Monday, July 30, 2012

I Learned a Second Language

Did you know there is an entire vocabulary exclusive to the BLC (baby loss community)? It is like we speak in code - in a shorthand that no one else understands.

And five years ago, I didn't know it either. I didn't know how many things could go wrong while you're pregnant, or how often it really happens. I also didn't know how often doctors are nonplussed - they have no answers.

I didn't know many things. And there are many, many times when I wish I still didn't.

I do not spend every day in despair. You can't if you want to live. You can't  if you want to love.

Living well, with love and joy, is important to me. So I do not spend every day in tears. But there is a corner of my heart that is heavy - so heavy. It is the part that remembers every baby's face and name, the size of their hands and feet. It is the part of my heart that knows they matter to me.

Something like this...it changes you. Deep down, in the center of who you are - you become different. I never know how much of that difference is apparent to people who've known me always, or how much is covered by the things you deal with day to day. But I feel it always.

It is a knowing, a certainty of how fragile and short this life is. It is a quiet waiting for the day when I will see them again. It is the bittersweet joy for friends and family as they start or expand their families.

It is also the sadness I feel when Dancer asks me, "Mommy, will we all get to live in the same house in heaven?"

Or when Diva sees a pregnant woman and asks, "Is her baby going to die?"

They are different, too. What mother's heart wouldn't break to watch her children struggle with such questions? Because they shouldn't have to.

So maybe we are simply different than we were five years ago. Not worse, or better...just very different





Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let's Recap

Still Standing, a magazine for those suffering from both infertility and/or the loss of a child, has something they call Tuesday Link Up - a chance for all those who have suffered from these tragedies to give an update on their journey on the first Tuesday of the month. It is to create connections and raise awareness of something that our society tends to consider a taboo - the open acknowledgement and discussion of stillbirth, infertility, etc.

I cannot participate in August, given when the first Tuesday falls, so I'm going to do two posts. One is a 'reprint' of a post for Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope (another awareness campaign). The other will be a follow-up, my 'update.' I hope you take the time to read these and consider the impact these tragedies have, not only on me, but on too many other women and families.


There is a blank page in our wedding album. When my husband asked me, years ago, why it was still blank I said, “I want to put our family portrait there, with all our children. That way when we look at the pictures we get to see our happily ever after.”

That page is still blank.

It is blank because I am the mother of seven children, only two of whom walk this earth with me. I spent three solid years pregnant, desperate to add to our family, only to endure heartache piled upon heartache. It is blank because pieces of our happily ever after are missing. Their names are Jessie, Kasey, Nathanael, Kayla, and Isaac.

There are moments that are burned in my memory from each pregnancy and loss. With Jessie, who was our one early miscarriage (at 12 weeks), it was enduring the pain that the doctor assured me would be “similar to menstrual cramps.” It was excruciating, and I didn’t know what to do when I finally passed our baby. All I could think was, “where do I put him/her?”

Why didn’t they tell me I would be able to see our baby?

We were further along when we lost Kasey, approaching the third trimester. I found out during a routine visit, and I remember having to keep it (mostly) together because the children were with us. My youngest daughter, only a year and a half old, climbed up beside me on the bed and asked me to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. So I did, with tears rolling down my face and the doctor probing my stomach. He tried so desperately to find a reason…but there just wasn’t one.

We kept trying because doctors assured us there wasn’t anything wrong with either of us. We were just “in the bad luck category,” according to one.

I delivered all but one of our babies naturally. I would go in, be induced, and labor for hours. Those contractions feel like they are splitting you in two – but there’s no reward at the end. Our babies were so tiny, but they were perfect. I held their hands, and stroked their faces. Our daughter Kasey had a head full of dark hair that tufted up like duck down. Our daughter Kayla was blonder, with only slight fuzz – her hands and feet larger. And Isaac was long and thin. I think he would have looked like his Daddy.  

Some days I feel like an observer of my life. Fortunately those days are fewer than they were, but they still happen. I would feel like there was part of me hiding, holding in all the pain and tears that I just don’t have time to shed. And that part was the more real piece of me. The person who was performing mundane daily tasks – packing lunches and folding laundry so calmly – that wasn’t me. And the hidden corner of me would watch the entire goings on and would cry so quietly that no one could hear.

Like I said, those days are few and far between now.

But, I still can’t watch a movie where the whole story or the culmination is some woman having a healthy squalling baby. News stories where parents beat, starve, or kill their children make me cry and my arms ache with emptiness. “I would love them,” my heart cries.

This pain feels invisible…I feel invisible. People look at my family and see my two children. They ask how many we want, when we are going to have another, or (when they find out our history) why we don’t just adopt. I want to scream at them that nothing about this has been easy or simple. Nothing compares to this sense of incompleteness I have.

They cannot come back to me, and that loss is profound. But, I will go to them. Eventually, I will see them again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gooooo, Day Trip!

A few days ago Dancer sighed deeply, looked at her Daddy and said, "I've lived here for a while now...and I've never seen the mountains up close."

Cue the puppy dog eyes and the sad, resigned head shake. 

Have I mentioned that Dancer is a tiny bit dramatic?


Anyway, we planned a trip to the top of the mountains. There are, apparently, countless little towns, parks, etc. in the Rockies designed for outdoor fun. We found a picturesque lake picnic area, figured out how many hours it would take to reach the top, packed snacks and a lunch...and headed out.

Now, Casanova thinks it's funny that I spent most of the trip gripping my door handle and muttering about the visible instability of the rocky mountainsides. He has begun calling me "the voice of doom." I do not see the humor.

In fact, I countered by calling him Bane...as in bane of my existence

But, we finally left the intimidating rock faces behind and hit the pretty stuff. We ate beside a lake, we hiked. Diva declared, "I AM THE LEADER,"  and then wouldn't let anyone pass her - even if she had to body block them.

There were too many Giant! mosquitoes, and the park bathrooms had some kind of biodegradable thing going on that smelled awful - but, overall, it was the best day.

I got to be outside in the cool mountain air with the ones I love. And, for the first time since our epic move I got to see the softer side of this new place. It is not all cliffs and boulders butted up against deserts and zero-scaping (worst invention ever, btw).

For the first time, this place didn't feel alien. Foreign, yes. Alien, no.

Wipes brow and sighs in relief. 

Can I just get a "Halleluiah!"? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Medic! Medic!

I love Curly Girl Design. There is something about their artwork that speaks to me. It makes me think, and laugh, and it just....suits me. I have one of their journals and it's slowly filling up with Bible verses, quotes, poems, etc.

It's pages are covered with little pieces of my soul. And on page sixteen is a quote from Richard Rohr.

 "You are often most gifted to heal others precisely where you yourself were wounded."


I often pray that is the case. I pray that somehow my words touch someone's heart - someone who needs them. And perhaps there is a selfish part to that wish...because I don't want my wounds to be in vain.

While I know the brevity of our lives here, and have seen it's uncertainty firsthand, there is part of me that is certain that my wounds are not simply my own. They do not belong to me, to hide and nurse alone. Because, as I heal, perhaps I can heal others.

 My heart has been wounded.  

Loss, grief, disappointment, fear, loneliness, anger, hurt. A loss of innocent faith....


My heart has been wounded. But, it has also been healed. By God, by the kindness of friends and strangers alike, and by love.

It has not healed without scars, without small tears that are testament to the fact that it has been pieced back together...but that's OK.

And it is OK for you to be wounded.

One of the things hardest to swallow during the last few years has been the platitudes. I looked at Casanova one morning after church and said, "If one more person tells me that God needed another rose in his garden...and that's why he had to take my baby - I will probably deck them."

We do not have to pretend that these awful wounds don't hurt. We do not have to fear that we are less Godly - that our faith is insufficient - if we admit the depth of our pain.

I keep thinking about I Peter 3:15. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

My answer is not one of constant happiness, but of immeasurable blessings interspersed with incredible trials. Part of my answer is the wounds.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
                                                                 I Peter 5:10



Friday, July 20, 2012

I Met an Angel

In 2010, I stopped in at a little country store. I have no idea what made me pull in that day, with the weather cool and dreary. Having passed that store a dozen times or more on the way to visit my parents, I still can't pinpoint what made me stop. I've thought about that, too....why that day?

I wasn't looking for anything in particular until I saw this beautiful mahogany box. Hand crafted, rich in color and smooth, it was meant to hold cigars. But I knew it was perfect for something else.

It was perfect to hold the memories....

I picked it up and knew I had to buy it. Smoothing my hands over and over the top and edges, I carried it to the front. A lady, who looked to be of grandmotherly age, held out her hands to take the box and ring me up. As I watched her wrap it so carefully in butcher paper, I must have looked pained because she asked me..."Are you ok?"

In that split second I had to decide - Do I tell her?

I opened my mouth, to say what I don't know. Probably to give the requisite "I'm fine" and go. But instead, truth spilled out of my mouth.

I told her about our daughter, how she had died inside of me. I told her how beautiful that little girl was, and how scared I was that the son I now carried would share her fate. I shared with her how beautiful I thought that box was, and that it was to hold all the memories I had of little Kasey.

She put her hands on my cheeks, pulled me to her and said, "God loves you."

It was exactly what I needed to hear that day. I left with a box, a special place to put Kasey's onesie, and the prayer that her father said over her grave. But I also left with reassurance.

God loves me.

And months later, when our son did die...when his pictures joined Kasey's inside that box - I went back.

I went back and I asked her - Are you sure God loves me?

She said He did. And I left, not only with reassurance, but with her name and address.

And she wrote me. She wrote me of how her son died, and how she kept on living. She told me over and over how much God loved me, no matter how I felt right then. She was my angel. And I found her, I'm sure, by the Grace of God.

I still pull that box down sometimes, and look at all I have left of my babies.

Jessie, Kasey, Nathanael, Kayla, and Isaac. Their ultrasounds, little hats...a poem. I have little to hold here.

But I still hear her voice, her message simple but powerful.

"God loves you."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mommy for the Touchdown!

Dancer and Diva do not lack for something to say. They always have a story, a request, a joke, a song, a complaint....It is always something. But, what I really love to do is listen in on their play time. It's as if I get to peek in on this magical place - and get a true picture of how they see their world. 

This morning, during playtime, Dancer very clearly declared to Diva that "Mommy gets to do whatever she wants."

Granted, this misconception  might be  is probably my fault. I am fond of telling them that fighting me is their prerogative, but they cannot, will never, not gonna win. "Because I AM THE MOMMY." I usually say this with a stern, almost fierce look to underscore the seriousness of their transgression.

This has apparently led them to believe that being Mommy means doing whatever, whenever I want! As any Mom could (and would) tell you - this is far from being reality!

The Bible spends many verses on the concept of God as our Father...a parent. I've spent a great deal of time thinking and reading about this concept. But, the greatest teachable moments for me on the concept of God the Father - is in being a mother.

One of the biggest things being a mother has taught me is this: I am no less demanding of my heavenly Father than my children are of me.

I'm not as appreciative of God's gifts as I should be - primarily because, like my children with the gifts I give them, I am simply oblivious. If it doesn't come in the package I expect, or when I expected it...I don't see it.

I question his 'rules,' because (like a child) I don't always see that they are there because he loves and wishes to protect me.

I make him repeat himself - countless times - because I'm not paying attention. I don't listen.

I come to him over and over again.

Can't you just see God, "If you say my name one more time...."

And, I see God the way my children see me. This giant, all powerful person who gets to do whatever he wants - even if it's not what I think I need.

Then I remember - my children will not truly understand the love I have for them until they have children of their own. They will not understand my sacrifices or the fierce, fierce love I have for them. They will never know the exact journey - only what they see and perceive in a childlike fashion.  In some ways, I've decided, I am very much like them.


It is one of the greatest gifts my children have given me - a small glimpse into the mind of God.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's the plan, Stan? Tell me, NOW!

So, the question has been asked....Why Manifest Destiny?

I'm not sure I can wrap that one up in a pretty bow, but I'll try.

Surely you remember Junior High & High School History. Manifest Destiny - the idea that the western expansion of the United States was inevitable, an absolutely accepted and beauteous thing that couldn't be questioned.

For me, the last few years have been one long bewildered question for God: What the heck is going on?

And, as I drove westward for our epic move, I felt some of that same inevitability that the idea of Manifest Destiny gave a nation. I felt...pushed by God. Like he was standing behind me with his hand on the small of my back.

"Go on, Ginger," I heard him say. "You have to do this."

"But....I DON'T WANT TO!"

And God said, "So?"

So, I started to wonder. Is this move, this place....is everything - part of the plan?



    

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ruth, Predecessor of Greatness

Have you ever really considered Ruth? The Ruth from the Bible, I mean.

I have no idea of her age, but she is the widow of a foreign man, left in a household of women. When we study her she is a paragon of virtue. Her words, though spoken to her mother-in-law, are used in weddings everywhere:

"Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. 

                                                                Ruth 1:16, KJV (because it sounds pretty)

I thought of Ruth during this truly epic move, and felt a little blasphemous - because my first reaction upon reading the book of Ruth during this season of my life was...."Wow, Moab must have sucked!"

Now, before you pull out your pitchforks and bonfire materials, bear with me for a moment.

Ruth jumped (willingly!) into an unknown situation, following her mother-in-law to a land where she was the foreigner, and where she became responsible for said mother-in-law's well being.

I am completely spazzing right now!

What was she thinking?

But, then I look at the end of Ruth. She has a son named Obed. And Obed fathers Jesse, who is the father of David.

Was Ruth always meant to follow Naomi back to Israel to be David's grandmother, and ultimately part of the lineage of Jesus?

The plans of God are far beyond my comprehension. I do not know how they are fashioned, if we change them with our choices......shrugs.....I don't know!

Don't tell my children I said that, by the way.

But, I did see an interesting quote the other day from Walter Ciszek that said the following: "Each of us has no need to wonder what God's will must be for us; his will for us is clearly revealed in every situation every day. The temptation is to overlook these things as God's will. The temptation is to look beyond these things...to seek to discover instead some other and nobler "will of God" in the abstract that better fits our notion of what his will should be."

That, my friends, is SCARY.  Because if every day in my life - if every circumstance - is part of the will of God... 

Then, "the answer lies in understanding that it is these things - and these things alone, here and now, at this moment - that truly constitutes the will of God. The challenge lies in learning to accept this truth and act upon it, every moment of every day." 

We tend, as Christians, to say that the good is from God and the challenges always evil. But, Ruth's challenge fulfilled God's purpose. It was not an outcome she could have foreseen - being the grandmother of one of Israel's greatest kings, a man after God's own heart. Instead, she walked, taking each day - each circumstance - as the will of God. 

For me, this idea has many scary and hurtful pitfalls. 

It means that we have experienced the will of God when:

we've struggled financially.

we've lost our children.

we've lost our job.

we've moved half way across the country.

we've left our homeland and family and friends.

I don't know that I'm ready to accept that idea. And maybe there is a fine line between accepting your circumstances as God's will and thinking that they are his fault.
   

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pioneering Is a Verb

I spent 20 hours driving. It was the longest I've spent by myself in six years.

Dancer & Diva aren't big on privacy, not mine anyway.

So, twenty hours (almost a whole day) to be alone and think.

Side note:

For some reason I just thought 


Think, think, think, think
think, think, think, think
Thoughts the whole day through. 


to the tune of the Seven Dwarfs mining song. Hmmmm....

Anyway.

In a high school English class, I read something interesting. It said that for a large part of History, people never traveled or lived beyond ten miles of where they were born. As travel became easier that number increased to thirty. We read about how interesting this was, how revolutionary - that someone could and would now travel and live thirty miles from the place of their birth.

That number would keep increasing as countries explored other continents, and here in the U.S. with the expansion of settlers ever westward. I was fascinated with these people. Their stories, their courage...and hubris. The women especially captivated me. How amazing, I thought, to pile their families and a few belongings in the back of a wagon to make a journey that would take the better part of a year - and forever separate them from loved ones.

As I traveled westward, sometimes as fast as 75 mph, I thought about them. And I had an inkling of what they felt. As I left behind every familiar face and landscape, as the trees of northeast Texas turned to the hills of Austin and the familiar dust of Amarillo covered my car, I felt a keen tugging sensation around my heart. The desolation of New Mexico reflected the loss I felt, and the Rockies frightened me with their sheer size and magnificent crags. The steep mountain passes made me hold my breath as I ascended and descended.

In some ways, as the road and scenery flew past, I was able to shed some of what lay behind me. This could be, I told myself, a grand adventure. The biggest of your life so far. And I wondered...

Why?

I asked God that question so many times on that drive.  

Why? What's the plan? What's your purpose? Why won't you show it to me? 

Why, out of almost 70 job applications, did we only receive one offer? And why is it so far from everything we've built? Why is it so far from my mother, who is my best friend...the one who loves me and supports me always? Why is it so far from the church family I have grown to love, and the community I was finally able to call my own? Why, God, is it so far?

Every Journey Begins Somewhere

How did I end up over 1,000 miles from home? Over 1,000 miles from any immediate family or any friends.

Seriously, how did this happen?! 


Can you feel the righteous indignation?


I spent my whole life in Texas. I've seen other places, but I haven't lived anywhere else. And, really....I was ok with that. I mean, it's Texas. I love the size, the heat, and the landscape. I love that feeling of belonging to something great because of where you're from - and the fact that ya'll is part of my vocabulary. I love living in the Bible Belt, where there's literally a church on every corner.

But in 2011 we fell victim to the economy when my husband was laid off. And he searched for work - for months. And he found work, eventually. The catch? It was through the woods and over the mountains - literally. The Rocky Mountains to be precise.

And thus it was that I found myself, in my cute little Toyota, following a UHAUL over the mountains to our new 'home.'

We drove for two straight days. Starting at 4 AM on a Tuesday morning, I hugged Casanova in front of our little brick 3/2. It was our first real home, and I cried as I looked at it in the dark, dimly lit street. I knew that I would probably never see it again, that I would never live there again. It hurt.

After two days of driving, it wasn't just my heart that was hurting! My head, shoulders, back, bottom, and feet had gotten in on the game.

Thus it was that, with much relief, I pulled up to my new home late in the day on Wednesday. With rocks for a yard and a quiet street, all I could feel was...happy to be out of the car.

Meet Us, Know Us, Love Us....Or Else!

Casanova Buttersworth (hubby) snatched me up when I was 18. No other guy had a chance because he, of course, was 27...and had a beard. I gave him my phone number, he gave me his, and almost exactly three years later - we got married. Casanova, being the Master of Love that he is, quickly gifted me with two children: Dancer & Diva. The names, I feel, are self explanatory. Triumph and tragedy followed, doused with a good deal of both laughter and tears. The last decade has been...extraordinary. There is no other word to do it justice. And now, we embark on the next chapter. And I - I'm wondering...is this where the road led all along?