Waiting

I’ve entered the third trimester. I’m glad we are that much closer! I’m still a couple months away from how far along I was when we lost Ginny, but that date is looming in front of me. How can I face that time? It feels so overwhelming to think of that week, of that day, of every day after. How can I be sure that it won’t happen again? How can I bear the weight of life or death at that time? It seems like it will be too much to handle. 

I ask God how will I be able to handle it. He reminds me again of the comfort I experienced by his presence on the day Ginny was stillborn. He was with us. That’s not the answer I want to hear. I want assurances! I want promises of life! I don’t want to wait! I want to know now that I will for sure bring Chet home! Don’t I deserve to know after last time? Haven’t I earned that? Haven’t I been patient for long enough?!

God hasn’t yet given me the grace for two months from now; he has only given me the grace for today.  I have the grace and ability to make it through today. That’s all I need…until tomorrow. 

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:9

One thing I’ve learned about God’s character through our loss is his patience. His timing is not our timing. In the scale of an eternal timeline, our lives are a brief moment. He doesn’t do things as fast as we’d like, but conversely he gives us all the time we need. Sometimes we will take months or years to listen to what he’s telling us, and yet he waits for us. When I couldn’t even form a prayer, he sat with me. He still sits with me in my impatience. 

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 2:8-9

I’m sure Mary and Martha experienced much impatience when waiting for Jesus after they sent word that their brother Lazarus was sick. Lazarus got sicker. Lazarus died. It wasn’t until 4 days later that Jesus arrived. They must’ve thought, “Doesn’t Jesus love Lazarus? How could he let him die? Why wouldn’t he come right away?!” They had faith that Jesus could heal Lazarus, but Jesus was taking too long. But then Jesus came, wept with the sisters, and then raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).  His timing isn’t our timing, but his is the right timing.

Grace for today is all we have. I pray that the Holy Spirit brings me the patience to make that enough for me. 

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Making Room

Every second-time mother I know has cried about having another baby. They ask, “How could I ever love another child as much as I love my first? What if I’m not able to continue to give my first child the attention they deserve?” 

It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I realized that all of these questions and concerns also applied to me even though my first child had died. 

Often when I’m crying, I assume it is because of my grief and the difficulties of pregnancy after loss, but I need to realize that sometimes I’m crying because all second-time mothers cry when going through the transition of anticipating another baby. All second-time mothers need to make room in their lives, houses, and hearts for a new baby. They have to share the space. The same is true for a loss mom. 

How could I ever love another child as much as I love Ginny? 

What if I’m not able to mourn Ginny the way she deserves? 

Like all moms, I need to make the space and find a new routine. 

If you’ve lost a loved one (even just broken up with a boyfriend or girlfriend) you realize just how much space a missing person takes up in a home. Everything reminds you of them. The spaces where they were are filled with their things. Even though we took down the nursery less than a week after Ginny was stillborn, our “guest room” was filled with her garden decor. The closet had a plastic wrapped stroller in one corner and a boxed crib mattress in the other. The shelves were full of a vacuum sealed breastfeeding pillow and baby lounger. The racks were empty, but every time I looked at them, I saw all her little pink and white outfits hanging there on miniature hangers. 

Even in our master bedroom, there is a basket of homemade blankets, artfully crafted to comfort us in our grief. Under our bed is the disassembled crib and the priceless memory box we got from the hospital. The memory box is too sacred to pull out often, but we know it’s there. Our desk has a collage of ultrasound pictures. The hall has framed quotes to encourage us, a vase of sunflowers, a small “hope” placard, all reminding us of Ginny. She’s everywhere, and that’s how we like it. It makes us happy and fills us with love. 

So how do we make room in a house that is already full? We started this weekend. I wrapped up and packed up the “You Grow Girl” pots, I took down the wooden wall art with vegetables, we folded up the floral quilt. Daniel hung shark and whale pictures. We got a blue striped bedspread. We hung cute fish-tail wave hooks. We ordered beach photos to fill the gallery wall frames. We washed and neatly hung the little blue and gray onesies on miniature hangers in the exact spot where Ginny’s clothes were. 

We did it. Piece by piece the transformation is happening. It is bitter sweet. It is sad that it’s not Ginny’s room anymore. But we are happy to be decorating Chet’s room. More than symbolizing hope of bringing Chet home, redecorating the nursery is a way to parent Chet now. It allows us to do something to care for him and show our love for him. It’s a way to bond with him. 

I don’t regret having snipped a single tag off of Ginny’s clothes. I don’t regret having the nursery complete before she died. It’s some of the best memories of parenting her while she was with us.  I knew we needed to do the same with Chet, no matter the outcome. Although I will say that while hanging the cute little boy clothes and seeing the beachy blues around the room from the glider, I do imagine bringing him home and watching him grow. 

My heart is making room for Chet. I can love both Ginny and Chet, just as all mothers can love all their children. And just as all mothers must find new routines and split their time, I will make time to care for Chet and mourn for Ginny. And just as all siblings grow up together, Chet will grow up with Ginny. He will see the vase of sunflowers. He will see the ultrasound collage and make a fort out of  knitted grief blankets. One day he will even look through the precious memory box and see a picture of his sister’s face and touch the molds of her hands and feet. He will know he has a big sister who loves him in heaven. He will know there is more than enough love to go around. 

Movement

As with everything related to grief or pregnancy after loss, my emotions aren’t simple. The same goes for feeling Chet move and kick in my belly. Every time I feel him move, a swirl of emotion hits my heart. 

The most prominent of these emotions is relief. Every kick reminds me that he is alive. This pregnancy got significantly easier once I started feeling him move consistently. I no longer have to wait to hear a heartbeat to know he is still living. I get reassurance throughout the day. I tell Daniel when I feel him move so he can feel that as well. 

It also brings back memories of Ginny. I thought that would be really painful, but it isn’t. It warms my heart to have a physical reminder of the time spent with her. After losing Ginny, I had to focus to remember the feeling of her moving. Now I get reminders every day. It makes me feel like Chet and Ginny are connected. They both have dwelled in my womb. That’s something special only the two of them share. 

I am currently in this happy but helpless period of pregnancy where I can feel him move but I shouldn’t expect to feel him move often enough to track it or analyze his health because of it. 

From the beginning of this pregnancy, I’ve dreaded needing to do kick counts. That usually starts around 28 weeks when baby’s movements are felt consistently enough to predict. Kick counting is when you lay on your side and literally count the number of kicks you feel in two hours. The number should be above 10. If it isn’t, you need to call your doctor. 

For a low-risk pregnancy, kick counting isn’t always required, but the doctor may recommend it to get familiar with baby’s movements and if you ever feel a lack of movement. That’s what I did with Ginny. The Friday night before she died, it seemed she wasn’t moving very much. I decided to do kick counts. I laid down and immediately felt her kick. She kicked 6 times in 5 minutes, and I felt much better. She’s doing just fine, I thought to myself. No she wasn’t, but the kick counting didn’t predict that. 

I ask myself if I should’ve done more kick counts or if the moving I was feeling wasn’t actually her kicking. Why didn’t I know she was in trouble? Just like the measuring tape, the heart rate monitor, and even sometimes the ultrasound, there are limitations to tools like kick counting. It may detect problems, or it may not. 

My doctors haven’t talked about it yet, but I know they will ask me to do kick counts once I hit 28 weeks. I want to do them because it can give me some reassurance and it is something that I can physically do to monitor Chet. But I’m scared of being scared. I’m scared of not feeling him. I’m scared of it not being enough. I’m scared of getting obsessive about it and wanting to do kick counts around the clock. I’m scared it will trigger anxiety. I’m scared of feeling like I’m in control when I know I’m not actually in control. 

Maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe I’ll feel him so much that I won’t ever worry. Maybe I’ll just get reassurance and never have the panic. I pray that’s the case. But for the next three weeks, I’m going to enjoy this time when every kick is a relief and a lack of kick isn’t concerning. 

Even when I do have to do kick counts, I don’t think the feeling of movement will lose its magic. I’ll try to embrace the special time with Chet. I’m going to keep bringing Daniel’s hand to my belly and experience the flood of emotion in bonding with our son and remembering our daughter. 

“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44

Springtime

I have always loved spring. It is the most hopeful time of year. I loved that everything turns green and comes to life. I loved the anticipation of summer break from school and graduations. Daniel and I first starting spending time together in spring. It is full of excitement!

While I was pregnant with Ginny, I loved the fact that she was due in springtime. Spring represents new life! We would have the rest of spring and summer to go on walks together. All winter, I patiently waited for spring. That’s why I got so excited when I saw daffodils blooming when Daniel and I went on a walk a couple days before Ginny was stillborn. “Spring is here!” I proclaimed. That meant Ginny would be here soon. I don’t think I have ever had so much joy at the thought of spring arriving. 

When we lost Ginny a few days later, it was like winter came crashing back. Everything seemed dead and dark. 

In the coming weeks, several very well intentioned loved ones would try to encourage me by saying, “Think of the future. Spring is here, and it’s getting warmer. Try to enjoy that and have hope.” They didn’t realize that was like a knife in my heart. Every tulip that came up and every tree bud reminded me that Ginny would not be arriving that spring. The springtime that I most anticipated would be empty.  Thinking of the future made me think of what was missing. I couldn’t envision the future.. 

Spring 2019 was filled with the deepest grief. I still spent time outside. I spent hours in the UNC Arboretum, crying, reading, and praying. I walked around campus listening to songs that made me feel every emotion in efforts to mourn and face my grief. Spring passed by without Ginny in my arms but with Ginny in my heart, and she was all that was in my mind. 

I worried that spring was ruined forever. It hurt so badly to think of the disappointment spring 2019 carried. I wondered if that hurt would reemerge every spring along with the daffodils. 

This spring, I decided to let myself feel whatever I was feeling. To my surprise, the daffodils brought joy, not heartache! I love seeing all the flowers blooming and bright new leaves appear at the treetops. I think of new life with our baby Chet. But I am also reminded of the sweet time I had mourning Ginny in the deepest moments of grief last year. Although painful, that time so close to Ginny was full of love. 

I’m not sure if those who have never lost will understand, but the early moments of grief are filled with so much love. It is normal to miss the intensity of early grief. This year, spring reminded me of the long walks on campus thinking of Ginny and tending to my broken heart. Our loss didn’t ruin spring; it brought more love and renewal than ever before. I’m so grateful for that. 

Tough Days

Today is a tough day. For the most part during this pandemic I’ve had a pretty good attitude. I’ve known we could handle whatever comes our way. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes there is a reason days are hard and sometimes there isn’t. I’ve tried to let myself feel all my emotions without sinking into a pit or being fearful. Most days I’m fine, but it’s a hard balance some days. 

I had a prenatal appointment scheduled for today. Earlier this week, I came to terms with the fact that Daniel can’t come with me. And then yesterday I was informed the appointment is now a phone call. I don’t know the point of a prenatal phone call  – I can’t hear Chet’s heartbeat, I can’t be measured, I can’t check my thyroid, etc. I don’t need to talk; I need to make sure things are ok. There’s no way to do that over the phone. I know they are weighing the risks and trying to protect us all. It just makes me feel more helpless in a situation where I already feel helpless.  I know people all over the world aren’t able to have the care they expected or need during this time. It’s unfair but no one’s fault.

Today is also a tough day because today is my last day working for who knows how long. The Family House closed yesterday to protect guests and volunteers from COVID-19. I know it’s the best decision, but it’s heartbreaking. Again, this virus is causing people to not get the level of care they normally would get. Transplants and treatments are being postponed. Visitors aren’t allowed at the hospital. My heart goes out to those going through serious illness right now, no matter if it is COVID-19 or not. Some people have already had their world flipped upside down and are already making life and death decisions. Adding a pandemic to the mix is making it exponentially more difficult. 

Without my job, I will need to figure out how to spend my time. I’m grateful I get to stay safely at home. I will just need to find ways to fill my time in a meaningful way – without dwelling on what we are missing out on with Ginny gone or worrying about Chet. 

Today is also a tough day because tomorrow is one year since Ginny’s due date. We already celebrated her birthday, but this is a meaningful day as well. If things were right in the world, she’d be turning one now. I do want to make it special but have no idea how. Last year we went to Charleston and walked along the beach all day. We talked about going back this year. We will need to make do with a batch of brownies and looking through the memory book I made. I miss her so much. 

I know things could be a lot worse. Everything is ok. We can make it through this. But it’s also ok to feel disappointed and sad and frustrated. I try to surround myself with love and good words when I feel this way.

The song I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad has helped me. I sang this song as a prayer before Ginny died. Last year, I feel like God answered the prayer in the third verse. I have been delivered from the fear of serving others, the fear of death or trial (most days), and the fear of humility.  This year God must be working on answering the prayers in the first two verses. Sometimes it hurts to be delivered from something. But it’s also beautiful. When I taste His goodness, I shall not want. 

I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad

From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God

From the need to be understood
And from a need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want

From the fear of serving others
Oh, and from the fear of death or trial
And from the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
Yes, deliver me O God

And I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
No, I shall not want, no, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want

When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
I shall not want
I shall not want