Friday, March 31, 2017

Changing the conversation on miscarriage

I had a miscarriage--two actually. 

Tomorrow marks exactly one year since our second child went to heaven. It had been seven months since our infant son, Ethan, had passed away and we had cautiously opened our broken hearts to make room for another child. We knew that we would never be 100% without hurt this side of heaven, but we felt confident that we had plenty of love to go around. On April 1, I woke up to discover that Ethan's younger brother or sister had joined him in heaven. It was as if our baby left as quickly as he or she came. 

Four months later, I became pregnant for a third time. A part of me was terrified of what may come, but my heart opened wide to the possibility of heartache. A mother's love starts at that first discovery of new life and I dove headfirst into embracing the life was grew inside of me. I breathed a sigh of relief when I passed the 6 week mark and began to dream about the future. 

Our third child joined his or her siblings in heaven when I was 8 weeks pregnant. My body, just like my heart, didn't want to move on. It would be an entire month before my body finally realized what my heart already knew--our baby was gone. 

Talking about my miscarriages hasn't come easy for me. At times, I've sat down to consider why it has been so easy for me to talk about the loss of Ethan and why I have hesitated to talk about the other two children that I have lost. In my observations, it all comes down to the way that our society views miscarriage--the way our society views life in general. 

One of the reasons that we don't talk about miscarriage is because society tells us that it isn't a big deal. Perhaps we have bought into the lie, even if only subconsciously. Perhaps we hesitate to share about our miscarriages because each time we have, we've quickly been dismissed and assured that our experience is scientifically normal. 

This happens all the time. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss. 

Your baby probably had a chromosomal abnormality. They probably wouldn't have survived or would have had a lot of problems. This is nature's way of speeding up the inevitable. 

It's no big deal. Wait one cycle and try again. 

At least it was early. At least you never had a chance to meet them and get attached. 

Yes, miscarriage is much more common than any of us ever realize until it penetrates our world. Yes, most miscarriages do occur because of a chromosomal abnormality. Yes, miscarriages are a natural part of life. 

But normal does not mean painless. Normal does not equate to "no big deal". 

It is for this reason that miscarriage brings women a unique, and often silent, kind of pain. It takes a toll on both the body and the heart. For me, our miscarriages opened the wounds of shame, inadequacy, and abandonment that I had battled after the death of our infant son.  Yes, the pain of miscarriage was much different than the pain of losing Ethan, but I refuse to compare them--it would be like comparing apples and oranges. Both types of loss are painful. Both carry their own unique set of sorrows. Both result in the death of a dream, shattered hopes, and ultimately, the passing of a child. 

At least it was early. At least you never had a chance to meet them and get attached. 

I wish I had a chance to get attached. I wish I knew the color of their eyes, whether they were boys or girls, and whether they looked as much like their dad as their brother did. I wish they were more than precious strangers, loved unconditionally without any knowledge of who they were. 

Your baby probably had a chromosomal abnormality. They probably wouldn't have survived or would have had a lot of problems. This is nature's way of speeding up the inevitable. 

Although this statement may be true, it shocked me to realize how much I subconsciously allowed this way of thinking to impact the way that I viewed new life. Perhaps the doctors were right; perhaps they were too sick anyway. Perhaps we were better off without them. Despite the possibility of any genetic "defects", these babies each have unique souls. Their conception was miraculous. 

Miscarriage is a taboo subject in our society and so many women keep their experiences to themselves. I know I did. Sometimes it was for fear of what types of insensitive yet well-meaning remarks I’d receive as a response. Other times it was because it was just too painful to bring up that I had been pregnant, only to explain that my third child had gone to heaven. Often it was because of shame and guilt. At times, it was from fear of being dismissed and made to feel as if my pain was silly. 

Let's change the conversation on miscarriage. May we join hands and encourage one another, regardless of when our losses may have occurred or how different our experiences may look. If you have had a miscarriage, you have permission to mourn. You have permission to grieve. You have permission to call yourself a mother. You have permission to call them your children. Each life, no matter how short, matters. Their lives, no matter how short, deserve to be celebrated and grieved. A loss is a loss. A life is a life. May we continue to cling to hope, knowing that our precious children are forever without defect, celebrating eternity in heaven. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

All of it

Lately, I've been challenged to consider how much I trust God. It's easy for me to say that he is in control. It's easy to encourage others to put their trust in him when things begin to fall apart. The words roll off my tongue so effortlessly--put your trust in him. But how much do I really, truly trust him when the rubber meets the road and the unimaginable begins to unfold? 

Losing Ethan challenged my trust in God. When the doctors told us that our son may not survive, I knew that God had a plan. Yes, I was so afraid. Yes, my heart was filled with questions. Yes, I knew that God was sovereign. After years of unexplained infertility, we had miraculously conceived--I saw God's hand in every aspect of Ethan's existence. Despite my absent menstrual cycles and taking a break from "trying", he was given to us. Despite my fears, I trusted that God was intricately forming each piece of Ethan's body and held each heartbeat in his hands. I knew that God was sovereign in both life and death. As Ethan breathed his last breath, cradled in our arms, my broken heart knew that God was sovereign in each of the 93 minutes our son was on this earth and would continue to be sovereign as we grappled with his death. Not saying it was easy--but deep down I knew it. And that added to my questioning--I never doubted God's sovereignty, I only questioned his love for us. Through my groaning, searching, and seeking, he drew near to me and began to reveal just how deep his love is. I began to see how much he loves us--enough to send his Son to die in my place, to abolish death, pain, and suffering once and for all. 

It may be easy to assume that I was completely placing my trust in God. Yes, our journey with Ethan strengthened my trust in God--but there were corners of my life I still held with a tight grip. If we're honest, I think many of us find ourselves there. We fully surrender certain areas of our lives, while clinging fiercely to other precious pieces. This is my safe space, we say. I trust you with the other stuff, but this is mine. 

In the following year, we lost two more babies. Several months later, a doctor officially diagnosed me with an endocrine disorder that threatened the possibility of carrying more children. With each compounding loss, I struggled to trust. I cried out to God to help me to trust in him with my dreams. Help me to surrender the part of my life I've held the most dear. Help me to give it all to you. 

Sometimes trust grows through kicking, screaming, and wrestling--there was a lot of that. It wasn't perfected by any means, but it did grow somewhat. It's easy for us to think we have it all figured out when that happens. 

I lost three children and was diagnosed with frustrating, and sometimes physically painful, condition--I've proven my faithfulness. I look at those words and they sound ridiculous. Of course I didn't have it figured out--and I knew that then. But it's easy to subconsciously think we're doing OK. It's easy to subconsciously think we've paid our dues. 

Last Christmas, my husband was rushed to the hospital after what was supposed to be a quick Urgent Care visit resulted in an abnormal EKG. Before I proceed, I want to add (especially for those of you who know him)--He is fine. He had a bad flu the week before, which caused some inflammation around his heart...which caused his EKG to appear as if he were having a heart attack. He wasn't--but in that moment, we had no idea what was really happening.  

As you can imagine, I was a wreck. I held it together until my husband was safely in the ambulance and then I fell apart. I was terrified for my husband. I was terrified of what may happen next. On top of my fears, I felt the PTSD-like response begin to creep in--the noises, the doctors, the smells all attempt to drag me back to the moment the medical team attempted to revive our son. I couldn't let the anxiety creep in right now. 

I wasn't allowed to ride in the ambulance with him, so I followed in my car. I probably shouldn't have been driving, but I refused to let anyone drive me. I didn't want to wait for them to get to the Urgent Care clinic to pick me up. I needed to be with my husband. 

I screamed and cried the whole way to the hospital. "GOD. Why? Please, please don't take my husband from me. Please, please, please. GOD. I trusted you with our infertility. I trusted you when Ethan was sick, and even after he died! I trusted you when you took our second baby. And our third. GOD. I've trusted you in my diagnosis. I've trusted you with our future family. I trust you with my barrenness. HAVEN'T I SHOWN YOU THAT I TRUST YOU ENOUGH?"

I didn't hear a clear voice and I didn't see a sign from heaven. There wasn't a billboard on the freeway or a song on the radio. But in that moment, I felt a peace wash over me. The questions, the anxiety, and the panic all cleared away and I felt God clearly press this message onto my heart. 

Enough? Kristin, I want you to trust me with all of it. I don't want you to trust me with just some of it. Trust me with everything. Give me all of it. 

We do that, don't we? We give God pieces of our lives and think we've done our duty. We say, "Here God, take my possessions and my career, but don't touch my health. I trust you with my marriage, but not with my children. I give you my past, but let me determine my future. I give you my future, but let me cling to my past."

When we refuse to surrender certain pieces of our lives, are we truly trusting God? Even if we trust him with 95% of our life, can we truly say that we trust him if we are clinging to the other 5%? If we believe that God is who he says he is--that He is good, loving, just, perfect, infinite, all-powerful, merciful, holy, almighty, I AM, faithful--we should trust him with every piece of our lives. If we withhold even just one piece from him, are we truly believing that he is everything that he says he is? 

This probably goes without saying, but I am by no means trying to imply that I have this all figured out. Trust is a daily choice--easier on some days than others. Completely surrender is scary and sometimes even incredibly painful. But the pain is temporary--the process is beautifully refining, and often paves the way toward growth and intimacy.  The process is difficult, yet worth it. 

Haven't I trusted you enough? Part of the problem lies in the question itself. In putting perimeters on trust, I was implying that God could only be trusted with specific parts of my life. I was implying that other areas of my life were mine, not his. I've been challenged to consider what areas of my life aren't included in the "enough". What areas am I clinging to that I don't want to let go?

If we're honestly with ourselves, I'd guess that many of us have those areas--those corners of our lives that we don't want to let go of. Yet, God lovingly calls out to us--I want you to trust me with all of it. 

Psalm 139: 23 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts."