Monday, March 2, 2015

Babies in Heaven & Dealing with the Grief of Miscarriage (Part 1)






HOW IT FEELS

When you are an expectant mom, it is the craziest and most beautiful feeling to have a little person growing inside of you.  But when you lose a pregnancy, it's the worst feeling in the world to have something (someone) dead inside of you.  It's morbid.  It's sad & depressing.  It is distinctly different than when you can "feel the glow" of life in pregnancy.

Before it was actually confirmed in the ultrasounds at the doctor's office, I can actually tell you where I was when I knew in my heart that I lost my babies and that the bad news was coming.  Every once in a while, when I am back in those places, I will remember those days, and I still cry.

I have lost babies at 5, 7, 9, & 11 weeks, and while I have grieved differently over each, the initial feeling of loss is always the same.  My friend Stephanie McGuire described it the best - she said that "You feel empty."

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HOPE VS. BELIEF

In the book, "Mere Christianity", C.S. Lewis comments that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God.  Being a believer all my life, I always thought that was a deep and insightful paradox.  What I didn't realize when I read that 10 years ago, is that when life's trials hit you from the blindside, it can try your faith in deep ways.  I know what he means, now.  Even though I have never stopped believing in the Lord, for many years in regards to my losses of miscarriage, I was guarding my heart from actually believing what the Spirit was trying to whisper to my heart.

I asked my parents what happens to the babies in miscarriages & they told me there's not a lot of doctrine on it, so they didn't know.  I didn't particularly find that comforting in the slightest, but I didn't hear much from anyone else or find much in research that brought me any more comfort.

If you've ever only hoped something, you will know it's not like faithful belief.  After I lost my first 3 pregnancies, it hurt so much that I was afraid to believe a lot of things about those babies, so I guarded my heart from believing in a future of life after death for them. It's like if I believed those babies would really be mine again someday, and then if I were to find out I was wrong in believing that, it would hurt even more.  My heart couldn't take that, so I didn't let myself believe.  I only HOPED.

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THE LORD INVITES US TO BELIEVE

I even had some personal & miraculous experiences that the Lord gave me to help me, but I was still afraid to believe.  I have held these experiences close to my heart & pondered them over the years and have only shared them with a close few; I have only recently felt to share them on my personal, but public blog.  It is my hope in sharing these personal experiences that someone - close friend or stranger - might be uplifted and encouraged as they face their own similar journey of loss through miscarriage (or death of any sort) & the trial of faith that ensues.



MY FIRST CALL TO BELIEVE

The first experience happened before I ever had children.  I was at church, and it was Mother's Day.  I wasn't even married, yet.  As all the little children stood up to sing a special song to their mothers, I had this short but distinct vision in my mind's eye of 3 children singing to me.  It touched my heart so much, and I was overwhelmed.  One of the kids was a girl.  One was a boy.  And one seemed a little fuzzy - like I couldn't tell if it was a girl or boy.  But without a doubt, the impression was that those were my future children - I could feel that they loved me, and I knew they were going to be amazing.  It was an experience that happened out of the blue & I wasn't looking for anything like that.  But after I had that experience, I looked forward to my future family even more than I ever had before.

Imagine the conflict I felt as I lost baby after baby.  I thought I was going to be a mom.  But would I ever have kids if I kept losing them?  When the Lord blessed me with the gift of a child who made it to birth, I figured I would have a girl first (probably because of my Mother's Day impression) - wrong again!

The miracle is that while I have a family now and there are no girls in it, I did happen to have genetic studies done on 2 of my miscarriages.  We were trying to find out why I was losing babies even though we were doing everything we could to save them.  The first pregnancy was lost at home before I realized I had a problem keeping babies, so we couldn't get studies done.  The 2nd pregnancy was a little girl.  She had lymph node and heart problems.  Even though my doctor was doing everything he could do by monitoring my blood work and hormones to help me stay pregnant, if she had even made it to birth, she wouldn't have lived past a year.  The 3rd pregnancy was a little boy.  He had Trisomy 13, and his life expectancy also would have made for a difficult journey and a short life - likely a year or less.  Finding out the "reasons" was supposed to make it better.  Having genetic studies on the embryos was supposed to make everything make sense, but it didn't.  I just felt the same.  It still hurt.  I was still sad.  But looking back now, I cannot deny that the beautiful impression I had so many years ago on Mother's Day was to bring me comfort.  How beautiful that those first 3 miscarriages were exactly like my impression!  One was a girl.  One was a boy.  And one...I just didn't know.



MY SECOND CALL TO BELIEVE

The second miraculous experience happened to me on the day that my adopted Grandfather, Andrew Ferrante, died.  Andrew is a man who has touched my heart and changed my life; I loved him as much as my own biological grandpas.  He used to sit across the street on his driveway in a folding chair and watch airplanes.  I'd walk outside, we'd chit chat, and he always made me laugh.  He grew up in New York & was the son of a boot-legger.  He'd been married twice before and lost each wife at young ages, and his 3rd marriage was to my adopted Grandmother Diana.  They were hilarious together, and they fought about who had a better Italian heritage like you would not believe.  One day I was seriously worried about the quality of their marriage as they were screaming about Cicily & Naples - she was calling him a chauvinist and I couldn't believe what they were saying to each other.  That's when Andrew angled his body at me so she couldn't see his face, and he WINKED.  Whew!  All of that was just a game for them!  They were so funny.

Andrew - as devote as he was in his Catholic faith - and as long as he had ever believed in God, was afraid to die.  I have never seen anyone so afraid to die.  When I got the news, I was out of town at the Whiting Homestead - 4 hours away.  I was heartbroken, upset, and worried for Andrew because I knew he was afraid of death.  I got on my knees, and I prayed my heart out for him and for his family.  With a twinge of a "just maybe" I asked God that IF there was ANYONE in Heaven that I might be in charge of (you know - like maybe the kids I lost)...maybe...just maybe...could He send them to Andrew to give him comfort so he wouldn't be afraid in the after life?

A miracle occurred just a couple hours later, my sister-in-law and I crossed paths with Chris Aberoa as she was walking among the cabins.  Somehow - I don't even remember how - but somehow we ended up talking about babies with Trisomy 13.  She had a child with Trisomy 18 who had passed away, and said there were many similarities between the two conditions.  She said she had met several kids with Trisomy 13, and that they were just the sweetest.  She showed me pictures, and taught me so much about what my son would have been like, and how it would have been like to raise my child like that.  I could feel my heart healing as we spoke for at least an hour or more - out of the blue - 4 hours away from home - with a distant relative who was at that time an acquaintance to me - a random coincidence?  No way.  I felt like God & like my adopted grandfather, Andrew, were trying to communicate back to me after the prayer I had spoken just a couple hours before.

Even then, however, I still hurt, and I remember consciously choosing my words carefully as I ended my conversation with Chris: "I HOPE to see those kids someday."

I knew I shouldn't be, but I was still afraid to truly believe.




MY THIRD CALL TO BELIEVE

The last miraculous moment that happened to me came last year in June.  My friend, Natalie DeTemple, and her husband Justin, had been through the unthinkable.  Natalie and I actually miscarried together in November of 2013.  That had been a shocker for both of us.  I thought Mitchell & I had "figured out" how to have kids.  Especially because after my first 3 losses, I had 3 beautiful baby boys in a row without a glitch.  So why would I lose another pregnancy now?  Why were my hormones all out of whack?  What new issue would be causing this?  With Natalie - she had a beautiful baby boy with a practically text book pregnancy - why would she lose her 2nd pregnancy?  As much as we didn't want to experience it, it was comforting to have someone going through the same thing at the same time - the same week even - so we could rely on each other.

They were ready to try again a lot sooner than Mitch and I were.  I actually had 3 friends total who lost pregnancies with me in November, and it was the strangest thing - they were all expecting another child & were all due in October of 2014.  I was happy for them, though, and expected everything to go well.

It did go well for everyone else, but not for Natalie.  She ended up having complications and she lost her baby, McKay, far too soon.  I called it a stillbirth.  It wasn't until just recently that I found out he was born before the technical definition of a stillborn.  Medically, some may classify his death as a miscarriage.  But he was a fully developed little person - so I don't know how that is considered a miscarriage.  Miscarriage is a bad word anyway.  What's it supposed to really mean?  But truthfully, the difference between a stillbirth and a miscarriage had meant a lot to me, because the only comforting quotes I had ever heard about lost babies were in reference to stillbirths.  Because of that, I excluded myself from the promises and comfort allowed to those grieving parents until I was at McKay's funeral service.

I watched Natalie hold him.  I listened to all the talks.  My husband was there with me.  Unexpectedly, during the musical number, I felt stronger than I've ever felt in my entire life in regards to this topic as I had a sudden personal impression:  Some of the babies I lost were just a few weeks behind McKay - I saw and HEARD their hearts beating - I SAW their arms & legs moving on the ultrasounds - so if all these promises of hope in the after-life would apply to him - why wouldn't they apply to my babies?  As I accompanied a song that was meant to bring the DeTemple's comfort, my eyes welled up with tears, and my heart healed in a way that I didn't see coming for me.  That moment during "Be Still My Soul" at McKay's service marks the point where I had an impression so powerful & impacting that I finally let myself believe.

McKay James is a very special little person to me, because what I have learned from him has changed my life forever.

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GRIEF IS SOMETHING YOU CARRY

These several paragraphs may seem like a long explanation, but truly it's a short summary of lessons I have learned through my grief in the last 9 years.  When I lost each pregnancy, the next pregnancy I had would help me deal with my grief in some ways, but I still kept looking at it like, "This is something I'll get over," or "When I get past this...."

The truth of the matter is that grief is not something you get over; it's something you carry.  Once you've carried grief, you'll always carry it, because the people you've lost will always be a part of you and a part of who you've become.  You will feel like that until you're able to see them again someday.  The ability to cope with it increases over time, but time itself doesn't take away your grief.  You can think you're doing just fine, and one tiny thing can trigger a memory or thought about who and what you've lost.

That's when it hurts all over again.  It can feel fresh in an instant.

Just as CS Lewis inferred that it takes more faith to be an atheist, I can share from my personal experience that when you choose to not believe, the burden of grief is so much heavier.  I've never felt lighter in the last 9 years in regards to the four babies Mitch & I have lost through miscarriage, than I have in the last 6 months when I have finally let myself believe that they are not gone forever.  After McKay's service, my husband has has also referred to them more, and we've talked about our lost babies as "our kids". We now have increased hope & belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ - that he descended below all things and that His Atonement can make up the pain of all the losses we've ever had - that every baby we've lost in miscarriage will be ours again someday.  We will meet them and raise them in the after life.  It's going to be beautiful.  We know they are special little angels who have taught us many lessons.  Even though they weren't here for very long, we are not the same.

(Part 1 of 3)