Am I a mother?
Often, people don’t realize how difficult Mother’s Day can be for so many: those who have lost their mothers, who have a strained relationship with their mothers or with their children, those with children who have made poor choices, those who are dealing with infertility – and for those who have had a pregnancy loss, especially if they have no other living children. They may ask, “Am I a mother?” Am I a mother if I am not raising my child? If I never got to hold my baby? If I have no physical evidence that my child existed beyond a positive home pregnancy test? If my children died as embryos in an IVF clinic before they were even placed in my womb? Am I a mother?
If this is where you are at, here are a few suggestions for surviving, and even celebrating, Mother’s Day this year:
If you are a family member of someone preparing for Mother’s Day in the shadow of pregnancy loss, I encourage you to read the article, “What Grieving Moms want for Mother’s Day” for some ideas of how to gently reach out to and encourage your loved one. You may also send a loved one a free Healing Hearts e-card specifically designed for pregnancy and infant loss.
If you are a pastor planning your Mother’s Day service, please consider how to make your church activities of that day sensitive to those for whom it is a difficult day, keeping in mind that 1 out of 6 couples deal with infertility on some level, and that at least one-fourth of all pregnancies end in loss, a topic addressed in this open letter to pastors. Those in the church often speak of motherhood and fatherhood as “God’s highest calling” – a tantalizing and frustrating target that seems out of reach to many. A simple mention of this from the pulpit or in a prayer goes a long way toward helping such couples feel included, their pain acknowledge and valued.
"Held" Blog - it's here!
I'm so excited that today is the launch day for the Hannah's Prayer "Held" blog!! Please check it out often for articles written from a Christian perspective by women who have walked the walk of infertility and pregnancy loss (including yours truly).
"To Write Their Names in the Sand" is a beautiful memorial website for parents who have lost children in pregnancy, infancy, or other times in childhood. Carly Marie Dudley and her husband had a son, Christian, who was stillborn. Some time later, she began a free service to others of writing, and photographing, the names of children in the sand of a beach not far from their home in Australia. My babies' names (Naomi and Kyria) are posted there if you would like to see an example. The way it works is she posts on her Facebook page that she is taking requests (usually for a brief time - about 24 hours) and then she closes requests while she write and photographs the new names.
This is a really wonderful service to other parents. That said, however, I want to caution my readers that it is not a Christian site, and I am a little dismayed to see that Carly is now posting weekly "angel card readings" as an encouragement to those who follow her sites. Angel card readings are NOT based on Scriptural truth, but are grounded instead in New Age teachings. I truly believe Carly's heart is in the right place, but her spiritual leanings at this time do not seem to be lined up with Biblical truth. So while I do recommend her site as a place for parents to submit names of their children to be written in the sand as a comforting memorial, I urge caution as you take in some of her other postings. Many of them are what I consider sound advice for parents who have lost babies (how to handle anniversaries, for example), but others (like the Angel Card readings) touch on spiritual leanings that do not line up with Scripture.
Stuck in Saturday
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. Luke 23:55-56
No one talks about Saturday.
Plenty has been said about Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. A day of anguish and accusations, darkness and defeat. Friday was the worst, darkest day in the disciples’ lives. All of their hopes were dashed, nailed to a cross, buried in a tomb.
And Easter Sunday – we know a lot about that. Jesus alive! The grave empty! A day of joy, hope, and miracles!
But no one talks about Saturday....
For the rest of this article about surviving between your "Good Friday" experience of loss and despair until the glories of an "Easter Sunday", go to http://www.gloryandstrength.com/.
Anyone who has every dealt with pregnancy after a miscarriage or stillbirth knows the fear that can overtake you. Here is an article written by a friend of mine who has been there. Click on the link after the introduction to read the whole article at Glory and Strength webzine. It will be available until the end of April.
I'm sitting on a cold exam table, clad in a thin paper gown, anticipating a full-body evaluation. The door reads “Skin Cancer Institute.” If that weren't enough to have my blood pressure elevated, I'm processing this morning's news that my kidneys are showing signs of distress.
Click here to read the rest of the article at Glory and Strength.
No timetable for grief
One of the hardest things to deal with when you have lost a baby is the reactions of other people, and the earlier your baby died, the fewer people, it seems, understand. They didn't see your baby, they didn't connect with him or her, they were not anticipating your child's birth from the moment you got a positive home pregnancy test. Their concern is for you (and, unfortunately, that usually means the mother more than the father). They want very much for you to not hurt anymore, for you to be healthy. And so they often "encourage" you to move on, to focus on the positive things in life, and to "get over it."
The effect of all this, however, is not to push you into a place where you feel better, but to make you feel that your loss has been minimized. After all, who would tell a grieving widow to cheer up because, after all, she has other family members who love her? Who would tell a man whose wife has just died not to be so sad because there are lots of other women out there? And so when similar comments are made to bereaved parents, we feel like our child's life is not as valuable as someone who lived longer.
Let me pause a moment to say that I truly believe that most comments like that are intended to help, and not hurt. But I think most people don't know what to say to someone who is grieving. Grief makes us uncomfortable - maybe because it brings us face to face with the whole idea of death and mortality. And so in our discomfort, we speak clumsily, trying to help, but not knowing how. (Think back to the last time you had to deal with someone else's grief - did you know what to say?)
In modern America, I fear we've lost much of the art of mourning with those who mourn, one of the key components of which is the recognition that grief has no timetable. Everyone grieves in their own way, and for their own season. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions as you travel this road:
"I will not fear" (Psalm 46)
There has been a lot of tragedy in the world news in recent years. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars...all of these are more trigger strong emotions, but for those directly involved, I believe fear tops the list. Fear is a natural reaction to disaster and tragedy, for when the world as we know it falls apart, it is easy to wonder if anything can be trusted to hold us up.
Fear was one of my strongest emotions after losing my daughter Naomi at 18 weeks gestation. Even as a young child, I had feared losing someone close to me. Now, as an adult, the worst had happened. My body had failed me, my baby had died, and no one had been able to stop it. What terrible thing would happen next? Over the next several months, I became hyper-vigilant, checking on our one-year-old daughter several times a night ("Is she still breathing?"), waiting nervously for my husband to get home from work ("What if he got in an accident?"). It was as if I thought my worrying could keep my loved ones safe.
One day in my Bible reading I came across Psalm 46 and was struck by the psalmist's declaration of "no fear" even in the midst of a great natural disaster. He describes the earth giving way and mountains disappearing into the heart of a roaring, surging ocean - who wouldn't fear? And yet, he declares, "We will not fear." How could he live that way, I wondered, when no happy ending was guaranteed?
The answer, I saw in the Psalm, is that we can live without fear not because God promises a happy ending on earth, but because of who He is. He is our refuge when we need protection ("God, protect my family members!"), our strength when we are weak ("God, I can't make it another day!"), our ever-present help in trouble. I love that last description especially. He is not far off, we don't have to call 9-1-1 and wait for help to arrive. He's ever-present, always with us. And someday, the psalmist assures us, wars will cease. God will be exalted over the nations, and in the earth.
Our response in the meantime is to "cease", to "be still" - cease striving, stop trusting in my ability to protect my loved ones by the sheer force of my love and anxiety. Instead, lean on God, and trust in His power and love, and let Him be our stronghold, a place to hide when the waters threaten to drown us, not only physically, but spiritually, too.
There are still plenty of days I battle my old enemy, fear, but for the most part I, too, can say, "I will not fear, though my body fails me, and my babies wait for me in heaven, though I don't know what the future holds...the LORD of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our stronghold."
Has your loss led to a battle with fear? How have you dealt with this? Leave a comment and share your journey.
Naomi's Circle News
Here you will find articles intended to help you in your journey. Some will be reviews of websites and books. Some will be devotionals, some general articles, and some will be guest bloggers. Feel free to comment and let us know if there is something you would like to see addressed here.
Week 1: Devotional
Week 2: General article about loss
Week 3: Testimony/guest blogger
Week 4: Website/book Review