Wounds and Scars

My pregnancy with my first son was a time that feels like ages ago and just yesterday at the same time. I remember waddling around, extremely pregnant, trying to brush off questions about the baby like ,“Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?” Most expectant moms love to answer these kinds of questions, but for me, they felt like sprinkling salt in an open wound. “No,” I would respond to the boy or girl question. Obviously, the follow-up statement is “We want it to be a surprise.” However, this was not true. The fact was we just didn’t know the sex of the baby because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby for its sex to be visible in an ultrasound. Right after having these types of conversations, I would scream inside, “I can’t wait until this is over.”

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Photo credit: Create Her Stock

Thirteen months and 4 days since giving birth to Israel David, it’s still not over. It’s a popular saying that “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure that I believe that. Time makes a wound transform into a scar. Sure, I don’t have the same gaping wound that I had in the days and months after Israel’s death when I was pissed off at the sun for shining or when it seemed like boy babies and pregnant women were everywhere just to taunt me. Even still, there are the rough moments, when my wound is no longer crusted over, but feels like a gigantic hole.

I think in the case of infant loss, it’s a bit more accurate to say, “Time makes things different.” A mother never forgets the loss of her child. It was only in the last few months that I felt up to attending a pregnancy and infant loss support group meeting at the hospital where I both gave birth and said “good-bye” to Israel. The meeting facilitator was a nurse who’d also experienced the loss of her son shortly after his birth. She recounted the circumstances of losing her son over 20 years ago and told us that even now, there are times when the pain still feels fresh. What I appreciated even more than her openness was how she reflected on ways that she and her family incorporate her son into their celebrations and their lives. As mothers of angels we don’t move on, but we move forward, carrying the memories of our lost babies with us.

No, it’s never over, but it can be a good kind of “different.” If I’m completely serious with myself, I don’t really want to go back to the way things were before losing Israel. Yes, I wish I could take the pain away; I wish I could feel the void that was left from having a little boy that I can never see grow up or who I can’t hug, kiss, and read stories to. But, there are changes in my life and in myself that I love—like the boldness that comes from knowing that I’ve hit my lowest point and there’s nowhere to go but up. I’ve made it through the grief, the isolation, the depression, the shame; I can make it through anything. Despite the fact that time itself cannot make all of the pain go away, I’m grateful for my battle scars.

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!

Staying High

 

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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!

 

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.

No Sleeep

It’s 6 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!

Unfortunately, I’m not about to write about the good kind of “No Sleeep” that Janet Jackson sings about in her song. My “No Sleeep” started the night that my newborn son died. The night that Izzy passed, I cried myself to sleep and slept for about 3 or 4 hours before I woke up again to cry and stare out of my hospital window. I could see Lake Michigan and I remember thinking how strange it was that the sun was coming up and the world was still going after everything that just happened. It’s been hard to sleep ever since that night.

Once I came home from the hospital, I was only able to sleep for a few hours at a time before waking up and staring into the darkness of my bedroom. Sometimes I could let out a good cry and go back to sleep, but other times I would just lay in bed with my eyes closed and my mind racing. A week from today will be 3 months since he was born and passed away and I still find myself feeling like a zombie most days because I’m not getting nearly as much sleep as I need to feel my best.

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Me, sleep-studying in college during my senior year

There are some people, like my husband for example, who are still able to thrive with very little sleep. He’s so used to being tired that for him it’s almost a nonissue. But I on the other hand have always been a person that needed at least 7-8 hours in order to have enough energy to even say “Good Morning” to someone without having an attitude. I’ve always not only needed sleep to feel ready to handle the day, but I’ve always just loved sleep. It was one of my favorite things to do. It was also a refuge for me when I was going through hard or stressful situations. I took so many naps in college after my Dad died from cancer that I wish napping was a major because I would’ve graduated summa cum laude. But this time, I can’t sleep away my grief. There’s this anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that keeps me up even when I’m on the brink of exhaustion.

 

Grief itself is exhausting. Of course, grief affects every person differently. However, for me and for many other people from what I’ve read/heard, grief can physically wear you out. The pain of loss can feel like a weight that you carry around 24/7 without any relief and it just makes you tired—weary really. One of the toughest things about this is it’s when I’m the most tired that the sadness and pain of grief seems the most overwhelming. It’s hard to stand under the weight of it all mentally, when I’m physically void of energy.

Through it all, I’m trusting in God that I will get through this and for those of you that may be having your own physical or mental struggles from grief, I’m praying the same for you.

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!

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!

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!