Saturday, July 29, 2006

Not enough tears

There are not enough tears to cry away the pain and anguish I feel. Today has been one of my blackest days yet. I sat in a darkened room for what seemed like hours and just cried with great bitterness and sorrow.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Whoever said "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted" did not have the faintest idea what he was talking about. Either that or he wasn't truly broken-hearted. Or, perhaps he knew a different God than I do.

Life is bitter. I am a barren wasteland.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Weighed down (again)

I'm so tired.

And I don't just mean physically.

This burden that I carry is becoming incredibly heavy.

Is there any relief to be found?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

In the midst of pain and heartache, one thing (and maybe only one thing) is certain.

Adam and I are loved.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Lament for my son on his due date

Precious Baby, you stole my heart from the minute I knew of you.
Do you know how much you were wanted? Asked for? Cried for? Prayed for?
Do you know how much you were loved? How many people longed to meet you?
You were such an answer to prayer. Darling Baby! You were a gift to me.

Your presence gave me such hope, such joy.
Your daddy and I celebrated your life together.
Thoughts of your arrival were sweet and tender.
Preparations were underway for the big day!

I wondered what you were thinking.
What you would look like,
Who you would take after most.
My bulging belly reminded me that I would find out soon enough!

I was well past the time for common miscarriages: Little One, I knew we had made it.
I saw your picture, heard your heartbeat, felt your movement within my body.
You and I were very close and were always together; never separated.
Beautiful Baby, your daddy and I couldn't wait to meet you!

But we lost you! I gave birth to you, but it was not as I had dreamed.
You were violently ripped from my body, and your life was over before it began.
You were unable to live on your own, apart from me, your momma.
Little One, I am so sorry!

We buried you in the ground,
But you are not there!
Where you are, I cannot go in this life.
The knowledge brings such heaviness.

Sweet Baby - your absence has created a gaping hole in me!
Thought I physically never met you, yet I knew you,
And you changed my life forever.
Little Boy, I will never be the same again because of you!

What cruelty! What injustice! What horror!
Death has taken your life before you even took your first breath!
You deserved a lifetime on earth but this you were denied.
You have been taken from me, and oh! how I grieve for you.

Yet how can I begin to grieve for you when I never even met you?
I have so little left from your existence.
Not much to hold, to look at, to remind me of you.
Not much to show others or to let them see that you were mine.

Oh Baby! I never even got to hold you!
To kiss your forehead, to grasp your hand!
I never got to look you in the eyes
And tell you just how much I love you.

Instead of rocking you to sleep,
It is I who have been rocked -- rocked to the core of my very being!
I am your mother, but we are separated!
How can this be?! It is not right!

Little One, I will mourn you always.
You are a part of me that I have lost--
Things aren't right without you.
Our family will always feel incomplete.

Though I can't remain in this place of desolation forever,
Yet today I choose to remember you.
To love you, to mourn you,
To celebrate you.

Because, My Love, even though you have departed this world,
You are still my son. You have left your footprints on my heart!
And I am proud of your life, no matter how short it was.
YOU are a blessing and I love you.

In loving memory of my son, stillborn at 21 weeks on March 10, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Weighed down

My heart is heavy and my soul is bitter.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What is normal/Lamentations 4

What is normal for me?

-Taking my temperature every morning before I get out of bed and trying not to let it set my mood for the rest of the day
-Calling my doctor and my insurance company more often than I call my friends
-Trying to decide what to put on my son’s gravestone and visiting the cemetery where he is buried
-Dreading all pregnancy and birth announcements and baby shower and little kids’ birthday party invitations
-Keeping books on pregnancy loss, infertility, spiritual doubt and disappointment with God among my daily reading material
-Going overboard taking care of my cat since I don’t have a baby to care for
-Having constant bruises on my arm from frequent bloodwork
-Looking at myself in the mirror in disbelief – I don’t even know who I am anymore

How the gold has lost its luster,
The fine gold become dull!
The sacred gems are scattered
At the head of every street.

The Lord himself has scattered them;
He no longer watches over them.

I am blacker than soot;
I am not recognized in the streets.
My skin has shriveled on my bones;
It has become as dry as a stick.

I grope through the streets
Like a man who is blind.
Moreover, my eyes have failed,
Looking in vain for help.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Baby steps

I'm pretty proud of myself.

Yesterday I held a baby for the first time since I lost my own, over 4 months ago.

And I survived.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Death Angel

Written by Sarah New, my great-great grandmother (i.e., my grandmother's grandmother), sometime between 1907 and 1913.

Did you ever have the death angel to knock at the door of your home
And take away some precious loved one, for the angel of death will come
When we started in life together, we were happy because we knew
That God, in his wonderful wisdom, would carry us safely through.

For we trusted his saving power, long, long before we were wed
And we’ll trust him for grace and mercy, till through death’s dark waves we are led
By and by, he gave us four children, to brighten our home here below
They were sweet to us, oh! how we loved them, only fathers and mothers can know.

But the death angel came with his sickle, and took our sweet baby of three
So we bow in humble submission, for God knoweth better than we
And we know that the blessed God giveth, and he also taketh away
And we know when our troubles have vanished, we’ll see her again some sweet day.

So we toil on through trouble and trail, with our humble home breft
For we know that God is righteous, and we have three children left
But alas! again he cometh, with his sickle of death “so keen”
And taketh away another, in the bloom of youth, aged eighteen.

We laid her away in the churchyard, beside “the little one dear”
Close by the old house where we worshipped, and oh! how we miss her here—
Yes, the place where we’ve all met so often, where she so often has sung
God’s praise, as a warning to sinners, “to flee! from the wrath to come.”

My heart almost breaks with these trials, but God’s promise “never” will break
And he said he would be in six troubles, and the seventh he would not forsake
So we’re praying to God our dear father, that we may all be reconciled
For we know not who next will be taken, whether father or mother or child.

But we know that at last “when he cometh,” and the trials of life are all o’er
We will meet with our loved ones in glory, where sickness and death come no more
Where angels are praising “in heaven,” where all the redeemed will sing—
O! grave where is thy victory – O death! where – where is thy sting!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Time out

Warning: this is going to be a really long post, but I hope that it is worth reading…
I feel the need to take a “time out” and to write some comments about the direction my blog has taken lately. I am not unaware that often my entries are pretty dark and heavy. This type of writing has been very therapeutic and freeing for me lately. I have particularly given myself freedom to lament and grieve this month, as my original due date is coming up on the 25th, and these days are extra hard. However, it is not my intention to stay here forever. I do not want my blog to be permanently defined by this stage of my life. Only temporarily.

Currently, I have found great relief and comfort using my blog for public lamenting. In other cultures, it is acceptable to grieve and lament in public. Not so in the US. While I want my friends, family & acquaintances to know what I’m thinking, feeling & learning, it is not always socially appropriate to launch into it when I see them. So, this has become my way to share. Again, I don’t always expect to be here. But I’m here now.

There is something else I want to comment on that might shed some light on the tone of my recent posts. Those who know me already know that I naturally have pessimistic tendencies. I think I have gotten better over the years, but a tragedy such as what has happened to me has made it pretty easy to give in to doubt, despair, cynicism, and even bitterness at times. Hope and faith are not easy to come by. As I have studied grief and suffering and the ways Christians (and our culture in general) react to those encountering situations like mine (or much worse), I have become very disturbed at what I find. I am not necessarily saying optimism is bad, but… I think it can be harmful, as it often invalidates suffering. I don’t want to gloss over suffering and pain with the excuse that “the Lord is good and faithful” so everything will ultimately be ok. I think that’s a cop-out and can be harmful to those who are really hurting. Consequently, I tend to react pretty strongly against the view that says I, and others, should just “have more faith” or “count your blessings” or even the old “look on the bright side”. Not that anyone has necessarily said that to me, but the general feeling I get from society is that I should hide my grief – or worse, ignore it and just try to move on. I have a book I’m rereading, called “Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby.” The author is very strong in saying that people NEED to grieve, they NEED to cry, they NEED to be sad for a time. And there is no time limit to grieving – it takes as long as it needs to. To distract yourself and keep busy, or to just try to tell yourself it wasn’t that bad and to try to move on (that is, going around the grief instead of through it), is actually worse than letting yourself feel the pain. You cannot circumvent grief – it will not go away by ignoring it. I feel very strongly about this. I know that I am made differently than other people, but I just cannot comprehend how someone can go through a death of a loved one and not take the appropriate time to grieve and mourn. How someone can just stuff the feelings and move on is absurd to me. Yet that is what society teaches.

Sorry for being long winded. I guess what I want to say, is that sometimes when I write, I probably do tend to have an “axe to grind” – although I honestly don’t want to come across that way. Since I have problems with the ways many people view suffering, I sometimes let my posts lean a little too far in the opposite direction, if only to make a point. (Again, not to anyone in particular, but just to people in general). I have a message I feel like I want to get out there. This is my way of doing so.

Ok, one more thing. What I write in my posts comes completely from my heart, but it is not a full picture of who I am and what all my days are like. I tend to write entries when I am down. Sometimes some of my best writing comes from the dark places. However, I have decided that perhaps I should reveal the other side of the story.

My days are not all black.

*I am very, very happily married (6 year anniversary on Saturday!) to my best friend in the whole world. I would rather be married to Adam and have no children than someone else and have lots of children.

*I am very thankful for my family, and for Adam’s family – and I love that we are so close to them. They have been wonderful and so supportive to us – an incredible blessing. I would not want to trade families for anything. I love them very much and am so happy that they love each other, too!

*Adam and I have amazing friends. Friends who have not judged us for being where we are. Friends who are endlessly patient and who are committed to loving us and sticking by us no matter how long it takes for us to get through this. I am constantly amazed by this – I think our friends are the exception rather than the rule in today’s world.

*I have a beautiful home that I love. And, because I am not a stay-at-home mom yet and have continued working, my extra income has allowed us to remodel much of the house and purchase new furniture. The extra income also allowed us to go on an awesome trip last month. And, it allowed us to purchase a beautiful piano last fall, which has been so therapeutic for me to play.

*I have a very loving cat who adopted me last fall. Toby is more like a dog than a cat in that he follows me and wants to be around me all the time. He’s very good for my self esteem :)

*While I don’t want to be working, I do have a good job. I’m thankful that my boss has allowed me to work part time – it has been a life saver. I’m also very thankful for the new job Adam will be starting on Monday. This is a great relief for both of us, for him to finally be in a position that seems to fit more of his calling in life.

*I’m extremely happy with my doctor, who has been with Adam and me in this “mess” since last fall. Though he has not been with us for the last few years of our struggling, he has been with us through the worst of it, and he has been incredibly sensitive and kind and very helpful to us as we try to recover and move on.

This “list” is not comprehensive by any means, but I thought it might help to balance out (if only a little bit) some of the more downer posts I’ve been writing lately.

However, despite all these blessings, I daily carry a heavy burden, wherever I go. It is always there, and I am unable to get away from it. It is not only the burden of grief from the loss of my son (and subsequent second miscarriage) but also the burden of my (still) unfulfilled desire to be a mother and raise a family at home (also complicated by a little clinical depression). I know the grief over my son will lessen with time, but grief over still being childless does not lessen with time – on the contrary, it grows stronger. I also hurt, deeply, over the walls that separate me from my friends who are pregnant and have children. I completely acknowledge that I let those walls be there, but I confess I am only doing what I do to survive. I hope that one day I will be able to give back and show them the same grace and compassion that they have shown me.

Suffering sucks, no way around it. But I think that perhaps sometime in the future I, and others, will be able to see some beauty out of the ashes. And I want to share that on my blog when it happens. That’s all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Darkness in Lamentations 3

"I am the one who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long.
He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.
He has beseiged me and surrounded me with bittnerness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.
He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.
Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion hiding,
he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.
He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows.
He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.
I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long.
He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall.
He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has tramped me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord."
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me."

At this point, probably those reading this expect me to go into the popular set of verses that follow about God's faithfulness and his mercies that are new every morning and how, despite my trials and sorrows, God is still faithful. But I can't quote those verses - they are unreal to me! I am not experiencing new mercies every morning. I am not experiencing God's faithfulness - in part because I do not even know what it means anymore for God to be faithful.

I suppose the following may come across as quite negative, but really it's just an observation. I find it interesting that most people (myself included) have forgotten about the book of Lamentations, or if they do remember it, they only remember the famous verses "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Yet these are only TWO verses out of the entire book. Most of the rest of the book is complete despair and grief and hopelessness. Why do people only look at the "good" or "spiritual" verses and ignore the rest? Are we afraid to acknowledge the "bad" parts, those that utter heart-wrenching and "blasphemous" words against the Lord? I find that disturbing.

For me, I am much more comfortable with the dark places right now, and the words of Lamentations are soothing to read. They are real to me. And I know I am not the only one that needs them. People like me need to be free to embrace the blackness of suffering and despair, when God seems absent. Do not deprive us of that. It is part of the road to healing.

God was much more tolerant of Job's complaints and accusations against Himself than Job's friends were. I think that is significant.

Edit: Please know that I am not directing this towards anyone, I am simply making a statement.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Celebrating Velvet, Feline Member of the Gilbert Family 1991-2006

I feel like I've just lost a dear friend.

Yesterday my parents had to put to sleep one of the kitties I grew up with. She has been part of our family since 1991 - a good 15 years. In our family, we get pretty attached to pets, so this has been hard. As I was flipping through my photo albums to find pictures of her, I was reminded how much a part of our family she was – I’d find pictures of her squeezed in between various events, and she would show up in Christmas pictures, birthday pictures, pictures of family gatherings, etc.

She was born when I was in 5th grade. It was my first time to experience being around a litter of kittens, and I loved it. Velvet was actually the runt of the litter, but we decided to keep her anyway.

(Spots on the pictures are glares from the old photo album)

Despite being the runt of the litter, she grew up strong and healthy, and turned out to be a pretty dominant cat, bossing the other cats around for a long time. (We always had at least 2 cats). However, there were moments when we caught her enjoying the company of other kitties.

She loved the outdoors and spent much of her time out there.

She amused us quite a bit:

In the linen closet...

Playing dead on the stairs...

In a duffel bag...

Going for a bike ride...

Up on the ladder...

Cuddling with my stuffed animals...

And her personal favorite - straddling the top of the recliner. The only problem was whenever we sat down in the chair, the top of the chair would rock back and forth and she'd have to hold on so she wouldn't fall!

But this was the best. This is her on my back (I was only 12 here…). She had this weird thing where if you picked her up, she would climb over your shoulder and if you didn’t bend over immediately, she would claw you trying to hang on. So, it kind of became a joke. I’d let her sit on my back from time to time while I bent over ;) Weird cat.

She lived a long, good life. I will miss her lots.

I know that no one really knows what happens to animals when they die, but I have to believe that if there is something worth loving in them, that something must be valuable enough to cross the barrier of death. I hope so.

In loving memory
Velvet, 1991 – 2006

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What should have been

I have entered into the month of July – the month that was supposed to change my life forever.
Instead, my life was changed forever in March when I became a mother to a child in heaven.

Right now, I should have been 37 weeks pregnant.
Instead, I am barren, with no children in sight and an unquenchable desire to be a mother haunting me and even suffocating me.

I should have been having showers and joyfully preparing for my little one with friends and family.
Instead, I am spending time with doctors discussing getting pregnant again and ways to avoid another pregnancy loss in the future, and spending time with counselors to help me cope through such a tragedy.

I should have been fixing up his little nursery and delicately fingering tiny clothes and fuzzy blankets that I would use to wrap him in.
Instead, I try hard not to cry as I walk past baby sections in stores and when I still receive baby ads in the mail and over email.

I should have been sharing the pregnancy with other expecting friends and mothers.
Pain has handicapped my ability to walk among my friends as I once did. It has only been four months, but it might as well have been yesterday. I yearn to be strong enough to be around those expecting and with children but it is not to be. At least, not right now. The wound is too deep.

I should have been reading books on pregnancy, babies, and parenting.
Instead, I am reading books on grief, crisis of faith, and despair.

I should have been visiting my doctor regularly to be checked for signs of labor.
Instead, I am visiting him regularly as a patient with a history of infertility and pregnancy loss.

I should have been able to quit my job and start my dream of being a stay-at-home mom.
Instead, I continue to make myself go to work each day, without any hope of quitting in the near future.

I should have been happily shopping for my son, purchasing items to take care of him and buying him gifts to show my love.
Instead, I am shopping for his grave marker.

I should have been dreaming sweet dreams of holding my son in just a few weeks.
Instead, my dreams are full of painful memories and agonizing hurt as I think about what I have lost. And what should have been.

My son.