My Goodbye Moments

Its so far out of town you think you’ve missed it. But then we get here.

Clicky clack shoes on the road as we both walk from the car, the only noise until my not so silent tears fall down my cheeks. This is when they start.

Looking down at our feet and entwined fingers, the orange catches my eye; it is so much brighter swinging over the black of the road.

Except for holding Daniel’s hand I wish no one to attempt to invade my space or heart right now. Greet me if you wish, but you can’t penetrate my shield in these moments. I am here for a reason, a purpose and this is my last chance. Like a fierce mumma bear protects her cubs, I’ll fight for these moments.

They are a precious gift. Moments to freely celebrate life and acknowledge the death of our dear precious one; others have moved on from this life altering event, simply because its not their life. Though the grief is yet to fade for us.

Grief is so isolating, in so many different ways. It is a wicked dictator. The battle for control of the mind is intense and exhausting. You so wish to not be alone through it, but you can’t invite anyone in as they have to decide to push through the darkness. It is difficult for everyone.

These moments today at the “pregnancy loss memorial service” are a chance for the final goodbye I didn’t know I’d been holding tight on my lips.

With Emmanuelle I walked into the florist knowing that a sunflower was exactly what I wanted… today I walked back into the same florist and I didn’t know. I wanted orange but I didn’t know, nothing was right… then I chose a chrysanthemum. It was perfect.

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I didn’t want to sit down. I didn’t want to meet the chaplains. I had no energy for ‘polite.’ These were my moments, to be raw. To allow my grief to be seen. To not be a tightly shut bottle, all held together. This was my space where I have all the permission I need to be a grieving mother. To sob like I have more dead babies than alive babies. To not be ok, to feel. To be so broken, but stand strong because I’m also not.

I knew what the service would be like; I knew most of what they’d say.

That God loves all he has made…. knit me together in my mothers womb…leave in your safekeeping…. joy into mourning….we ask you today for courage and strength.

 

We laid my chosen bright orange flowers.

We looked up and saw a rainbow. It hadn’t even rained.

We released our balloons.

We turned and walked away. Daniel still held my hand. Our shoes clacked, but once again my arms were empty. I can’t go to one of those services again. I don’t think I’d survive. Daniel says to me, “Last time Yvette, last time.”

This is when my tears stop. For now at least.

But my love for Steven James never will.

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“How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only a moment you stayed. But what an imprint your footsteps have left upon our hearts.” — Ferguson

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Risk in Adventure

 

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.“ 

Alvin Toffler

I finished high school and spent four years at bible college- I could argue spirituality, biblically and theologically quite well, in fact sometimes I opposed just for the fun of it. From a twenty-one year olds perspective with such little life experience, I had certain faith in a big God despite any circumstance. Then when we lost Emmanuelle I had to unlearn and relearn so much of what I thought I knew about Jesus. In most ways it was easy to accept the sovereignty of God and place our grief and loss in His hands believing it was a safe place. Yes there was hurt and confusion, but sovereignty; who can expect to fully understand that? The ending of hope and beginning of faith.

I spent months and years relearning what I knew about Jesus; to truly profess His goodness from the deepest darkness and valley. Relearning my understanding of sovereignty, faith, trust and goodness in the storm. My whole worldview, my faith and really my whole person became totally different, I changed. It has taken me years to chisel out of the cement casing of grief; a place devoid of my own identity and all joy to finally feel the light and live in the world again. But in that place I knew and trusted Jesus, so I emerged with Him as I had found Him there.

My struggle now is how much can I unlearn and relearn about Jesus…. again? I did that once before, through grief and so many questions without answers. Now, to move forward from here, I have to unlearn and relearn once again. But they are fresh wounds, some are still scabby….

In your first pregnancy your body doesn’t know what it’s doing, the uterus is stretching for the first time and it takes time. With our first I was smaller at 15weeks then I was at 7weeks with Steven (five pregnancies later). My body remembered what to do and did it.

For my pain and wounds, it is fresh, and gushing blood is what they remember how to do. I’m afraid to open those wounds and lose too much.

It was easier to unlearn about Jesus after losing Emmanuelle. Then relearn after months and months of longing and trying for another healthy child. To throw out what I used to know, keeping only the foundational truths, and spend over two years building upon those foundations with completely different perspectives and heart state. To so soon do that again, I’m afraid.

 

When Daniel and I were dating we talked and dreamed of a life that was anything but ordinary, we dreamed of an adventure. We craved travel, new things, hard things that would make us grow, children, joy, life, obedience to Jesus no matter the cost. We desired adventure.

Last week my friend shared this picture on his Facebook:

Pretty much, no matter how bad it got- broken bones, getting lost or attacked by a bear- so long as you didn’t die it could be counted as a good adventure.

I don’t know that I really want to put my life in a questions flow chart like this… I fear the questions being blunt and compartmentalized. Never what we imagined or hoped, but life has certainly been an adventure so far!

I think that is part of the struggle, once again we’ve been blindsided with pain, something contrary to our resolved belief. There is disappointment in the unexpected. Do I fear unlearning and relearning again? Do I fear adventure? Do I fear getting suffocated in the cement of grief? That cases me in a moment of time the rest of the world long leaves behind? Every new day brings so much uncertainty as I strip back what I’ve had to unlearn and relearn.

So what do I know is foundational? God is sovereign. God is love. God is faithful. God is good. God is there.

Now, deeper than ever before, those truths have to soak again.

 

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord…when they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessing… When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings…you keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle…. I waited patiently for the lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground, and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing.

Psalm 84:5-6; 61:2-4; 56:8; 40:1-3

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living the unimaginable- except i can imagine

 

Actually it should’ve been the third birthday party for a little girl. I would’ve stayed up late the night before to make a cake, something girlie of some description I think. 17th of April is already an imaginary day, a day Emmanuelle should’ve been born. But not as Emmanuelle but as a healthy and whole girl we hoped and dreamed and prayed for, a little girl we had talked about since before we were married.

Except its not. We’re here…. Again. The same room. The same clock. Listening to women cry as multiple healthy lives enter this world and we wait for death to labor into our hearts again.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

We aren’t living the unimaginable…. once we saw our baby as more than a seven week blob, we knew the dark white of bone was missing around the head. And we knew. We knew what lay ahead. Death. Again. Loss. Again. Pain. Again. Grief. Again. Confusion. Again. Questions. Again.

I can imagine the stormy days morphing into stormy weeks, aching arms and sleepless nights. I can imagine the affect on relationships that are only just starting to feel repaired after our last loss. I can imagine the lack of words, our own and others, and depth of emotion. I can imagine exactly what it feels like to keep living as a grieving parent because I already am. I can imagine, because in so many ways, its somewhere we’ve already been.

I couldn’t sleep waiting for the appointment, so as the sun rose I prayed the prayer- I hoped, I begged, I demanded. A prayer I refused to pray with Emmanuelle, I couldn’t risk the hurt. But I prayed the prayer this day that Jesus would turn and be so distracted by my cry he would have to act. He would be the God of miracles and change our story, protect us from walking this path again. That He would see my tears and show His care and love for me and act. That my feelings could interrupt his sovereignty…. what was I thinking?

As we drove in the car, the stupid Christian radio station was talking about how God is good and we just have to trust that He acts at the exact right time. I pushed the button off and we listened instead to my dad’s playlist of Billy Joel. Safe from christianese with that!

The ultrasound on Friday was with our really good sonographer from Emmanuelle, her name is Karen and she treats us like people. She called my name and hugged me as we walked down the hallway to the room, remembering us and in disbelief that we were here again. A heartbeat and perfection in nearly every way, yet still Daniel and I left the room with silent tears streaming down our face.

 

God had done nothing.

 Edit   
We cannot fault the care we received at the hospital this time; Perhaps because miscarriage and pregnancy loss isn’t such a taboo subject anymore? Or because it’s our second time walking this valley and the staff were so much more enraged at the unfairness of it? – Which I know because a doctor was honest and told us that. I’m thankful she said that; it revealed the slightest chink in her brave stone armor, revealing her humanity-, which lets face it everyone needs in his or her doctor…or who knows what the reason may be?

The clock is relentless, it just keeps ticking, honestly doesn’t stop. Time keeps passing and I can’t pause any moment no matter how good or bad it is or how much I wish it.

tick tock.

Perhaps the greatest help was the wonderful midwife who cared for us with our second son cared for us this day. She’d come in to say goodbye as her shift ended at 330 and I was talking about something and all of a sudden there was a pop, gush of water and a few minutes later at 322pm our third son, Steven James was born. Born into the arms of Jesus. He is named after his two grandfathers. He was perfect. Ten fingers and ten toes. A smiling mouth and beautiful little boy. From the tips of his toes to just above his big blue eyes everything was perfect, the miracle of life will never cease to amaze me.

 

steven james | laying beside my pinky finger

 
It took us over two years to be blessed with our beautiful healthy second son, a boy who has bought so much healing and joy to our lives and hearts. For me to realize I love him for who he is and will be was a moment I realized just how changed and healed my heart was that had radical implications. Then we didn’t even ask for this gift specifically and we were given it- looked like a baby, smelled like a baby, felt like a baby- almost, well actually at the time it did feel like a perfect ending to forming our family. An easy unexpected blessing we were happy to receive, perhaps even unspoken one that I felt due.

Then we unwrap it and through my dense heavy fog of grief, anger and sadness I see Jesus shoving his face in mine yelling “jokes” as inside is not a baby. It’s the exact same list of negative things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. The list that I don’t even want to type again. I’m angry with Jesus. And I’m learning that that’s ok to admit. (I’ve wrestled with the honesty of this paragraph, and hope that those reading read that it is through a haze of anger and grief that I depicted Jesus in this way in this moment.)

Daniel and I had some special moments with Steven James, to hold him and love him. Tell him how beautiful he is and pray thanking Jesus for his life. Be amazed at how perfectly human he is at such a young age. Ribs and organs, ears and big blue eyes

  

Before everything; before I started bleeding and passing clots, before I last breastfed our baby boy in the early hours of the morning and didn’t realize it would be the last time I fed him intimately like that, before bad ultrasounds, before gastro and stomach infections. Before all of that. Just a little over a week ago, I commented to Daniel one afternoon just how good God was. I’d been thinking about it; He has blessed us with five precious children, cared for us, loved us and guided us through the darkest valleys and celebrated with us on the joyful peaks. He is good and I’m thankful. He’s done so much for us.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

The clock ticked into the night. A few hours earlier I birthed our boy and immediately began to sob as my heart broke once again. Daniel held me tight while our beautiful midwife Mischa stood silently to the side thinking I can’t even imagine. There was no joy in that room.

As the woman across the hall grunted out “this hurts so much” and was told to breathe, breathe and birthed a healthy baby, I heard the first newborn cries.

I gratefully took the sleeping tablet offered me in the room dimly lit by medical machinery and thought, “does all of this, does today, does it change the fact that God is good. Is that not just who He unchangably still is?”

Tick tock. Tick tock.

disbelief

Sixth day late. Third and last test. And I didn’t know how I would feel, negative or positive, I wasn’t sure.

Then came two lines, though one was light, my eyes immediately filled with tears. I wanted this, was ready for this and my heart filled with joy. I knew it in an instant. It was so different to before; I had no concern, no worry- just joy.

After over eighteen months of trying to conceive our second son, this was a little shock when not even trying and we’d have two under two.

No concern, no worry. Who had I become? I didn’t realize until now just how healing our precious baby boy was. We’d told close friends face to face while on holidays and shared my lack of concern and disbelief at how it happened. Jesus must be in this – there is a plan.

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5 | 8 | 11

 

I hit nine weeks and suddenly the sickness and exhaustion hit with a vengeance, obviously trying to make up for the eight previous weeks of health.

My sleeping was so affected, completely exhausted yet wide-awake for hours on end.

Then I went to hospital one night, and home again- got to love battling a gastro created stomach infection! Then the next night I should’ve gone to hospital but as I’d heard the birds start I decided to wait the extra few hours and just go to the GP. “Bleeding or any kind of cramping and you get an ultrasound Yvette”- so off we went, even though I only had some cramping, the concern was a miscarriage.

You recite the history- fifth pregnancy; two children, one early miscarriage, one baby with acrania and this little baby.

I definitely didn’t need to drink the sickness and funny dance-inducing litre of water; my uterus is up and visible already at ten weeks five days.

 

A heart beat.

Sigh of relief, that’s good news.

Concern for the skull.

Baby just doesn’t look right- actually the sonographer’s choice of words, because by nature they suffer from fear of commitment, is “I have some concern for the skull and will need the doctor to check.”

 

She was looking early to give us peace of mind. This was just an ultrasound to check for a heartbeat. I’d had no concern or worries even with our skull checking scan next week. In fact I wasn’t even thinking of it like that. Everything was ok and this baby was our easy joyful miracle, a blessing.

 

Rug pulled from under us.

 

I fainted in the car about ten minutes after leaving the ultrasound place; my valiant husband carried me to the emergency room door and banged for help. An overnight stay in hospital with nurse care and sleeping tablets. Not that they really worked… It’s been 24hours since I’ve seen our boys and my heart is aching. And I’d thought stomach infection was the worst the week was going to get!

I’m so thankful for our family day care mum who just stepped up and filled our “we have no family close” gap and watched our boys last night, and my mother who drove through the night to be here today.

Daniel went home and has seen our boys, our big boy who is constant joy through highs and lows and overseas adventure escapes. And our precious little boy who is a rainbow after darkest storms. I need that reminder; I need their cuddles and open-mouthed kisses. To be reminded that I can carry and deliver a healthy baby.

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We had another ultrasound today, with the “best specialist” in town; who’d made up her mind after yesterday’s scans and thought todays were a waste of time. She was not helpful or compassionate and got the first brunt of emotional Yvette. But as she said, she could not even imagine what we’re going through, so tough luck for her.

So now we’re here and waiting. On the second floor maternity ward next to the two ladies sharing their after-birth stories while one rubs their large healthy baby filled belly.

A doctor will come soon I’m sure- but until then, my head is full of questions, concerns and misunderstandings. So easy to fall pregnant with not even an inch of worry and in under a minute dreams and purposes of a healthy life are destroyed, and once again my womb is a place containing death.

In America each year, 3 out of 10,000 pregnancies are babies with acrania. Daniel and I are selfless: we are 2 out of the 6 in 20,000. Well actually it’s a worse statistic because we live in Australia.
But I can’t joke about it. This sucks. I don’t want to believe it.

Ok so I’m back editing this and thought- hey lets see what the actual Australian statistic is.

In 2001, the Australian estimated birth prevalence of
                       neural tube defects was 0.5 per 1,000 births (National Perinatal Statistics Unit).

I hate this.

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Faith like a boat 

I drive over this creek mouth daily. Depending on tides the row of boats are either resting on the creek bed or on the right day bopping on the blue water that’s island blue like in the movies.
At low tide one particular little white boat rests there like all the others; it looks like a boat, acts like a boat; it’s a boat!


But then high tide comes and it does not float, it’s not functioning as a boat should. It’s the moment to shine, to back up all that talk with action and it just fills with water.


Faith is a boat.

It can look like, talk like, act like faith. But in the moment to shine- pressure, challenges, valleys, persecution, when you gotta put it in to action. Does your faith float or sink?
What does your belief in Jesus actually look like?

The last few weeks every time I’ve driven over the bridge and seen the boat, fully submerged, looking like a competent boat, half and half; every time God has spoken to me about my faith in Him.

I felt like this challenge had to be shared  with someone today.
In the moment to shine, is your faith a boat? Or just looking like one?

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 Joy 

You never expect the betrayal. The failure. The frustration or pain. The anxiety. The longing. It’s your body you should be able to trust it to just work and do it right. The miracle of conception is intricately incredible; yet somehow it just happens. God is so clever in his creation of humanity… Except for when it doesn’t work like that.   

Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, acrania .. You lose all trust in your body to do what it should competently be able to do. After you’ve experienced this you lose the joy that is associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Fear, anxiety, worry, concern all rooted in this lack of trust for your body; its failed you once what’s to stop it failing you again.     

The robbing of pregnancy joy is one of the meanest things. It affects relationships; infertility, recurrent miscarriages, pregnancy loss, long journeys to conception, health concerns for mum and Bub, super fertile couples who never have a worry. How do women communicate over so much variation of experience?     

But what is perhaps meanest about pregnancy no longer having instant easy joy- is that it isn’t just pregnancy that you struggle to find joy in. When successful (even the fact you talk like that) it’s child birth and the new life also. It’s sometimes almost effort to find joy in your newborn, not from lack of love, but you have to fight through the fear and memory of storms and death. 

  
 
It’s hard to forgive your body for failing you. But then you have a healthy child after your storms and grief and longing… And slowly but surely this is the deepest healing that takes place and then, joy. But in a different experience, not because everything just happened as it should. But because you survived pregnancy, conquered fear and relearnt how to open your heart to baby love again- and in some ways it’s a deeper more beautiful joy than you ever knew possible. 

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Hospital staff | #Iwanttotalkaboutit

“Don’t worry it’s just bits and pieces” I heard the orderly next to me say while he held a medical esky and we waited for the elevator down from the maternity ward. The kind I knew my 16 week old daughter would have been in just days before, I wondered if he carried her also calling her that? I’d just left a follow-up appointment just a few days after having Emmanuelle.

I’m trying hard to speak positively, but this topic had me stumped. I’m certain there are midwives who understand and doctors who care, but that was not always our experience.

 

Our first miscarriage 

The day of six weeks pregnant I woke with some spotting, ring the hospital. “No need to worry unless the blood increases and you start to cramp.”

A few hours later, on one of the busiest weekends of our year, the blood increased and the pain began. After time in the little eight bed ED of our town, I drove to the city for more waiting. After many more hours and tests I signed a form to leave against medical advice. The doctor wanted to give me medicine to induce a miscarriage when I knew I’d already lost the baby. Being a weekend no proper ultrasound was available to check either way, but I wanted to be home with my boys. The poor doctor received the brunt of my cyclone of emotions.

 

Emmanuelle
Our first ultrasound started like any other, at nearly twelve weeks we had no reason for concern and were filled with excitement. The sonographer was chatty until she wasnt. Something was wrong, she’d never done this before and clearly didn’t know how to handle it so didn’t.

We went back to the doctor nearly straight away. He’d never had to tell someone news like this before, you could tell. He didn’t know the answers to our questions, but tried his best. He didn’t reassure us or offer us hope, he couldn’t. Instead the room filled with my tears and unanswered questions.

 

Our experience with medical staff was not the greatest; birthing a baby who will never take a breath is so confronting and not all midwives are the right people for in the room. There was however one shining light. Helen the ultrasound lady. She was the third ultrasound I had, and she took her time, she answered questions, she explained, she was kind. I think I visited her nearly ten times over the course of Emmanuelle’s life and then in follow-up. And when things weren’t right and taking too long, she made the doctors see me as a priority and I had a d&c.

 

Our rainbow baby
It was so important to me to be in a continuity of care model for our fourth pregnancy and birth. The midwife needed to know that there was so much more than joy happening in that birth suite. Our midwife was perfect she reminded me that there was life, joy and she knew me. I trusted her, and in my vulnerable moments she cared perfectly. I’m not ready to talk about all of that yet- but Mischa, I don’t have words for how grateful I am for your care.

You remember the first doctor, the one I fought to leave to give my body a chance? I saw her numerous times over the next two years, she always remembered me when she saw my name. She journeyed with us and often was on the receiving end of my frustration that my body just wasn’t doing what it should be. A few hours after our healthy baby boy was born, she came in and signed me out. She was finally part of our joy, and after everything, she let me give her a hug. That takes a special kind of person, one who makes a very  good doctor.

 

 

 

 

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