Mourning

Though it's going on six years since the birth and death of our first child, Genesis, I still find myself slowly digging down to the roots of my grief and sadness. Every time I think I've made significant progress, I come across stories like this one, of baby Zion born with Trisomy 18, or this one of baby Grayson born with anencephaly, and my grief splits open my insides all over again. And I've only just come to realize that it's not merely the reminder that life is precious, no one is guaranteed tomorrow, etc etc. It's because these parents knew ahead of time that their babies were going to die, and so they made a concerted effort to make the rest of their babies' lives the most joyous days possible.

And I wonder: did I cherish the tiny bit of time I had with my daughter?

Sometimes I seriously doubt it, and that's what hurts the most.

We didn't know ahead of time that she would definitely die. We knew it was a possibility, but from everything that we were told, we'd thought that at worst she would likely be born far too early and we'd end up with an astronomical NICU bill and then be able to take home a tiny, wriggling miracle of life. We thought it would be hard but that it would all be worth it in the end.

And so no preparations were made ahead of time. We waited with hope, with bated breath, for the day my squirming pink baby would be born and rushed to the NICU.

And then, it didn't turn out the way we'd hoped.

The day she was born started out with a sense of dread and just got worse from there. The whole day was encompassed in fear. I don't know how I breathed that day, honestly.

And then, when she was born, there were no joyful tears as she was lifted to my chest. Instead, there was silence from my baby as she was rushed across the room as the neonatologists attempted to put her on a ventilator. There was me, still pouring out birthing fluids and trying to deliver the placenta, tied to the birthing table by IVs and monitors and other medical accouterments, screaming to the ceiling, sobbing my heart and lungs out until I didn't think they existed anymore, my obstetrician holding my hand and weeping quietly next to me. There was my husband, walking back across the room from where he had been with our daughter and the doctors, with death and mourning etched into his features.

We had no Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer to capture in beautiful black and white our final moments with our child. We had no time to revel in giving her her very first bath. There were no cute photos with adorable first outfits, as the entire length of her life was spent wrapped in a too-big receiving blanket and our arms. I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I held a dying baby that my heart had no room left for anything else.

From the moment of her birth, I grieved the loss of her.

Did I really ever celebrate her life?

She was with us for one hour forty-three minutes. That's it. That tiny sliver of time was all she had here on earth. And how was it spent?

Weeping over her body as she made every tiny attempt to use her under-developed lungs to suck in life.

So this is the reason I still grieve. I'm not sure I'm mourning the loss of her anymore. But rather I'm mourning the chance we had to celebrate her life while she was here.

Broken

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (among a host of other "months"). But this is the awareness that sits closest to my heart.

I have lost four babies, in varying stages of pregnancy.

I also have two living children. They are the absolute light of my life. They can drive me batty at times, it's true. But I absolutely love watching them grow and learn, testing their curiosity and their questions, learning how to use new words, figuring out how things work, and just the sheer wonder at nature. It's like everything is magical.

I love my family the way it is. Now that my son has just turned two, I feel like I'm finally starting to get a little bit of "me" back. I feel the haze of infancy and nursing 'round the clock and crazy hormones drifting away, and I am finding that I can think more clearly again, reason, use logic even, instead of using words like "thingy" for, well, everything.

But here is my dilemma. I feel I am at a crossroads. My husband and I had always intended to have at least three, maybe four, children. We technically have six, though only two of them are here with us. But the two we have would likely have joined their brothers and sisters had it not been for some extreme medical intervention. I had surgeries to keep my babies in, and surgeries to take my babies out. I was on bedrest. I was prodded for ultrasounds every two weeks during one pregnancy for at least half of the pregnancy. While my pregnancy with my son had the fewest complications, his birth had the most. I was quite literally traumatized. When you're strapped to a table shaking uncontrollably because your body is going into shock from loss of blood, and there's a blood transfusion waiting for you a few feet away, and the doctors tell you they're waiting to close you up until some specialists arrive because the tearing was so odd they want to make sure it's done right...and all the while, your husband has no idea why you're not out of surgery three hours later... You might be traumatized. Maybe.

Because of everything that happened during my son's birth, I've come to absolutely fear my body. I had already doubted its abilities, having lost three children (and nearly lost one) before he was born. But his birth sealed the deal: I was officially broken. Might as well just slap an "out of order" sign on my uterus. We're done. No way my body can handle any more of this.

Even though I felt this way, there's still this debate going on in my head. "Maybe we could have another. Maybe it would be healing. Maybe there's a chance..."

And then I think of life with an infant. And I kind of shudder. I don't know that I want to go through that again. And I especially don't know that I want to go through birth. Like, EVER again.

And yet, for some reason, I feel guilty for this, for wanting to be done.

I think the biggest thing is just feeling like my body is a failure. I couldn't have even gotten my two living children into the world by myself. I am just...broken. And I think that's what I'm having a hard time coming to terms with. That I'm broken, and I may not ever be "fixed" enough to actually have a kid "the right way." My experiences, sucky as they are, might be it. And that...just really sucks. Really.

So that's where I am right now. I don't mean this to be a downer post. I just need to process, and I want to be real. And I'm sure there's someone, somewhere out there who is in a similar place.

I'm just on this journey now to accept my broken pieces for what they are:

Pieces of me.

Not the whole of me.

A Call to Action

It usually seems appropriate to start a blog post with some kind of witty anecdote or deep, meaningful quotation. But no amount of wit or mask of implied depth would be an appropriate introduction to the topic of slavery.

It has been fairly easy up until the past few months to a year to believe the false assumption that slavery in the United States died with the thirteenth amendment. I mean, we all learn about the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and the abolition of slavery.

If you're like me, whenever you heard the word "slavery" you immediately conjured up mental images of ships full of African natives, reminiscent of scenes from Amistad. And yes, those scenes did happen. There were hundreds of thousands of innocent people ripped away from their homes and families and sold to the highest bidders, only to find themselves in a strange land with strange people, strange language and strange customs. Not to mention the horrible ways they were treated, being beaten, raped, and even killed for not pleasing their masters.

But slavery runs so much deeper than merely being an issue of black and white. And despite the best efforts of our forefathers, slavery is still very much alive today, in America and around the world.

I knew this, of course, in a vague, distant sort of way. The sort of way that doesn't really touch me if I don't look at it.

How many people have suffered because I turned away?

God sent me an eye-opener this week in the form of a film called Trade of Innocents. The university I attended for my freshman and sophomore years hosted an event on Monday night in which they held an exclusive screening of the film as well as a question & answer time with the screenwriter/director Christopher Bessette afterward. Not to mention the fact that they had tables set up in the lobby for their social justice department and several organizations that fight human trafficking here in Tennessee, including End Slavery Tennessee and Abolition International. I scooped up several pamphlets, information sheets, and even purchased a bracelet from To Be Free, an extension of Abolition International that sets up and supports after-care for women and girls who have been rescued from sex slavery.

And this was all before I saw the film.

I found my movie buddy and we sat down on the bleachers in the campus church's gym. After some brief introductions of students who worked on marketing the film, the movie started.

Aesthetically the film was beautifully made. The scenery is lush, the music is lovely, the actors are phenomenal.

But beyond that, it tells the heart-wrenching story of girls - some as young as five - who are stolen from their homes and off the streets of Cambodia and sold as sex slaves to "sex tourists." I cried for probably half of the movie.

At the end of the credits, the director of the university's social justice department introduced Christopher Bessette, the film's screenwriter and executive director. He answered questions as to his motives behind the film, why he did certain things creatively, and resources for more information on human trafficking today.

One of the things that struck me most was his description of the moment he knew he had to make this film. He said he had gone to Cambodia and visited a former-brothel-now-safe-house and stood in what used to be called "The Virgin Room," looking down through a barred window at children playing in the street below. He thought, "Sometime, not too long ago, a little girl might have stood at this very window, looking down at children playing, and thinking to herself, 'Why can't I be down there too?'" And he said he got chills and breathed the prayer, "Oh, God, help me tell her story."

That is what he did with this film.

And the only way we can hope to abolish human trafficking - slavery of any kind - whether it is sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or something else, is by telling the victims' stories. There are so many people in the world right now who are like I was a year ago - untouched by this issue because they fear to get a good enough glimpse at it.

But we can't afford to turn away any longer.

According to End Slavery Tennessee:

*Every minute, two children are trafficked (worldwide).

*There are currently around 27 million slaves in the world. Of those, half are minors and 80% are female.

*The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is between 12 and 14 years old.

*One-third of runaways will be sexually exploited within 48 hours of leaving home; 90% will end up in commercial sex trade.

These children are in our neighborhoods, on our doorstep, in our back yards. You don't have to go to Cambodia to find human trafficking. It's happening right here, right now. When will we stop looking away and finally do something?

God lit the fire under me this week, and the wheels have been turning as I've been trying to discover how I can best use the gifts and talents God has given me to help put a stop to this horrific monster we call slavery and human trafficking. I have some ideas.

What about you? What will you do? Will you look into the eyes of the Innocents and reach out your hand to help?

Or will you turn away?

Now


O to grace how great a debtor 
daily I'm constrained to be! 
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, 
bind my wandering heart to thee. 
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, 
prone to leave the God I love; 
here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
seal it for thy courts above. 

("Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," Robert Robinson)

The giving of one's testimony - or the story of how Christ saved a person - is an important part of most Christian circles. It is common to give one's testimony in a church service, or to share it with a group of friends in some kind of bible study setting. Usually it refers to the story of how a person came to know Christ - commonly, the events leading up to that particular incident which, in much of Christendom, is the end-all/be-all event of one's life.

However, I have come to realize in recent years that a testimony is not - and SHOULD not be - limited to a single life event, but rather is something that should be lived out daily.

When I was baptized in the Nazarene church, I had to publicly answer a series of questions regarding my faith in Christ, including this one:
     "Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and do you realize that He saves you now?"
"...saves you now" it says.

Now.

As in, in this very moment. In every moment, Jesus saves you, is saving you, continually. I of course responded with "I do." But I did not fully understand at that time what it meant that Jesus "saves me now."

When we talk about Jesus saving us, we tend to refer to a particular frozen moment in time - a moment that seems wistfully and distantly removed from where we are now. There always seems to be a zeal and a spark connected to that moment of saving grace that somehow never made it to this present moment. I used to hear people's testimonies of how Jesus saved them from lives of alcohol, drug, or sex addiction, how they had been in prison, on the streets, at rock bottom, and Jesus swept in and rescued them, removing the need for anything but Him.

I secretly used to wish that I could have a rock bottom.

I know. You're probably thinking, "Are you insane? Really?"

But I did. Because those people always seemed to have so much energy and abounding love and gratitude when it came to Christ. And I, having grown up knowing Christ from the time I was a child, had the monotony of one who knew all the right answers but for whom they held no depth of meaning.

There is a phrase in Chris Daughtry's song "Home" that goes "Be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it all, you just might get it all, and then some you don't want."

It started back in 2003. I was just about to start my first year back at college when my parents announced they would be getting divorced. This struck me hard. Divorce went against everything my parents had said they believed, and so it was difficult to reconcile the whys with belief. I became, for a time, a go-between messenger, hearing "you tell your father blah blah blah" and "next time you talk to you mother tell her blah blah blah." It was emotionally exhausting, and eventually I had to remove myself from that situation.

During the same time, my husband was going through some stuff that made our marriage more of a hostile
desert environment than a blossoming oasis. The gravity of this combined with the emotional stress of my parents' divorce wore me down, and I ended up on a trial of anti-depressants for a while.

One evening, after getting off the phone with one of my parents, I was in tears. My husband began arguing with me, saying that their divorce wasn't even my concern, and I shouldn't have to bear the weight of it. His parents had at that point been married for 42 years. I yelled at him that he had no idea what it was to go through his parents separation and divorce. And he yelled at me that I shouldn't even be upset about it.

This was the beginning of the emotional rift.

At that time, there was a certain young man who had been a decent acquaintance. When I disclosed to him that my parents were getting divorced and how it was shaking me emotionally, he immediately offered comfort, saying he understood exactly what it was like as his parents had also divorced while he was in college. He offered me a shoulder to lean on at a time when I most needed my husband, who had offered me nothing but bitterness and anger.

I toed the door open ever so slightly.

Over the next two or so years, I entertained lively fantasies in my head of this man, while simultaneously sowing bitterness toward my husband, who continued to battle his own demons. Instead of trying to support one another and grow closer, our lives seemed to be pulling us apart.

I recognized for a long time that I was suffering from depression and I realized that I had allowed my heart to grow so distant from my husband that I was ready to leave him if this other man were to give me any indication that there was a reason to leave.

I also knew that this was not what God wanted for my life. I still loved my husband, deep down. But that love was buried beneath layers and layers of hurt and anger. I knew that in the emotional state I was in, I would not be able to dig myself out of that. But I wanted to be free of it.

I felt so tiny, so small, buried inside myself. There was this huge swirling mess of tangled emotions, depression, lust, heartache, fear. And somewhere deep inside was that little spark that was still me. And that little spark knew that the only way out of this mess was by giving it all over to Jesus.

And so I prayed.

Anytime my thoughts or emotions felt bigger than me.
Anytime I really wanted to give into those fantasies.
Anytime I wanted to yell and scream at my husband.
Anytime I thought about taking the whole bottle of pills.

I prayed.

And little by little, the darkness grew less.
Little by little, my burdens got lighter.

I slowly, steadily made progress, learning to forgive, learning to heal. Learning to stop blaming other people for the mess I had become.

And learning to stop hiding.

Because when you grow up Christian, and your life falls apart, it's hard to let other people see you as you are. I had been trying so hard to put on a brave face, to make everything seem okay when it really wasn't okay.

I found that I still had friends who cared about me, people who took the time to pray with and for me. And they didn't think I was a horrible, terrible person for all the things that had been going on in my head and my heart. They thought I was human.

I was finally making headway, coming out of that dark place in my life. My husband was making progress as well, coming out of his dark place.

And then, in 2008, we discovered that I was pregnant.

We were ecstatic! Joyous! Thrilled!

Now that we were together again in spirit, we would finally have a living testament to our oneness in the form of a beautiful baby.

Everything was going well.

Until my water broke at 5 months.

I remember the car ride to the hospital, my lungs heaving, trying to find air, as my entire body was wracked with uncontrollable chills from the adrenaline rush that told me I was losing my baby. I watched the midnight city lights rush past my window in a blur of color, not paying attention to anything but what my body was telling me as my husband slammed on the gas, veering around slow-moving traffic to get me to the hospital as quickly as possible.

As the nurses attached monitors to my body and probed my womb with ultrasound scanners, they told me that I had no amniotic fluid left. My baby was okay for now, but without the amniotic fluid, her lungs would not develop properly.

After a while, I was alone, in a dark room surrounded by the beeping of heart rate monitors for the baby and blood pressure and contraction monitors for me. My bed was slightly inclined at the foot to try to counteract any evil plot gravity may have had for pulling my baby from my body.

The uncontrollable shaking had still not stopped. My jaw quivered as I gasped out the only prayer I could think of: "God, I just want my baby to be safe, whether that's in my arms or in yours."

The shaking stopped and for the first time in hours, I felt a warm peace creep through my body. And I was somehow able to sleep.

Days went by and not much changed. I clung to the hope that my life would continue thus for the next few months, boring and dull as it was to be trapped in a hospital bed. I hoped that my sweet baby girl would stay safely tucked away in my womb until her lungs were developed enough that she could breathe on her own - or at least with the help of a machine.

But she had other plans.

After two weeks in the hospital, it became obvious that our sweet Genna's birth was imminent. With nothing to keep her in my womb (the amniotic sac having been compromised when my water broke), Genna's little feet began pushing through my cervix. It would only be a matter of hours before I would have to birth her.

I never went into labor, never had contractions with her. She just gradually made her way out until I was forced to push her fully into the world.

Upon the last push, there was no loud baby cry, no joyous intake of breath at her baby cuteness. Rather, there was a quiet and focused determination as my doctor snipped the cord and the neonatologists rushed her across the room to try to get her hooked up to an oxygen machine.

And as she came out of my body, I shuddered a gut-wrenching sob that forced all the air out of my lungs. I knew she was going to die.

My doctor came over and just stood next to me, holding my hand as I cried up to the ceiling.

It was only a few moments before my husband came over to me and told me that the neonatologists had done all they could do for our sweet little girl. And so they wrapped her up in a receiving blanket - which was so huge around her tiny, one-pound-three-point-nine-ounce body - and we held her.

She was so tiny that her eyes were still fused shut - she never got to see me. But I know with certainty that she knew who I was. At one point, as I cradled her miniscule body close to mine, I reached down and touched her spindly, fork-prong-sized fingers with my seemingly gigantic pinky finger. And with those tiny, spindly fingers, she gripped my pinky with all the strength she could muster.

It was the only hug I ever got from my first child.

And I will never forget it.

In the months that followed, I spoke all the right answers, but I did not feel them. I grew cynical and distant. I stopped answering phone calls - partly because I kept getting calls from a healthy pregnancy program through my insurance company, who kept leaving me messages asking about my due date and cheerily stating they hoped all was well.

I hated them. I hated a lot of things. And, okay, probably a lot of people. But I buried it. I tried not to show it.

It was desperately difficult to go to church, where my husband was youth pastoring a youth group in which there were two pregnant teenagers, both of whom had uncomplicated pregnancies.

I asked God why. Why had I done everything right, and my baby died? Why were these girls "living in sin" and yet their babies were fine? It wasn't fair. None of it was fair at all.

I ended up stepping down from my position at work, which was the Children's Department Lead at a bookstore. It was too difficult coming into work and reading stories to groups of happy toddlers, helping mothers with tiny, healthy babies find books on parenting, and seeing young families laugh and play together. I just couldn't do it anymore.

All the while, I wondered why. Why, God? I had just finally started to feel healthy and whole inside again. And then you take my baby away? I just couldn't grasp it.

I stoically did not let myself grieve until that September - a whole four months after my sweet Genna left us. I went to a women's retreat with my church, and there, while perusing some books in their bookshop, I saw a couple books about grieving the loss of a child. One of the books specifically dealt with stillbirth, miscarriage, and neonatal loss.

I bought the books and devoured them. It was a little difficult to read through all the tears. But it was cathartic. I finally allowed myself to face my grief head-on.

And I began to realize that God didn't just let my baby die, and God didn't steal my baby away from me. God was grieving right along with me. Every step of the way.

I have never gotten over the loss of my first baby. I don't think it's possible for any parent to "get over" losing a child. Ever. But gradually, the days and weeks get easier to bear. My husband and I have had two healthy living children since then (though we have also experienced three miscarriages besides the loss of our sweet Genna).

And I thank God daily for my beautiful daughter and son, that I can hug them and hold them and cuddle with them. That I can take them to the park and the library. That we can read and sing and play together. That they can breathe with no difficulties. That they are not chronically ill and have no health issues whatsoever.
My life has gotten infinitely better. Sure, my husband and I argue from time to time. (Sometimes several times a day.) But it's not the kind of argument that threatens a marriage. We end up laughing. We have learned to communicate. To forgive. To love fully.

Does that mean that we are without troubles? Without temptations?

Certainly not.

I will freely admit, there are still days when faded memories of a certain young man come drifting into my mind, or when I may feel a bit of attraction for someone rise to the surface, or when I feel depression setting in. But now I am better equipped to swat them away with the swift hand of Christ's purity. Am I always successful? No.

But Jesus saves me now.

Now.

In this moment.

False Comforts

I was going to try to write a whole post on various cliches we Christians like to throw about in times of trouble, things we like to say to offer comfort and hope to people when we can't figure out what really needs to be said, if anything.

But I'm going to just focus on one. It usually goes something like this:

"Wow, that's amazing that (so-and-so) survived (such-and-such)! God must really have a special plan for that person!"

I'm sure you've come across this at some point in your life (whether you were the one speaking it or receiving it.) But today, I want to just break this down for you, piece by piece. Let's look at what this is actually saying.

First, I'll give you the context behind this post. Somebody on facebook had posted something about a little girl who had survived the Sandy Hook shooting by playing dead. As I was scrolling down through the comments, the following two struck me:

"That child has purpose, a calling on her life."

"How sad is that, but God had a plan for that little girl!"

At first, these seem like deep, powerful statements that pay tribute to God's saving grace. But if we look at them more closely, really analyze what they are saying, we can see that they are actually saying that mankind has no free will and that God plays our lives like a giant chess game.

So, let us talk about what these are ACTUALLY saying. 

To say that a lone survivor of this horrible tragedy "has purpose," a "calling on her life," and that "God had a plan" for her, is inadvertently saying that those who did not survive did not have a calling on their lives, or that they were somehow not part of God's plan. This kind of statement basically tells the families of the other survivors, "Your family member wasn't important enough to God for Him to save."

This is a TERRIBLE thing to say. Mainly because it is absolutely not true.

God's "plans" for humans have never included death. In the beginning, when the world was perfect, the way God intended it, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He was present, here, with his creation. That's how it was supposed to always be. And before the Fall (before sin entered the world), THERE WAS NO DEATH. Why would there be no death? Well, if we were all perfect, then there was no reason to die. Death came about as a result of human decision to defy God. In essence, we brought death upon ourselves. (Well, Adam and Eve did. I mean, I certainly wasn't around six or seven or however many thousand years ago. Maybe you were. But anyway. I digress.) That first act of human decision had two very distinct results: 

     1. We could no longer live forever. I mean, we were messed up.
     2. We now had the ability to always choose between right and wrong and understand our decisions.

This whole "free will" thing that Christians talk about all the time--it doesn't just affect the person making the decision. It affects other people as well. Possibly many people. There's that whole domino-effect idea, where one decision will turn into another and another and another. Or, you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you will. But with fewer movies and more real-life events.

So, a decision you make today, as inconsequential as it may seem, may affect some person you have never met--and may never meet--two years from now.

The whole point of that discussion is this: To say that God's plan was to save one person would mean that His plan was also that 26 other people would die. And not only that, but that His plan was for Adam Lanza to go into that school with guns and open fire on innocent little children. 

Let me make this clear: God did not want Adam Lanza to shoot anyone. Ever. God does not want bad things to happen. Ever. He does not sit at some judge's bench in the sky with a giant gavel commanding one person to die because someone else needs to learn a lesson, or deciding that some person has had a full enough life and so it's "their time to go."

God is the father standing next to the closed coffin, weeping with his fists clenched on the cold, hard wood, weeping because he doesn't understand why this happened to his child, why this happened to anyone's child. Weeping because he doesn't understand how someone can make the decision to take guns into a school and kill children, for God's sake.

God is the mother standing outside the school watching her blood-covered daughter run to her and thinking, "My God, she's alive! My baby is alive!" And then feeling a pain in her heart that will never quite leave her, because she has friends standing there with her who will never see their babies again.

God is the pastor, the friend, the counselor, trying to bring comfort and peace to those grieving their losses, holding them and weeping with them quietly, because there is nothing to say, nothing that can ever really answer the questions. 

But God is NOT the person on a message board, or in the church, or at work, saying that there must be a purpose for that lone survivor's life. 

Because the thing is, there is a purpose for every life.

Those twenty children, the six adults, and yes, even Adam Lanza--all of them had a purpose for their lives, whether that purpose had yet been realized or not. All of them were precious in God's eyes. Every single one of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

So please don't go around talking about God's plan for this one and His purpose for that one, unless you are going to also talk about the beautiful, purposeful, important lives that were sadly cut short. Not by God's will. But by the decision of a human being. 

If you can't think before you speak, then just stay silent. It's okay to not have answers. And it's okay to not know what to say. I promise. 



Four

There are four of you now.

Four children whom I will not be with this side of heaven.

One. Genesis Aria. My sweet baby girl. I got to hold you for an hour and forty-three minutes. Such a short time. But I will always remember the way your tiny, fork-prong-sized fingers grasped my enormous index finger with all the might you could muster. In that moment, you called me mama.

Two. Dorian Isaac. A wisp of a thought, gone before I really could process the thought of you existing. But still, my son. My first son.

Three. Rowan Iona. Again, gone before I knew it. I suspected. I felt the stirrings of you in the innermost parts of my soul. But the logic of life told me otherwise. Your life was confirmed to me even as you slipped away.

Four. We have not named you yet. But you were here, no doubt. Despite not being "planned," you were still my child, even if for a tiny moment in the lengthy life of the universe. And I still love you.

My chest is heavy this evening, and yet, I cannot quite shed a tear. Oh, the tears are there. I feel them. It's just that they are more like the dew that slowly seeps into the ground, nourishing the soil drop by drop, rather than a heavy downpour.

Four of you on the other side. And two here with me.

I love the two here with all my heart.

But they will never replace the four I lost.

A bit of a rambler

So I took Megan to Genna's grave again today. It was only the third time ever. I sometimes wonder if I'm doing her a service or a detriment by trying to explain to her about her sister who died before she got a chance to live. Although Megan is pretty quick on the uptake with a lot of things, I sometimes don't know how much her two-and-a-half-year-old brain really understands. Today she was more interested in looking at the flowers. But when I burst into tears, she gently asked me if I was sad. Yes, I told her. I am sad. But I couldn't explain to her the depth of what I was feeling as I stood in almost the same spot I was sitting in a little more than four years ago as my first daughter's tiny casket was lowered into the ground.
I remember my husband asking me if I wanted to leave before they covered the casket with earth. But I said no, I need this closure. And so I watched as shovel-full by shovel-full dirt was tossed onto the casket. I needed to see it, needed to hear the thunk of dirt and stones cascading over the tiny box, sealing my daughter's body in the earth. I needed it because I felt that maybe then I would stop hoping that it was a mistake, that suddenly she'd start breathing again and we could rush her back to the hospital and the ventilators would work. I needed to experience the burial.
And now that dirt, that earth, is covered with a soft layer of grass. And there are other babies in the plots surrounding Genna, and I mourn for them as well. Some have only one date on their marker, some lived for just over a year, and I lose my breath as I think what it would be like if I suddenly lost my nine-month-old son, or my bright-eyed, curious, handful of a daughter. What then?

But I can't think like that. I have them here, now, with me. And I have now to love them, lead them, experience life with them. Because in all honesty, I don't know how long I have with them. And whatever amount of time I have, I want it to be beautiful. And just...full.

Sad

Earlier today, I was sad, because I said that Genna would be 2 years old in May.

She would be 3.

Do you know how painful that is? To realize that you've forgotten things about your (dead) child?

Granted, she hasn't been with us, so I don't have the daily reminder of her growth and development to show me that, yes, she's a toddler.

But my baby girl would be a toddler right now. She would be almost pre-school age.

And I forgot.

I think a year of Genna's would-be life got swallowed up by the past year of Megan's actual life.

Because Megan is real. She is living, breathing, playing, walking, babbling.

Genna is a memory.

Winter Tree

I did my first painting tonight. A few friends have mentioned doing birth art and/or art therapy, and the idea sounded very interesting to me, as I've had a lot on my mind and heart lately. So, I got a pad of paper and some watercolors and finally sat down to do my first painting. Here is the result:

The colors are a little washed out, as this is a photograph of the painting. But I think I like the look of it with the lighter blue background.
I'd had this image stuck in my head for a few days of a silhouetted tree against a blue background. So, that's what I painted. I just thought I was painting a tree. But my subconscious sort of took over.

I just recently experienced a miscarriage. It's been a pretty difficult month since then, and I've known that I had feelings buried about it, as well as about my previous losses.

I showed my husband the picture, and he told me how the uprooted tree represents our miscarried child, and my friend added that the snowflakes represent the coldness and pain that I'm feeling. And then I realized, also, that the rounded shape of the blue background is very womb-like. It's amazing what our subconscious can do if we let it. And it is also amazing how healing the process of creating simple picture of three colors can be.

So, this is my watercolor painting, which I've titled "Winter Tree." And it is in honor of our lost child, whom we have decided to call Rowan.

**In memory of Rowan Lutes, November 9, 2010**