Thursday, April 18, 2013

If We Could Talk

If we could talk, I would tell you that the ache of missing you is still there. 
The intensity fluctuates, but it's ever present.  I miss you.  Every day.

If we could talk, I would tell you that sometimes I see little boys with dark hair and sweet smiles and I wonder.  Would you look like them?     

If we could talk, I would tell you that I can't erase doctor visits and ultrasound appointments from my phone's calendar, even though the memory is full.  It hurts to let go of anything related to you, because I had to let go of you.

If we could talk, I would tell you that when I see little blue birds I think about you.  They remind me that God takes care of us.  His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches over you and me. 

If we could talk, I would tell you that your sister's presence in my life is like a healing balm on my wounds.  And even though she is here, I never forget that you are not.  You are irreplaceable.

If we could talk, I would tell you that losing you was the worst thing that has ever happened to me.  When I have flashbacks of saying goodbye to you, I gasp.  Memories of your death make me cry, but memories of your life make me smile.

If we could talk, I would tell you that sometimes I struggle with guilt.  I question if feeling happy with your sister means I've left you behind.  But I realize that when we made the decision to try to have another baby, we were choosing to let our hearts love again...and love is always the right choice.

If we could talk, the most important thing I would say is I love you.  Always.      

Friday, March 15, 2013

Two Words

Praying challenges me.

I have found that putting expectations on myself during prayer is almost always counterproductive.  Whenever I make goals for the length and frequency of my prayers, I always fall short.  I have realized that making strict rules for my prayer life shifts my focus away from God, which doesn't make sense.

Sometimes my words to God are few, but He draws me near anyway.  I don't think He counts my words or the number of times I pray.  Instead, I believe He listens to my heart...the joys and the sorrows in my soul.

When William was first diagnosed, my shock and sadness was disorienting.
All I could pray was, Carry me.

After William died, I was broken and weary.
The only words I could find were, Help me.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, the fear was overwhelming.
I pleaded with God, Protect her

When I hold my daughter in my arms as the sun is just beginning to rise,
I whisper, Thank you

Pouring your heart out to God can mean hours of praying...
but sometimes two words are enough.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I have taken a long retreat from writing in this public space.  I have done a lot of writing in my head and in my heart, but have not felt inclined to share it.  The past year was one full of grief, love, fear, and hope.  I think I just felt too vulnerable to share many of my feelings out loud.

I have spent a lot of time pondering specific verses in Ecclesiastes 3 about time.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven...
A time to cry and a time to laugh...
A time to grieve and a time to dance...
A time to tear and a time to mend...
A time to be quiet and a time to speak...
God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. 
(verses 1, 4, 7, and 11)

Our openness about our beautiful and heartbreaking journey with William brought our family a level of love and support we could never have imagined.  It is very clear to me that the time that I carried William was a time to speak.  After we said goodbye, I needed time to be quiet.

To grieve.  To cry.  To mend.

As the months passed after William died, I found that grief takes various shapes and forms.  I had trouble making decisions, being productive, and being emotionally available to the people in my life.

I would go to the grocery store and stand in front of the shelf as the minutes passed.  What kind of pasta should I buy?  What package of paper towels is the best deal?  I had so much trouble making simple decisions.

I would sit at the kitchen table with a long list of people to thank for the kindness, donations, meals, and gifts we had received from so many.  I would hold the pen in my hand and try to find the words to write.  My sadness felt paralyzing.  I just could not complete simple tasks.

I could not go to certain social gatherings, especially baby showers.  I wanted so much to be there for the friends and the family I loved, but it was just so hard to be emotionally available when I was in so much pain. 

When we decided to move forward with attempting to have another child, I was fragile.  Losing William left my heart wounded and sore.  When we received the miraculous news that our second IVF had worked and I was once again pregnant, fear and hope overcame me.

I was still grieving so heavily, but in the quiet moments I found myself whispering to God, Is my time to dance coming?   Is it time to laugh again?

Time continued to pass and I found that I noticed the sun again.  I felt the warmth of hope and the promise of happiness returning.  The waters of grief began to recede.  I felt less and less like I was drowning and gasping for air.  It didn't hurt to breathe anymore.

It is now over a year since I held William...since I handed him over at the hospital, knowing I would never see him again on this side of Heaven...since I knelt in the grass at the cemetery wondering if I could truly go on without him here with me.  And although the tears are falling as I write this, I can often speak of him without tears.  In fact, I often speak of him with a smile now.

God has used the love of our friends and family, the birth of our daughter, and the passage of time to methodically mend the scattered pieces of my heart.  I'm able to see the beauty of the seasons I've lived through.

My season with William, my season of grief...the long season of pregnancy with our daughter, her days as a newborn...there has been beauty all along.  Sometimes painful beauty, the kind that refines.  Sometimes beauty filled with joy and dreams fulfilled.

But God has truly made everything beautiful in its time.

Time will continue on, and there will surely be many seasons of joys and sorrows to come...but right now, I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness for this season.

It is time to laugh.  It is time to dance.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Two weeks ago, I returned to work for the first time since September.  Typically, I hardly ever miss more than one or two days of work at a time.  As a teacher, I find that the planning required for calling out is often more work than just going in. 

It was so strange to walk into my classroom after such a long absence.  It felt like returning home to find that someone else had been living in my house for six months...rearranging the food in the cabinets and eating at my kitchen table.  I don't mean this as a negative statement.  Having been a long term substitute at the beginning of my career, I fully understand the balancing act required when you are filling in for another person.  My substitute did an excellent job of respecting my space while also running the classroom in a way that worked for her.  It wasn't was just different.  It was a familiar place that felt unfamiliar.

So many things were different and some things were exactly the same.  My reusable lunch bag was still sitting in my little refrigerator behind my desk (thankfully, my sub threw out the perishable food!).  My picture frames were still sitting on the window sill.  The little slips of paper found in fortune cookies years ago were still taped above my computer screen.  My sub plans for the morning of September 22nd were still saved on my computer's desktop.

I left school that Thursday morning for an ultrasound, planning to return by lunch.  An hour later, we found out our son was going to die and that my own health was at risk, too.  I didn't step foot in my classroom again for almost six months.

My school has been tremendously supportive to me during the time of my absence and during my transition back to work.  My husband, family, and friends encouraged me and prayed for me as I struggled through the first few days.  Bit by bit, I got used to being back in the school environment and taking on the responsibilities my job requires.  Overall, it's been a fairly successful two weeks.

But each time I add something "normal" back into my life, I feel as though I'm being divided into pieces.  Whether it's something small like buying food at the store, or something big like returning to work...I feel like I'm living two lives at one time.

In the one life, I function in a way that is familiar...I smile at coworkers in the hallway and casually converse while waiting for the photocopier.  I help my seven year old students talk out their disagreements over who is "it" during tag at recess.  I read them stories and plan lessons for them.  I chuckle at the cute things they say.  I come home and empty the dishwasher and fold clothes.  I joke around with my husband and get angry when people don't use their turn signal.

But then there is this other life I'm forced to live.  The life where my baby died.  The life where William's absence scratches at my heart every minute, leaving me raw and exhausted at the end of each day.  In this life, I plan what I will place at his grave the next time we visit the cemetery.  I send a picture to CHOP to include in the memorial service they have for children who have died.  I get on the scale and mentally tally how much weight I've lost since having my baby.  My baby who doesn't live with me.  My baby who I don't get to watch grow up.

And even though I've had so many moments where I feel successful in the one life, the other life is always there.  When I teach a great lesson to my students...William is still gone.  When I fold three loads of laundry and tidy up the house...William is still missing.  The moments of normalcy and functioning in the one life fail to undo the pain and grief in the other.  

I can imagine it's common for the bereaved to feel function in the different roles they fulfill while wondering if they will ever feel like a whole person again.  I find myself looking at strangers in stores and restaurants, wondering if they also have pain scratching at their hearts while they order their lunch or pick out their produce. 

As people so often say, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I will grade papers.  I will laugh with my husband.  I will miss my son. 

And I will have faith that God is holding every fragment of my life and my heart in His hands...staying by my side as I adjust to my new "normal".

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Lens of Loss

Tonight we decided to go out to eat.  Seeing as we have no food in the house, it seemed like a reasonable solution for dinner.  I put on real clothes (as in, pants that are not preceded by the word "yoga" or "pajama") and we headed to a local sandwich place called Isaac's.

We talked throughout dinner and I actually enjoyed eating what I ordered.  We even splurged on dessert.  And even though the Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch Cake was everything I hoped it would be and more, we left with slightly heavy hearts.

You see, when you are hurting inside...being out in the world can hurt.  Sometimes it hurts a little.  Sometimes it hurts a lot.

I remember going out to lunch at a diner only eight days after William died (and was born...I use the words "born" and "died" interchangeably.  What word do you use when the events happen at the same time?)  We sat there as I pushed the food around my plate.  My husband and I just stared off into space, still unable to really find words to fill the immense silence we felt after losing our firstborn.

The woman in the booth behind me was happily talking to her companion about her baby.  She was pregnant with a girl and couldn't stop gushing about feeling her kick throughout the day.  I wanted to block out her voice, but we were practically sitting back-to-back. 

Each of her joyful words wounded me.  When she started describing how she and her husband would put their hands on her stomach and squeal with delight when their daughter kicked, I silently started crying.  I put my hands over my ears and shook my head back and forth.  I wanted to run out of the diner and scream in the middle of the parking lot.  I was sure my grief was going to kill me...right then and there.

I've had many moments like that over the past three months.  When you feel so heartbroken, you wonder how it's possible that your heart continues to beat at all.

That woman had every right to be joyful.  She had every right to talk about her pregnancy to her friend.  But it hurts to hear those things after your baby dies.  The happiness of others can sometimes magnify your pain. 

This doesn't mean that people shouldn't be happy because others are hurting.  It's just part of life.  Your best day could be someone's worst.  Your worst day could be someone's best.

After you've suffered a great loss, you see the world through a lens.  A lens of loss.  For an undetermined amount of time, there are many things (some expected, some unexpected) that remind you of your loss. 

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss gives you compassion.  You see the suffering and pain of others in a new way and you feel new levels of empathy.

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss makes you angry.  You watch other people have their hopes fulfilled, while your dreams have been shattered.

Sometimes looking through the lens of loss causes you immense pain.  You smile back at the pregnant woman in the grocery store, and then you go sit in your car and cry.

As we sat in Isaac's tonight and shared dessert, a large family sat beside us.  One of the little boys was seated with his back to me, but soon turned his entire body around to stare at me.  He couldn't have been more than one or two years old.  He had beautiful big brown eyes.  His mom kept trying to distract him to make him turn around, but he wouldn't take those eyes off of me.

In an alternate reality, I would love this.  I love children and typically delight in interacting with them.  I attempted to smile and wave at him, but my lens of loss makes these familiar responses feel foreign. 

His mom smiled at my husband and said, "I think you have some competition! My son can't take his eyes off of her!"  We both smiled.

We didn't tell her how we were really feeling.  We didn't tell her that our son has just died.  We didn't tell her that her son reminded us of what we'll never have with William.  How we won't take him to restaurants.  How we won't see him grow year after year.  How we'll never know the color of his eyes.

Because you don't force others to wear your lens of loss, your lens of grief.  They see the world through their own lenses.  Perhaps they've already known great pain...perhaps they haven't. 

That family in Isaac's seemed to be enjoying a nice evening together.  I sincerely hope they were all as happy and healthy as they appeared.  And even though our brief encounter reminded us of our loss, I hope it reminded them of what they have.

And, for their sake, I hope they ordered the Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch cake...because it was truly delicious.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012


There have been times in my life when I've struggled with seeing myself as beautiful.  I had a very narrow definition of beauty and felt that I always fell short.

Lately, I have noticed that I've been avoiding looking at myself.  I look in the mirror and see someone I don't even recognize.  I see hair that needs to be cut.  I see extra weight accumulated from months of hormone injections before I got pregnant.  I see stretch marks etched across my stomach.  I see a deep sadness in my eyes.  I see the weariness of grief and loss and shattered dreams.

I find that when I catch a glimpse of myself...I look away.

Where have you gone?  I ask myself.  Who have you become?

A few weeks ago, I happened across a song called "Beauty from Pain" by Superchicks.  It took me aback as I listened to it for the first time.  Every single word of the song spoke to me.  The verses are so honest and the song speaks to the raw pain of grief and disappointment.

Yesterday, I was trying to force myself to get dressed and begin my day.  I thought of "Beauty from Pain" and the lyric that says, "I know I'm alive but I feel like I've died".  I sat on the end of my bed and cried.  I felt the searing pain that only those who have grieved can recognize, I imagine.

You are alive.
The person you love is not.
And you wonder if part of you has died with them.
The good part...the beautiful part.

I decided to put on the song and lay back on the bed to listen.  As the chorus began, I found myself meditating on the words.

After all this has passed
I still will remain
After I've cried my last
They'll be beauty from pain
Though it won't be today
Someday I'll hope again
And they'll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

Am I beautiful, God?  Is it possible to be beautiful after all that has happened?

I thought back to the pictures of me holding William right after he was born.  I hardly remember the photographer being there.*  As she quietly snapped pictures, I met my son face-to-face for the first time.  The pictures show me looking at my baby with a visible love.  My features are soft and my face is peaceful.  In one, I am brushing my lips across his forehead with my eyes closed as I breath in his presence.

You don't see the tears and screaming from the agonizing delivery just moments before.  You don't see the fact that my life was literally hanging in the balance and I would soon we whisked away to an operating room (the details of which I will share when I complete his birth story).  You don't see my body shaking from both the trauma and sacredness of that moment.

What you see is a mother meeting her son for the first time.

And she is beautiful.

As I lay on my bed, listening to the song and thinking back to those moments with William, I realized that I am that beautiful mother.  I am still the mother in those pictures.

I slowly got up and faced the mirror above my dresser.  I looked at myself and resisted the urge to look away.  As the song continued to play, I searched for beauty.

And I found it.

I found it in my eyes, swollen from crying.  I found it in the silent tears running slowly down my cheeks.  I found it in the stretch marks across my stomach, the battle scars of my motherhood.  I found it in the curves of my body where I sheltered and carried my son.

I saw beauty in my pain.  My pain shows my capacity to love.  And love is beautiful.

As I looked at my reflection, I hoped for the future and the beauty that will emerge from these ashes.  I asked God to refine me as gold is purified through flames.

My definition of beauty has now widened.

I am throwing modesty to the wind and claiming my beauty as a woman and as a mother.  I don't know why God is allowing me to walk through this pain, but I am choosing to believe that He is making me more and more beautiful in the midst of it. 

"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.  He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."  
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New Living Translation)

*There is a wonderful organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that organizes a network of professional photographers who are willing to volunteer their time to take pictures of stillborn or critically ill newborns.  A photographer from this organization came the moment she was called to take pictures of our precious baby.   

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Sometimes only one person is missing and the whole world seems depopulated.
Alphonse de Lamartine

In recent weeks, I have been more contemplative in my grief.  Several times, I've placed my fingers over the keys only to find myself lost in thought without a word making it to the screen. 

Many people have told me that it will get easier with time.  I do believe this to be true and I see some of the rawness of my pain beginning to scab as the days wear on.  But, in some ways, the passage of time has been more painful than helpful.  I feel as though I'm moving farther and farther away from William.  As the world counted down to midnight on New Year's Eve, I ached at leaving 2011 behind.  It was the only year he was here with me.

And I realize that William will always be with me in my heart.  But, if you've lost a loved one, you know that there's a difference between someone being in your heart and someone being here with you.  Really here...a living, breathing piece of your life.

I feel the way that everyone feels when they lose someone they love.  I feel that he is missing. I feel like he should be here, and he is not. 

And because he is missing, there is a big empty space where memories will never be made.  No birthday parties or new first words or favorite cuddling or bedtime stories.  

And I'm so thankful for the memories I do have with him, for the brief lifetime we spent together.  The kicks and the singing...the ladybugs and the hiccups...the long drives and belly rubs.  But the feeling that he is missing will never completely go away.

I know I will experience so many wonderful memories with our future children, but I had dreams for William.  There were hopes and dreams that belonged just to him.   

Because when someone enters your life, they make a space for themselves.  A space with curves and corners that no other person can quite fill.  When they are not there anymore, that space feels empty and it hurts your heart.      

So here I am.  Trying to navigate each day when someone I love so deeply is missing.  And I know that countless others are doing the same thing and have done the same thing.  I know that God is still with me, patiently and gently guiding me through this journey of pain and loss.  I know that the acute grief will subside and the sun will shine again. 

But today it is raining.  The sun isn't shining.  No matter how much I wish differently, my William is not here.

And because he is missing
I am missing him
so much