Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Four years

Four years ago today I started the day in a drug induced haze, a stupor.  My senses were dulled and heightened all at once.  I couldn’t will myself awake to speak or to open my eyes, but my hearing was impeccable, enhanced even.  Hushed conversations in the hallway outside my room sounded like shouting.  The hurried footsteps echoed in my head.

I was in a hospital room.  The same one I entered about twenty-four hours earlier to deliver a baby that had died.  The drugs were supposed to make me get some sleep, and they did, but fitfully, teetering on that edge between waking and sleeping with the unwelcome side effect of hallucinations thrown in for bonus. 

The sheer horror of the prospect filled my mind for hours when I first realized what I would have to do.  As if the trauma of being told you have a baby inside of you whose heart is no longer beating was not enough, a few hours later, after we had gotten home to let the tragedy sink in,  the doctor called to talk to me about next steps.  “Ashley, you’re going to have to come back in to the hospital to deliver your baby.  We can do it in the next several days, you can choose when.  I want you to think about this while you decide:  I want you to seriously consider holding your baby and saying goodbye to him.  Think about it.  Pray about it.”  As I hung up the phone with probably one of the kindest men to ever don a white coat, I told Jeff what he said.  “He said that we need to think about holding him and naming him.  He actually encouraged us to do that.  Seriously?” 

I had never known anyone closely who had a late term miscarriage or a stillbirth, so this was all new to me.  The only frame of reference I had was an ER episode where Carter and his finance have a stillborn baby.  I remember the anguish of watching that unfold; the agony of the women delivering a baby who didn’t cry.  And if memory served me right, Carter’s fiancĂ© wouldn’t hold the baby.  She stared at a quiet crib in the corner of her darkened hospital room, but she wouldn’t hold him. 

While my mind was certainly not at its optimal functioning level in those days, I had enough sense to know I would never get one moment of this experience back.  If I decided not to hold our baby, then I would never get to change my mind once we left that hospital.  So we did it.  It wasn’t easy, but honestly after going through labor for twenty-six hours, it felt natural.  It felt right in a really wrong situation. 

And later that day, I went home.  You hear this phrase over and over when you have a miscarriage or stillbirth; Empty Arms.  That trip in the wheelchair from the hospital room to the car was that phrase exemplified.  I knew the looks you got when you had a little pink bundle in your arms and a smile on your face as the nurse wheeled you out.  I did not know the looks you get and the feeling of just wanting to close your eyes and just get out of there when they wheel you down with a teddy bear in your arms where a swaddled baby should be.  I don’t really recall much of what happened over the next couple of days other than looking for a place to bury our baby.  That and feeling like every person I encountered who was going on with their lives was  living in ignorant denial of the fragileness of our lives and the miracle that any of us actually make it to birth. 

Those days passed and with the help of my loving family, and most especially the light that came in the form of a little two year old girl who didn’t understand what happened and expected her life of laughter and joy and walks and playgrounds to continue.  So I followed her lead and slowly waded back into life with the rest of the world, with all of the people who could actually watch TV at night and chitchat about weather and car tires. 

And it went on from there.  

Nothing major happened to break me out of my sadness, I just slowly grieved differently, less publicly, more quietly, more in the inner places.  

Four years ago my lens was shifted with a jolt.  Reality, religion, truth, faith, trust, dependence, and love shifted mightily in the earthquake of losing a baby.  

None of those things have returned to their original place in me, but I trust that I am better for it today. 

That the place of my wounding has been and will continue to be the place of healing for me – and others too I pray.  Genesis 50:20.  

That through the storm, I had to decide whether I would white knuckle myself to the familiar, jump ship and give up, or get out and walk.  Matthew 14:28-31

Even today, I’m still learning and processing and trying to figure it all out.  And where I stand now is a place where I can say I am thankful for what this atrocity brought to me – that new lens.  One that is not nearly so sure of itself, but much more confident in my uncertainty.  One that doesn’t assume I have any idea about someone else’s story – their motives, their heart, their hurts.  One that is more likely to press in and ask, even when it is uncomfortable.  I am not yet to the point – nor do I know if I will ever be as I walk this earth – where I have fully accepted losing our baby boy, but today I believe I am four years further down a road that I trust will take me where He is leading.   

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Sing it

 I read this article with interest on a couple of different levels.  First of all, I have two daughters who adore Taylor Swift -- and I apologize to all of you for mentioning her so often lately, but I promise for each time I mention her on the blog, I hear her name at least 2,127 times at home.  Second, I have three daughters.  The thought of the coming day when they'll "hate" me doesn't sit well with me.  I may have said that I hated my mom once or twice in my teen years, but I never meant it and I don't think I acted as though I hated her (most of the time?  Mom?).  In fact, a large part of what ran through my head when making decisions as a teenagers was wondering what my Mom would think of my choice.  That didn't keep me from making really poor choices, but I think it kept me from making even more poor choices.

All of that is to say, I think there is a pressure and expectation that is spoken, unspoken, sung, photographed, and written about in our culture that tells teenagers that it is cool to hate your parents.  And if Taylor Swift is a small tick in the opposite direction, then I'm happy to read about it and even happier to play her music for my girls.

Since I've already alienated anyone who doesn't want to hear more about my children's love for Ms. Swift, I'll go ahead and post this video from our ride in the van the other day with the girls singing.  FYI, they are both convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they each sound "just like Taylor Swift."

Friday, December 02, 2011

Guess . . .




At 15 months, one week, I think Camille beat her big sister Charlotte by a matter of days.  Let the wildness ensue; they are all mobile on two legs now!  

Thursday, December 01, 2011


We started reading Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Advent Devotional with the girls at dinner on Tuesday night, and I'm praying that we'll be able to continue that all the way to Christmas.  I'm hoping that it will help foster some anticipation in them for the coming Christ this year as we walk through the Christmas season.

In case you were worried, they need no help at all anticipating the coming Santa.  So, I thought that reading through this devotional each night could help bring us down to the reason we celebrate this holiday.

As we've read through it the past two nights, I have tried to make sure to ask them questions about what I've read as we go, whether it be to make sure they understand a word, or to make sure I explain it to a six year old and three year old in words that they might better grasp.  And, as an aside, it's been an interesting scene at our dinner table, Charlotte sitting on my lap, Camille banging on her high chair tray, Caroline with Oreo in hand -- but through all of that I'm reminding myself that in all likelihood they will not remember the words I say and read during this time, but more likely is that they will remember that we took the time to do this.  

The devotional last night was entitled "Life begins as a love story."  As I read the line, "But it was the affection of God that made all his children (Prov. 8:31)," I asked Caroline if she knew what affection meant.  At first she wasn't sure, so I prompted her by saying, "Affection is like love."  She responded, "Oh, yes, yes!  Affection is like opening your heart."  As she said it, she moved her hands across her chest and outstretched them to the sides of her body. 

Whoa.  Opening your heart - beautiful and poignant especially considering the context last night. 

And, by the way, a way better explanation than mine, thankyouverymcuh.