what a stillbirth is. and isn't.

  1. “When fetal death occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is called stillbirth. These tragic deaths occur in about 1 in 160 pregnancies (1). Most stillbirthsoccur before labor begins. The pregnant woman may suspect that something is wrong if the fetus suddenly stops moving around and kicking.” 

    I've stayed quiet and stopped writing the past four years or so. In the beginning I found writing to be a helpful outlet for loss and an opportunity to invite others into a place people rarely share for the sake of learning what the grief process is like. During my absence from here, my grief took several turns and God used our trip to Disney in November 2014 to lift me out of a very dark place that I had been in since April of that same year. While I made progress, the holidays came, a new year, my birthday, and then the one year mark. Add in Minnie in 2015 and my realization that I struggle with PPD and PPA. While I enjoyed the outlet this blog allowed I went quiet partly because I felt like I had nothing new to say and as time passed, it wasn't healing all wounds. Additionally, getting to the place where I am “well” was and is a priority of paramount importance. 

    I'm back to writing and sharing because there have been some things from the past few years that I haven't talked about due to their sensitive nature. I knew I wanted to be in a better place to craft my words, that they would come from a place of processed emotions and not a reaction to something that caused me to struggle. I want to be clear that this post is not coming from a place of bitterness, judgement, anger, or resentment. I've found that sometimes things need to be said and if they aren't the trend continues. I'm speaking to this topic because it is something that can deeply wound and hurt a mom who has had a stillbirth experience. Im also writing because there is very little publicly written on this topic and it is a common experience for a stillbirth mother to have. 

    Simply put: 

    A miscarriage is NOT a stillbirth. 

    In the wake of our loss and the hours and days and weeks and years that followed the hell we lived in, a near constant refrain that my husband and I would often get as a preface to many conversations was: 

    "I had a miscarriage at (fill in the blank) weeks..." 

    Before I continue on, I want to be clear, if you said this to me, I am not upset with you. I'm not writing this to give you a backhanded passive aggressive correction. To be perfectly honest, I received this comment from so many people, I stopped keeping track who said it and going back to each individual would be far too much. So here I write, my attempt to explain why that's unhelpful and how it hurts. It is something that upset me those first few weeks and was a consistent topic in my meetings with my grief counselor. I say that not to guilt, but to give an accurate window into the place I was coming from. Ultimately, I hope what I share is a means to caring for moms better in the future and to learn. 

    Don't make someone else's loss about you. 

    A statement like that can make a Mom or Dad feel like they have to enter into your sadness and pain in the midst of a time that is complete and total emotional turmoil. Simply put, they do NOT have the capacity to do this. If you have walked through the grief of losing a child this way, you would probably understand why, if you haven't I honestly pray you never have to know the pain. I often felt bewildered after receiving these comments via text, email, and comments on social media. I did not know how to process or respond. Time has given me the ability to reflect. My initial reaction was confusion because let's face it, no one sits down and explains to you from a medical standpoint that this is a stillbirth (they really should, it would be incredibly helpful and affirming) and what that means from a simple definition standpoint. When moms would make references to miscarriage it never felt like a place I belonged and I did not feel any ability to relate to their circumstances, nor them to mine. Yes, child loss is a common thread that weaves together moms and takes on different forms, but the experiences of that loss are not the same. I am not minimizing the horror, pain, or suffering that comes from a miscarriage either and seeking to elevate my experiences above theirs. I'm simply trying to explain how they're not the same and using that as a platform to reach out is not helpful. Here's some ways it's different. 

    I felt him move in my womb and when he died, experienced an absence of that movement. 
    We knew him as a boy, our son, for several weeks before he died. 
    I was admitted to the hospital to induce labor and waited 24 hours to hold my child. 
    I held my baby in my arms and delivered him the exact same way I did my other children. 
    When the day was through and it was clear his body was made for heaven and not earth, and you literally watched the decay happen to his body before your very eyes, we said goodbye. 
    Two days later we buried him in the ground out of respect for human life and in his sacred memory. 
    For three straight weeks I had to stave off my milk coming in by wearing a sports bra around the clock 24/7 and could only take a shower every few days to keep my milk from letting down. Sorry if that's tmi for some. But the horror of that experience is still very real to me. 

    Good intentions are not always good. I fully recognize and am aware that that statement comes from a good place, a desire to share and say: “hey, you're not alone, I care.” I think there's better ways to do that. Having struggled through these years, I have learned I could never fully relate to a mom who was lost her still born child at full term, or a mom who's baby died in her arms post delivery, or a mom who's baby died of cancer at two years old. 

    But that's my point. The sharing or stories and the creating a bond comes at a different time. In the wake of raw and unimaginable grief, a simple statement of care can simply be: 

    "I'm so sorry for your loss, I can't imagine the pain you are walking through, but I am thinking of you and carrying you on my heart. I will remember your son." 

    That's enough. It doesn't have to be a download of here's how we can relate. A simple statement doesn't seem like a lot but it speaks volumes. 

    “I'm so sorry for your loss”: it acknowledges that child, what the family is walking through and the pain they are experiencing from that loss. A loss that is so unnatural, a father and mother were never made to bury their child and say goodbye. 

    “I can't imagine the pain you are walking through”: you can't because it isn't you and no amount of shared experience will ever build that bridge. Every loss is unique and no two losses are ever the same. 

    “I'm thinking of you and will remember your son” : this is what most parents want. Their child to be remembered forever and always. It stings that they will not raise them in an earthly home with earthly arms, but they will always be counted among them. I am a mother of four, not three, and people who affirm that, they will never know how much that means. I had one mom email me on every 10th for the entire year just saying she was thinking of me, remembering Bobby and praying. I will never forget her and what that meant to me. She wasn't flowery in her words, she was simply acknowledging my pain and grief and letting me know she cared. 

    I don't want this to be a copy and paste statement. I just felt it was important to provide an alternative and the whys behind the word choices. 

    We all have a lot to learn. It’s a part of life. I hope my voice and experiences can be something that helps change our approach and ways of caring for people in the wake of their loss(es). 

    Sent from my iPhone


holidays that hurt and hope that comes.

I never know when the missing and wave of grief will come. A few weeks ago, it was when I closed the front door and the chill winter air flooded my senses as I watched the first snow fall of the season out the front door. Bobby, you were missed in that moment. Moments like that where the earth stands still for just a second and you remind yourself to take your next breath and your stomach flips as you turn to walk away. It's been almost 8 months and it's still hard for my mind to process. The reality that as long as we live, he will always be missing. 

There is a sadness that hangs in the air as everyone talks about the season. Each holiday display, ad, and pinterest post feels like a lashing. Christmas cards arrive and while I'm grateful to be remembered and included there isn't the family picture I dreamed of sending. As I walked through Trader Joes last week, I teared up as the song "all I want for Christmas is you" played over the speakers. I stopped for a moment in front of the drink section and paused. As if I couldn't take another step without acknowledging the pain and the missing I was feeling for my boy in that moment. I just kept thinking, as tears welled up in my eyes, that he is all I really wanted for Christmas this year. I must have stopped so long, the store clerk approached me asking if I needed help finding anything. "No I'm fine thanks," I replied. 

In those moments that's when death stings the most. Grief stares you down and says "I win for now." My arms that are empty still ache to be filled with my boy. I'm still feeling the physical effects of missing him. Grief runs its course in that way too. Aching arms, moments when a baby cries and you feel like your milk might let down, and sleepless nights thinking of the life that you could have had. 

When I think of Christmas, I think of sickness and a room full of family as they opened one of their presents announcing that there would be a baby joining us next Christmas. A chorus of shrill squeals and congratulations followed. This year there won't be my Bobby to pass around, the long awaited gift was returned, far too soon. There's a lot of painful reminders that lie ahead and a lot of memories to relive from last year. Land mines, as I've called them before. A whole field to get through.  

As people I talk of "the most wonderful time of the year" I want to hide and be alone. Getting a tree up sounds like a miracle and passing presents around feels trite. I don't want the gifts this year, I just want to celebrate the truth of the holiday. That Christ came to shine a light into our darkness. Born as a baby to make a way for me to inherit his righteousness, to be fully loved by God. That's where the celebration for me is, because He came, I can, someday, live with my Bobby forever and while I sing his praises here, I can join in the heavenly chorus there. A place where there won't be any more tears or sadness or grief at the sound of a holiday or the passing of a month mark since I held him. Celebrating that truth is where I've found my joy in a season that has brought an overwhelming feeling of Bobby's absence. 

Do I believe in gods grace? Yes. 
Do I know that God goes before me? Yes. 
Do I believe that God ordained this? Yes. 
Do I know God is with me? Yes. 

All those truths and the impact on your heart does not mean there will be peace, love and joy in your heart at every moment when loss is present. Celebrations and holidays are harsh reminders that life isn't the way it should be and it doesn't mean that someone who believes and trusts in God wont experience immense sorrow on those days. What God gives us grace for doesn't mean the days we live in aren't hard. God's truth changes your outlook because you know God promises to lift you out and lift your head but it doesn't mean life and reminders don't hurt. Denying it and putting on the happy face to fit in doesn't make it better. I can't force this holiday season to be a joyful experience, all I can do is find joy in Him, the one who gives and takes away. 

I've always written to be true to myself and this grieving process. I can't fake this and my honesty flows in every letter, word, and paragraph I write. My purpose in all this is to write about grief in the present tense. The reality of the process is it's so very hard to see God's perfect plan of redemption being worked out even if the head knowledge is there. It is a literal living of the cliche phrase "one day at a time." 

I hate that life still sucks and hurts, in some ways, just as much as it did the day we found out. In other ways, our grief has been put on hold as wave after wave of life have kept coming at us: more death, financial stresses, life decisions, sickness, etc it don't give you a break. It's when all is quiet, the moon shines in on the far wall of our bedroom and some nights I stare at it for endless hours just thinking about all that this year has brought. It's in those alone and silent moments that grief comes and reminds you that this is a process that is still going on even on the best days.  

2014, you were the year that took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. New Years always start with fresh hope and big dreams. The hope we've found in the midst of suffering is a deeper and truer hope than I knew before. Nothing is certain. All we get is today. Life is crazy raising our two girls. In many ways I feel I've failed them, but I know this: they got to see our God pull me out of a deep dark place. I pray so much that He uses that for good in their lives in the years to come. I don't know if I'll ever use the phrase "I wouldn't change a thing" because if I had known how this year would have played out I would have changed a lot. Belly pictures of growing babes aren't so obnoxious, selfies can be a gift, filing a closet just to pack it away hurts, and opening your heart up to love can mean your world ends up upside down because you loved so deeply. I changed this year and it was the farthest from my dreams, but now I can say with full confidence as a tuck my scared little buddy Behr into bed that the promise that Jesus is always with us is the truth. HE NEVER FAILS AND HE WILL NEVER LEAVE.  


Hope within Hopelessness

This is a humbling darkness to share, but I wouldn't be honest if I said that these struggles weren't a part of my journey. My goal in writing is to share my grief in the present tense. I've talked a lot about darkness and not a lot about specifics. I wanted to write this post to illustrate what the darkness is and the many forms it can take in the life of a believer who is grieving. 2014 will most likely will be, the hardest year of my life. We've tasted death far too much. Mama Bear passed after a heroic battle with cancer, losing my son, one of my best friend's miscarrying her baby, then my Dad dying on Mothers Day. This past week, the incredible woman who gave us Bobby's plot and told us it "would be an honor to be laid to rest next to our son", passed away, far too soon and suddenly. Her death completely leveled me. Death stings like a son of a bitch and it cuts deep. There's no sense to made of it all. As much as I hate that these things I share have been a struggle, I still believe in a faithful God who redeems and who never left me in the midst of a grief that often left me questioning the very faith I professed for most of my life.


I was just waiting for my turn. My fear of death was gone and the hope of heaven was the answer. I never struggled with self harm thoughts or suicide, but a car accident, cancer, or some other fatal sickness didn't seem so bad. One day I walked across the street in front of Wegmans and thought to myself "if that truck hit me, it would be ok." That was a low point for me. I certainly never would have stepped out in front of a car to get hit, but if the driver didn't see me it would be a "happy accident." I told those closest to me I would welcome it, if that meant I could go home and be with my Bobby. It was an ironic hope within total hopelessness. I did my best to try to not make it sound morbid and I truly believe in my heart I loved my boy and being with him felt like the answer and the fulfillment of one of the deepest longings I've experienced. I described these thoughts and feelings at a recent follow up with my Nurse Practitioner. She looked at me and said, "what about your girls?" My eyes filled with tears and I knew. Even if I have been physically present in their lives my thoughts had pulled me far from this earth. I longed for heaven with such a deep ache that I missed what was still here for me "after the storm." That was me these past six months: waking up in the morning not knowing who I was anymore and realizing I'll never go back to who I was before April 6, 2014. Everything in me hated what had become of myself as a result of these overwhelming losses. 

Thoughts like these filled my mind on a daily basis:

"The girls would be better off in full time day care. I just can't do this Mom thing."
"I never want to get out of bed again."
"If I could just be alone and take a break from life I can finally grieve the way I need to."
"I wish I could just get through the day without feeling like I need someone to hold my hand."

I still believe in the hope of heaven, that it's the place where all our sorrows will be redeemed, but I got lost in the sadness and grief and couldn't see what I had here. Experiencing Bobby's death was twofold in a way, his earthly life was lost and a part of myself died with him when I left the hospital with empty arms. I didn't know how to go on. I was the extrovert turned introvert, the social turned recluse, the happy turned sorrowful, the functional turned dependent. "Normal" tasks felt like insurmountable challenges. The darkness was dark and the pit was deep. A mother was never made to bury her child, that was never part of God's good design for this life. Yet there I was, on that rainy Monday leaving the ultrasound office with a picture of my boy turned facedown while my world was being turned upside down. During that week, God showed his love for us and Bobby in profound ways. The biggest, being one of the most perfect and peaceful resting places, that was generously given to us by a cemetery counselor turned friend. God carried us when I couldn't see and in the countless moments when my "heart and my flesh may have failed." Going in to that week and coming out on the other side with the burial of my boy on that serenely perfect Saturday changed me. 

Six months later, God is still redeeming that week and still pulling me out of the pit. That profound moment sitting on the crinkly white paper in a doctors office was when God came to me and showed me he has more for me here. More work to do. A legacy to live on behalf of my boy. Two daughters to raise to love Jesus and their brother. A husband to stand by and choose again and again even when our grief leads us down different paths.

I wouldn't call that day a totally snap out of it magical revelation, but the influence it had on my head and my heart was certainly profound. This past week, I finally stopped and made time to sit down and talk with my oldest, Audrey. Just about life and princesses and art and tornadoes (her recent weather related fixation) and we had a beautiful conversation. As I walked out of her room and said goodnight I realized what I had missed. The ordinary. The connection. The engaging moments of daily life. I realized she had grown up these past six months and she had changed too. I'm looking for those opportunities now. Even today, Audrey and I got to enjoy the sweetest date time, driving down the highway one of my "Bobby songs" came on shuffle, the light shone so bright and I missed him, deeply. Yet in that very same moment of missing, I was also taking in the endless chatter in the back seat from my girl who had so many stories to tell and things she wanted to talk about. I realized I could have both. I can remember my boy and enjoy my girl. 

It's humbling, I can't recall many memories from the past 180 days, other than my children were clothed and fed. There are entire days that I've forgotten and erased from my memory. Days that I've been told by friends that "they've never seen me so bad" and I wouldn't know where to start to tell you why or what even triggered the downward spiral. When you're living a nightmare I guess it makes sense. You want to forget. You want to wake up and all will be made right. In that grief driven, depressed, dream like state of mere daily survival, I missed a lot. I don't have to let my guilt, sadness, and grief drown me, because my Savior lived and died to conquer sin and death. 

Randy Alcorn shares this most beautiful picture of that day when our losses will be redeemed:

"Now then the question in the resurrection and so that the older person becomes a younger person again, but in a body without suffering. However, what about those who have never reached that peak? What about children who died? Well, we do have those passages in Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 that seem to clearly have some children on the new earth. And so I think one possibility with that is they could be resurrected at the age they were when they died. If that is the case then God would not fast forward. He would not skip any stage. And I think in some ways that would almost make sense that there would not be a skipping of stages, but that they as children could literally grow up on the new earth.
Now if that is the case — and that is speculation — but to me it would fit beautifully with Luke six and other passages where God brings comfort to the mourners and in the sense of you have been through this, but I will compensate in the world to come in the resurrection. You have experienced mourning. I will give you laughter. You were deprived of raising a child who died at a young age. Maybe you will be able to be there with your child as he or she grows up on the new earth without threat of death, harm, abuse or anything else. And to me somehow I just believe it would be just like our God to perhaps do that. And then the rejoicing there will be in contrast to the loss and the misery and the suffering on earth will be celebrated for all eternity because everybody will know: You know what? I loved raising my kids on the old earth, but, wow, to have grown up here.
I like to imagine that heaven will begin where we all left off with Bobby. A 21 week little belly and the promise of a pain free labor. No post partum complications. Breastfeeding with ease. Sleepless nights won't feel sleepless with a newborn. Watching him grow and experiencing those early days of life with Bobby in its fullness as a family. Every milestone experieced: the perfect smell of newborn skin, first smile, first laugh, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, first solids, first kiss, first hug, first I love you and the list goes on for days. I have to agree with Alcorn that "it would be just like our God to perhaps do that." 

I don't have to hurry up to get there or miss what I have here. His promises are sure "that he will wipe every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more." There's more for me here. I don't know why God made Bobby and took him back, but I do know it is just like our God to redeem. So I can say no to guilt, and hold my head high with the strength He provides, and live the rest of my ordained days to their fullness. 

John 1:5 "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."


A Tribute with a Name.

I write a lot about tears, grief, stillbirth, sadness and loss, but there is a story of redemption that God is writing, one day at a time, with me patiently waiting and trusting as it unfolds. Aside from my husband, no one has walked closer to me through all this than my best friend of 15 years, Becca. We met in high school yearbook, went to college, got married, I had my first daughter and she waited for her answer, but she rejoiced. A couple years later, I had my second daughter and she had her first son just four months apart. We've been together at the birth of all of our kids. She and her husband lived with us for a time, then the Lord provided a house just 0.8 miles down the street from our own. Our kids play and love on each other like siblings. Our front doors are always open. Meals have been shared countless times. Life has been lived together in the most blessed way I could ever ask for or imagine.  

God, looking through His eyes, had a plan that was bigger than we expected, it always is that way. He directs our steps and He knew I needed that sister down the street to be there to walk with us through life's happiest moments and deepest sorrows. If there has ever been a need she has done it or filled it. Our little boys were due just five days apart and while many have questioned how one could continue to walk as close as we have, all I can point to is God. The first and only thought I had walking out of that ultrasound office on April 6, 2014, aside from accepting the fact that my son was in the arms of Jesus, was a peace and a confidence that our boys and their stories would never be for naught and it was never going to be a wedge to separate us. 

I don't just believe in the existence of God, I believe in a personal relationship with Him. A Great Redeemer, who always loves us perfectly, and when my heart and my flesh fail, He is my faithful strength. There are days when I struggle to see how that plan of redemption is going to work out. I doubt, I question, I ask why. Then I look at this little boy God brought and some of it makes sense. I see and I trust that God is going to give this boy a beautiful legacy to carry with him for the rest of his life. To me, just like my son, he is perfect in every way.  

After I started blogging again, I asked Becca, when AJ was born, to share the meaning behind his middle name. To testify to how God was at work, even in the deepest pit and darkest places. I hope it encourages you in the ways it has encouraged and reminded me how our little boy is celebrated and remembered through his life. 

AJ's Name 

My son didn’t have a name until he was thirty-six hours old. It might have even taken longer if we weren’t so eager to leave the hospital and knew the newborn fog would make us forget to submit the appropriate paperwork. He didn’t have a name but he did have a middle name. He’d had a middle name since April.

Janet and I’s friendship is hard to define and difficult to understand to some but it’s one of the sweetest gifts in my life. And it truly is a gift. It’s been obvious time and time again that the Lord created and has sustained this friendship through misunderstandings, through growing up and changes, through the hard days and the every day. When I miscarried our first teeny tiny babe far away in Oklahoma at only a few weeks she cried with me and stayed in bed all day like I did miles away. My hurts have often been lighter because she has shared carried them on her heart. She truly has been a friend who bears burdens. And in April, with her text on that Monday, her labor through that dark Wednesday and Thursday and watching her the last few months, I’ve tasted the slightest part of her grief and her pain. 

Compared to my firstborn, in utero this child’s movements were all hard, deliberate and strong. Where Behr would press his little rump out for rubs and bounce to music and seem to want Mama’s attention and affection, this baby jolted me awake or shocked me with his strength, time and time again. However aside from a few random movements I’m not sure I felt him move from getting the text that still haunts me on thatMonday morning until our ultrasound hours later. (Because of course we had scheduled our appointments for the same day mere hours apart.) As he was measured and examined and we were told he was healthy and well, he moved and moved--and I felt it. My husband and I wept through most of the ultrasound. It felt so unimaginable to follow Janet and Seth’s footsteps into the same office with such a different outcome. Only a few weeks before I had been in a similar room with Janet watching her baby and then mine wiggle and kick and looking forward to finding out that evening together what gender they were. And as I lay there, seeing my son bounce, hearing the tech’s words, and holding my husband’s hand the name, “John” came to my mind and my heart and never left. It was not a name on our list and never a name I think we would have considered without Bobby.

For reasons I don’t think we’ll know until heaven Bobby and my son “came from heaven” at the same time. God created them in Janet and I and gave them due dates only five days apart. That is not an accident and can only be planned by a Creator and Author of Life not two scheming best friends. They were connected in such a unique and amazing way even simply in their mothers’ hearts. And then God took Bobby back. When he was born, while the world stood still, while we wept over and over for hours in that hospital room, my son leapt. As if he knew. As if he was welcoming and releasing his friend. And he continued to leap for the next twenty plus weeks. As much as it confused and stabbed my heart there was no voice, no stimulation, or anything that generated a reaction like my best friend and I talking. He knew Janet’s voice uniquely. In the ways Behr responded to his dad’s voice and Audrey’s this child responded to Janet. Over and over all I could think as he jumped inside while Jan and I sat and talked about anything and everything, sober or insignificant conversations, was “John.”

John 1:41 “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” -- John the Baptist and Jesus. Created at the same time. Sent with clear purpose. Each a  reminder that God keeps His promises to His people and operates in ways that only He can understand. To be clear I am not saying that Bobby is Jesus or that my son is a second coming of John the Baptist. But I do believe that, even if it’s simply for our families and the lives they touch, that these two boys’ lives both have rich purpose here on earth to point back to heaven and the hope that we have there.

There were many small mercies during the 24 hours Janet was at the hospital. Yet, unfortunately, there were many painful and harsh interactions on top of the circumstances for being there. Yet one of the moments where God was clearly present was a stranger who gave of his own time and with great intention to show love and compassion to both Bobby and his parents. Telling my husband about him in tears while wandering Wegman’s that week sealed the deal on our son’s middle name. That person’s name was John. I like to imagine that had our sons been allowed to grow up together here on earth that they would have had that sort of loyal, giving, compassionate character in their friendship. I can’t wait until they meet in heaven and the bond I know they would have had is displayed in real and perfect ways that I long that they would have had here.

Finally, John means “God has been gracious” or “Yahweh is gracious, giving bountifully.” I never could anticipated the end of this pregnancy when it started in December. My grief is not the same as Janet’s. But she is my sister. There’s a strange sort of grief in watching your friend hurt and there’s a strange sort of ache in longing for a child that wasn’t your own but that you anticipated nearly as much as your own. Walking out the rest of my pregnancy alone, watching my belly grow and noticing I was trying to suck it in when I walked in her house, wishing the leaps that were both so reassuring and yet so heart-breaking within my own womb were echoed in hers, and even now snuggling a newborn and waking up for middle of the night feedings with no one to text at 3am all the random half-awake thoughts in my head, has had its own challenges for my faith and hope. There’s been days I’d rather stay in bed. There’s been nights of tears. And yet in the midst of her own grief and ache, as always, my best friend was and has been the greatest encouragement to my heart and soul. She repeatedly reminded me of the faithful goodness of God in created my son as well as Bobby. Her words and her genuine love for me and my son are a gift I cannot repay or really convey how much they have meant. She loves me and loves my son in ways that speak volumes of the greatness of God and His perfect love at work in her. “John” is a tribute to that. To the God that has given us this friendship as well as our sons.

Luke 1:78-79 Zechariah praising God for his son, John: "...because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

 (PC: I'm Kristen)

To read more of AJ's birth story and to see it all captured in pictures enjoy I'm Kristen's post


Endless Summer

I didn't post during the month of August. There was a sacredness to those days. A waiting, a longing for closure and as I counted down the days to my due date and the anticipation of celebrating Bobby's life I wrote a lot but wasn't ready to publish it for the watching world to read. The grief of those warm days of August has carried over to September and thoughts of "progress" have been thrown to the wayside. These are the days to grieve, to experience the emotions, to acknowledge the loss, and to trust that this process is going to help me move forward the rest of my days.  August and September have brought closure and reopened wounds, joy and sadness collided in one holy labor room when my best friend gave birth to AJ (the meaning of his name will be a post in and of itself because its a story I want people to hear). In so many ways, these milestones have thrown me back to the kind of grief I felt in those first two weeks. Where tears flow easily, where your life feels like its over, where sadness pierces your heart and the feeling that Bobby is missing is so acute. His best friend is here and he is not. The milestone days were always hard,  but now it feels like he should be here in the day to day of our lives and he's not.

On the outside I appear more functional, more social, more happy, but on the inside, I'm still that same Mom who was crushed that second week of April and in the quiet, alone moments when its me in my bed with Bobby's very empty blanket the tears come and the sadness can't be pushed away. As darkness fills my room and the clock turns to another day at midnight I'm awake thinking of him and imagining what life would have been like with a tiny baby in my arms this September. 

I poured myself a bowl of applesauce a few weeks ago. A normal enough thing to do at lunchtime, on that particular day it made me sad. Memories of being pregnant with Bobby flooded my mind as the first bite hit my palate. I craved it often and went through jars by the day. Call me silly, but I will never think of applesauce the same. Sadness often accompanies reminders, but it's a different thing to just be sad all the time. There are some days when the ache runs deeper into your body and your soul. The days where brushing your teeth takes an hour and getting your kid's diaper changed feels like an accomplishment that deserves a reward. Getting out of bed feels like you won an Olympic medal, but that's what we all do, everyday, right? And a shower, well, there are days between to wait for those. 

Giving birth to your stillborn son. Sucks.
Losing your Dad, a month later, on Mother's Day with no last goodbye. Double sucks.
Struggling with depression on top of it all. Triple sucks.

All of these things have changed me and are still changing me, every day. I will probably say it a thousand times, but its the truth: grief is a process. God made us all with senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. The way those function within grief is  a part of what changes you and exhausts you. Your body is on overdrive physically, emotionally, and spiritually at all times. 

The sight of a bare closet that was once filled with clothes.
The smell of Seth's homemade French fries that made me want to hurl every time he cooked them when I was pregnant.
The touch of an empty blanket, saved for a baby who was wrapped in it months too soon.
The taste of Wegmans sushi, mint M&M's, Starbucks vanilla chai and Annie's granola bars recall the memories of those first two weeks in bed and were almost all I ate. The sadness those weeks is incomprable.
The sound of songs that move me to tears, everytime, "take me deeper than my feet could ever wander" "on Christ the solid rock I stand, the Rock won't move" "though you take from me I will bless your name."

The list goes on. 

As I've said before, I'm not writing to illicit pity or cry "woe is me." I'm writing to share the forms grief takes in my life, it might look different for someone else. This is my personal journey, I'm opening up and sharing because if no one talks about it, it will only continue to feed the loneliness, isolation, and stigmas you feel when grief rocks your world. I'm writing so that people can be invited in to understand what this is like, so we can all love on the hurting better, not with judgement, not with expectation (you look great, shouldn't you be doing better by now?), but with the kind of compassion and mercy our Savior lived when he walked the earth.

We are all mere mortals. Grief will find us all in this fallen, broken world. We all will meet our maker and come to our end. That natural order isn't always followed and some perish tragically. Not a sparrow falls apart from the will of the Father and I'll never understand on this earth, but he has me here and he's given me the courage to give my feelings words and to share them. 

This recently showed up on my Pinterest feed and I had to laugh at the foolishness of it.

I texted my friends and said: "Yeah, I wish that was my life." I agree we shouldn't spend our whole lives riddled with worry about all the what if's of life. Yet there are times when those seemingly imaginative worries become your reality. That's the world I'm living in, in the here and now. The night before my ultrasound I told my best friend it would be a "relief to go in for my appointment to see him move." I didnt see him move. I saw a dead baby on the ultrasound screen and my life turned into a nightmare in an instant. Since then, "Janet, your baby isn't alive" has rung in my ears more times than I care to count. 

When the phone rang on Mother's Day evening, I assumed it was my Dad calling me to leave a late message wishing me happy Mother's Day. When I saw the call come in, I mentioned to a friend who was visiting, "I hope my dad is ok." Instead, it was my uncle trying get in touch to let me know my Dad had passed, somewhat suddenly. The things we worry about can become our reality and completely change our lives in an instant. It doesn't change who I believe God is, but it's the reality of this fallen world. Death has taken people from me I love dearly.  The aftermath is what has crushed me to the core and left me in the pit. Being crushed doesn't mean the God I believe in isn't there, it means in placing my trust in Him that He's tied himself to me and is with me. There isn't an answer in this life for the "why?" but our God is big enough to be asked. He cares about His children and wants us to come to Him. 

Psalm 23:4 promises that: "
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU ARE WITH ME; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Life has changed, I've changed, my grief has taken turns and the missing goes on. 

In these times, grief wins and right now that's good. It's needed. Grief was made to be gone through and not around. The other day I finally decide that the facade is gone: that if I needed to cry I was going to cry, even if it was the grocery aisle at wegmans or the drive thru at chick fil a. Knowing 
every tear is counted and not a sparrow falls apart from the will of our Father. Some day I'm gonna hear the number (probably something like 1,245,694) and everyone will be wiped away.


The Beauty of A Life.

On Wednesday, we went to visit Bobby. We stopped at Butlers Orchard so the girls could pick fresh flowers from their fields to take to him. It's one of my favorite things to do with them and even Edy, who's 2 1/2, knows "we go pick flowers for Bobby" and excitedly chooses every flower with care. We drove down to the market to pay and the girl checking me out commented on my bracelet I wear in memory of Bobby (I purchased it off of Etsy from a Mommy I had met through Instagram and I love it). The cashier commented on how much she liked it and I looked down forgetting I had chosen to wear it and fumbled with my words. I got a slow "thanks" out but didn't know what to say beyond that. Everything inside of me wanted to speak his name. To tell her about Bobby and why I wear it in memory of him. But I didn't. For a moment I felt stupid even wanting to talk of him. She had no idea what those flowers were for or why I wore that bracelet and I wish I had more courage to speak of the why behind it.

A part of grief that I have had to overcome is fighting the lie that Bobby isn't seen as a life to begin with. I can feel awkward in those moments, like the one at checkout, especially when we live in a culture and political environment that results in heated debates about what life even is and when it begins. Not every one shares the same sentiments or convictions. This is a post that has weighed heavy on my heart. I've been hesitant to even share my thoughts and feelings on this side of my experience because I do not want to make my child's death a political issue or create a context that puts his life up for debate. I'm sharing my heart, because I'm Bobby's momma and I'm sharing to remember him because I believe every life, regardless of at what stage, matters.

Bobby was born when I would have been 21 weeks, what is medically considered an "unviable" stage, but he was an externally fully formed little boy and perfectly complete in ways I never expected. He was beautiful. I marveled while I wept and held his lifeless body in my arms. Before I knew he had died I felt him move, I knew him as a him, he knew the sound of my voice. Giving birth to a child that never cried or breathed their first breath and going home without a baby in my arms brings a diverse experience of grief and a feeling of loss.

The way our nurse treated us the day he was born made me feel like he wasn't a life. She was absent. Aloof. Neglectful. Disconnected. Uncaring. After he was born I was left sitting in my own blood and had to clean myself up. Ill never forget leaving bloody footprints on the floor on my way to the bathroom and having Seth catch me as I slipped in it while he held our lifeless boy in his arms, trying to calm me down while a string of profanities came rolling out my mouth. I couldn't believe what was happening and on such a day as this. He tried to comfort me and help me, but it was beyond anything I could ever comprehend. Our midwife changed the sheets and I assumed our nurse was busy, but I was her only patient. She just didn't want to deal with it. She never wrote up a crib card for him, wrapped him in a blanket, bathed him, offered to dress him, took hospital photos, and she never measured his length. I had to ask for his footprints twice and when she finally did it she told me she "would try her best but she might not be able to." We put him in her arms to do the footprints and she brought him back, covered in blankets, in a decorative box. In the moment I never knew what was happening was so wrong. It didn't feel right, but in my loss I couldn't process how awful it was until after the fact and sadly, these are just a few examples. The grief that she has added to our loss of Bobby is immense.

I won't allow someone's mistreatment of me and our son to shame me into silence. It only makes me want to raise my voice louder for those who have no voice. The truth is, that's easier to put in writing than to live out personally, but I'm trying. Bobby's story is much more than me sharing my grief. I share his story because life matters and a life such as Bobby's should be treated with dignity and respect. It's the very reason we buried him. It's why we speak his name and it's why I miss him every day. He was a life and it was lost.

I have always believed life matters at every stage, a child in utero is not a mass of cells. It is a child uniquely created by God to live the number of days He has ordained for them. Anyone making a "choice" about these things, at the very least, should understand that it's a heart beating, a living and moving being that is nourished, kept and protected inside their Mommy. When my son died, he died in the safety of my womb, with the comfort of my voice and the sound of my heart beating.

Experiencing the beauty of God's creation at this stage has only made me marvel more at the miracle that life is. As I said before, I have always believed in the sanctity of it, but having the opportunity to hold Bobby, at 21 weeks, to see his beautifully formed body, was a gift. The loss of his life was a tragedy, but I realized, what I held to be true wasn't just true as a vague conviction that I stood on and defended, it was a tangible experience of what I have always believed.

Bobby and his life will always be a part of our story and our family. He will always be spoken of in our home. He will always be celebrated on his birthday. His sisters will always know of him as their brother. I pray so much that God would do great things from these ashes and the story of his short life. That people's minds would be opened to the beauty of life that is set before us and the precious gift it is.


The Results.

(PC: Peter Bang, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep)

After losing Bobby, there's been so much to grieve, process, think about and educate myself on. So many questions were left without answers and when your child dies you just want to know why. I never wondered or thought I did something wrong, but to me there had to be a reason. The day we found out Bobby died and some of the things that were said still haunt me in a way. But I also left there with a false sense of "reassurance" as to the why behind his death and a lack of understanding of what I was experiencing as a result of his death. 

My mind swirled with emotions that day we found out and sadness ultimately prevailed. Grieving for my boy took over and I didn't think to ask questions or even question what was said until recently. No one writes a book or hands you a manual on all the how to's of child loss. I get it. Its a book no one would want to buy and certainly not a pamphlet anyone would want to hand out to a grieving parent who just found out their baby died before they ever breathed earth's air. There were so many practicals to figure out: cremation or burial, cemetery, what day to go in to be induced (they left that decision entirely up to me since my body wasn't going into labor), a mortuary to handle all of the funeral arrangements, packing a bag for a hospital stay, crying all the time, sleepless nights, brain fog, etc. Processing the deeper elements of all this fell to the wayside. 

It could be a peaceful quiet moment, a drive in the car, a trip to the store for one of these thoughts to pass through my mind:

"Janet, I'm sorry, your baby isn't alive." Worst thing in the world to ever hear. 

"It looks like he probably has a chromosomal abnormality, you're welcome to come back for genetic counseling." No medical doctor should ever say that unless they have something to go off thats a 

"It's a miscarriage and you're gonna go to the hospital to deliver the baby." It wasn't a miscarriage. It was a death. My baby died. That never sat right with me. After doing the reading 
myself, a fetal death is defined as a stillbirth at my stage in my pregnancy. As hard as that was to realize, it was validating. Understanding also brings about healing. So many women came out of the woodwork talking of their miscarriages (and I am not saying that to demean any of them or their experience, the loss of a child is a loss. period.), but I never felt like I could fully relate and conversely so it felt wrong to put myself in the shoes of a mother who gave birth to a stillborn child at 36 weeks. But understanding the simple medical definition helped me know where I belonged and I didn't have to feel lost in the middle anymore. 

Moving beyond that, after a lot of back and forth we finally got the pathology report back a few weeks ago and it was devastating in a way. We had been following up and asking for answers on the status of it, but finally, after 10 weeks of waiting the news came. My phone rang at 7:53am and I knew it was the midwife calling. I knew exactly what she was calling for and I wasn't ready to face the news at that time of day. I barely get out of bed before 10am on even a good day and hearing the results that early was too much for me. Seth called a few hours later to let me know she got in touch with him about the pathology report results. 

Our little Bobby was completely healthy and normal in every way. He. Just. Died. 

Punch to the gut. I don't even know what I said in response. It was one of those moments, almost out of a movie, where your ears ring and your mind goes to another place. It was so hard to hear he might have had a chromosomal abnormality, but the converse reality made me look to The Lord and beg "WHY?" Our perfectly healthy, completely wanted, and fully loved boy just died. No explanation. No reason. No answers. With the news brought another deeper wave of grief. 

Unfair. Wrong. Confused. Backwards. Messed up. God got this wrong. Shake my fist. Angry. All sorts of feelings emotions, tears, questions, and doubt. When I stop to think too much about it, I feel sick. My boy is gone and with him went my dreams. Life felt perfect and in one single moment it was changed forever. In any loss, in any grief, there is a wrestle that comes. If you don't wrestle you can't heal. You can't move forward. You have to face it. I knew I had to stare death in the face and to acknowledge the hurt I felt from it and what it took from me. I feel it every day. I also knew I was going to have to look to God and his Word and wrestle with my faith and what I said I believed all this time. This hurts like hell and missing your baby every day is the shittiest (sorry, but words like devastating, sad, wrong, etc don't really sum it up) reality. I'm still wrestling. I'm still processing grief and I'm done calling this a "new normal" cause this awful place is anything but normal. Every single day is a reminder of that. 

Last week, my best friend, Becca and I, grocery shopped together at Wegmans. Our three kids squished into the race car cart made shopping a breeze after a quick pit stop at the bull candy aisle. We found the shortest aisle at checkout and started loading our items up onto the belt. A familiar face turned around in front of us. It was Becca's parents neighbor. She commented on Beccas growing belly and how cute Her little boy Behr was. She politely greeted me and introduced herself, looked at the cart and commented on me having two kids. I calmly replied with a "yeah" but as my necklace jingled as I put my stuff on the belt I felt like I was telling a lie. Knowing she had lost her daughter too I knew if I explained that actually I am the mother of 3 children she would have understood. But who really wants to have a moment like that with the cashier awkwardly looking on, as I talk about delivering my still born little boy at 21 weeks. 

On our way out we ran into another mom from church who enthusiastically greeted us asking us both how were doing. Becca answered first and I think I probably mumbled "doing ok" still trying to catch my breath from the interaction at the register. Nothing is ok or good about what this is right now and when you're grieving there is this lie that I feel like I sometimes buy into that I need to make everyone think I'm fine and good when I go out in public and look put together. And my gosh, you don't want to just word vomit the truest answer on someone who just wants to carry on with their grocery shopping. Sometimes I wish I could be blunt enough as wearing at shirt that says "my baby died" so at least people would know why it's a miracle I got dressed at all, let alone made it out of the house. Loss hurts in the most unexpected ways sometimes. 

Today, it was in our pediatricians office on the way out. The age old question of "How many kids do you have?" never stung SO bad. It being the 3 month mark and  Thursday Bobby has been on my mind, and I just blurted out "3." It was one of those moments where you say it and you can't take it back. I then went on to explain that one of our babies died recently as I am looking down at this perfect tiny, week old baby girl, feeling like a total kill joy. "Im so happy for you, enjoy every minute, she's beautiful" is all I could say to recover from that moment. Ugh. It was awful. 

I don't know what it's going to look like to answer that question moving forward. When you lose a child all you want is for their life to be remembered, cherished and celebrated. Grief makes people clumsy and I don't fault anyone for asking me how I'm doing, but it's ok to speak Bobby's name. I love to hear it. If you know I am a Mom of 3 it's ok to say that out loud, because Bobby will always be counted as one of my own. It's ok to say I'm praying for you without it being awkward. I'm carried by those prayers. It's ok to say I'm thinking of you because it feels like Bobby is remembered and not forgotten. It's ok to share in our grief because there's more than enough to go around and I am sharing his story so that people can know what grief is and what it does to your life and how it rocks you. 

I've be listening to a song on repeat recently from Needtobreathe and its been a simple profound truth thats kept me going. His love has surely found us. 

Your love will surely come find us
Like blazing wild fires singing Your name

God of mercy sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to Your design
May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied

(Bobby bear goes for his first swim.)
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