Monday, August 1, 2016

Katherine Eleanor - A Rainbow Baby's Birth

*This Post Contains Pictures (which are copy-written and cannot be used without permission) of a water birth. 
So, yeah. You've been warned.*
Katherine’s birth was a dream eight years in the making. Although the envisioned dream of my perfect birth experience didn’t begin in the safety and comfort of my own home, 
it became that over time.

Before I write out the details (mostly for myself than anyone else), I want to pause and say that I humbly, deeply, sacredly know and understand that not everyone woman gets to experience her dream birth. Some women don’t experience their dream because of medical issues, education (or lack there of), access to a particular style of maternity care, or being in an environment that doesn’t give the mother a voice. Some women have no choice where and when to birth due to insurance polices. Some women must struggle through the PTSD of a violated sacred space to give birth. Some women can’t imagine birthing after a traumatic birth experience; while others may be dealing with the silent sorrowful suffering of an empty womb or cradle.

Having had four miscarriages and having given birth and then burying two beautiful girls, I type these words and relive this story with deep and unending gratitude. I know many, many women who would give pieces of themselves to experience their own perfect, beautiful, safe, and peaceful birth, and I vow to always remember and hold close the sacred gift I was given in the birth of
 Katherine Eleanor.  

I was huge and carrying low for weeks. Although Katherine was “due” on Christmas, I (and everyone else) was certain Katherine would make her entrance early. Looking back, I’m not at all surprised she waited until she did to make her earth-side arrival.

But let’s back up.
You get a positive pregnancy test and what do you do?
Laugh? Cry? Cheer? Tell your best friend? Call your mom?


Not me.

I immediately emailed my DBT aka “Dream Birth Team.” Dawn, Brandy, and Taryn. They, in my not so humble opinion, are the three most brilliant, loving, and talented women in home birth midwifery care in the state of Oklahoma. Brandy and Taryn were incredible doulas during Maggie and Ellen’s birth and we couldn’t imagine entrusting the sacred space and work of birth to any one else. We had actually interviewed with Dawn prior to knowing we were pregnant with twins, so when Katherine came along and we had already interviewed several midwifes and knew Dawn was the way to go.

Preparing for birth this go around was empowering. Thanks to my birth with the girls, I didn’t give any head or heart space to worrying if I could handle the discomfort of labor. I already knew I had lived through the most difficult birth I could imagine, so no matter how great the discomfort, I knew I had the strength needed to naturally give birth to a healthy, living baby.

December 26th

My In-laws had arrived the day after Christmas and planned to stay a few days to meet Katherine.

Oops. Sorry Granna and Papa!

When the time came for them to head back to Texas Ray, Abigail, and I decided that Abigail would travel with Granna and Papa and be dropped off in Dallas with my parents, sister, and niece to play for a few days. This would give us a few days to tidy the house and spend some time alone before our family grew.

Abigail left with grandparents early Wednesday morning, December 30th, while Ray and I made plans to clean the house and celebrate the end of year with dinner at The Melting Pot.

After saying goodbye to Abigail and realizing we were alone, with no family in the state, I became determined to go into labor.

I sent out a plea of facebook for some clary sage oil, which was responded to quickly. Soon after, a friend brought the oil by and I figured I’d try some clary sage in a bath after dinner.  And that’s exactly what we did. After a yummy Melting Pot dinner, I soaked in a bath with about 10 drops  of clary sage oil. Ray and I closed out the evening with the movie Selma and I feel hard and fast asleep . . .
only to shoot straight up in bed a few hours later.

You know how in Hollywood movies the woman’s water always breaks in a massive, dramatic gush? That’s not the way majority of women experience the breaking of waters, but in my case, I did (although I didn’t realize it at the time).

At 1:25 AM on December 31, 2015, I shot straight up in bed.

“WHAT IS GOING ON?!” I frantically thought. “Oh my sweet baby Jesus, I just peed on myself. What in world?! How embarrassing. Oh, man, please don’t tell me Ray is awake. Maybe I can get out of bed without him noticing. Seriously woman, how old are you? Wait, I wonder if that was my water? Nah, surely not. It would still be leaking, right? But, that was a massive gush of water. ”

Variations of this conversation went on for a minute or so. Mostly, I was mortified at the thought of having wet the bed as a freaking 29 year old and was doing everything I could to not wake Ray in case that was the fact.

In case that was the fact  . . . good heavens, the things pregnancy does to a lady.

Do you remember in Maggie and Ellen’s birth story how I said that some times   women in labor seem to deny they are in labor? Yeah, that’s still me. Not long after I “wet the bed,” I had my first contraction.

After toying with the wording, I finally texted Dawn and Taryn at 2:10 am. I decided since I surely wasn’t in labor that I’d let Brandy (who was pregnant with twins) sleep as long as possible. At this point I had had 6 contractions in a little over 30 minutes. It was at this time I began timing my contractions, which were 60 – 90 seconds in length and 3 -4 minutes apart . . . yeah, no labor happening here! Ray woke up soon after I texted and began helping me tidy up the bedroom and get out our birth kit “just in case.”

For the next hour I danced around my bedroom in the darkness with the Christmas lights twinkling around the bathtub. After nearly an hour of saying “I think you should call the midwife,” Ray finally convinced me that contractions lasting 90 seconds every 3 minutes maybe warranted a call to the midwife who lived 2 hours away. I felt awful calling, since I was sure these contractions would sputter out and I would have woken her up for nothing.  I made the call and Dawn let me know she would begin packing up and making her way to Shawnee.

I have never been one to “visualize” goals. After the loss of Maggie and Ellen, our acupuncturist gave Ray and I a fantastic meditation on grief, which we listened to almost every night. During Katherine’s pregnancy I continued to listen to the meditation on grief and added a pregnancy one as well. These two meditations were my soundtrack every night while falling asleep. It wasn’t until labor that I realized what an effect these meditations had on me.

As labor progressed I sat on a birth ball at the edge of the bed, rocking side-to-side, and instinctively I began chanting to myself “it’s not pain, it’s just pressure. It’s not pain, it’s just pressure.” Over and over again I said this to myself and visualized breathing the pressure out and down; melting the cervix away. What was crazy to me is my mind believed what I said and my body did what I asked. I said it wasn’t pain and all of a sudden – there was no pain.  Every once in a while I’d think “WOW! I can’t believe this is works! (Enter pain) Stop Sarah, focus!! It’s not pain, it’s just pressure…” By welcoming each contraction, saying to myself it wasn’t painful and telling my body I didn’t want to fight against it but help it, labor progressed with little discomfort and shocking speed.

Around 5:15 am the first midwife assistant, Taryn, arrived at the house. The contraction she arrived during was the first one that was incredibly intense and, well let’s be honest, painful. Pretty sure she arrived right as transition began. I was on all fours on my bed and she was quietly rubbing my back. When the contraction ended she said “how are you feeling, Sarah? You sounded a bit pushy at the top of that contraction.” Laughing a bit, I responded, “yeah that one was rough, but seriously I bet I’m only dilated to a 2.” Taryn quietly went about the house setting the birthing materials out and blowing up the birthing pool, as I wanted to give birth by the lights of the still-standing Christmas tree.

Up until this point I needed to be alone to focus on the rhythm of each contraction, but now I needed Ray to hold my hand. He only left for one or two contractions to hook up the water for the birth pool. While he was gone Trayn rubbed my back and offered counter pressure. When Ray came back into the room Taryn suggested I get in my bathtub while waiting for the birth pool to fill up. Once she said we could make the water as hot as I wanted (knowing we could easily cool it down) I said “Yes, Please!”

At 5:20ish I got into a nice, warm tub. AHHHHHH. There is a reason they say water is like an epidural. My body immediately relaxed and the discomfort melted away. I noticed our head midwife, Dawn, in the room around 5:40 am (although I think she was there beforehand). Dawn and Taryn walked into the room and Ray asked if he should begin filling the birth pool up. The response was something to the effect of “Oh no, we are having a baby here pretty soon. We won’t have time to fill up the pool and transfer Sarah.” I actually didn’t hear this conversation, and was still in a place of not really comprehending that I was not only in labor but moving quickly through transition.

The water was amazing and provided almost complete relief from all discomfort . . . for three contractions. Then Katherine began making her way under the pubic bone. I think this was the most painful and slightly entertaining parts of the labor for me. It was a very out-of-body-circus-like experience. A contraction would begin and my first response was to yell, and then the doula voice in my head would say “hush Sarah! You’re wasting energy. Take a deep breathe, tuck you chin and PUSH!” I would push with all my might, which would relieve the pain for a few seconds

 “Oh, this isn’t so bad . . . Oh wait . . . yes it is!!”

Then the contraction would end and I’d have a minute or so break before it began again. At one point I inwardly panicked, thinking “WHY IN THE WORLD DID I WANT TO DO THIS?! This was a huge mistake. ***************** I can’t make it to a hospital for drugs now. Oh well, here we go again . . .”

Once her head made it under the pubic bone I knew this was the point in labor where the poor mama plays the “one step forward - two steps back” game. I decided I was NOT going to participate in that game and kept Katherine’s head as far down as I could in-between contractions. This means I was pretty much pushing or keeping pressure down all the time. Maybe not the best approach, but it was pretty instinctual in the moment.

One of the most empowering moments I remember was close to the end of labor. Dawn checked Katherine’s heart rate in between each contraction and she of course asked every time before checking. At one point she asked to check and I said “No! No one touch me!” For whatever reason, in that moment, I needed my space in order to stay in the mindset I needed to be in. She simply responded, “OK,” and that was it. What an amazing, empowering gift – to have your opinion and permission requested and then listened to! In fact, I was never internally “checked for progress,” during labor. Most of the time I was touched it was upon my request. Brandy, Taryn, and Dawn sat quietly, held my hand, spoke encouraging words, and simply allowed me to do what I needed to do. These women and my husband trusted my body’s ability to safely birth my baby. What a gift.

Once Katherine began crowning it only took two contractions for her to pop out, at 6:33 am on New Years Eve. Just a little over 5 hours after my water broke.

Dawn checked for to make sure the umbilical cord wasn’t tightly wrapped around Katherine’s neck, while I held on to Katherine, assisted her out of the birth canal, pulled her up out of the water and to my chest.

Enter all the ugly crying.

Katherine was born and gave a big beautiful cry. I, a total mess, kept thanking her for being alive and telling her how beautiful she was. Katherine and I stayed in the bath for a bit. The big, beautifully purple (very different from Maggie and Ellen’s white and bright red) placenta came easily. Brandy gave me a shot of pitocin as it looked like I was losing bit more blood than they wanted. Ray was beaming and I was in shock. “Did I really just do that? 


About 10 minutes after Katherine was born we stepped out of the tub and walked 10 feet to the bed. Katherine and I were carefully tended to. Once we were settled and clearly healthy, our three midwives packed up and headed home. By 10:30 am we were alone, in the peace and quite of our own home, with our precious new life snuggled on my chest.

There was no one to interrupt us. No one even knew Katherine had been born. The peace and beauty of those sacred moments were surreal, amazing, and will be forever etched into our very souls.

I cannot say enough about the team of women who assisted my family. Their expertise gave me the confidence to allow my body to do what it was capable of – knowing that if there was a 1 in a million chance of something “going wrong,” I was in safe hands.

My husband, my partner, the man who sees things in me I can’t and believes in me in ways I don’t fully believe in myself . . . this dream birth would never have happened without him.

And finally, the creator and giver of life. This birth experience was nothing other than a lavish gift of grace. I don't think it's a coincidence that this was written December 31, 2014, only to find ourselves here on December 31, 2015.

After Maggie and Ellen's death I have found it really difficult to pray for specific things. Weird as it may sound, I prayed very specifically that I'd go into labor in the middle of the night, so I wouldn't have to worry about when to call my anxious family or feel guilty about holding her birth in silence even if just for a few hours. That prayer was answered.

Emmanuel, God is still with us. God hears our prayers.

People always remark on Katherine’s peaceful, relaxed, and happy demeanor. I truly believe she is this way because she experienced a peaceful, relaxed, happy, and safe entrance into this world.

Happy 7 months of earth-side life, Katherine Eleanor.
We are so lucky to call you our own. 

(pictures cannot be used without permission of owner)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

6 Months

 3 am tomorrow morning, April 2nd, will mark 6 months since Maggie and Ellen began making their way into this world and then on to paradise. 

6 months. 

I've survived.

To be honest, that's surprising to me. Before losing children I looked at others who have had to walk this road and thought "no way I'd ever survive that." 

But here I am. 

Waking up every day.
 Choosing to live. 
Wanting to live well. 
To live fully.

I've learned a lot about myself, life, and grief in the past 6 months.

 I've never thought of myself as someone whose priorities were out of whack, but they were. 
The stress church life can bring, the stress of crazy situations, the stress of other people's stress . . . 
I don't want it and I've discovered I don't have to have it in my life. 
We don't have to step into everyone's stressful moments. 
We're not meant to be saviors or superheroes.
What I allow to consume my days, moments, thoughts, and memories begin to define who I am.
    I want to live a life consumed by what is true, noble, right, good, excellent and praiseworthy.
Those things don't happen unless I live in the present moment. 
"Present moment, only moment;"
my family's motto for the year. 
Stress. Drama. Anxiety.
I don't have time for you. 
I've learned that life is short. 
I don't want to waste my moments on matters that don't matter.

Grief is like an untamed animal. Some days are good. Some days aren't. 
Some moments are joyous. Some moments bring what we learned about in Colorado, 
STUG (Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief).
The more the days pass I think about Maggie and Ellen like I knew them.
Their voices, their laughs, their personalities.
We think Ellen had a tender heart, a mind for science, and a mild disposition.
We think Maggie would have kept us on our toes with her passion, energy, and extroversion.
Accurate or totally incorrect, it's been healing to imagine. 
I've learned that great grief requires patience and grace for yourself and others.

Well-meaning religion has taught me some really unfortunate theology.
It's difficult to admit, but I haven't prayed much in the last six months.
Like really prayed.
Prayer is like a language I've suddenly forgotten how to speak. 
What's prayer for? Why is prayer needed?
Aside from shaping my character into the character of God (a big aside, I know)
 does prayer even do anything?
All questions I've been wrestling with.
I realized a few months ago that my issues are more with religion than God.
No matter what, I believe that God has not abandoned us and God is a God of love.
Apart from that, I've learned I don't know much of anything.
I don't have a firm understanding of how God is involved in the world.
I can't explain the mystery of prayer. 
I won't get on-board with the belief that God "just needed a few extra angels."
 But amazingly, graciously, and in very God-like manner, God has still spoken to me (and I to God), sans typical prayer. 

We were incredibly lucky that the day of Maggie and Ellen's funeral my sister's friend was in town. 
This friend graciously agreed to come and lead worship.
He recently released a new album and it's been through his soul-moving music that God has spoken. God sings to me; I sing back. 
A mutual recognition that we are both still here and we haven't given up on one another. 
We are just mourning, and I'm a bit wounded, 
and we need to learn a new language through which to speak to each other again. 
I've relearned that God is gracious, slow to be frustrated by my questions, and abounding in steadfast love. God never hurries me down the road of grief. God knows this road well and isn't intimated by it.

I wondered and worried if there would ever come a day that thoughts of Maggie and Ellen would bring more joy and excitement than heartbreak and sorrow. 
I'm not totally sure that's a realistic hope, but I see glimmers of that possibility.
One of great things about having the hope of paradise, is believing their souls are alive and well and trusting we will be together again one day. 
I now crave eternity more than I ever knew I would. 
I know my ache to be reunited with Maggie and Ellen pales in comparison to the ache God has to be reunited with all God's children.  

As this day, this marker of six months, approached I have felt a deep desire to share Maggie and Ellen with our small corner of the world. 
Their little faces bring me more joy and pride now than tears and sadness. 
I think they are beautiful and precious and I'm so proud of them.
 As the months have passed I have found myself increasingly grateful that the first time they opened their eyes they saw the face of God.

God is and always will be with us. 

Ellen Olivia and Maggie Jane Miller

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

When you can't do it alone

Sunday morning my family woke up together, in Texas. 
That day marked our 14th day away from home. 
Thankfully the weather cleared up long enough to make it back to the Sooner state.

On day 13, Ray and I woke up to be reunited with Abigail. 
We had been separated for 12 days
Had she not been in the care of the best grandparents and aunts in the world,
 there is no way we would have survived such a long (at least what seems long to us) separation.

Days 2-10, Ray and I were here: 
Marble, Colorado. 

We came here because 20 days ago, we realized we needed help. 

Having children die in your arms is something no person should ever have to experience. 
Watching your children be lowered into the cold, hard ground . . .  that just messes you up.

Add that to three years in a, as my friend Glennon Melton says, brutiful (beautiful + brutal) church; and what you get is a perfect recipe for burn-out. 

I've written pretty openly here about grief and how odd and unpredictable it can be.
You're going along, having survived the holidays and celebrated the 3rd year of your miracle child's life when, out of no where, something that was once normal collides with a life that's no longer normal, and the bottom falls out. 

For Ray, it was two funerals, done in the same week, 
at the same place Maggie and Ellen are buried.

In all honesty, neither of us were ourselves. 
We were worn from grief and exhausted from a year 
that had tested and tried us from start to finish.   
"The year from hell", as we not-so-affectionately refer to it.  

I would never make light of what a mother's heart and soul goes through in losing a child, but in some ways I think this kind of grief can be even more difficult for a father's heart and soul. 

Ray went back to work full-time, two days after M&E's funeral. 

Have you ever googled books for grieving father's who've lost babies? 
They don't really exist.

Often times men go into "fix it and keep it together" mode, and
they don't have the time or space or energy to properly deal with their very real grief.

So what happens?

Months down the road, something inside is triggered, 
in a PTSD kind of way, and you realize you have a mountain of grief in front you.

This mountain of grief gives you two options:
1. Climb me.
2. Be killed by me.

My husband, in his most humble and brave moment, decided to climb.

This wasn't an easy decision as it required a very public request for
unexpected time off from our church.

But thankfully my husband is brave and my church is loving.

So we packed up, left a huge chunk of our heart in Texas,
 and headed to the middle-of-no-where Colorado
for a 10 day counseling intensive specifically designed for ministers and missionaries.

The ministry of Marble has been active for 41 years and
has walked alongside over 4,000 broken and burned-out full-time ministers of The Gospel.   

The two things that concerned us the most
was group-session therapy and funding.

As someone who currently struggles with understanding and believing how and if God is involved in the world, I can't deny that only Holy intervention got us to Marble.

It just so happened that no other couples or individuals had signed up for our session.
We would have our incredible counselors to ourselves, for 6 hours, every day. 
A 10 day counseling intensive, with food and lodging and everything else you might ever need included, is not (as you can probably imagine) cheap.

My endlessly loving and well-connected sister put out a request for help and within a matter of days over $3000 came flooding in from people Ray and I will never know. People who simply want to care for those in the ministry. People who understand The Church is losing thousands of ministers every year to burn-out. Our church graciously paid the remainder of the needed fee and off we went.

Upon arriving one of the first questions we had to deal with was why we were there.
Yes, our daughters died, and that in and of itself is traumatic,
but we went for reasons beyond Maggie and Ellen.

Ray and I deeply believe in the theology of The Priesthood of Believers. We are all messengers of The Gospel. We are all invited to join God's work in the world, in our unique roles and vocations. Yet, Ray and I know from a life-time of experience, that it's different when your life is full-time ministry.

It's an "all-in" calling. It's not a job Ray leaves at the door of our home. In fact some of our most fruitful ministry is done inside our home. It's an all day, every day kind of life.
We love it and honestly don't know anything different.
Yet, we are still learning how to do it well and in a healthy way.
 In a way that we don't burn-out at the age of 30 and begin being the best
 nurse midwife and basketball coaching couple in the US.

We went for our ministry, yes, but more specifically, we went for our church.

Our church is such a unique blend of people. All really good people, from really different backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, political, and theological positions.
I've personally never seen such a diverse group of people be church together for such a long time.

Although they are wonderful and rare, they have some rough pieces of history (as we all do).
Even with the harder pieces of history and the things we've struggled through in the past three years, Ray and I have been deeply loved by these precious people.
All the character-building moments aside -
we know we've hit the jackpot with the hearts and souls of the people of FBC Shawnee.
We are lucky they have chosen us to serve them and live life alongside them.

Ultimately, we know that in order to serve these people well, we must be healthy and whole.

Imagine what God could do in a place with healthy congregants and healthy ministers,
 who mutually choose each other and respond to the invitation of God.

"So, why are you here?"
The question that took an entire day to fully answer.

We went to Marble to grieve our great loss and grain our savior's strength.
We went to learn how to be wounded healers, who are a bit more healthy and whole.
We went to better ourselves for the daughter we love with all the love this world has to offer.
We went for ourselves - to rediscover the people God has created us to be.
Our time and experience at Marble Retreat will forever be one of those spiritual markers in our lives as individuals and as a couple. A safe place we were could go and receive help, healing, and hope. Far too many people (ministers and congregants alike), suffer in silence and fear seeking help.
If you are reading this and find yourself in such a place, I pray you will find the courage to seek help. God gave us each other, the church, as companions on our life journey. Reach out your hand; seek help and healing, so that you can emerge as the whole and healthy person God intended and created you to be.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Holy Hell

Never before have I been so thankful to see a New Year arrive. 

I'm not a super New-Year-celebrating kind of girl. I'm an introvert, a homebody, and someone who likes to be asleep at an embarrassingly early hour. Staying up and out late sounds like a lot of work, not a celebration. So here I am, on the couch, in comfy clothes, writing about this year. 

This. Year. 

It probably doesn't help that I'm in the "I'm suuuuuupppper angry my kids are dead," stage of grieving, but let's just call this year what it was . . . hell. 

This year was wave after wave and new, unknown level after new, unknown level of hell.

This year, I've watched humans treat other humans in unspeakable ways.

This year, I've seen the utter destruction that comes with living a lie.

This year, I watched the protector personality inside me fight and beg to be freed so as to unleash what Ray affectionately refers to as "Chisolm Justice" onto the world (Chisolm Justice, btw, is usually not what Christ would do and rarely ends well. Thus, thanks to my more grace-minded husband, it's almost always relegated to a bedroom ranting session. Seriously lucky I married a man who truly loves and follows The Way of Jesus). 
This year, I've said good-bye to two grandparents. 

This year, I've grown, birthed, and buried the two most precious baby girls in the world. 

This year, I've fought harder and lost greater than ever before. 

This year, I've felt the unending sorrow of a broken world, filled with broken people.

A pastor friend recently commented that Ray and I have seemed to have an unusually high amount of "crazy" come our way this year. 

This, of course, led to a late-night discussion. 

He's right. 

Why is that? 

Is it us? 

Do we welcome it? Attract it? Give off a secret, "come give us your crazy," scent?

Maybe we shouldn't wade with people so deeply into life?

Maybe our kitchen table shouldn't be a revolving door of college student therapy sessions?  

Maybe we shouldn't live quite so openly with our community,
but rather in a more surface-level kind of way?

Why expose ourselves, our family, our daughter, to the risk of another year like this one?

This. Year.

It could of destroyed us. It probably should have destroyed us. Our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our relationships, our marriage, our faith, our calling to the local Church. 

This year probably should have wiped us out.

But it hasn't. 

Why is that?

It probably helps that I'm in the "I've never felt this empty in my entire short-long life, please Great God, heal me," stage of grief, so let's call this year what is was . . . Holy. 

This year was moment after moment, breath after breath of 
Emmanuel, God has not abandoned us, Holy. 

This year, I've seen a community of Christ be brave and flexible as they heal from past pains and take-up their place in the body of Christ. 

This year, I've seen God pave the way to enable us to earn/raise $16,000 for an adoption. 

This year, I've witnessed people give "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," 
kind grace and forgiveness. 

This year, I've watched incredibly brave people make the incredibly brave choice to live in the light. 

This year, I've experienced family walk through way too much death with endless grace. 

This year, I've seen the width and depth of the body of Christ, as thousands of people, many whom we will never know, walked with us through the last 7 weeks of Maggie and Ellen's lives.  

This year, I've enjoyed the closest friendships I've ever had, with brilliant, fun, spiritual women.

This year, I've stood in awe as my husband has taken each blow the last 12 months have shot at him with steadfast love, grace, and strength.

This year, I've known Holy in the midst of hell.

Why expose ourselves, our family, our daughter, to the risk of another year like this one? 

Because God is a God of love and love is a life of risks. 

Children are a risk. Ministry is a risk. Authentic relationships are a risk. 
Living in community is a risk. 

A life full of love is a life full of risks.

I'll be honest, I hope 2014 is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of year. The experiences and emotions I carry away from this year will keep me fully awake for some time to come. Nevertheless, if another year like this one comes my way, I hope I'll greet it with strength, courage, peace, and faith; 
knowing the risk is worth it and The Holy awaits.

Welcome, 2015.
Our God is with Us.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Birthless Birthday

December 19th - The day I have been dreading. 
Today was supposed to be the day of Maggie and Ellen's birth. 
To again wake up to world robbed of their precious lives and
 unfulfilled possibilities seems impossible; yet here we are. 
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Our God is with us.
Oh God, please be with us.


Dear Maggie and Ellen, 

Happy December 19th! Today was supposed to be your birthday - a day of deep joy and celebration. Unbeknownst to you - you would have shared this special day of birth with your grandmother - my momma. You don't know your grandmother yet, but let me tell you - she's the best, most creative, most loving, most thoughtful, and most fun grandmother there ever was. Not that she has favorites, but sharing a birthday with her, well, you two would have been . . . you know; we'll just keep that a secret from your sister and cousins. 

If I'm being honest (and after this year daddy will tell you honesty is the most important thing in the world), mommy has been scared of this day arriving. The closer it's gotten, the more I have become powerless to control the endless stream of tears welling up from my devastated soul. 

I miss you girls. 

I miss you more than I ever knew I could miss anyone. I ache for your little lives so deeply that sometimes I think my longing for you could bring you back to me. 

If only loving could make it so. 

Your big sister misses you too. Magellen - she calls you two. She asks for you often; keeps thinking you will suddenly arrive one day. That's hard and heartbreaking. She's a fabulous big sister and loves you both deeply. She wants to take care of you so much. The last time she visited your grave, she noticed the temporary marker was covered in dirt (she's extremely observant), and without blinking an eye bent down and said, "Oh no! I'm so sorry sisters," and began cleaning off the marker, then gathering gifts of rocks and sticks to leave for you.  

Your daddy - I can't even describe how much he misses you both. Daddy is a teacher and life-long learner, and he mourns the moments he'll never have with either of you. He longs to teach you about golf, Greek, and God. He wants play, sing, dance, and wrestle with you; just like he does with your older sister. He wants you to really understand why (not just be able to recite) Lebron James is the best athlete in the world (in his not-so-humble opinion).  

The thing we long to teach you about the most - well - you both know more about than we do. 

"And to think, when they opened their eyes, the first thing they saw was the face of Jesus."

This truth gives me strength and hope. Gives me the ability to keep breathing. To wake up every day and make the choice to keep living, not just existing. I'll admit - sometimes I'm jealous. You with Jesus - Jesus with you. You know each others smiles and laughs. You play games and sing songs together. I imagine you three, one of each side of Jesus, walking hand-in-hand. 

It makes me hurt for home. 

Sometimes I worry (mommies do that a lot) if you're being taken care of. Then I'm quickly reminded that God created mommies (and daddies), so God must be a pretty good mommy, since God made us mommies to love the way we do.

I imagine every day in paradise is full of joy and beauty. I hope that today you notice a tiny bit more joy. See, we're having a party for you both today. Some of our friends (actually more than I fear will fit in our house), who have become our family during this time of great grief, are coming to celebrate you - Maggie and Ellen - and your "should-have-been-birthday." That's how much you're loved. That's how much you're missed. That's how much you impacted this imperfect planet in the short time you were here.  

Maggie and Ellen, mommy and daddy are so proud of you. You have changed our lives. You made us forever a family of 5. Nothing will ever change that. Your place in our hearts and in our family will never diminish. 

We will love you forever. 
We will miss for always. 
As long as we're living.
Our babies you'll be.