Friday, December 27, 2013

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas was surprising this year. I entered into it a bit confused but left with all those warm memories you hope for and cherish. Of course, I missed James the entire time but that is to be expected and I have grown quite used to that longing in my heart. It is familiar and achy but also allows me to take note of what is going on around me in great detail. When the feeling comes I think to myself not in a sad way but inquisitively, why do I wish he was here now? What about this moment do I wish to share with him?

At one moment I looked around and saw my family gathered, smiling, enjoying treats and gifts by the glow of the Christmas tree. It was Christmas Eve and this year we had a fancy Christmas Eve meal followed by opening of one present (more for those who wouldn't be there the next day) and then talking, playing games, and reading Luke chapter two (I read). I felt so much love and peace in that moment and I imagined for a moment he was nestled in my lap, sleeping heavy in my arms as I balanced the scriptures on my knees. Perhaps he was there, as I have said before I like to imagine he is.



Beyond missing James, Christmas was just joyful and spirited because of a very funny two-year old. We hadn't visited Santa at the mall or anything but because of a generous gift of twelve Christmas books for the twelve days of Christmas, we were able to really introduce Santa this year (we also watched the Polar Express about 5 times for our train aficionado). He was pretty delighted with his stocking and when I told him that Santa would bring him a candy cane for Christmas, he seemed pretty excited. Then a friend from Kyle's parent's ward (like a congregation) stopped by dressed as Santa, gave Max a candy cane and joyfully repeated, "Merry Christmas!" The deal was sealed. Max would repeat, "Santa Merry Christmas BIG candy cane!"



So Christmas Eve we set out carrots and oatmeal for the reindeer and treats and eggnog for Santa and we dressed Max in some cute pajamas and for once I just let myself enjoy what a treat Christmas can be.


Also, I received this beautiful bracelet which I had thought of back in August and was so grateful to receive as my Christmas Eve gift. It made my Christmas (Thank you Mom!)


                  
Outside says "James" and the inside says, "i carry your heart with me, (i carry it in my heart)"


How grateful I am for the love and generosity that surrounds me. So many people contributed to make this a wonderful Christmas and it will never cease to amaze me that I am encircled by true, lifelong friends and family that loves and cares for me. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Silent Night


Each time I hear the song Silent Night (which is often around the holidays) my heart gets heavy in my chest and it gets harder to breath.
Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright

I always used to think it was kind of funny that Mary experienced a silent night after the birth of Jesus, I mean we must assume that Jesus was probably a very easy baby and he probably didn't cry much that night, but it feels excruciating to think about because after the birth of James, I too had a silent night. The night he was born and I had to return home and around me everyone moved in hushed tones, everything was frozen, calm. At first things did appear bright, I felt enveloped in the prayers and supplications of my friends and family and I could feel the light that comes with hope for a happy future, for something good coming from something bad.
'Round yon virgin , mother and child
Holy infant so, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Having a stillborn child has taught me so much about myself. I think I always thought that the line, "mother and child" referred to her and the Savior, but with new perspective I see that Mary was both a mother and still just a child. She still had so much to learn about her role as the mother of the Savior, a special and difficult calling. Her child's life had great purpose from the beginning and through scripture we see that often she lost sight of His calling (when she finds Him in the temple and rebukes Him).



When you become a mother, you realize there is SO much learning to do, you return to a childlike state. You needed people to take care of you, to minister, to guide you through the difficult journey of raising your child. Each of our children has an earthly mission and we, as mothers and parents, are to help our children discover and understand what their role in this world is, and we are discovering what it is along with them (often at a slower pace). As a mother of a stillborn child, I do not fully understand what James' mission was, but I do know that his presence in my life was necessary for me to become who Heavenly Father wants me to be.
Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glory streams from heaven afar
Heavenly, hosts sings Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.
Stillbirth is not a subject people like to talk about. It is scary and many "quake, at the sight," but the reality that 1 in 160 births is a stillbirth in the US is something to ponder. It pains my heart when I am connected with another mother who has recently experienced this loss. It truly is unique and heartbreaking and utterly indescribable. But through it, I have found strength within myself to focus upon the good, to be able to still sing "Hallelujah." For though my precious child was unable to live, the Savior was born and through His redeeming sacrifice I know that I will be able to be reunited with my child. That is something to sing and shout hallelujah to.
Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
I have always loved the line, "love's pure light." It so beautifully and precisely describes the Savior. It was discovered long ago that December 25th is not the actual day the Savior was born but was more likely in April. So why do we celebrate in December still? Christmas comes during the darkest time of the year, literally. The Winter Solstice is tomorrow which marks the darkest day of the year, the day with shortest amount of time the sun shines before we start moving towards greater light. The Savior is the "light of the world" and in times of darkness, His life shines as a beacon of hope and "redeeming grace." The reminder of His birth is needed during this time of year.

This trial has taken me on paths where there has been deep darkness and where hope seemed futile. However, as dark as it seemed, at the end of each day I would remember the grace I received in days, weeks, years prior and know that light existed. I might not always be able to see it, but it exists.


So with renewed perspective, I see this time of the year differently. I have always had the choice to only see the darkness or to see the sparkling lights contrasted against that darkness, glittering, standing out along each street as a small, simple reminder of hope. I pray that I can continue to focus upon the light and to grow in that process.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gratitude for Trials



Last Sunday I was asked to share some thoughts in a class about gratitude for trials. I immediately accepted this request because over the past few months I have learned that as I am prompted to think about particular issues surrounding the loss of James, I learn and grow. It seem obvious that I would want to grow from all of this, but it is ever so easy to slow to a stop and ignore and keep at bay how physically and emotionally painful it is to grow from hard things.

So as we drove early Sunday morning from spending Thanksgiving with our family I had a discussion with my husband about having gratitude for trials. This is what we came up with and what I shared with others later that day.

When I was 15 years-old, my grandmother died and I was so extremely heartbroken over it. I adored my grandmother. She is what every good and kind grandmother is made of, but she was also strict and taught me manners and social graces. I remember laying in my bed feeling like my life was awful and then I remember coming to the realization that my life wasn't really all that bad. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, I could go buy new clothes from the store and I was able to develop hobbies that cost my parents money. I wondered why I had been given such an easy life compared to those I knew who suffered in broken homes, those who had little to eat or were faced with abuse on a daily basis. Then I realized that everyone at some point had something bad happen in their lives; my grandmother passed away after her second round of having a brain tumor and I knew in that moment that someday I would face a trial that would be so indescribably hard.



When I had a miscarriage before Max was born I fell into a depression and I thought, this must be it. This is awful. Then my parents got divorced and it was messy and ugly and everything everyone dreads. Those happened at the same time and surely, I thought in my naivete, that this must be my trail.

Then James' heart stopped beating while inside of me. Where I thought he was safe. I knew then that this would become a defining trial in my life. Perhaps I may have more, but for now this is one that breaks my heart on a daily basis.

In the initial moments of realizing the life inside me had become permanently still, I realized I had two choices. One was to blame God, to wonder where He was, why didn't He protect my baby, my family, myself from this pain. The other choice was to turn to Him immediately, to seek out His hand a midst the pain and know that through Him is the only way that I could feel as if I could be happy again. Turning from God looked a dark, bleak, and hopeless path. Turning towards Him, I felt peace, I felt His love, I felt blessed. Truly.



I haven't always wanted to happy after James died. At times I thought, What is the point? I will forever be miserable so why even TRY being happy? But then I would see Him trying to reach out to me, through the actions of others, through small seemingly trivial coincidences, through reading the scriptures and reading words that were so needed in the exact moment I needed them, through prayer and feeling such a sense of peace and love, and through the example of my husband and child who chose joy, especially when it was hard.

So I can stand each day and truly say that I have gratitude for this trial. Through it I have come to know my Heavenly Father and my Savior more personally. Through this trial I have felt the power of the Atonement. I have felt grace through the desire to not wallow in my misery but use it as fuel to become a better person, to become who Heavenly Father sees in me. The Atonement is not just to cleanse and heal, but ultimately the Atonement of our Savior, His great and magnificent and infinite sacrifice was so that we could be transformed through the pain of this world. That we would be given grace, divine help, to be lifted up when we needed it, when we felt like it wasn't possible to ever be happy again.

Today a favorite hymn of mine was sung, "Come Thou Fount," and in it is a line that I grasped recognizing Heavenly Father's hand leading and teaching me each day:

       Come, thou Fount of every blessing, 
 tune my heart to sing thy grace; 
 streams of mercy, never ceasing, 
 call for songs of loudest praise. 
 Teach me some melodious sonnet, 
 sung by flaming tongues above. 
 Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, 
 mount of thy redeeming love.

I am fixed, focused, upon the doctrine of a loving, kind Heavenly Father. That is where my focus is. Bad and terrible things happen in this world. That does not mean He isn't there and that He is distant or unloving. It means that He honors the ability for us to learn and grow through the trials and tribulations that this world has to offer. I know that He loves me, I do not understand this trial in my life completely, but I know that we are all given hard things to experience to lift us up to Him, to transform us and to prepare us for Heaven and all its glory.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gentle Nudges



After losing James, I felt a more complete love for Max. It was indescribably really, and all my weaknesses and shortcomings I wanted to improve upon. Mainly, I wanted to be more fully and wholly present.  Although I still often struggle with the urge to zone out and lose myself online, while watching a movie, or in a book, since James' passing I have often felt an unmistakable gentle urging to choose the better part, to choose to connect instead.

Let me rewind a bit. One of the most difficult aspects of this journey for me has been that I felt that I could never know what James' was like in this lifetime. Nine months of pregnancy didn't feel like enough to grasp a personality and I was bitter at my seemingly lost chance. In my faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), we believe that families can be together forever and that in fact our families who are waiting to come to earth and who have passed  before us act as sort of guardian angels, helping to guide us back home to our Heavenly Father and to them. With this knowledge, I decided one evening to fervently and sincerely pray to truly know my son. From all of the experiences I have heard and read, I knew that it was possible to receive the knowledge that I so desired. I feel blessed to have been given the knowledge that James was/is an incredibly gentle spirit. I have taken this truth and it has been added upon and for that I am eternally grateful. So with this increased love for Max and a desire to be a better mother for BOTH of my children, I have felt gentle nudges towards better choices for me and for my family.


To play, read, dance, sing, go on walks, learn new talents, etc. I believe that James is on the other side, blessing, protecting, and guiding our family. Every gently inclination towards a better choice feels unmistakably his.

It feels this way because I recognize this gentleness. It feels familiar. It feels as if it is a part of me.

I suppose anyone could claim that all of this is the imaginations of my mind coping with loss and perhaps they are correct. But, nevertheless, my heart is comforted imagining it is James pushing me forward to become a better mother, because at the heart of every gentle nudge is the thought of him and all those moments I crave to have with him.


So I will do my best to have those moments and he can be there, watching over and guiding our family and experiencing it along with us.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Can Do It


For Halloween, I dressed as Rosie the Riveter. I have long admired the women who stepped up during WWII to ensure that factories kept running, that soldiers would have ammunition, planes, etc. to continue to fight the battle. In 7th grade I did a report on these women and their example has led me for much of my life. These were women who stepped up, to moved forward when much of life as they knew it crumbled around them.  Rosie the Riveter has been their poster-girl, with the words "We Can Do It!" emblazoned behind her. They knew that they were strong enough, smart enough, capable enough to perform the jobs that only men had been able to perform at that time. Those words follow me each and every day. While I am not building planes or bombs, I am fighting a battle. Grief is a war of the mind and it can be incredibly destructive if you do not believe that you can take measures to minimize destruction and yes, sometimes you can even fight back.


On bad days, when my sadness is overwhelming, guilt settles in and my heart aches for what I am missing. I want to hold my baby for just one minute more, I want to sing to him, and kiss him and it hurts to think that my time with him was so short. On those bad days, my brain stews and sometimes bitterness takes over. I become angry and bitter at those who are pregnant, those with babies, those who have said things and done things that hurt, and those who I feel have "failed" me for not doing. I hate those days.  On those days, it feels as if their is a weight on my heart. It feels hard to breath, hard to love.


But my constant is this reminder:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61: 3)




While laboring with James, Kyle and I attempted to distract ourselves by watching a movie. It was some silly, heartwarming family movie and though our intentions were good, no media device would work. We tried the hospital tv (no dvd player), a portable tv/dvd combo (stuck in Spanish with no remote to change it), my mom brought a portable dvd player from our home (broken). It took a good couple of hours after we realized that maybe Heavenly Father wanted us to use our time a little more wisely. There was no escape from the sadness of this situation and trying to forget it through a family comedy wasn't going to happen. So we turned on some Mormon Tabernacle Choir and opened our scriptures. But where was I going to read? The scriptures seemed too huge in that moment so I just started flipped and stopping when there was a marker of some sort, I had a piece of paper with the words of a family friend and spiritual mentor that led me to Isaiah 61. This scripture has turned into a favorite as I think of the promise that is given. From the ashes of mourning we can become mighty trees of righteousness. The promise of the Savior is that He can turn our sorrow into something good, He can transform our lives.


I believe in that promise wholeheartedly. 

I have seen myself change from the moment I accepted the offer to be baptized. I have changed and I am stronger and more full of faith and personally I believe I have grown into a better person. I know that if I actively try, I can continue to grow.

So I try to choose forgiveness when there has been no apology, I try to choose patience when time goes against my wishes, I try to choose kindness, love, service, diligence, and obedience. I try. I am not perfect but I move forward trying to choose that which is good. 


The war of grief continues on and as I fight I remind myself that I can do it. I do not have to let my grief turn me bitter towards the world and in fact, I can let it teach me to see the hearts of those around me. It can teach me to love them, uplift them, serve them more fully. So I am trying to choose to let the Savior work through me, through my mourning. As I have done this, I have felt that weight on my heart lift and my heart can expand, to be filled with more love. It beats with more strength, changed for the better from the weight it has endured and will still endure. I feel peace and joy as I allow the strength I have gained to help me move forward, no on, but forward.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tornadoes

I was talking to Kyle the other night about how it probably looks like I am doing well to everyone on the outside. If you look at me, I can laugh and smile and crack jokes of my own. I can sing hymns and I can search the scriptures for truth. I can do pretty much everything I could before, even with reminders of James everywhere I go. 

I am able to stand firm and breath and then continue walking forward. 


Except my brain is swirling debris of what once was. My brain is moving fast, fast, and faster. It is a continuous loop of the events surrounding this pivotal moment in my life. When I speak, it is in before James' and after James.' I am moving clumsily, zigzagging forward.

Within this tornado of my mind there are spiritual truths. I catch glimpses of them as Dorothy catches glimpses of a cow or a fence. They are discernible but exist in an entirely new perspective.

This new perspective if the aftermath of loss. Of sudden, shocking loss. The one you didn't see coming and the events  play over and over in your mind, looking for moments where it could have been different. Obviously I cannot change anything, but I have found this is a natural product of sudden loss. You try and try and try to understand WHY it happened. You read books, pamphlets, blogs, watch videos, grappling for something solid and firm to cling to so that this tornado will stop. 


People often reiterate the Plan of Salvation to me, which in short terms is that before we came to earth we lived as pre-mortal spirits with Heavenly Father and earth is a testing period, a period where we experience mortality and all it has to offer and through this experience we learn and grow and because of the restored gospel, we have the opportunity to be sealed to our families forever. We sing the song, "Families Can Be Together Forever" reminding us of this precious truth. This doctrine has unmistakably brought a great deal of comfort but it has also brought questions. Because technically James never lived. He never breathed air. His heart never beat on its own. The doctrine is much more gray and muddled in this area and so it swirls about me, adding to the questions. 

I know that Heavenly Father is good and that all will be worked out within His goodness, love and mercy. So I find something to hold onto in that. I hold onto his goodness, his love, his mercy. Every day I wake up mourning James and in my mourning and in the twisting, confusing chaos of my mind, there is stillness and there is beauty and that is where God resides. He is making my chaos into something stronger, more beautiful than I could ever imagine. So I look back on my life and all the times He has led me to happiness and I trust. I trust that He is guiding me now, even THROUGH this chaos of my mind. I trust because I have felt his immense love and that love moves me forward everyday.






Monday, October 14, 2013

Look to the Sky




Over the summer, Kyle and Max went on a lot of bike rides. Max got the skin near his chin pinched while putting on his helmet and would worry every time a helmet came near afterwards. So Kyle taught him to "look to the sky." Max repeats this phrase often. He also reminds himself to "look to the sky" when I clip him into his car seat and when I zip up his jacket. I started hearing it often enough and soon I was reminded of a story that was told about the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy:
At the end of a particularly tiring day toward the end of my first week as a General Authority, my briefcase was overloaded and my mind was preoccupied with the question “How can I possibly do this?” I left the office of the Seventy and entered the elevator of the Church Administration Building. As the elevator descended, my head was down and I stared blankly at the floor.
The door opened and someone entered, but I didn’t look up. As the door closed, I heard someone ask, “What are you looking at down there?” I recognized that voice—it was President Thomas S. Monson.
I quickly looked up and responded, “Oh, nothing.” (I’m sure that clever response inspired confidence in my abilities!)
But he had seen my subdued countenance and my heavy briefcase. He smiled and lovingly suggested, while pointing heavenward, “It is better to look up!” As we traveled down one more level, he cheerfully explained that he was on his way to the temple. When he bid me farewell, his parting glance spoke again to my heart, “Now, remember, it is better to look up.” 
(the rest of the talk can be found here)

Last week was hard. I had a very hard morning and frustration took over and as an outlet I wrote. I needed to write because I have a firm belief that to express our voice, to let it be heard is to know where you stand. I needed to let myself and others know how I was actually doing.

But through the rest of the week, Max was especially adamant to remind me to look to the sky. As a toddler, he usually requests that I repeat what he said back to him, to ensure that I am understanding him correctly. So daily I would repeat back, "Yes love, look to the sky."



Looking to the sky does not prevent sudden and devastating loss in our lives. Looking to the sky cannot prevent job loss or divorce, death or illness. But looking to the sky can prevent many of the preventable hardships we face. Looking to sky reminds us of Heavenly Father and that ultimately our goal is to return to Him. To meet him face to face and to be embraced in his loving arms.

There is no doubt that this journey is hard and that even complete and strict obedience to all of God's commandments does not ensure that we will escape sorrow and hardship. Sorrow and hardship often compels our shoulders to slump and our heads to hang, but it is import to make the effort to change our perspective. To look up; to remind ourselves of Heaven above and the many who wait for us.

So I am going to be working on looking to the sky a little more often, after all my toddler tells me to every day.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Praying for Okay

Today started out fine. I woke up to fog and a still scratchy throat from a cold. Max requested his morning viewing of Monsters, Inc. and I obliged as usual because it is still dark and I would still like a few more minutes in the warmth of my bed. Kyle leaves with a kiss (or two) as Max and I finish the movie eating croissants from our late trip to Costco last night. My plan for the day is simple. I will try to fit in a run at the Y and clean the kitchen which includes a mountain of dishes to be hand washed (no dishwasher). I fold remnants of laundry while watching a TED talk about the importance of play and in the process burn the oats on the stove that I forgot were cooking. I am still fine.



I get dressed to work out and Max and I drive downtown while he points out tunnels and cross "walking guys." This is all routine and I smile at the normalcy. We get the Y and I pray for success. Max used to enter the child watch with ease. He would run in and find his favorite bee toy and be delighted until I picked him up. After James' death I, of course, was recommended to wait to exercise until 6 weeks postpartum. So I did and when we came back the bee toy was missing and there were new faces and deep down inside he knows his mom is a wee bit out of balance and so he cries for me. He cries and cries and at first I tried to let him but they come and get you after awhile of course. We talked about how safe and fun the Y is and how mommy goes there to get her exercise which makes her much happier and still he cries. He cries out, "Mommy, mommy!" and I give in.

I didn't always used to give in. In fact I prided myself on my rather rigid backbone but now, now it is soft. Today I try to ease him in and I play for a minute and sneak away, but there are too many parents in the way and he catches a glimpse and screams. I can't. Not today. Today turned out to not be so good. So we go home and I cry while driving, holding my tears steady at stoplights. I am mad at myself mostly for giving in. I am mad there wasn't much more I could do and yes I was a little bit mad at Max for not just having fun there like he used to.

I cried even harder once we got home with Max's head on my chest. He snuggles me for awhile, playing with the tassels of my sweatshirt. I worry that crying so hard in front of him will scar him for life. Is this all he will remember of me, that is mother cried and cried and he was helpless. I think to myself that I should possibly call someone to come and get Max because the darkness is seeping in. I go over who I could call and I cry even more because there is no one I feel like I can call for help. This thought depresses me more.


I know there are people who would want to help and who have helped in the past, but with the start of school and the hustle of life, I feel largely forgotten. People have assured me that I am not, that they pray for me and that they think of me often. However, that does not help me in these moments where I wish there was someone I was comfortable enough with to call in moments of desperation and to feel comfortable crying in front of, but there isn't. I don't know if I can change that either, at this point I don't know if I can let anyone in.

I pray and cry and cry and pray and tell God that I am mad at him. He needs to know sometimes that although I accept this trial, I do not like it. He assures me that he already knows this and I think of what I can do to feel better.

I decide to get dressed, out of my workout clothes and into something warm. I also decide to write. I always feel hesitation to write about my sadness, my darkness. But it is the only way that I can let people in, that I can let them know that.... I am praying to just feel okay. Not happy, not joyful, but simply okay would be a blessing.


And while I write, the darkness flows from my spirit and through my fingertips and onto this virtual paper. The movement of my fingers is exercise enough to bring endorphin and my heart is no longer pounding and the tears are gone and Max is playing quietly and my prayer has been answered, I feel okay.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sometimes a Shadow Wins

Right after James' died, I felt buoyed up by prayers and the shock of surprising loss. I thought, hey this isn't so bad, I can totally handle this. Except as time goes on, the reality sets in and that buoy effect happens less often. The thing is, it has to. You have to deal with the reality that all your hopes, dreams, plans, and wishes were quickly swept away. You are left to take a good hard look at your surroundings, at yourself and try to figure out where to go from there. 

I started reading a WONDERFUL book, A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser after hearing a quote from the author in a infant loss support group (it was as depressing as it sounds). I picked it up at the library and have had to read it bits at a time because it is SO dead on to how I am feeling. I read a chapter or two and process the clarity he provides. One passage hit me hard, he describes a dream where he is chasing the setting sun, desperate to stay in the light but inevitably twilight comes and he is terrified by the darkness. He knew he would be, he knew that he would feel like he was in darkness forever, "I felt absolute terror in my soul" (Sittser 33). He talks it over with his cousin and sister and they provide crucial insight, 
   "Later my sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.
    I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it" (33-34). 
I mulled over this idea and realized I had to do the same. I often told Kyle that I felt like grief was chasing me and I was stumbling, trying to escape it's grasp. I would fake cheerfulness and smiles to avoid facing the reality that my baby died, inside me.


Well as soon as I decided to really accept the darkness, it came. It is as dark as I imagined. I would fall apart at seemingly trivial things and I would emotionally check out. As I would check out, my mind would race over who I was and what I was doing. In the darkness, I confronted the very worst in myself. I felt guilt and above all total selfishness. Anger for my own selfishness and fear crushed me. I felt as if I could never be good and therefore I could never be happy again, it was complete depression. Kyle would leave and take Max to the park and I would burst with tears and shake and pray that someone would ring the doorbell and come to my rescue. In my darkest moments I would think that everyone would pretty much be better off without me. Not in the sense of ending my life, but in the sense that the worst parts of me brought misery to everyone else and I should leave to prevent more harm. As I struggled to pray, these thoughts would overwhelm me and I would think, Why is no one here? Why am I alone in this? But truthfully I had to be. For when you are truly alone and no one is physically there to scoop you up and rub your back, that is when the Savior enters.

I have heard it described by some as a "swooping in" feeling. But for me it was merely a small positive reassurance. I was not lost beyond repair. As soon as I held onto that morsel of truth, more truth would come.  My selfishness is my weakness, but that weakness could be made a strength. I could be happy again. Slowly the light would come and I could get my bearings again. I could palpably see and THINK truth.

The darkness must come, it is necessary to enter it when accepting grief. But in darkness, you cannot truly see. So you grasp what is handed to you, and much of that are lies in the form of twisted truths from Satan. Of course I have selfish tendencies, but in darkness that was all I was given for awhile and so I thought that was all I was. It is terrifying to examine oneself so drastically but even when in complete darkness, you cannot stop praying for light. I truly thought it would never come, that I was set up for complete misery forever. It can come, ever so slowly, but you must let it in.You must not let go of that small shred of hope that if others are happy, you can be as well.

Now, I don't write this to cause alarm or worry. I write because I need to be heard. I need others to know that this is indescribably hard. I need others to know that I am not always as cheerful as I look.

During the buoy period I told others that I would let them know when I needed help. But I didn't realize that when you need it most you are paralyzed to ask because you don't know what you need. It is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless. So of course I need help, but please don't ask what I need, because I don't know.

So here I am. Letting you really know how I am, where I am. Sometimes a shadow wins. But, you only notice the shadow when there is light to create it; I am so grateful for that light.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spirals

Everything reminds me of him. The wind will blow and I imagine it blowing on his skin. The sun shines and beats down my neck and I can imagine it trying warm his skin and me seeking shade to protect him. I turn on the radio and every song from breakups to true love becomes about it. He is not in my arms yet the idea of him is so very real to me.

It is like I fell through a crevice in the universe and now I am living some parallel version of my life. If I look over I can see that other life. I see sleepless nights and the stress of a move but I also see quiet moments of awe and wonder and cuddles and breathing in that newborn smell. But that is not my life.

At the same time, as I live in my parallel universe, I look over and around and see everyone else's life going on as usual. I want to shake them and force them to see that EVERYTHING has changed. Why can't they see that?

The sad truth is that people don't mean to be insensitive but sometimes they just are. To them it has been nearly two months since James and to me it happens over and over and over again. The shock, the sudden turning upside down of everything that was. I am stuck on repeat while everyone else "moves on."

It is exhausting to grieve. So exhausting that it is easier for me to put a smile on my face and keep busy busy busy and give myself things to do to fill the void that James left. Maybe to the outside it looks like I am doing okay, that I am moving forward and upward but as C.S. Lewis said,

"For in grief nothing "stays put." One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often -- will it be for always? -- how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, "I never realized my loss till this moment"? The same leg is cut off time after time.”


I am stuck in that spiral and I suspect I will be for awhile. I am okay with that and I don't expect to be full rescued for awhile. For now I am rescued in moments where I am crying on the floor and my precious son come over to rub my back.  I am carried by angels both her on earth and in the heavens who answer prayers. I am rescued by my increasing knowledge of the mercy and grace of God.

And I don't say that lightly. I don't always want to vent and have this awkward "but God is still good" clause at the end of every post but I always feel it necessary to remind not you (whoever might be reading this) but to remind myself. Amid this crappy situation I am drawn to Him. I am drawn to Him for answers, for peace, for guidance, for light when the darkness feels as if it will consume me. How blessed that light feels when it comes, how grateful I am for those who say and do exactly what I need to help lift and guide me towards rediscovering what I have always known; Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love me.

So with that knowledge, I will begin another journey up the spiral. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Birthday Wishes



Today I turn 25. I never imagined that I would be where I am today, but here I am and I want to take advantage of my birthday platform. You get wishes on your birthday, one technically, but I am going to tell you a couple of mine. Some are completely unrealistic, some totally possible.

First let's get the unrealistic ones out of the way. If I had one wish it would be that for a little while no one would be pregnant or have a newborn. I know how impossible this is but it is a wish nonetheless. It can be excruciating to realize that people have normal pregnancies and get that beautiful breathing, heart-beating newborn. My life is shadowed by a dark reality of life that most (thankfully) will never have to experience and sometimes it seems like a cruel joke when someone announces a pregnancy or cuddles their baby. Obviously they have nothing against me, it's just the mourning and grief talking but still it seems as if almost everywhere I look, everyone I know is sunk down deep in happy baby bliss. I just don't want to deal with it for a little while.

Another completely unreasonable wish...can someone just send me to Hawaii for a week? No explanation needed really for that one.


Now for the real stuff. If I could ask one wish it would be that everyone would be the good in the world. Seek for it, be it, spread it. There is so much sadness and heartache and affliction naturally. If you can help it, which you can, don't help that awfulness spread by holding grudges, neglecting what is truly important, or procrastinating true happiness in your life. Take the good risks, the ones that scare the crap out of you. Pursue the opportunities for growth in your life. Sometimes those opportunities are hidden behind negative opinions of world or sometimes the growth aspect seems incredibly difficult, in fact it might seems so difficult you are avoiding it at all costs. Don't. Grow, build yourself up into a more beautiful, stronger, kinder person.

I hope and pray especially that the world will come to truly know who God is and how much He loves each and every one of us. There is so much possible when we see ourselves through His eyes. Believe that your worth is infinite and that you have value and purpose to this world. Because you do.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Moving Past Denial



We had to select an outfit for James to be buried in and while doing that I also wanted to find a stuffed animal for Max to pick out to be placed in his casket as well. I liked the thought that there was something in there with him, something soft and fluffy. We bought one and had Max give it endless kisses and hugs waiting for the day when we would no longer see the soft blue stuffed dog. Well the thought of parting with it got harder and harder and I decided to just buy another one. One for James and one for Max. So now one rests with James' body and one rests with Max as he sleeps. 

Max will give the dog kisses and hugs but mostly it's for me. I stroke it and for a moment I feel a bit more connected to James. 

His passing is like a fleeting dream. I have woken up in this alternate reality where we were waiting for a change to our normal only to be forced back into our old normal, but really it's a new normal. Did that make any sense? It is thoughts like those that clog my mind all day long. My mind is congested with what if's, mental images of those few days where I was living out a nightmare. It still feels unreal and my mind psychologically cannot wrap around the fact that there once was a baby inside me that died and I was a walking coffin. The thoughts horrify me and I try to fill my mind with light and laughter. I have stacks of books, books on losing a baby, on grieving, bestsellers that are easy to read, and a comedy book about parenting. I want to fill my mind with words that are not my own, words that bring insight, clarity, any ounce of understanding quenches my thirst for a moment.

I have found that when we grieve, when we have pain, when we are sad or angry or frustrated and we are grappling for understanding, Satan attempts to become a very present part of our life. He has tried to fill me with guilt towards myself, with envy at the happiness of others, with anger towards God but most especially he tries to bring doubt to my faith in Christ. To make me think that there is no hope, no joy to this world. He truly wants us to be miserable like himself and he is very good at creeping in and feeding your spirit lies about who you are, about who you can become. 

I know that this will be hard for a very long time, I cannot deny any longer the very real pain that this encompasses but that does not mean that I need to suffer unnecessarily. My faith in Christ has carried me this far, His grace has wrapped around me and lifted me higher and in that height I get glimpses of God's perspective. Those glimpses are enough, enough to push away the doubt and guilt and the anger and when those are removed, then I can be filled. Filled with His peace. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I cry at night


I wake up and reality washes over me all over again. I could lay in bed and never get out which seems like a realistic option sometimes but I know that to give up, to do nothing is to let hopelessness win and I am not without hope.

My days ebb and flow with revelation, numbness, inspiration, and aching. I get out of the house, I read books, I read my scriptures, I try my best to play with Max, and I visit with people. I tell them that it all seems like a dream or that I am living someone else's life. To be honest, when I look in the mirror I do not recognize this new girl in front of me. She seems much older, and sorrow flicks behind her eyes.

Sometimes I worry if I am grieving correctly. I know that there is no one "right" way to grieve, but there is certainly a best way for yourself and sometimes I wonder if I am doing what is best for me. You see, I only really cry at night. Every now and then it will hit me during the day, but never in front of others. I have this thing about crying in front of people and it seems to have stuck even during this trial I face. So sometimes I wonder when people are asking me questions about how I am doing if they are secretly wondering why I am not sobbing before them.

I was trying to figure out why I cry at night. Why is it when Max is asleep and Kyle is in bed waiting for me to join him that it really hits me and I sob, sometimes to him and sometimes by myself, praying as the tears fall. Then I realized. I realized that when I last held James was around ten o'clock at night and that is when my arms truly ache to hold him again, to feel the weight of his body and to stroke his face. I miss him, I miss all the possibilities I had imagined for him. At night is also when I feel the most safe with my emotions, I can cry without interruption, I can pray for as long as possible. I can grasp for myself how I am really doing.

I don't know how to respond when people ask "how are you doing?" and luckily someone read to me a blog post of another mother who is going through the same exact situation and her words perfectly described how I feel about that question, click here to read it yourself. Read this while you are at it.

A midst all of this heartache and sadness I feel blessed to say that there truly are happy moments each day. I have an immense appreciation for all those who reach out to me and serve me in big and small ways. Everything adds up and means a whole lot to me and to my family. My love for Max and Kyle has grown infinitely and it has brought me so much joy to feel so much more love for them. Like I predicted, James is impacting my life in a great way and helping me to grow so much more than I could have ever imagined. It does not take the pain of his loss away but to know that I am making something of this loss is what gets me out of bed in the morning, it is what comforts my soul when I cry at night.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part 3

As contractions came with force I was given the strength to push firmly in counter pressure just how she needed it. We got into the tub, and soon it was time to get out and push.

 The last 15 minutes of labor allowed me to glimpse in a new way the large amount of strength hidden within Gina’s small frame.  She was asked if she wanted some pain meds right before pushing that could ease the pain and even allow her a slight mental escape or “wooziness”.  Then in the face of current crippling pain, and knowing that a 13 on a scale of 10 was coming she said, “no, I don’t want it”.

My heart beamed for her.  As she pushed she never faltered.  She never lost focus. She never gave up. She screamed with power and strength from deep within.  The kind that makes the Polynesian Hakka, look like a nursery rhyme song.  And then James was born.

With tenderness and reverent awe, she held James’ small quiet body against hers with a love that can only be described as a mother’s.  My love for him filled my heart.  Simultaneously my heart felt much too small as it was filled with sadness and grief as well, and I thought that it might implode. I couldn’t stop the tears. 
He was perfect. He was still. He looked so peaceful, just like Max looks when he is sleeping.

I held him too. My boy, my son, my James. I could physically feel his 8 lb body, But could not hear him cry. So I did.

I could feel my soul reaching for him.  My very self was stretching out and being expanded.  It was deeply painful.  My spiritual core throbbed and ached. 

Yet in that moment there was no despair. There wasn’t a sense of unfairness, or that I’d been robbed.  My balm was love from Gina, and my mind was quieted by words of truth from within that could only come from the purest heavenly source.  My stretched soul was eased by the Spirit of God.  And we were accompanied by James’ spirit too.  It all let us know that though this was a sad day of parting, a day of grief, and a day to mourn the loss of an earth-life unlived with us; it was certainly not a tragic day of death.

Some truths came to my mind during that time:

 His perfect and innocent spirit, it was to be untainted by the dirtiness of this world, his perfect little heart, to be without the pain and the sorrow that comes to each of us who travel on this tough earth.  Really, everything you want for your child, to protect them from harm, to keep them from sin, to get them back to our Heavenly Father; it was all done.  And it was done because Christ had already gone through the pain of every living soul upon earth. He had felt what I was feeling and more.  He loves James.  He makes James whole. He can make me whole, and He can ease my pain.

Because of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, James will one day receive a perfect body. One where the heart will never stop. A resurrected temple that his precious and pure spirit will never leave.  A body that I can one day, with my own perfected and glorified body, hold.  I will one day again feel the weight of James, but that time I will hear his voice, see his smile, and know him for all that he truly is. That day will be SO SWEET, because I haven’t had a portion of it yet. Because my heart longs for it, it will be a day of eternal joy, for eternal is God’s name and His joy.  I know that every tear I shed now will be blessed and weaved by the author of salvation into happiness that will spring forth as blinding white rays of the sun’s light. 

And it is the source of that love and light, My Father in Heaven and His Son, that I have come to love, have faith in, and know more.  Through this pain, and through this sorrow, I have been more able to see and most especially feel, through the increased, even stark contrast, the arm of the Lord around me each day. I have been able to recognize His love because my soul and heart are reaching for it.  I have needed it.  I have been praying for it. And when it comes, and it always does, I am comforted. Because I need the comfort I can feel it more readily when it arrives.

You notice the sweet flavor of cold water when you feel like you might die of thirst the best.  Your favorite hamburger is the one you have after a week at summer camp where calories were hard to come by.  Your wife’s kiss is sweetest after hours, or days of being apart, and God’s love is ever more potent, when we recognize how badly we need it to sustain us.

The thing is about our life on earth, is that we are more often than not spiritually starving.  We need God’s love in our life every single day, but our physical body is so well taken care of that we hardly stop to notice the aching inner spirit within us. That spirit, that used to dwell with God and loved ones, is so frequently overshadowed by the much louder noises of the body and cares we face each day. Our poor heart is unnoticed when we are looking for a job. Our hungry conscience cannot be heard over a rumbling stomach.  It is the balance of body, mind, and spirit that the Gospel of Jesus Christ measures out to us. It keeps us humble and teachable in times of prosperity, and comforted and loved in times of adversity.  It teaches and bolsters us to lift others, and to answer the unique call each of us have been given to live.

I hope I can answer this call, and that the Lord will make me equal to it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part 2

Gina’s mom and Norm came that morning to be with us.  We spent some time that morning just cuddling Max and letting close people to us know. I didn’t get calls from those I called the night before until 7 in the morning, which was also odd, since they couldn’t believe they hadn’t noticed the late night calls at all. It proved to be the Lord’s will though, that we had Max with us and only connected with Bishop to come.  Already prayers were coming our way.

I called my Mom and she was very very sad. We said goodbye kind of abruptly and I realized I hadn’t asked to talk to Dad or anything.  I kind of figured he was at work. I got a call from him not too much later and he said he was already in Spokane and would come see us if we wanted.  Of course we did. Another tender mercy, Dad had come to Spokane to get his custom work boots fitted by prescription from his doctor. It just so happened that his appointment had ended just as we were calling others to tell them the news.  We were able to hug him and tell him everything in person. It was just a sign to us that Heavenly Father was going to be very involved in helping us through this experience and was already orchestrating little miracles so that we will never doubt his comfort and hand in it all.

Another mercy, or “divine signature” as I like to call it thanks to beginning a book by G. Lund just a week before our sad news, is beginning that book itself. It is immensely helpful.  I got through the first 3-5 chapters before that fateful Thursday, and had made various notes about “divine signatures” in my life, or experiences that I’ve had that were so well orchestrated that only God could have them happen and I recognized it that way. Remembering the ways that the Lord has helped me, helps me continuously know that he is real and loving.  My faith was growing reading this book, yet I didn’t have much to write after reading the chapter about divine signatures in times of extremity. How quickly that was to change.

We are both so, so grateful for the words of prophets and inspired people who have been able to grow in faith and testimony through the most challenging times of life. Sadness comes to us in waves, but in between those moments we are VERY comforted and hugged by the prayers and spiritual understanding we receive moment by moment.  We can literally feel the love of others in the air around us each moment of every day right now.

So, Friday was a day just us MV and Norm. We talked, ate, and went to spend some time at Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside state park.  We wanted to get out in nature kind of away from others and it was the perfect place to go spend an afternoon that could have been just full of dread and sorrow.  Max was super stoked being outside and able to throw rocks in the river.

Getting home food was brought to us by a group of friends, (3 couples) and another couple came over just to visit and see how we were doing.  Other people stopped by throughout the day as well, bringing flowers, cards and other things. It was nice to see that we are loved and thought about.

We felt very loved, though at the end of the day we knew it was time to just be sad together and get ready for the unknown day ahead of us on the morrow. It seemed unreal that we would start labor in the morning without the hope of a beautiful child at the end of it. Grieving, we mercifully fell asleep quickly and didn’t wake till morning.

July 20th.  Saturday.
We woke up pretty early since our induction appointment was to be at 8 am. Max was up and playing with his Gma and Gpa Norm already, and our hearts were heavy as we packed the car and headed out.
Paperwork and things took forever and Gina didn’t take a Misoprostol until 10 am.  We were very blessed though to have the perfect midwife and nurse there with us.  They were perfectly appropriate at all times and truly helped us through everything.

The stress of the day and all was getting to me quite a bit, and my stomach became a tense nauseous knot of pain. Nothing I seemed to do helped. After an hour or so my legs would ache when we would walk and I would even feel feverish.  I was silently praying for relief to be able to devote my whole attention to Gina who was about to go through pain and anguish many times greater than I.  I tried moving around quickly and drinking water to divert my attention from it all, but that only led to me vomiting more than I ever have before, or at least it seemed that way. I felt better and thought that my trouble was over, but then the pain, discomfort, and sickness returned worse than before. Now, I knew this was rough, but nothing compared to what Gina was currently and would be facing at an ever increasing level soon. Nevertheless, she took some time, while having mild contractions, to rub my back and help me too.

 It was a sweet moment I will always look fondly on and it truly is a symbol of how James will make us stronger as husband and wife.  Even if we are in intense pain, trial, anguish, or uncertainty, we can still look outside ourselves and rest a loving and caring hand upon the equally burdened back of our amazing spouse. Only a heart full of Christ-like love could do such a thing, and be granted the power to do it with so much grace.


Grace is the word to describe what attended us as we prepared to birth James.  MV came and brought some more things for us and offered the suggestion that I breathe through a straw to calm my insides down. It was exactly what I needed coupled with prayer to have my full strength and clarity of mind return just as contractions became more intense for Gina.  Now I could have just started to feel a little better by coincidence, though the stress or the proximate cause of my symptoms was actually increasing, the miracle was in the timing, because right when Gina began to need my full mental and physical attention, I was able to give it. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Father's Perspective: Part One

My wonderful husband Kyle has written from his perspective of our experience having James. I feel it helpful to have his perspective to paint a full picture of what we have gone through. 


How it Happened:
Wednesday was a special day.  It was Max’s 2nd Bday. I got up early as usual, but instead of reading while eating oatmeal, I decided to make French toast since it is Max’s favorite food ever pretty much. That was how the day went for him.  I had to go to school, but Gina took him to the fire station for a tour, they played at the park, ate good food, and he got presents once I got home.  He got a toy motorcycle, a hot wheels jump ramp, and ice-cream.  It was a busy and special day.  I remember thinking when going to bed how much joy I had because of Max and our little family.  I thought about how when you fall in love with your sweetheart that your chest is so full and feels like it might burst.  When you marry her you feel like you’ve won every victory available to you and your heart is full.  But the fullness just gets more full with a child.  It feels like your chest is maxed out, and that the warm filling goes down into your stomach too.  Just a deep and full love and gratitude. I remember thinking how amazing it would feel to have 2 children.  I might just burst with joy.

Thursday was a very busy day, especially for Gina who was already tired from the day before and being almost 39 weeks pregnant.  We were planning a birthday party for Max with everyone we wanted there at Manito park for Friday evening. Gina would call me at school a couple times each day, and each time I would think (baby time?), but it would always be for something about the party.  Just happy things.
That evening we put Max down, got more errands done around the house and watched some Leverage together.  As I was finishing cleaning up the living room and things after our show Gina called to me from the bedroom, “baby isn’t moving”.  This was quite unusual since night time was baby’s favorite time to jump and prod Gina.  She said she couldn’t remember the last time she felt baby move specifically. It was such a common thing, but nothing we did could make baby respond. Our hearts sunk and so we prayed two times to know what to do while waiting for an answer.  I felt very calm and peaceful about going to the hospital, and Gina, though very scared and already tears in her eyes felt good about it too.

We literally couldn’t get ahold of anybody we called right away to watch Max for us while we went in, so we took him with us.  Once at Deaconess they took us to a room and tried to find a heart beat on the Doppler.  It usually took about 2 seconds before the fast and strong beating of our precious baby would be heard.  Our ultrasound tech at 20 weeks told us he had a “beautiful heart” more clear than she’d actually ever seen, and her and the other tech took a full 5 minutes just to admire it. We beamed at the little heart and talked proudly of it for weeks afterwards. 

My excitement had grown by the day as we prepared every week by going to Bradley classes and things.  Once we had the bag packed for the hospital I was ready to go!  It was like waiting for Christmas morning, but not knowing exactly when it would come.

Well, an ultrasound machine was brought in and a midwife came in too and looked for a long time. We could see nothing moving.  She finally told us, though we had already locked eyes and began mourning together, that there was just no heart beat. Sadness was overwhelming.  All we could do was sob and clutch Max to us.  He was perfect.  By now it was well past midnight and he should have been crabby being in an unfamiliar place, but he was just calm and hugged us. 

We called our Bishop right away, because that is the first person Gina wanted there for sure. He was just called to be Bishop on Sunday and he is a surgeon at Deaconess.  We are actually close to his family and knowing that we could call on him was a tender mercy of the Lord. He came and was very comforting and gave Gina one of the most inspired and helpful blessings we have ever heard. It continues to guide our choices and thoughts throughout this experience, as I’m sure it will throughout our life. Our Bishop’s wife came too and offered hugs and kind words. She offered to take Max, but we couldn’t imagine not having him there with us to calm our hearts.

We really didn’t know what was next, but it was that Gina was to face the pain and sorrow of labor in the face of this horrible turn of events.  My heart just ached for her and couldn’t really imagine what dread filled her at the news of this daunting task ahead.  The rest of Friday was to be full, but we knew that starting labor at 2 in the morning wouldn’t be a good idea, so we went home and thankfully found rest quickly.