Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Two days after my surgery, a large package arrived in the mail.  Brett opened it up, and handed me the enclosed note.  It was a note from my late grandmother's friend, with whom I don't often communicate.  The note was a congratulatory one in response to the good news she had just received that we were expecting another baby.  My first thought was how incredibly kind it was of her to send us a gift, and my second was how I wished it had arrived earlier.  Brett revealed to me what the gift actually was: a wooden, red ampersand.  I stared at it unsure of what exactly to think.  It is really cool looking, and something I would probably ask Brett to make.  Strangely, not long ago I became very interested in the ampersand, simply because I think it's a really beautiful character.  I started saving graphics I found with that symbol, and had thoughts of doing art with it, somehow.  Back to the gift: I found it a slightly obscure congratulatory gift.  I mean, it's not a stuffed animal, it's not a baby blanket, it's not a cute's a large wooden ampersand, for crying out loud!  I stared at it for a while, and thought various things, and then carried on with whatever it was I was doing previously.  A few moments later, I sat down, and my thoughts of the ampersand returned.

And.  And.  And. a symbol of promise.  And, there is more.  And, you are not done.  And, your story and your life continues.  AND.  And the tears came.

Of all the times for this gift to arrive, it happened to be two days after I said my final farewell to my baby.  Of all the gifts it could have been it was a freaking AND sign.  It is undeniably divine.  It is the whisper from my God to take heart, to trust in His goodness and promises.

While my heart aches, I am trusting in the promise of the And.

"Fear not the path which I have laid out for you.  Flinch not at what I ask you to bear.  you will not bear it alone.  Lo, I am with you, my child, in every moment."  Echoes of Eternity, March 21st
(Thank you, Aunt Joyce, for the timely gift of this book)

In Christ alone, my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My comforter, my all-in-all

Here in the love of Christ I stand


"Grace makes beauty out of ugly things"

Our family said goodbye to our sweet baby Grace on Friday.  Perhaps it's super hippy of us, but keeping in mind that Brett has some Santa Cruz in his heart, and I've got some Humboldt in mine we felt it only right to plant a tree in Gracie's honor.  We planted a Red Locust, which promises to create the most beautiful red and pink wisteria-like flowers.  It is planted proudly in our front yard, for us to see, whether coming or going, or doing dishes, or sitting in our living room.  Hippy or not, It is a sweet reminder of our baby girl, and a promise of beauty to behold.

Each night before bed, Scouty goes to the window and says, "Nigh-nigh Gace."

Night-night, sweet Gracie.

Friday, March 22, 2013

In Grace there is Hope

The sterility of a computer offers a comfort I’ve never before known.  In normal life, I prefer the handwritten word that my journals welcome, and while I have fully embraced the give-it-to-me-now satisfaction of e-mail, I much prefer giving or receiving a handwritten letter.  Somehow written words, in all their imperfections, offer more of a story than is provided by sole words.  Many of my journals have stains from coffee I’ve spilled, or ink that has run from tears that have fallen from my face, gigantic text with bolded words indicating excitement or importance, words that have been harshly underlined, or daintily doodled.  Seeing those marks, those imperfections, reminds me of my humanness and my vulnerability, of moments I may have otherwise forgotten.  I’ve looked at my journal the past couple days—the yellow one.  I have considered opening it up, pen in hand, and just trying.  But I can’t.  I just can’t.  Similarly, I’ve thought of making a phone call to beloved friends and family, just to say hi, to let them know that I sound now as I always have, that I am still me.  But I can’t.  I’m typically an anti-texter, much preferring the intimate exchange of verbalized words, but especially now, I find myself safely hiding behind the sterile, the safe, the less vulnerable, less exposed medium: the typed word.  I think it is here I shall remain a little while longer.

Today is the first morning I have awoken alone.  Brett was next to me, deeply breathing, in his sweetness of sleep, but I awoke with an almost tangible awareness that I am physically alone for the first time in several months.  My body no longer shares its space; the home I have offered is completely empty.  I am no longer carrying, protecting, housing my sweet baby, and I am overcome with sorrow. 

I looked at my naked body in the mirror today, and was in disbelief upon seeing how thin I am.  The bump of which I was so proud has almost entirely disappeared.  My profile is nearly back to where I began in November.  The “shoulding” part of my brain says, “You should be happy about this!  You should love that your stomach no longer protrudes!  You should be thrilled that your normal bod is going to be back in action in no time.”  But my true, raw, real, vulnerable self is filled with sadness, for I don’t care to be back to my thin self.  I actually like knowing that clothes don’t fit, and take pride in having a little extra love to go around.  I don’t mind being “Big Mama.”  I find that I don’t want to return to normalcy: mind, body, spirit or otherwise. 

Yesterday morning was the day that my baby and I were physically separated from one another.  I awoke at 3:30 am with a crushing sadness, one that made the simple act of breathing difficult.  Though I was fully aware that the little person I was carrying inside was no longer alive, it still pained me knowing that I had mere hours left to hold it, and protect it as best I could.  I had been grieving the loss of this Little’s life, but something about having him or her actually removed from my body was the finality I found myself dreading.  Since learning on Tuesday (the Tuesday that was merely a few days ago, but feels like months) what fate was to be ours, I've grappled with two very different internal personalities: the first “me” to show up has wanted to get down to business, rashly button things up, emotionally detach, get everything over and done with, and move on; the second, more real “me” has wanted time to stop, thus allowing me to curl up tightly and never move again, that I may savor, love and honor every last second I have with my baby.  Yesterday morning, I was glad at having woken up so early, for it allowed me more time to be cognizant of my last moments with the Tiny One…my Tiny One.

Brett and I left for the hospital at 5:15 am, and for better or worse, time seemed to be in fast-forward.  I’m thinking it was all for the best because the contractions I was having were becoming quite uncomfortable.  I opted to undergo a D&E, so as not to have any negative association with the beautiful birth experience, so the day prior the doctor began the process of preparing my body for the surgical removal of my Tiny One.  At a few minutes after 7 am, the anesthesiologist came into my room and began wheeling me away.  I didn’t expect to be fully aware of leaving Brett, as I thought he would be by my side until I was asleep, but we quickly clarified with the doctor that this was our goodbye.  They stopped wheeling me long enough for B and I exchange a quick kiss, and a knowing look, and off I went.  I wasn’t anticipating much in the way of fear, but the transport from Brett to the operating room filled me with an almost paralyzing fear.  It would make for a really awful roller coaster ride at some theme park to have the ride be performed in the lay-down position, being wheeled around innumerable corners, having the view of sterile fluorescent lighting, entering through an assortment of strange doors, catching glimpses of strangers wearing the same blue outfits, and the grand crescendo of entering an operating room with the knowledge that within lurks many sharp instruments with which much pain could be inflicted, and being wheeled beneath a suspended grouping of blindingly bright lights.  I can tell you with conviction, I would never go on that ride voluntarily, thankyourverymuch.  The doctor said a quick hello, and I was promptly asked to scoot over to the operating table.  I found myself shivering uncontrollably, as seems to be my natural response to heightened nerves.  Upon recognizing my shivering the nurse covered by body with a heated blanket, as the anesthesiologist told me that I would be drifting to sleep in no time.  My last memory is thinking, “If I am to go, I am incredibly glad to go warm…”

And then I awoke to voices, and a dimness of light, in a new room.  I heard my doctor, and I realized first, “I’m alive!”  I opened my weighted eyes only to be met with unfamiliar surroundings, and uncontrollably shut them again.  Upon realizing I was awake, my doctor promptly told me that all went well.  He relayed that my cervix had dilated perfectly, and the removal went as smoothly as it possibly could.  Oh, the tears, how they began running their familiar, relentless course, for it was in that moment that my second, more paralyzing realization came, “My child is gone.”  It wasn't a mole, a tumor, or even a limb that was removed; it was my child.  And then he told me, per my earlier request, that it was a girl. I felt tears, seemingly as big as softballs, streaming down my face, for I not so secretly longed for another girl.  I so wanted Scout to have a sister, because I deem that bond and relationship incredibly sacred and special.  I would have been thrilled to have a boy, of course, but had I been given the chance to choose, my pick would have been a girl.  I found myself filled with despair at the realization that I would never see or hold my daughter, but at the same time filled with a thankfulness of heart, being reminded that God knows my yearnings, He knows my desires.  It was with that thought that I again fell asleep.

I awoke to the nurse asking if I needed anything, to which I responded, “Just my husband.”  She promised I would see him soon.  She was right, for the very next moment I heard his voice, and was so grateful.  We wept together, in our shared sadness, yet felt satiated in our love and gratitude for one another.  We have found incredible comfort sharing in this grief together.  Just as I was filled with a deep and profound love for Brett after the birth of Scout, I have found that this process of pain and grief has birthed a new level of love, connection, and commitment to one another. 

I am pleased to say that not once through this process have I wondered “why?”  And I have only momentarily wondered “how?”  I have embraced the fact that it just…happened.  I know that it was nothing I did, or Brett did, or the next-door neighbor’s dog did…it just did.  I am not angry with God, nor am I angry with anyone else.  We have many dear friends, including my sister-in-law, who are pregnant, and I am not jealous, nor do I wonder why it happened to my baby, and not theirs.  Oh, I do not wonder this at all.  I find myself longing even more strongly for the health of their babies, the happiness of their hearts.  I find myself wanting, with temerity, to share in their joy, to let them know of my love.

I am heartbroken, but not irreparably so; I am downtrodden, but not destroyed.  I am, at my core, filled with hope and grace, neither of which has come without the other.  It is for this very reason that Brett and I have decided to name our baby girl Grace Hope.  Knowing our tendency to add an “ie” or “y” to the end of names, she will most likely be called Gracie.  Though we didn’t get the chance to meet our little girl, it is through her that we have learned more about the beauty of both grace and hope than we had ever learned up to this point.  I really don’t believe we could have learned any other way, though I desperately wish it were possible.  Alas, this is the journey required of us, so we must not only accept it, but we must humbly embrace it, and claim it as ours.  

Brett and I returned home from the hospital yesterday afternoon.  Almost immediately, after a brief, but perfectly timed visit from our sweet Scouty, who was being watched by Nana and Papa, I slept for a few hours.  Upon waking, I walked out of our room into our quiet house to find Brett.  I looked out the kitchen window and saw my sweet husband working in the garden in the front yard. Without hesitation, I walked outside and joined him.  As I sat alongside him, watching him work, I realized that for the first time since Tuesday the sun was shining.  Tears immediately flooded my eyes, for I was reminded that things are just as they should be: God has our sweet Grace in His arms, and the skies will not remain gray forever.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The View of the Valleys

Somehow Mt Ashland has become our family place.  Our bodies have seemingly instinctively ended up there for some pretty big moments of petition, and celebration.  In July of 2010 Brett and I spontaneously decided that a hike to the summit was in order.  At the top of the summit, on a perfectly sunny day, we began discussing our readiness to start a family, after which we found ourselves petitioning God to bless us with a baby.  We overlooked the valley, while fixated on the surrounding mountains, and felt ecstatic, confident in our decision, and strongly filled with faith that our God heard our prayers.  The very next month we conceived, and some short months later our beloved Scout entered our world.  The very next year, we felt it only right to go back to that spot and thank God for the incredible gift he spoke into existence, and entrusted unto us.  We were filled with such gratitude, and joy, knowing that our God heard us and was faithful to answer and provide.  The following summer, after declaring ourselves ready to continue growing our family, we made our way back to that spot with the sole purpose of petitioning our faithful God once again for the gift of another baby.  Once we prayed what we needed to pray, we descended the mountain feeling satisfied, knowing and trusting that our prayers were heard, and more than that, would be answered.  A few short months later, I conceived, which leads me to today.

Today I am a bit beyond 20 weeks pregnant.  I have reached the halfway point.  I have endured the plights of morning sickness, and have managed to come out the other side...alive...and not barfing (except for that break in my 7-year streak when I got the blasted stomach flu)!  I have a little sticky-outy belly, of which I am quite proud, for it indicates that I am growing a human: I am a mom.  Nope, I cannot button my pants, and I am so proud.  I find myself rubbing my tummy every now and then, whispering silent prayers of protection, health, well-being, and sometimes rubbing it just because.  I've admittedly found difficulty connecting with this baby, for some odd reason, and have attributed it to unfounded fear: fear that the baby will not make it full term, fear that the heart will stop beating for an unknown reason.  I've suppressed these fears, and have prayed against them, begging instead for the safety and protection of my baby.  I've confessed to God that my fear has been the result of a lack of trust, for which I've asked for forgiveness.  I've prayed that my fears would stop, and that I would, instead, know and trust that this baby is His to protect and grow as He sees fit.  I've found myself embracing my commitment to stop worrying, but it has been a very conscious choice to walk away from worry and fear, and choose, instead, to trust in God's goodness.  

Tomorrow marks the big day of the gender reveal.  It's the day that the pregnancy becomes really...real.  It's the day that I actually see my baby, and not some alien-shaped blob.  It's the day that I see my baby's nose, lips, eyes...the day that I cry because I realize that my growing belly isn't just the result of eating too much cake, but is, in fact, because I'm growing an actual person!  Sometimes, however, things don't go as planned.  Today is, instead, actually the day that I cry.  Today is the day that we don't see the nose, lips, or eyes; in fact, we don't even see the heart beat.  Today we see a black and white screen, and an unmoving baby: the heartbreaking discovery that our baby is no longer alive.  Today is the day that we realize that the plans we've had for our future are going to be incredibly different than anticipated.  

To say that Brett and I are sad is a supreme understatement.  We are grief-stricken, heartbroken, downtrodden...exhausted.  Is it possible to cry anymore?  Yes.  And yes.  And yes.   It's strange how discovering the death of our baby has somehow made us realize more fully that not only have I been growing and sustaining a baby, but I've been growing and sustaining our child, our baby.   Accompanying this realization is also the fact that while it is our baby, this baby is ultimately God's, and we must trust in God's judgment and plans.  While I had my lovely and beautiful plans for our baby's life, God has others.  Our God has both given and taken.

And yet we still praise Him.

Brett and I found ourselves alone in our car this afternoon.  There was very little decision-making involved before our car was making fast tracks south on I-5, and up to Mt. Ashland.  Up to this point, our times at the mountain have been joyous, hopeful, exciting, promising.  Today's visit, however, had a different, more melancholy tone.   We were unable to make it to the summit because of the snow, and I, in my skirt and cute flats, was not about to trudge through the snow, nor did Brett have the desire.  It was a cold, windy, gray day, which seemed perfectly suited for our state of mind.  All of my visits to the summit have resulted in my attention being brought to the surrounding mountain tops, as I have delighted in their beauty and majesty.  Being that my focus has primarily been on the peaks, the truth is that I have hardly noticed the valleys, as they seemed so distant...and insignificant.  Today, from the parking lot, inside our car, I found myself glancing at the surrounding mountains, but being more mesmerized by the shadows in the valleys.  We sat in shared silence, every now and then exchanging quiet words, gentle laughs, intermittent tears.  And we prayed.

It seemed only right to be at Mt. Ashland, to be in the space we've held so dear, from which beautiful and wonderful things have come.   It seemed only right to go to the place we initially cried out to our God and petitioned Him to bless our family.  It seemed only right to, in a way, return the borrowed gift of our child.  Today we found ourselves crying out to God, petitioning Him in a different manner, and instead praying for His grace and mercy to fall on us.  And we prayed with a knowing confidence that our God has called our baby back to Him.   

As I said, today I found myself fixated on the shadowed valleys, in which my feet seem firmly planted.  I am reminded that even in the shadows, there stands God.  I see the mountain tops in the distance. They're incredibly blurry, most probably due to the incessant tears, but they're there, and I know it is there that I will again find my feet jumping for joy.  But for now I am in the valley, trudging along...and that is okay.  We are not alone, in which we find great comfort.  We so appreciate our dear family and friends who are willing to stand in the dreary valleys with us, allowing us the time and space to endure and process this grief.  We are ever-grateful for you, and for gentle and silent reminders to find the beauty in the valleys, while also remembering the beauty of the summits.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  

Please keep us in your prayers.

Andrea & Brett