Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Heartache of Miscarriage

While a family picture can be a reflection of so many blessings and lots of happiness, it doesn't always show the hidden heartaches.  When people look at our family picture, they see our three precious children we were blessed to bring into this world.  What they don't see is the pain and loss we experienced through miscarriage.  Four painful times, actually.  A lot of people know this about me, but many do not.  And until I personally went down the awful road of miscarriage, I didn't realize so many other women have also.  Which I why I'm choosing to write about it. 

Most women don't openly talk about their miscarriage and can feel isolated and alone and even shame.  I found once I started talking about it, more and more women that I knew had also gone through it.  Knowing this didn't make me feel any better, but I didn't feel so alone and so "abnormal".  Miscarriage is a very different experience for a man.  My husband was extremely supportive and loving during those difficult days for me, but I couldn't expect him to understand exactly what I was going through because his experience of going through it was very different than mine.  No one can truly understand the dark, painful, horrible, heart-breaking road a woman travels down with regards to miscarriage unless she's been there herself.

All four of my miscarriages happened around the same time, about 6-7 weeks into my pregnancies.  Some people would say, "well at least it happened early in the pregnancy" and I agreed, but that didn't make it easy or less painful for me.  In my eyes, a loss of life is a loss of life, no matter what stage or age.  My first miscarriage came with my very first pregnancy.  My husband and I were so excited to start a family and I'll never forget seeing my first positive pregnancy test.  I immediately began to picture our family of three and all the hopes and dreams that came with a baby.  A week or so later, everything changed.  I'll never forget that pit in my stomach when I knew something was wrong.  After an ultrasound confirmed that I had lost the baby, we were crushed.  I felt all kinds of emotions.  I was afraid I would never be able to have a baby and that something was wrong with me.  It was almost a feeling of failure, that my body had somehow not been able to take care of that baby like it needed to.  My husband and I met with the doctor after the ultrasound and I just sat there and cried and cried.  She assured us this is very common and many women go on to have healthy babies.  That gave me a glimpse of hope, but didn't cure my pain.  The only thing that got me through it was my faith.  I knew God had a plan for us.  I truly believed that.  And I knew I had to trust that his plan was far superior than mine, so I did.  I trusted he knew what he was doing.  A few months after that, I got pregnant again and I went on to have a healthy baby girl, who is now 6 1/2 years old.

The other three miscarriages came between my first and second children.  It was about two weeks after I had my third miscarriage that I got a call one evening from a good friend to tell me she was pregnant.  It was their first baby and I was so excited for them.  I knew the joy she was experiencing and I wanted to share in that joy with her.  I honestly felt no jealousy or hard feelings towards her.  I wanted the best for her.  I remember lying in bed that night and I couldn't sleep.  The conversation I had with her had brought back the pain of my recent loss.  Tears just streamed down my face and I just kept thinking about how I wanted another baby so bad.  It almost seemed harder to deal with the miscarriages that came after having a healthy baby because I knew what it felt like to experience the love, joy and excitement of a baby like we were with our first born.  I knew what I was missing out on when I lost those other three babies.   God had placed this desire in our hearts for more children.  So even though I was thankful to at least have one child, I couldn't just shake off the hurt of losing those other three babies.  I kept trying to remind myself that some people aren't fortunate enough to even have children, so I really should be thankful I have one already.  And I was very thankful.  But that desire for more children was so strong and I couldn't let go of it.  I finally said to God one day, "If it's not your plan for us to have more children, please take this desire out of my heart because I can't bear another loss like this."  It was extremely difficult to pray this because I couldn't imagine not wanting more children.  But I also knew that I had to pray for God's will, not mine.  I remember thinking, "Wow.  I cannot believe I just prayed that."  That was a huge step for me in my faith and if I had not gone through the pain of the miscarriages, I probably would never have turned the corner in my faith and learned to pray for God's will, not mine.

While I was in the difficult season of the last three miscarriages, another close friend of mine was going through the heartache of infertility.  I remember her saying "well, at least you can get pregnant".  This was true, but that fact didn't take away my pain.  We both had the same desire for more children and we were both hurting, but in different ways.  We were there for each other, but it was difficult to find the words to console one another since our pain was different.  We didn't pretend to know what the other was going through because we truly didn't.  We just understood that we were both going through heartache.  She told me, "Please tell me if you get pregnant.  I want to know".  So I did.  I remember calling her and although she was happy for me, I could hear the hurt in her voice since she was still trying to get pregnant.  I was early in the pregnancy so I told her I was not getting excited about anything yet.  It was a difficult situation to be in.  I wanted to be happy I was pregnant again, but I was hurting for my friend and her pain as well.  After many, many prayers, God faithfully provided for both of us.  About a few weeks later, she called me to tell me she was pregnant as well!  My second child and her second child were born less than a month a part, and we were now able to share in each other's joy.  God's timing couldn't have been better.  But then again God's timing is always perfect.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

If you've never read the book Heaven Is For Real, I highly recommend it.  It's a true story about a little 3 year old boy's trip to heaven and back during his emergency appendectomy.  If you haven't read it yet and don't want me to spoil some of it for you, skip down to the next paragraph now :)  I started reading this book on a road trip from CO to IA and I was literally reading about Colton (the little boy) going to the hospital in North Platte, NE right as we were driving on I-80 through North Platte!  Crazy.  By this time, I was 4 hours into the book and couldn't put it down.  I got goosebumps and had tears in my eyes numerous times throughout reading this book.  But the chapter that really hit home for me was chapter 17, titled Two Sisters.  Colton's mom had a miscarriage in her second month of pregnancy before Colton was born.  His parents had not told him about this.  He talks about how he knew he had two sisters (not just his one older, earthly sister) because he knew his mom had a baby die in her tummy.  When his mom asked him who told him this, he said, "She did, Mommy.  She said she died in your tummy."  He then told his mom, "It's okay, Mommy.  She's okay.  God adopted her."  I loved the part where he described what she looked like and when he said "In heaven, this little girl ran up to me and wouldn't stop hugging me!"  His parents then asked him what her name was and he explained she didn't have a name because his parents hadn't named her.  They agreed as they explained to him they didn't even know the baby was a girl.  I had tears flowing reading all of this and just lost it when I read the part where he told his parents, "Yeah, she said she just can't wait for you and daddy to get to heaven."  I was crying so hard at this point my husband looked over and said "What's wrong?!"  For me, it was almost tears from peace and comfort that had come over me reading this.  Picturing my four other babies I've never met, waiting in heaven for me and my husband, is just an indescribable feeling.  I've always believed life begins at conception, but trying to picture a baby at 6 or 7 weeks old in heaven was not something I was ever good at.  I have just always trusted they were in heaven.  And the thought of God adopting those babies brings comfort beyond words.  This book brought more healing for me by giving me the peace of mind that my unborn babies are being loved and taken care of, even though I can't see them and hold them and even though their life ended so quickly.  It also gave me more hope that one day we will meet and my three other children we've been blessed to hold and love on this earth will also meet their four siblings they do not yet know about.  Amazing.  Simply amazing.

For those of you who have babies in heaven too, who never had the chance to live on this earth, my prayer for you is that you have faith, that although we have suffered great loss here on earth, one day God will bring us all together again and we will experience the wonder and miraculous works of him when we hold those babies.  I pray your hearts are healed and that you trust in God's will for those babies.  One day we will know why, but until then, trust that God is holding them and loving them even more than we ever could as their mother and they are in heaven waiting for you.

God Bless

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's All About Choices

"Choice" is a word that I find myself constantly using.  In our home, we don't tell our children they are bad or naughty.  Instead, we are teaching them that their behavior is either based on a good choice or a bad choice that they make.  I believe all children are good because they are a gift from God, and God's gifts are never bad.  But naturally, our children do make bad choices and when this happens, they know there will be a consequence based on the choice they have made.  Sometimes it's a consequence directed by us as their parents and other times it's a natural result of their choice.  Regardless of the choice, they are empowered to choose (unless it puts their safety at risk of course).  This allows our children to make decisions and choices for themselves, but then they also have to be ready to deal with the consequence that follows.  When this happens, a lesson is learned (good or bad) and that is our goal!  Because our children will continue to make decisions for themselves for the rest of their lives, we feel it's so important to help them get a strong foundation when they are little.  The choices they make now will not compare to the choices they will have to make when they get older, but they will understand the concept of consequences and will hopefully use this foundation to make good choices as they get older.

Right now we are in a season with my 3 year old where it's very difficult to get her to eat a variety of things.  But, we stick to our guns and she is served the same meal the rest of us have every night (while my 6 year old and 15 month old usually eat it all, so I know it's kid-friendly :).  I do this for two reasons.  1)  She won't always get what she wants in life and she must learn that now at a young age, even when it comes to meals.  2)  I think it's disrespectful for my children not to eat (or at least try) something that someone else has taken the time to prepare.  If they don't like it, they don't have to eat it but they must at least try it. There were a few nights when she refused to touch her food.  Not even take 1 bite!  After it caused a lot of turmoil for my husband and I watching her be so stubborn and not even try it, we finally decided we were not going to make an issue of food.  So, I served it to her, she refused to touch it and later she sat in agony watching her sister eat a chocolate cupcake for dessert because the consequence of her choice was not getting dessert!  The next night you better believe she found a way to eat her dinner (even though she acted like it was torture) and she was pleased with the consequence of her choice the next evening.  The lesson I learned from this is to empower my child to make this choice.  If she wants to go to bed hungry because she chooses not to eat her meal, then it's totally up to her!  I don't get upset about it anymore because she is the one who has to deal with the consequence and learn the lesson. 

I know I've talked a lot about choices in previous posts as well, but one thing I keep being reminded of as a mom is most of what life is all about is our choices.  Whether it's making choices for my family or teaching my kids to make their own choices, most things we do in life is done by choice.  Every family has different priorities when it comes to choices as well.  We are constant role models and our children need to see us making good choices in life.  By seeing the good consequences that come from making good choices, we encourage them to do the same and reap the same benefits.  There are lessons for them to learn when we make bad choices too.  Hopefully the consequences of our bad choices are enough to teach them those bad choices are not worth it.

The thing I love about making choices is we all have the privilege to do it!  It's easy to look at our own past and use the excuses "that was the way I was raised so that's all I've ever known" or "I'm not used to that because my family never did that" or "I was not raised to..." but at the end of the day, we all have the ability to choose our own beliefs, habits, values, morals, etc!  We all come from different families and so did our parents.  Many times we know people whose parent(s) never said "I love you" or hugged each other or they come from a family of addiction or their family never communicated in healthy ways, etc, etc.  No matter how difficult the past, we have the choice to break the chain and make healthy choices for our own children!  That is our privilege AND responsibility as parents.  I also commend people who seek counseling when they feel the need to deal with their hurtful past in order to make sure it doesn't negatively affect their own children. Sometimes it takes becoming a parent to see the impact of our past (good and bad) and then make the choice of what areas need improvement and what we want to continue to pass on to our children.  So many of our choices are directly related to how we were raised.  Have you ever thought about that?  Either we continue to do things similar to the way we were raised, or we choose to change them.   

In my journey of motherhood, I'm trying to really think about the choices I'm making for me and my familly and whether they will have a healthy impact in the short-term and long-term.  Sometimes it's easy to get in a routine of making choices because "that's what we've always known" or "it's easy and comfortable" but it may not be the best for our children.  We also have to think about our choices being passed down from our children to our grandchildren.  It's good to ask ourselves, "Is my choice in raising my children this way something I want them to do as a mother or father and pass down to their children?"  We won't always make the best choices, but we must do the best with can and be intentional with our choices each and every day. 

God Bless :)