Thursday, February 23, 2012


St. Therese of Lisiuex
The "little" way

The one adjective that has been overpowering these past few days is little. Hearing news of two other babies who are now in Heaven and realizing again how fragile life is-little. Being 1 day away from induction and still talking and re-talking about if we are making the right decision-little. Not knowing if I will be planning a funeral or baptism next week-little. Seeing so many people pray for us and being so held by the Church-little. Not being able to pray or process emotions right now or think or sleep or cook-little

The anticipation this week has been similar to the week of our wedding. We got married on a Friday and it seemed like it would never come around. But then that Sunday started the week off and things went quickly from there. This week has been the same, only I can't guarantee good will be at the end like I could with our wedding.  

I think a lot of it has to do with not only the possibility of having a live baby, but also the possibility of getting a little of myself back. Yesterday I was running errands and ran into a high school friend. She had her two little ones with her and we chatted about Abigail and being induced and how exciting it all was. When she walked away  I thought to myself "wow- I did it! I had a conversation with an old friend and it felt good!" For the last 10 months I would have literally hidden in an aisle when I saw people like that coming towards me. What did I have to tell them about? New news? Our baby died, I am sad, and our world is crashing around us. No one likes to hear that. So I hid and it felt so not natural. But I have learned that in grief, since it is so much like being sick, sometimes the isolation is essential to the healing. 

So my hope lately has been for Abigail for sure, but also for us. I feel ready to re-enter the land of the living, the thing is I'm just not sure its going to happen. I know everyone has so much hope for Abigail being born alive and well and that the statistics are in our favor. But the truth is no one knows. I have heard dozen of stories and met many women who had their babies die in labor or right after birth, many of them without explanation. Every happy thought that comes my way this week (or the past 9 months) has been lit on the edges of fear. One cannot occur without the other. The hope I have for Abigail being born alive and well is also a hope I have for my healing. I know she will not "fix" things or bring Caleb back or replace him, but she will bring a certain amount of healing, she already has. The thing that terrifies me now is - what if it all goes wrong again? What if this all doesn't help my healing, just breaks me into a million more pieces? 

I received an invitation to a wedding shower yesterday and I actually got excited. I haven't been excited to go to a social event since Caleb died. But there I was in my kitchen reading the details and getting so joyful. And then like a tidal wave it all came crashing down and I heard a voice in my head, "yes, but if Abigail dies, you know you can't go. You wouldn't be able to make small talk with strangers just a month after burying your little girl." And I got sad because I knew that was the truth. And I got mad because I couldn't RSVP right then like the old RyAnne would have. I thought "just wait and see if she lives, then make plans." Ugh the poverty in not being able to dream or plan has been so hard.

So, I give this to God. I give my littleness to Him knowing the poverty of spirit He is calling us to live with right now. The uncertainty, the waiting in limbo, the hope/fear roller coaster. 

St. Therese was known for being the saint of "the little way." She was a carmelite nun who died young from tuberculosis at age 24. Nathan had a strong devotion to her when we met and I have since become a friend of hers. I mentioned earlier in a post that St. Therese was from a family of 9, where 4 out of the 9 children died, 3 in infancy. Her mother is on her way to canonization and has helped me so much in my grief. You can read more about St. Therese's mom, Zelie, here.

When Nathan and I were courting we entrusted our vocation decision to St. Therese. Then once we found out we were having a girl, we knew her middle name had to be Therese. I am feeling the presence of St. Therese so much this week. Her teachings on how to be "little" and give that to God have been exactly what I needed to hear. In fact, I feel like St. Therese should be the patron of grief because grief requires you to be so little. I used to need God for big things, but in the last 10 months I have needed him just to get out of bed and get dressed. Little things, little prayers, all of it matters to God, all of it is sanctifying if we can offer up our littleness to God. 

So on today, one day away from induction, I ask everyone to please pray for us and Abigail and our medical team. We have been made aware (AGAIN) by our doctors just yesterday of all the risks we are going up against by inducing Abigail early. We are scared and feel like there really is no right decision. We also know that God is guiding us and like all things in our faith, we have to first take the step out of the boat towards God. So we will. We will go in tomorrow night at 6 PM and start induction. We will pray that God allows Abigail to come out alive and well. Thank you everyone for everything. Like I said, I have felt so little this week, but been in awe at how the body of Christ continues to carry us.

St. Therese of Lisieux- pray for us!

More tips on how to help a friend through losing her baby

Thought this might help others out there. It is a little lengthy, so read what you have time for!

How to help a friend grieve

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Seasons

I would never have thought how much the seasons could play into grief. Summer last year was a fog. But then fall came and I was sad. Sad that I could see physically how even nature was moving on. As fall eased into winter I began to feel more comfortable. Finally I felt like Mother Nature was agreeing with me. I have felt so numb and cold and empty since Caleb died that it was nice to look out the window and see a reflection of that in the world. The trees were bare, the ground was frozen and the wind was cold. It gave me permission to stay inside and grieve. Like nature was telling me, its okay, you don't have to pretend to be happy and want to be outside among the living.

And now, here we are on the brink of Spring again. And the emotions are flooding back to me. So many flashbacks of last years Spring. They are divided into two parts- before and after his death. Before when it was just warming up and I was imagining all the long stroller walks I would take once he was here. Before when I wore flip flops each day because I was too big to bend over and put shoes on. Before when I wore the maternity capri pants  and went to garage sales and relished in the fact that I was now able to shop for a baby, my sweet baby boy! Then there is the after. The one where I hear the birds chirping and I want to throw rocks at them. The one where I walk out our front door and smell the flowers and see new trees in bloom and want to throw up. The one where I see the sun shining and I want to cover it up. The one where I craved darkness.

All day yesterday the sun was shining and I was mad. Mad because two new families in our church have just lost their babies in the past few days. And the sun is still shining. I felt that same rage and anger that I had last year when I saw the sun shinning all Spring and into Summer. All I wanted to do was pull the shades down over the sun, not so much for my sake right now, but for the families. I wonder if they will feel as betrayed by the seasons as I did last Spring. Spring, all about new life. But what do you do if you are in the middle of death and every ounce of new life feels like a lie? A reminder that even the trees are able to sustain life and somehow you could not?

Don't really know where to end this post, but just sharing my experience of the seasons in regards to grief. It will be interesting to be doing round 2 of the seasons without Caleb coming up in April. Another Spring, but maybe not as painful as the last one.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to help a grieving friend

Today my heart goes out to two families in our parish who just lost their baby girls last week. Both mothers were in the third trimester from what I gather. I know both families will have many of the same people who helped us grieve Caleb help them in the next days and weeks. I thought it might be helpful to put a link to a series called "How to help your friend grieve" by another mom who has lost a baby. Click here   to view these great tips on how to help someone you love grieve.  Praying for both families....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Roller Coaster of Emotions

This is how I was feeling on Thursday when I wrote this:

This ride of grief and subsequent pregnancy has been rough. I often feel like the disciples in the boat when the storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping. So many times have I felt like Jesus was sleeping. Doesn't He know how hard this is? Why won't He make it better, make it go away? I must say that last weekend I had a big breakthrough in prayer which can only be attributed to grace. I finally felt like I had the confidence and desire to trust Jesus again, without willing it. I have felt His presence so much in the last few days. This is different than how I have felt Him in the last 10 months. Right now, I actually want Him here and can say He is leading me and I am not scared. The last 10 months He has been here, but again it felt more like He was sleeping in the boat rather than calming the storm. He is awake and the relief I feel is overwhelming.

So many people are praying for us. I get emails almost every day of another person who is praying. I had a woman an church who I barley know come up to me on Tuesday and ask how I was doing. I told her "ten more days," and immediately she said, "Oh, I am sorry, today must be hard because Caleb died 10 days before he was due." I literally had to hold back the tears. This complete stranger who I have told my story to once before remembered. She didn't try to tell me everything would be fine, she just entered into my fear and comforted me there.

Then I left mass, got in the car and on the Christian radio was a song called "the best is yet to come." I just smiled because only Jesus could know how much that phrase means to me. It was my motto while I was a missionary and I clung to it during my first year in FOCUS when it seemed like God was stripping everything from me. I  have wrestled with that phrase since Caleb died because I honestly didn't believe it anymore, but I hoped I would be able to again one day. And this week I can say it and believe it. The best is yet to come.

Another moment came last Saturday night around 2 in the morning. I had had a bad Saturday night including a panic attack while we were out to eat. Overall the whole thing just left me feeling weak, pathetic, and full of anger. I couldn't sleep so I got up to pray. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak to me through the Word. I opened up to Baruch 4: 25- 29. This is what it said:

"My child, bear patiently the anger that has come from God upon you. 
Your enemies have persecuted you, and you will soon see their destruction.
My pampered child has trodden rough roads, carried off by her enemies like sheep in a raid.
Fear not, my child, call out to God!
He who brought this upon you will remember you. 
As your heart has been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek Him.
For He who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy."

I couldn't believe those words. There are so many things in that verse that have been on my heart for the last 10 months. It was as if God was saying "I have been with you, you are not alone, I care about everything, even the little things." I am clinging to this verse this week and thankful to have found it.

Lastly, I was at the Family Resource Center yesterday renting the new Catholicism series to keep Nate and I busy this weekend. As I was checking out the lady said "I think there is another DVD you might want. I just feel like I should give it to you." I was curious so I said alright. She then hands me a movie of St. Philip Neri! That is Abigail's saint for this year! Nathan and I have yet to learn anything about Philip Neri so I was beyond excited to watch the movie. What a Holy Spirit moment. She had no idea that he was Abigail's saint and there are literally 100's of DVDs in that store.

I honestly haven't been able to leave my house this week without an encounter with our Lord in some way.  I just had to share all the things the Lord is doing in my heart and thank everyone for their prayers. The storm has been raging, but He is awake now. I still am not sure if He will calm the storm or lead me into another one. I just know finally I can say it doesn't matter. He is with me and that is enough.

To all those grieving- hold out for Jesus. The storm is bad, but He is with you, even if He is still sleeping.

Sounds so great, right?  And them bam......grief hit. Today is Saturday and I spent all of Friday a complete wreck. We had a sono appointment and it didn't occur to me until we were walking in that it was our last one scheduled before induction. Immediately everything came back- the fact that the last time I even saw Caleb alive was the sono they did of him just one week before he died. All I could think was "Is this the last time I will see Abigail alive?" I wanted to beg the sono lady to record the entire thing on video just in case. So I spent much of the appointment fighting those thought all the while trying so hard to concentrate on what the specialist was telling us. I am so grateful my husband goes with me to each appointment because at this point my mental state is weaning. I can only take in so much of what the doctors say and its nice to have another person there to help remember things. Especially when you see a different doctor every 3 days at this point and hear so many different opinions.

Basically, the doctors have changed plans on us again and decided that we get to make the calls. I do not feel comfortable with this because, well I am not a doctor. Overall, this whole pregnancy I have just felt a lack of anyone wanting to take ownership of our case because they are scared of it. And now, a week away to have the specialist tell you "you decide, its whatever you want," just about pushed me over the edge. I keep thinking ,"the last one DIED inside of me, clearly I should not be left in charge of this one.Someone PLEASE just tell us what to do." Instead they have laid out about 4 different scenarios and left us to choose. So we are trying to sort through things this weekend and pray about it. I feel like Christ when he was sent to Pilot, then Herod, then back to Pilot, then to the people. NO one wanted to take responsibility for him.

So this is grief. One day so good, so hopeful. The next day a complete and I mean COMPLETE mess. I didn't sleep last night at all. Woke Nathan up around 2:00 and had a breakdown begging him to get this baby out because I am convinced I will kill her. This is why I think you should never tell someone in a subsequent pregnancy "rest up, because when the baby comes you won't sleep." See, we don't sleep now, like ever. And what keeps us awake is the real possibility of death, which wears on a person night after night after night. I can honestly say I have felt Abigail move since October and haven't slept a restful night since then. So, maybe we won't sleep once she is here, but we sure aren't sleeping now either.

Please keep praying. Pray that we can figure out the best thing to do. It seems if we keep her in, we run the risk of stillbirth. If we take her out too early she might end up in the NICU and die(small chance, but statistically we have been on the losing side up until this point, so we can't help but see worse case scenarios as the only scenarios for us). Just feels like we are between a rock and a hard place. Here's hoping to a better day with some of the peace I had on Thursday coming back into our lives.........

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


10. 10 days away from induction. 10 months since I heard, " I am sorry, he didn't make it." That statement came exactly 10 days before Caleb's due date. Sitting here today, 10 days from the date of when Abigail is supposed to arrive, I am anxious My heart is heavy with these dates and the number 10. It just occurred to me that the dates are lining up. Caleb was due on the 24th but died on the 14th. Abigail is due to be induced on the 24th, and here we are on the 14th. I am fearful. I am scared lightening will strike twice. Everything feels so heavy and dense right now.

This date makes me worry about Abigail. It is also a hard one because it means I have lived longer without Caleb than with him and I don't know how that is possible. The truth is sometimes I get mad. Mad that someone who was only in my life for 9 short months has the ability to completely tear it down and force me to rebuilt it. Mad that he could have such an effect on me. Mad that he isn't here. Mad that in my mind, he is still an infant. Mad that I can't change his photos out in the frames because they never change. Mad that I can't imagine him as anything more. Mad that I don't have a 10 month old right now. That I don't even know what 10 month olds do; I don't have the milestones etched in my brain to even know what he would be doing. I never got to open the book that sits neatly in the nursery Your Baby's First Year, Week by Week.

Dates are hard. The 14th comes EVERY month and it always stings. Then there is the 16th, that also stings and the 19th when we buried him and the 24th when his due date was supposed to be. And by the time I get over all those, a whole new month starts. I am tired of the dates. Tired because our life has no dates as of right now that go past Feb. 24th. We have no plans, nothing on the calendar. It's as if we are planning for everything to stop on the 24th, but we don't exactly know if it will ever start again. 10 more days, 10 months, all of it feels like 10 years...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hoping vs. Planning

One thing I have been reflecting on in this pregnancy is the difference between hoping and planning. After Caleb died, so did the planner in me. This is such a far stretch from who I used to be, but then again I am a new person. So I don't plan, like for anything. I live each moment as it comes. I planned so much with Caleb and then was so disappointed.

The thing that makes the "no planning" hard is when everyone else wants you to plan. We met with the head of labor and delivery this week to talk about our "birth plan" for Abigail and any ways they might be able to accommodate us.  The counselor thought this would be a good idea to try to reduce some anxiety.  The whole time the lady was talking about what we wanted this experience to be like and things to include or not to include. I kept thinking "why are we planning this when we know it won't happen?" There's confidence for you!

I find it so hard to plan, but the one thing I can do is hope. I was reflecting on this in prayer and realized this is exactly what it was like when I was dating Nathan. We did not plan. We had both been hurt before and knew how it could all end. Nathan was the first relationship where I did not say things like "when we are married," or "our kids," or even "I love you" until we were engaged. We talked about the future, but it was always with some distant far off people in mind, never specific to us and we always kept things very general. We did all of this to guard our hearts. I had given my heart to too many men before and I wanted to make sure Jesus had all of my heart this time, not the boy.

And this was HARD. Because I wanted to plan, I wanted to talk about our possible future non-stop. I wanted guarantees that if we kept dating it would end in marriage and I wouldn't be hurt again. But that is not how God wanted it. He wanted me to have restrain and guard my heart. It says in song of songs 8:4, "Do not arouse, do not stir up love before its time." So I had to do a lot of dying to myself and not plan.

But hope... Boy did I hope! I hoped we would get married. I hoped he was the one. I hoped he would propose to me. I hoped we would have children and watch them grow up. I hoped we would get to pick out a house together and do mundane things like go to the grocery store. The verse I reflected on a lot while dating was "It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord."(Lamentations 3:26) There were no "plans," but there was a lot of silent hope that I shared with our Lord.

This is exactly where I am with Abigail. Now that we are 15 days away from induction, my hope is starting to burst at the seams. But the planning- no way. I was scarred and wounded too bad when Caleb died. I can honestly say I do not plan to bring a baby home in 2 weeks, I just cannot see it happening. This shows because I have only 3 outfits for Abigail, none of them washed, will not put the car seat in, won't set up the bassinet, won't wash the bottles or bring the breast pump with me to the hospital. I am even hesitant to bring anything to the hospital for her until she is born alive. See I did all that before, I planned and it turned out my plans prepared me in no way for anything I needed once Caleb was born.

The point I am trying to make is, I don't think it's bad to hope instead of plan.  I hope to bring a live baby home. I hope to one day hear Abigail's cry and feed her and take of her and watch her grow up. I hope, hope, hope, to do all of those things so badly, but I know they are not guaranteed.

I have clung to the famous doubting Thomas so much during this pregnancy. He gets such a bad reputation as the doubter. Did you know that in the East he is actually known as believing Thomas? The way I look at it, I think Thomas actually loved Jesus more than the others. He gave Jesus his heart and soul and when Jesus died, a BIG part of Thomas died that day too. So when news spread that Jesus was back, Thomas simply couldn't go there. He had been wounded by love. He needed proof because he simply couldn't just throw his heart around again.

And then the famous line that I have repeated so many times these past months, "I will not believe unless I see." I feel so much like Thomas. I will not believe I can birth a live baby and bring her home until I see it. I have been too wounded by love.  Jesus knows this and He loves me anyways, just like Thomas. I am sure Thomas hoped the rumors of Jesus being alive were true just like I hope Abigail will be alive. But sometimes you just need to see it.

But then what about Jesus's response, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." I feel like I have been one of those people too. I did not see my son healed, in fact I held him dead-with no explanation. And I still believe, I am still here following Christ. I have not seen the resurrection, only Good Friday. But I still believe in Jesus, that He is the close to the brokenhearted. I believe that He is faithful. I saw the worst happen and I still believe, which has been the hardest part of all of this- to keep faith even with all the why's floating around. But I still do even though I still need to see. For me its a "both/and" sort of thing.

So hope vs. planning. I would say a lot of grieving people have hope, but not the ability to plan after their loss. Life is so uncertain and you learn that when a tragedy hits. Don't make a grieving person feel bad because they cannot plan the way everyone else around them does. They have been wounded by love and once you are wounded, everything changes.

Join them in their hope. It has been so wonderful to see my friends and family have hope that Abigail will come home. My mom even has so much hope that I think her whole upstairs is filled with girl clothes and pink blankets. Seeing others' hope helps me on those days that I struggle. I even have a sweet friend who sends me a countdown update just about every other day and it makes me smile. Maybe in the end we are all supposed to just have hope anyways. They say that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Well I don't have any, Lord, I just hope.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The universality of grief

One thing that I have become so intrigued by is the fact that grief seems to be universal. I got my first look at this during the summer when we attended a grief share meeting at a local church. I was shocked how similar every one's grief seemed to be, especially the outward effects of grief. It didn't matter if someone had lost their child, spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, whoever. Grief seemed to do similar things to people and everyone could relate to what the other was feeling.

Since become a mom without her baby, I have turned to other babylost mothers through the world of blogging. I am shocked over and over again at how similar our experiences are. These women are from around the world (literally). We all come from different backgrounds with different belief systems and cultural values. But, we all seem to experience the loss of a child in similar ways. I cannot say how many times I have read a fellow mom's blog and been in awe because of the words I have read. It's like these women are reading into my mind and heart. They are feeling exactly what I am feeling.

Right away the first blog I came across was of a mother who had a stillborn son at 39 weeks. Her post here made me feel like I wasn't crazy. I remember in those early months (and still sometimes now) thinking and wondering "did I even have a baby?" Turns out its a common feeling for the babylost moms. Another blog I soon found was of a mother whose baby died during labor. Her post on life sentence was exactly how I felt. I couldn't believe how she nailed everything I was feeling. Losing a child is such a hidden thing but something that effects every part of you. There are days when you feel like it is a life sentence to pain and heartache.

Another mom who I admire lost her baby girl to stillbirth at 39 weeks. Her post on being happy really resonated with me. One of the things I have grieved the most is the loss of happy. I know it will come again, but I don't think it will every be as pure. I desperately miss that happy me, the one who was a "glass half full" kind of gal. Now I am melancholic, quite, inward, reserved. It was good to read her thoughts and know I wasn't alone in grieving the loss of happy. She also writes a great post about where she is 17 months later. I loved this post because it affirmed me that I am normal in my grief and though it will change in the days and month ahead, its not going anywhere anytime soon. She is a great example of learning to walk through the dark valley instead of pretending its not there.

Not only have I been surprised at how similar grief can be, I have also been shocked at how similar pregnancy after a loss can be. The women I meet have the same thoughts as I do, the same fears, the same struggles. One mother from Australia who lost her first baby to stillbirth at 40 weeks has been so insightful in helping me through this pregnancy with Abigail. Her post on holding pattern is EXACTLY how I feel most days. All the emotions, the exhaustion, the anxiety.  I read her post and felt instantly like I wasn't crazy.

Another mom who lost her son during labor talks about the guilt a mother carries with her after a child has died and then in a subsequent pregnancy. Boy can I relate to this! Guilt is a daily companion that I live with and struggle with. It was nice to see I wasn't alone. 

 A new blog I found recently is from a mother who lost her baby boy to stillbirth at 38 weeks. She talks about how "not normal" you are when you are pregnant again. Her Post describes so much of the hardship that is a subsequent pregnancy after a loss. The innocence of pregnancy is gone, even though the outside world has no idea most of the time.

All of these women are random strangers. I have never met them and probably never will. The other night after reading a post I cried and cried. I asked Nathan, "why am I so emotional when it comes to people I have never met? He said what I think I already knew " you do know them." And he is right, even though I don't "know," them, I have lived through what they have and somehow come out the other side. I know what its like to lose your baby before you even get to meet them. Our hearts will always be the same.

Which leads me to the final thought- all of these similarities between grieving people just prove to me more what a loving God we have. Jesus said himself " you will have trouble in the world." He knew it would be hard, knew it would be agonizing and at times impossible. That is why he has written it so intimately on all of our hearts the way we respond to tragedy. He did not want us to grieve alone. What a loving father to give us comfort when we need it most in the form of others.

 He also gave us His mother, she is also a mother who has lost her son. I am reading a new book that tells of different saint's visions  of Mary at the crucifixion. St. Bernard saw a vision of the crucifixion with Mary standing by and he had this to say "Mary stood there dying, unable to die herself." That line has stuck with me the past week. Its exactly how I have felt these past 9 months. Like I am dying, but I am unable to die. I read his words and thought to myself "Mary is just like us (babylost mothers), she gets me in a way most mothers who have not lost a child just cannot." I take such comfort in Our Lady and her suffering. She has been there constantly to help me navigate through my heart during this difficult time.

So there it is, my epiphany on how similar grief is. I hope you take the time to read the other women's post. They are able to put into words so much better than I can this experience. Also, if you know someone who has had a loss of any kind PLEASE direct them to grief share. It is an excellent program that has a Christian outlook on grief. It's made up of  13 video seminars with a support group. There are many churches around the country that have grief share and they can be found on their website. If you do not know how to help a friend grieving, direct them to grief share where they can be helped.