Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month--October 2015


As we come to the end of National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

First of all, I would like to put it out there that one month of attempting to make more people aware of pregnancy and infant loss is simply not enough. People need to be aware of this important subject year round--as we do for so many other vitally important diseases and causes. I am glad that there is at least a time of attempting to make more people aware of something so important. I am thankful that there are those who are willing to do what it takes to stop the silence.

When I lost James Isaac 16 years ago, I only spoken to or known of one person in my life who had ever suffered child loss. The woman I knew had had a stillbirth more than 15 years prior to my stillbirth. She had pictures of her baby throughout her home. She was not afraid or ashamed to share her story. I remember (prior to my stillbirth) being very uncomfortable, yet feeling very sad, around this amazing woman. But she was the only woman who had ever shared with me that she had lost a child.

Once we had our stillbirth, women seemed to crawl out of the woodwork sharing with me about their losses--mostly miscarriages. Because of the fact that many of these women shared their stories with me while I was still in the midst of the shock stage of my grief, I honestly don't remember exactly which women shared their stories with me or even what their stories were. I do know that there were quite a few of them.

My point is that we shouldn't wait until a friend or loved one loses a baby before we share our stories.
We should share our stories with love, pride, and yes, even joy. I loved--love--all three of the babies I lost. I am not a mommy of JUST my living, breathing son, Samuel; I am mommy to James Isaac (born & died March 17, 1999), Panya Ruth (miscarried November 10, 1999), Samuel Josiah (b. May 1, 2001), and Anna Rose (miscarried November 22, 2005).

So secondly, it is important for those of us who are part of this Family to be able to feel free to say that we are Mommy to more than just one child without feeling as if we've brought the roof down or without making everyone around us uncomfortable.

Who do we "fix" or change that? The only way to change the awkwardness around us whenever someone brings up "lost" babies is to be loving and simply let the Mommy (or Daddy) talk. In spite of our desire to say something to "help," saying nothing is typically the best option--except to ask a question or to gently and lovingly let the Mommy know that she is in a "safe" place with a "safe" person. Hugs go a LONG way. As do simple touches. 

Over the past 16 years, I quit sharing with so many people about my losses. The uneasiness that comes into a room says more than any words could possibly say. I don't like or want to make people uncomfortable. But I do want to share about my babies.

I loved--love--them. They were real for me. They ARE real for me. Yes, it is painful for me to talk about my babies, but even more than that, it especially painful to act as if they never were--never to speak their names or to share with others how very much I love each of them.

In truth, writing this blog (and my Memoir) is not easy for me. I am scared to death of how you will receive my story. Not to mention the simple fact that sharing my story is still painful--even though the first loss happened more than 16 years ago. With each post I write, I feel as if I am wearing my heart outside my body, but I've heard that every mother feels that way about her child--whether here on this earth or in heaven.

We're taught about being sensitive, loving, and understanding with those who have physical challenges and disabilities, mental challenges and disabilities, widows/widowers, children who have lost their parents or grandparents or other loved one, and especially with those of a different race. But we aren't taught about being sensitive, loving, and understanding with those who suffer the loss of a baby. We have NO idea what to do with those who have lost a baby.

I'm here to tell you that we need to be sensitive, loving, and understanding with Mommies whose arms are empty. We deserve that, too.

Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Darkness....again?!

As someone who has suffered severe depression, I can tell you that when the day came when I woke up and felt as if I had finally stepped out of darkness and into light, I felt a joy unspeakable and full of glory! Hallelujah! I was no longer depressed! I could quit taking my depression medicine and actually LIVE! Yippee!!!

Yeah. No.

In her book, LAUGHING IN THE DARK, Chonda Pierce talks about the time she felt healed--as if she was walking in the light rather than in the dark. Like me, she chose to quit her depression medication and even to lessen her trips to her counselor (yeah, me too). Also like me, though, out of nowhere, the day came when "there [was] a heavy gnawing inside me--a sad, aching feeling that something wasn't right inside my head. The darkness was back" (196).

What?! Seriously?! 

Wasn't I HEALED? Didn't God Himself take me out of the darkness and bring me into the light? Didn't I see Him roll the stone over the entrance to my cave and seal it shut, never to be opened again? Didn't I?!

Yes, I did!

But the truth is that in spite of healing, depression is not simply a matter of feeling or my emotions that I can simply pack into a box and put away to be pulled out when I so choose. Depression is a chemical state of the brain that the depressed individual has NO control over. 

With every fiber of my being, I wish I could just "get over it" and move on with life and quit living in depression. I hate being depressed. As a general rule, I'm a very happy--no, JOYFUL--woman. I love the Lord. I love reading my Bible and worship. I love being a pastor's wife. I love my church. I love my family and friends. I love my job. I love the beauty of God's amazing creation. I love LIFE. But the truth is that when the darkness comes, all I want to do is curl up in my comfortable blanket and hide from the world.

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago that still holds true:


I hate the sadness
  but I am powerless against it.
It settles on me like a warm, cozy blanket.
Even though I hate myself for it,
  I welcome it.
  I snuggle deeper into it.
I allow it to wrap around me--
  Into me.  I feel it deep-down to my toes.
I am cocooned in it.
Worst of all--I like the way it makes me feel.
I want to be able to:  laugh
                               sing
                                run
                                jump
                                play
                                praise
                                 --Pray.
But I am trapped deep inside my Sadness.
The Joy--pure, true Joy--of only
  moments ago is a distant memory already.
Is there anyone to help?
  Is there someone who will pull the blanket off for me?
Yet, worst of all, I REALLY like the way it makes me feel.

Polly Anna Watson
Wednesday, September 21, 2011

 In many ways, yes, depression is "comfortable" for someone like me, but not for the reason you might think. It's because it's my "normal." I wish it wasn't, but because it is, I do tend to feel "safer" when I am depressed than when I am walking in the Light and the Joy of the Lord. I do much prefer living in Joy--honest. If I had my choice, I would walk in God's amazing Joy all the time.

So please be patient with me--and with others who suffer from depression. Don't expect us to "JUST get over it." We're trying. We really are. Just love us.....that truly is the best thing you can do to help us through the darkness.

The old saying is so true that in order to know TRUE Joy, we must know TRUE sadness. 

Works Cited
Pierce, Chonda. Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian's Journey through Depression. New York: Howard, 2007. Print.
Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Words DO Break the Bones of our Hearts

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 18:8New Living Translation (NLT)

Rumors are dainty morsels
    that sink deep into one’s heart.

(KJV)











No matter which translation is used, the Bible is clear about how painful rumors or stories told with only part of the information dig deep into the innermost heart of the soul of the person being talked about. 

When I was a young girl being picked on (for everything from my name, Polly Anna, to being short, to being bigger than the other girls, to wearing glasses, to just being different from everyone else), I was taught that rhyme many of us learned at a very young age: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

Adults and others who are still teaching this rhyme and believing it, STOP LYING. I wasn't bothered when I learned who Santa and the Easter Bunny really were. I learned early on that those kinds of "lies" are all in good, clean, honest fun to help make the lives of children more magical. And I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have had a very magical childhood.

But telling our children that words don't hurt is the biggest lie we could ever tell, teach, them. They learn very quickly that they'd much rather than sticks and stones thrown at them [sometimes] than they would the horrible words said by people they thought were their friends.....by people who just don't understand or care to understand what they're going through.

Can you relate? I'd be willing to bet that you can, more than you'd like to admit. I know I can.

The worst words, though, have come in my adult life from the very people I have trusted the most. Before I get into this, I have to say that before YOU read on, know that I'm going to get not only very personal, but I'm also going to say some more about my faith. Read the following at your own discretion. 

Most of my examples that I am going to share with you come after we lost James Isaac in March of 1999. (Note that I am not counting the words said DURING the horrible experience--only after.): 
          * "You brought this on yourself by reaching up to turn on and off the lights in your home." (We had a pull string for all the lights in our house at the time.)
          * "God will work all things together for our good." (The typical scripture from Romans that tends to be quoted at times of suffering and difficulty.)
          * "God must have needed/wanted another angel." (Say what?!)
          * "You can always have more." (What about THIS baby?!)
          * "You have to get over this and move on."
And the list goes on. The last one was said by a dear, precious, highly respected Christian woman who chose to block me into a corner as she righteously told me that I just needed to "get over it" and "move on" and that I had grieved for "long enough."

I am here to tell you that these words spoken by friends and loved ones HURT. They cut like knives into my very soul. I had lost my BABY. A part of me. A part of my own body. These well-wishers couldn't understand because they hadn't been through what I had. In their minds, they were being helpful, but in reality, they were HURTFUL.

I think that's why so many women (couples) choose to wait until their 2nd trimester to tell anyone that she's pregnant. If anything does happen and she loses the baby, she doesn't have to hear stupid things from people who should just learn that hugs are so much better than the words spewing out of their mouths. 

It's sad, though, don't you think that we're so afraid of the hurtful things people will say that we can't, we won't, even share our joys?

The hurtful words only got worse as the years went on and I miscarried Panya Ruth in November of 1999 and then Anna Rose in November of 2005. The worst words came from my very own husband. 

The first time his words cut deep was not too long after we lost James Isaac in '99--and several months before we even knew we were pregnant again. My husband is a pastor and we had several folks in our church who wanted to be baptized. Since we don't have a baptismal in our church building, we used one that a couple in our church were members of. On our way to the pool, my husband and I rode together. During that 20 to 30 minute ride together (the first time we'd been alone together for a while), I poured my heart out to him about how bad I was hurting and struggling with moving beyond my grief. When we pulled in the parking lot at the pool as I put the car in gear, my husband turned to look me dead in the eye and said, "I'm never riding with you to another baptism."

I'm not even going to attempt to explain the pain of those words after I'd just poured out my heart to him.

The next time his words cut deep was in 2006, about six months after I miscarried Panya Ruth. We had agreed we'd wait six months to let my body heal. It was a long, difficult six months, but I lived on the thought that maybe by the end of the year we'd be pregnant again. I had been to my doctor who had given me the thumbs up that it was safe for us to try again. So, we began trying. Every single day. We tried HARD. Then came the day when we were going at it hot and heavy when he got up out of the bed. 

Okay........?

I waited, thinking he was closing the door so we didn't wake our 4-year old son.

He did close the door, but then he opened his top dresser drawer. I knew what he kept in that drawer. "What are you doing?!"

Silence.

"What in the world are you doing?!"

"I've decided that I don't think we should try any more to have any more children."

If I have to explain to you the pain that his words gave me, then you might need to stop reading this.

Yes, our marriage went in the crapper. Yes, I was angry with him for years. Yes, it got bad enough that NOTHING he did was right. Yes, I came to HATE him. 

Thankfully I serve a God who is bigger than our hurts and the painful, cutting words spoken. Through lots of counseling, time away (yes, we separated for a time), LOTS of scripture reading, LOTS of prayer, and even LOTS of Bible Studies on joy, I began to find the JOY in my life rather than focusing on the pain in my life.

I want to end this by saying that while I have grown and many of my wounds have healed, it is very easy for those wounds to be re-opened--to be TORN back open and to hurt worse than ever before. Words STILL hurt. A lot. I know quite a few women (and some men) whose wounds are still fresh and who are still in a ton of pain from the thoughtless words spoken by those who have NO IDEA what we're going through.

Remember that Words DO have the power to heal, kill, and/or destroy. Which words will you choose?


Works Cited

Shen, Jean. "Series 1: Healing of Wounds of the Bride and Growing Intimacy with the Lord." Invitation to His Garden. Prophetic Art. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. <http://www.jbrushwork.com/html/paintings.html>.