To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I have the window open this morning. Not because it's hot inside, by any means, but so I can hear the robins singing. Every morning they serenade our neighborhood and encourage the warmer weather to stick around. Lately, the weather hasn't been taking their melodious pleas into account. I'm glad the robins keep singing, though. It does make the mornings all the more beautiful. I've got the curtains opened as well, to let in as much sunlight as possible. Sunlight has become literal fuel for me. Fuel to keep hoping, though for what, I'm not entirely sure. I feel like if the sun is shining, there is less for me to worry about. Less for me to fret over. Something about the bright and warmth gives me clarity and peace of mind. Perhaps it's because the plentiful sunlight signals a sure change in the seasons, and we can say the dark days of winter of behind us once again.

I'm a fickle individual when it comes to change. I typically resist change when it's implemented or introduced by someone other than myself. When I get "funky", as Brent and I call it, ("funky" in our speak means down in the dumps, in a literal funk) one guaranteed cure-all for me is to rearrange furniture. I have always loved switching up my living space. It's something new, it's something I created, and most importantly, it's an environment I control.

You caught that, right? I'm not sure there's a one of us who doesn't like to have control, or say, in the matters that take place in our lives. The fact that none of us could have done anything differently to change the outcome of Harlynn's birth, that we couldn't control or change those circumstances, left a deep wound on our hearts. Sometimes when the wounds are deep and there is nothing we can do, our feelings of helplessness turn to feelings of inward seething. Anger.

Anger is tough emotion to pin down, let alone write about. It comes in so many different forms, and is brought on by so many different variables. Usually, anger is associated with yelling, fighting, slamming doors, swearing, and a whole host of outward bursts of rage. In grief, however, it can take on a different persona altogether. I've found in my own journey, I've wanted to scream. I've wanted to hit things. Or people. I've wanted to throw something. But only in my head. I don't have the energy, or the nitty-gritty desire do actually do any of those things. When I've been angry in my grief, I tend to shut down. I don't want to talk, I don't want to be talked to, I don't want to be around, or see, or listen to anyone or anything. I simply want to be. I have no one to blame, I have no one to label as responsible for my daughter's death, I have no one to hold accountable for her not being here. I have nowhere and no one to direct my anger toward. So yelling, slamming, swearing - none of that would do a bit of good, not even for me. It wouldn't make me feel better to rage along for no "productive" reason. So I sit. And seethe. (Seethe: be filled with an intense, but unexpressed anger.)

As Christians especially, we feel that allowing ourselves to be angry - let alone express that anger - is playing with fire. And it can be. However, in the context of grief, anger is such a normal, natural, and honest emotion. I would caution you in two ways: Do not let your anger consume you, yet at the same time, do not ignore your anger.

This is a tricky topic to tackle, and short of turning this post into it's own series, I'm going to summarize my points as best as possible. There is a lot of room for discussion, and certainly more points could be made, but I'm keeping my focal lens small for the sake of your attention, and my cause.

There are so many things that will stir up anger in a grieving person's heart. The situation itself, of course, (the unfairness, injustice, randomness, etc.) being at the top of the list. Then there is how you're treated by others, what they say, what they don't say, fear, confusion, new situations that arise, being put in further uncomfortable situations, being hugged when you don't want to be touched, not being touched when you need a hug, losing control over the smallest of things when you already feel helpless to begin with - all of these and so many more, stir anger. Resentment. Seething.  There is no adequate way to express the grieving anger. It can seem a very desolate, lonely, dark place. When there is no outlet for expression, there often times seems to be no available resolve.

The Bible is laden with warnings against anger. It seems like every time you read of someone becoming angry, someone - or lots of someones - ended up dying. Whole civilizations wiped out because someone got angry. This is where I caution another in anger. If left unaddressed, it can certainly create strife, bitterness, and a whole host of trouble. I'm not going to delve into the theological differences in anger and righteous anger (though please know, those exist), but I do want to point out some encouragement.

1 Corinthians 13 is what we've deemed the "chapter of love". It may have been read at your wedding. Or a wedding you attended. Love is patient, love is kind..... "it is slow to anger". You know what that says to me? You're going to get upset. You're going to get mad, but just cool it when it happens. I myself, am not "slow to anger". I tend to go from 0 to pissed in one second flat. Over the years, however, what has slowed is my acting out in my anger. I tend to think more before speaking or reacting. And it's done a lot more good than harm since learning that discipline. In grief, however, anger seems to appear slowly, more often than not because it takes a while to recognize anger is the emotion you're feeling. We try so hard to suppress so many feelings, when anger rises within us, it takes even longer to realize what it actually is. 

Ephesians 4:26, another verse that is quoted often times in relation to marriage begins with "In your anger, do not sin."  Again - you're going to get angry. Why? Because it's human nature. There are things that should make us upset (the point of righteous anger), and because it is a feeling stirred by convictions (and unfortunately, often fed by desires), we will get angry. The key is to not sin in our anger. Don't seek revenge. Don't become eternally bitter. In order to not become bitter, however, I think it's important to recognize anger when you feel it, confront it, and address it. That may be as ordinary as saying, "Okay. I'm angry." It may need journaling. Counseling. Long walks in solemn reflection. Please don't ignore it, or avoid it, or think it will just eventually go away, however. That will give rise to a parasitic inflammation of ire within you. It will take over, and by then, it will be too late.

Outwardly expressing anger in grief, at least in my case, feels like expressing sadness more than anything. Again, the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness in not being able to have any control, or say, or ability to change the outcome, gives way to a buckling of pride and worth that leaves me on my knees. I'm sad, absolutely, and I'm more than upset because there's nothing I can change about losing Harlynn. Nothing.

I have only one more part to address, I think, so part IV will be forthcoming. Thanks for sticking around so far. I hope it's been helpful to you, and given you a glimpse into the heart and mind of a grieving heart.

To be continued...

Prev: Sadness

Friday, April 18, 2014


Picture this: You've had a normal life. Normal things have happened to you. You've felt normal feelings about those normal things. Things were normal. One morning you wake up normally, only to discover you're missing an arm. An arm. Gone. You had two arms yesterday. Today you have one. You're devastated. You have no answers. All you know is you had two arms when you went to sleep, and now you have one. You try to go on as you once did, but everything is so much more difficult. You can't eat. You can't drive. You can't type as fast. You can't hold your coffee in one hand and your phone in the other. Your arm is missing, and you'll never get it back. Eventually you realize you have to do things differently in order to get them done at all. You can't go on like you have two arms, you have to live with only one. You rearrange everything for the simple fact you need to function. Things will never be the same, but you're doing the best you can with your "new normal". 

At first, people are sympathetic. "Sorry you lost your arm." Then they start to expect from you things they always expected from you. They invite you to play catch. They reach out to shake your hand, and even though they know you're missing that arm, they still expect you to shake their hand somehow. They reach up to give you a high five and you have to set things you're holding with your one hand down, so you can reach across and high five them. You do whatever you can to accommodate their idiosyncrasies and try not to make them feel uncomfortable around you, even though you're the one with the missing arm. You grow tired of their ignorance, and eventually start to remind them, "You know I only have one arm, right?" "You do realize I'm still missing my arm." These reminders start to grate them. After all, it's been a long enough time, you should know how to live with one arm by now. You need to quit being sad about it, and just get on to the next thing because that's what people do. They start to look down upon you for being so weak-minded. 

One day you're walking down the hall, carrying everything you can under your one arm. Someone not paying attention bumps you and you drop everything all over the floor. They keep walking. You've reached your breaking point and you start to cuss or cry as you helplessly try to gather everything in a pile so you can pick it up again. Someone bends down and puts a hand on your shoulder. Finally, someone to help. Someone who understands. you think. Instead they say these words: "Have you thought about taking an anti-depressant?"

I don't know about you, but I might leave my pile as it were, and haul off and smack them with my only hand. Twice. Chuck Norris style. I ONLY HAVE ONE ARM! HOW AM I NOT ALLOWED TO BE UPSET I LOST ONE OF MY ARMS?! 

Such is grief. Such is losing a loved one. Such is losing Harlynn. 

Personal disclaimer: I know about clinical depression, and I know and agree that there are people and cases where prescription anti-depressants are appropriate and absolutely necessary. I used to suffer from PMDD myself, and I've seen the importance and impact of medications. My point in this post is this: there is a difference between grief, and clinical depression, and it is important to realize the difference. Please seek medical advice or help to further explore the possibilities of depression. Noting the difference between the two conditions, I think it is important people stop pushing pills, and start allowing grief to be expressed as it is: grief.

The morning after we delivered Harlynn, the on-call doctor asked if I wanted her to prescribe me anti-depressants. Still in disbelief from delivering our daughter without a heartbeat, my disbelief was furthered that the doctor would immediately suggest "masking" my personal pain with the prescription of a pill. I declined. Some prescriptions can take in the neighborhood of two to three months before one is able to notice their impact, or even side effects for that matter. The way she was offering it up, it seemed like it would be some magic mood-enhancer that would begin to work immediately and mend my broken heart. 

My last hospital stay, coincidentally that same doctor released me. As I cried, explaining how stressful this was to be admitted and sent home, admitted and sent home again, without having a baby, and so close to the one year anniversary of losing Harlynn, her response was a calculated, "Would you like me to prescribe you an anti-depressant?" I shook my head and prayed she would just quickly get out of my room. Apparently, after a year, I'm not allowed the freedom to be stressed out, or upset, or still grieving the fact that the last baby I carried, the little sister Little Miss was anticipating so much, died. DIED. Obviously, silly me, there's just a pill for that.

I believe, for whatever reason, we've lost the ability to feel or express feelings without being judged. Without being measured. Eventually, people who haven't lived through it, tire of those of us who have, and just want us to get on with life already, so they don't have to be uncomfortable. It's a stark reality, and a bitter truth, but it is, in fact, truth. Live it, deal with it, get on to the next thing.  Why? When did that change?

In biblical times, this is what people in mourning did:
  1. They tore their clothes. Ripped them apart. Ruined them.
  2. They covered themselves in ashes and/or sackcloth. 
  3. They shaved their heads. No more hair. Gone. Full, flowing locks, to sunless-white bald.
  4. They wailed in the streets. Wailed. Loudly. For days.
  5. They had others, some even hired to, wail with them. Public display of weeping. 
Public display of everything. There was no question one was in mourning, and everyone who witnessed it, knew the person had every right, and every freedom, to mourn as publicly and as intensely as they needed to. 

What we do today:
  1. Cry. But only a little bit, and only because we've been trying not to cry, but some tears still sneak out.
  2. Plan/attend a funeral.
  3. Hide our pain from everyone else.
  4. The moment that pain resurfaces, have someone offer an anti-depressant.
Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this? I lost an arm - our daughter. Why is it not okay for me to be sad about that, or express that sadness?

Jesus (and no, I am not comparing myself or anyone else to Jesus) knew what he was going to face. He was prepared for the suffering he would endure, and he knew the entire time it was coming. Even as He prayed in the garden, He asked that the cup be removed from Him. On the cross, He cried out to God, "Why have you forsaken me?" He was not taken by surprise by anything that happened to Him, yet he still, our mighty Savior, cried out to God in his physical and emotional pain and anguish. What would you say to Him? "Well, you knew this was going to happen, Lord. So....maybe you should just own it and get on with saving the souls of mankind. Forget all this emotion stuff, because...I mean, what good is it?" 

Ecclesiastes 3:4, one of the verses that the Byrds sang in their "Turn, Turn, Turn" song, reads "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." For so many years, I was guilty of interpreting this as "cry for a little bit, then be happy for the long-haul." That is not what it says at all. It says there is a time. Not "one and done". Time goes on and on, and the sun rises and sets. Repeatedly, in fact. So if there is a time for the sun to rise and a time for the sun to set - every single day - then surely we are allowed periods of time to grieve one moment, celebrate the next. Grieve again. Celebrate again. There is no set time. There is simply set-aside time. "When the time comes" to do whatever it is your heart needs to do, do it at that time! Then, do not be ashamed or confused when that time comes around again. 

One of my new favorite people was talking to me the other day and asked if I "took anything". I shook my head. She commented that lately she'd been having some angry days (she lost a baby as well) and felt like she just needed to start taking medicine again. I don't know her history or her chemical composition, so I have no place to comment, especially since she is the only one who has experienced her happenings. It did get me thinking, though. The reasons she provided were, she was having "angry days". She was catching herself getting emotional at random times. She was just trying to go on and do her job, and she kept getting choked up because she would think about her baby. I wanted to ask, "and what about that isn't okay?" 

Later in Ecclesiastes (7:2-4), we read this:
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Proverbs 14:13:  Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.

There is a time to grieve. To feel. To question. To suffer. And when that time comes, do not disallow yourself that expression. Do not get mad at yourself for having feelings of brokenness. Do not hesitate to cry out to God. Do not let pride, or someone else's expectations, get in the way of your path to healing.

To be continued...

Prev: Strength
Next: Seething

Thursday, April 17, 2014


I'm about to get my preaching on. I have a lot to say, a lot of points to make, but I don't want to lose in you a lengthy run-down. Be prepared to see a few of these posts over the next few days - simply a continuation of each other.

I hear it often: "You're so strong." It comes in other formats, too: "I don't know how you do it." "I wouldn't be able to face each day like you do." "You have such a strong faith." Often times, I acknowledge the comment as vaguely as possible, not agreeing or disagreeing. Depending on the person or circumstance, I sometimes want to retort, "Do you think I have a choice?" There is no procedure manual. There is no instruction book. There is simply putting one foot in front of the other because you have to. Continuing to breathe because you have to. It doesn't take strength. It doesn't take thought. It doesn't take willpower. It just is.

I want to encourage those of you who find yourselves on this path. Floundering clumsily along the journey you never chose, you will fall. You will sit down and stay put for a while. You will wander aimlessly, not wanting to see what lies on the road ahead. You will feel vulnerable, weak, desperate, and isolated. And you will hear those comments, "you are so strong." In disbelief, you'll forge ahead, having no clue how your legs are moving, or how you arrived in one spot from the last. The misconception of strength will envelop you, as you struggle to define what it really means to be strong. Surely it can't mean moving on, because you won't. It can't mean not crying, because you will. It can't mean suppressing fear or sadness, because you will wrestle with those daily. Being strong simply means: being. Whatever you feel, whatever you think, whatever you emote - doing it. Being it. Living it. That is strength.

Often times, if we aren't already being pressured by others to maintain a societal definition of strength, we pressure ourselves. We fight our feelings of sadness. Of anger. Of fear. We suppress them. Hide them. Ignore them. Discredit them. If someone says we're strong, then maybe it's because we "need" to be, and therefore we have to be on guard against being weak. Whatever that means. I want to share a few examples with you on why it's appropriate and acceptable, to let feelings of weakness, fear, desperation, anger, etc., run their course.

King David, (as in: ruler of all the land, Your Royal Highness, etc.) the author of so many of the Psalms, lamented frequently. He was nearly always desperate, lonely, and insecure. He cried out to his God in the truth of his circumstances. He didn't pretend to be braver than he was. He didn't push aside his anxieties for a show. He didn't hide his heart. He laid it all out there. Nightly. Daily. He didn't understand what he was going through or why, but he understood he would be carried through to the end. He acknowledged where he needed any strength at all to come from, because he couldn't produce it for himself. The man cried all the time. Cried. Wept. Tears. Wailing. A man. A king. If King David can grieve openly and beg God to reveal himself without being punished for it, we can too.

Job, the man who suffered unimaginable loss, was so strong God knew his faith would withstand his sufferings. Let's not forget, Job didn't stand in the face of his trials and brush them off with reckless abandon. He was indignant in his mourning. He cursed the day he was born. He didn't understand why, or how, all of this tragedy could rest upon him. His friends, after being awesome for seven days (sitting with him in silence as he mourned), decided they suddenly knew better and were going to get it out of him why his life stunk, and tell him what he could do to improve his situation. Ugh. His wife - the love of his life - told him to suck it up, curse God, and die. What makes a horrible situation worse? A support circle that does anything but support. Even though Job proved faithful and committed to God, he still buckled under his grief, he still questioned God's plan, and he still wished for death for himself to escape it all. 

Soapbox Side Sermon: I feel it's also incredibly important to remember Satan inflicted all of this suffering upon Job on purpose. The devil had one goal in mind: get Job's soul. Get Job to renounce his faith and steal his hope. It wasn't that God placed the suffering upon Job. It was that Satan was so desperate to take one of the good guys, he pulled out all the stops. Be one of the good guys, and defeat Satan in his own game.

Martha and Mary. Remember when Lazarus died, and Jesus wept because he mourned with those who mourned? What did both sisters say? "If you had been here, he would not have died." You think they're saying, "Oh just missed him, Lord! Dang, I wish you had been here four days ago!" No. These were heartbroken sisters. Reading between the lines, I hear, "Where WERE you? Why did you not save him? Don't you love him? Don't you love us? Where WERE you?" And did Jesus rebuke them? Did he chastise them for feeling angry and sad and desperate to have their brother back with them? No. He didn't. He simply reassured them their faith was the real deal. Their faith, even in the face of their grief and despair, would carry them through.

Jairus was a synagogue leader who approached Jesus in an effort to save his dying daughter. When I say "approached' I don't mean he stood by, and hoped Jesus would make eye contact with him so he could toss out a request. I mean he fought his way through a crowd of people, elbowed his way in desperation up to the very face of Jesus and pleaded with him, desperately, to come save his dying daughter. Pleading. Desperate. Unashamed, outright begging for help. Did Jesus scoff at his urgency or fear? Was Jesus frustrated that this guy was worried about his daughter? No. Jesus just up and went with him.

Why did I choose these examples? To show you a few things:
  1. It's important to be honest and forthright in expressing your feelings. You can't hide them from God, so why should you pretend for the sake of others you're thinking or feeling different emotions than what you really are experiencing? 
  2. A continuation of point #1. The Lord knows your heart. There is no sense in being an impostor simply because you feel it might earn you some faith-street-cred. Cast your cares upon Him. He's told you to. He expects you to.
  3. Being desperate, outwardly mourning, and crying out to God (or what we might deem as "being weak and vulnerable") are all things that people God loved very much did. They weren't punished for it. You won't be either.
You've heard, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." False. What doesn't kill you doesn't kill you. Period. I am no stronger for having lost my daughter. I cry at a moment's notice. Or no notice. I falter in making decisions because I'm afraid to prepare for things when I know the unexpected can and does happen. I don't just suit up and put on because others think I'm strong. I'm a fragile, frail being. 

What about, "God won't give you more than you can handle." Um, what? So because we're so "strong", God just pointed his power-finger and said, "Eh...she and her husband are toughies. They can handle their daughter being stillborn." (*poof*) And it was so. And those who are weak don't have to suffer as a result? DID I MISS SOMETHING HERE? No, I didn't. This is just total baloney. In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33) and do you know why? Because sin and Satan are in this world. I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my strength come from? My strength comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2) I can't handle a lot of things, but I don't have to. It's not because I'm strong or weak or anything in between. It's because I have Someone being strong for me.

Matthew 5:4:  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
    Let it out. Feel it. Live it. You'll be blessed (though it may be hard to see), you'll be comforted, and you'll be reassured that whatever you're thinking or feeling is normal, appropriate, and acceptable.

Romans 12:15:  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
     There is a time to mourn. In that time, expect others to mourn with you. If they can't, then give them some space until they get a clue. Troubles in this world are guaranteed. Deal with them as troubles, not as events you somehow have to solve or dismiss emotionally.

Revelation 21:4:  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
     This time hasn't come yet! So in the present, in the now, there will be death. There will be mourning. There will be crying. There will be pain. These will happen. We are expecting them to happen at some point. Putting on a brave face to get through it for someone else's sake or advice, is fruitless. One day we won't have to cry anymore. But that day is not today.

To be continued...

Next: Sadness

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sometimes I'm Angry

This morning I woke up to find a light snow covering on the ground, with teeny flakes making their way down from the clouds. It's not unusual for snow to fall in April, but after last year, I'm far more attuned to it. On one hand it brings a sense of calm and peace, and on the other it stirs up anger and resentment. Two opposite wills battle to surface and run my mood-o-meter for the day. The trouble is, they both win. They take turns. Some moments are filled with peace and contentment. In the very next, however, I could be in a dissonant rage. Because of a few snowflakes.

You see, one year ago today, we buried our daughter. For a few too-brief moments, my husband carried her one last time. From the back of the hearse to her final resting spot. We stood on the snow-covered ground, a day later than originally scheduled, due to a spring blizzard that had moved in. That snow storm, however, gave us one more day to have our daughter with us, above ground. I was grateful for that storm in a most conflicted manner. Now, when it snows in April, I'm reminded all too clearly of how it snowed the day I delivered her. How it stormed the day of her visitation. How we traipsed through snow for her burial. And how it snowed every Wednesday for the next four weeks. In order to have these memory markers, however, our daughter had to die. 

Yesterday was an angry day. I get angry that she died, yes. Then I get angry that we have no answers. I get angry that no one understands. I get angry that people are so quick to encourage and help me "dust off" rather than just let me be angry. Or sad. Or a devastated mommy. I get angry that I feel like I'm not supposed to ever be angry. I get angry for lots of reasons. Or no reason at all. 

Yesterday I was being discharged from the hospital for the second time in one week. The stress this admission/release routine has brought about is completely exhausting. I go to the hospital, they stop my labor, I come home. Repeat. I am the only one in the camp of not wanting to let Little Man "cook" any longer. My 32-weeker is here and four years old now. My 37-weeker isn't. His cooking for longer makes no rational sense to me at this point. Why? Because I want him here. I want to know he's here, I want to know he's alive, and I want to know he's healthy

I'm angry because I suck at being pregnant. I was pre-eclamptic with Little Miss, forcing her emergency arrival into this world. I remember the substitute doctor saying, "Mommy is the best incubator for baby." But I couldn't incubate her. My body was shutting down one organ at a time. It happens. Good thing we got the dramatic pregnancy out of the way first, right?  Then, Harlynn died within my womb. Mommy incubated her to her death. Once I hit 30 weeks with Little Man, my urinary tract decided to explode with every possible infection it could take on, all at once. I'm on a pill cocktail to fight infection, to stop contractions, and now I'm waiting to pass a kidney stone or two. Everything that crosses my mouth, I wonder if it will bring harm to him. If I'm doing him any favors by not delivering him early. I can't do this pregnancy thing right. Chock it up to all the random coincidence in the world, and maybe it is, but I feel like I fail my children in the very first stages of motherhood. I can't even bring them into this world without complication. 

I think back to this day one year ago. How we thought it would be so different from what it was. I would be holding a bouncing baby girl. Not her casket. We would be taking walks around the sunshiny neighborhood. Not the snow-covered cemetery. I would have the sounds of her coos and cries ingrained in my memory. Not the sound of her daddy's agony as he carried her out of the church. 

I may be angry sometimes. I may be aloof. I may be forlorn. If I didn't love my children so much, I wouldn't be any of those things. 

I have my brighter days. I have my hope. I have my faith. In that, I have confidence that it's not being held against me in a heavenly fashion when I have my angry days. I'm allowed. 

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, 
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. ~ Proverbs 25:20

Friday, April 11, 2014

What You Don't Know

April 9th, 2014 went far different than I had anticipated. Exactly one year prior, I was in labor. We received the devastating news our daughter's heart had stopped beating at 37 weeks. I delivered her shortly after midnight on April 10th, 2013. We knew this day - these days - were coming, a year later. However, we had made very specific plans for how to spend them. Those did not end up happening.

April 9th, 2014, started with me waking up with some intense heartburn - no more out of the ordinary than the last couple of weeks. Little Man gives me heartburn in my sleep. I was very emotional, though, anticipating the day ahead and the following day, and what they meant to our family. I was really struggling to hold myself together. Little Miss was having an off morning herself. She was far from perky or adventurous, and was instead clingy and not wanting to go anywhere. Considering her recent episode with the stomach bug, I assumed it must be residual feelings of general ickiness. 

We snuggled, we had breakfast, we had a pretty intense tickle war (I won), and then I decided I would shower and go downstairs to my "office" and get some work done. As I prepared for my shower, I saw blood. Fresh blood. One year to the day we learned of Harlynn's heart stopping beating, and it appeared Little Man was in danger as well.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

I called the hospital and spoke to the charge nurse, as calmly as I possibly could, who agreed I should come in right away. I called Brent at work, asking him if it were possible to come drive us. He was home within minutes. I fought tears the entire ride to the hospital. Fought them and lost. I was begging, pleading, with Little Man to move. He wouldn't. It was kind of close to his regular morning "quiet time", but I was in no position to allow him to be quiet. I shifted in my seat. I poked. I prodded. I cried. Nothing.

We walked into the Labor & Delivery unit, and a nurse walked me back to a room - an actual room - not triage. She told me to put a gown on and what the plans were, and she looked at my face. She saw my tears and my ugly cry, and she knew. She asked, "Would you like to listen, first?" I nodded. I sat down on the bed and she readied the fetal monitor. She looked at me one last time before placing it on my tummy. I closed my eyes and prayed.

Whoomp whoomp whoomp whoomp whoomp

His heart was beating. He was fine. I put both hands over my face and cried tears of relief this time. She reassured me, patted my shoulder, left the room and I changed into a gown. Wouldn't you know it - my very own OB was the doctor on call for the day. Thank you, Lord. There is nothing quite so comforting as having your very own doctor, familiar with your case and history, as the one who will treat you for the day.

The nurse on shift who was assigned me was a divine appointment. She told me she had lost a baby. She was a loss mom. She knew what I had been through, and what I was up against. She was supposed to be my nurse - my first nurse - on that day. She was full of empathy. She was wonderful. She was not assigned to me by chance.

Shortly after being admitted, I started contracting. Intensely. Frequently. They gave me a shot. Then they gave me a pill. Still contracting. Blood pressure was high (149/85). Granted, I had been scared to death just prior to walking through those doors. Another shot. Another pill. The contractions weren't slowing. It turns out I have a bacterial infection, known to bring about pre-term labor. Of course I do.

April 9th, 2014, I was 32 weeks, 6 days pregnant. The same gestational period I was when Little Miss was delivered via emergency cesarean. April 9th, 2014, was also one year to the day we found out Harlynn's heart had stopped beating. This was all too bizarre. This was surreal. Crazy.

Eventually they started me on magnesium. I'm sure some of you have experienced it, but for those of you who haven't, allow me to summarize my experience: Pure misery. I felt drunk, I felt sick, I felt like I was left to fend for myself with a severe case of the flu, by being inebriated, and alone in a furnace. A giant, hot, furnace. I moaned all night long. I hardly slept a wink. I spoke to my nurse for a long time. The March of Dimes family consultant visited with me until almost midnight. These people - they got it. They understood the depth of not only what I was enduring, but the significance of the day, the heavenversary, the fear during this pregnancy - all of it. And my doctor was there to care for me in every possible way. As scared as I was, I felt a peace. God's hand was in this. There was no doubt. Brent and I don't believe in coincidences.

I was for sure going to stay overnight. I told Brent we should keep it quiet. I wanted April 10th to be about Harlynn, and about Harlynn's Labor of Love, not about people worrying about me or Little Man. I may be stubborn, but for my own grief journey, I needed others to focus on Harlynn. Not on me or what-ifs, but her and the impact she has left on our family. For those of you who texted - messaged - thank you. Please understand I had to ignore you. I couldn't spill my beans.

If labor didn't subside, it would be postponed as long as possible, with a cesarean scheduled for Friday, the 11th. My doctor, the nurses, everyone was very sensitive to the timing of all of this and having Harlynn keep her own special day. I don't know how many times I can say or reiterate - the care I have received as a patient is second to none. For all four years. I am a person, not a chart number. I get hugged, not rushed. I get visits in my room because I'm cared about, not because I'm on the rounds. These doctors and nurses have shown me time and time again what it is to be in this healthCARE industry. 

For the hour total of sleep I got overnight, I think I fared pretty well. There were several times I was just awake in my bed, moaning, groaning, and being miserable. I wanted to throw up, but I didn't. I wanted to jump in an ice bath, but only from the chest up. Oh, magnesium, you are one tough cookie. Prior to not being able to sleep, the contractions were pretty intense. If I wasn't contracting, the magnesium was kicking my patootie. I was in pain, I was uncomfortable, and I was trying not to think about what all of this meant.

Thursday I was monitored closely, and the magnesium did the trick. Hardly any contractions. They lowered the dose, continued to check my blood, and everything appeared to be settling down back to normal. On antibiotics for the infection,  and magnesium for the contractions, the labor subsided. I was going to stay one more night, though.

Thursday morning I could tell the labor was not progressing anymore. But wow, was I tired. Also, it was the 10th. Harlynn's Heavenversary. All the plans I had made with Brent to spend the day honoring her weren't going to happen. I was stuck in a hospital bed. Literally stuck. The magnesium had me all but paralyzed. I could not move. I was seeing double. I talked like I was drunk. I slept through vital checks. I slept through doctors and nurses coming in to see how I was. I slept through Michelle coming to get Harlynn cards from Brent. (I know she watched me sleep, creeper...)

In the few moments I was awake, and could stand reading with one eye closed, I perused Facebook. So many people changed their profile picture. Purple. Comments. Posts. Remembering. Encouraging others to remember. It was so moving. We were so humbled by the outpouring of love we received, once again.

It isn't just the 10th that we deal with. The 10th is so hard to face, because that's how we measure time. Every 10th that passes is one more month without her. But every day without her, no matter the number, is hard. Every Wednesday. Every Tuesday. Every Sunday. They're all hard. 

This day I had to mother Little Man and stay in bed. I couldn't mother Harlynn the way I had intended. But she was here. I had her Harlynn bear with me all day, and snuggled with it. I prayed over people who were being loved on, and loved by others, in remembrance of Harlynn. I shed tears. I rubbed the necklace I wear with her name on it, between my thumb and finger. I was in the very hospital, the very floor, where I was one year ago when I delivered her.The same place. I have to believe there was some sort of reason - as insane as it sounds, to keep my sanity in check - for being there on these days, at that time. I think she wanted me there for some sense of closure. Admitted on the same day, discharged on the same day, as admitted and discharged with her. She was there. God was in this. This was no mistake.

I'm home now, taking care of myself as best I can, and having a heart full of thanks for those of you who carried out Harlynn's Labor of Love when her own mother couldn't. It wasn't how I pictured it, but then again, we never imagined we would lose her to begin with. I'm grateful for the love we've been continually shown, and hope that it becomes an even bigger chapter in Harlynn's story. Thank you all.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday in the ER

It wasn't how we anticipated spending this gorgeous spring 60* day. Little Miss has been having some tummy discomfort the last few days, but seemed to be back to her old self this morning (after a 12:45 a.m. resurgence of dinner on her pillow). She was running around, spinning, twirling, telling me it was "not appropriate" to stand on chairs - yep, back to her old self. We went to church this morning (which was totally powerful and emotional and there was Val, shaking a pew with her pregnant belly heaves from tears) and I had to chase after Little Miss in the auditorium afterwards as she ran laps. We went to lunch with our good friends, and she wasn't hungry. She hasn't been hungry for a few days, so I didn't push it. She ate some grapes and a bite of corn dog before calling it quits.

As soon as she determined she was done eating, she started complaining of tummy pain. This was no different from the last few days. However, the intensity with which her complaints grew was certainly new. She moaned the whole drive home. We tried what we could to get her comfortable, and she kept telling us she was so sleepy, but instead of putting her down for a nap, we took her wails to heart and drove her to the ER. Our last visit to the ER was September 11th. I remember it all too well. This visit was just as frightening for me.

Once checked in, she started whimpering on her daddy's lap, saying something about having a hard time breathing. When your child tells you they are struggling to breathe, you immediately panic. I remained as calm as possible, reached for her, in hopes I could get her comfortable and stretch her out to breathe better. No sooner had I taken her off her daddy and set her in front of me, the look on her face transformed, and she vomited. All over me, inside my shirt, down my pants, and onto the floor of the waiting room. The receptionist picked up the phone right away, Brent went to get paper towels, and I tried to console our hysterical four-year-old, who was more concerned about having messed up the floor than able to focus on telling me what was wrong or how she felt. Her tummy was really bothering her, though, and we were almost immediately taken back to a triage room. 

She told me I was stinky. Was I ever. I had grapes and corn dog on, over, and in my clothing. I was sopping wet and trying to pretend like I was totally okay with it. Up until 12:45 this morning, Little Miss has never thrown up. There was one time she got car sick on a road with a bazillion switchbacks, but that was it. She has never had a stomach bug that has produced vomiting. Ever. Even this morning, it was all in a nice little clump on her pillow. Not even a real puke, but more like a cat hairball episode. Not so much in the waiting room. That was more of an exorcist, projectile, directly on mommy kind of puke. 

The nurse asked questions, got us checked in, asked if I needed anything, and I started crying, because that's what I do. I shook my head, she winked at me, and left the room. A different nurse came in and got Haley some attention, and then the doctor came in. He mentioned an IV and my own stomach dropped. I had an emergency cesarean four years ago, and you know what I remember? Two things: the catheter insertion and the SIX attempts to stick me with an IV needle. It was intense pain. Now they were going to give my daughter an IV. Oh Lord, how do I prepare her and not scare her at the same time? 

A wonderfully sweet paramedic came in to administer the IV. He was great, but Little Miss wailed. WAILED. And I was shedding more tears right alongside her.  I know how much those big needles hurt, and I can only imagine how much it hurts when you're four. She kept saying, "Take it out right now! Take it out!" Her stomach was also still very tender, and the hard crying was making her hurt worse. It was finally over and I situated her comfortably on the bed, propped up on the big pillow. Brent had left to go get us a change of clothes, so he missed out on the needle and tear action. By the time he had come back, Little Miss was making friends with all the nurses and being her cute self. The doctor had ordered and run tests on her and they all appeared to come back normal. They had put anti-nausea meds in her IV and you could tell she was progressively feeling better. He suggested it was something viral. I'm not sold on that, considering she has absolutely no other symptoms. Then again, I'm just a mom that cries all the time, not a medically trained professional. By the end of the visit he was poking (tickling) her stomach without any reaction of pain from her.

Brent eventually came back with a change of clothes and I gave myself a quick cleaning as I put clean, non-stink clothes on. Sweat pants and sweatshirt paired with my dress shoes, and pearl necklace and earrings still on from church. I was quite the classy sweatpants fashionista. Little Miss was still in the child-sized gown and pants set the admitting nurse had rounded up for her. As she lay in that bed, she looked so fragile and so pitiful. I just prayed in my heart so many times the words, "Please God, don't let it be anything. Don't let it be anything."

As the IV fluids re-hydrated her, and as she watched her current favorite show Franny's Feet, she was returning to her old self. The dress shoes were closing off on my feet and I started to puff up. I put them up on the bed, and got as comfortable as I could in the chair. Three hours and several Franny's Feet episodes later we were getting our discharge paperwork and told to keep an eye on her. I asked the nurse who had taken excellent care of all of us, if I could hug her. That's another thing I do. I cry all the time, and hug strangers.

We came home, and enjoyed what little bit of sunshine we had left for the day, with the gorgeous temperature. The girl I carried in the door was not the same girl we spent three hours in the ER with. She wanted to eat (something she hasn't wanted to do for a few days) and requested Cheerios and a banana. She wolfed that down, then proceeded to run, twirl, and jump around the living room. I had to beg her to settle down and take it easy.

Since the ER time was directly through nap time, both she and I are pretty wiped. We're snuggled up in bed right now as she's watching The Lion King for the first time, snuggling on me every time the "bad guy" appears on screen. Of course we'd be watching a movie where the parent sacrifices everything to save their child. Because I haven't cried enough today. *Sigh*

I had a lot of plans for today and taking advantage of the weather. None of them came to fruition, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is I have a little girl, snuggling tightly against me, appearing healthy and recovered. She isn't crying while watching this movie, but I've shed enough tears for the both of us. Now, the skies have opened up in the first rainstorm of spring. If I haven't cried enough for today, the big heavy drops falling outside will make up the difference. 

I'm going to close out now - I have some snuggling to indulge in.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Am Afraid.

I only ever got three of the expected four wisdom teeth in my mouth. I have one on top that is all grown in and doing fine, and I have two impacted on the bottom. The two on the bottom sometimes play this game - usually every spring and every fall, but sometimes in between as well, where they like to try to poke through my gums. It's uncomfortable, I feel the need to constantly bite down on gauze rolls, and I greatly empathize with little babes as they teethe. The oral surgeon "thinks" he can get them out, but they can't tell where the roots are, exactly - the images indicated they are either right through, or directly adjacent to the major nerve that is in my jaw, and if it becomes nicked or otherwise obstructed, my jaw could be forever paralyzed. My dentist told me if I were his daughter, he would tell me to tough it out, because it would be too risky to have surgery. YouTube tells me I could potentially be a star if someone were to film me coming out of wisdom-teeth-extraction anesthesia. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.... We'll see what my future holds. This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but my bottom left tooth is especially bothering me right now, and I thought I'd start with a little Val-trivia factoid. You're welcome.

Today is sunny and bright outside, save for a light gray sky. I imagine the sky is giving way to the snow clouds that are supposed to roll in tonight and tomorrow. Yes...I said the "s" word. S-n-o-w. This time of year is brutal for us midwesterners. We have a few beautiful days and let our hopes get outrageously out of control, and are slammed back down to reality with additional snow. Last year it snowed until May. This year it's looking like it might do the same. We had a blizzard Monday - and I would just like to take this opportunity to say You are my hero, and I love you Brent - because even though he was hoping to be done clearing snow for the season, he got out there and cleared our driveway. Today, our driveway is clear and dry and the people on our street who didn't clear their driveway, still have lots of snow in it. Yes, it may get covered again tonight or tomorrow with the expected snowfall, it may get covered again next week when they call for snow again, or the week after, or until May - but thank you, sweetheart, for clearing the driveway! There is nothing that says, "My husband loves me so much" quite like when I step onto dry concrete when there is snow on the ground. /Tangent #2.

Before I get too sidetracked, here's what's really on my mind: Fear. I've been thinking a lot about it. I didn't want April to come. I'm still not totally sure how I feel about it being here. I feel like time is spiraling even more out of my grasp when I think about the fact that soon enough it will be one year - 365 days - since we learned we would never bring Harlynn home. I was afraid for April to come. I'm afraid for the 10th. 

When I was super sick last week, I was afraid that my illness would somehow negatively affect Little Man. To say I was afraid of being put on antibiotic was an understatement - I was utterly terrified. Thankfully, that wasn't necessary, and I was able to let the illness run its course without any medical aid. 

I've been afraid of something, or many somethings, every day during this subsequent pregnancy. He's not moving enough. My heartburn is worse than it was before. Dear gracious, I'm past the 30 week mark - that means the final countdown is in front of me, and that scares me.

When we bring him home (and I am only speaking in terms that solidify that as our only option and possibility), how are we going to work the bedroom situation? What if I made the wrong household arrangement decision? What if I don't sleep ever because I want to watch his every breath and make sure he takes one?

Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear.

Growing up, we had this favorite game in our house. There was no name for it, so I'll simply call it, "Scare the crap out of someone by jumping out at them from a blind spot." It. Was. Awesome. Usually our victims would fall prey every time they walked out of the bathroom. Unsuspecting, innocent, walking away from a humbling-activity, and BAM, you jump out and say, "RAHR!" and screams and hilarity ensue. Everyone in our house did it to everyone else. All of us were fair game, whenever the mood struck. When we were first married, I tried the game on Brent, too. I won't tell the story (even though it is hilarious) because 1) it's far better when told in person and 2) out of respect for him, I will spare any potential embarrassment. Fear was awesome. Once upon a time. So long as I wasn't the one afraid, and I could control the aspects of the situation.

I was telling a friend the other night that sometimes, the "froo-froo-feel-good-memes" annoy me and make me crazy. I am the person who hides those posts on Facebook. Just because one person said something that kind of made sense and made another person feel good for thirty seconds, doesn't mean it should be advertised as gospel truth and emblazoned into internet-eternity. (Yes, I am a Debbie Downer.) One in particular really rubbed me the wrong way recently. It said, "Let your faith be bigger than your fear." Oh for crying out loud, I thought, thank you for the guaranteed set-up for failure. To me, that means if I am afraid in anything, obviously my faith is void or I am less of a believer because I experience any level of fear. Ever. Psh. Or what about the acronym F.E.A.R. meaning "False Evidences Appearing Real" - powerful, right?, again. Actually, things I am most afraid of are things that I have lived through and don't want to experience ever again. There is nothing false about them. I know too much about what can and does happen. It is not false. It is entirely real, and entirely possible, and entirely frightening. 

I started thinking about it too much - because that's what I do - and I remembered a phrase in the Bible repeated the most times is "Fear not" or "Do not be afraid."  That doesn't say let your faith be bigger, it flat out says: Do not be afraid. Do not. Don't. little help here, God?  For starters, if we are not to fear, please tell me why you created spiders. Or anything with more than four legs. 
Secondly...Do not be afraid. Our daughter died. We have no idea why. She's gone. She should be here, but she's buried in a cemetery and awaiting for who knows how long for her family to join her in heaven. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm not afraid to join her. I'm afraid of losing my loved ones before I'm able to join them, however. I don't want to go through that again. I don't want to plan for a baby and instead make arrangements for their funeral. I lived through it, it was, and still is, awful. And you say, "Fear not"?

..."For I am with you." I'm not going to preach....not today, anyway....but I know, and you know, there are so many scriptures that talk about all things being possible with God, He is our deliverer, and our comfort. If you don't know, and you'd like to know, look over there --> and email me so we can have a candid, open discussion about it. 

Here's what God isn't saying: He isn't saying things won't be scary. He isn't saying spiders aren't horrific creatures. He isn't saying there won't be anything or anyone that will ever be intimidating, or bullish, or outright frightening. He is saying He is with you. And me. He's there. He's in the middle of it, or rather, He's out in front of it. If we can just muddle our way through the middle of it, He's already there on the other side. He's already finished it. Completed it. Won. 

I am still afraid. I still feel it rise up within me. I still have doubt. I still worry. I also know, and believe however, that He will let me make it through to the end - whatever the result may be. Does that mean my faith is bigger than my fear? No. It means my faith is real. It means my faith is grounded. It means I'm human, and I don't have it together in the least. It means when I am afraid, I can hide behind Him and let Him take care of me. My faith may or may not be bigger than my fear, but my God certainly is. Thank goodness.