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!

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!

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!

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!