Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Unspoken : Baby Talk

Just a note :) **As a follow up to my last post about my recent battles with anxiety - thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. What beautiful friends and family I have. I am doing my best to  live one day at a time and so far I am thankful for how much better I am feeling. I know it's a long journey. And I am getting lots of help! And by no means do I think I'm "all better now." But God is with me. There is joy in my days. There is purpose in my life. And there is hope above all else. So thank you.**

*Warning: This post is extremely wordy. In fact there are NO adorable pictures of my son or ANY pictures for that matter, (gasp!) I know. It's horribly disappointing. Some of you may just bail right now. But I hope you don't. And I promise to make it up to you soon. He's just getting cuter you guys. I kid you not. So just you wait. :)*

Similar to my last post, there are many things that have inspired me to write this - both recent and ongoing - but at the heart of it all is this : I want to be real. I want to grow. I want to reach out. I want to live fully and honestly and happily. And this is one way I feel I can do that.

Ok here goes.

No, I’m not pregnant.
I know the title had the word "baby" in it but no - I'm not pregnant.
For some, that sentence might carry as fairly neutral or dismissive tone as I’m sure many of you read it. For others, it might have a humorous ring to it like “No I’m not pregnant! Can you imagine?!” or even bring a sigh of relief to some. But for others – it brings slightly different feelings. Feelings of longing, frustration, sadness, or real pain. And if you could feel the twisting of my gut just typing those words – you would know where I fall in those categories.

If you could feel the way I catch my breath and my stomach lurches when I see a baby shower invitation, or ultrasound picture or cutesy photo on facebook announcing that someone else is going to be welcoming a baby into their lives – you would know how deeply I want that for myself.  If you could see me read one of the many emails I receive about scheduling a maternity or newborn photography session and see my eyes burn with tears and feel my heart race– you would know how sometimes my love of photography intertwines with my own personal hurt so much it makes me dizzy.
If you could hear my thoughts, read my heart, feel what I feel … you’d know.
Yes. I want another baby.

I want another baby so much that I will probably put Jet in footie pajamas till he’s 15 unless I get one. He's in one now. I kid you not. I’m grasping at his last bits of babyhood so fiercely that I may very likely lose my mind at his 4th birthday next month. My baby is growing up so wonderfully…but so fast.

I want another baby so much that I’m pretty certain it’s a big part of what pushed my recent anxiety attacks into the nightmare they became. That no matter how I tried to not want it so much., to just live and let live. To just be thankful for what I have been given and focus on all the wonderful things I can do in my life.
I still want another baby so much it hurts.

It’s not that I begrudge anyone else their babies – please! Such a beautiful blessing to be given. I love when my friends and family become mommies. Babies are to be celebrated and cherished. I love being an Aunt and hope to have more nieces and nephews to come. I want you to have your babies. God bless your heart if you think your baby makes me sad. Not at all sweet mommas. 
If I shed a tear it’s not for you, it’s for me.
I don’t want your baby. I want my own.

We want to grow our family and have wanted this for 2 years now.

Did most of you know this?
 Probably not.
It’s extremely personal.
Just like my previous post on anxiety – it’s not something we generally like to talk about. Even with our spouses it can be difficult to open up about. It’s not something to you dive into over a quick cup of coffee with a friend nor would it be polite dinner conversation. It’s kinda heavy. It’s certainly serious. And it’s way too emotional for the everyday chat with the neighbors or even sometimes with your own family. But just like my battle with anxiety – I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I can feel it. I can see it. And now…my heart is aching not only for myself, but for the others, some of them very dear to me.

There are many women I know (friends, family, even acquaintances) with whom I have discovered common ground in these areas that I would have otherwise never known  - because we don’t usually talk about these things. Who wants to?
Infant loss.
When you have lived through something I just listed above– just hearing about it is like the sting of a band-aid being ripped off a wound that never seems to heal. Talking about it can be like pouring salt in that wound. But keeping it inside – for me - that has to have been the worst pain of all.

I know all pain is relative.
Everyone is different. Every circumstance is different. Everyone feels, copes, processes, and handles things different. But somewhere in all those differences there has to be some commonality.
Whether you have struggled to get pregnant for 6 months or 6 years.
Whether you have had 1 miscarriage or 5.
Whether you have lost a child at birth or just too soon into their lives.
Whether you have no kids…or 2 kids…or 4…when you want a baby - you want a baby. The desire to be a mother is one of the strongest, deepest most compelling feelings we as women can have. There is certainly nothing else like it for me. The pain, the confusion, the anger, the frustration, the fear, the heartbreak of the above situations may manifest itself differently in each person. And it may differ in one individual from one experience to the next. But at the core I can’t help but feel like the hurt is somehow the same.

Before we had Jet, we lost our first baby early on in the pregnancy in a miscarriage. And I will be the first to tell you that it ripped. my. heart. out. I had never felt a pain like that before. I’d heard of it happening. I’d had friends who I’d seen go through it. I felt as if I could sympathize. It was sad, but there was always that strength you witnessed in their actions and words that consoled you into thinking “it’s all gonna be ok.” But nothing could have prepared me for fear that gripped me at those first drops of blood, nor the stabbing in my heart when I learned I was in fact losing the baby. My baby. My baby I’d dreamed about since I played with baby dolls. My baby I’d already bought little white Auburn booties for to surprise Daddy the night I told him. My baby that I loved with all my being the instant that magical Clear Blue digital pregnancy test in the Starbucks restroom said “pregnant”. My baby who I’d excitedly told my family and coworkers about within 48hrs. My baby! Whom I’d only known about for 4 days but felt as if I’d been a mother always…was suddenly gone. Only a few days to fall in love so hard – to see your life changing before your eyes in a beautiful flash – and having it harshly taken away truly felt as if a part of me were dying as well. Like I said. I know everyone is different. But for me, this was the first time my heart was truly broken. I felt emptier than I’d ever felt before. My baby was gone. And I questioned God’s plan for me, and how this could possibly have been the right thing to happen. Will I ever know what it’s like to have 2, or 3, or 4 miscarriages? I don’t know. I pray not.
 And when I think of the mothers who have gone 5, 6, 10. 14, 20 weeks, full term and beyond their first years and lost their babies. My heart cannot fathom the feeling.

I was a walking shadow of myself for weeks. There were of course ups and downs. God let me work through pain then took it away and brought me peace. I was healing…slowly. 
Too slow it seemed most times.
 Then one day something changed. I found out I was pregnant again. God gave me my second baby. The baby whom I found out about after a quick 6am stop at Walgreens and practically running into the bathroom of the elementary school I was teaching at to take the test. The baby I kept secret from everyone but family as long as I could. The baby I was equally excited and terrified about for weeks. The baby I prayed non-stop would be my baby. My baby to have in my arms. My baby to help heal the hurt. And for almost 20 weeks, he was. He was my precious, perfect baby boy.

Then many of you know what happened next.
 After some bloodwork came back abnormal, we were sent to a perinatologist to check everything out. Everything was “probably fine”. We just have to be sure.
And that’s when I lost a baby for the 2nd time. That’s when the doctors told me that the beautiful, perfect, angel boy growing inside me had a severe form of neuro-tube defect and would most likely be incompatible with life. That’s when they told me about my option to abort so I wouldn’t have to carry him just to watch him die. That’s when my still fragile heart burst into a thousand little pieces and fell in the form of endless tears from my eyes. I cried till there were no tears left. I cried until my heart physically hurt within me. I cried until I was numb. Out of breath. Out of tears. Out of thoughts. Then I would stop, rest, and then cry some more.
I knew I couldn’t abort my baby.
My baby who was still alive and moving inside me.
Dear God I can’t do that to him.
But I didn’t know how I would ever survive carrying him 4 more months knowing I would have to say goodbye. Or at best – see him on life support or in a comatose state – severely handicapped for whatever short life he lived. I was so broken I was certain I would never be whole again. I prayed right then to God that no one, no mother, would ever have to feel this pain I was in. I prayed that He would just take me and my baby right then and there - to heaven – where we could be together whole and perfect without living another day of this nightmare. But many mothers have lived this pain before me and many have gone on to feel this pain since. And God didn’t take me then. But nor did He take my baby. Instead, He gave us a miracle. A miracle in the form of a second appointment that gave us a new hope – a diagnosis that our son had Spina Bifida – that he may never walk, would be developmentally delayed, would have bladder and bowel problems his whole life and perhaps a string of other issues – but that he was going to live.

That miracle – is our Jet.
My sweet Jet Montgomery Penny born in the beautiful month of May and who will turn 4 years old in a matter of weeks. The funniest, cutest, wildest, sweetest part of our lives. A dream born out of what threatened to be the worst nightmare of my life. My baby.

Being Jet’s mommy has been one of the most profound and rewarding experiences of my life, and this love is more beautiful than I could have ever known.
So of course, I want to do it all over again. J

We’ve always planned to have more children. And we were able to get pregnant so quickly the first 2 times that it seemed like having more was only a matter of when we wanted more. It’s up to us right? So let’s wait till Jet’s 2 and then get pregnant again. Oh how God must have smiled knowingly and shook His head at us. His poor children still thinking they’re in control  - not relying on His plan but trusting in their own understanding of “how it should happen.” Little did we know…just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean you’re a baby factory. And boy was that a hard lesson for this momma heart to learn. After a few months of “see what happens” we slid into “ok lets maybe pay a little attention to timing” then shaking our heads in confusion started asking doctors for tips on increasing our chances and what we should do to get pregnant. Mostly we heard “you’re both so young. No worries, it will happen” or “the average time it takes for couples to conceive is 9 months to a year – just wait,” or my personal favorite “oh just stop thinking about it and it will happen.”

Now if you’ll just hold onto my heart and brain for a bit while I go live in a world free of baby ads, baby clothes, and actual babies, I’ll go “not think about” it a while.

Ok so maybe that’s dramatic.
There are certainly days – even weeks – where I feel like I’m “not thinking about it.” In fact, with my recent battle with anxiety and how awful I’ve felt and all the medications I’ve been trying I’m certainly not on baby-watch right now. Deep down I know what’s good for me and my family – and getting pregnant right now would not be that thing. But with so many reminders (including one monthly reminder that screams in your face “no baby in there again this time sucker!”) It’s honestly pretty much impossible not to think about it. Yes I’ve heard the stories of so-and-so who gave up on getting pregnant then was suddenly expecting twins or the Mr and Mrs who decided to finally adopt then found out within weeks they were expecting. I know. It happens. They “stopped thinking about it” and it happened. Or so it seems.
But I’m telling you.
You can’t make yourself stop thinking about it.

All you can do is try to think about other things and make those your focus. Being a mommy to the awesome little boy I have. Being a wife to my husband. Being a friend to those who need me. Being a servant of God and sharing His love with others. Did God put me here solely to have kids? I’m pretty sure that answer is “no”. So what else could I, should I be thinking about? Not that I think we should feel guilty or beat ourselves up for wanting things in life like healthy relationships, marriage, children and good jobs that we truly love. Those are blessings God has given us and He created us to want them. But He didn’t create us to stress or obsess about these things. And as difficult as it is for any of us, most especially me, to not think and worry and plan and take the responsibility for mine and other’s happiness on my shoulders – my shoulders are not nearly big enough.

But His are.

When I was a little girl. I would say “when I grow up I want to be a mommy…then a ballerina.” Now. I share that not only to show the incredibly poor planning on my part, but to show you where my heart has always been. I wanted to be a mommy. I love my own momma so much. I wanted to be just like her. Still do. Many would say I’ve succeeded. So much so that we often show up dressed alike at the gym or church or each other’s houses without meaning to. I promise. Some have questioned the legitimacy this phenomena but as much as I love my mother – what 28 year old girl on earth would purposely dress as twins with their mom?

So to have experienced a miscarriage first, then think I’m going to lose my 2nd baby at birth, then to want more children and have to wait much longer than I ever, ever, planned. This has been a struggle for me. I know 2 years for some may seem short. I guess relatively it is. I know I already have a child. I know there are others with no children who have tried 5 times as long with no success. I know that. 

But this is my life.
My heart.
My longings.
And no one can tell me that one person’s pain isn’t equal to another’s.

That one person’s suffering in one area is somehow “less” difficult because of the circumstances. Logically – yes it would seem that having a child is better than no children. I 100% agree. My boy is beyond precious to me. But does having him make me want another baby less? No. If anything it makes me want another baby more. For once I felt the love of a mother…when I first dreamed it….then got my first a glimpse of it…then finally held my dream in my arms….my desire if anything grew stronger. I love him more everyday. So how could I ever compare the loss of a child at 2 weeks, 2 years or 22 years old? I can’t. We can’t. We can only know what we’ve personally experienced. What we’ve felt. What we’ve lived. So in my mind, there is no ranking the heartaches of motherhood. Whether you have no children. Whether you’ve never been pregnant, or you’ve had a miscarriage, or you suffered the loss of a child already born to you. The pain is incomparable. And to try and compare our sadness or experiences to others in that way is only harmful. Unless you do so in order to keep perspective in your own life. Such as realizing that while so many may seem to “have it easier than you”, there are just as many who you might find have it much more difficult.

There’s that saying “if we all threw our problems in a box with the rest of the world’s problems, we’d all pick our own right back up.” Life isn’t always what we plan. In fact in my experience it’s rarely what I planned. And I’m pretty sure God is doing that on purpose. Not because He gets a kick out of it (although He might, just a little). But because He loves me, and He knows me, and He’s trying to bring me closer to Him, despite my arrogant insistence that I have the best plan ever and I can do it on my own if only He’d listen to me more.


So I write this for me. To really search my heart and my feelings – to reevaluate my relationships and my goals – to focus on my place in the world right now and my role in God’s family plan.
And I write this for you. The mothers who are blessed with children. The mothers who have lost children. The mothers who have known the pain, heartbreak and fear that I have in one way or another. And the mothers who are still yet to be. You are all in my heart.
So there you have it.
Another piece of me.
A big piece.
A very current, ever-changing, still-unsolved, daily-learning, one-step-at-a-time piece of my life. I’m not asking for answers or tips or even encouragement (although of course I would never turn any act of kindness away). I simply wanted to share it. For many reasons, but mostly because this is on my mind and has been for some time. This is who I am. This is what God has placed on my heart and after years of keeping it one-on-one with Him and a few close friends I feel the need to reach out. Maybe this is your life. Whether it be in some small part or perhaps almost identical. Or maybe you simply know someone whom this applies to.

Or better yet – you don’t.
You’ve never experienced this. You’re at a stage of life where this hasn’t touched you yet. Or you’ve made personal decisions that have kept these particulars struggles from reaching you.

But here you are.
And I’m sharing this with you.
The question is…why?

Maybe it’s so your eyes will be opened to someone who needs encouragement. Maybe it’s because you or someone who know will go through something like this someday. And now you’ll know you’re not alone. Maybe it’s only to remind us think twice before complaining too much about children or pregnancy to someone who may be hurting – wishing your problems were theirs. Maybe it’s to make us think before asking those seemingly harmless questions like “when are you two going to start having kids?” or “when are you going to have another baby?”
Because while the answer for some may be just as simple as “oh maybe someday!” or “we’re not ready quite yet but we want to!”
For many the answers are hard to voice. Because the answers literally hurt to say aloud.

“We’ve been trying to have a baby. But nothing yet. We’re still waiting.”
“We’ve been told we don’t have a good chance at getting pregnant naturally. We don’t know our next move.”
“We will never be able to have children for medical reasons.”
“We were just pregnant a few months ago and just lost the baby.”
“We’ve been pregnant 4 times and no one knew because I miscarried early each time.”

Such harmless happy questions…with a very real potential to hurt.
I don’t say that to cause anyone to feel guilty, or defensive or hurt. I too have asked those questions in the past. We are human. We can’t expect each other to be sensitive to every single other person’s personal struggles. But  awareness is power…awareness can strengthen, empower and heal…awareness is a gift., should we choose to receive it with a open heart.
So I’m opening mine to you.

You may not know me. But to everyone who reads this, I hope that God will reveal His plan to you as He has revealed it to me. Usually slowly. Often times blurrily. Sometimes all mixed up like a jigsaw puzzle that I still can’t understand. But on occasion as beautifully, perfectly and purposefully as only He can do. And when that happens, it will all, everything, be clear. And may we all be so blessed as to someday see God’s wisdom, love, and perfect plan come together … even amid the most unwanted, incomprehensible, unplanned moments of our lives.

 Nothing is "a given" in this life. We aren't promised anything - not marriage or children or a house or a job or anything. Our only Hope is in the Lord and returning to Him someday. That's the goal folks. And though it's often hard to keep my eyes on that...I will be the first to admit I need to keep trying harder.

Lord help me as I press “publish” on this thing. Please understand this is all just my heart. I do not claim to have any answers much less all of them. I just wanted to share. I hope my words will encourage and not injure, protect and not provoke, heal and not hurt.

God bless you all…and goodnight.


k orr said...

hugs sweet friend! I love you so very much and needed this today! so badly did I need this! Prayers... and I mean that. I have been and will know more specifically be praying for you. Thank you for opening your heart! Thank you for letting God use you. xoxo!

ainemc said...

Wow - another amazing post. I have never been brave enough to write a post like this on my blog though I have debated it many times, as you say it's not something that many talk about yet affects so many people. Not many people know I have had five pregnancies, three ended in miscarriage. I have never been brave enough to write that publicly but your writing encouraged me, and really helps. All I can say is never give up, never lose hope. I had a miscarriage before Caitlin was born, then Caitlin was born with spina bifida. Like you, when she turned 2 we started trying for a baby, and after a year and two more heartbreaking miscarriages, we give up. A month after my last miscarriage ,on the day I went to hospital for a scan to see if there was a reason I kept miscarrying, a pregnancy test showed I was pregnant again. Instead of being happy I was numb - terrified I would lose this baby too. I was convinced something was wrong with me - that I was incapable of having a healthy baby. Nine months later I give birth to a healthy baby girl. I will never forget the heartache, the sorrow and the feeling of loss for the babies I never got to meet. So I would like to thank you for opening your heart. And I will pray and hope that your dreams comes true!xoxo

lauren Guess said...

I love this so much. I know you're hurting, but you are SO strong. I admire the way you have accepted that this whole thing is in the hands of God and that he will provide when the time is perfect for HIM. You and David inspire me everyday with how loving and grateful you are with Jet. When we were suffering this last year with our Emerson, I thought of you all the time and how I needed to suck it up and move forward for my baby. Because you did. You were given a grim situation and you carried on with grace. You continue to do this in your new struggles and you guys WILL prevail. You will be in my daily prayers and I am hoping to hear good news for you very soon. Love you!!!!

Johnson A GoGo! said...

As a momma that for 5 years wanted a baby so bad it physically hurt, I can relate to your current struggle. There is no pain like it. I like to be in control and there was absolutely no control to be had in that situation. As a momma who adopted a baby and discovered a few weeks later I was pregnant, I can assure you it wasn't because I stopped thinking about it. You don't stop thinking about it. God has laughed at me and my planning many times I'm sure. I love your open, honest, real, inspiring heart. I love you.

Jo Ann Moss Rotenberry said...

Joanna, you have such a gift of expressing yourself in writing. It goes far beyond that when others read your writings and think, "That is what I feel (or felt) and didn't have the ability to express it in words." Your blogging will definitely help others know that they are not alone in their desires, emotions, and reactions. Thanks for being the "Velveteen Rabbit" for mamas and those who want to be mamas. It is truly a driving force inside the deepest of our physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and social being.

Charlotte's friend, Jo Ann Moss Rotenberry

Tristan said...

You're right, not an easy thing! We're a bit further down the path and what has surprised me the most is how the path changes. We had our 1st baby uneventfully a year and two days after our marriage. Then we struggled with infertility. After 2 years we got pregnant and miscarried. Then we got pregnant, bled on and off through the pregnancy, and had our 2nd child. When he was 3 months old we got pregnant with our 3rd unexpectedly. She came and then we had a second miscarriage. Then babies 4 and 5. Then a 3rd miscarriage. It never gets easier. Then we had baby 6 and got pregnant with baby 7. He has Spina Bifida (functions around T11/T12). He's 15 months old and we're expecting our 8th child in a few months. There has been unexplained bleeding in more of my pregnancies than not. We no longer take for granted that pregnancy will be simple or that a baby will be born healthy. Or that mommy will stay healthy.

((HUGS)) The road is long and has many twists and turns we can't see around yet. Praying you find peace on your own road.

Holli said...

Hugs, hugs, hugs. I have walked a similar path and I KNOW its one of the hardest things, and yet like always you spun your heart into beautiful words. It is such a painful journey and very few understand it. We also longed for years to create a family and for whatever reason took forever before we decided to seek help. As you know, we were doubly blessed. yet there's still a yearning, a wondering if our family is complete. A mourning that I Had one brief pregnancy and can't have other biological children but like you, feel a profound gratitude at the family we now have. Its a minefield of emotions. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and hope that knowing you are not alone brings a little comfort!!!!

Leigh and Andy said...

Oh Joanna, you already know where my heart is in all of this...but I just wanted to thank you for being brave enough to say what so many of us are not. Much love to you friend, may we both find peace with whatever our futures may hold. Love you.

Colleen said...

Two miscarriages here. It truly is gut wrenching. It's so freeing to be open, honest, and real though. And to allow God to use your challenges for His glory, as you're doing. Hugs and prayers.

Amanda Ridding said...

Joanna, thank you for sharing a secret part of yourself with us. I hope that it help you. Your writing gives us a glimpse into your soul. (and it is beautiful and true). Thank you

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