terrifying. We knew the risks... congenital heart disease as complex as Noah's increased our risk of having another heart baby even though there was never any identifiable cause for his particular defects. Before you ever have a heart baby your risk of having one is less than 1%. After you've had one, depending on lots of factors, your risk increases to somewhere around 5%. Well once you've experienced 0.8%, 5% (over 5x more likely) sounds like a guarantee. But then add in the fact that not only did we have a baby that had congenital heart disease we had a baby that died unexplainably from this awful disease (also a 5% likelihood). So to say we were scared was well... a joke. Scared is a petty word in comparison to the genuine fear we really felt. But we love our children and we knew that we never wanted our daughter to be an only child (here on this earth). We also knew that we couldn't let fear rule our lives. The enemy didn't get to steal our son, our joy, and our future. No way. But most importantly we knew that no matter what Noah's heart looked like or what his journey was like, we wouldn't have traded one single second of the life we had with him. He filled our hearts with more love, joy,  and hope than could ever be explained. So we would try again... we would bring another beautiful baby into this world if the Lord should allow. We prayed, we trusted, we listened and just like that we were no longer a family of 4 but 5.

I kept our pregnancy with Isaiah to myself for much longer than I did with our other two children. I needed to safeguard my heart. I couldn't hear the "noise" that comes with a pregnancy announcement. I couldn't handle much in the beginning and I had to constantly submit my fears to the Lord. Once you carry a medically fragile baby, you step out of the blissfully ignorant pregnancy bubble most new moms live in (heck, you don't step out of it... yours was popped a long time ago and it won't ever come back) and you enter into this place of fear and uncertainty about your child's future. You know there is no guarantee that you will get to keep the baby. You know that there is no guarantee your child will be healthy. Once you have experienced the loss of a child, all of your senses are keenly aware that at any moment your life could change for the worse again. You brace yourself for the bad and beg God to please protect your child and you from ever having to live through a nightmare like that again. You just want "normal" but you are so aware of the reality that normal may not be God's plan for you.

Pregnancy after disease or after loss requires, in my opinion, the kind of faith and strength that can only come from the Lord. It has the potential to wreck you and if you don't have a firm hold on the One who holds all things you can very quickly spiral into a constant state of worry and anxiety. I chose very early on to trust in a few things.... 1) God loves me and my child. 2) Nothing could get to Isaiah without first going through God's hands. 3) God carried me through Noah's diagnosis, surgery, and death and has continued to carry me through the time I've spent without him. He would carry me through this pregnancy as well.

Once we got to a point in the pregnancy where my joy about having another sweet baby far outweighed my fear, I made it public. I asked for prayers. I needed people to know. I needed something to share and to look forward to. And praise the Lord all of our tests were coming back perfectly for our little Isaiah. Our genetic testing was normal. Our anatomy scan (where we found out about Noah's congenital heart defects) was perfectly normal. Our first fetal echocardiogram with Noah's cardiologist was beautiful. I shared all of this with everyone and I had faith that we were in the clear. We would go back for a follow up echo a month or so later and that would be the end of it... we'd then ride the happy wave of a normal, healthy pregnancy all the way to his birth. I think most of you can see where this is going...

Let me start off by saying that I have hesitated in telling this part of our story for many reasons. I have struggled with asking for prayers. I have struggled with God wanting me to share this. I have flat out told him NO on numerous occasions. I'll explain.

During our second fetal echo, at 28 weeks pregnant, our cardiologist found a moderately sized ventricular septal defect in Isaiah's heart. This is a hole between the bottom two chambers of his heart and there are many ways it could go. The best case scenario - it closes in utero. But if that doesn't happen, depending on it's size after birth, it can either close on it's own without any intervention usually by the first birthday,  it can be so small that it never causes any issue despite remaining open, it can cause his heart to go into heart failure that could be managed with medication while we wait for it to close, or it could not close, cause major problems, and be a reason for open heart surgery.

When Isaiah's heart went from being perfectly normal to having a defect my first response was not some big gesture of faith... it was "NO! Not him. Not me. Not again. I don't want this. I'm not doing this again. This isn't fair. This isn't okay. No. No. NO!"  Now, part of the reason I was very hesitant to make this knowledge public is because ventricular septal defects are incredibly common. They are, in fact, the most common congenital heart defect.  Another world, a different universe entirely, than the extremely rare and complex nature of Noah's heart defects. But still... for a heart mom pregnant with a child after the heart baby... you want no part in the heart world again. You just want normal. I wanted no part of being a second time heart mom. None. I also didn't want to hear "oh so and so had that and they're fine..." or the flip side "so and so had that and had to have open heart surgery to repair it". I didn't want to hear anything at all because I just wanted it to go away.

I couldn't hear God in the beginning. I couldn't see his plan. I couldn't understand why we had to walk down another version of a heart journey. When He told me that it was time to try for our third baby he very clearly showed me the scripture "Behold I am doing a NEW thing. (Isaiah 43:19)". I was angry because I felt like He was going back on His promise to me. I felt betrayed. I listened to you Lord. I trusted you Lord. Now this?

I was also very hesitant to share this new development because the very last thing I want is for anyone to say "Poor Angela and Daniel... they just can't catch a break." I don't want the pity. I don't want the worry. I don't want projected fears. I don't want anyone to have another reason to need to add me to their prayer list at night. Losing Noah was quite enough for my entire lifetime.

But over and over again I've heard or felt God's tug on me to share. I've either ignored it or argued it away in the past but today after a particularly powerful message in church I knew God was speaking right to me. Who am I benefitting by keeping this story to myself? How can I share the gigantic hope and faith God himself has placed in me if I sit quietly and refuse to share how this experience is changing me? How am I acting in faith and waiting expectantly on the Lord to move in my favor if I won't tell anyone until he's already fixed it? My story didn't end with Noah. My journey of learning who God is and how He loves and comforts is not just for me. It's not about me. I am a vessel. I have a calling. I have an obligation to spread His truth and to inspire faith in others through the paths He has set my feet on. And if I don't then I'm being disobedient to His call on my life. Okay... Okay... Okay, God. I hear you. I'm listening now. Once again you're telling me to move so I'll move. (But I really don't want to...)

So here we are, 10 weeks post Isaiah's diagnosis, and it has been a roller coaster. I have felt moments of extreme fear but the peace of God has covered me throughout this waiting period. We have had a few more echocardiograms since that first one and each have shown a relatively unchanged VSD. I have prayed on hands and knees, with faith and expectancy, in Jesus' name before each and every visit (and every day in between) for spontaneous, in utero healing. As of the last echo a few weeks ago that had not happened.

Do I still believe that if it is God's will the VSD will close in utero before he's born? (any day now)... absolutely! But the key is, if it is God's will. I believe with all of my heart that the Lord is going to heal Isaiah's VSD. I believe he will never require cardiac medications or surgery. I believe he will be perfect and whole without defect. I believe all of this because I know God is for me and for Isaiah. I believe Isaiah's story will be entirely different than Noah's. I believe all of this because I know God is good and faithful. I still believe in His healing and in miracles. But I also know that even if He doesn't... He is still good. He still loves us. He still has a good plan for Isaiah's life.

But that's the thing about God's plan... He doesn't ask for your opinion. He doesn't change it because you want Him to. He holds all of the cards and he just wants us to trust Him with the deck. He holds you close and whispers "I know..." when you fight against what He's doing in your life with everything you have in you. He strokes your head and calms your fears just like a good parent does when you cry out to Him brokenheartedly because you just can't handle one more thing. You tell Him you can't do this... and He tells you "then let me... I will sustain you. I won't let you go."

We have a job and that is to trust Him. So I do... but that doesn't mean it's perfect, flawless trust or even that it's pretty. It's not. It's a constant struggle, a tug of war between my need for control over my own life and his sovereign plan. It's a mess. But it's real faith and real trust and it's building hope in me that I couldn't have found on my own. So even though I still don't want this... I do want what God wants for me and for Isaiah. And even though it's so easy for me to just say no way, I'm not doing this... I'm not going to be a second time heart mom... if that's His will for me, then I surrender to it. If I've learned anything from Noah's life and death it is that this life I've been given, the paths I've been put on, they are guided by His hand... they are for His purpose and His glory and I will be more than cared for along the way. I believe Isaiah's heart will be completely normal when he is born. I believe God's hand is on his life. I will wait with expectancy. I will wait for God to move.

But if not... He is still good. He is always good.

***Your prayers for a perfectly healthy baby boy and a safe labor and delivery are much appreciated and very welcome, even if I do wish you didn't need another reason to pray for us. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.***

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Big Stuff

Some days with my little girl are so refreshing because she doesn't know that the little things really are the biggest. She doesn't know that sitting on her Frozen blanket on the back patio during this surprisingly beautiful day while she munches on cheese and crackers and yells "This is the BEST PICNIC EVER!!!" is healing pieces of my soul. She just knows its fun and that I'm happy and it breaks my heart and fills it at the same time because she knows it really matters that I'm happy. She's seen me sad. She's seen me broken. She's seen way too much for a 3 year old little girl and still there's so much more I'll have to tell her one day.

She asks about him often. The beautiful thing about a child her age is the way she processes this great loss in her life. It's not all at once. It's not even every day or every week. It comes and goes. But when it comes it comes hard. It comes like this.... she starts humming a song that she doesn't really know but she likes it. It turns out to be "Hush Little Baby" and as I start to fill in the words for her she cries. She cries because sometimes songs that she knows are lullabies and books about babies hit her where it really hurts... and she misses him. The tiny little baby brother that she barely got to know. She misses him deeply. And she asks the hard questions. The ones I have no answers for. The ones that say "Why isn't he ever coming back?" She says things like "But I don't want Noah to live in Heaven" and every single part of me breaks. Because I DON'T EITHER. So I tell her I know and that I love her and that Jesus loves her and he loves Noah... and that Noah's okay... better than okay where he is. And I promise her with all of me that one day we'll see him again. And I see the light glimmer in her eyes and the hope dance in her soul and I know that even that sentence alone crushes me. Because there's only one way to get to Heaven and in all honestly I can't handle the thought of that right now. So I whisper my prayer to God to please not let that be until we're old and gray. One day... but no time soon. It's all such a hard mess sometimes.

It's incredible though because it's been almost year since he left us and she still remembers so much. Her memory is such a blessing to me. She remembers things about him like it was yesterday. Of course I do too but her memories are not full of sadness like mine are. They are full of joy and love and all things baby related. She speaks in present tense when she shares her memories and they touch the places in my heart that need to be touched even when tears are the result. I hope she always remembers him because soon she'll have a new baby brother. She's moved on from being bummed because she really wanted a sister to dress up like a baby doll to being so proud. She says "Mommy, do you know that now I have two baby brothers?!" and that bittersweet pang comes over me again. Yes, she has two baby brothers. I have two sons. Both of them feel so far away though sometimes. Even though one bounces around in my belly... I have lost all innocence and I know even though he is fully mine, he is also fully God's. And my mantra rolls off of my lips again... "I don't understand, Lord, but I trust you and I'm so thankful that I get to be their mommy."

Today I accidentally threw one of my dog's ropes into the tree. It's too high up for me to reach and the tree branch is too sturdy for me to shake it down. There were three other toys right next to him in the grass but he wanted the rope in the tree. The unreachable one. The one that he just couldn't have anymore. He barked and cried relentlessly, with no intention of giving up on the hope that his rope would be recovered. I just watched him and it felt so strangely familiar to me. It felt like me in the early months after losing Noah. It felt like watching myself beg God to just give him back to me. I didn't want anything else. I could barely see anything else around me. It's hard to see where I was and where I am now. It's hard because those early memories are so painful but it's also hard because because I sometimes feel so far removed from it now. I continue to watch him and he finally gives up on it, but rather than slump away defeated he runs in the other direction to the other toy that he loves equally as much. And I hope I'm doing the same but sometimes I'm not sure. Sometimes it all feels like defeat. It feels like maybe I just didn't have a choice but to move forward. I never want to feel like I'm leaving him behind because I'm not... he is in every step I make. He's the very beat of my heart. He's never lost to me but he is so unreachable.

Time passes and you just realize that you can scream and fight hopelessly or you can stop and look around at everything else you have. The sun still shines even when you don't understand how it could. The laughter still fills your home with the sound of the voice that you loved the most in the world before the little boy with the perfect lips came along and tied up the place in your heart for the little one you love the most. Life is still so beautiful and so good. So you stop and you run in the other direction... never forgetting for a second about the rope in the tree... You run with arms wide open to the blessings around you. You choose joy. You choose to continue to see the good. Noah will still be there when the time comes for me to go to him. But she's here now... and there's a little boy growing inside of me... and above all else, I trust Him. Sometimes thats all you can do. Even when it feels like the littlest step, you realize God says that in His eyes that little step toward Him, toward joy, is the really big stuff.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

When Light Peeks Through the Darkness

During the summer, God lead me to this scripture. Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

It didn't just feel like words. It felt like a whisper directly into my heart. It felt like a promise. It felt like permission. Permission to trust God to carry me. Permission to trust God to care for me. Permission to release my fears to him. To set my feet upon the rock and know that no matter what the future would bring he would firmly hold my hand. It felt like a promise that I would not walk this path again. That my pain, my heartache, my unexplainable loss was not a recurring event but a moment in time that God was using for His undeniable good. A promise that new things were coming. It was the whisper that He can do anything and everything beyond my expectations and that life would overflow from Him but for me. It felt like a vision of my sweet Noah sitting beside the majestic river of life which flows directly from God's throne... splashing in the water and skipping rocks while speaking his own prayers for his mommy and daddy to his Heavenly Father. It felt like the first real light of hope I had experienced in a very long time.

For many months that scripture has worked it's way through my spirit, soul, and body. I have clung to it. It is as if it was written specifically for me... to heal pieces of me. It planted the seed of hope and trust in my life and I heard God say it's okay to try again. So we did. And somehow was I was surprised when God fulfilled his promise to me. Somehow I am shocked by his faithfulness. Somehow I am blown away that the name I wrote down in the back of my bible the day I read that scripture now has a child attached to it. The name God breathed into my lungs as if it were always there, Isaiah Maxwell. (God is Salvation, Great Stream) Another little boy to fill our hearts and our home... to bring back joy... to remind us that yes, this life can be downright terrible but there will always be light in the darkness. A little boy with his big brother's DNA coursing through his body. His own unique person with touches of the baby we will miss and long for forever. A sweet baby boy handpicked by his very own angel... undoubtedly his very best friend as they sit together along that river of life, that great and mighty stream. 

Yes, life. A brand new life is growing inside of me. I have no idea what the future holds. I would be foolish to pretend that I could predict even for a moment how this will all go. I know that very scary and unexpected things can happen at any point in a pregnancy or the child's life thereafter. I know I am only guaranteed this moment. I have nothing to go on except for the assurance that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away but that He will never leave me alone. I know that the Lord has been undeniably faithful to me and I trust that he will continue to be. I pray with all of my heart that this baby will be healthy in all regards. I pray more so that I will never have to know a day of my life without him. I am thankful that this life is not all there is and that eternity holds places for my husband and I as well as our daughter and our two sons, where we will all be a family together one day. I am abundantly thankful for the opportunity to love and mother a baby boy again, to watch my daughter grow up with a brother, to watch my husband do all of the things that daddies do with little boys.

This new life, this little boy, could never and will never replace his big brother. Our hearts will never be okay with the fact that we will not get to watch all of our children grow up together. Having another boy is equally as difficult as it is magnificent and the fear that accompanies a pregnancy after the loss of a child is very real. The fear that comes after having a baby diagnosed with congenital heart disease can be crippling. But we will continue to put our trust in Him and know that He will direct our paths and we will sing His praises for this perfect blessing. We will choose joy over fear and we will love deeply for as long as we are able. 

Isaiah Maxwell, sweet little gift from Heaven, our darling little Max, you are already adored. 

(Baby is due at the end of May 2016. Our anatomy scan is in a few weeks. We are praying and believing for a perfectly formed, perfectly healthy, full term baby boy. Please pray with us.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Don't you stay little.

There was a day when life at home with our two children felt so incredibly normal. My husband and I sat on the sofa while I held Noah on my chest and he folded a load of laundry. I remember putting my hand on Noah's back and squeezing him tightly to me. I told Daniel how I wished I could just freeze him in time. Noah although a big boy, and especially large for a heart baby with defects of his severity, was much smaller than his sister was at 3 months old. He was hovering between 11 and 12 pounds and I wanted him to stay that way "forever"... I thought. I hear myself say those words repeatedly in my head. I see the kisses placed on his head while I wished he would stay tiny and never leave me. Those are words I sometimes wish I could take back. As if my little words spoken purely out of love for that miraculous baby boy had any bearing on his future. As if those words actually froze him in time. But in the mind of a grieving mother every word that was ever said regarding the child that is no longer here carries an enormous weight.

I think of those words as I watch my daughter grow. My sweet girl has been off of the growth charts since her 2 month well baby appointment. She's the tallest in her class and has always been 1-2 sizes ahead of her age group in clothing. She's 3 1/2 and people constantly ask me if she's 5. That's just how it's always been for her. I know before Noah entered our lives I'd ask her to just stay little forever too. It's what we mommies say, right? We don't want to think of the day when our little babies are grown up (except for maybe in the middle of a tantrum).  Life goes by way too fast and keeping them little bitty sure would be nice, but the death of a child changes that.

She'll say "mommy, do you want me to stay small like this?" and my new answer is "No, I want you to grow up to be the beautiful woman God created you to be.... but could you just grow slowly for mommy." She thinks it's funny. She doesn't know how my heart breaks when she says "I'm a big girl mommy, I can do it myself." I want to be happy about that. I want to be happy when she tells me she doesn't need her booster seat anymore because "I'm not a baby, mama!". Oh but little one, you are... you're my baby and right now you're the only one I've got. I imagine if Noah were the 10 month old little monster he should be that my feelings about her being a big girl would be much different. I'd probably have pushed her much farther into that big girl role than I should have because I'd be exhausted from having two children and she'd have seen my struggle over the last 10 months to be the primary caregiver to a heart baby.  I'd probably be so thankful that she's gained independence and that she's relishing in her big girl and big sister title. And while of course I am honored and unbelievably grateful to watch her grow, the "I don't need your help" phase is stinging harder than I thought it would.

At the same time the thought of freezing her in time is not one that enters my mind anymore. I want to be present for every phase of her life.... the threenager phase, the 8 year old I know everything phase, the 12 year old first boyfriend phase, the 16 year old my friends are the only thing in life that matter phase, the 19 year old hey my mom's really pretty great phase, the 23 year old I think I really love him phase, the 30 year old becoming a mommy phase, the 50 year old how the hell am I 50 already phase.... after that I think I'll be okay to head on home to Noah. But I want it all for her. Just like I wanted it all for him.

So little girl, grow up. Grow taller than mommy. Learn more than mommy. Become the most incredible human being you can become. Hold my hand for as long as you can. Snuggle up next to me in bed until you think you're too big to do that anymore. Tell me you love me and that I'm your best friend every day. Tell me I'm mean. Tell me you're mad. Tell me your hopes and your dreams and trust me to stick by you through it all. But don't you stop growing. Don't you stay little. Don't you let my need for you to be my baby ever hinder your development in any way. I've already got one baby forever frozen in time... I don't need two. I'd rather watch you flourish.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lessons in Loss - 6 months out

6 months ago this week my life changed suddenly and drastically. My 3.5 month old baby boy, Noah, was called home to the Lord. When he entered Heaven, the physical aspect of me entered a version of hell on earth; my soul, however, was awakened to God's beauty and grace. My journey through grief has only just begun but I have learned quite a bit during the first half of this year without him.

1) Love continues to grow beyond the grave. 

Noah did not make me a mother. His big sister did. I know what it feels like to birth a child and watch her hit all of her milestones. I know what it's like to let her sprout little wings and fly. I know what it feels like when your heart beats outside of your chest in the form of a little human that your body grew. The love a mother has for her child is insatiable. It is unquenchable. It could never be matched by another form of love (apart from God's) this side of Heaven. It grows daily and deeply. You love your child this way simply because they are yours but watching them grow and change each day, observing their interactions, listening to their voice, and knowing all of the things that make that child unique nurtures your love for them.

But what about when you love a child that disappears right before your eyes? I carried Noah for 40 weeks inside of my womb. Then God granted me 14 weeks and 5 days with him in the traditional form of mother and child. I knew everything there was to know about him. I spent every moment of that time making sure he was perfectly cared for. I watched him grow and change. I loved him with a love deeper than I could ever put into words. Then one day, literally in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

The love I had for him did not slowly start to slip away from me as the time has ticked on without him. In fact my love for him has only grown stronger. The love I have for him has transcended time. It has crossed through worlds. It has permeated everything I do and everything I touch. It is a love that meets Noah each and every day as he walks along streets of gold. It is the same love that will meet him at the gates of Heaven whenever I am called home too. It is the kind of love that I wish everyone in the world could experience but I pray no one else ever has to.

2) True empathy is a gift and not everyone has it.

The people who have helped me most are the people who willingly try to put themselves in my shoes. They are the ones who desperately want to take the pain from me for just a moment. The selfless ones. The ones who would bear this burden just to provide me with a second of relief. Those people are special and they are rare and yet God has strategically placed quite a few of these angels in my life.

For the most part, people are only able to understand and appropriately respond to what they are personally able to feel. If they have not felt your pain they can not fully understand it. This often leads to very well meaning people with great intentions often saying things to you that are in actuality deeply hurtful.

"At least he's no longer in pain." "God had a better plan for him." "The most beautiful flowers are the ones picked first." "God must have needed another angel."  "I hope you have better luck next time." These are only examples and they are offered with the purest of intentions but each of those phrases are like the twist of a knife. Before I lost Noah, my mouth spoke similar words. They are basically kind sentiments but they provide little comfort when they are in reference to the child you would give anything to have back. These words actually remind the person experiencing such deep pain how few people truly understand what losing a child feels like. You really just don't know until you know.

To say this is not to negate the appreciation I have for the kindness and love so many people have shown me. I have encountered a multitude of genuine and thoughtful hearts over the last 6 months, people that truly want nothing more than to help. They just don't know how and that's okay.

There are also people who have their "this could never happen to me" wall up. These are the people who are not even trying to understand because letting your pain in makes them feel too vulnerable. This can be extremely difficult for the bereaved mother and it is where grace is necessary. No one is perfect. We are human and we are built to protect ourselves from harm. I don't blame anyone for never wanting to feel an ounce of the pain of child loss... I certainly didn't want to either but that choice was taken from me when Noah died.

In these moments, when a person has just said something to us that pushes a button deep within and we think "What is wrong with you?! Why would you think it's okay to say that to me?" We have a choice to make. We can forgive them because a) God tells us to b) they really meant well c) they have absolutely no idea what this feels like and couldn't possibly understand OR we can slip deeper into the pit of isolation that losing a child creates.

3) God can pick you up out of the pit.

There have been countless times where I have felt like I could not possibly go on, times when I have cried so hard that I thought I would stop breathing. There have been moments when I have felt desperately alone, like I had been abandoned by the One who promised He would love and protect me and my child.

I have felt hot tears fall with a heaviness that did not exist before Noah died, enough tears to fill a swimming pool by now I'm sure. I have crumpled on the bathroom floor, by his door, and at his grave. I have cried out to God to give him back. More than anything I have prayed for God to just "please help me." It's the simplest of all prayers but it carries great power because it comes from the most intimate places of my soul. God hears my cries of desperation. He and I both know that He is the only one who could possibly help and He does. Every single time.

I know I have many more unbearable days in my future. I know that they come on suddenly, often without warning. I know they run the risk of ruining me... but they won't. God promises he will never leave me or forsake me. Not now. Not ever. I have learned that I can never fall so deep into despair that the Lord's hand can not reach to lift me up. His hand will always find mine.

He has picked me up off the floor. He has pulled me out of bed. He has wrapped his arms around me and held my hand time and time again. He dries my tears and steadies my breath. He calms my heart and fills my soul with His love and with His hope. He whispers in my ear that our child is deeply loved and perfectly safe in His arms.

Time will not heal my wounds, but God will. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How I'm REALLY doing

I've been asked (often) lately how I'm doing... "like how are you REALLY doing?" It makes me giggle because I wonder if I'm really doing that well or if I'm getting really good at convincing people that I'm holding it together. I think the answer is both. There are days that I'm truly shocked at how "normal" life is. I'm surprised by how often I've laughed and enjoyed the day I've had. I forget how many times I feel my insides wince... at the sight of his closed bedroom door (which I pass 100 times a day), at the picture of a friend's sweet little baby that is right around the age Noah should be, when my daughter asks why baby Noah's in heaven, when I look at the kitchen counter where his daily medications used to sit. I could go on and on.

The sad fact is that I'm just getting really used to missing him. It's not that I miss him any less; in fact, sometimes I think I miss him more. I know I love him more. I feel like I live in two different realities. Noah was only physically present (outside of my belly) in my home for about 2.5 months. My days before Noah arrived were spent much the same as they are now - revolving around his big sister. We bounce back and forth between her bedroom, playroom, the living room, the bathroom, the backyard, the car, etc. over and over each day. Nothing has changed about that. So sometimes it feels like he wasn't even here. That sentence is physically painful for me to type but I would be lying if I didn't admit that. Thank God feelings are not truth.

The fight or flight portion of my brain wants to make it seem like I am fine because really nothing's changed. Life is just as it was before when it was just me, my husband, and our daughter, right? WRONG. I don't blame my brain for trying to protect me... for trying to make this whole nightmare in some way okay. The problem is it is anything but helpful and that the rest of me remembers a vastly different story.

I look at the pictures in my house and I see a little girl holding her baby brother. There is a door down the hall where all of his things are just as they were the day he died. I close my eyes and I see his beautiful little face looking up at me, telling me the sweetest stories I've ever heard. I have stretch marks on my hips and a dark line down my belly that still serve as proof that I carried him. I have memories of a cold, rainy Christmas day in Boston praising God that he made it through open heart surgery.

I can feel his absence as tangibly as I can feel his sister's presence. I swear when I close my eyes he is right in front of me. I can feel my hands under his head, my kisses on his chest, the weight of his body against mine. I remember it all. It all screams "he is real!!!" And while I fully believe he is still very real, that his spirit is very much alive, and that he is enjoying all of heaven's splendor, I still wish he were here with me. I wish "normal" didn't feel so wrong. I wish there wasn't a constant awareness of the little boy who should be here with us. But at the same time, it is that awareness of his physical absence that causes me to search for him in everything I see and to turn to God for my next breath because breathing is really hard when half of your heart is gone.

If you ask me how I'm doing I will tell you that I'm okay. I'm sad and I miss my baby literally every moment of the day, but I am okay.  I'm okay because hope flutters through my heart (and sometimes through my yard) and reminds me that this is not the end. I repeat the words "I will see him again" over and over again when the days without him are long and hard. Those words fill the empty places where he should be. Those words will carry me through until they don't need to anymore.