Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Remember You

Thank you, Kirsten.

A Person's a Person, No Matter How Small

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The 15th is specifically National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

Did you know that 1 in 4 suffers the loss of a child? More likely than not, the child(ren) of one of your loved ones is included in this day.

1 in 4 lose a child, and yet the American dialogue remains largely silent on the subject. I think that's one of the reasons that it's rather hard to cope with. I can't speak to losing a child I've carried to term, but at least in the case of miscarriage, there are no pictures. There are few to no pleasant memories. In early miscarriage, there's not even visible physical evidence of your child's existence. There are no funerals. There's just a void in your heart for the baby you loved the moment you knew of her existence. A void that only that child can fill. Though Matthew fills up my whole heart, there are still simultaneously 5 baby-shaped, whole-heart sized holes that are reserved for his siblings.

But the world keeps going. It's maddening. You want everything to stop so that you can process what just happened, but the rest of the world keeps going, without even knowing your child existed. I remember the night of my first miscarriage, we'd been in the hospital all day and I'd lost a ton of blood. I left weak and hungry, so we went to a restaurant. They asked us if it was "just the two of us" and I nearly lost my head with the realization that the answer was "yes" even though hours before, it had been "no." Miscarriage grief can be a very lonely, silent kind of pain. Most of the world answers it with, "Goodness, get over it already. It's not like it was a REAL baby," as though your child was not yet old or big enough to have caused you pain to lose. Or, "you can have another baby," as if a new baby could take that baby's place. Or "Maybe there was something wrong with that baby, so thank God He took the baby early." Or the ever-generic, "these things happen for a reason." Especially among people who claim to be pro-life, it blows my mind to hear them. Or, people just say nothing. No matter how early in their life they are born to heaven, he or she is still a real baby who has died. Empty arms and an empty cradle await the parents who were so anxious to meet their little one.

We were blessed. We had (have) an amazing circle of immediate friends and family, most of whom did NOT say those things. I heard them, but more often, the things we heard were supportive and life-affirming. But I also know that many are often at a loss of what to do or say to support their loved ones dealing with miscarriage.

Here are some suggestions:

Pray for them. Pray with them.

Recognize that their child has died. You would offer condolences to someone in the event of a lost parent, aunt or uncle, sibling, or sometimes even a pet. You might even offer flowers or a card. It's ok to do the same after a miscarriage. Having someone else acknowledge that you experienced a "REAL" loss, having that person acknowledge that your child really was here, did exist, and did matter is immensely comforting and healing.

Don't try to explain their child's death away

Don't try to compare it to any other kind of loss

Ask them if they want to talk about their child

Talk about their child with them--it's so comforting to have your "secret" child's life acknowledged by someone else. My goddaughter shares the name with one of my girls. Before naming her, my best friend called and asked if it was ok if they used the same name. Of course they didn't need my permission, but for them to acknowledge that my own was a real little person who died was amazing.

If the miscarriage is recent, offer to bring them a meal. Miscarriage can be physically painful, exhausting, or both. Bringing a meal is sensitive to the grieving mother's physical needs and again, lets her know that you recognize her loss as "real."

Hug them

Cry with them

Recognize that some "milestones" might be hard, like Mother's (or Father's) Day, or their due date, or the anniversary of their miscarriage. Even if it's years after the fact, those days might be sensitive for them and that's ok.

If you don't know what to say, say "I'm sorry," or "I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you." Usually, we don't actually want or need to hear anything. We just need your love.

I know an overwhelming amount of my readers are among those 1 in 4. So I'm thinking of all of you today, mamas, and missing your babies right along with you.

A person's a person, no matter how small. They were here. They ARE loved. And Heaven is going to be one AMAZING reunion.

PS: As of the time of this posting (O'dark hundred ;) ) there was still time to submit your child to Kirsten's Say Their Names project.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

[It Was] Matthew Monday

It was Matthew Monday when I started this post in my head. Does that count? Because "Matthew Thursday" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

It's just after 12:30a and I've just come to bed from cuddling my sweetie pie. I just fed him at 11:30 but he woke up crying. I know the books say that I should have let him fall back asleep, but he wanted to cuddle, so I cuddled him. I know that one day, much sooner than I want it, he will not want me to cuddle him anymore. As it is, he doesn't like to cuddle much when he's awake, so I take it when and where I can get it. Do you think if I got some of that fancy anti-aging cream and smeared it all over him, that he could stay my little boy forever? I know some people aren't "baby people" but I love this time SO much. And I'll only get to have it with my first/only baby once. So, I'm a bit wistful about it passing so quickly! I'm pretty tired because he's gone back to two middle of the night feedings, and that, coupled with my insomnia makes it hard to catch up on rest. But, the middle of the night feeds are some of my favorites--he's too tired to want to play or wriggle away, so he eats, and then when he's done, he pulls off and burrows in to me. I usually have to pry myself out of the chair and put him back to bed because it's so tempting to snuggle him all night. Ah...

My sweetheart is just blossoming. He still has very little interest in crawling. He gets up on his hands and knees and rocks for a while, but then decides rolling is faster. He has recently started doing this funny little shimmy. It's pretty hard to describe, so I'll just show you. This is how he gets around when he wants to go forward. And he always only uses the one hand.

Last week, he got a freckle. Two, actually: one in his left ear, and one on his right cheek. SO cute!

He's becoming increasingly verbal. His sounds now are "ma, ma, ma," "ba, ba, ba," and more recently (and rarely), "ah, ah, ah," "da, da, da," ga, ga, ga" and "la, la, la." Last week, I was reading him "Moo, Baa, La La La" and when I said, "The sheep says "ba-a-a," he said "ba-a-a" and when I said, "Three singing piggies say 'La la la!" he said, "la la la!" He's only done it sporadically since then, but it was deliberate. I love to see his little mind working.

Another thing that's been fun to see is he's figuring out mirrors. He still LOVES the baby in the mirror. I don't know that he's figured out that that is him. He talks to the baby, tries to touch the baby, tries to eat the baby. But if he sees someone else he knows in the mirror, he'll look in the mirror, and then turn and look behind or next to himself to see where that person is standing. You can literally see the lightbulbs going off in his little head. I know not everyone has the opportunity or desire to be a stay at home mom, but for me, it's a perfect fit and I'm so thankful for the chance to be one. I just love being with him all day. People say that it will wear off. Maybe when he's a teenager ;)

I had to move him this week to 9-12 month jammies! He's still tiny in terms of weight, but he's soooo long! It's always bittersweet for me when I move him to the next size up. I am grateful that he's healthy and growing, but this time is all passing far too quickly for my preference!

His last day in his 6-9 month jammies. I just loved these ones on him so I wanted to make sure I had a picture of him in them. I got a pretty cute picture out of the deal!

On the weekend, we took him to the pumpkin patch. The weather was PERFECT--70 degrees. (In contrast, it will be 100 tomorrow). He had such a good time. He just LOVES to be outside but it's been too hot for him to be in it for months!

Sunday night (October 9th) was very exciting, too! Look what we learned to do!

He got himself to that position:

So, we've been a busy bee! He's attempting to cruise, too! He might just skip that whole boring crawling thing! Once he's up on his feet, he stands there as long as he can. He just loves it!

Other little things I want to remember: His sweet little voice. Sometimes, it's just so soft, and gentle.

He's even learning to whisper, which is so cute. Other times, he's loud and rowdy and exuberant. Oh and that fake cough thing at the end of the video is his other new thing. It's hilarious.

Often, when he finishes eating at bedtime, he pulls away, sits up, props his elbows on my chest and strokes my face. Then he smiles and coos at me. He knows bed time is imminent and he's just trying to con me into playing with him instead of putting him to sleep, but I admit, sometimes, I fall for it. On purpose. It's so cute, even if a bit manipulative.

When he nurses, he is turned in toward me, lying on his side, with his tummy and torso against my chest, and one leg and arm under him, down against my arm that's cradling him. Lately, his free leg just goes wild while he's eating. He waves it all over the air. Eventually, he settles it up on my shoulder. It's so cute. With his free hand, he likes to grab the end of my nose and hold on. It's like he's saying "Don't go anywhere, mom!" Like I could even if I wanted to.

He does this funny little thing where he tucks his chin to his chest and shakes his head from side to side, as if he's nodding, "no." The thing is, he does it at all random times and often not in response to anything so he's not ACTUALLY saying, "no."

He's fascinated with the mechanics of things. We were at a friends house for dinner a few weeks ago, and she has one of those springy/coil doorstops in her baseboard. We were on the floor playing, and he rolled over to it, and spent a good 20 minutes just tweaking the doorstop, listening to its sound and watching it move. Today, he rolled to a drawer with a hinged pull--he pulled it out and let it fall back in to place forever and ever. He's so curious!

He laughs at me when I yawn (kind of messed up, don't you think, considering he's the REASON I'm so tired?)

He is seeming like he's going to be left handed...just like his daddy {swoon}.

Ok, now it's 1:45--I need to go to bed. Night, all!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Say Their Names

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to pray for my friend Kirsten, who was approaching the anniversary of both the birth and the death of her son, Ewan.

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. One of the hardest things about losing a baby (born or unborn) is that in much of the world's mind, that child no longer exists. When a child is lost early in his or her life, there are not a lot of memories or experiences or relationships to keep that child in the general conversation of life. His or her parents and family honor them, the rest of the world keeps on going as if nothing ever happened. That feeling is so maddening. You want to stand up and shout at anyone who will listen, "My child was here! She existed! She matters! She is loved!" There's something in you that wants to claim her life for the world. To acknowledge her. To honor her, even when the rest of the world didn't even know she existed.

In the spirit of honoring children lost too soon, Kirsten has created "Say Their Names," which is her way of declaring love, importance, and honor for these sweet children. She is inviting anyone who wishes to post the names of the children they lost too soon, either in miscarriage or infancy, and on October 15, she will light a candle, and simply speak their names. These babies mattered. They each had a soul, beloved unto the Lord. They had a life and a name and people who loved them.

If you would like your child included, or simply if you want more information on the project, I invite you to visit here.

In honor of my children, I am including them.
3 Snowflakes* (more on their names, later)

I love you, babies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First World Problems

I've been thinking a lot about my tendency to worry, over-analyze, and second-guess many things. I so desperately want to do what is best for Matthew, that sometimes I can really get overwhelmed. And I often find myself in a place of tremendous dilemma. God has really been convicting me this week about the nature of my "problems" with Matthew.

I grieved for a long time over how I gave birth.
I didn't have to grieve for my child. He was delivered safely in to my arms and sleeps peacefully in his bed as I write this. Many women around the world give birth to babies they never get to bring home. Others give birth in unsafe, or unsanitary places. Some give birth in secret, others in shame, still others in fear. None of those was my story.

I've been worrying about what and how to feed him.
I don't have to worry IF I'll feed him. So many parents around the world don't know IF they will feed their child the next meal, and they certainly don't have the luxury of deciding whether to breast feed or bottle feed, and whether their child will have sweet potatoes at 6 months or 1 year old.

I worry about the vaccines I've given him and I worry about the ones I haven't.
I don't have to worry that we will be able to obtain medical care for him if he does fall ill. I have the freedom in my country to do what I think is best for my child. No one makes those decisions except me and my husband. Some parents don't have that freedom. Other parents don't have access to that kind of medical care, even if they wanted to choose it.

I try to buy in advance the clothes he'll need for the next season and I pay careful attention to if I have enough for any kind of weather or circumstance.
I don't have to wonder if he'll be warm enough (or cool enough) or if I'll be able to provide the things he needs.

I wonder about how we'll educate him. Private school? Public school? Home school?
I don't have to wonder IF he'll get an education. And again, I have the right to CHOOSE how we want to educate him. Some people will never receive a formal education. Others desperately want one but have no access to one. Still others want one thing for their child but are forced by government or family or custom or religion to choose another.

I wonder if he gets enough quality time with his daddy.
I don't have to wonder IF he'll know or love his daddy. All around the world, children grow up fatherless, through no fault of the children, or even the fathers in many places. By God's grace, Matthew is not one of those who is without his daddy.

I pray that he will come to know Christ at an early age.
I don't have to worry that he will never hear the name of Christ or have the opportunity to receive Him. God has graciously adopted both Todd and I as His children and thereby allowed Matthew to be born in to a Christian home where he will hear the gospel from us. We are blessed to live in a country that allows us to practice our religion and share it with others. We have a wonderful group of friends and family who also know the Lord and who love our son and will share with him. And we have faith and trust in a Sovereign God who will call our son to Him if it is His will.

I think all of my questions are important, to a point. I am grateful for a mind and freedom and opportunity to investigate these various things. But I think maybe, just maybe, the "problems" that come to many of us first-world, middle income parents aren't really "problems" at all. Thinking through the macro of what these issues could look like in their most extreme forms has helped me mellow a lot in dealing with my teeny-tiny, microcosmic variations of them. We are blessed. And I am grateful.