Faith as the Ultimate Optimism

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

 

Sometimes it’s hard to remain optimistic—at least for me. One of my heart’s desires has always been to have at least 4 kids. I’m an only child who grew up wishing there was a sibling around that could relate to what it was like growing up in my household; I wanted someone I could say “Mommy [or Daddy] is crazy” and they would understand exactly what I was talking about! Even though, it’s too late for me on the sibling front, I want my daughter to have siblings that she can grow up with. After having each pregnancy after my daughter ending in miscarriage or infant loss due to a rare birth defect, for no apparent health-related reason, I began to wonder if it’s worth it to continue hoping or trying for the vision that I’ve always had for my family. It’s hard to not be afraid of bad news when I even consider trying to have another baby and I imagine for anyone else who feels like God is rejecting or, at the very least, delaying your heart’s desire that it is hard for you too.

Whether it’s just a central topic of Christian thought or because it’s the Holy Spirit at work, probably both, it seems like every sermon I hear talks about how God uses suffering and challenging circumstances to develop and refine us into the people we are meant to be, using our pain and trials to make us more like Him. No matter how many times I hear this, I still need to hear it over and over again until this truth marinates inside of me and replaces my anxiety with peace.

I’ve come to realize that maintaining faith that God is good, that He desires a bright future for me, and that all things really do work together for good is the ultimate form of optimism–and this is the type of optimism I seek when doubts enter my mind. For anyone else of faith that finds it hard to consistently believe that good things are to come despite past disappointments, here are some of the verses that I lean on when I need a refill on faith-based optimism:

When I get stuck on, why did/is this happening?

 “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3

Is God still good? Does He still love me?

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34

What am I supposed to do with this pain?

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Will my feelings or circumstances always be this way?

 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.” Psalm 71:19-21

How do I find peace?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

So…I’m definitely not a theologian and I’m a firm believer in doing your research on context when studying any Scripture, but the few above have helped me and continue to help me through many bleak moments and I hope they do the same for you. Selah.

 

Three Truths 7 Months after Infant Loss

After my blogging series on grief leading up to the March for Babies, I wondered if I should keep blogging about my grief. Part of me hesitated because I needed some time to process my emotions in private, while another part of me didn’t want to continue making people uncomfortable. My decision to continue writing about my grief journey was made when I realized that this is my blog—I run this—therefore, I can write about whatever I want to write about 😉

Since the last time I wrote about grieving the loss of my newborn son, Izzy, I’ve realized a few huge truths that have been hard for me to accept, yet necessary to accept in order to move forward.

1) I have experienced a traumatic event and neither I, nor my life, will ever be the same.

A few months after losing Izzy, I was fortunate enough to start speaking with a clinical social worker about my grief. She’s extremely educated, keeps her short, relaxed hair laid, and shares my love for LUSH cosmetics and natural beauty products. I talked to her about my struggles with explaining my grief to friends and family members and finding the support I needed. She told me something that set me free, assuring me that I wasn’t going crazy, but simply grieving. She told me, “You have had a traumatic event happen to you.” When she said that, I felt a calm settle inside me, if only for a moment. It was perfectly normal that I felt like I was falling apart—my beautiful, much-wanted firstborn son died and I was in pain. This truth gave me permission to not only grieve, but to seek healing for something that was definitely worthy of grief.

 Dunes2) I will have to learn to live with joy mixed with sadness for the rest of my life.

Grief is sneaky. Even on those days when everything seems to be going well and peace tries to make itself comfortable in my soul, grief tends to show up and yell “Here I am!” For me, it’s especially during those times when I’m expected to be happy—holidays, birthdays, celebrations—when grief decides to show up and knock the wind completely out of me. Even on days that seem like they come straight from a storybook—clear skies, green tree leaves blowing in the breeze, the sun casting rays everywhere and just showing out–I sit and wonder, “How can it be a perfect day when my son is not here? How can it be this tranquil outside when there’s a storm brewing inside of me?” I’ve learned that even when there are things I am genuinely joyful and excited about going on around me, there’s still a longing and sadness inside of me. I can sit in awe of how much my 3-year-old daughter has grown and how proud I am of her, but still feel a weight in my chest and a longing for my son because I love him just as much as I love the daughter that is physically here with me.

 3) This is an incredibly hard and lonely road.

Any kind of grief is isolating; it’s something personal and completely unique to each individual. However, when people question the validity of your grief, it is even more isolating. Even in the year 2016, babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are not fully believed to be valid losses worthy of grief. Many times during the last few months, the silence I felt from those around me has been deafening. There were times when I wondered if I was to blame or if I was imagine that my son actually died because of the behavior of people around me. I’ve been ignored by family members that I was once close to and told the reason was they wanted to give me space to “get myself together.” I have listened to people try to minimize my son’s life and my grief by telling me that it “is normal and happens.” I’ve felt judged for my sadness and struggle to fit in despite the fact that inwardly I was fighting for my life every day because of the emotional pain I felt. I’ve felt like people expected me to move on before I even really started the grieving process. This is hard and it hurts like hell.

Even though I hurt, I am constantly encouraged by the women I see and connect with online who are celebrating their angel babies and doing phenomenal things in their babies’ honor. They are taking something that could’ve destroyed them and are becoming more compassionate people from it. These ladies along with my belief that all of this pain will somehow result in good keep me fighting to live life for Izzy every day. August 25, 2016 will be mark seven months since I met and lost my Izzy and I’m still here, fighting to live just as he fought to come here to say “hello” to me.

Walk Day: March for Babies 2016 Recap

Walk Pic with blog logo

Izzy’s big sis sporting her fly “Proof that miracles happen” cape!

 

Sunday, April 24, 2016—the day of the March of Dimes March for Babies—was a perfect day. The sun was shining bright and the temperature was probably somewhere in the 60s-70s in the Chi—warm, but breezy. As we walked on the lakefront downtown, the sun sparkled like diamonds on Lake Michigan and the sail boats gently swayed in the wind. We walked in solidarity with countless other families who have either experienced the anxiety of taking care of a premature infant or families, like us, who were there celebrating the life of an angel baby that is no longer on earth. My husband and I felt part of a larger community of parents who have been through the fire and have come out not only alive, but refined. We were grateful to know that we weren’t alone.

Everything was perfect, not solely because the weather was nice or because we had a great group of close family and friends supporting us or even because we were able to do something to help others in honor of our son, Izzy. (Our team, Fight4Israel, raised $1,943 for babies!) It was perfect because we chose to focus on the things that were going well instead of the things that weren’t. We chose to be grateful for the people who came out to walk with us instead of the people who didn’t. It was perfect because it was symbolic of us choosing life instead of choosing to spiritually die because our hearts were broken from losing Izzy.

 

Walk Pic with blog logo4

The majority of the Fight4Israel team. Thank God for them!

 

It was just one day. As long as we’re on this side of heaven without Izzy, we know that there will be both sunny, breezy days when we’re walking in hope and cloudy, dismal days when we have to look hard for meaning out of everything that has happened. Regardless, we will look back on Sunday, April 24, 2016 with joy and gratitude because it was at least one day of victory over grief!

Walk Pic with blog logo2

Cousins! One walked for her little bro, a preemie in heaven. The other walked because she was a preemie and is thriving!

 

 

 

Izzy Taught Me

It’s 2 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 (BRA), 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!

Birth Defects Ribbon

Izzy taught me to…

Be grateful.

Accept people as they are.

Live for a cause bigger than myself.

Invest in my personal growth.

Be open.

Be honest.

Value relationships.

Treasure time.

Be authentic.

Forgive easily.

Treat people better than they treat me.

Focus on the positive.

Live in the present.

Work towards building legacy.

Learn always.

Take responsibility for my health and my life.

Build up myself and others.

Let it go.

Create a vision for my life without limits.

Seek growth, not perfection.

 

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!

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.
IMG_0203

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!

IMG_0565

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!

New Dreams

It’s 24 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!

After I received the terminal prognosis for Izzy when I was about 19 weeks pregnant, I not only started to mourn the loss of a child that I desperately wanted, but also the loss of a dream. I imagined that I would be the mom at the park pushing a stroller with a newborn, while a preschooler and a toddler tagged along on both sides. I wanted stair-stepper children—one right after the other. I wanted to just push them all out now so that I could focus on myself later, professionally and personally.

But after a first trimester miscarriage and Izzy being diagnosed with bilateral renal agenesis (Potter’s Syndrome) right after that, I began to wonder if my dream of a swarm of little people hanging on me would come true. That’s when I started to dream a new dream—the dream of myself as a small business owner doing something creative that would eventually impact the lives of others someday through providing jobs and philanthropy programs.

On November 6, 2015 when I was about 22 weeks pregnant, Popped Handmade made its debut. It’s a luxury, yet affordable, line of natural skincare products for the everyday positively optimistic and powerful person. So far, I’ve only been focusing on whipped body butters, but my goal is to have a comprehensive line of moisturizers, scrubs, soaps, and more. Popped Handmade has kept me sane through all of the disappointment I’ve felt over the past few months. It’s a work in progress, but I’m so grateful for it. It has shown me that there are always new dreams to pursue even when one particular dream doesn’t seem to be working out. 

IMG_0524 (1)

The top picture is my table set-up at my very first vendor fair for Popped Handmade on November 6, 2015. The picture at the bottom is my set-up at a recent vendor fair on March 16, 2016. It’s only been 4 short months, but I feel like I’ve learned so much and have made so much progress. I’ve come a mighty long way 😉

 

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!