Friday, December 17, 2010

Grand Prize

A year ago today we learned that Bristol had died...a year ago tomorrow, she was born. Wow, what changes a year can bring. I have tried to prepare myself for the emotions that today and tomorrow will bring- I'm not sure if that's possible...but I can say, that I have both peace and sadness in my heart as today has arrived. Sadness about what we lost, about the could've beens, but peace in knowing she's in heaven, enjoying the glory that we patiently wait for. Brad and I were talking last night about amazes me how differently we handle, view, and experience things. While there isn't a day that goes by without me thinking of her at some point, Brad doesn't. Perhaps that's the difference between men and women, fathers and mothers, and carrying the life inside of you for 20 weeks. But as we were talking, Brad said something that really struck my heart. He said that even though he has moments of tears- he isn't sure why he's crying, because he isn't sad...I asked him to explain...he said that he has peace about Bristol because she got to go straight to the "grand prize", heaven. He said that knowing she's in heaven, experiencing a glory filled life with God, that he can't be sad about that. And how right he is! Is it completely selfish of me to be sad for all that I missed with her? What a change of heart his perspective brings...though I can be sad about our loss, I should find joy and peace in knowing she will never experience pain, heartache, and the like in heaven. In some way, I am able to find comfort from knowing she's watching us, that she's with us, that because of her, I renewed my faith in Christ and have the hope of heaven ahead of me.

Holding Brody in my arms has been an incredible blessing, but it has also reminded me of what we lost and will never get to experience with Bristol. But when I think about how we got Brody- I am confident that he is heaven sent. We wouldn't have had Brody, if we hadn't lost Bristol. We learned we were pregnant with Brody just a few weeks after Bristol was born- no fertility treatment, no stress, just pure surprise and joy! And to think of all the people who prayed for his safe arrival- he truly is a special blessing! Psalms 127:3 Children are a gift from the Lord. I can't stop looking at him in total awe and amazement- he truly is a miracle baby...and perfect in every way.

Nothing about this journey has gone according to "plan"...a continuous reminder and challenge to have faith in God's perfect plan for us. We went to the hospital to be induced Thanksgiving night- however, the induction didn't work and we got sent home the following day. We returned to the hospital on Sunday to do a second induction, and by Monday morning- nothing had changed. Despite regular contractions, I wasn't dilating. I really wanted to have a vaginal delivery- I didn't want my only experience to be delivering a stillborn. But Monday morning I began to realize that what I wanted and reality were probably going to be different. By Monday afternoon nothing had progressed, and then Brody's heart rate started to drop. They put me on oxygen to make sure he was getting that point, I didn't care what my plan was, I wanted this baby out alive and well! I laid in the bed looking at Brad and the dr, and through my tears and oxygen masked, I prayed and begged God to keep Brody safe. At 3:20 the dr decided to take Brody C-section, and at 3:25pm he was born. The moment I heard him scream, a year of tears and emotion poured from my eyes. He was alive, THANK GOD!! Is it coincidence that Bristol was born at the same time...When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. God is so good- all the time- and sometimes I think we miss his blessings because they aren't in our "plan"...

When Brad brought Brody around the curtain for me to see- I have never seen a more beautiful, perfect, amazing baby before. He stopped crying and looked me in the eyes, when I kissed him, he heart melted and gratitude and joy overflowed.

So as this day continues and tomorrow approaches, I am sure tears will fall, but hopefully some of those will be tears of joy. Joy for the blessing of children- both our children. Bristol changed our lives in many ways, and has touched the lives of many others. I can only imagine how our lives will change with Brody! She went straight to the "grand prize" and will be a constant challenge for us to live our lives so that we too, may reach the grand prize.

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Poem for Mommies with Angels watching over...

My Mommy is a survivor or so I've heard it said. But I can hear her crying at night when all others are in bed. I watch her lay awake at night and go to hold her hand. She doesn't know I'm with her to help her understand.

But like the sands on the beach that never wash away... I watch over my surviving mommy, who thinks of me each day. She wears a smile for others... a smile of disguise! But through Heaven's door I see tears flowing from her eyes.

My mommy tries to cope with death to keep my memory alive. But anyone who knows her knows it is her way to survive. As I watch over my surviving mom through Heaven's open door... I try to tell her that angels protect me forevermore. I know that doesn't help her or ease the burden she bears.

So if you get a chance, go visit her... and show her that you care. For no matter what she says... no matter what she feels. My surviving mommy has a broken heart that time won't ever heal...

Auhor Uknown

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Hallelujah...after 67 weeks of being pregnant, tomorrow is finally the day we head to the hospital. We will start the induction process tomorrow evening and hopefully have our baby in our arms by Friday. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving night and I can't imagine a more perfect night to start the end of this journey- we have so much to be thankful for! As I reflect on all that has happened over the last year, I am thankful for the joys and the heartaches. The loss of Bristol has deeply affected me- changed me as a person- and I can be thankful for that transformation. God truly does work in amazing ways- only He has the power to bring good things from heartaches. I used to dread the Thanksgiving holiday- it always seemed to be a holiday of stress in my family...but this year will bring new meaning and joy to the holiday. A welcome reminder that regardless of any circumstance, we all truly have a lot to be thankful for.

 As I sit here writing this, I am trying to sort through the plethora of emotions. I am thrilled and excited that we are finally close to having this baby in our arms and starting a new chapter in our family story. I am scared and terrified of the "what ifs" and know that even though we are close, nothing is guaranteed. My emotional cocktail has everything in the cupboard and today has been an emotional ride of ups and downs. I have tried to savor Brody's every movement, tried to lock those memories in of what it feels like to have him move inside me, and keep myself busy to focus on the positives. As we've approached the "date" my emotions have ranged from total emotional meltdowns (crying and sobbing, just wanting the baby out now while I know he's alive) to excited anticipation (cleaning and preparing for his arrival), and to fear of another delivery. Everyone says a subsequent pregnancy is a difficult, ever changing, emotional roller coaster...and it only seems to gets harder the closer you get to delivery.

I have found myself begging, pleading, and bargaining with God - Please keep this baby safe and healthy. Please bless us as we bring this baby into the world. Thank you for the blessing of life and the blessing of Bristol and Brody. Please, please let us keep him on this earth- at least for a little while. Please help me to be the person you have designed me to be- help me to be a good parent. Please don't make me hold another silent baby. Please don't make us say goodbye before we get a hello. I know you are a loving, gracious God, so you won't make us go through another heartache- right? And on they go...
These "moments" happen when I'm in the shower or driving- my quiet alone time. The other day I thought about what I was really praying- I wonder what God thinks about my desperate, selfish pleas? What is the prayer I should pray? I can't hide or change my feelings, but is it really appropriate to bargain or challenge God? His plans are already made- I can't change them- I need to have faith in his good and perfect plan, even if it's not the plan I want. You would think I would have learned this lesson by now, but apparently I am still work in progress.
This reminded me of a song I've heard a song on the radio- Better than a Hallelujah- and suddenly my desperate prayers didn't seem so selfish and out of line. Maybe God welcomes the honest cries of our hearts...

God loves a lullaby
in a mother's tears in the dead of night
better than a Hallelujah sometimes....

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah


Thursday, November 4, 2010


On October 2, 2010 Brad and I participated in the Walk to Remember that was hosted by a local hospital. The walk was held for families who have lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth, and early infant death. I learned about the walk from the support group I have been attending, and had heard wonderful things about it. With mixed emotions, Brad and I went not knowing what to expect. What we found and experienced that day was truly amazing. Hundreds of families had gathered to participate in the walk and memorial service that honored our lost little ones. As it happened, it was the 25th walk the hospital had sponsored, and the last walk the grievance coordinator would plan- as she is retiring this year. A friend told me that in 25 yrs it had never rained and had always had perfect weather...but that morning the weather was cold and rainy. I was disappointed- the rain and cold made the walk uncomfortable and put a damper on the memorial service that followed- or so I thought. As the grievance counselor started the memorial service she talked about the weather...she said she had dreamed and planned for so long to make this walk special, as it would be her last one. She said she was disappointed when she had woken to see the rain, but as she drove to the hospital where the walk was hosted, she said God reminded her that sometimes things don't go according to our plan, but to have faith in His plan. Like our own planning, excitement, and anticipation with our pregnancies and hopes for children, things didn't turn out how we wanted or had rained in our lives. Suddenly the rain seemed perfect and the memorial couldn't have been more wonderful. A program was given to each family that listed all the lost little ones- seeing the hundreds of names listed was a bittersweet reminder that we are not alone, even though it may feel like it at times. I was able to take refuge in seeing all the women and families who were there remembering their little ones, and my heart swelled as they read each name. During the ceremony they released three doves- one to remember the past, one for our present, and one to remind of us of what we have to look forward to. We will see our children again, but next time will be for forever in a perfect place. Each family was given a balloon to release- some families had written notes, names, and dates on their balloons- but all were to be released and sent upward to heaven. (I am typically opposed to balloon releases for environmental reasons, but we each took one anyways, and am so thankful we did.) As the balloons were released in a rain-filled sky, my tears fell with the same intensity as the rain. It was such a beautiful sight- hundreds of balloons going upward, sent with love in memory of our children. I couldn't help but wonder if all the children were looking down on us from heaven, is it possible the rain could have been their tears? I was saddened at the loss of Bristol, and all that we would miss with her, but I was also filled with peace in knowing all is as it should be. She is in heaven and one day I will see her again and hold her in my arms...and that is enough to keep me going.

As we approach the anniversary of Bristol's birth, Brad and I discussed how we were going to celebrate/remember Bristol. We didn't want the birth of a new baby to overshadow her day- a day that is forever implanted on our hearts. For this pregnancy, we were able to receive a doppler from Tiny Heartbeats...a non-profit organization that provides fetal monitors from women who have experienced a loss after 12 weeks. I learned from the founder that the organization only had about 50 monitors, thus many women were placed on a waiting list before receiving a doppler. Anyone who has experienced a subsequent pregnancy following a loss, knows how reassuring being able to hear the baby's heartbeat can be. We decided that we would raise money to donate to Tiny Heartbeats in honor of Bristol- so that other women and families could benefit from the same reassurance we have received during this pregnancy. We sent letters to family and friends asking for donations- and were overwhelmingly blessed to raise $1000.00 in donations! Our hearts were bursting with gratefulness and excitement as we sent the donations to Tiny Heartbeats. The founder was overwhelmed by our donation- and incredibly thankful for the impact it would have on her organization. She has sent me emails from women who have received a 'Bristol doppler' - and it is a sweet reminder of how her short life will forever impact other women and families who have experienced a loss. She is working on a tribute to Bristol on the organization's website- and we are excited to know that Bristol will be remembered in a special way- not only by our friends and families, but by others who will receive one of her dopplers.


I remember the night we came from the hospital. Bristol had been born just a few hours before and the shock of the loss had yet to set in. One of the first things I did was collect every baby book, item, and ultrasound picture and hide it away in my hope chest. I knew the following days were going to be hard and I didn't want any extra reminders sitting around the house. Up until recently, all baby items have continued to be stored away in the hope chest and out of sight. But as we have received gifts and had baby showers- baby items have overflowed from the hope chest and closet. Having baby items in sight has been huge adjustment for me...a reminder that we are getting closer to the birth of this baby, but also a reminder of what can happen. We have procrastinated getting a nursery ready for this baby- looking back on Bristol, it was a blessing we didn't have more baby items or a nursery to come home to- but we are only a few weeks from his arrival, and as much as I want to be "prepared", I also don't want to come home to a heartache if something were to happen. It's a double edged sword. We have been blessed to have family and friends help us get ready in these last few weeks. I am sure for "normal" pregnancies, preparing the nursery, washing the clothes, etc are exciting moments that are cherished by the soon-to-be parents. But I find myself procrastinating and ignoring what needs to be done. I can't seem to 'believe' we're going to have a baby until he's in my arms...and probably won't fully relax until I see he's safely here. Thankfully, friends and family have stepped in and done the things I have been incredibly hesitant to do- put the crib together, get baby items out of the boxes and put together, wash and sort clothes, put the car seat base in the car, and prepare a diaper bag and overnight bag. It's weird seeing baby stuff in our house- and seeing things that were purchased when we were pregnant with Bristol. Yet another reminder of the incredible journey we've been on to being parents. It's a hard balance of being sad about Bristol and excited about Brody, but God has whispered in my heart an awesome reminder: Children are a gift from God. Psalms 127:3  And I tell myself, this is true even if we get to keep them with us here on earth, or they spend their lives in eternity.
One of the things I was unprepared for was returning to the hospital where Bristol was born. A family member had her baby this week at the same hospital where we delivered Bristol, and I had planned on visiting them the day she was born. I have heard from others that returning to the same hospital/dr office where you had your loss is very hard, and often people change facilities because of it. I convinced myself I would be ok (ignoring the little voice in the back of my head asking, "are you sure?") - this wasn't my baby after all! And I was happy and excited to meet the new family member. I finished my meetings for the day and drove to the hospital. I got parked and then anxiety/emotion set in. I couldn't get out of the car- I was crying and trying to sort through the plethora of emotions. What if I see our nurse or doctor? What if she's in the same delivery room? What if I see a leaf on the door? (this is what the hospital used to mark rooms for those who had lost their babies.) All the memories of our labor, delivery, and leaving the hospital empty handed swept over me, taking me by complete surprise. This was a time to be happy, not sad...and I decided it was best to not go in- I needed to pull myself together! I didn't want to be upset in the hospital- this was a time of celebration and joy- and I didn't want to take away from it. As I drove home, I was surprised at how overwhelmed I became at just being at the hospital. I felt like all the "progress" I had made the last few months, suddenly disappeared and I was just as grief stricken as I was in the beginning. Maybe I needed more time- it hasn't been that long since Bristol was born. Maybe time would help heal those memories and the anxiety of returning to "that" place. Or maybe, I needed to spend more time in prayer for peace about Bristol...or maybe this is just part of the journey. There is nothing "normal" about going through a loss- it changes every subsequent action and feeling, and there isn't a guide to help walk you through it. A friend who suffered a loss told me once that, one can not truly heal without the power and love of Christ to help us heal- he is the ultimate healer. It's kind of amazing to think about- how did I ever survive what some consider to be one of the greatest losses? How have I been able to find peace in losing Bristol and see some of the blessings that have come from her life? I know I didn't do it on my own, I am not that strong! An excerpt from one of the books I have read has helped me find some peace:  "God has a unique plan and purpose for every child conceived. We may not fully understand His plan. We may not be able to comprehend God's purposes. But we can know with faith that our perfect God does not err. He does not allow a conception that is beyond His sovereign plan and purposes." I know I'm a work in progress, but I am learning to be able to remember Bristol and our loss, with some form of hope and peace.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


It has been several months since I have written a post. Mostly I have struggled with what to say, what to write...struggling with the balance of being honest without upsetting someone.
Through this amazing journey, God continues to surprise me. There isn't a day that I don't think about Bristol. Her life left an incredible imprint on my heart and has become a huge part of who I am. I have met so many women who have experienced a loss and being able to relate to someone who truly understands my pain, has been an incredible element in the healing process. No one wants to be in this "club" but I have never been more thankful to not be alone in this group. This morning I read a post from an old college roommate- and her willingness to be completely open and honest opened the flood gate of tears. Her strength amazes me. She writes, what my heart aches to recognize and say. So I decided to let my guard down and write...

Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of excitement, happiness, and anticipation. But for me, it has been a time of anxiety, fear, and depression. Don't get me wrong- I am so thankful for the miracle of life in me and the blessing that awaits. But I no longer have the luxury of a naive pregnancy. I know there is never a "safe" zone in pregnancy- until you hold a living baby in your arms, each day is a blessing and truly a gift from God. I read that the distance between joy and heartache can be measured by a heartbeat - and how true those words ring in the heart of a mother who has lost a little one. I thought that getting past the week we learned Bristol had died would help me be more positive in this pregnancy. Though some of my anxiety did lessen after passing that milestone, a new wave of anxiety took over. I have found myself praying that if something is going to happen, to please let it happen now. I can't bear the thought of going through another loss...and have found myself putting up guards instead of opening myself to the excitement and attachment of this baby inside. It's hard to describe the emotional roller coaster of a subsequent pregnancy- the fears, the doubts, the anxiety, guilt, and depression. I do have moments of excitement, happiness, and anticipation- it just seems those are heavily balanced with the other emotions. And these aren't things people are comfortable hearing. I have been blessed to be connected to a support group of women who are in a subsequent pregnancy following a loss- and being able to share my innermost thoughts and fears, has helped me realize that I am "normal" and not alone. They understand me without judging me.

I can't count how many times someone has told me to "have faith," "be positive," "relax and enjoy the pregnancy," or "you're hurting the baby by worrying."  If you've had a loss, you know how nearly impossible all those are. I am trying to have faith, to be positive, and relax. But I also know the pain of believing all will be ok, for it only to fall apart. I pray daily for this baby, for God to help me give Him all my fears and anxieties, and for the strength to have faith in HIS plan. It's hard to be honest with people about my excitement and fears. No one wants to hear a sad story, and sometimes I feel like people try to ignore what happened with Bristol, as though it didn't happen. I suppose this makes it easier to justify all the happy-exciting thoughts of having a baby...but I can't ignore her or pretend that it didn't happen. It's a part of who I am, part of our family story.   

One of the hardest parts of a subsequent pregnancy is answering the questions of those who don't know our story. Everyone loves a pregnant woman- and everyone wants to share in the excitement of a new baby- but a mother who has had a loss knows how difficult this can be. You are faced with questions such as:
"Is this your first baby?"
"When are you due?"
"How many kids do you have?"
"Have you picked out a name/nursery theme/etc?"
I find myself struggling with how to answer these...I don't want to lie about Bristol, but I also don't always have the strength to get into that conversation with someone. It's a balance between being honest with someone and protecting myself, a balance between being honest and making someone uncomfortable. It's never an easy conversation and one I often find myself forcing a smile to get through it or walking away feeling sad.

We are officially 30 weeks pregnant this week and as we approach our due date (December 4th), I am reminded by how far we still have to go. So far we have a healthy baby boy and see our doctor almost weekly for appointments. We finally registered for baby items, came up with a name (Brody Inman Sparks), and have started to work on a nursery. My doctor is very supportive of helping me have a "natural" delivery with this baby- I don't want our only experience to be delivering a stillborn- and so we will be induced at 37 weeks. This is another difficult conversation- "Why are you being induced at 37 weeks?"- We are being induced because the baby is measuring big and our dr is supportive of helping us have a natural birth; we are being induced because anxiety during labor in subsequent pregnancies can negatively affect the mother and baby, so she induces all subsequent pregnancies before the 40th week.

I am excited and anxious about the birth of this baby, and am looking forward to being able to hold this little miracle in my arms. But I also know the next few months are going to be emotionally hard. Not only are we approaching the birth of this baby, we are also approaching the anniversary of Bristol's birth. I don't want the birth of this baby to overshadow Bristol's birthday. I want to celebrate the birth of this baby and recognize/remember the birth of our baby in heaven. I don't want others to make me feel guilty about recognizing that a mother, I can't overlook the day my life was forever changed. I can't imagine the emotional ride we are about to embark on...but I know that it will be ok. I know that Bristol is safe in the arms of God and I know that I am living the life God has planned for me. And I know it's ok to feel what I feel...

Monday, April 12, 2010


If I have learned anything from the experiences of the last few months, it is that God is faithful. Even though we may close our hearts to Him, he always waiting for us to re-open that door. If we will allow Him into our hearts, he will bless us in unimaginable ways...just wait and see!

I grew up in a small country community and attended church with my family. Church was part of our Sunday routine and we prayed before every meal, but we never talked about God, Jesus, or having a personal relationship with him. I was baptized in the third grade, but to me, it meant I got to take communion. Even though church was part of my life, it was never really a part of me.

After graduating from high school, I left home and went to college. I stopped attending church and prayer was a distant memory. I took a couple religious courses, but they only pushed me away from my faith and caused me to further question the Bible, Jesus, and the role of the church. I lived a life of sin. Church, faith, and anything religious was absent from my life, other than attending Christmas service with my family. My liberal arts education had led me to a liberal belief about religion and God. I embraced a universal religion- I believed that all sects of religion, including non-Christian denominations, all worshipped a higher being, a God of sorts, and that regardless of our practices, it was all basically the same. I believed that Jesus was a prophet the churches had used to increase their profits, and the Bible was a collection of stories used to control the nations. I still considered myself a Christian, but was nothing of the sorts. My life, words, and actions did not glorify God or live a life that was in any way pleasing to him.

Then life happened. I graduated and started a career. My parents separated and then divorced; A marriage ruined by infidelity and lies. My family struggled to maintain the dynamics of family in a broken circle. The rose colored glasses I had been wearing were suddenly gone, and I realized that life is hard and hurts. It was during this time in my life I met Brad, my husband. He came from a “Leave it to Beaver” family where everyone got along, they enjoyed being around each other, and things seemed perfect. And he had an amazing faith. I was very drawn to the stability in his life, because my life felt as though it were falling apart. He was very faithful in attending church and I went along for the ride. Over time, I began to open my heart to God and started listening to the sermons. I realized something was missing in my life, but was hesitant to accept that void as God. I had so many questions about the Bible, Jesus, the church, and religion, and Brad patiently answered them or led me to the minister. I had finally opened the door to God, but was not ready to accept Christ as my savior.

After Brad and I were married, we decided to start a family. Little did we know, this would be a difficult and painful journey. Church and prayer became part of our lives, and my heart started to change. When we were five months pregnant, we found out that our baby had died. We were devastated. At such a tragic time, Brad leaned on his faith, prayed, and encouraged me that this was part of God’s plan. I stood in awe of his faith. With his encouragement, I truly opened my heart and prayed to God. I knew everything was out of my control and I submitted to his sovereign authority and prayed for peace, strength, healing, and comfort. And he answered! I was overcome with peace and understanding and for the first time in my life, I truly believed.

Our daughter, Bristol, was born the following afternoon and I was able to say hello and goodbye with an amazing sense of peace and calm. I knew that everything would be ok, even in the midst of tragedy. I praised God that she did not suffer and that her life would be in heaven. I knew I needed to live a life pleasing to God, so I could once again be with her and I prayed God would show me the way. In the weeks and months that followed, my faith continued to grow and I began to see the many ways God works in our lives. Because I had leaned on my faith during such a difficult time, I was blessed with an amazing source of strength and able to heal emotionally and physically. I learned that God wants to help us, if we are just willing to hand over our hurts to Him, he won't disappoint! I joined a Bible study, which strengthened my beliefs and sent me diving into the word of God. The life and death of my daughter, allowed me to renew my faith and truly believe...It was a catalyst to a journey that has saved my life.

After much prayer and speaking with our pastor, I decided to commit my life to Christ and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Three days after making this decision, I found out I was pregnant! No fertility treatment, no struggle! God truly is amazing! He not only healed me emotionally and spiritually through our loss, but also physically. If we will just open our eyes and take a step of faith, we will see how incredibly faithful he is to us. A song that has pulled at my heart since the day we learned of Bristol’s death is Praise You in this Storm, by Casting Crowns. Our new due date will be just a few days before Bristol was born. At a time that will bring a new wave of emotions and sadness, we will hopefully be blessed with a new baby in our arms. Like the song says: “I will praise the God who gives and takes away… and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm.” Thankfully, a friend has connected me with a support group for women with a subsequent pregnancy after loss. It is amazing to share with others who have experienced a loss, and lean on them for strength, support, and encouragement. Although a new pregnancy brings new emotions, I know that if I reach for Him, he will be faithful. 1 Peter 5:7. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you. Everyday I am learning to be excited and hopeful instead of terrified...which can be so hard knowing all that can go wrong. I am no longer naive that pregnancy = healthy baby. But I wouldn't trade my journey for anything.

Praise God!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Are you that person?

I was that person.
I am fortunate to have the flexibility in my job to make my own schedule and work from home. A few weeks ago I was on the road for meetings and had some time to kill in between meetings. I decided to check out the local Christian store and try to find a cd I had been wanting. I had never been to this store before, and like most local stores, owners usually know their customers. The cashier was checking out a lady, whom she must have known given their conversation. I quietly made my way around the store, checking out the music, devotionals, and other books. After the customer left, the cashier found me and asked if she could help me find anything. I told her I had some time in between meetings and thought I would check out the store. That didn't seem to satisfy her, but she left me alone and I continued to look through the store. I came upon a section of books that dealt with grief and loss. One lone blue book caught my eye and as I read the title, tears filled my eyes. It was a book about the promise of heaven for children who die in the womb or shortly after birth.
I started to read the inside cover, and the cashier peeked around the bookshelf, "Doing ok?"  I nodded my head and continued to read. I was contemplating just walking out of the store, as I really don't like sales people bugging me when I shop. But I couldn't put the book down, I wanted to see the chapter titles and decide if I wanted to buy it. I continued to flip through the book and read different passages, I wasn't in a hurry. I'm not sure how long I stood there reading, it couldn't have been too long, but the cashier quietly walked through the aisles and peeked her head around to look at me three more times. I got the feeling she thought I was trying to steal something. I was offended and irritated. Did I look like a thief? Who would steal something from a Christian store? Can't a customer look at something without being suspicous? I had had enough.
I took the book up to the counter to buy it and kept my head low, fighting back tears. I could tell the cashier was irritated at me being in the store- I'm not sure if she was ready to go on break, didn't know me, or what the problem was. She rudely asked, "Is that all for you?" (really stressing the all) I told her yes, that would be it, thank you. I could tell she was taken aback by my tears, and she looked down to read the title of the book. Her face dropped once she realized why I was upset. She didn't say another word; I paid and walked out of the store. I was overwhelmed with emotions- I was heartbroken at the loss of my child. I was angry that I was buying a book about death. I was hurt that the cashier had treated me so rudely, hadn't I been through enough already? How rude! (However, I am so glad I bought the book, as it was incredibly helpful in my healing process.)

As I drove home that afternoon, I replayed the events of what had happened in the store in my head. I glanced at the blue book and was saddened at the thought of reading the book... Why did my child have to die? Why did life have to be unfair and so hard at times? Why did the lady have to treat me like that? Who was she to categorize and judge me? I was a nice person and had already been through so much, couldn't I catch a break? (I was really having a self pity party in my car.) Then I heard a song on the radio... Love Them Like Jesus by Casting Crowns. I was at a red light, sobbing. I was an emotional mess. I kept driving and calmed myself down. Then my tears turned to laughter. Oh my God I thought, I am that person. I am that crazy person driving and crying. I am a mess. I thought of all the times I had seen someone in their car, crying. And how, at that time, I wondered why someone would be driving and crying...was something so bad that they couldn't contain themselves? Really, was it necessary to draw attention to yourself while driving? Then it hit me. I was just like the cashier. I was judging these people without knowing their story, without knowing what their life entailed. How rude of me.
Ok God, I got the message. " your neighbor as yourself..." How could I be upset with the cashier for judging me, when I do the same to others? Like the song said, " them like Jesus..."
Losing Bristol has changed so much about who I am, who I want to be, and the type of person I need to be.  I'm not perfect by any means, but I am trying to change and be the person God wants me to be.

"...You don't need the answers to all of life's questions, just know that He loves them and stay by their side. Love them like Jesus. Lord of all creation holds our lives in His hands. The God of all the nations holds our lives in His hands. The Rock of our salvation holds our lives in His hands. He cares for them just as He cares for you. So love them like Jesus..."
Love Them Like Jesus, by Casting Crowns

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amazing Women

My life was forever changed on December 17, 2009 at 2:00pm. My husband and I were 20 weeks pregnant with our first child and were waiting patiently to see our baby for the first time during our ultrasound appointment. You see, this was our miracle baby. My husband and I had been trying for a baby for several months and had undergone fertility treatment because I was not ovulating. We had gotten pregnant in June, but did not know it and lost the baby at the end of July. The following week we had an appointment with the fertility specialist. A few weeks later there was one ovum, and despite our odds, we did an IUI before trying more extensive treatment. I knew immediately that we were pregnant, but because we had just lost a pregnancy the month before, I kept my mouth shut and prayed. My husband had taken me to the Bristol NASCAR night race, because apparently that is the best race. And as timing would have it, we took a pregnancy test in the camper, and it was positive! We immediately shared the news and justified myself in knowing that our family and friends would support us, even if we lost this baby. But that wasn't going to happen this time, I knew this time it would be different. Our friends and family laughed that we had found out at a NASCAR a camper, and my husband jokingly told everyone we conceived at the race. I remember laughing with friends that I would never name my baby after a Nascar race; But life is a rollercoaster and I have learned that you should never, say never.
Pregnancy suited me. I was happy and had never felt better, and enjoyed watching my body grow and change. You hear the horror stories of women being sick all the time, and I considered myself one of the lucky ones. I thought God must be taking care of me since He knew how much we wanted this! Even though I had been raised in a church, I had gotten off track after going to college. It's not that I didn't believe, I just didn't whole heartedly accept the Bible and the reality of one God. After the IUI was successful, and knowing our odds against the pregnancy taking, I began to open my heart to God. I knew He had made that pregnancy happen...our odds were just so slim. My husband and I started attending church on a regular basis, and my faith started to grow. I began to open my heart and eyes to the wonderful works of our Lord. My husband and I joined our church on December 13, 2009, the Sunday before our ultrasound appointment. We almost put off joining church that Sunday because we had guests coming over for lunch and really needed to clean the house. But God works in mysterious ways. We went ahead and joined that Sunday, thinking we would just join and head out early- we had things to do!
The following Thursday was our 20 week appointment and I was so excited. This was the first appointment my husband would be able to attend since his work schedule had conflicted with our other appointments. I had been to the doctor at 17 weeks and had been able to record the heartbeat for our families to hear, I was so excited to be able to see our baby alive and moving inside of me! They called our name and I nearly ran down the hall to the ultrasound room. I laid on the table, and with my husband by my side, watched a dark and silent ultrasound. My heart was in my throat..."where's the heartbeat?" I asked the technician. She ignored me and said she was taking measurements. My husband reassured me she wasn't doing that part yet. But I knew at that very moment something was terribly wrong. The screen was silent and still, what had happened?! What happened next is a blur. The physician came in and told us the baby's heart had stopped. Our baby had died and based on measurements had been dead a week or two. We had two choices: go to the hospital now and deliver the baby, or go home and come back when we were ready. I somehow managed to ask the doctor if we could just do a D&C, she said no, we were too far along in the pregnancy. Oh my God I thought, I have to deliver a dead baby.
I told my husband that I couldn't do that, I am not strong enough I said through my tears. The doctor just held my hand. I decided to go ahead and go to the hospital, I didn't think I could manage going home and having to come back, knowing what we faced.
We got to the hospital and they took us to the labor and delivery floor. Really? We had to be on a floor of happy pregnant people awaiting the birth of their live babies. I was angry and heartbroken. How unfair! We got settled in and our doctor came to talk with us- she explained the process of inducing labor and told us it could take several hours, even days before the baby was born. My body was simply not ready to deliver.
I remember laying in the hospital bed with my husband, each of us crying and holding on to each other. How could this have happened, I just heard the heartbeat a few weeks ago. I never felt anything or knew anything was wrong. I have never felt so alone or helpless in my life. Alright God, this is in your hands I prayed. I need you to give me strength to get through this, to give me strength during the delivery. Lord, open my heart to you and erase my doubts. Lord, comfort me, heal me, and bless our child. Lord forgive me. Thank you Lord for the amazing man you have led me to and help us through this. I can not explain to you, the amount of overwhelming peace I felt that night. For the first time in my life, I felt the presence of God and knew. I truly believed.
The next day, December 18, 2009 was a blur. The contractions started and I didn't want any pain medicine. I needed to feel this, I knew I needed to be aware of what was happening in order to help me heal emotionally. With my husband by my side, and an amazing nurse and doctor, our baby was born at 3:20 pm. I remember pushing during the labor and thinking, I can't do this. But my husband held my hand, whispered in my ear "I love you" and with the doctor's encouragement of "one more push honey and this will be done" I was able to do it. God surrounded me by an amazing group of strong, faithful people. God gave me strength to get through this terrible experience.
After our baby was born, we were faced with a plethora of decisions. We decided to name our baby Bristol. We hadn't really discussed names yet, as we had waited until we were past the "safe" mark, so we didn't have any favorite names to choose from. Since we had discovered our pregnancy at Bristol, we decided that was the most fitting name for our baby. I did, afterall, name my baby after a NASCAR race.
My husband had invited our parents to visit us at the hospital- I did not want anyone there when we found out. I had emotionally shut down but thankfully my husband knew we needed our parents there. The nurse brought Bristol in for us to say our goodbyes. My mother-in-law, mother, and father each got to hold and say hello and goodbye to Bristol. Looking back, I know God was with us...I was able to say hello and goodbye to my daughter with amazing strength and sense of peace. We always say, everything happens for a reason. But if we truly believe that, then I have to believe God had a purpose for Bristol's life. If losing Bristol meant that I would renew my faith in God and truly believe...then I can only thank God for giving me Bristol, even if for just a short time, because she saved my life.

When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.