To My Norah on the week of Thanksgiving

Precious Norah,

Happy Thanksgiving Sweet One! I’ve been thinking about you so much lately. If you were still here and growing you would surely be making me uncomfortable as I would be 30 weeks pregnant. Oh how I wish I was experiencing that discomfort! I see women due with babies at the same time you were to arrive and I look at them with envy and wonder how it would feel when you kick or get the hiccups. I won’t know…but I have something those moms don’t have. I have complete assurance that my baby gets to spend eternity with Jesus. They can only pray for that right now. I’m grateful for that assurance.IMG_3118
We are in Virginia for Thanksgiving. It was hard leaving Arkansas. I felt like I was leaving you behind. It is the first family event/holiday that I really feel like I am missing part of my family. I really wonder what life would be like if you were still here and healthy. We probably wouldn’t be in VA because travel would be kinda risky at this point. I would gladly chose time with you over a trip to VA. Even though family time is such a blessing.
We went to the beach today…the ocean always makes me feel so small. I thought of you and wrote your name in the sand as I imagined what your view of that ocean may be…your view from Jesus’ lap. Breathtaking I am sure!
I’m thankful for you Sweet Norah. The thought of being thankful is different for me this year. Losing you just a little over two months ago it seems like it would be hard to be thankful but God has made me thankful in a new way. I’m thankful for your life, the experience of carrying you and needing to depend on God in a way I hadn’t before. I’m thankful for your little life and the impact it had on Jonathan and I, for the lessons I have learned this year about the IMG_3095miracle of life. I am thankful for healing, both yours and mine. He healed you perfectly and I have and still am experiencing His perfect healing from the grief that left me raw and vulnerable. He is our healer and I like the thought that we have both experienced it.
Norah Maye you are such a blessing to me and it is because of the God who gave you your perfect life that I can be thankful this year.
Sweet One, you will be with me this Thanksgiving, if only in my heart!

Love for always and always,
Your Mommy

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Healing…

I’ve been thinking about healing lately. I’ve been thinking about what it looks like and timelines of “normal” healing. I’ve been thinking about life, how it has changed, what happens now, and what contentment looks like while longing for Heaven.

I have had some pretty great weeks to be completely honest. It almost feels weird to admit that…it seems too soon for great weeks. Our Norah Maye has been gone for 7 weeks just yesterday and while I carry her with me always, my life after Norah is coming together…which I believe is entirely a God’s grace thing. I have been able to make conscious efforts to jump start my life again and it has honestly been a pleasure. I walked out the door the other day and thought to myself, “How lucky am I to work doing what I always dreamed I would be doing!” It was such a sweet moment of recognizing that despite hard times, God’s grace is so abundant! But it isn’t just the big things like my job…it is the little things like laughing until my tummy hurts, singing on the worship team again, remembering and talking about Norah without tears sometimes, bottomless cups of coffee, fall colors all around me…isn’t it all God’s grace? What a blessing!

It has been 7  weeks which seems like just a short time ago, but I feel like I have grown leaps and bounds. I feel like healing is happening…has happened. I can say so much more confidently that God is good. Grief is hard but it is a beautiful journey if you decide that despite grief, within grief, and because of grief God can work in you.  He has been good and I feel like I have done this grief thing well.

I sang in my car today…not just sweet little singing, it was all out at the top of my lung singing with the music cranked up so loud I was a little nervous the speakers would break.  It felt great!   I sang the lyrics, “You’re a good good Father…it’s who You are…it’s who You are…it’s who You are….And I’m loved my You…it’s who I am…it’s who I am…it’s who I am!”  I sang it and I believed it and it was wonderful!

I’m so grateful for what God is doing today…and I know that days like today could quite easily be followed by days when grief bites hard.  But the hard days can be made a little easier when days like today happen too!

 

The Cares and Coping of a Grieving Mother

Today is just a heavy day.  If we rated days on a spectrum of Awesome Awesome to in the Depths of Despair, a heavy day would be a little closer to the depths but not close enough that tears are present.  My heart just feels physically heavy on days like today, for no particular reason at all, or maybe for several reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I have a lot on my mind today, thinking about all I am learning, how I have changed and how life is different.  I’m thinking about the human condition and just how painful it is.  I’m thinking about those like myself who are in pain, but for reasons different or the same as me.  I read an email update the other day about a sweet lady in my church who was diagnosed with cancer not long ago and treatment isn’t working.  I wept for her…I wept for myself…and I wept for so many others who are suffering and I prayed and journaled asking God why…Why does life have to be so painful?  I have written Norah many emails lately, I think all of them have mentioned just how painful life is here on earth and my jealousy of her painless life with Jesus.  I know this pain all started in the Garden of Eden and God is working to reconcile us all to Himself, but does that knowledge really make the pain seem less…I don’t think so.   For the first time in my life I would be completely ok if Jesus came back and took me home.  That being said, here I am, trying my hardest to thrive in the present, loving my husband and living out the assignment God has for me here.  This is just what I have been thinking about.

I was asked the other day how I was “coping.”  It is a good question for someone grieving I think.  Because somedays we aren’t doing anything but “coping.”  Sometimes asking a grieving person how they are doing implies that you think they need to be doing something…sometimes it doesn’t…I just think being asked how I was coping validated my grief in a meaningful way and I appreciated that.

I am “coping” pretty good I think…most days.  I went a couple weeks dreading work and coming home completely emotionally exhausted at masking my own feelings to help others process their own.  It is hard work!  Then one day it changed and going to work wasn’t quite so painful and it was a little more of a blessing to live out my earthly passion.  God has given me strength in that.  I have hard days…like depths of despair days when tears come and don’t stop.  And when I don’t have days like that, I often have moments or hours like that.  Sometimes I just want to cry and feel better after I do.  I have two playlist on my phone that have been getting a lot of action. One is called “Norah Maye” and it is full of songs that make me cry and think of my baby girl.  I love it!  The other is called “Broken” and has worship songs that I get comfort from that have the general theme of being broken but praising anyway.  I often try to listen to “Norah Maye” and then try to change my perspective by listening to “Broken.”  Sometimes it works.

We have gotten some sweet gifts and cards from friends and family thinking about Norah and wanting to comfort us.  I’m grateful for each one for several reasons, the biggest one being that they validate that she was here.  Talking to another grieving mother today we discussed how sometimes we like to talk about our babies and sometimes it is too hard….we can’t really predict how we will respond which makes it even harder for anyone else to predict how we will respond when our babies are brought up.  I think for the most part I like it.  I like hearing her name said by others.  I like if they want to know about her.  I think one of the best questions to ask if you are ok with seeing tears is “What was she like?” or “Tell me about her.”  If you are ok with sitting with me and maybe seeing me cry or maybe not and asking me about her I can tell you that I will almost undeniably talk about her with pride and love every minute of it, tears or no tears.  (Other grieving moms may not feel the same way.)

“Norah Maye” Playlist

  • Glory Baby – Watermark
  • World Spins Madly On – The Weepies
  • Small Bump – Ed Sheeran
  • I Will Carry You – Selah
  • Gone to Soon – Simple Plan
  • Still – Gerrit Hofsink

“Broken” Playlist

  • It is Well – Bethel Music
  • Even When it Hurts – Hillsong United
  • Oceans – Hillsong United
  • Though You Slay Me – Shane and Shane
  • Let it be Jesus – Christy Nockels
  • Touch the Sky – Hillsong United

 

An Email To Norah

I send my Norah emails…I got her her own email addresses so I can send her letters whenever I want.  I just like being able to hit the send button and having the letter disappear.   We are one month in to life with out her and it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance/Awareness Day…so I wrote her a note.

Hi Baby Girl,

One month. It is so hard to believe that one month has passed since the day that I will forever hold dear and the day I want to remember every part of forever. I want to remember the pain…every minute of it. I want to remember what it was like to carry you in my womb. I want to remember my belly growing and every symptom that made my time with you so special. I want to remember our quiet moments together reading, me telling you about the world, rocking with Langlee, reading with your daddy, and just loving you. I want to remember looking at you in the mirror and how proud I was of you. I am so so proud of you. I don’t think that will ever change. You have changed me and I know you have changed others too. I want to remember holding you and kissing your sweet body. I want to remember what you felt like and how beautiful your little body was. I can only imagine how perfect and beautiful your little soul is. I can’t wait to see who you are and your personality.

It is a strange thought that I will never hear you cry. I will never see you in pain. I will never see you struggle. What a blessing and at the same time, how I would love to comfort you when you cry and struggle. I wish I could take care of you and love you here on earth, but it makes me happy to know that you had life without struggle and with only peace. What an experience that must be.

Since you left I am afraid of pain and suffering. I can’t seem to get over that fear right now. I guess I’m jealous of you and the life without pain that you had. Pain scares me…and anticipation of the next painful thing is scary. Your daddy keeps telling me that it isn’t about not worrying as much as it is about choosing to trust God more. He says I can’t just stop my worry and fear and not replace it with something. I guess I still have a lot of work to do on myself. It is hard…this life…it is full of pain and sorrow and suffering. Baby Girl I so wish you were here, but that is totally selfish because you are in a so much better place. You will not experience pain, what a wonderful thing!

I miss you so much Norah Maye! I miss everything about you! There are things I wish I would have done differently when you were here. I wish I would have loved you better by letting myself love you completely right away. I wish I wouldn’t have been so bitter when we found out about your sad diagnosis. I wish I would have always loved being your mom. I wish I would have read to you more. I wish I would have figured out how to love you completely and at the same time give you completely to Jesus. I’m not sure if that is possible, I want to try, maybe, if another sibling enters the world.

I wish for a lot of things, but I am proud with how I did some things too. I am glad I did spend special time with you. I’m happy that you heard me sing (not much at the end, but I did it a lot at the beginning), I’m glad I had symptoms that I didn’t complain much about because I always knew they were signs of you. I’m so so glad we decided to keep you as long as we could. That may be the best decision me and your daddy have ever made. I’m glad I read to you, I learned so much from that and gained perspective on Bible passages that I didn’t have before. I’m so glad we went on walks together and I talked to you about my day on my commute home. I love that you came to work with me everyday.

Norah Maye, you are my biggest blessing. I miss you so much my heart hurts all the time. I don’t cry as much now, but when I do the tears flow freely. I love you more than words can express and I am so proud to be your mommy!

I love you forever baby girl!

Mommy

Even When it Hurts….

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  The Lord GOD is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places. – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though life is hard, though I weep with heartbreak several times a day, though Norah left us what we think is much too soon, though my heart hurts all the time,  though life doesn’t look like the way we expected it too,  though the future is difficult to face, I will praise the One who gives strength to my weary soul, who give grace for my today and peace incomprehensible for my heart.  I will exult the One who holds my dear daughter.  I will seek to draw close to the One who my daughter is the closest to.   I will rejoice my God who holds me through my trial!

And I will turn this song up loud and on repeat…all day long!

It’s a miracle…

Our little miss Norah has opened my eyes to many things but I think one of the things that has had the most impact on me is just what a miracle life is.   Birthdays…each one is a miracle, a total work of God!  The fact that you are right where you are, doing what you are doing…a complete miracle!

I like to think that I appreciate life, but Norah has helped me appreciate it all the more…not just my life, but all those around me.  Do you realize all that had to come together and happen perfectly for you to be born?  Do you get that?  I mean, there is biology, yes.  But do you understand all God did so you could be born…and then all that needed to happen so that you could reach your birthday each year?  Honestly, I don’t think any of us can totally comprehend this.

Jonathan and I have been trying for quite a while to have a family, and the longer our struggle is to add to our family, the more I am reminded of just how little control we have over life.  In the past I have said, “we are going to try to have a baby.”  And I think about that and translate that and think, “really??  really you think that YOU are going to try and create life?  YOU have the power to create a family??  YOU??  NO YOU DONT!!”  We want to schedule when would be a great time to have a baby.  We  think that our christmas card would be perfect if we have those sweet little faces added.  Am I the only one who has thought these things??

Life is a miracle.  God begins it…I am still in complete awe of how God spontaneously starts a heart.  The brain isn’t even really there yet, and the heart just starts beating out of nowhere! A miracle!  And all the weaving together has to go perfectly to create each little organ and the complexities of that little brain! A miracle!

Our Norah was such a miracle!  She was created from nothing and I held her and she was something!   Someone!  God made her because she was supposed to be made.  God made her because she was supposed to be present here on this earth.  God made her because she had an earthly assignment.

We just celebrated my husband’s birthday this past Saturday and I was awestruck by the miracle of life again.  He has been on this earth, on purpose, for 31 years.  God has let him see 31 birthdays!  Why?  Because he is supposed to be present here.  God made him just like he made Norah because he has an earthy assignment.  God could take him away at any moment, but He hasn’t.  His life is still as much of a miracle now as it was 31 years ago when he was born.

Friends, you are a miracle!  You are here because God put you here for a reason! IMG_9016 And these little footprints…those are my Norah’s…she was here for a reason too!
She was here because here is where God wanted her to be!  Yes she wasn’t here as long as I wanted her to be, but she was here, she completed her earthly assignment, and now she gets to spend eternity with Jesus.  What a fantastic reward for a job well done!

You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.  I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wright in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. – Psalm 139:13-16

 

 

 

Things I’ve Learned About Grief

It has been two weeks since I held my little sleeping beauty. Two weeks since I saw her beautiful little body and kissed her sweet head.  Oh how I miss her!
It has been two weeks since I officially started the journey of grief, although it actually started about two months ago when we got the news about her holoprosencephaly.  During this time I have learned some things about grief that I never really knew before.  I am a therapist by trade, so I know what the textbooks say about grief, but actually experiencing this kind of grief personally is quite different.  Here are some things I have learned…
  • Being a therapist did not/does not exempt me from feeling all stages of grief over and over again.  I know the stages, I analyzed the stages, I examined how I was/am experiencing them.
  • Being a Christian did not/does not exempt me from experiencing all the stages of grief.  I think people think that as Christians we need to “get over it” quicker.  We need to “get back to normal.”  We can’t show our weaknesses.  Something about complete brokenness and vulnerability makes Christians uncomfortable (which is a topic for another day).  But that brokenness is exactly what grief is…and that is ok.
  • Some people have more grace than others for the healing process.  Some people tell you to take all the time you need and you can tell they mean it.  Others stress the importance of healing in a way that pressures those grieving.  There is a healthy balance I think…I’m hoping that I am finding that.
  • Just because you don’t cry as much in one environment doesn’t mean that grief is over and you can go about life “as normal.”  I stayed home last week and felt like I may have “conquered” my home life, besides triggers that can’t be avoided.  But going to church and back to work this week was a completely different animal.
  • Netflix is a great way to zone out and just rest from reality.
  • Something about mornings is really really hard.  Before I even crack my eyes open I have to pray because I know that when they do open my reality is still really hard to face.
  • Productivity and motivation are really hard, especially the first week or so after and it only gets gradually better from there. And really being able to focus was virtually impossible for a while, and is still something I struggle with minute by minute.
  • Losing a baby is different than losing another family member because pregnancy hormones make grief worse and more confusing.
  • Having people to cry and laugh with is wonderful.  And having people who understand that just because I am laughing doesn’t mean my grief is over is even better!
  • I spent a lot of time alone last week since Jonathan went back to work and I survived just fine but I did/do much better when I am around Jonathan.
  • Puppy therapy is a real thing, especially when empty arms are an issue and you have a puppy who likes cuddles.
  • God gives strength to the weak.
  • He is totally ok with crying and in fact catches every tear.
  • God is good!  Circumstances are hard and sorrow fills my heart…but so does God and one of these days I am confident that God will replace that deep sorrow with something a little more joyful, all the while taking care of my sweet baby.

I miss her…

Journal entry from today…

I woke up today hoping and praying that I was waking up from a nightmare.  But when I opened my eyes that wasn’t the case and I tried my hardest to fight back the tears.  But I couldn’t.  It hurts Lord. It hurts all over!  I miss my sweet Norah Maye with every fiber of my being.  I miss the way she made me feel.  I miss the way she made me a mother and let me take care of her.  She relied on me.  As You created her, she relied on me.  I took care of her down here.  I miss being her mom and her lifeline.  I miss reading to her and talking to her.  I miss the impact that she had on me everyday as I learned to attach and cherish my time with her.  I miss taking naps with her and thinking about if she liked the food I was eating.  I miss falling asleep at night knowing that we were all together as a family.  I miss cuddling on the couch with her and Jonathan and Langlee.  I always rubbed my belly with such satisfaction knowing that she was there with us.  I miss Jonathan reading to her from the Jesus Storybook Bible and praying over her.  I miss the way Langlee would lay across my belly like she was already making friends with Norah.  I miss the girl time we would have going on walks, reading, and just rocking and me telling her about the world.  I miss holding her little body.  I would do anything just to hold her again and kiss on her sweet body.  I miss being a family of three.  I miss being an expecting mom. I miss driving home from work and talking about my day with her.  I miss her.  I want her back so badly.  I want to be her mom down here and take care of her.  They call people like me “invisible mothers.”  No babies to show for the love we have.  It makes sense.  It hurts.  I wish I it wasn’t me.  But I wish that only because I wish my babies were here with me.

Tear Triggers

Grief. It is ugly and painful. It hurts down to the soul and leaves me wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And tear triggers, those things that you experience, see, try to avoid, and dread are terrible and EVERYWHERE!

It has been 5 days already since I said goodbye to my sweet Norah.  And my list of tear triggers and hard things keeps getting longer.  And for the sake of my husband mostly, those I may encounter in the coming weeks, and those going through similar experiences here is a list of hard things/tear triggers…

  1. Coming home/being home with empty arms
  2. Going to a funeral home to pick up the ashes of my baby
  3. Picking out an urn for those said ashes
  4. Talking about my Norah
  5. Not talking about my Norah
  6. Going anywhere knowing you have this huge secret that isn’t a secret that no one knows you went through
  7. Being alone
  8. Collecting all our Norah things from around the house
  9. Experiencing my body recovering like Norah never happened
  10. Looking at myself in the mirror and not seeing evidence of her
  11. Journaling without hope for my baby
  12. Driving by the hospital
  13. First non pregnancy grocery list
  14. Eating healthy…eating at all
  15. Cooking
  16. Cleaning
  17. Sleeping
  18. Getting up in the morning
  19. Doing almost anything productive
  20. Others grieving with me
  21. Others not grieving with me
  22. Being a therapist
  23. Singing
  24. Listening to music
  25. Going to church
  26. Walking by any baby section or display
  27. Seeing pregnancy announcements
  28. Seeing pregnant women
  29. Still getting emails from baby apps
  30. Hospital and medical bills
  31. Not feeling judged by people for my grief
  32. The thought of going back to work

That is a long and overwhelming list…and each of those things I will need to face and then conquer.  It is intimidating.  I find myself completely lost thinking about this list along with all the other things that I will face in the coming days/weeks/months.  I don’t know what life is supposed to look like “After Norah” and yet I have to figure it out…somehow.  One day at a time…actually one minute as a time.  Lord, I can’t do this alone!

Norah Maye Day

She was perfect.  Woven together so intricately.  So tiny.  So precious. So lovely.  Ten little fingers and ten little toes.  Two sweet little eyes and a button nose.  A sweet little mouth.  A chest where her heart once beat and little lungs and rib cage so small yet so obviously molded together with such love.  She was perfect.   Her arms and legs had elbows and knees and wrists and ankles.  Her fingers had tiny little finger nails and her eyes, precious little eye lids.  Her ears were so small, but still so present.  She was perfect.

God was there on Tuesday.  He was in that room with me and my people.  He was with me during each contraction and cramp.  He was with me during the tears, the pain, the heart break.  He was faithful yesterday and gave us unbelievable grace every step of the 11 hour process.

We arrived at the hospital a little after 5am and were greeted by my good friend, Alyssa, who would be our nurse for the beginning of the morning and would stick around to see us through the delivery.  The induction medicine was administered around 5:30 and the waiting began which was followed shortly by the pain.   Cramps and contractions were consistent eased only by pain meds which were administered only after my anxiety and fear got the best of me and uncontrollable body shakes couldn’t be stopped.   I feared and worried about the pain ahead, it all being over, the unknown of how and when labor would actually happen, and seeing my sweet daughter.  The pain medicine helped ease the pain and anxiety a great deal, that along with prayer and squeezing Jonathan’s or my mom’s hands through each birth pain.

My water broke around 2pm which only led to more cramping and more waiting.  In the 11th hour our Norah Maye was born.  Safely, simply, in an unexpected moment, and without pain her physical body entered this world with the help of Alyssa and our other nurse, Leslie.  The cord was cut and Norah was moved to the scale to be cleaned while I finished the labor process.  So much grace.  With a 15 minutes delivery process she was born at 4:15pm on September 15, 2015.

The following moments were so precious and so perfect.  IMG_2757Jonathan and I knew without any doubt that although we held her in our hands physically, she was being held so much tighter in the hands of her wonderful Savior and Creator.   We gazed upon her in her beautiful perfection and were in wonder and awe of our Jesus.  We had time alone with her and shared memories with her, how God has used her in our lives and in the lives of so many others.  Jonathan said it all too well…

“I can’t help but be in awe of how she literally embodies 2 Corinthians 12:9…”But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Norah is weak by every human measure and yet, in the Lord’s hands, she was used to work in many lives and in many ways that continually surprised Meghan and I. All human life has purpose, even in its most feeble form. He is good, she is perfect, and they are together. Praise the Lord!”

IMG_0004I kissed my sweet daughter on her hands, her feet, and her little button nose.  She was so fragile and so sweet.  I cried tears of sorrow, pain, joy and relief.  So many emotions that all seemed normal.  We kept her for a while, held her and took in all we could of her lovely little body and then it just seemed right to let her go.  We knew she wasn’t really with us anyway, we have sweet pictures of her to remember her here on earth, we kissed her, loved her, prayed over her, and we let her go.

Norah Maye has only known love and what a pleasure it was to provide her that love here on earth.  And now Jonathan and I make the choice to live each day here on earth with each other and for our Lord while waiting with anticipation to love on our babies when God calls us home.