Thursday, July 5, 2012

Love Always Hopes

The past month and a half has been unbelievable. 
Nearly unbearable, but we're still going somehow. Just barely.

The word empty has been my choice descriptor the past few weeks. 

Loving someone who isn't living is torture. Loving a baby who didn't even live two weeks is robbery. I'm left with longing that will never be fulfilled. I'm left with a few photo files that will never grow like my other child's does. I'm left with tubs of tiny unworn girly clothes. I'm left with a shattered heart, and the contents have spilled out. 


Tasks that are routine for normal people are overwhelming to me. My thoughts, emotions, prayers, and longings are using up all my physical energy. I have nothing left to give.


On May 21st, I burst into tears after watching the pregnancy test reveal that I was expecting again. The burst was caused by a sudden mix of emotions. Shock that it could happen so soon... Excitement for another little one to join our family... Fear of all that could go wrong... Blessed that God would give us another child... and worry that Anna might be forgotten or that I wouldn't be able to grieve for her appropriately as I carried another child. But mostly, I cried in praise to God because I was so thrilled at the thought of another baby to carry and birth and love and raise. I got out the tubs of clothes that were intended for Anna and looked through, dreaming of another girl. I looked at baby pictures of Isaac, wondering if we'd be blessed with a second boy.

Three weeks later Matt & I attended a memorial service at Seattle Children's Hospital in honor of all the children who have passed away there. I can't even explain the horror I felt as I entered that building again. I wept with such rawness, it hurt so bad. The last time I was there was when we held Anna for the last time and said goodbye... and I had to walk away. She spent her whole life there. Hot tears streamed as we walked the same halls, rode the same elevators, visited the same waiting rooms, and peeked into the ICU. Anna's room. Anna's world. Our memories with Anna. But she wasn't there. 

Two days later, June 8th, we celebrated Anna's 6th-month with my extended family. It felt right to celebrate somehow... to get flowers and balloons and look through the memory boxes. It never completely feels right, because I don't like this outcome. I wish we would have been celebrating with her present. Celebrating her healing or even another successful surgery... But we celebrate her. She happened, she was beautiful, she was worth it. 

A good friend presented me with an amazing gift on that same day. Months earlier she  asked family and friends to create a scrapbook page of what they learned from God, Matt & I, or Anna through this whole journey. She compiled several and put them in an album titled "Thank You, Anna Joy". I sat and cried over every page. Truly priceless. (If you would like to make one, or even just write to us with the same concept, please do! We would love to add to the album.) Here are a few examples. 

My first ultrasound for this new pregnancy was June 14th. I was eight weeks along, and had a huge amount of apprehension and excitement attached to my heart. I couldn't sit still or breathe deeply. I just wanted to get in and get going so I could see my tiny baby bean and his/her strong heartbeat. I couldn't wait to see the heart beating! I just wanted to know that everything was OK this time. 

So many questions have surfaced since Anna Joy's passing. She wasn't healed and I don't understand that. I wondered with this new pregnancy if I should even ask for a healthy baby. I knew God would hear me... but would it make a difference? He already had a plan for this child, and I believe knows what is best for me and my family. But I had such a jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings swirling that I couldn't even really pray for specific things. But I started a journal. A new journal for another child. Just like I have for Isaac and Anna. I spilled my heart to this new baby, and gave her/him to God. I didn't have the strength to analyze whether or not I should ask for a perfectly healthy baby, but I knew I needed to surrender again. And I knew I needed to love. Thus, as scary as it was, I opened my heart to another child. 

Matt & I watched the screens in the ultrasound room as the tech measured this and that. Finally, the gestational sac was front and center. I've had and witnessed so many ultrasounds, I knew something didn't seem right when I saw this sac. I couldn't find the little bean-shaped gray spot that should be inside the black circle. Just black. My concern was confirmed when the tech stopped humming with the radio, and after a few moments left the room saying she needed to talk to my nurse. 

The gestational sac measured six weeks instead of eight. Two possibilities: 1) I was six weeks along instead of eight, or 2) there was no fetus developing.

Excuse me? What is happening right now? THIS CAN'T BE!

Matt & I left in shock, depleted of any little energy we had when we arrived at the appointment. I got in my car and wept. Too much. 


We had to wait a full week for the next ultrasound which would answer our question of whether this was a viable pregnancy or not. It is so weird to have a positive pregnancy test (or two!), all the normal symptoms (nausea, hunger, exhaustion, etc.), and give your heart to a new little person... only to find out that there's a possibility there is no baby growing. 

Two days after that first appointment we participated in The TEARS Foundation Rock & Walk in honor and remembrance of Anna Joy. We had a small group of friends join us, and we walked as team "Wholehearted". Matt & I agree that it was more difficult and emotional than we expected, but it was very worth-while and healing. 

Then it was Father's Day. Poor Matt. Man, the holidays hit hard. Not only did he miss his baby girl, but the absence of his own father was more acute this year. He felt the loss from both ways. 

We made it to the next ultrasound appointment. The hope I carried in with me was dashed soon after the tech started looking. The screen told me the same story. I knew. Empty. No baby. What a numbing experience. Surreal. Unbelievable. Too much.


I couldn't believe I was being told I was going to miscarry. Too much!

On the way to hospital a week and a half ago for a D&C, I was numb. But God was still able to speak to my heart. Matt Redman's song, "Never Once" started playing in my head. I quietly, weakly sang a few phrases as I watched the world zoom by through the car window.

Every step of preparation for the procedure took me further down the path of grief. The raw sadness of the past year blurred thicker as I put on the gown and climbed onto the bed. The emptiness of missing Anna penetrated deeper as the nurse forced the IV into my arm. The realization that I have no answers hit harder as I answered health questions. The love for my husband burned stronger as he held my hand, stroked my hair, and wiped my tears. 

Obviously, I was already struggling as I tried to manage the grieving process... but this has been quite the blow. Like we were just starting to stand up a bit, then got pushed back down. Really, God? Is this a joke? Are you seeing what You're allowing here? HELLO???

I have learned these past few weeks that it's OK to be useless. I am a task-oriented person who finds it natural to accomplish, organize, analyze, etc. How strange it feels to not be able to do anything! I was already so "out of it" the past few months after losing Anna Joy. Now... hm. I got nothin'.

Too tired to sleep. Too sad to try. Too drained to ask "Why?"

Too much.

I'm so glad God can handle things. I guess He doesn't need me to keep things going. :)

He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) OK, I can do that. I fully know what that means now. I have had no other choice. Well, I guess I could run away from Him. But that would get me nowhere, and I'd be lost and alone and hopeless. No, I choose to go to Jesus. That's all I have energy to do. Just "be" and let Him hold me. 

A couple months ago a dear friend gave me a heart-shaped charm with Anna's name on it. She told me she saw it and had to get it for me, was reminded that "love always hopes", and that's what we've done. That really touched my spirit, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since.

Love always hopes.


That's why we wanted Anna to get better. That's why we were crushed when she died. That's why I opened my heart to another baby. That's why I felt empty when we got more bad news. We hoped because we loved. 

I wouldn't be feeling this pain if I hadn't loved. 

But if I hadn't, I also would never have...
- felt the joy of putting my whole heart into my beautiful baby daughter
- experienced the exhilaration of delivering her and holding her
- noticed the tinge of pride that wells up when I say her name
- been filled with awe when I study her beauty
- gotten so close to my Lord by pouring my heart out to Him
- grown as deep through loss toward my husband
- cherished my days with my son as much
- worshiped God with such abandon
- met and hugged other mothers of angel babies
- walked through cemeteries with as much respect
- been so inspired to share my faith
- appreciated medical staff and services as personally
- had the humbling task of accepting so much help
- sought the scriptures as fervently
- savored every genuine hug & smile I receive
- looked at people with as much grace
- wanted to defeat evil so badly
- pictured heaven so tangibly
- craved that which is meaningful as deeply
- been as driven to live wholeheartedly

That phrase "love always hopes" (from 1 Corinthians 13 in the Bible) has helped me look up toward the positive through all of the craziness the past few weeks. It has helped me get to a point in my grief journey that isn't all sad. Some days I can look at photos of Anna Joy  and smile at her beauty. I can touch her giraffe blanket and feel comfort that she once touched it. I can read past journal entries and be thankful that God has walked with me through it all.

Hold on to hope. 

Here is the song that carried me into the hospital last week. Please at least read the lyrics  and let the truth sink in. It's even more powerful if you listen to it as well.

Standing on this mountaintop 
Looking just how far we've come 
Knowing that for every step 
You were with us 

Kneeling on this battle ground 
Seeing just how much You've done 
Knowing every victory 
Is Your power in us 

Scars and struggles on the way 
But with joy our hearts can say 
Yes, our hearts can say 

Never once did we ever walk alone 
Never once did You leave us on our own 
You are faithful, God, You are faithful 

Carried by Your constant grace 
Held within Your perfect peace 
Never once, no, we never walk alone 

Every step we are breathing in Your grace 
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise 
You are faithful, God, You are faithful 
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

I feel empty in many ways, but I know I'm not truly empty. I have love and hope in there somewhere. I have faith, even if it's small right now. My arms may feel empty and my womb may be empty. But God's love has never filled me so full. God didn't DO this to me. God didn't push me down further while I was already struggling to get up. He's not testing me or seeing how much I can handle, or any other trite answer people think they need to give. It is what it is, and God is still Who He is. He is good and He is love. That's all I'm holding on to right now. No analyzing. Just soaking up all the love I can.

One of the verses I have clung to this past year is Romans 15:13. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Now it has a different twist. Feeling empty? May the God of hope FILL YOU.