Our Cross to Bear
Luke 9:23-24 says that to save our life we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Jesus. We must lose our lives unto ourselves, for His sake, so that we may be saved. Taking up my cross daily means to live each day with the burdens that God has meant for me to carry and to do so in a way that glorifies Him. My “cross items” include the grief of being without my two children, the fear that others will forget them, the hurt that comes from others not acknowledging them and treating their lives as insignificant, the guilt and inadequacy that have come from being unable to carry any of my children to term, and feeling lost in trying to find who I am and where God wants me to be.
I no longer believe in the saying God will never give you more than you can carry. Instead, I believe that God can, will, and has given me more than I could bear. Why? So that I may be humbled before Him and allow Christ to fully live in me as I learn to turn to Him for strength. If losing my children were “easy,” I would have no need of Him – He who has carried me and walked with me and felt my pain. It’s not easy to rest in Him. It’s not easy to accept the light burden (Mt. 11:28-30) He offers and trust Him to take care of my grief, my anger, my guilt. But I know that God will not forsake me because of this. I know (and must remind myself) that the trials of this life are fleeting; that they are nothing compared to the glory that we will receive in the next life (II Cor. 4:1-18). This is my hope and what saves me from being overcome.
We Are Changed
These are the ways, positive and negative, in which my losses have changed me:
- My heart has softened and I’ve become more compassionate
- I’ve started writing and being creative again
- I’ve grown closer to God, my husband, and the family and friends who have been there for me and Louie during our losses
- I have more conviction about my beliefs, my faith, and how Louie and I choose to live our lives and honor our babies
- My desire to serve and reach out to others has been re-ignited and strengthened
- I’m less willing to conform myself to who or what others want of me, even if it’s at the expense of the relationship
- I’m more fearful of losing my loved ones and am more fully aware of how delicate life is
- I feel jealousy towards those who appear to have the life I want, especially when it involves carrying healthy pregnancies and being able to take home a living child (I know that what I see isn’t the whole story and am learning to let go of these feelings; it’s difficult)
- I have less confidence in my body and my ability to carry a child that will live
- I’ve become even more of a “homebody” and would rather be at home than out socializing
- I’m less tolerant of people complaining about things that are within their control to change
- The weather seems to affect my moods more
I need to give up my former life, that in which I thought I had control, and be who He wants me to be, renewed and refined by Him.
Facing the Future
When confronted by painful memories, I plan to stop, breath, allow myself to feel however I am feeling, and remember the good memories I have of my pregnancies, of being with Calvin, and of the ways in which people have supported me and Louie.
When people ask How many children do you have? or Do you have children? I will answer, We lost two children during pregnancy. Louie came up with this answer, and I like it because it acknowledges that we have children without the awkwardness of the follow-up questions that would come if we just said yes, and because it leaves it open-ended for people in terms of whether they want to leave it at that or ask more.
When I meet a child born at the time of one of my losses or one that would be the same age as one of my babies, I will try to remember that I was blessed with the time that I did have with Calvin and Rainbow. If I feel hurt or unable to interact with or hold this child, I will respect those feelings, while trying not to disrespect or the hurt the child’s parents.
I will celebrate Mother’s Day by greeting the important mothers in my life and by taking time for myself, because, although I have no living children, I am still a mother.
I plan on celebrating Calvin’s birthday each year by having a party for him and our family and providing an opportunity for everyone to do something to remember him and feel close to him. We celebrated Calvin’s first heavenly birthday last month with immediate family and a few close friends, and it included singing Happy Birthday before releasing balloons and making scrapbook pages for his baby book. I also created Kisses for Calvin and Calvin’s Cupcakes for him. We included Rainbow by releasing purple and pink balloons. I also made Calvin’s birthday cake in her honor by making a 6-layer rainbow cake. For Rainbow’s anniversary, we will probably do something smaller, with just the two of us.
I have found support in family, friends, my bereaved parents support group, and other babyloss mommies I’ve met on BabyCenter and through blogging, and through unexpected connections in Facebook, Twitter, and email. I found this support network by reaching out, expressing my grief, and honestly sharing how losing my babies have affected me. I feel so much more supported and less alone and isolated (which I did feel early on).
The similar experience of pregnancy and baby loss, and the emotions of hope and sorrow that come with it, have allowed me to form deep connections to and with women who are hundreds of miles away, some of whom I only know by a screen name. But I share in their grief and in their joys, and find comfort in knowing that others know my struggles and heartache. Seeing others who have learned to live again and not just survive after losing their babies gives me hope of doing the same.
Acceptance Without Shame
I honestly didn’t know if there were signs that showed I was accepting my losses. Opening up the book and starting this lesson had me in tears. Even thinking the words I accept that my babies have died is difficult and has me feeling shaky. I finally asked my husband and he answered, You talk about Calvin being in heaven… So I guess that’s my answer? I know Calvin is not here in body. I know that Rainbow is in Heaven with Calvin. I have hope in being with them again, and that means that I know they aren’t here, because I wouldn’t be hoping to be with them if they were still here with me. Romans 8:24: For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth?
I don’t know if I feel okay about “accepting” my losses. I’m not in denial about Calvin and Rainbow dying. I guess my issue is the connotation of the word. I think of the phrase accept and move on, and I associate moving on with leaving behind, and that feels like forgetting. And I don’t want to forget. I guess I need to remember what the beginning of the lesson says:Acceptance means facing the full reality of the loss of your child. It is not the absence of pain, but learning to live with the ongoing reminders of your loss. But I still don’t know what facing the fully reality of the loss of your child means. I do like that it says that it’s not about the pain being gone, but about being able to live with it. I guess if that’s what acceptance is, I’m okay with that.
Is It Over Yet?
I will never be finished with my grieving – at least not in this life – but I know that it will get easier.
This Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy Bible Study is part of the “Walking With You” outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries, led by Kelly Gerken. To learn more, read Kelly’s post: “Upcoming Threads of Hope Study.”
To read my posts on other lessons, please use the links below:
•Lesson One: Your Story
•Lesson Two: So Many Questions
•Lesson Three: This Can’t Be Happening
•Lesson Four: Why Me?
•Lesson Five: How Can I Go On?
•Lesson Six: I’ve Got to Get Better Soon
•Lesson Eight: Learning to Let Go
•Lesson Nine: Finding Joy