Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: About What Was Lost

About What Was Lost is a book edited by Jessica Berger Gross. This book is a compilation of stories from 20 women who have dealt with miscarriage including the editor. Some of these women are "notable" writers such as Pam Huston, Joyce Maynard, Caroline Leavitt, Susanna Sonnenberg, and Juilanna Baggott, among others. But I didn't know any of the authors.

This was a hard book to read. I did finish it but admit to skimming a lot at the end. I don't believe that any of the authors are believers and most of them have very liberal viewpoints. But they lost babies just like I lost my baby so I tried to take that into consideration when reading the book. Some of their thoughts rang true to my grief-process:

Caroline Leavitt
But the yearning, the grief, never totally goes away. It's there under the daily happiness, the joy of a husband and another child. I marked off that baby's birthday every year. I grieve for that little soul. And sometimes I apologize to it, not because I believe I'm responsible, but because it never got to live. It never go the chance to be a real person. We never got to really know each other. It wasn't just the death of a baby, it was the death of hope, "The thing with feathers," as Emily Dickinson said, and it - and I - never had a chance to soar.
I think this hit home for me because, like with most losses, I won't forget. It will never really go away although there will be more and more days that I won't think about it - it will never go away. I do feel like my baby never got to be a real person and I feel that way more about other people's view not my own. It wasn't real to other people so was it really real? And I did lose hope. Honestly, I am scared to hope. But I've been blessed with a gift of clarity from God (I will talk about that closer to the due date of our baby) that has put peace back in my heart.

Susanna Sonnenberg
Miscarriage was the shadow to a brightly lit subject. People didn't like to talk about shadows. They liked to talk about hope, and the unraveled pregnancy had no language, wasn't suitable for discussion.
When I lost my baby, I did feel like I was living in the shadows. In the shadows of mothers who were still pregnant. Who had life inside of them. I felt as though people didn't want me to talk about it because I was casting a deep dark scary shadow over their brightest light. And so I didn't. I isolated myself because I didn't want to be that shadow. And that isolation caused my days to grow so dark.
I felt dismal with isolation. An acquaintance approached me and said she'd heard from a friend. She said, "I'm so sorry. We've all been there." We. Our world, our important world of unnameable injuries. She and I had never had much to say to each other, except for prickly social frivolities, but now she seemed essential, a compatriot. I let her hug me. In the years after that day, if I saw her crossing a street or waiting ahead of me in a line, it was like getting a glimpse of a favorite teacher or aunt.
Through that horrible isolation women who have gone through a loss like this before me were really the only ones that could comfort me. They were the only ones who knew the grief that I was experiencing. They were the only ones who's words really meant anything and the only words that could offer any hope or comfort. Some of these women were strangers and some were just acquaintances and they had all carried a weight of grief. And that comradery really helped me in my darkest times. Just knowing that I really wasn't alone. And then there's Esther, a dear sister in Christ. She lost her baby the same time that I lost mine and we were both due a week apart. I would never have known Esther if we didn't lose our babies. I feel like God gave her to me as His light. We've been able to be brutally honest with our feelings, with our loss, with our weaknesses and our strengths. We've been so blessed to have each other through this awful time. I thank God for her every day. God shows His goodness in such strange ways.

Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick:
"My Own Private Elba," I called it, as I lay in bed after my D&C, wondering why I was being doubly punished: first by the death of this first baby we already loved so desperately, and then by all the friends and realatives working so hard to erase all traces of it. I think I agree with you that one needn't "got through it to get it." But I also suspect that, with a handful of shining exceptions, the people who best knew how to be with us through all the had endured it.
I, too, had my exceptions - women who haven't gone through a miscarriage but have given me so much love and support.

First there is Rachel (her acts of support and compassion have been so unexpected). A new mother herself with a new little boy. She has been so loving and supportive during these long months of grief. She has written me emails just to say she is praying or thinking of me. She sent a card with a gift card to a restaurant and told us she knew the due date was coming up and that we deserved a night out. This young mother who is basking in the joy of her son has been so wonderful and supportive to me - and I never saw it coming. She hasn't offered any platitudes or Bible verses that were supposed to make me feel better. She offered prayers and let me know that she didn't forget.

Then there's Kristin. She has been so loving and kind to me through her own pregnancy. I think it helps that we've known each other for a long time and that I know she has the most empathetic, compassionate heart. But she's been able to creep into the shadows and offer a little of her light to me in my darkest times. And I am so grateful for that bravery as it's hard to go into the shadows (that scary minefield) for your friend.

(There were a handful of other women that have supported me when they have not experienced this type of loss and I am grateful for them all. Rachel and Kristin have just been in my mind a lot lately.)

And then there are the people who have disappointed me. They have been through the loss of an unborn child but haven't been open enough to realize that we all handle loss differently. That we can't compare loss stories - who's is the worst? who is hurting most? who has been the most unfortunate? We can only share our stories and offer love and hope to each other. Encouragement and honesty. No comparing allowed.

There were plenty of times I could relate to the women in the book. But something that I wasn't expecting was how many of them had had abortions prior to their miscarriage. I have to say it was enlightening and haunting at the same time.

It was interesting to hear how many of them were still grieving their aborted babies. That some of them were pressured into abortion by their husbands. That some of them didn't realize the grief from their abortion until their miscarriage and then they grieved two little souls. And in the process these self-called feminist pro-choice women had some things to consider:
Pro-choice women have trained themselves to think that life begins at viability; when we miscarry, we're disturbed to find ourselves mourning a child rather than a mass of developing cells. Feminists are generally much more comfortable celebrating happy outcomes than they are grieving for a lost fetus, for fear of acknowledging its personhood.(Emily Brazelon)
I found this to be an very interesting point. That we grieve our children not a mass of cells or even a fetus. We grieve a child - the hopes and dreams of who they might become. As Dahlia Lithwick states it [historically women don't talk about miscarriage whether they are pro-choice or pro-life]. It's a lonely road and it's important for us to open that door and share (without judgment) so that we can be healed. So that God can use us to breath hope into another through Jesus Christ.

This book was very interesting and I related to a lot of what the women talked about when it came to the loss of their child. But it was hard to hear about all the abortions that they had. It was really hard after losing a "planned" pregnancy to hear of women just giving that gift away, of ending their pregnancies when I so desperately wanted mine. I don't know that I would recommend this book but it was an interesting read. It made me want to write a book like this except from a Christian perspective. To compile our stories so that other believing women would not feel alone through their grief. Just something to think about.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Healing Heart

As some of you remember from my birthday post, I have set some goals for my 30th (which is actually my 31st) year of life. I want to do some things that I've never done and a fitness boot camp was one of them...notice I said WAS.

That's right! I've finished my 9-week challenge and I've seen some amazing results -which will be revealed later this week. But that's not why I'm writing this post.

I started the Fitness Boot Camp for several reasons:

1. I've never done it before and it's on my list.
2. I wanted to be in better shape.
3. I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

After losing our baby I went through a period of pretty rough depression. I have two young boys that I needed to care for daily, and I did that. I got up in the morning and I cared for them. But I did that while I was in my pajamas all day. I did that while crying at the drop of a hat. I did that with an open wound. I did that while questioning God's reason for my loss and wondering if it was my fault. I did it with guilt over my responsibility (if there was any) in losing my baby. I cared for my boys with all the strength that I had - which wasn't much. I'm so thankful that I have a wonderful husband who supported me through all of this (by cooking, cleaning, showing me grace, loving me in such a special way). And it's hard to admit that the days were so dark.

A few weeks before my birthday my husband asked me if I'd like to join a fitness boot camp. He'd heard me talk about my birthday list and wanted to encourage me in that. I told him that I needed to think about it. Then I talked to some friends at church that had done Goals In Motion. I gave them lots of excuses of why I wouldn't be able to join the 9-week challenge but I think I was just scared.

It had been a long time since I had really done something for myself. As mothers we are so used to sacrificing our time, our schedules, our comfort, our sleep, our bodies, our minds, our hearts to our children and not take time for ourselves. I felt guilty for the cost of the program and didn't think that I was worth that. We had money saved up and my husband wanted to give this to me as a gift. So I accepted the challenge and knew that the cost of the program alone would keep me feeling guilty motivated enough to keep going.

I'd say the hardest parts of the program were getting up at 4:30a to be at the gym by 5a, eating enough throughout the day, and not eating carbs after 3p. And I can't say that I was very disciplined with my eating. I was really strict at the beginning and got a little more relaxed at the end - which isn't a good idea.

I started seeing results and noticed my clothes fitting looser and that I was losing my double chin and gaining a neck. ;) I was happy with the changes but thought I would feel better. I thought that seeing my body change would make me happy. I thought it would make me feel good again, but I wasn't and it didn't.

I was still sad. Still mourning. Still questioning. My body may have started to look better, but my heart was still bleeding and I was still nursing an open painful wound. All the kick-boxing and beating that bag was not helping my heart like I thought it would. All the weight-lifting and doing things that I never thought I'd be able to do was exciting and encouraging but it wasn't healing.

I think that it's important to realize that making yourself get out of bed, that working out regularly, that smiling and holding your tongue, are all ways to survive grief and make it through a whole, albeit changed, person. But that's not what was healing to me. Being on my blog talking about my loss, humbling myself enough to ask for prayer, reaching out to friends and family to tell them where my heart is at. Being real with people and sharing my thoughts and feelings was what I found to be healing to me. And it's not easy.

I learned quickly whom I could trust. I learned that some people are better listeners and some are better talkers. I learned that you will get burned in the process and not everyone is understanding. I learned that the people who had gone through this type of loss (even if they were strangers) were the only ones who really understood, who really had advice and stories that I wanted to hear, who I could really listen to talk about God's promises and God's love. I couldn't stand to hear someone compare my baby's death to the death of a grandparent or an elderly parent. I couldn't stand to hear people quote Scripture about God's plans and His promises for His children. So in the process of healing there is a fine line - learning how to guard my heart but not isolate myself. But when I wasn't talking about my loss, when I wasn't asking for prayer that's when my heart and mind took it's deepest dive into the valley.

All this is to say that I did survive fitness boot camp and it was a great encouragement (and success) but it's not the thing that healed my heart. Being with the people of God and humbling myself enough to talk about my loss and ask for prayer is what is healing my heart.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Prayer Request

I'm asking you to be praying for a dear friend who just found out today that her baby died inutero. She was 12 weeks along and really needs prayer right now. I hated to hear the hurt in her voice as we talked over the phone this afternoon. I wish she didn't have to go through this hurt. And pray that I can be as supportive as she needs me to be. I'm still grieving my loss and I want to love her like she needs to be loved right now. Please pray that God can use these awful experiences to draw us closer to Him and each other. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dealing with Depression

It took me a long time to admit that I was depressed. And maybe I still am. I'm still grieving the loss of our baby, and again, as the due date approaches it will get increasingly difficult.

I'm not really angry anymore although I do have spouts of anger. It's not a constant. And I'm not really feeling jealousy like I was when I saw pregnant and new moms. Although sometimes it still hurts.

I'm just sad. A sadness that exhausts my body. Exhausts my mind. I think I've been holding a lot in because I want to look good on the outside. I want to look like I have it together and that I'm not hurting so much inside. The pain isn't fresh anymore but the wound is still open. The emotions aren't such a shock. They've just become a part of me. And that's sad in itself.

Here's an article on dealing with the emotions after a miscarriage (or losing an unborn baby):

From Women's Health Resource
The greatest contributor to emotional reaction is that a woman looks at the early pregnancy as part of herself and when it is lost, there is an emptiness, searching and incompleteness feeling because the fetus is not viewed as a separate being. Also, the connection to the fetus is much stronger for the woman than for her partner and there is a great difference in the intensity of the grieving process between the mother and father. A woman becomes isolated because of this and often has no emotional support for her feelings. Even the usual social rituals of a death notice, a funeral, and friends offering sympathy are absent because very few people usually know of the event. This prevents accepting the reality of the loss. If there was any ambivalence about the pregnancy in the first place guilt becomes a major component of the grieving process.

Workers is this field have identified four tasks to be accomplished to work through the grieving process in a psychologically constructive way. The general time it takes is as much as 12-18 months after the loss.

  1. Accept the reality of the loss -- if the miscarriage takes place before friends and family know of the pregnancy, sharing the loss with others may help or even some sort of commemorative steps either public or private. If the pregnancy loss is further along, a burial ceremony or even just holding the fetus can help.
  2. Allow experiencing the pain of grief -- if the grieving process is suppressed, it is more likely to result in psychological reactions. The woman needs to consciously grieve for lost dreams. This process will wax and wane but should not be suppressed by drugs, alcohol or even the rapid attempt to become pregnant again so as to relieve the pain more quickly.
  3. Adjust to the new situation without the lost child -- a woman must change her perception that part of herself is lost. She needs to resume her role and self-identity at least as it was prior to becoming pregnant.
  4. Reinvest emotional energy in new relationships -- a woman recovers and benefits from building new ties and nourishing the relationships already present.

This resonated with me a lot. And the first paragraph is a good explanation of what I've been feeling: empty, lost, incomplete, isolated. And I think I still need to deal with #2 - allowing myself to experience the pain of grief. I think I've been holding a lot in. To protect my sons, my marriage, my witness. And I find myself becoming too comfortable with the pain and it's too hard to let it go. Also, I haven't changed my perception that a part of me was lost (#3) because I really feel like it was.

This article deals more with the postpartum depression part of what I've been dealing with:

While all women experience physical changes in their bodies after a pregnancy ends affecting her mood, a woman who has lost a baby through miscarriage faces another risk factor for serious postpartum depression. Not only must a woman endure the physical and psychological stresses that occur due to hormone changes, but they do so without any of the rewards that come with bringing their baby home. A woman may not have the support of her partner who is grieving as well. There are no excited visitors to greet a baby and give congratulations, and certainly no baby to hold and care for. She is trying to cope with not only her postpartum changes, but with the loss of their baby as well.

I had postpartum depression after both of my boys. So I'm familiar with the feelings that come from that kind of depression. But this time it was different. I was sad about my baby's death. I was sad that my body still thought I was pregnant when the baby was dead inside me. I didn't realize that along with the regular grief-cycle I was experiencing postpartum depression except that I didn't have that little baby to pull me out of it like I had in the past. When my boys were about 4 months old I started to really come out of it. And it's been a little over 4 months since we lost the baby, but it's harder to come out of it when there's not the joy of a little person loving you, making you smile, growing, and becoming a part of your family.

Another great article on God's mercy as we deal with loss:

From All About Life Challenges
Then, I read in the New Testament, Hebrews 12:15, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled"(NASB). Somehow, God spoke to my heart with this. I realized I wasn't experiencing the grace of God because I was holding on to my bitterness. I was causing problems in my marriage by keeping this bitterness as if it were a treasure. I was driving away friends on a daily basis. That day, with many tears, I knelt in my apartment and told God I was sorry for not trusting Him and asked Him to please reveal to me the purpose of my loss.

It would be nice to be able to say that immediately I felt great and that I understood perfectly everything I wanted to know. Not so, but I did feel better. Over time, I came to understand how one person's sorrow can be helpful to both that person and to others. Another part of the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

I pray that I will be able to find an outlet for my emotions. That I will be able to kneel before God and give him my hurt. I pray that I will be able to trust Him and hope for another child - without fear. I pray that He would reveal to me the purpose of this loss. And I pray that I would not become bitter but instead that God would use my trouble to comfort those who may deal with the loss of their unborn child. That I may be the comfort of God to someone else.

If you want more information on identifying your emotions and what to do with them after a miscarriage here's an a great article from Epigee.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Avoiding Pain May Mean Missing Out On Joy

This past weekend my husband took our two boys to visit his family for the extended weekend. I decided not to go.

There are many reasons that I could give you: time to myself, a mini-vacation, I've never done this before, time to get school stuff done, time to get church stuff done, time to relax, time to clean our house, etc.

But the main reason I didn't go is I wanted to avoid pain.

I love my husband's family. They are so wonderful and we get along really well. I love my sisters-in-law and they were my friends before they were my sisters. That's why it's so hard that two of them had babies this spring within weeks of each other. And the other one is due the same week that I was due.

This was to be the "year of the babies" and now it isn't. Well, it is for everyone else, just not for us. I wanted to avoid the pain that would come when seeing two nursing moms and a mom that is due in 4 weeks - the same week I was due. I wanted to avoid making everyone feel awkward about me being there. I wanted to avoid being Debbie Downer because I know I would've cried. I wanted to avoid them asking me about it. But I would've been upset if they didn't. I wanted to avoid all the painful emotions that come when you feel disappointed, and when you feel like a disappointment. When you feel like you're missing something that everyone else has. I don't really think it's jealousy because I'm not angry. I'm just sad. Sad that I am not celebrating a new little life in my life and sad that it's so difficult to celebrate for other people.

So, I avoided the emotional exhaustion that would've come from the trip.

But I also missed out on the joy.

I called my husband on Saturday evening to find out how the boys were doing, how the fantasy football party went, if the girls missed me not being there and I was put on "hold" while they prayed before dinner. I could hear my brother-in-law's prayer. I could hear the children talking during prayer (and this time all I could do was smile). I could hear the littles praying before devouring their hot dogs. I could hear everyone visiting and the chaos of mealtime. And I was missing it. I was missing the joy of being together with my husband's family. I was missing out on the joy and support. I was missing out on love. And for that, I'm regretful.

I am glad that I've had time to rest. I'm glad that I've had time to relax. I'm glad that I got to take a 6-hour nap and not feel guilty. I'm glad that I got a bunch of school stuff done. I'm glad that I'm not going to be physically and emotionally exhausted. But I'm sad. Because I avoided that pain and missed out on the joy of being with family that loves me and accepts me. And maybe that's good for me to know. So I won't avoid it the next time the opportunity comes, although it will be hard when it does come. Amid the pain there will be joy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Poking Fun

I thought this blog post was hilarious!! Really enjoyed the wit of the graphic designer when dealing with the urgency of his secretary's lost cat. And because I don't really care for cats. Enjoy!!

**FYI - *I do not promote any other material on this blog as I have not viewed anything but this witty banter. Thanks.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I wouldn't say I'm an official grammarian, but I do like to diagram sentences, or did in high school. ;) Anyway, I found this article really interesting as I find myself correcting people in my head. Even though I still get confused by the rules/definitions/pronunciations. Here are some that hit home:

further - metaphorical distance or time
farther - physical distance
*I've been wondering about this lately.

supposably - conceivably
supposedly - "it's assumed"
*I hear people mis-speak this a lot. I don't really think they know that they're getting it wrong. Just like singing the wrong words to a song.

who - a subject
whom - an object
*That's always a favorite even though I rarely use them appropriately.

I always enjoy a little grammar knowledge. Nerd alert!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

School Days - Books n' Things

I have to admit that I have way too many resources. I was planning on using a little of this and a little of that. Then my cousin gave me the PreK Horizons curriculum that she received free to review as a preschool teacher. That was when I became completely overwhelmed. And like a first-time homeschool mom I have overbought, and have made myself a little nuts. ;)

It's hard for me to plan because I'm not sure when my internet resources will be publishing their lessons (weekly, monthly, ??) so that puts a damper on my planning - and if you know me at all, you know how much I like to plan. I'm sure this list will change as the weeks go on, but here's where I'm starting.

Devotions from ABC Jesus Loves Me - I've taken this from the 4yr curriculum of ABC Jesus Loves Me. It's based on character traits from the Bible and includes suggestions from many different children's Bibles, songs, other books, and activities/crafts. I really liked how you can tell the same story every day from a different version of the Bible. I think it helps my boys to remember the stories better. It's nice to finally use all the children's bibles that we've purchased or received as gifts. Here are the children's Bibles & books we're using:

Big Thoughts for Little People

The Big Picture Story Bible

The Rhyme Bible Storybook

The New Bible In Pictures for Little Eyes

Jesus Storybook Bible

Pray through our family prayer book - This has been a great resource to me, specifically and it's nice to pass it on to my kids. It's kind of like a scrapbook that has pictures of our family, our extended family, friends, and missionaries we support. It makes it easier for my boys to pray for them when they can see their faces. We also include any letters that we get from our missionaries so we can be specific in our prayers for them. This is a great resource from Legacy Prayer Journals.

Calendar craft/activities from Preschool Calendar. This book is full of seasonal ideas, fine/gross motor activities, worksheets (must make your own copies), social studies units, community themes, bulletin board examples, etc.

Bible memory verses based on the letter we're working on for the week are taken from My ABC Bible Verses. We'll use the book in random order of the letters that we're working on.

I received the PreK Horizons set from my cousin who was reviewing pre-k homeschooling resources and she gave me the whole pile. Kind of fun even though it's a little late for planning. I'd like to be using as much out of this book as I can since I didn't have to pay for it. It has 36 weeks of lessons and I'm planning on 36 weeks of school so that works out nicely. I'm not sure about the timing with my other resources (Raising Rock Stars Preschool and Handwriting Without Tears) but I want to use what I've got. Mostly I'm planning on using math, social studies, science as my main subjects from these books. The Bible studies are different than what I'm wanting right now and I have some great reading/phonics, and writing resources that we'll be using.

Handwriting Without Tears will obviously be our handwriting curriculum. I ordered the PreK teacher's manual and workbook "Get Set for School". I also bought the wood pieces for capital letters and the laminated cards to go with them. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have bought the cards laminated and just laminate them myself - but I ordered them before I owned my laminator. There's a learning curve to all of this. ;)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons will be our "learning-to-read" resource. I'm excited about this because it was recommended to me by so many homeschooling parents. It seems weird like most of the curriculum that I'm using because it doesn't go in alphabetical order. Just seems so un-school-like to me.

And then the last thing is Raising Rock Stars Preschool. If I had it to do all over again (and could get some of my money back) I would stick to one thing and this would probably be it. Although there is no real math - besides learning numbers which my four-year-old already knows - it's a great program for letters, vocab, writing, and reading. It's also based on Christian principles and has some great Biblical themes. The PreK Horizons is a lot busier, but if you wanted something simple I think this would be the best choice. Most of her stuff is free online but if you want to become a member and receive all the free stuff and a lot more she charges a one-time fee of $10. Sounds pretty reasonable considering all the time and money spent on other curriculum.

Anyway, that's my curriculum review. I'm sure I'll be using less of this and more of that. And another exciting thing we're using are file folder games and preschool activity bags. But more on that later. Hope this gives you an idea of how crazy I am. ;)