Staying High

 

staying-high

Labor Day 2016

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 marked one year since I both said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to my newborn son, Izzy, and what a year it’s been. My family will be walking and fundraising for the March of Dimes March for Babies again this year in Izzy’s honor, therefore, here I am starting a blog series on the lessons I’ve learned and the encouragement I have to offer one year post infant loss. I’ve had highs and lows, but most importantly, I’ve grown and learned to keep pressing on through it all.

 

One of the key truths I’ve learned over the past year is that life is both the pain and the joy, the despair and the hope, the tears and the laughter—all of it is entwined and it’s impossible to have one without soon having the other. Somebody once said that if you never have the valleys, you won’t know what the mountaintop feels like. Every day that I find myself smiling or laughing, I’m in awe of the glory of God and the mysteries of life because I remember days when I thought I would never be able to smile or laugh again.

One of my favorite songs right now is “Stay High” by Jonathan McReynolds. Bruh has helped get me through the storms this year. After a friend invited me to see him live, I’ve been hooked on his music. Let me know what you think in the comments!

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our 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!

 

Destiny

It’s 4 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!

Destiny paragraph jakes

Currently reading, Destiny: Step into Your Purpose by T.D. Jakes to try to make sense out of my past, my present, and my hope for the future. I’ve never been into T. D. Jakes’ teachings and sermons as much as I have been during my current grief journey. Grateful for The Bishop.

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!

Feelings and Actions

It’s 5 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!

How you act quote td jakes

Feelings are important and must be acknowledged, but we all have those times when we know our feelings are contrary to what our head or our spirit tells us to do. Pretty much every time I write a post that’s deeply personal to me there’s a moment of hesitation before clicking “publish” or “share.” My feelings often tell me to keep my story to myself. It’s too precious to me. It’s too sacred to share with others that may only see it as entertainment or read it as something to gossip and snicker about. Yet, my spirit tells me that one of the reasons I went through the things that I’ve went through is to share my experience and what I’ve learned. Plus, there’s a boldness I feel now that I didn’t have before. Since I’ve been completely broken in spirit, there’s no where to go but up. People’s opinions won’t make or break me now because they won’t give me back what I’ve lost. Opinions are irrelevant and I definitely can’t cash them in at the bank.

It’s common for many women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss to feel like they are to blame in some way, like they’re inadequate, or like they have failed. There is nothing wrong with you, but everything right with you. Your heart has been broken, but it’s still beating and it’s stronger than its ever been. My encouragement to you is to share your story if you feel led to do so by some force that you can’t name. You may never feel like you are ready, but more than likely you will find greater peace if you release any shame you feel about your situation. Bad things happen to everyone and there is nothing you’ve done to deserve losing your baby. Choose to act on faith rather than not acting because of how you feel because you just might help someone else mend their heart as well.

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!

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!

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!

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!

How Losing My Baby Strengthened My Faith

It’s 27 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!

I have always been a bit of a doubting Thomas (see John 20:24-29) throughout much of my Christian walk. I didn’t grow up going to church or in a Christian home. My dad was a skeptic of Christianity, maybe even agnostic, and my mother believes that all church folk are hypocrites (which half the time we are—let’s keep it real here). Considering the disbelief of my family and me being critical and analytical by nature, it surprised my parents, and even myself at times, when I became a Bible-toting and fervent believer of God in the middle of my high school years. Even though I had periods when I felt like I was “on fire for God” as church folk say, I had my moments of doubt, especially when times got really hard. I even considered myself an “ex-Christian” for a while after my dad died from cancer in 2008. I graduated from my small, conservative Christian college depressed, disillusioned, and wondering if I’d wasted the last 4 years of my life getting a liberal arts education.

Israel collage 4x4 memorial pic with name and PBWB websiteBut (there’s always a “but” in a testimony) on January 25, 2016, my baby boy, Israel “Izzy” Miles, died from a birth defect called bilateral renal agenesis (known as BRA or Potter’s Syndrome) and I had no choice but to cling to God and trust Him. I felt powerless and lost—like my heart was literally ripped from my chest, stomped on, and shattered in a million pieces. I can’t imagine any pain that was worse than delivering a baby that I carried for 33 weeks and 4 days, spending just a few precious minutes with him, and having to leave his beautiful, little body at the hospital and go home with nothing but a memory box and the blanket he was wrapped in to show for it. I felt like a part of me died. And it did. I will never be the same person that I was before this happened, but I’m learning that that’s ok.

You may ask, “how could you believe in God more after losing a child when you had doubts before?” The answer is…real trials and tribulations reveal what you’re really made of and I realized how weak and how powerless I really am when I could do nothing to save my son’s life. I am a woman that needs a relationship with God. There’s no other way that I can go with life after watching my very first son take his last breath in my arms and not believe and trust in a Being higher than myself. Over the last several weeks, there were moments when I didn’t want to live, times when I hated everything and everybody, times when I didn’t know how I would make it through the night because the emotional pain was so strong. There were times when I was so angry, pissed really, at God that I wanted to scream and break everything in sight.

Yet through all of the pain, I realized that He was with me in a way that nobody else could ever be. As anyone who has suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss knows (and I’ve been through 2 of the 3 within the span of 12 months), it can feel like you are completely alone and nobody understands or cares about what you’re going through. Family and friends that have never experienced it (and even some that have) often don’t know what to say or do to comfort you so they distance themselves. They may not say or do anything. Or they may say things that hurt you even more, making you feel like someone is pouring salt on your open wounds. Or they may not do as much to support you as you think they should or as much as you feel like you would do if the shoe was on the other foot. It was the times when I felt like I had no one else to turn to and I managed to not lose my mind that I knew that God was carrying me through it all.

2 Corinthians 1 3 and 4 for the blogEven in my questioning of why this happened to me (and even why there are so many horrible things happening in the world every second), I know that God is alive and still working. I’ve met people who knew about what happened to me and opened up about their own loss and felt comforted because they felt like they had no one else that would understand. I’m a firm believer now that God allows us to go through the most challenging circumstances to show us that we need Him and so that we can support others that go through the same things we have, but feel alone. Lord knows I don’t wish infant loss on anyone, not even my worst enemy, but I appreciate that it is now when I feel so completely broken that I’m witnessing the miracle of God putting the pieces back together, strengthening my convictions and my faith.

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 to donate and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Happy New Year from the PBWB!

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Happy New Year from the Popped Black Woman Blog!

Don’t you love the sense of promise and hope that’s in the air at the start of a new year. Yet, we all know that mid-January/February rolls around and many of us still feel stuck in a rut and forget about all the new habits and plans we had for the new year. Let’s not let that be us this year. Let’s make a realistic ambitious plan for 2016 that includes deadlines and monthly/quarterly goals to help us stay on track.

For me, my biggest project will probably be setting a solid foundation for by new business, Popped Handmade, and really turning it into a “business” (as in having profits and such lol). It’s only been about 2 months since my first vendor fair when I burst out my handmade whipped body butters at a school where I used to work. It seems like ages ago because I’ve learned so much since then. But, at the same time the amount of work that needs to be put in, the knowledge and experience that needs to be gained, and the contacts that need to be made in order to turn this thing into something that really makes an impact for my family and for social causes that are important to me are almost overwhelming at times. However, that overwhelming feeling lets me know that I’m going to have to grow in faith in order to surpass the challenges in front of me.

In fact, 2015 has been so challenging as far as believing in myself and trusting God’s plan for my life that I’ve declared 2016 to be the year of belief. I refuse to have limiting beliefs that limit my joy and personal success this year. Last year was a year for the history books in many not-so-good ways, but it’s clear now more than ever that we grow the most when we go through some things.  

A Few Things 2015 Taught Me

 1.      Bad things can happen to anyone. An unfortunate situation can leave us paralyzed or propel us forward. It all comes down to our response.

2.      Sometimes your dreams have to be denied (even if for a short time) in order for you to realize your full potential.

3.      You have to decide to win even if you don’t have a fan club to lean on.

4.      You have to find ways to encourage yourself on a daily basis. This is true especially if you don’t have a strong support system. Motivational podcasts have really carried me through the low moments of 2015.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”-Zig Ziglar

5.      Accept when you don’t fit in or feel like the oddball. That should let you know that you’re on the right track. You’re called to be the agent of change, not to conform.

6.      If you have the ability to inspire others, you’re a leader—even if you don’t have any titles or don’t feel like it’s true. We all have the ability to lead.

7.      Growth requires expanding your knowledge, experience, and network. It can’t happen with you staying stuck where you are.

8.      Just show up. You may not feel prepared. You may be running late. More than likely, you will be glad that you showed up and will learn a thing or two.

9.      Life is happening now. It’s the struggle/the process/the journey. Life is not waiting until you have accomplished all of your goals; it’s what’s going on while you work at your goals. Don’t wait until sometime in the future to enjoy the life you have right now. Only this very moment is guaranteed to anyone.

10.   We have to change our mindset in order to change anything that we’re dissatisfied with in our lives. No change in circumstances can take place if our thoughts and perceptions don’t change. The change starts inside before it’s manifested outside.

Honestly, I could go on and on about the little nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up from my experiences and observations in 2015, but I’d love to hear about your mantras, goals, and affirmations both that you’ve gained from 2015 and that you hope to ring true for 2016. Do you believe that 2016 can be your best year yet? Do you have a specific plan for how to make that happen? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook. We got this!

Make Sure YOU Win

Hello all my popped loves! I hope that you haven’t forgotten about me! I know that I’ve been a bit M.I.A. but Lord, if you knew what I’ve been going through…I had some really bad news a couple weeks ago that really threw my world upside down. I’m sure that one day, I will share more details about it, but all that I have the will to say right now is that it was news that shook the very foundation of my vision for the next few years of my life. You see, I had a plan, but of course, it’s often said that God laughs at our plans and does what He wants to do anyway! Have you ever been there? Have you had something happen to you that shook the foundation for your future or maybe even made you question your identity?

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“Don’t let disappointment or tragedy be the end of your story. Use it to make you even more determined to win.”

If so, I want you to remember something, no matter how bleak things may look right now, your story doesn’t have to be over. You may not be able to control everything that happens to you or around you, which is frustrating to the control freak in us all. However, we have full control over our reactions to whatever does happen to us. We can let something defeat us and make us kiss the game goodbye. Or we can use the disappointment, frustration, or [insert expletive here] to propel us forward. Don’t let disappointment be the end of your story. Use it to make you even more determined to win.

The inner pain I felt due to my situation made me want to crawl under my bed and stay there forever. But, I realized that if not anything else, I have a family—a daughter—that is relying on me to keep my ish together to be there for them. Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t control, I decided to throw myself into starting Popped Handmade—a luxury, handmade, natural beauty product line for the everyday positive, optimistic, & powerful woman or man like yourself. Do I feel completely ready to take on this venture? No. Do I feel a bit overwhelmed at the mere thought of it? Yes. Will those fears stop me from giving it a shot and doing the very best that I can to perfect my products and grow my business knowledge? Hell no. The thing about feeling like you’ve hit a rock bottom of sorts is there’s nowhere to go but up. If this project fails, I will be right back where I started in the first place, yet I will have gained knowledge about business and myself that I would never have acquired otherwise.

If you, like me, are going through a valley in your life right now, use your experience as motivation to flip the script and make your story have a better ending. Don’t let the struggle win; make sure YOU win.

Check out the Popped Handmade Facebook and Instagram pages and let me know what you think!

The Blessing of Rejection

all things work together for good
I imagine it would be hard to find one person on earth that has never been denied anything that they wanted, whether it was a person, organization, group, position, or situation. Most of us have been denied something at least once in our lives but more than likely it’s been numerous times. If you are in that slim minority of people that have no idea what it feels like to be rejected, this post is not for you so you can keep it movin’.

For the rest of you, doesn’t rejection have a way of stopping you dead in your tracks? A way of making you second-guess every single thing that you once believed in—even making you question yourself. It makes you wonder if there is something inherently wrong with you that caused the rejection. If it was a major rejection, it make even trigger a bout of depression and make you want to give up.

A few minutes ago, I was surfing the web to find a little inspiration for a blog post. I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block lately as you may have guessed by me skipping my usual Sunday night post. During this web-surfing inspiration-hunt, I stumbled on an article that reminded me of a rejection I experienced within the last 5 years.

It was an interview featuring a popular blogger, she-who-must-not-be-named, who I briefly worked for. Although the work I did was nothing fancy—just some editing and affiliate marketing work mostly—it was huge for me. The opportunity first came during a low point in my life (shortly after college) and it gave me hope.

Growing up, writing was as easy as breathing. I wrote poems, stories, song lyrics. I didn’t have to try to write or force it. Writing and reading came naturally and were even coping mechanisms for me during tough times. But during college, I started having severe writer’s block and began to question my writing abilities and even my passion for all things literary.

The part-time work I did for this she-who-must-not-be-named blogger gave me hope again because it showed me that it was possible to do work in a field that I loved and that success was possible (based on the founder of the blog’s success). When this blogger told me that my work was great, but that I wasn’t needed anymore, I felt crushed. I wondered what the real reason for terminating our working relationship was. This blogger had other people working for them, why was I cut?

My mind went straight to questioning my abilities, work ethic, my very being. What did I do or did not do that caused this to happen? What’s wrong with me? But looking back, I’m (mostly) at peace with the way things turned out with that situation and with other situations when I felt rejected.

If I had continued to work for that blogger and gained more responsibility, would I have had the desire now to blog for myself and stick with it no matter if I get 1 view a month or 1,000,000?

The same question can be asked for every situation or person that made me feel rejected or less than. If that person had not turned their back on me as a friend, would I have missed out on learning the importance of loving myself no matter how other people treat me? If that company had hired me full-time as soon as I graduated from college, what other experiences would I have missed out on? If that professor had not told me who I wasn’t, would I still have this burning desire inside of me to prove what type of person I could be?

Although rejection hurts, we should thank God for it. If the door of mediocrity never closed in our face, we would miss out on finding something of greater value through a different door down the road. So the next time you want to throw a pity party over being denied something you really want, remember that every obstacle strengthens your backbone and changes who you are for the better.

Although it may get dark and lonely as we go through those valleys in our lives, we have to remember that all of it works in our favor in the end—to mold us into people that can truly appreciate not only the moment when we reach the mountaintop, but most importantly, the climb as well. It’s the climb that really shapes who we are and really makes us savor being on the mountain top when the day comes. And if we keep going, that day will come.

Let me know why you’re grateful for rejection or tell me about all the haters you plan to prove wrong in the comments or on Facebook 😉