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.)


Our "New Normal."

I haven't written in awhile frankly because words have slipped through my mind like sand and they've come faster than I could even type. Part of it too, feels like what I'm saying over and over again is just beating the dead horse and it's hard to not feel like people are just done hearing about how I miss my baby and how I keep asking God "why?" Sometimes too, I just don't want to talk because it's too much to relive. Even "new normal" feels like a joke because nothing about this and our daily life feels anything close to "normal." I get out of the house, I look put together, but I don't feel any better, maybe just more functional. 

Grief still has no fix it's. No solutions. No timetable. No problem solver that's a cure all for the sadness that greets me each day when I think I'm going to wake up from this bad dream and it's all gonna be over with. Some think that if you just look at all the good in your life that will somehow overcome the loss. That's a lie. I look at my kids and thank God for the gift they are, for my husband who loves me in the most sacrificial way, for the many blessings we have, all of those point to the love God has for me, but that can never bring my Bobby back from the grave. I can never move on in my life without Bobby, even if he isn't physically present, for now we are a family of five. Grief makes people so uncomfortable, but the irony is that grief will inevitably find all of us. We all die, some tragically, our days our numbered, this world is fallen, and it hurts. 

The feelings are still coming out raw and the sadness I feel about the loss of Bobby still takes my breath away. Daily life still brings reminders of the nightmare we're living. Recently, it was doing my laundry and finding three pairs of maternity pants and the outfit I wore the day I came home from the hospital without Bobby. It was in the kitchen when I was making lunch on Father's Day and I looked down at something I dropped on the floor. The reality that I could see my feet and bend nimbly to pick it up was crushing. It was the family I saw in Target, a beautiful family of five: two girls and a tiny baby boy. It was the bill that came in the mail for the "you're baby isn't alive" anatomy scan. I wish I wasn't here right now. I wish I could make the sadness leave. 

The closer I get to August the heavier the grief feels. I didn't expect that. For some reason I thought experiencing his death, saying my final goodbye, and my due date would be the hardest part and in the meantime life would just go on. The adrenaline has worn off and in so many ways the rubber has met the road. This is my life and I have to go on, one day at a time. Instead of counting down the weeks until I get to hold my boy, I'm counting down the weeks since I held my boy in my arms. It's backwards. It's broken. And it's a mess that only Jesus can bring beauty out of. 

Grief is a friend too. To deny it, is to deny yourself the healing you need to move forward. Loss is meant to be grieved. Some days its good to stare death in the face and remember that loss hurts and it changes your life forever. A trusted counselor reminded me that this is a process, I'm in transition, that I'm never going to be who I was before and I'm not yet who I'm going to be "after the storm." Reminders like that help on the days that I just want to pull the covers over my head and wave the flag of defeat. Defeat is something I feel and face every day. My hope and faith in Jesus are all I have to overcome it. When darkness seems to hide His face, faith, even as small as a mustard seed is something of worth to my God. Great faith can be small. God promises to not crush the bruised reed. He promises to be faithful even when I'm faithless. He promises to never leave me or forsake me. These are the promises I cling to when I want to give up and when I can't stop asking "why oh Lord?"

It's not a matter of being lifted out of the pit, it's a matter of lifting you're eyes in the pit to the one who knows your suffering and gives a purpose for your pain. Some days all I can do is lift my eyes and that's what his word talks of time and time again. I still don't understand why he hasn't lifted me out, but I'm here and there's nothing in my power I can do to change it. 

Bobby, you are remembered and missed every day. It comforts me to know you will always be my boy. You died in the safety of my womb, you knew my voice, and the sound of my heart beating. You will always be a part of me.  I'm in this pit because I'm your Momma and I love you.


A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes

"No matter how your heart is grieving if you keep on believing..." - Cinderella 

Disney speaks to my heart sometimes and it's probably because I love it so much. 

We had a dream. A wish. And a plan. Disney as a family in 2015, with a squishy little boy who could camp out in the stroller or sleep in the Ergo the whole time. I'm super practical and 6 months seemed like the perfect age to take him. I didn't want to go pregnant, I didn't want to go with a newborn, and we wanted to go before Edith turned 3 to save money on park tickets. So we narrowed it down to a week in February/March, I did all my research, picked our top 3 resort hotels, and I started saving towards an ambitious goal to make those dreams a reality. 

Ever since our trip in April 2013 not a day has passed that Audrey has not asked when "are we going back" and prayed many prayers "that daddy would sell a lot of paintings so we could go to Disney world." Some people might think it crazy: huge crowds, long lines, humid heat, and crying kids. For me and our family, Disney is a place with the happiest of memories, where heaven touches earth, and the time we have as a family there is priceless. I get teary eyed during the fireworks show in front of Cinderella's castle and before we lost Bobby, I wasn't a crier. 

I hope that Bobby knows its one of his Mommy's favorite places on earth. I hope Mama Bear (she and I share a similar deep love of all things Disney and the way she raised her kids with that love for the magic is the same vision I have for raising ours) has already taken him on Small world, introduced him to Mickey, and walked down Main Street to the sound of the singing barbershop quartet with Cinderella's castle in view. I hope some day when I get to be with him in heaven I can can experience all those things with him too. 

The closest I've come to a "fix it" (and I know it truly isn't) solution to all this sadness is getting on a plane and flying there as a family. That's how much I love it. It fills a place in my heart that few things can and seeing the sheer wonder in my girls eyes when they step foot in the parks is like nothing else I've experienced with them. It's magical in a way and you can't help but be swept up in the joy of it all.

When we found out about Bobby, those dreams were put off and money that was set aside for our trip went towards making a different kind of place for our Bobby to be laid to rest. God provided for us in huge ways in that, but needless to say, the whole financial aspect for us has felt like another burden was added. The financial cares of medical bills and burying a child are the worst kind of reminders of this reality we live in. At moments it's hard to not feel crippled by the sheer weight of it. 4 weeks to the day, the hospital bill came in the mail and it felt like a bad joke. Thankfully, that bill was covered by the hospital (a whole story for another time as to why). 

Our dreams are put on hold and our seemingly "perfect" plans have come crashing down on every front. Losing Bobby has brought so much sadness, but it's a life that we didn't get to have with him that I grieve for too. Sharing my favorite place with my boy was something I longed to do and I had no doubt he would have loved Disney just as much as his Mommy and sisters.

About 4 weeks ago a package came to our doorstep from one of my dearest friends. Inside were the most perfect little mouse ears and embroidered on the back was his name. There aren't words for a gift like that. Not only did it bless me because he was remembered, it brought tears to my eyes because whenever we go, he will be a part of it. I told Seth I would proudly wear those ears the whole time were there. 

I love Disney and I long to go, but I follow and trust in a Savior who's plans are better than mine. I don't understand why I don't get to take my little boy with me, I don't understand why He made Bobby the way he did, I don't understand why He took him when he did, but I know He's good. I wish our dreams were becoming a reality when I wanted them to be, but no matter what my dreams may be Gods plans are always better. It sucks. It hurts. It's hard to reconcile it all in my mind and there's pain that won't go away, but somehow it's gonna all work out. I can't wait to see that unfold, I can't wait to tell that story of God's faithfulness on the other side, I can't wait to hold Bobby again. 

For now, I hold fast to the promises God has made in his word even if they don't always make sense to me every day. I know he hears our prayers and I know He knows the desires of this Mama's broken heart. I believe, with confidence, He will make a way for us to go. To have that time at Disney as a family to remember and celebrate our little boys life. When we do go, I know I will have that experience as a Mom to 3 beautiful children even if Bobby only comes with me in my heart. 


When Grief is Unreal.

(My girls playing in our front yard, having a tea party, with "Bobby Bear." One of the sweetest gifts and reminders that even though Bobby is absent from us, his memory will always be a part of us and in a way, he is with us. Moments like this and when reminders of him come in this way it brings tears to my eyes.) 

I'm pretty sure whoever said "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" was wrong. It's a trite phrase that "sounds right," but doesn't bring any sort of comfort to someone who, in the moment, is feeling overwhelmed with grief. I'm talking about the kind of experience the psalmist wrote about: "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me." This is where I find myself. My Dad died this past week, on Mother's Day, and the wave of grief, that follows death is one that hits you hard. It knocks you off your feet, leaves you stunned and completely at a loss for words. The timing feels unreal. First my son and now my Dad. It's a lot. From the outside looking in it feels like a tsunami hit our lives and I'm clinging to Jesus, watching my world wash out to sea. If there was a category to put all this heaviness, I'm pretty sure it would be flooded. God does give you more than you can handle and it's why I need him. I can't carry all this heaviness and loss and I certainly can't understand it without Him. 

Summer is coming soon and it has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Long warm sunny days, pool play dates, ice cream at Jimmie cone, beach trips, and the list goes on. It's one of the most anticipated seasons for our family and one where so many memories are made. 
I'm not looking forward to summer this year, as sad as that is for me to say. Instead of counting down the days to my due date, nesting inside to stay cool, complaining of cankles, and picking berries at Butlers with a huge belly, I'll be remembering my little boy and grieving his loss that still feels so fresh. Instead of calling my Dad on Father's Day, I'll be planning a family gathering to honor him and spread his ashes. 

The heat and humidity won't bother me so much, I won't be nearly as short of breath, and that prize of holding my boy won't be waiting for me in August. These reminders hurt and it makes me realize how much death stings. I still miss Bobby. I'm still sad that this is my life. I'm still holding onto hope that this is gonna work out even though this won't be a summer of dreams fulfilled. 

Bobby's life matters because there's real life, "this is hard", "life sucks", "I can't see the light in the darkness" kind of faith to be lived out for the glory of God. I'm often writing this story when I'm watching the sun rise on a sleepless night, when the tears seem to come in the place of words, when God feels most distant and I need to remember the hope I have as much as I need to remember Bobby's life. God's plan for my life and Bobby's are bigger than ourselves. Trusting in Christ doesn't mean the road is easy and all your troubles go away. 
Losing a child and then a father, especially this way, can feel cruel. In spite of how it feels, I know my Savior knew what it was like to be forsaken so I wouldn't ever have to be forsaken in my darkest night. I know my Savior is "a man of sorrows" and "acquainted with grief." I know my Savior cries with me because he lived in the flesh, he knew humanity, he was "deeply troubled in his spirit" and he wept with Lazarus' family. 

In the grief of death, my Savior's response wasn't to teach and wasn't to fix it, he was there to come alongside the hurting and to cry with them. He is here with us. We are not alone. I have felt that in every card written, every meal made, every bathroom cleaned, and every flower arrangement sent. We have been loved on in the ways our Savior would have when he walked the earth. We have felt this outpouring in ways we never could have expected and we are often speechless at the kindness we have been shown. This dark place would feel even darker if it weren't for so many who are simply walking alongside us, remembering our Bobby, praying for us and helping us with so many practical needs so we can simply grieve. 

All the way my Savior leads me;
  What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
  Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
  Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
  Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
  Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
  Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
  And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
  Lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me;
  Oh, the fullness of His grace!
Perfect rest to me is promised
  In my Father’s blest embrace.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
  Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
  Jesus led me all the way.


One Month Later

(Me & my girls visiting Bobby last week. It was my first visit.)

I feel like a stripped down version of myself, rubbed against sand paper, my thoughts and feelings still coming out very raw. It's been a month since we found out that Bobby died and just a few days shy of his birthday. I've experienced all the after affects of having a baby, but no baby. My milk came and went, hot flashes, night sweats, and sleepless nights. It's funny because looking back on this month, it's with similar feelings and experiences of the newborn stage. The thought of "where did the time go?", "How has it been a month already?" Instead of sitting in a doctors office for a 4 week well visit, I'm sitting in a waiting room at a grief counselors office just across the street from our pediatrician. Life can feel ironic at times.

I went into my sonogram appointment on April 7 and literally came out a different person at the end of the day on April 10. My wandering, anxious thoughts turned into a nightmare of a reality. I miss what life was like before our loss. I miss laughing without wanting to cry after because I think of Bobby and his absence from our lives. I miss enjoying people, rather than just wanting to be alone. I miss looking forward to things and the anticipation of his arrival. The planning, the projects, the dreaming of our future. I miss the innocence of those days, the beautiful simplicity of them. 

Grief was made to be experienced and felt, it's a process, it takes time. Here I am. A month later. Unfortunately, it still sucks. I still cry a lot. I still miss my baby. I still have moments throughout the day when it feels like my life is over. I didn't expect to be better by now, but I guess I expected some progress and a lot of days it's hard for me to see. This is hell. But I'm fighting. I'm taking steps to move forward, to heal and to grieve. Although it's discouraging, the slow goings of this remind me that grief doesn't work on a timetable, I can't will myself to get over this loss, and there are still big things to put behind me.

This week I took steps forward in the darkness and although it never would have been a big deal in my world before, it is now.

I had my first session with an amazing grief counselor. We talked a lot about that first week, how its changed me, and how to live life in my "new normal." I left feeling truly helped and cared for. Having a safe place like that to go is so huge for me right now.  

I contacted the nurse manager at the hospital to discuss the details of my awful nurse experience on the day Bobby was born. Unfortunately, some of the things she did that day have only added to my grief. Although it's painful to talk about I know it will help me move forward. 

We all went out for a family lunch even though there are reminders everywhere when you leave the house. There's no preparing for them. In a lot of ways it's like stepping on a land mine. You step on it. Hear it click. You walk away and it blows up in your face. On this outing, it was a newborn cry in the photo studio on my way to the bathroom in what I thought was a safe place of JC Penney. 

I checked the mail, even though I find reminders there too. Bobby's crib card came and that brought on a whole onslaught of feelings and emotions. I'm so glad to have those things of his to keep, but it's the sad reminder that I left the hospital with no baby in my arms.

We visited Seth at work and spent the morning at Ikea with friends. By some miracle, we made it out the door by 10:15am with 3 kids, snacks and sippy cups. When we get there to unload I realized that I left my purse at home and have no wallet. Thank Jesus for generous friends to cover your tail, but even the most obvious things don't cross my mind these days. I know these things happen to every Mom on any given day, but the obvious things seem to be smacking me in the face more often than before. Even being there was hard, I wanted to go, but hated the reason. I got prints done of Bobby to hang around the house and Ikea is one of the best place to find frames, kids eat free on Tuesdays, so I did it. It was a hard feeling to shake during our time there and another reminder of how life has changed. Things that would have been fun before bring on feelings of sadness now. 

I don't share my life or Bobby's story to illicit pity or to try to be a hero. I don't see myself as amazing or my suffering as spectacular. I don't see this trial as a reason to put myself on a pedestal, to elevate myself, and cry "woe is me." In a lot of ways, there are others who have suffered far greater losses. This is my life and I share it because I hope it can be a means for others to understand what it's like to walk through hell and come out on the other side. To show what its like to be weak, but to be held up by the strength that comes from Jesus. I don't have it all figured out. I struggle to believe sometimes. But my life and this story is authored by Jesus. He bought me. He owns me. He is the one who keeps me. He's engraved me on the palms of his hands and I know he is the one who is carrying me through my darkest night.

Nancy Guthrie's writings have been a huge source of help to me in this time. I had to share this quote from one of her books because it spoke to me and its the truth:

"God does not discount or dismiss your tears. They are precious to him because you are precious to him. In fact, when God reveals glimpses of the culmination of human history--in a future that will fully reveal and be fully worthy of his glory--he includes, as a centerpiece, this promise in Isaiah 25:8 'The sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.' Picture in your mind right now the Lord of the universe reaching down to gently and lovingly wipe away your tears. He doesn't ignore them or tell you that if you really had faith you wouldn't cry. He wipes them away. And Revelation 21:4 tells us that not only will he wipe away tears, he will remove all of the sorrow that caused them. God's plan for the future is to destroy forever the evil that has brought you so much pain and then to live forever with you in a place he has lovingly prepared where there will be no more tears."

I can't wait for that place with no more sadness or pain or loss. I can't wait for all of the tears to be wiped away. I wake up ever day with a deeper longing for heaven than the day before. 
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