Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Birth Story I Didn't Want

My due date is in little over a week.  Six months ago, I was so excited for the end of May to arrive so I could meet my little bundle of joy.  In our fallen world, things don't always go as smoothly as we'd want.  This is the story of my second daughter's short four months on Earth.

In the last full week of September 2014, my daughter had a mild bug.  She recovered by the end of the week and went off to Grandma’s house for the weekend.  On Saturday September 27th, I felt really nauseous.  I was worn out from comforting a sick child and I was worried I’d contracted her bug.  Then I realized my breasts were quite tender.  On our way home from a dinner date, I pulled into Walgreen’s and bought a pregnancy test.

In the three years that we’d been trying to get pregnant I’d taken dozens of pregnancy tests.  I finally quit taking them and I hadn’t taken one since June.  But this time was different.  This time, I got a plus instead of a minus.  Three times.  I was pregnant.

I had typical first trimester fatigue and nausea.  I craved meat and potatoes all the time so I was just sure I was carrying a boy.  We spent a Saturday in October sharing the good news with our family and the next day with our church family.  We saw our baby on the ultrasound two different times.  The second time the baby was smiling and waving at us.  I was so happy!

At 2 am on Saturday, December 13th, I felt a small pop followed by a gush of water.  I knew instantly that my water had broken.  I was fifteen weeks pregnant and I knew it was too early for a baby to survive.

Waking my daughter and my husband, we drove the six blocks to the hospital.  Two ultrasounds in two hours and it was determined my water had broken but the baby was still resting comfortably in my womb, with a strong heartbeat.

After two nights at the hospital and a visit to a specialist, I was told babies survive water breaking this early 5% of the time.  The rest either deliver within two weeks or do not have developed enough lungs if they make it past 24 weeks.

I was sent home to wait.  What could I do to improve my baby’s chances, I wanted to know.  Nothing, I was told.  There’s nothing anyone can do at this point except pray.

Despite the prayers of close to a thousand people, on December 22nd, I felt something in my birth canal.  I knew instantly that I had touched a limb.  At the hospital, I sent my husband into the waiting room so our daughter would not have to watch me deliver the dead baby she had been so excited to meet.

I delivered in the emergency room with two small pushes and Faith Leanne was born, never taking a single breath. 

I was given my tiny baby girl, wrapped in a blanket with the smallest infant hat I’d ever seen.  Faith was 3 ounces and 7 inches long.  She was born at 3:50 pm.  She lives with Jesus in Heaven.

I miss her every day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Miracles Are Always Milestones

I’m aware of the milestones I pass each step of this difficult journey.  In January I counted the weeks.  Then it had been a month since my baby died.  I began counting the months and keeping track of how big she would have been.

Each milestone passes by.  Three months…another loss comes to our family during what should be a time of joy (my seven year old’s birthday). 

Four months…I've seen the births of the new Duggar grandbaby, the royal baby, and a friend’s sweet little girl.  As I hold that precious child, I think:  “This should be one of Faith’s best friends.”  They would've been less than two months apart in age.

I watch my daughter play with the toddlers at church.  She loves to play with them, acting like a little mother hen.  My eyes well up as she takes a little girl by the hand and climbs the stairs with her.

My one year old nephew squeals and rejoices to see my seven year old, calling out his baby version of Sarah, one of about four or five words he attempts at this point.  I wonder if he would pick up the word ‘baby’ quickly if Faith were alive.  I rejoice that Sarah has so many kids to love on.

But when she comes to me in the evening and tells me she misses the babies, I know she’s grieving, too.


On Friday it will be five months.  Five months and it’s the month for mothers, May.  May has always been a big celebration month in my family with both my grandmas born in May along with Mother’s Day. 

I plan a time to take flowers to my precious girl for Memorial Day weekend.  Memorial Day…a day to reflect on the lives of soldiers lost, but also has become a day to remember anyone we’ve lost.

I think about how different my life would be right now if I were still pregnant.  With all the muggy weather, I’d probably be a bear to live with complaining about how hot it is.  I’d be putting the final touches on things for my sweet little girl.  I’d be feeling her every move inside of me.  I’d be talking to her as I went about my day. 

Most importantly, I’d be counting down.  Today is sixteen days from my due date of June 5th.

If our March loss, baby Reese, had lived I would be on my knees multiple times a day praying for safety for the precious life inside of me because I’d be about fifteen weeks along, the same age Faith was when my water broke.

Instead, it’s just another day.  A Wednesday.  Cloudy but warm outside.  Agenda for today:  shower, eat, clean up the kitchen, do schoolwork with Sarah, straighten the house, dinner, call my husband, Bible study with a friend, put Sarah to bed, and relax for a bit before falling asleep.  Same as most Wednesdays.  Nothing too impressive on the world’s radar.

For me, it’s a milestone.  Because each day I get up and put clothes on is another day I didn’t let the enemy take over my thoughts and my life.  Each day I do what I need to do instead of curling up in a ball of grief is a day that God’s strength is victorious in my life.  Each day that I choose to turn to God as He lifts me up and strengthens me to walk this difficult road is a miracle.

And miracles are always milestones.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Walking 100 miles!!

As I've been walking in the last few weeks, a certain song has been running through my mind off and on.  I decided that, despite a few fishy lyrics, I would take it for my superhero walking song.  You might recognize it from the (also sometimes questionable) TV show How I Met Your Mother:  500 Miles  (YouTube Link).

Okay, so I haven't walked 500 miles.  But as of today, I have walked 100 miles!  Today, I have walked 100 miles in 2015!  100 miles...it seems like so much!  I would never have believed on January first that I was going to walk 100 miles by April 20th.  But I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I just started by putting one foot in front of the other.  I started walking 100 miles a half-mile at a time.  It was a long, long road that got me to 100 miles including some major setbacks (flu and a second miscarriage in March).  I think that's the way to reach most goals we set for ourselves, though.  One foot in front of the other, chopping our goals into small baby steps, we are able to achieve the goals set for ourselves.

Sometimes our goals fizzle out and die.  Sometimes, our goals stop being important to us.  I think what makes the difference is where God is in our goal.  Have you asked God about reaching this goal?  Have you asked God where He wants you to go?  Maybe your goal will take you away from God's plans and purpose for you.  Maybe your goal will do more harm than good in the long run, either for yourself or others.  I've had some pretty lofty goals in my 30 years.  (Anyone else go through the "I'm going to be a star" phase?  Just me?  Okay, moving on!)

Ten years ago, my goals in life were
1.  Teach kindergarten
2.  Get married
3.  Have kids

I achieved all three by 23.  At first, I thought, "Great!  Mission accomplished!"  But I had a lot more living left to do.  If average life expectancy is at almost 80 years old, I had 57 years of life left.  I soon realized God had much more in store for me than those three goals.

Today I'm wary of setting long term goals.  My goal of teaching kindergarten was great and I enjoyed the five years I taught.  But in two months, God completely upended my plans and I was resigning my job to stay home with my daughter.  Rather, I'm learning to ask God, "Where to next?"

Right now, He's sending me off on the next 100 miles.  Only He knows where He's sending me tomorrow, though!

(Me in all my unedited, non-hair fixed, not yet showered, bleary-eyed glory!)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Missing the Target: When You Fall Short of Your Goals

You know that saying, “Shoot for the moon, if you miss you’ll land among the stars?”  If we were to take it literally, it would not be true.  But the figurative language behind it is true.  Falling short of our goals happens but letting that destroy us is not the best course of action.

In January I realized I’d walked more than twenty miles.  This was quite a goal considering I was more of a couch potato than anything for the past decade.  So I set two goals for February:

1. Walk daily
2. Walk fifty miles

Both goals were fairly practical.  The mileage I was working at and that I planned on increasing halfway through the month would provide enough walking to easily achieve the fifty mile mark.

Then life happened.  About halfway through the month, I was sick one day.  Nothing serious, but serious enough to stay home.  There went my goal to “walk daily”.  But I was determined to get that fifty miles.  I walked in rain or shine.  Some days I brought my daughter with me, other days I walked alone.  I was walking 2.5 miles daily and on course to hit my fifty mile mark on the last day of the month.  And the flu hit.

February 27th, I took my daughter for our walk.  It was almost 6 pm, the sun was setting, and it was misting but I was determined.  However, she was wilting before my eyes and I knew something was wrong.  I took her home and 20 minutes later the pukies hit our house.

I thought I could squeeze my walking in the next morning before my husband left, adding a couple laps to make up for the shorter walk the day before.  But here’s the thing about kids:  they share their germs!

I missed my goal by less than three miles.  On March 3rd, when I attempted my walk, two laps (1 mile) had me exhausted and ready for a nap.  

I could look back on February as a failure.  But I would be wrong.  Did I meet my goal?  No. In my efforts to exercise I’m finding myself a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, and a better follower of God.  I have more energy and I want to be up and active more than I want to curl up on the couch with a good Netflix binge. 

If you’re putting all your effort into reaching your goals, they will get met.  The timeline might be extended a bit but they will get met.

If you’re putting all your effort into reaching your goals, even when the timeline is not met you’re still hitting the target.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Five Reasons Why I Walk

On December 22nd, when my sweet baby girl, Faith, was born too early at 16 weeks, I had been free from anxiety and depression for two and a half years, thanks to the freedom I’d found in Jesus Christ.  I was worried I’d end up back in the pit of depression where I’d spent nearly twenty years of my life. 

So I went to Father God and said, “Lord, I cannot do this.  You’re going to have to do this for me.  Tell me what to do. “

He never disappoints.  He says He’ll carry us and the last three months have more than proved His faithfulness.  He heard me and told me exactly what I needed to do.

“Charyse, you need to walk every single day.”

As usual, He was right.  But why walking?  Why was it exactly what I needed?

I needed a reason to leave the house.  Spending time with friends seven days a week, week in and week out was not a feasible long-term solution.  Putting on clothes and leaving the house to go for a walk every day was.  This kept me from spending days curled up in my pajamas, making myself more and more depressed.

It made me feel happier.  Exercise of any kind produces good endorphins which improve your mood.  For a grieving mama, an improved mood is a lifesaver.

I needed to have purpose.  My baby girl was dead and I needed to find a purpose for myself and I needed her short life to have purpose.  Walking made me feel like I was accomplishing something, even if the only thing I did all day was get a walk in.

I needed to get healthy.  When I got pregnant, I was significantly overweight.  I still am; walking hasn't lost me that much weight as my hormones are just now starting to balance themselves out from pregnancy.  But I needed to help my body regulate itself and I needed a big kick in the pants to get my body on the road to healthy.

Others needed to hear my story.  While I was asking God to get me through a hard time so that I could overcome a tragedy that happened to me, He knew that I am only a small part of His great plan.  Others needed to hear my story because it helped them.  I wasn't just walking for myself and my own health, God told me to walk because through walking I would be able to help others.

Now that I’m feeling healthier and happier, I know that God’s sovereign plan is much bigger and greater than my own.  Through walking, I learned that Faith’s life, short as it may have been, will continue to touch others, so long as I stay faithful to God’s direction to keep walking.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

9 Days of Waiting With the Lord

On December 13th at 15 weeks pregnant, my water broke.  It was two o’clock in the morning and I thought my pregnancy was ending at that moment.  The emergency room had even scheduled a D & C before getting a hold of the OBGYN on call.

But my baby girl had a heartbeat.  The OBGYN said that as long as my baby girl was alive & there was no infection, the pregnancy could proceed.  The chance of Faith surviving until she was viable was about 5%. 

I was sent home to wait and see if my baby would live or die.

Faith lived in my womb for nine more days.  The lessons I learned during those nine days grew me more than the thirty years before them.

I learned that I don’t control anything except the way I react.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t save my baby.  I couldn’t control what happened to her.  All I could control was how I handled what was happening to my baby and to me.  I could react with anger and bitterness, letting it fester inside of me and becoming a bitter, mean human being.  I could react with depression, curling up in a ball and hiding from the world. 

Or I could react with courage and trust, knowing that whatever happens God has a plan, He has only good for me, and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

The choice is up to me.

I learned the importance of daily time with God.

When my water broke, I hadn’t been spending time reading my Bible.  I hadn’t been spending time in prayer or worship.  I’d been busy doing “Christian” things, like leading a bible study group, teaching in the toddler room, & hosting a women’s Christmas party.  None of those things are bad…but it’s not what God really wanted from me.

God desires relationship with us.  He wants us to read His book, speak to Him in prayer, and listen to Him.  I began praying and reading His Word daily.  God impressed upon my heart to memorize Luke 1:45-47, which is the Scripture I repeated to myself as I delivered my dead baby girl into the world.  God prepared my heart for what He knew was going to happen.  If I hadn’t taken the time to build that foundation with God again, losing Faith would have been much more devastating.

I learned how amazing and important my church family is.

In those nine days, our church family surrounded us with so much love and support.  They visited, prayed, signed up to provide meals, hugged me, cried with me, and laughed with me.  Finding a good church family is so important! 

I learned it is okay to tell God I’m angry.

I was upset.  This was my miracle baby, the baby that was prayed into me.  This was the baby I’d prayed and tried three years to conceive.  I was angry that God would let this happen when I’d waited so long.  A good friend reminded me that God was big enough to handle my anger.

So I talked to Him about it.  I told Him I didn’t like what was happening, that I was scared, and that I wanted my baby to live.  He already knew that.  He listened and He wrapped His arms of love around me.

I learned that prayers are answered.

Maybe not in the way I wanted.  My baby died, despite hundreds of people praying for her.  But when she did die, God was there every step of the way.  He comforted. He placed people and Scripture in my path right when I needed it.  He supplied all my needs.  He reminded me that Faith’s life has a purpose. 

Never, in all my life, have I felt closer to God than in the last two months.  My prayers were answered because He never left me and He has not forsaken me.  He has been my strength.  My help came from the Lord.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Let It Go: Why I Love This Song From Frozen

Some moms might be sick of Frozen…and some days I’d like to join them.  But Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” will always be inspiring to me.  When I listen to it I’m reminded of the process of letting go of depression.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I'm the queen.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I tried!
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Depression makes you feel isolated.  It feels like a swirling storm is going on inside of you that no one can see.  You’re trying to keep it in but are afraid it will spill out.  Trying to hide depression from others is overwhelming and concealing your feelings makes you feel like you can’t feel anymore.

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!
I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

When God took over my depression and healed me inside, I knew I couldn’t keep my experiences inside anymore.  Instead I quit worrying about whether people would judge me or ridicule me when I spoke about depression and anxiety.  God had healed me and while life is still difficult sometimes, those storms aren’t going to bother me.  I know He is in charge.
Done Worrying About Others' Opinions...Being Silly With My Six Year Old!

It's funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!
I'm never going back,
The past is in the past!

It’s true that the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.  I have spent the last two years testing the limits, breaking through, and seeing what I can do.  Now, I disagree that there’s no rules.  I live by God’s rules and by extension the rules of the land in which I abide.  But I’m no longer bound by society’s rules of what’s right or wrong.  And it’s true:  I’m never going back to the world of anxiety and depression, because the past is in the past.  The only purpose my past has served is to share my testimony of healing from God.

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

I’m rising up with God’s strength, rising up on the wings of eagles.  I’m standing in the light of day, in God’s light.  The storm is raging on around me but God is keeping me in the light.