October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month.
Not something I ever thought I would acknowledge. When Community North told me about the ceremony the hospital holds on October 15th (official PILR day), for the families who have experienced such loss, I immediately dismissed it.
I mean, who needs another day (let alone month) dedicated to being sad? I’ve already got May 13th, the day we found out we were pregnant. And June 15th, the day we heard our baby’s heart beat. And June 23rd, the day we found out it was gone. And January 18th, the day Brave was due.
Plenty of days to kick me in the gut. Why add another?
Because it’s about more than just me, and my sadness. It’s about life, and honoring it.
Letting the world know how devastating it is to create and carry a child that cannot be saved. To hear its heartbeat, see it move, and dream a thousand dreams for it…then learn they will never come true.
How, in that moment, the fragility, sacredness, miracle of humanity, comes through. And the full weight of what is lost…nearly suffocates you.
It’s an opportunity, to spread the message that life matters. It matters so much, that those who lose an unborn child are forever affected. They don’t get over it. They never forget.
And they are justified, in that grief.
Since losing Brave I’ve noticed how our society often undermines the pain accompanying invisible mother (or father) hood. Leaving us to feel weak, or overly emotional. The majority of it stems from ignorance. They just don’t know.
Which is what these remembrance or awareness months are for. To create a sense of community within an isolating experience. To honor a life’s brief existence. And to inform those who don’t get it.
Kindly let them know that even though there’s usually no funeral for a miscarriage, and babies born sleeping are often not included in the family picture, that does not diminish the love their parents felt, and will always feel.
And that life, no matter how developed or how short, has worth.
So drop the qualifiers. There’s no at least or was only or be gladthat, that will make pregnancy or infant loss any better. Just send love.
Sometimes God speaks to me in the middle of the road on a rainy day. Most of the time, He speaks to me through music.
When I went public with the story of our miscarriage, many in the club reached out with advice.
Give yourself time, and space Yes please. Buy something tangible to honor its life I’m on board with that. Name your baby …..
I don’t know why, but I wasn’t comfortable with that last one at first. Not until a couple weeks passed and I got real tired of saying it or the baby or sticky bean who wasn’t so sticky.
I also couldn’t shake the scene from the book Heaven is for Real, when the little boy talks about meeting his sister in heaven. His mom, stunned, asked him what her name was.
She didn’t have one. You guys didn’t name her.
Whoaaa Dagger to my heart. Whether that book is true or not — I’m inclined to trust it is, but there have been plenty of people who’ve recanted on their near death experiences. And of course it’s possible the dad made the whole thing up, although I truly doubt it. — I do believe heaven is for real. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not naming your baby…I personally couldn’t stand the idea of our child walking around up there without one.
So I asked Ron, do you think we should give our baby a name?
He looked at me like I was crazy. I explained my rationale and he softened.
We’ll let God name it.
Okay. Alright. Fair enough.
I dropped the topic, figuring it was done. Then a few days later I went for a run on my lunch break. Before I left, I Googled “Christian songs for hard times” to find some new music. I still wasn’t in the mood for Beyonce or Grande. I needed something more encouraging to make it through my afternoons. One of the songs I found in a list had a picture of the singer in a cute dress, hands on her hips. Looking confident. Brave written across the middle in a cool font.
Oooh. She looks inspiring. Sold.
I headed out the door, pushing play as I picked up my feet.
No one ever told me this would be easy But I never knew that it could be this hard
Oh the worry the worry the worry is weighing on me Could you help me break down all these question marks And make me
Brave I’ll fight like a soldier
Whoa. Get it girl.
Brave Rise like a warrior Brave Won’t stop till the final day
Brave I want to be stronger Brave Gonna be bolder Brave Look up and I see the way You make me brave
I was feelin it. Jamming right along…until those last two lines.
My throat caught as I inexplicably pictured Jesus and our baby, hanging out together in heaven. Looking down and smiling. Cheering for me. Encouraging me to rise like a warrior, fight like a soldier.
I turned down the sound and kept running, thinking more about our baby.
It stopped growing at 7 weeks, 5 days. But when we went to see it at 9 weeks…it’s heartbeat was still so strong. Despite its small size, the nurse practitioner didn’t seem too concerned. With a heart rate like that, it seemed really possible nothing was wrong.
Then that night or the next, I can’t remember, I woke up around 2 am. Chills, convulsions really, rocking my body. I couldn’t sleep so I got up and took my temperature to see if I had a fever. I didn’t.
My guess is that’s when our baby passed.
It’s like….it’s like it held on just for us. Just long enough to say hello.
Oh, what a brave, brave heart.
I follow a blogger who named her little girl Brave. I’m sure she has a wonderful rationale, but I always felt like that was kind of a tough name to give an earthly babe. A lot to live up to.
But what about for an angel? Whose body failed but heart kept beating…just long enough to greet us?
Later that day I was scrolling Pinterest, under the search term brave, contemplating how I was going to present this to Ron. He wanted to let God name our baby. He’s going to roll his eyes when I tell him about my run. Blame it on the hormones, probably. Tell me I’m being silly.
I stopped scrolling when I saw a necklace that said “You make me brave.” The caption mentioned a song by Bethel, from which the necklace was inspired. I’d never heard it so I looked up the lyrics.
You make me brave You make me brave No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
You make me brave You make me brave No fear can hinder now the promises you made
Everything in my head began to swirl.
It was all so random. Choosing the song based on the album cover, when I rarely download a song without at least listening to the snippet. Scrolling Pinterest and reading a caption, when I almost never read the captions. My whole convoluted thought process while out running.
It felt like some sort of divine conspiracy. Sweet whispers from above.
Don’t fear daughter. Luke 1:45. I’ll fulfill my promises to you.
Look up mama, we’ll make you brave.
That was it. I lost it.
Ron wanted God to name our baby. And you know what? He just did.
The ironies, or signs as I prefer to call them, didn’t stop there. These are 3 of my favorite.
I kept thinking of Sara Bareilles’ song Brave. I couldn’t remember the lyrics, and I wasn’t motivated to look them up. A mainstream pop song isn’t going to encourage me in this situation. But my curiosity kept pestering me, until I gave in. I had just finished the blog Empty when I went for a run and added it to my playlist.
Let your words be anything but empty Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Say what you wanna say And let the words fall out Honestly I wanna see you be brave With what you want to say And let the words fall out Honestly I wanna see you be brave
I swear I could almost hear them laughing, Jesus and Brave. HA. Gotcha. That’s what you get for thinking you know it all.
Another night, I went for a run around Avon Town Hall Park. I slowed as I approached the memorial for children who have passed away. Decided to stop in and say a prayer. I read the plaque on the angel statue for the first time.
Turns out they hold a vigil every year. On December 6th. Our anniversary.
Which just seemed like a weird, kind of mean coincidence until I recalled the lipstick my makeup artist chose for that day. (I know. Lipstick, of all things.) A pretty pink Mac shade….named Brave.
I remember thinking it was a fun name for lipstick, but that it didn’t apply to marrying Ron. Pshh. I don’t need to be brave. It’s not like I don’t know the guy. Get real. We’ve been together for almost 10 years. Overcome all sorts of odds. Our relationship is already plenty strong.
Oh to be that girl again. Basking in blissful ignorance.
Then my best friend had her baby. 5 days overdue.
As I mentioned in part six, I was a mess. Not because I didn’t love my friend and her precious new life. Not because I was jealous. I honestly wasn’t. I was just sad. So so sad, for all the dreams I had for our future buddies…that now would never be.
When I got home from crying over cake and wine, I found that my ring had arrived.
Right on time.
I also ordered that little gold heart ring to stack with it, seeing as how the name Brave originated with our babe’s tiny heart of gold. <3 Unfortunately it was too small for my ring finger, so I’m waiting on a bigger one.
I know to those who don’t believe, this post probably seems like a bunch of hocus pocus. And I have no way to prove to you otherwise. All I can say is this is my life, my story, my truth. In the end I’m the one who is going to have to account for how I chose to spend my days, not you. So I can’t say it matters much to me, what other people think. Not anymore.
I’ve only got one goal, while there’s still air in my lungs. Make my God and my baby proud.
And that goes right back to the last blog I wrote before I found out Brave was gone. Handling every situation, good or bad, with the right perspective.
So although the story is ongoing, I’m going to conclude this series, with this:
Brave Frederick will never know fear. Never know pain. I don’t have to worry one bit about him or her for the rest of my days. Because the first thing those little eyes saw…was the face of Jesus.
Last Fall I signed up for a bible study at Northview. Restless, by Jennie Allen. It centers around the story of Joseph, the one with the technicolor dream coat. The one who faced trial after trial after trial on his way to becoming a respected leader.
Ever since then, his story has been following me around. It kept showing up. In sermons, books, blogs, Pinterest posts. And that unnerved me. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 31 years, it’s that when things keep showing up in your life…there’s a reason. You should probably pay attention.
I didn’t want to pay attention.
So I scrolled past the pins, put down the books, switched to different podcasts. Shoved my head in the sand in a futile attempt to ignore what I already knew.
A trial was coming.
A trial has come.
A test, that when you boil it down is really only two questions long. How strong is your faith? How much do you trust?
One answer: Not enough.
No matter how many times I checked my pockets, the couch cushions, the junk drawer and the floor…I always came up short.
And that frustrated me. I mean there I was, trying to be a leader. Trying to follow a call to de-stigmatize Christianity and encourage other followers with this blog…and the second I got hit with something truly difficult? I was down for the count.
I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t pray. Don’t even mention praise.
I still believed. I’ll never not believe (a post or series of its own, someday). But it’s one thing to passively agree God exists. It’s another to live in full surrender.
Having faith He cares enough to reach down and pull you through. Trusting His plans are far greater than your own. Being still enough to look and listen for guidance.
I wrestled hard with my pride, those first few weeks. I knew I didn’t have the power to get through this on my own, but I didn’t want to ask for help.
I shouldn’t need it, I would insist. I should be strong enough. Gosh dangit, I will be strong enough.
As you might expect, defiance wasn’t helping. It was making me more miserable. So miserable even Target let me down. (Which if you know me, is just absurd.) I attempted shopping one day, hoping to cheer myself up. It was no use. Who gives a crap about candles and scarves. My baby is dead.
So I left. Defeated. Crossing the street slowly, even though it was pouring. Everyone else was sprinting and shouting but I took solace in the weather matching my emotions.
Then, halfway to the car, in the middle of the road, my mind processed a thought I cannot claim. Clear as day.
Let me heal you.
I picked up my pace and unlocked the door. Once inside, I sat with my keys in my hand. Spooked. Like when you know you’re alone but you can’t shake the feeling that you aren’t. I looked around. Checked the backseat. The car next to me. The branches in the median tree (can’t be too cautious). No one.
I faced forward and watched the rain hit the windshield for a minute. Then, again. Out of nowhere. Lyrics.
It’s like I’m standin in the rain And you offer me a raincoat But I would rather stand there wringin wet Than take the hand out
I knew that song. I’ll Keep On, by NF. I liked it. I would listen to it when it came on the radio but I never got too into it, because the lyrics didn’t apply to me. Not until that moment, anyway.
I went to iTunes and downloaded the song. Listened closer.
Verse 1 Faith is something I am not accustomed to Trusting other people ‘s something I don’t really love to do I’ve never been a fan of it, I act tough but Really my shoulders they ain’t built for this and I don’t have nothin It’s like I’m standing in the rain and you offer me a raincoat But I would rather stand there wringin wet than take the handout What’s wrong with me? You said, you’ve always got your hands out And I can not continue on my own so take my hands now I give you everything, God, not just a little bit Take it from me, I am nothing but a hypocrite I hate sin but I built a house and I still live in it Afraid to open up the door to you ‘n let you into it My soul is lost and what it needs is your direction I know, I’ve told you I do not need your protection But I lied to you, this thing is tiring A man was not created for it God, please retire me now
Oh these hands are tired Oh this heart is tired Oh this soul is tired But I’ll keep on I’ll keep on I’ll keep on
First part of Verse 2 Trust is something I am not accustomed to And I know the Bible says I should always trust in you But, I will never read that book enough And when I have a question I don’t take the time to look it up Or pick it up It collects dust on my nightstand I’m just being honest Please take this outta my hands I have no control – I am just a person But thank the Lord that I serve a God that’s perfect.
What happened to my soul while listening to that song was the equivalent of someone thrashing about in the shallow end of the pool, panting and freaking out, sure they’re going to drown….then extending a foot far enough to realize hey, I can touch.
No. I wasn’t strong enough to swim yet. But that was okay. I didn’t have to be. Not if I was willing to acknowledge the solid ground beneath my feet.
I react to everything differently now.
Things that used to bother me, don’t. Things that never did, do.
I have my moments, but in general I’m less of a spaz. Perpetual franticness over little things replaced by grander focus on meaningful things. Those 8 pounds over wedding weight? Meh. Didn’t get a run in today? Oh well. Being aggressively tailgated on the interstate? Oh hey sorry, my bad. I’ll get right over.
Calories and miles and the number of jack holes I encounter to and from work are irrelevant now. All that matters is protecting my still healing heart. Making it from sunrise to sundown without a major setback. Which is a job, some days. A precarious balancing act of not leaning too hard on some relationships, it’s not all about me, they have lives too, and not being too hard on others, but seriously. could you at least consider me, before you say that?
I fight hard to give the clueless people grace, rather than put them in their place. To look for the positive, be happy for others, and for pete’s sake drop the timeline and let it be.
But most of all, to let Him do His thing.
When I introduced the Music Monday posts, I said they were a response to a calling. God prompting me to use a love He gave me for a bigger purpose. I believed that and I still do. No hard time could ever sever my connection with heaven.
Of course I admit, this one knocked the wind out of me. Obviously. Had me stumbling around in the corner of the ring. But time tells the full story, and I can already say: all this miscarriage has done is reinforce my conviction. Like a strained muscle growing back stronger. A fighter coming back swinging.
And before anyone tries to point to that and tell me that’s “the reason”…God took my baby to enhance my faith…let me warn you:
I don’t know why people who don’t want children and/or women who actively try to sabotage their pregnancies end up with healthy babies and why couples like Ron and I, ready and willing to do our very best to love and raise a life right…end up with broken hearts. Trust and believe, getting that answer is second on my agenda once I’m through those gates. Right after I finally hold our baby tight.
No doubt, it’s a question that could haunt me. Distract me and drag me down with every horrifying headline.
But I won’t let it.
I won’t retreat to the solitary confinement that results from a head full of wonder and worry. There’s no victory in that. Just like there’s no prize for walking a dark road alone. It’s all punishment, actually. Pointless self-punishment that only leads to wallowing. No matter what the voices in my head try to tell me, this wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve this pain. But it’s here, so I might as well use it for His gain. And in order to do that?
I have to pay attention.
Not hide my head in the sand. Not give my pride the upper hand. I have to pay attention to His direction. And right now, He’s pushing me to lay fear down at His feet.
Keep on hoping Keep on trusting Keep on running the race laid out for me
A trial has come, yes.
But it has not won.
I still struggle with sadness. At night, mostly. When I’m worn out and my defenses are down. Those who’ve been here say that’s normal. And that it’ll never completely go away, but it will continue to abate. Eventually only emerging now and again. Like an old athletic injury that flares up whenever it feels like it. Usually when you’re on a winning streak.
And when it does, I’ll do like I do when my pelvis throws back to the fracture of 08.
Slow down. Rest.
Again and again. Practicing patience, faith and trust every chance I get so that when my feet hit the floor each morning I’ll know in my bones: there is no test tougher than the spirit in me.
Because there will be more trials, of that I’m sure.
And when they arrive, I may falter and fail
But I won’t be derailed.
Even with tears in my eyes, I’ll rise.
Well I keep on coming to this place That I don’t know quite how to face So I lay down my life in hopes to die That somehow I might rise
Yes I will rise Out of these ashes rise From this trouble I have found And this rubble on the ground I will rise Cause He Who is in me Is greater than I will ever be And I will rise
I never held the life we created in my arms. And the first time I publicly identified myself as a mother was in a pre-op room, signing paperwork to release what was left of my pregnancy to the hospital. So I won’t pretend I really know what I’m missing. But I do know what a beautiful miracle a healthy baby is, and how much I want to experience it myself.
We would have been “in the clear” by now. We would have announced our bean’s impending arrival to the world and I would have gone to the hospital to hold a friend’s new little one, blissfully imagining the bond it might have with my own.
Instead I spent that evening drinking wine with another friend, who’s been where I am. Twice. The waitress kept coming by to ask what we wanted to order to eat and we had to keep looking up at her with red eyes. We need more time.
I need more time. To finish processing the pain. To fold it up and put it away on a safe shelf of my heart…where I can still get to it, but it doesn’t interfere with my happiness for others.
But time’s up.
A sweet new life is here. More are on the way.
And the reality is no amount of time would be enough anyway. If I had a dollar for each person who’s told me it doesn’t go away, I could go away. To some exotic corner of the world. Just me and Ron and this ring I can’t stop messing with. Spinning it in circles over and over and over. As if doing so would take me back, like Dorothy and her ruby shoes. Back to where life was comfortable, and kind.
Not some evil, awful ruse.
But my yellow brick road is ruined, there’s no escaping that. My perfectly plotted timeline, my hopes and wishes for our baby, who I thought I was, who I thought The Frederick’s were going to be…all of it.
Blown to bits.
There’s beauty to be found in the wreckage, though. Now that the storm has faded to a steady rain, I’m able to look past the ashes and smoke and see…
It’s in the love for your husband, taken to a depth you didn’t even know you could reach.
It’s in the actions of the one who runs in. Straight into the flames. Fearlessly. Driving you to appointments. Taking you to lunch. Sitting beside you in the hospital rooms, holding up the walls from closing in.
It’s in the eyes of those who’ve been there. Even as they blink back empathetic tears, you can see it. Strength and peace, overshadowing their sorrow. Giving you hope.
You’ll get there. You will. But it’s okay if it’s not tomorrow.
It’s in the heart behind every card, gift, prayer, kind word, and long hug.
Even broken, you are loved.
And maybe most importantly, it’s in the freedom of letting go. Dropping your white-knuckled grip on self-reliance and control.
My friend and I finally got our food. Carrot cake and cheesecake. Because let’s be real. Heavy conversations don’t mix well with spinach.
We did talk about some normal things. The house hunt. This seller’s agent is such a douche. A wedding. It was beautiful, they really lucked out with the weather. A trip out of state. It’s going to be an adventure, flying with a busy child in my lap.
But I kept bringing us back around to the pit I was stuck in. Again and again, like a bad carousel ride. Rambling about this and that, as the thoughts came to me. Eventually she sat back and said:
If I have any advice, it’s throw your timeline out the window. I know you have one. People like us always do. But toss it out.
Blow it to bits, I said.
She nodded. Blow. It. To bits.
I knew she was right. But I felt my insides tighten instantly. My mind shooting straight to my replacement timeline. The one I came up with shortly after this one was…you know. Forcibly B2B.
I know it’s a little too soon, recovery wise, but what if we got pregnant in August? We could announce around my dad’s birthday. The baby would be born around the time we found out we were pregnant with this one. Near Mother’s Day. Plus it would be a couple weeks before the race. Todd & April will be able to meet their new niece or nephew when they come to town for that!
Okay. Alright. Fine.
If we wait as long as we’re supposed to, maybe we could get pregnant in September. I love September. It smells like cross country, feels like falling in love. We could announce around our anniversary, and the baby would be born around the same time we heard this one’s heartbeat. Kind of poetic, in a bittersweet way.
Yeah. There’s casually entertaining potential and there’s throwing all your broken-hearted eggs in one basket, hoping like mad they’ll hatch. The first is innocent fun. The second is a recipe for pain and disappointment. A short term distraction, delaying the hard work of actually letting go. Of tossing your tightly held timelines out the window and not jumping after them. Of blowing all your plans to bits, and not staying up all night to glue them back together.
Lord knows I’m a jumper. And a crazed gluer.
He also knows I’m tired. SO tired of busting my butt and gluing my fingers to the table.
So He whispered. And knocked. And sent signs and messengers until finally the words of a friend broke my grip. Convinced me to drop that last bit of wreckage I was holding so tight. That frantic, scared, endlessly doubtful part of myself. So familiar, yet so toxic. It was time to let go of my steely autonomy. It was only serving to separate me from peace…stifle my growth.
So after my friend and I walked out into the parking lot and hugged goodnight, I looked up at the stars in the summer sky.
Your way, not mine.
It’s the same fight all over again It’s the same bite breaking under my skin It’s the same light when You let me in You let me in, You let me in.
You are the air I breathe You are the song I bleed You are the war that I can’t win This is my white flag in the wind Every word You speak Is the air I breathe