To the Miscarriage Mamas on Mother’s Day

accidental okie miscarriage mamasDear Mama.

Yes, Mama. Not Almost Mama. Not Someday Mama. You, the grower of life, the incubator of heartbeats and fingernails.

You are not a used-to-be.

I want to tell you that I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry for the death deep within your womb, for the loss even deeper in your heart. 

I don’t know how it happened, your unique story.

I don’t know when it happened. If it was late, there were probably logistics and procedures, maybe even danger for you. I cannot begin to understand.

If it was early, it probably hurt more than you ever thought possible – losing this life you didn’t even know existed just days or weeks earlier. I know it took me by surprise.

And for some of you, it’s happened again and again. The cruelest of cruel jokes.

This pain might be an ache that’s dulled over time, but will never fully go away. For others it is a sharp, fresh cut full of venom and tears.

We all have so many different stories, different pain. And now for each of us, all that complex grief, the years or months of emotions, the children you now have or the children you still dream of having – all of it – gets balled up into a tangled mess of a thing on this special weekend.

Yes, Mother’s Day is here again.

Last year was my first Mother’s Day. At six months pregnant, everyone who glimpsed me celebrated this new life, and I relished it. Happy Mother’s Day to me! 

The week before Mother’s Day, I floated about in my pregnant bliss, accepting well wishes from grocery store checkers and baristas. When the actual day came, I unexpectedly hid in my bed and sobbed. There was so much to be thankful for, but so much to mourn, too.

The well wishers didn’t know the whole story. That baby bump, our sweet boy, was the third baby I’d carried in my belly since the previous year’s Mother’s Day.

Mourning and joy. I think for many of us, they will forever mingle together on this day.

Whether hands full of kiddos who need bottles, band-aids or help with calculus homework, or hands still empty and heart still longing – we remember the cadence of those heartbeats, the positive pregnancy tests, the sweet dreams for a life that was suddenly gone.

It’s a hard week. A weird week.

Throughout my own season of loss, God was so faithful. He showed me beautiful, life-sustaining things about himself. He gave me comfort when I didn’t think it was possible.

Known

Last year, anchors were suddenly all the rage. You couldn’t click on Pinterest without seeing 20 different variations of the verse, “Hope is the anchor for the soul.” I thought it was sweet…gimmicky, but sweet.

Then after our miscarriages, I struggled to define an ache I couldn’t quite move beyond. Sure there was sadness and there was grief at the loss of these two little lives, but there was something else. Something more.

It festered and grew until one day it hit me: They were never known.

Most of my friends and a lot of our family didn’t even know I was pregnant both times. Life – glorious life that was prayed for and yearned for – came and went. Never known or quickly forgotten. It seemed too cruel. Even I, the holder of those heartbeats, didn’t know them.

Grief finally identified, I wept for the babies I would never know here on earth. Were they boys or girls? Did either have The Professor’s hint  of red hair or my random hatred of apples? Would they have been funny or serious, or maybe a bit of both? 

As I processed my grief over my babies not being known, I felt a strong urge to read Psalms 139. It’s the Psalm that says, “I knit you together in your mother’s womb.” For someone having miscarriages while seeing a fertility doctor, the thought of that passage seemed more like a cruel joke than a divine word from God.

As I begrudgingly read the passage, one section I’d never paid much attention to came alive.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

In that moment, I heard the tender voice of God whisper, “Your babies are known. They are known by me.”

In the depths of the earth – in the secret place where not even I could know them, He knew them. In that instant, I remembered the anchor pictures I kept seeing. The anchor – the same one that was the hope for my soul – it was down there in the depths of the earth, firm and secure.

Jesus knew my babies, and they were never alone. This has become my hope, my anchor. And if you ever wonder why I always wear an anchor necklace, that’s why.

Your babies are known. Fully, perfectly, completely known. Maybe not by you and maybe not by anyone else, but by God who formed them in that secret place.

And because they are fully known, they will never be forgotten.

Seen

I learned that God didn’t just know my babies. He didn’t just see them. He saw me. 

He saw the deep hurt that so many people didn’t. He saw me at my ugliest, saddest, angriest and most confused.

El Roi – The God Who Sees Me.

It has become my favorite name of God. There’s something really special about this name. The context isn’t The God who sees me win races and post Facebook statuses about my perfect life. It was the God who sees when we’re at our most vulnerable and most scared. 

Here’s the really cool part: it is a name given to God by a pregnant lady. Hagar encountered God while trying to run away from the crappy hand she was dealt.

“You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the one who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13).

He has seen your deepest pain. Not the put-on-a-pretty face you. Not the b.s. The real. The ugly. The lost.

Just like your babies, you are known. You are seen. Your pain is not forgotten.

Dear miscarriage mamas, this Mother’s Day, I pray that you honor it as you need. That might mean hiding under the covers, tear streaked. It might mean putting on a pretty face at church or a family gathering, and screaming in the shower later in the day. It might mean accepting sweet misspelled cards made by tiny fingers, and still giving yourself permission to feel that pinch of grief mingled with great joy. It might mean visiting a grave site.

Mother’s Day is about celebrating life and life givers. I think for us, the miscarriage mamas, who hold this day with interweaving and complicated emotions, we have a piercing reminder that today we can also celebrate the ultimate life giver – the one who ravaged death and will someday make all the sad things come untrue.

Your babies are known. You – your pain, your grief, your joy – they are seen.

You, sweet mama, are not a used to be, and so to you I want to say this: Happy Mother’s Day.

Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud

Brown's Bay

It’s January 21st – my birthday!

January 21st has other meaning in my life too.  Six years ago – six years ago today – I was on an airplane headed to New Zealand for six months.  The time in New Zealand had been years in the making, starting with a distinct calling to go there.  It was as if God attached my heart to an arrow and flung it at the country and kept the tether tight, pulling me ever closer.  Reeling me in.

New Zealand was in my dreams, it occupied my thoughts and daydreams, too.  But for years, the doors to go were slammed, dead bolted shut.

And then they opened.  They opened wide and fast, and within a few months I was there.  I worked with a Christan family-help organization.  It helps families in crisis, and helps families avoid crisis.  Even a place as beautiful as New Zealand cannot stamp out ugliness.  There is domestic violence and teen suicide and a lot of drug abuse.

I’ll tell you more about New Zealand someday.  I could talk about it for hours.  But until then, here is an excerpt of a blog post written six years ago, just a few days after I arrived.  (The pictures are from throughout my trip).

Doubtful Sound

Flying into NZ was amazing.  The seemingly endless Tasman Sea was streaked with long lines of clouds.  But then the clouds began to change shape.  Now they were curved, mimicking the shape of the unseen coast line.  And then, without warning, imposing fingers of land – untamed cliffs covered in emerald green grass – jutted out of the sea.

And there it was.  New Zealand – my New Zealand.  The New Zealand that God whispered into my ear four years ago.  Beautiful pasture dotted by the occasional house.  Green fields segmented by British-looking hedges. I could see it with my eyes and soon it would be beneath my feet.

My first thought was from Rilke’s Poem (I, 19 from his Book of Hours) where he writes from God’s perspective:

I Am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

 I am the dream you are dreaming
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.

The dream is a reality, and I am standing on its soil.

That first night, as I lay in bed and thought about the hours I spent crossing seas to get here, I was struck by how small this little island is compared to the massive oceans.  I felt very exposed and vulnerable.  Maybe even scared.  This little blip of green in a mass of blue between Australia and Chile is very far from home.

I live with Paula and her three children: Daniel (9), Dominic (“nearly 7”) and Kristin (4).  They have been incredibly accommodating as I adjust to many things.

Having everything so different all at once is a bit of a shock – I guess that’s why they call it culture shock.  It is all so different, but I like it, and I know that in time it will be home and I will be sad to leave.

And it’s true.  I was sad to leave.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel that tether, that I don’t long for my New Zealand, my New Zealand routine, my New Zealand usuals like perfect coffee and tea and chocolate and fruit.  I miss how skinny I got from having to walk two miles every day between bus stops.

But most of all I miss my New Zealand family.  My throat clenches when we chat on Skype and Daniel has a man’s voice now, or when I realize that Kristin is the age that Daniel was when I was there.  I miss Paula, who became one of the most important and beloved people in my life.  I don’t call them as much as I should.  Mostly because when I do, the tether grows tight again in those moments.  It is equal parts joy and pain.

That tether, that arrow.  It still pins down a chunk of my heart that will forever be tied to New Zealand, or as the native Maori call it, Aotearoaland of the long white cloud.

New Zealand | www.accidentalokie.com

But What If?

The Professor and I don’t have any kids yet.  Someday, just not yet.

As I think about someday having children, my heart is full of excitement and expectations and a thousand unspoken and spoken fears.  The “but what ifs?”

But what if when we start trying, we can’t have a baby?
But what if we have a baby with Down’s Syndrome?
But what if I have a still birth?
But what if I have conjoined twins?
But what if our child gets a horrible childhood cancer?
But what if we have a child with debilitating autism or cerebral palsy?
But what if something happens to The Professor and I have to raise a baby alone?

There are thousands of questions.

The reality is that when we have a child, no matter how perfect we think he or she is, between the ten fingers and ten toes and ringlets of blond hair, our bundle of joy will be imperfect in some way – an imperfect little person born into an imperfect world.  A world where babies are born with impairments.  A world where that perfect little angel will learn how to manipulate and disobey within months.  A world where children get terminal diseases.  A world where babies die in their mothers’ wombs.

A world where beautiful little children learning colors and shapes and how to tie their shoes are killed in their kindergarten class by a man filled with so much hurt and so much anger, he decided to make other people hurt as bad as him.

Even if we have a baby and there are no complications, the risks don’t end there.  So I guess I have two options – take the risk or hide under a rock.

It’s days like today that I remember this verse:  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33.

Pain, imperfection, injustice – they seem to be guaranteed.  And apparently all the anxiety I can muster won’t change a thing.

It takes a smarter person than me to say why bad things happen.  All I know is that He promises he’ll win in the end.  And when Jesus faced loss – even knowing he would win – he wept and cried up to heaven.

So that’s what we will do.  We will weep and pray.  And strangest of them all, we’ll keep hoping.