Control

“I am not the creator and sustainer of life.” These words on the page of my Loved Baby Devotional stopped me. I repeat them to myself. I am not the creator and sustainer of life. I don’t know if they make me feel better or worse. This wasn’t my fault, but how I wish I was in control. 

I knew I was not the one who breathed life and spirit into Ginny. That was a mysterious, amazing process that comes from God, and I have little insight. I did however assemble the cells… at least my body, my hormones, my genes assembled the cells. And I decided when. I stopped taking birth control pills and tracked my cycle. 

I certainly believed I sustained her life. I never missed a day of prenatal vitamins. I followed the rules… no alcohol, no sushi, no deli meats, no ibuprofen. I exercised but only the approved first, second, and third trimester workouts. I slept on my left side. I skipped the roller coasters. I measured my water intake. I was by-the-book, and I wasn’t afraid. I had it under control. 

Now I consider those rules a joke. I followed all the rules, and my baby died. Meanwhile a woman on heroin gives birth to a living baby. Those rules are just to make us feel better. They are there to convince us we have some semblance of control. Maybe they aren’t a joke, but they are at least a society-wide superstition. 

I know, I know. There are reasons for these rules. You have a slightly increased chance of getting listeria from deli meats and fetal alcohol syndrome is a real thing. But the chances are still small, and following all the rules doesn’t eliminate your chances. There is always a risk. We want to have more control than that. We give the rules more power than they have. It sure feels like superstition.I read a frantic post on a pregnancy message board. A woman had such intense guilt about eating an Italian sub sandwich. She was convinced her baby was in trouble. She asked the board whether she should make herself sick to rid herself of the poisonous ham! I was never that extreme, but I did have a sense of security in following those rules.

Sometimes babies die in the womb when we follow all the rules. Sometimes infants die in their perfectly empty, breathable crib with the monitor on. Most of the time we don’t know why. As advanced as medical science is today, we don’t know. I don’t blame the doctors as many do. They were also by-the-book. They followed protocol that works 99% of the time. 

Maybe one day we will be smart enough to know why. I mean, a few hundred years ago we didn’t even know germs cause us to get sick. Maybe there is a hidden “germ” out there causing our babies to die. Maybe we will find it one day….Maybe not. I’m sure even if we did, there would be something else. 

Nature is like that. It’s random. The mysterious randomness is beautiful and has allowed for incredible diversity of life. It is beautiful, but it is cruel. 

At least it feels cruel. It feels cruel to take my perfectly timed, organized plans and throw a wrench in them.  It feels cruel to take a baby from a mother’s womb. But I am not the creator or sustainer of life. What do I know?

I don’t see the whole timeline of eternity. I don’t see the rippling impacts of life, no matter the length. I don’t see people’s hearts. I don’t see the tapestry of the world. I don’t know what is best. But someone does. The creator and sustainer of life does. 

This experience has taught me to drop my superstitions, drop my semblance of control, drop my plans, and trust in Him. His plans are bigger. He sees eternity. He knows what is best for us. He wants what is best for us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. I believe that, not only because His Word says so, but also because I feel it in my heart and gut. He is the creator and sustainer of life. I give Him my life. I give Him Ginny’s life. He had it all along anyway.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Remember

There is nothing more meaningful to me than someone telling me they are thinking of, missing, or remembering Ginny. What parents who have lost want more than anything is for their child to be remembered. I thought I would want to forget this whole painful experience, but that’s not the case. I don’t want to forget anything. I love her too much to forget anything. 

Never be afraid to bring her up to me. Don’t be afraid to use her name. Call her Ginny, call her Virginia Hope, just please call her. You aren’t reminding me of something painful. You are reminding me of who I love. And I’m probably already thinking of her anyway.  

I’m not sure what made us decide to share her sex and name to friends and family right when we found out. I think we were just eager to share her. We couldn’t keep her to ourselves. We wanted everyone to know her; I’m so glad we did. Daniel and I are blessed by friends who said we inspired them to share their baby’s name early. They want everyone to know their baby before birth the way they knew Ginny. 

People knew her name and knew of her garden-themed nursery. Family and friends kept their eyes open at stores for felted veggies, a print of a little garden bunny, and a garland of carrots. As spring drew nearer, it became much easier to spot cute items. One of my favorites is the set of three pots my sister Keri bought her. The pots read “You” “Grow” “Girl”. It was too perfect for Keri to pass up. Things still catch my eye at the store – at first I would feel a sharp pang in my heart. Now I think of it as a little smile from Ginny. 

“You Grow Girl” Pots for the nursery from Keri

Most all of my favorite pregnancy memories are of feeling Ginny move. Feeling that little flutter in the 2nd trimester. It was such a crazy feeling to know that there was a little person inside me with her own muscles and brain, moving independently from me. She was stretching, fidgeting, and turning on her own. It was mind-blowing to see those movements during ultrasounds. Is that really all happening inside me? 

12 week ultrasound – She was moving like crazy!

It was obvious when she developed the ability to hear. Any loud noise or music would make her move like crazy. I remember when we saw Fantastic Beasts in theaters. Ginny started flipping during a loud action scene. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud and tell Daniel right away. A couple weeks later we went to a Greek restaurant with friends. Festive music started playing and people got up to dance shoulder to shoulder. Ginny also started dancing! During doctor’s appointments, the sound of the doppler would startle her. I remember a doctor saying, “Hey baby girl, don’t kick the doctor!” The doctors would say she was very active and healthy to respond to the doppler so much. 

Dancers at our favorite Greek restaurant. Ginny was dancing right along!

Every time I felt Ginny hiccup (which was often), I would text Daniel. I’d type “Hiccups 🥰”, and Daniel would respond with a heart emoji. When he was home with us, I would grab his hand and place it on my belly. He smiled so big anytime he felt her. Sometimes we would fall asleep with his hand on my belly. Daniel would kiss us both goodbye in the morning, “Bye bye Ginny. I love you!” He wanted her to learn his voice. 

Texts between me and Daniel about Ginny hiccuping. 🙂

I want to bottle up all those memories and carry them with me everywhere. I would give anything to carry Ginny in my belly for one more minute. I wish I had savored every single moment as if it was the last because eventually it was. 

This makes me so grateful for the time I still have with others I love. I can still savor every moment with Daniel, my parents, my sisters, my in-laws, my friends. I plan on it. I plan on making as many memories as I can with everyone I love. In case I lose them or they lose me, we will always have those memories to hold. 

Please feel free to share any memory you have of Ginny or someone else who is no longer here. I want to document as many of those special memories as we can!

Too Common

Over half a dozen of my Facebook friends have had babies since Ginny was stillborn. We were pregnant together. Another dozen are currently pregnant. We are in that phase of life – babies everywhere. It is an exciting time. Again I’m faced with more emotions than I know how to handle. I truly am happy for them. I hate the thought that Daniel and I would be left out of sharing in the excitement and love of new life. Life is even more precious to us now, and we want to be part of it. I know friends and family are unsure how to approach us. They kindly don’t want to flaunt their babies or pregnancies. But we end up feeling left in the dark, isolated. We need people; we need living babies to give us hope. I need to hold and love a baby. It really does help. Could I hold yours for a while? I may weep… it’s out of love, I promise. 

I really am happy for them, but I am also heart wrenched. Some days, one scroll through social media is enough to make me break down. Is it jealousy? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel like any jealousy I’ve felt before. I think it just reminds me of what I am missing. I was supposed to have that joy. I was supposed to take monthly pictures of a baby squirming on a numbered blanket. I cry to my mom, “Everyone else gets their baby! Why don’t I get my baby?!” She calmly answers, “No, not everyone gets their baby. You don’t know how many have lost.” 

That’s true. Since posting about Ginny, several women have messaged me telling about their losses. According to the March of Dimes, around 10-15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and 1% end in stillbirth. That means your family, your close friends, your coworkers have all likely been affected by baby loss. We don’t talk about it. Rule of thumb – wait 12 weeks until you announce. You don’t want to have to share your miscarriage! I followed the rule. I thought I was in the clear. 

I’m glad I was too pregnant to keep it a secret. I can’t imagine suffering alone. I can’t imagine keeping this to ourselves. I was changed the moment I was pregnant. I was changed again the moment I found out Ginny passed. I can’t hide that change. I can’t keep my daughter’s life and death a secret. I’m so grateful that others knew and loved Ginny. 

No judgement to anyone who has kept it secret – you are stronger than I am. If you have lost, I’m so sorry. If you’ve lost and you felt alone, I’m so sorry. You are not alone. You have loss parents all around you, moms and dads missing their children. So many of us have ultrasound pictures folded in drawers, empty Christmas stockings, and precious dates on the calendar, unknown to others. You are not alone. Call or message me; I’m happy to listen.

If you know of someone who has lost a baby, no matter how early or late, please reach out to them. Tell them you are sorry. This sucks. Tell them you don’t know what to say. Don’t try to make them feel better. Just mourn with them, and let them hold your baby and weep… it’s out of love, I promise. 

Empty Time

Right after we found out our baby girl Ginny had died in the womb at 34+ weeks, time seemed to be so hugely empty. It felt loud how empty time was. What are we supposed to be doing? What do we normally do? Time seemed to slow down to a creep and nothing was filling it. I guess it was due to how much pain we were in. There was nothing to relieve it. Time was standing still, like we would be in that spot forever. I read the dreaded stillborn chapter in my “What to Expect Book”. That took two minutes. I folded laundry. That took five minutes. What were we going to do with all that empty time?

Before we got that terrible news, time went by so quickly. We only had a few weeks left of the pregnancy and each week flew by as we were preparing. I counted the number of weekends we had left with just the two of us. I wanted to make the most of each day together. Our marriage and lives would change. I wanted to savor the last moments with our family of two. I loved every minute of our almost 8 years of marriage. It was wonderful. I knew this next phase would be even more wonderful, but I also knew it would never be the same.  

I was right that it would never be the same, but not in the way I thought it would. I regret not spending those last few weeks focusing entirely on Ginny and bonding with her. If only I had known that would be our only time with her. The future would not be full of days admiring her, feeding, burping, changing diapers, giving baths. We would have an ocean of time in front of us. 

We need to plan some trips… get away from this empty house. TV and movies aren’t what they used to be. Dramas seem pointless, and comedies seem stupid. The only thing we could bear to watch at first was BBC’s Planet Earth. The beauty of nature was the only thing that didn’t make us cringe. Friends sent puzzles and coloring books. Those are nice, but they don’t actually fill time. Your mind is still free to think while completing a puzzle or coloring a picture. I wanted something to occupy my mind so time would pass. They say that time helps. I hoped that was true and wished to fast forward. I knew I needed to walk through the grief to be healthy, but couldn’t I just jump into the future where things are easier?

It was probably around 6 weeks after Ginny’s death that I had the first moment of true distraction. It was the first time my mind wasn’t thinking of our grief. It only lasted about two minutes. I was in a craft store designing a piece of homemade wall decor that I would hang where Ginny’s crib used to be. I realized I had a small reprieve, and it felt good. I was proud of myself for finally being able to focus on something else, even for one moment. Since then there have been a few times here or there that I wasn’t consumed, mostly when we are talking with friends. I don’t feel guilty when I get a small break or distraction. I think of Ginny all the rest of the 99.99% of my life. Even when I’m thinking or talking of something else, there is a part of my brain that is thinking of her. When I think of her, it is love mixed with pain. It is not all bad, but it does make time slow down somehow. 

I think we all ache for heaven, and those of us who have lost a loved one ache for heaven even more. Maybe time slows down in anticipation of heaven. Like a child waiting to open birthday presents – the day seems to take forever. The more excited you are, the longer it seems to take. We yearn for something that is right in front of us yet still so far from us. In the end I know this time we are apart will be a small blimp compared to the eternity we will be together. Right now it seems to be taking forever.

From my experience as well as from other grief stories I read, I realized time does not dull the pain. You never get past the grief, and things don’t get better. What does happen is that the grief causes you to grow and become stronger. This allows you to carry that pain more easily. Eventually it just becomes a part of you. 

I’m not sure my perception of time will ever return to “normal”. I will do my best to enjoy every long second here on Earth. When we are reunited with our Ginny in heaven, time will likely change again and I can’t wait.