Love

It’s 12 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

This past weekend was rough emotionally. The gray skies and cold rain here in Chicago mimicked how I felt inside. I questioned how Izzy could be taken from me so soon when I felt such an overwhelming love for him. Every parent of an angel wonders how it’s possible to have lost a child that you would gladly trade your own life for when there are so many parents in the world that have child after child that they don’t want. It’s a question that I’m sure has been asked since the world began.

After taking time to sit in my pain, I began to think of how my love for Izzy must be shallow in comparison to the love that our Father in heaven has for His children. I love Izzy not because of anything he did or didn’t do, but simply because of who he was—my son. To think that God loves me simply because of who I am and to think that His love is perfect and complete unlike human love is too much for my mind to handle. It’s a love that comforts us in a way that no one else can. It’s a love that strengthens us when we feel like we cannot go on. It’s a love that allows us to hurt so that we can become who we are meant to be. Thank God for that level of love.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

About Suffering

It’s 15 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

Life is too short to suffer quote

suffer: to become worse because of being badly affected by something

As we’ve all heard many times before, the outcome of our lives is based on our reactions to what happens to us, not what actually happens.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

I Wanted an Abortion

It’s 16 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

On a Wednesday afternoon in January, a day before turning 31 weeks pregnant, I found myself on the telephone talking to a lady at an abortion clinic in Boulder, CO about how much it would cost to get an abortion.

This is worth writing about because I never wouldn’t imagined that I would seriously consider getting an abortion despite the fact that I have always been pro-choice. I never imagined this primarily because my faith tells me that every life has a purpose.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

-Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

In my darkest moments, I clung to the fact that I wasn’t an accident. So how could there not be a purpose for the short life of this baby in my womb?

But, I was weary. And while the situation itself—knowingly carrying a baby with the 99% chance that it would not live apart from me—was torture enough, I was told that I had to find a new doctor and delivery hospital. This in itself wasn’t terribly bad, except that the doctors and hospitals that my OB recommended were not in my insurance network. So I was left on my own to find not only a doctor and hospital that my insurance would accept, but a doctor that would accept me. I called countless doctor offices in my insurance directory only to be told that they would not take me on as a patient. I was high-risk and too far along. I felt abandoned and alone–like the medical community (and the world really) washed its hands of my baby. I wondered if I should too.

Before the telephone call to the abortion clinic, I questioned if I could take any of it anymore. I was tired of people looking at my stomach and congratulating me. I felt like I had nothing to celebrate. I was tired of people asking if I was having a boy or a girl because I didn’t know. I didn’t know not because I wanted to be surprised, but because there was too little amniotic fluid to tell from an ultrasound. I was tired of people asking if I was excited because I was depressed. I was tired of people saying how great of a big sister my daughter would be because I knew that she would never get to grow up alongside this baby in my womb. I was angry and frustrated from being rejected by doctors and receiving conflicting information from the insurance company. It was all finally too damn much.

But when the lady over the phone told me it would cost at least $17,500 for the abortion, I just broke down and cried. I cried because I felt completely helpless and lost. I cried out of anger at the state of Illinois for not allowing abortion after 24 weeks.* I cried because I didn’t really want an abortion and felt guilty for even considering it. Every night I felt this baby kicking around inside of me even though it barely had amniotic fluid to move around in. How could I think about intentionally ending its life? It was a fighter and I knew I should be fighting as well.

IMG_0129Not long after that Wednesday afternoon, everything fell in place with the doctor, delivery hospital, and with the insurance. Less than 3 weeks after that Wednesday afternoon, as if feeling that it was ok to get out of his cramped little home, my little man introduced himself and I was in love. And grateful that I finally got to meet him and that I stuck it out.

I don’t say any of this to pass judgement on any woman that chooses to terminate a pregnancy due to a fatal birth defect. I know that it was better for me that I continued the pregnancy, but I know that for some women abortion would’ve seemed like the better option—whether it’s for work-related reasons, financial concerns, or simply for the sake of their mental health! It’s one of those experiences that you can’t really explain to someone that hasn’t gone through it, like most situations relating to pregnancy and childbirth when things don’t happen like they do in a Pampers commercial. No matter your decisions, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

 *In Illinois, you can’t terminate a pregnancy after the fetus is considered viable outside of the womb (around 23-24 weeks) unless continuing the pregnancy puts the mother’s life/health at risk. Many pregnant women don’t find out that their baby has bilateral renal agenesis until their mid-pregnancy ultrasound (usually around 20 weeks pregnant).

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Guest Post: Pink Letter by Aaron Miles

It’s 17 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

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Tonight I decided to give my wife a break and contribute to her daily post leading up to the March of Dimes walk. Although I struggled to find a topic, I decided to talk about my wife and how she is such an inspiration to me.

I was fortunate enough to meet Carla during my senior in college. I was finishing up my last semester at UIC and when I was invited to attend the UIC fashion after party at Harold Washington Culture Center. My best friend Elijah was meeting a friend at the party and he wanted me to go and play third wheel. To be completely honest, the party was boring and lame (do they still use that word 🙂 ) I stood there looking at my phone and updating my Facebook status. It was not until the end of the party that something got my attention. Elijah hooked up with the friend he came to meet and she happen to bring her friend, which was Carla. Sitting in this Toyota corolla, was this beautiful fair skinned woman that I had to meet. I approached the driver side of the window and introduce myself in my deep voice. “Hi, my name is Aaron”. She cited her name was Carla. We fell immediately fell into a lively conversation about each other.  What really struck me about the conversation was that she was extremely intelligent and engaging. She was well-versed in politics, faith, music, and understanding her dreams. I realize then that I made a right choice in going to that party that night. We decided to exchange numbers and coordinate a date.

As I finished my last semester, we connected time to time over text message and email. It wasn’t until early summer after graduation that I decided to ask her out on a date. I picked her up on a Saturday afternoon and went out on the town. What really struck me was how vested she was in me and liking me for who I was. I coined that summer “Black Summer nights” In our honor of our favorite album that year by Maxwell. It was summer, in which I really felt alive and at peace with someone that really cared for me. I was finally with someone who wanted to love me for who I was. With the financial crisis 2008, finding a job was very difficult. Majority of the summer, I struggled and battled to find work. I remember Carla was on a study abroad trip in London, England and she sent me a letter on Facebook encouraging me and that better days will be ahead. I remember her texting me before countless job interviews and giving me a dose of hope. She always has and will continue to support me in my endeavors.

After a couple of years, we decided to get married. As I look back on this day, I realize that I found the greatest thing that ever happen to me. Carla means so much to me in my life. She is a wonderful wife and goes above and beyond the call for duty. She does such a fantastic job caring for our 2 year old daughter as well as her 29 year old husband 🙂 The most powerful vowel is for better and for worse. Carla and I has shared our moments of triumphs and tragedy. The loss of Israel, was a tragedy that is very difficult to overcome. Through it all, we learn to continue to get closer to God and each other. It is our divine order to become stronger, wiser, and better in God. Overall, I appreciate the journey with Carla and look forward to continue to the travel the roads less traveled with the love of my life.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

About Falling Apart

It’s 18 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy who passed away on January 25, 2016 due to bilateral renal agenesis, a fatal birth defect when a baby lacks kidneys. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

There’s no avoiding it.

It may be after being on a motivational high all week. You may feel like you can conquer the world. You may feel like a true badass. You will refuse to be a tragedy. For 13 weeks you managed to carry a baby in your womb that you knew would die in your arms, if not before. You will pronounce yourself victorious because you have been through a type of hell on earth and survived. You will pat yourself on the back for being able to dream again instead of staring in the dark all night. You will declare yourself a survivor because your heart has been broken, but is still beating. You will praise God because you wanted to die, but found several reasons to live. You will tell yourself that you are the real M.V.P.

Then, out of nowhere, you will fall absolutely, ridiculously apart. Snot will run down into your mouth. Your eyes will be bloodshot. You will groan like a sick, old man on his death bed. You will hold your pillow desperate to hold your baby for a minute longer. You will want to crawl as far underneath a rock as humanly possible and completely disappear. You will feel like the trash at the very bottom of an Indiana landfill.

You will fall apart. And it’s ok.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
    when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be a light to me.”

                                 -Micah 7:8 ESV

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Commit to Happiness No Matter What

It’s 19 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

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So I’ve heard that Tony Robbins is the stuff, but today I listened to an interview with him on the School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes in an episode called, “Tony Robbins’ Key to Success, Wealth, and Fulfillment” and now I see what all of the hype is about. There were so many great quotes and insights from this interview so I highly suggest that all of my POP people check it out, but one of my favorite quotes was “Commit to happiness no matter what.”

Robbins talked about how it’s inevitable that something will happen in our lives that deeply upsets us–loved ones will die, we may have health scares, we will make horrible mistakes in business, etc. His philosophy is pretty much that we know the road will be difficult, but we have to make the choice to be happy regardless. Even if the worst possible thing we can imagine happens to us, we have to choose to be happy because happiness is a decision. Happiness will not come when everything is perfect–if we get the job we want, a successful business, or a new house. Life will never be perfect.

So, I am challenging myself and I challenge all of you as well to take Robbins’ advice and “Commit to happiness no matter what.”

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

3 Ways to Show Support to a Parent After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Loss

It’s 20 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

Grief in general can be an isolating experience. I imagine that for even the most well-connected and supported person, it is difficult to grieve the loss of a loved one when the rest of the world seems to keep on going while the world of the bereaved seems to be falling apart. Grief may feel especially isolating when it’s due to loss from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss because of the taboo of discussing these issues. Unless someone has suffered from one of these losses themselves, they may not know what to do for a friend, family member, or acquaintance that has undergone one of these experiences. I would like to share three things that got me through the initial few weeks after losing my son, Izzy, as well as some things I would’ve liked others to do (or not do).

If you know someone who has recently dealt with miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss…

  1. Be with them.

Realize that nothing you do or say can take the pain away from someone who is grieving, but you can show them that they are not walking through the darkness of grief alone.

I will be forever grateful for a close friend of mine that came to the hospital before I gave birth to Izzy. I’d texted her that I was in labor. She was in the area and offered to come by the hospital to show support. Immediately, my first response was, “No, I’ll be fine. Just pray for me.” I felt so vulnerable. The labor seemed to sneak up on me. I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant and about to give birth to a baby that doctor’s said may not even survive the labor and who would most likely not live long even if he or she did. My automatic reaction to stress and heartache is to shut people out. My friend, no, sister kept asking me if I was sure that I didn’t want her to stop by. I kept texting that it wasn’t necessary. But the next thing I knew, my nurse was telling me that there was someone there to see me. And I was grateful. She sat and talked with me, then with me and my husband, about nothing and everything until we basically had to kick her out so that she wouldn’t be going home on the train too late. It was refreshing and encouraging that she chose to just simply be there.

Couples that deal with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss just want to feel as if what they are going through is just as tragic as any other circumstance when a loved one is lost. All that’s really needed is for someone to be there. Texts and phone calls are great, but when you are going through the unimaginable, it helps for someone to be present. Couples that are grieving a loss may not know how to accept your support so sometimes you just gotta show up!

  1. Feed them.
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My thoughtful “grief basket.”

They say good food is good for the soul and I don’t doubt that is true, especially when you’re grieving.

 

Last Fall, I joined the Chicago chapter of the national Mocha Moms organization. It’s a support group for moms that focuses on sisterhood, service, and strengthening black families. I am still a newbie to the group, but these ladies came through like lifelong sisters in such a difficult and dark time of my life.

Exactly a week after losing Izzy, a few of the ladies came over to provide my toddler and me with lunch and even brought a care basket full of both healthy and comfort snacks alike. This basket was everything! It had a potted flower, peach bellini wine, and all kinds of Trader Joe snacks that I’d never had before. It’s because of this basket that I’ve been craving dried seaweed with wasabi! More than the goodies, it was the “we care” message behind it all from women I barely knew that really helped calm the bitterness that was growing inside of me.

Whether you bring lunch, give a care package, or invite a grieving family over for dinner, know that no act is too small. Food may not be able to heal all wounds, but it definitely helps.

  1. Avoid saying things like, “It’s ok. You’ll have more kids.”

Please do not tell someone that has lost a child—regardless of whether they lost their child at 6 weeks or 36 weeks—that they can always have more kids. If you wouldn’t tell a parent that has lost a teenager that they will be fine because they can have another child, please do not say this to a parent that has lost a child from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. For some mothers, life begins from conception or from the moment they are aware that they are pregnant. Motherly instincts and attachment can kick in right away. There is no child that is replaceable to a mother. Losing a child (yes, even in the first trimester) can be devastating because there is not only the loss of the child, but a loss of possibility. A mother may mourn all the “what ifs” or “what could’ve beens.” That mother may mourn not being able to hold the child that was lost, not seeing that child learn to walk, start their first day of school, or graduate from college. It’s a loss of all of the possibilities of that child’s life. Saying that another child can replace the one that was lost is disrespectful and insensitive.

I don’t claim that the three suggestions I’ve mentioned apply to every parent that has suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. I can only speak from my own experience. However, I do believe in risking showing too much attention to grieving mothers and fathers rather than too little. It’s not uncommon for anyone who is grieving to suffer from severe depression and may even contemplate suicide. I encourage friends, family, and even acquaintances to lean in instead of pulling back. We don’t always know how to best show someone that we care when they are going through things that often seem unimaginable to most, but that’s why awareness of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss is so important. If we can erase the secrecy, shame, and stigma that surrounds talking about these issues, we may learn how to care for those suffering and provide much needed support.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Ms. Jackson If Your Nasty

It’s 21 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

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So I am a huge Janet Jackson fan! I love her classics and I can play many of her newer albums all the way through without skipping a track. When I heard that she was stopping through Chicago on her Unbreakable tour on November 4, 2015, I had to be there. The tickets were purchased months before we found out that there was any trouble with Izzy. About 3 weeks before the concert we found out that Izzy had a fatal birth defect, bilateral renal agenesis. I’d nearly forgotten about the concert until receiving an email reminder about it in my inbox. Neither I or my husband really were in the mood to go and I thought about trying to sell the tickets, but I’m so glad we decided to go in spite of how we felt. Ms. Janet put on a great show and even hubby wanted to hear her new album after seeing her perform. Thank God for those little moments of joy amidst the pain–as well as for distractions. Sometimes we all need a little escape!

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Turn LOSS into LEGACY

It’s 22 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

In Your Loss Think of the Legacy Quote

Izzy taught me that every life is valuable and that we all have a purpose. He taught me to appreciate each moment that we have because the next moment is not guaranteed. He motivates me to keep fighting through the obstacles of life because if I can endure the pain of losing him, I can handle anything.

What did your lost loved one teach you by the way they lived their life? Focus on what you learned from their life to help you cope with the loss.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Beloved

It’s 23 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!

Israel=one who wrestles with God and man and prevails

David=beloved

 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28 (NKJV)

israel without hat memorial pic edited with name

Izzy’s name, Israel David, wasn’t decided upon until the day before he was born. Yet, the name fits him so perfectly. The doctors told us that there was a good chance that he wouldn’t be born alive at all because his condition, bilateral renal agenesis, caused very little amniotic fluid to surround him in the womb starting from the crucial period when his lungs were first developing, thus significantly stifling the growth and maturity of his lungs. Despite the odds, he fought with God and man just to briefly say “hello” to us on January 25, 2016–his grandma’s birthday of all days! We thank God that our “beloved” came to be with us even if just for a little while. This experience has shown me that every life is invaluable no matter how long it lasts.

My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!