Sunday May 13th, 2018 was a hot and sunny Georgia day. Jordan made an early morning golf tee time for us and on the way there I remember feeling like I was going to be sick in the truck. By the time we got to the clubhouse, I was definitely going to be sick. As he checked us in and grabbed our cart I ran for the bathroom. I was confused because I hadn’t had all that much to drink the night before and hangovers were the only reason for that level of nausea. I shook it off and tried to enjoy the round.
I’ve never made it through 18 holes playing, I don’t do it enough to be great at golf and there’s not a name for how many bogeys it takes me to get in the hole so I just leisurely play here and there along with him, riding in the cart and drinking beer when I don’t feel like hitting. This day I tired out way before 9 holes which was especially early. I hit once off the tee box early on the back 9 and snapped by driver so that was the end of my golf day.
Driving home I still wasn’t feeling well and it was only then that I started getting suspicious. Jordan stopped for pregnancy tests on the way home. I didn’t believe the first two so he went back out for a different kind. Five positive pregnancy tests later I couldn’t deny it any longer, Avery was growing away in there.
I was terrified. A week earlier I was throwing back tequila shots on Cinco de Mayo and here I was on Mother’s Day, a first time mother. I’m tempted to say expectant mother but I can’t say what I was expecting exactly and the truth is I was a mom right then and there. I had no idea how to be pregnant. I was so worried I had already caused my baby harm with my lifestyle. I was a 25 year old smoker who loved to drink and eat way too much fast food.
Here’s what I learned since my first Mother’s Day: I’m not a perfect mom, but I was and will always be a good mom. I did the best I could with what I had at the time. In the end it wasn’t the alcohol, the cigarettes, the bad diet in the beginning that caused Avery’s death. It was my blood disorder, which I no longer blame myself for not knowing about. He taught me so much; about myself, about life, about carrying babies. He made me a mother and all that I learned by having him will make me an even better mother to his siblings and for that I will be forever grateful for my firstborn. I have made huge & healthy changes in my life that needed to happen, that only came to light by carrying Avery. Mother’s Day last year changed everything for me, I live for Avery & I will live for my babies, just as most mothers would say they do. I am healthier and happier than I have ever been. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for this blessed life he has chosen for me.
In this journey of living without Avery I have met some amazing mothers I never would have known otherwise. Mothers who have also said goodbye to their babies, mothers who find ways not only to go on with their lives but live fulfilling lives that honor their children and the impact that they have on our world. They (we) are the strongest mothers that exist.
To the mother’s who’s hearts are broken and lonely, with empty arms and teary eyes this mother’s day know that I am with you. I see you, I hurt with you and I hurt for you. I’m sorry we are this kind of mother, this is not the motherhood we would have chosen. But I choose Avery, I choose to be his mom. Painful and cruel as it is at times, I take the good with the bad, the tears and the memories. I wouldn’t change my motherhood. I am no less a mother than any one who raised children all her life. And neither are you reading this. From one mother to another I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Whatever this day looks like to you, whatever you have to do to get through it, you are and will always be, the best mother your child could have.
Happy Mother’s Day Mamas. You have all my love & prayers.
I don’t write to you often sweet boy, I don’t know if it’s because I think it’s too hard or because I talk to you in my head constantly all day long. When I got pregnant with you I started talking to you all the time, telling you about the world and how it would be when you got here. I like to think that I talked to you so much that you got to skip this broken world and go right to heaven.
Broken is exactly what this world is and I can’t allow my heart to harden with it, going dark as fast as the tragedies that happen in this life. In the four months since you left us I feel like I see disaster all around and all the time. This world has fallen so far from grace and I could let myself too if I get wrapped up in thinking I have any control over it.
Much loved babies die in their mothers, leaving a hole in a life that was supposed to be. A kind and caring fiancé with a huge heart drifts off to sleep and never wakes up, leaving a beautiful bride to be heartbroken. There are tornadoes that rip through towns and take everything in possession. There are evil people that murder innocent people simply for their existence, who they are, and what they believe.
“Should we accept only good from God and not adversity? Job 2.10 CSB
No race, religion, ethnicity; no age, net worth, or social status makes us exempt from pain and suffering. It happens to us all. It can happen to anyone, anything can. And when it does it’s not only okay to talk about but it’s vital to talk about because these are our stories. This is the testimony of our imperfect lives. We aren’t meant to live out anyone’s testimony but our own, therefore to gain understanding and get the most out of our experiences by using them to help others, we have to share our stories. And to share we have to be ready to hear other’s stories.
You, Avery, are my testimony. Or the start of it anyway. I don’t know what my future looks like, I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. What I do know is I have a son in heaven with God and I’m on my way to meet him. The rest I pray for comfort in knowing God will handle.
And if I’m grateful for anything in this unbearable situation, it’s for the fact that you know nothing about pain, my Avery. You never hurt for a second of your life down here and that is something good to cling to. You are perfect and not broken and therefore deserve nothing less than heaven.
This is an issue I’m learning nearly every loss parent encounters in some form or fashion and I can’t help but feel like it’s an issue we can easily solve. Unnecessary triggers is what I’m going to call them. The formula samples. The social media advertisements. The coupons and flyers for baby products. The need for so many companies to remind me of what I don’t have.
If social media has the power to know I was pregnant, it must also know I didn’t get to bring that baby home.
If companies can know I might be interested in samples of baby products, they should also know that their insensitivity doesn’t remind me Avery died but it makes the pain that much sharper.
Days after we got home from the hospital, Similac sent us what looked like a gift box of formula and other samples. My husband is the greatest man I’ll ever know and always has my best interest at heart. He knows I’m a strong woman but I have a kind heart that breaks easily in this broken world and he does his best to protect it. He hid the gift box in our cabinet, why I don’t know but I’m glad. Weeks later I saw it there when I was looking for a baking dish and I left it there, knowing what it was and assuming what was in it to an extent.
Last month we did some traveling and at one point our kitchen table looked like this. It wasn’t so much that we didn’t have the time to clean or the time to want to clean as much as the flyer that came in the mail one day asking me how my little one’s tummy is doing? Fortunately for that company I did have to organize it eventually and threw it away so I can no longer tell you who that culprit was.
For some reason God decided that this week it was time to talk about these unnecessary triggers. I read a great blog postabout how the pregnancy ads don’t stop when the pregnancy does. I read a post on Refuge in Grief about the sheer number of triggers grieving people have to endure. Two instagram friends shared complaints about Similac. That sparked something in me. Obviously Jordan didn’t watch Tidying Up or he would’ve banished the Similac gift box to the trash for not sparking joy when we got it instead of hiding it in the cabinet. Thank goodness he didn’t because I went for it the other night after I heard and read complaints from other moms, and what I opened to find unleashed a fury within in me I wasn’t aware of before.
Well I headed to Facebook to do my sharing.
Their response was underwhelming.
Grieving people are hurting and you are throwing our hurt in our faces, not only reminding me of my pain but magnifying it.
Unnecessary pain on top of pain. Unnecessary hurt on top of hurt. In a world where we have so much information in near realtime, these companies can know better. When people use pregnancy loss hashtags we should not show them ads for baby products. When people get their mail they shouldn’t be sent a gift box of 3 cans of baby formula they not only did not buy but they never signed up to receive. That’s 22.8 ounces of milk powder that could have gone to a baby that needed it instead of them sending it to me and stirring up emotions that I’ve become all too familiar with in the last 4 months. (Yes, I will look to donate after I’ve let myself have all the feelings about it.)
These companies have more money than they know what to do with and technology to achieve goals they haven’t even thought of yet. Can’t they use it to recognize the motherhood I’ve found myself in? In the blog post I referenced above she gives some great settings changes you can make in social media which is obviously helpful for now…
BUT. They can do better. And after all we’ve been through as parents who have just said goodbye to their babies, we deserve better. I shouldn’t have to change my social media settings when tech companies apparently know my every move through their site cookies or whatever. I should not have to open my mail to find baby products I never signed up for.
So to anyone exposing grieving people to unnecessary triggers this message is for you, we see you. I see you and I’m asking that we find a way to avoid exposure of these triggers to mothers that will come after me.
Monday was my first day back to work and the waiting is the hardest part. I wake up when Jordan leaves which is too early to start getting ready so I toss and turn, falling in and out of sleep until I’m jolted awake to remember what my life is. After doing this so many times I get tired of fighting sleep and just get up. I’m ready way too early and then comes the waiting. The anxiety. The fear. I’m okay once I’m there but for that half hour I spend at home waiting to leave for work, I’m full of angst about the day.
I think back to right after Avery died and how things were so dark but I still managed to be grateful for the paid time off to recover both mentally and physically. I remember thinking there’s no way I can just go back to work after this. But here I am and I’m proud of myself.
All I have been able to think about in the mornings is how I should be getting a three month old ready for daycare, how I thought I’d be crying dropping him off instead of crying over never holding him again.
Regardless the change in reason for my tears, they came during my short commute. My best friend and office mate was waiting in the parking lot to tell me “you can do this”. I love her so much and am so glad this job brought us together.
This year is my third year working at my job and I have met and seen many friends and acquaintances come and go. There are only two employees in my department who have been here longer than I have now. I like my job and after working service jobs for years, I’m blessed to have a desk job I can wear leggings to and not interact with many people. It has made coming back easier on me to know that everyone is supportive and easing me back into my tasks as opposed to just throwing me back into everything I had been doing. Everyone was excited to see me, maybe if only to know I’m alive. And I didn’t feel like anyone pitied me which is what I had asked for upon returning. I know it’s sad but I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I want to be Avery’s Mom, Elizabeth, not just the mother who lost her baby.
One of the relationships I’ve formed over my few years here is with the custodian whom I have never met. We have written hundreds of notes back and forth that range from the weather to weekend plans to family and so on. He is a sweet and hardworking man. When I first started he used to leave candy with his notes until another employee complained (every office has one or more of those people that are determined to ruin a good work environment). Anyway, my friend wrote to him when I went on leave to tell him what had happened (side note: do other loss parents appreciate the kindness of close friends sharing the tragic news for you as much as I do? Because there have been times when it has been a blessing for people simply already know about Avery as opposed to me telling the story over and over). So I came back to a note from him on Monday and both yesterday and today he has left me letters that have brought tears of pain, joy, pride and grief all mixed together to my eyes. It goes to show that you can be so kind that people who have never met you in person know how kind you really are.
That first morning I would have said getting ready was the worst part but by the end of the day it was a tie between that and the drive home. I unraveled as soon as I turned out of the parking lot. I fell deep into flashbacks of having the placental abruption in the car and driving home that day. I felt worthless for not going to the day care to pick Avery up. After the first 8 hours away from him, I imagined myself smothering him with love after missing him all day while I worked. Instead I miss him all day every day and all night through my sleep.
I was glad to see the truck in the driveway when I got home. I collapsed into Jord and sobbed those hard, heavy, reviving tears. There are so many moments Avery should be in and it threatens to break me when I fall too far into how I would be mothering him right now, where I’d be taking him, how much I’d be feeding him, how big he’d have gotten in these three months, the list goes on. Everything I do I picture him doing too in some parallel universe where he lived to be a healthy, normal baby. It’s suffocating, this grief, knowing that the more I experience, the more moments that he’s not in add up. I miss him so much I can’t breathe sometimes. But then it’s softens until the next wave hits.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” This used to be one of my favorite comforting lines. However did you know it’s found no where in the Bible? Probably because it’s not true. God will give you more than you can handle. Telling yourself He won’t sets yourself up for devestation. Instead of saying He won’t give me more than I can handle I have altered it to a truer, even more comforting statement. God will give me more than I can handle and then He will give me the grace to come through it.
Today is my third day back to work and I never thought I could handle coming back after Avery died but I have and God willing, I’ll get up and do it again tomorrow. Not because I’m strong or brave but because it’s my only option and when I don’t think I can handle something, I can rest assured that God can.
One week before I am to return to work and the progress I’ve made is in some kind of gray area, which I’m thinking is how my life is going to be colored from now on. There is no longer a clear good and bad, right and wrong. It all seems to have shifted toward some middle area of being neutral.
I’m not the shocked mother to be whose baby just died anymore, nor am I back the being the person I was before I had Avery. The carefreeness of it all is gone, innocence lost. I don’t feel I have a right to say when something is going to happen anymore. “Whens” are reserved for innocent women who have never had tragedy touch their lives. “Whens” become “ifs” when you lose a child. There is so much that is out of my control.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15 NIV
Many grieving mothers share the triggers of pregnant women and newborn babies and I have to agree that there is specific pain assigned to witnessing a mother caring intimately for her baby the way I longed to do with Avery. Envy enveloped me at the sight of pregnant women at first, carrying the life of their baby when I couldn’t keep safe my own. I begged God to take this anger and envy from my heart because I’d never wish these mamas and their babies any pain. I’d never wish for a mama to lose her baby too and feel the weight this reality puts on life. Nor do I want her baby for myself. I just want to carry my baby again.
In a way God has taken my envy because it has turned into fear. I see pregnant women and worry they are going to lose their babies too. I see children and wonder if something bad is going to happen to them. I think about getting pregnant again, carrying another baby, treating my disorder right in hopes of bringing him or her home this time, making room in my heart for another child. All I see when I think about it is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of death. Fear of more loss. I want to get excited about trying to get pregnant again soon but I’m not there yet. I’m scared and still so very sad.
I’ve had many people pray I’ll have another baby and I can’t deny how wonderful that is. Right now I don’t need prayers for a new baby. I have a baby and I need prayers for me to have the strength and grace to be the proud mother to an angel. If He has children here on earth in my future, so be it, His will be done. Regardless of any blessings of life He uses me to create and allows me to raise here on earth, I will always have a son to spend eternity with. And a part of me will spend my days counting down until I meet him.
I miss him so much that it hurts more than the physical pain of the night he died. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to have lost an arm or a leg. In no way do I mean to diminish the hardship of losing a limb but in my case then I could at least identify where the pain comes from.
Instead the pain of Avery dying comes from everywhere and exists everywhere, without me being able to put a finger on it and say “that’s it, that right there is where it hurts”.
Everywhere hurts, everything hurts. Everywhere he isn’t and everything he’ll never do, it all hurts.
That’s a lot of words for the small space of a three minute phone call with the nurse from the maternal fetal medicine (MFM) office. I have a heterozygous Factor V Leiden mutuation, a fairly common genetic blood clotting disorder, hetero- meaning it was passed down from one of my parents. It not only causes placental abruption but also slow fetal growth which Avery experienced around 24 weeks. My days will start with a baby aspirin from now on and whenever I do find myself pregnant again, I will require Lovenox injections from 8 weeks on.
The factor V Leiden mutation is associated with a slightly increased risk of pregnancy loss (miscarriage). Women with this mutation are two to three times more likely to have multiple (recurrent) miscarriages or a pregnancy loss during the second or third trimester. Some research suggests that the factor V Leiden mutation may also increase the risk of other complications during pregnancy, including pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (preeclampsia), slow fetal growth, and early separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (placental abruption). However, the association between the factor V Leiden mutation and these complications has not been confirmed. Most women with factor V Leiden thrombophilia have normal pregnancies (1).
Obviously I’m not “most women”.
I thought I’d feel relief having an answer and deep under the darkness I do. I know there are many mothers to stillborn babies that aren’t lucky enough to find an answer. They go on to have future pregnancies and the lack of explanation I can only assume adds a level of fear of the unknown. But I also never thought about how it would feel to know I may have been able to do something to save Avery.
If I had paid attention to my medical history I could have had the specific blood test done which would find the mutation. If I had taken aspirin and done the injections maybe it would’ve saved Avery.
If. Could. Would. Maybe. If. If. If.
Having an answer does not make losing him any easier. No amount of questions is going to bring him back. No amount of answers is going to make losing my baby okay.
In my first meeting with the MFM doctor last week I was tempted to ask how fast Avery’s life was lost, as in did he feel any pain. I didn’t ask because I didn’t know if I could handle the answer, whether I even wanted it.
There are questions in this life that are not meant to have answers. Even where there are answers, they are rarely the ones we want or expected them to be. The answer I wanted to my question about how fast Avery died was he didn’t die, a miracle saved him.
That’s obviously not a possible answer. It’s not God’s answer. His answer is to Trust Him. His plan is not for me to understand.
This morning I realized I can’t play God nor do I want to. I don’t get to decide who lives and dies. Just because I wasn’t aware of this disorder doesn’t mean I caused Avery to die.
Just because you did or didn’t do _*insert guilt here*_ doesn’t mean you caused your baby to die.
Avery belongs in heaven. He may have went a lot sooner than I would have ever planned but I can’t doubt it’s where he belongs.
If placental abruption due to Factor V Leiden is the answer to “What happened?”, God is the answer to “Why?” and with Him there’s not always a clear answer. And that’s okay.
But with Him my guilt has no room to raise a question.
So we fix out eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
January has been a month of trips to honor Avery and all that his existence has meant to our lives. All the credit must go to my better half who planned both the mountains and this island, back when I was numb from shock of losing Avery. He lost his son too though and he knew we both needed this. When we got home from the mountains I thought surely that was the most peaceful trip we could go on but this past weekend I was proved wrong.
Sapelo Island, about sixty miles South of Savannah, is a 16,500 acre island, of which only 434 acres are populated (Georgia Encyclopedia). The rest of the land is forests of different types of trees, dense in some places. Everything from branches to phone wires is draped in Spanish moss. My favorite were the larger oak trees whose many branches formed arches over pathways. The island is divided into North and South ends, the North end being off limits without permission from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In looking for a trip to the Georgia coastline, Jordan came across Sapelo and found the Birdhouses on Airbnb.
The island is not open to all vehicles and must be reached by a twenty five minute ferry ride. Residents can pay $45 to have a vehicle brought over on a barge which runs twice a month; or, in the case of shipping over supplies and building materials, the barge can be rented in whole for $3,000. We learned this from the island resident who picked us up at the dock, I’m going to call her Maisel (because I don’t know how she’d feel about me using her name and as I write this The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is on TV). She forgot us at first and I stood there observing the closeness of the community I just found myself in. There were some students who took the same ferry as us, we left late because we were waiting for their school bus. There were tourists that shuffled into buses to go to the mansion. After fifteen minutes of chaos we were left looking at the settled parking lot that was overflowing with traffic just a moment ago. There aren’t many full time residents of the island, forty five is what Maisel told us. Over the next two and a half days we saw five people at maximum. There didn’t seem to be anyone there to pick us up from the dock though and one of the locals asked us who we were waiting on. They all seemed to know each other which wasn’t surprising on a native island with so few full time residents. He made a call and confirmed Maisel was on her way and she showed up a few minutes later, apologizing for forgetting us. We didn’t care in the slightest, the views of wilderness as far as I could see didn’t make it feel like I had been stranded at all. We got in her truck and headed away from the dock.
On the way to our cottage, after we told Maisel, “Yes, this is our first time on the island”, she gave us so many directions and insights I couldn’t have possibly remembered, or even heard them all. The South end is basically a rectangular grid of paved roads, one is a straightaway connecting the residential community to the mansion and the UGA marine campus, and a road parallel to that which runs along the airport. Other than those the majority of the roads were unpaved dirt, many of which lead to dead ends. Maisel left us with the keys to the golf cart and a map.
The cottage we stayed at was named Candy Cottage and it was part of a building with another apartment and a museum in the front. The building used to be BJ Confectionary which was a bakery and market. The inside of our cottage was decorated in rainbows. Rainbow polka dots on the duvet cover, rainbow rugs, rainbow knives on a magnetic strip on the wall, rainbow silverware handles. Rainbow towels, rainbow dishes and glasses, rainbow polka dotted cabinet knobs. Everything about Candy Cottage was rainbows.
Here I need to diverge into how I feel about the “rainbow baby” term. The day after I lost Avery, after I had spent some time holding him, I gave him back to the nurse and in response to my tears she said, “You’ll be back here with your rainbow baby soon”. I took comfort in thinking about my next baby then but I was in shock and over the next few weeks I became much more aware that the grief for Avery couldn’t be covered up with a rainbow. He wasn’t a storm, he was my rainbow, my first born son and everything I had been dreaming for my life. My emotions collide on this term because on one hand it allows the rest of the world and bereaved parents to come together to celebrate the extraordinary outcome hope can have. But on the other hand I’m predicting that being pregnant with my “rainbow baby” will be a storm in itself. I won’t be able to enjoy the milestones of pregnancy innocently or in a way where I won’t imagine the worst anymore.
My viewpoint on rainbows is this: life is full of them. Babies yes, but also jobs, relationships, anything that colors in your personal world. I don’t think rainbows can be compared. I’ve never looked at a rainbow and said, “You know, that’s a pretty one but it wasn’t as great as this one I saw last year”. Avery is my rainbow and my future babies will be rainbows too.
Despite the fact that I’m neutral on the term “rainbow baby”, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of the cottage we were staying at to be full of rainbow decor. I had to believe it was a sign from Avery, him playing a joke on me. Our first trip in the golf cart was rushing to the closest beach in time for sunset and when I snapped a picture from the top of the dune, I realized it had a rainbow arched contrail from an airplane.
The rainbows weren’t the first signs from Avery. On the very first picture I took from the ferry docked before we set off, a blue dot appeared with the sun’s reflection. I estimate I took around 200 pictures over the weekend and 75% of them have a blue dot in it. Saturday morning for a bit just after sunrise it was green that was showing up in many photos. I could believe it was nothing but light refraction but I can also choose to believe it was a sign from Avery, a sign of his light. Sure, it had something to do with the way the sun was reflecting my camera, I could make it show up at different places by tilting my phone but it was always showing up somewhere.
We visited two different beaches and the lighthouse before lunch, the sun was warm and high in the royal blue sky. Heading back to the cottage for food our cart broke down. I took a picture here which of course had Avery’s blue dot in it. I believed this was him telling me it could’ve been much worse and we could have broke down miles from our place since we had just been driving all over.
We just walked the mile home, ate, and Jordan procured (his word) us another cart to drive. I feel I need to state for the record (his) that I would not have felt nearly as safe on this trip if it weren’t for my husband and his job which requires him to travel via golf cart all day. Many of the roads on Sapelo aren’t for carts and the rest are questionable. I was blessed to be escorted by an experienced driver.
One of the questionable dirt roads was cemetery road and it was washed out by a creek just after the gates, you could only get so far from each end. I took a picture of the cemetery sign and a blue heart showed up in it right next to where it says rest in peace.
With it being hibernation season the island was relatively calm with wildlife. Maisel said gators lay on the sides of the roads in summer and the mosquitoes are unbearable. This time of year was chilly but there was a sense of heightened serenity and desolation in the midst of wintertime. An armadillo ran alongside the road once and another time a raccoon family, a mom and two babies, dashed in front of the golf cart. We saw some baby deer, two wild horses, and many birds I don’t know all the names for, egrets, cardinals, and woodpeckers to name a few. On the beach midday on Saturday we found several dead crabs, horseshoe crabs and a jellyfish. Saturday evening at the dock, at the most Northern part of the island we were allowed to go, not long before dark, a dolphin swam past just as we were walking down. As we were getting the ferry to leave on Sunday there were a couple dolphins playing in the water around the boat.
Saturday was our big day of abundant sunshine and adventure. Sunday was cloudy and had an early afternoon rain shower. Maisel made and brought us lunch, all the journal entries for the cottage talked about her being a great cook so we had to try it out. It was probably the best fried chicken, mac and cheese, and corn I’d ever had and I know it was the best biscuit I’d ever had. We explored a few more hours then we said goodbye for now to Candy Cottage & Sapelo after a weekend of serene desolation in the wilderness with wildlife. The clouds and rain showers didn’t mean we forgot what a gorgeous day of blue sky Saturday was nor did it make it any easier to leave on Sunday.
Since it was mostly cloudy I thought surely they’re be no signs from Avery in my pictures on Sunday but leaving the cottage for the last time I noticed two orange leaves that formed a heart when looking from the right angle.
A weekend on this island has taught me when I quiet my mind and have faith, signs of Avery are everywhere and there was no where better suited for quiet than this nearly uncivilized native land.
To see all our Sapelo Island pictures, visit my Facebook album. –> facebook
Avery was born nearly three months ago, it is a pain I didn’t know existed and I’m thrown into this reality that other parents have been facing that I didn’t have the slightest clue about.
“I couldn’t even imagine.”
That’s what I said to people with stories like mine. How does that help anyone exactly? Why did I think that would help them?
Now I know I can imagine if I let myself go there. If I let myself go where the pain is and stay there, I can imagine. I don’t think of it as moving there but as a vacation in pain. Let myself feel someone else’s pain, vacation with them in their reality for a while.
The truth is they couldn’t imagine either until they had to. The truth is we can imagine anything we want to. What “I couldn’t even imagine” really means is “I’m scared to let myself get close to the pain you are feeling for fear that it could take up residence in my life”.
I now know how it feels to stand on the other side of losing a baby. I will never again say “I can’t imagine” to someone who has lost a loved one of any kind. Because even if I don’t want to imagine their pain, they have to live with it daily. There is no vacation for them, their pain is their home. The least I can do is vacation in their pain with them, to allow myself to try and feel it without taking it away for them.
To everyone I said “I can’t imagine” to, I’m truly sorry. The truth is I didn’t want to try to imagine and now I have no choice but to live this life of devastating imaginations too.
This pain is really just love and I’d never want my love for Avery to be taken away. Therefore I don’t want my pain taken away either.
Many people have asked me what they can do since Avery’s death and I never really have an answer. What do you tell someone you need other than your baby back which they can’t give you?
All I can ask of you is this: take a vacation into my pain and the pain others carry with them. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, you will be tempted to say “I can’t even imagine”.
But not only is it imaginable, it’s survivable. I know because I live here now just as everyone in the world lives with their unique pain. Show compassion and take a vacation into someone else’s pain.
Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I realize I spend the majority of my life waiting for things to “settle down”. Does anyone else do this? You think to yourself, “Things will finally be calm once [insert life change here] is behind me. Then I can enjoy life.”
For me it’s mostly about moving. Once we move to North Carolina, once I finish college, once we move back to NC. Once we get married, once we get to Georgia, once we move here, there, and everywhere. Once we own the house. Once Avery is born. Then I can enjoy. Then I’ll sit back and be grateful for all that I have.
Listening to the It’s Not Supposed to be This Way online bible study video this morning, Lysa talks about the messy middle- this life we find ourselves in between the garden of Eden and the eternity of heaven.
Living in the messy middle between two gardens is so trying at times.
The truth is things are never going to “settle down” here in the messy middle. Things are going to continue coming at us, things that are both bad and good and sometimes both. Cars are going to break down and cars will be bought, moves will be made, houses purchased and sold, jobs left and jobs offered. Things are not going to calm down long enough for me to feel at peace and thankful for all that my life is on my own.
Therefore my peace has to come from elsewhere, and for that I need God. I need to wrestle well with my feelings and my faith in Him. In the video, Lysa goes on to say, “When you process with the truth of God, don’t start with the hard feelings and find the way to truth. Don’t process from the tangled places of our hearts but start with the goodness of God and let that be the perspective by which we process our feelings.”
I need to thank God for the blessing of Avery’s life, no matter how short his time on earth. I can allow myself to feel all the emotions of missing him but those feelings won’t impact my faith that God will make all things new.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, anymore for the former things have passed away. “Behold, I am making all things new!”
And until then, I believe He wants me to learn to enjoy life in the messy middle.
Father, I know the story you’re writing for me is so much better than any story I could ever write for myself.