Friday, June 26, 2015

The Not-So Bright Side

Do you remember Pollyanna?  It's a story about a little girl who turned a town upside down with her "glad game" - her positive thinking and looking on the bright-side in any situation.  Even the grumpiest of grumpies in that town took to liking the little girl and were changed for the better.  Kind of like Footloose but ... no dancing.

So, the glad game.  I think the glad game is what Scripture would call thinking on what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of a good report (Philippians 4:8).  And let me be the first to stand up and say this sort of thinking is the only thing that brought me through my trial with Evie and the only thing that keeps me on track as I anticipate losing Kate - staying thankful and forcing my mind to focus on the good.  It's the very thing that keeps me from crossing over into really dark places.  It's crucial at times like this.  And I love Jesus down to the hemoglobules (that's a thing, right?) of my tiniest red blood cells and am thankful beyond thankful for His work on the cross and the promise of Heaven.  I believe it, I'm sold, my name is on the dotted line.  


But sometimes I get really tired of pretending like the good and positive side is all there is.  Because, even after all the thanks and positivity, there is still a very real situation in which I will, once again, have to live life without a much-loved and much-wanted daughter.  It will really happen and I will really have to walk that path.  For real.

They say the first step in overcoming addiction is admitting you have a problem (Hello, my name is (blank) and I'm an alcoholic).  It's out there in the open, no question, and then you can move forward with progress and healing.  I feel like the same concept holds true for grief.

As Christians I think we can be discouraged from admitting the whole entire hard truth about hard things in life.  I don't think this is the way to go about it.  I think we need to call it like it is.  And then we can move fully forward to accepting the painful circumstance as part of our life story and specifically pray about how to live with that piece of our heart damaged.  When people say things like, "well at least you still have _______", or even "you know God is still in control", it feels dismissive of the actual part of you that actually has to deal with that thing.  It hurts.  And I know in my heart that can't be the entire answer.

So I say, call it like it is.  Admit the real problem.  Allow yourself to acknowledge what one blogger called, the "profound suckness" of your situation.  I'll go first ...

Hi, my name is Sarah.  I lost my daughter before she even had a chance to come home from the hospital.  In a few months I will be doing it again.  I will never have the joy and privilege of seeing these girls grow up in my home and parenting them with all the love in my heart.  Those thoughts make me want to scream and punch a hole in something.  And throw up.

There it is, the real, hard truth.  And I'm not afraid to admit it because I know God is big enough to handle that.  His power can completely carry me through the hard road ahead.  But I think a crucial step is being 100% honest about what that hard road is and how hard it is.

Friend, if you're struggling today, I encourage you to admit exactly the hard thing you are facing.  Let your sorrow last for the night.  And then make the choice to embrace the joy that comes with the morning.

I have come to believe that both are very necessary.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When the Q's Have No A's

My brain's a little befuddled lately.  Kind of whirlwindy ... lots of thoughts stirring around.  The trouble is, there are no real conclusions to my thoughts.  I'm just trying to sort through my mind and heart and make sense of what's going on right now.  Again.  If you want you can join me on this hamster wheel of futility.  Except, I like to think of it as earnest prayers and ponderings I would like the Lord to shed some light on.  So, in that respect, not as futile as it might seem.  Here are some of my Q's that, as of yet and maybe even in this life, have yet to be paired with an A.

Were we foolish to not investigate Evie's condition further?  We thought we were making an informed decision based on the best thoughts/suggestions from a few different health care professionals.  Did we reach the wrong conclusion?

If we had known what caused Evie's death and if there was a 25% chance another baby could be affected, would we have tried for Jocelyn?  I certainly wouldn't want to not have her.  Who else might we be missing out on by being bound by that statistic?

If we do have a 25% chance of another baby being affected (we'll know more after baby Kate passes away), what should we do?  I believe in acting in faith.  I believe in not living life in fear.  But I also know God speaks through things like this.  Could He be speaking something over our family with that percentage?  Or are we meant to step out in faith and try again?  Would that be faith or foolishness?

Is this happening again because I didn't learn something the first time around?  Did I miss something?  If so then please, for the love of all things bright and beautiful, let me learn it this time!!  Please.

Am I processing this the right way?  Do I have the right perspective?  I feel very matter-of-fact about this old new hard thing.  I feel very, this is your assignment, soldier, about it all.  Sir, yes sir.  Is that bad?

Is it ok that I didn't feel too surprised?  That I don't cry as much?  That I'm not hanging onto the hope of a miracle like I was last time?  Is my heart in the wrong place?

Is it ok that I still plead for this cup to pass?  Because that would be great.  And I would love a miracle.

Lord, am I doing this right?

Lord please guide me on this path once again.  Speak wisdom and truth into my heart.  Let me not look back onto this time with regret for the way I've acted or things I've said.  Be glorified in this place.

Here she is ... sweet baby Kate.  Head, eyes, nose, hand in front of her mouth <3

Please share ... what's your favorite remedy for dealing with the Q's that lack A's?  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Update from 5/29

So yesterday was my appointment with the specialists at Maternal-Fetal Medicine.  We had a very long ultrasound, consult with the doctor, and consult with the genetic counselor.  

The ultrasound did confirm almost all the findings from last Thursday.  Some details, like the cleft palate and clubbed feet, were difficult to see because of Kate's positioning (hands in front of her face and legs over her head).  Also, ultrasound needs fluid for proper image transmission and there is very little fluid around sweet baby.  So there may be some new things that are discovered over time or once she's born.  For now, we know for certain she has a splayed cerebellum, recessed chin (micrognathia), severe heart defects (pulmonary artery issues and something else I think that I can't remember), small lungs/chest (due to low amniotic fluid), and enlarged kidneys.  All of these, once again, add up to life incompatibility.

And, once again, both the doctor and genetic counselor are unable to pinpoint an exact diagnosis for baby Kate.  They threw around names like Meckel-Gruber syndrome, Dandy-Walker syndrome, and Polycistic Kidney Disease (again), but none of these encompass all the anomalies together.  Trisomies have been ruled out.  They do, however, believe that Evie's and Kate's conditions are related, the common thread being the kidney issues and heart issues, although Evie's heart issues manifested differently.  Anyway ...

After much discussion with the genetic counselor and straight up asking her what she would do in this situation, we've decided to wait until Kate is born and then obtain cord blood and placental samples, as well as an autopsy report.  These will hopefully give us the information we need to determine if Josh and I are autosomal recessive carriers of some random genetic mutation that has caused these issues.  If that is the case, we have a 25% chance each pregnancy that the baby will be affected.  That's a pretty staggering statistic.  So for now we wait.  But I'm praying we can obtain some information after Kate passes away to determine what we should do regarding future children.  It's pretty scary.  There is faith but there are also facts.  So we'll see.  

As far as placenta previa and birth plan - the placenta is covering my cervix, making the traditional baby exit strategy impossible.  As my pregnancy progresses we'll see if anything changes (sometimes the placenta can migrate to a better location as the uterus grows.  Unfortunately, my uterus won't grow too much due to the low fluid), and if not, I'm sure Kate's birth will be a scheduled c-section.  That's something I haven't even thought much about yet, but the prospect scares me a little.  It'll also be strange to know the day that Kate will be born and die.  But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

So right now we're just living life per usual.  Getting our house ready for the market, getting excited to break ground for our new place, Josh about to start a new job, loving our kids, loving warm summer weather and dinner on the grill and trips to the beach.  And this dark little cloud hanging over our heads and the promise of something dreadful to come.  I promise we're ok ... life just feels strange.

Please keep the prayers coming.  I'm battling my old enemy, listlessness.  I remember it all too well after Evie's diagnosis and death.  But there's a lot to do these days so I can't let it win.  

I have a couple pictures but, they're in my bag.  And my bag's over there.  And then I'd have to somehow digitalize them ... and then download them onto my computer.  That's a lot of steps (and see aforementioned note on listlessness).  So the pics will have to wait.  

Thank you again friends.  Marching on ... 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Collecting and Clarifying My Thoughts

This blog was so vital to me during my trial with Evie - a place for me to clarify my thought processes and hear feedback and support from others.  Writing did that for me - made things more clear.  So that's what this post is about - putting down in one place all the thoughts I've been having since Thursday, even if just for my own sanity.

The truth is, I didn't feel too surprised with the news from Thursday.  Maybe I was braced for it and expecting it.  I don't know.  I feel like the news of Evie's diagnosis completely rocked my worldview.  I simply couldn't wrap my head around such horrifying news.  This time?  This time I know stuff like this happens.  Really crappy things happen to good, nice people who love Jesus and try really hard to live in a way that pleases Him.  And it doesn't mean they are being punished or made a bad choice or that God is somehow displeased with them.  It just happens in this terribly sin-filled world.  Babies die and beautiful couples can't conceive and romances are broken and hearts along with them.  And people have "things" - broken pieces and hurtful experiences that shape who they are.  I guess this is my "thing".

The first time I wondered how on earth anyone could survive a tragedy like this one.  I couldn't fathom living life with a piece of your heart missing.  But now I know how and that it is possible.  I know how to lean hard on Jesus.  I know we'll make it.  It's just a really yucky thing to endure again.

This time around I also feel like my heart is bursting with so much awesome around me.  Seeing the world through Micah's eyes and listening to his very well articulated thoughts and feelings about life - it's a hundred kinds of awesome.  And Jocelyn - oh my word.  I've never seen a happier or more full-of-life little girl.  And we're building, essentially, our dream house and Josh will soon be starting, essentially, his dream job.  The sad of losing another baby just doesn't seem to fit into my world right now.  I'm not sure what to do with the unbelievably wonderful and downright awful all at the same time.

What I do know ... this baby girl will go to Heaven just like her big sister.  She's not the same as Evie - a little more broken actually.  She has the same lung issues that were Evie's main cause of death.  But she also has heart issues, brain issues, clubbed feet, possibly a cleft palate, and possibly some other things that weren't able to be identified at our first ultrasound (still waiting on the specialist appointment).  There's also the added complication of placenta previa.  So even though we've been down this road before, this particular road has it's own set of unique attributes and unknowns.  Unknowns are scary.

I also know about all the awful things I have to look forward to.  Leaving the hospital with no baby being at the very top of that list.  I know I can survive all of it because of Jesus.  I just wish I didn't have to.

Things to pray for:

A miracle.  We can always hope.

An appointment to be scheduled with the specialist soon.

The placenta previa situation.  These typically end in c-sections, which we'd love to avoid.  They can also add other complications which would further complicate an already delicate situation.

Wisdom with how to answer Micah's questions and address his concerns.

The Lord impressed 1 Peter 4:12,13, and 19 in my heart the morning after we learned this news.  
Beloved, don't be surprised when you face fiery trials ... but do good as unto a faithful Creator.
I'm praying really hard that I can figure out what "good" I'm supposed to accomplish this time around.  Something new?  Something big?  Something seemingly small?  I guess we'll see.

My heart.  Anticipating having another infant daughter die in my arms is a lot more than I even want to think about right now.  I think I'm not really thinking about it, just for coping reasons.  But, if you ever had any doubts, it's kind of the worst.

Strength to live in this weirdness - where my life is full of so much joy and yet anticipating heavy sorrow all at the same time.  Strange is the only word I have for it.

And ... just being really real here ... pray that I won't look to food for comfort or happiness or an escape.  Especially if bedrest is potentially in my future, with the previa and all.

Also, not a prayer request, but saving the best for last ... we've decided on a name for our precious girl.  Baby Kate ... Katherine Zoe ... "pure life".   I love it and I love her and she has my heart.  Considering everything, I still can't wait to kiss her face.

Thank you friends.  You are Jesus to me <3

ps ... I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to share.  I don't have any from the 20 week ultrasound.  When I do get some I will share :)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Sweet Baby Girl

Today marked 20 weeks with Baby #4.  We found out that she's pink, just like her two big sisters before her.  Pink girly bundles are always sweet.

But we are sad to announce, like her oldest sister, she will be flying to Jesus much earlier than we'd ever anticipated.  Her collection of anomalies are similar to Evie's and yet different, the end result still being the same.

We've yet to have our official ultrasound with the high risk doctor, which will be much more definitive and hopefully diagnostic.  Until then we know what we know - this sweet baby girl won't be with us for long.

Friends we are in need of prayers once again.  The sustaining kind.  The guiding kind.  The strengthening kind.  We're ok - we know we can survive this.  It just really, really stinks that we have to again.

Please pray for a spot to open at the ever-busy high risk doctor so we can get more info on our sweetie.  Please pray for guidance for our future as this could potentially change the move we had planned.  This pregnancy also might pose some risk to me (placenta previa), so please pray that will stay under control and maybe even resolve itself.  And please pray that we can land on a beautiful, meaningful name for this precious baby girl.

Thank you.  And here we go again ...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Babies and Blogging and Where I've Been

It's surely no secret that this blog has been quiet lately.  Honestly, it's just been hard to fit blogging into my life.  Or maybe I should say, it's been hard to figure out what role blogging should play in my life now.  

Writing on this space was absolutely a lifeline for me during the months leading to Evie's death and in the heavy grieving months after.  And not only was it helpful for me, I think it's what the Lord wanted me to do during that time.  He had given me a platform and people were listening.  It was a privilege, truly, to be used in that way. 

Now when I sit down to write, the words don't flow as easily as they once did.  It feels like a bad thing, especially to me and my very task-driven personality, but I don't think it is anymore.  And I'm trying to be ok with that.

The truth is, my life is full.  I don't like using the word busy, but I can safely say my days are full.  They are full of caring for two amazing children and a hard-working husband and a house that spews laundry and dishes and plush toys.  Not to mention outside activities.  It's a good life for sure, just full.  And I'm not sure where blogging fits into that fulness.

There are also so many changes happening in our very near future.  First change will be Josh's new job.  He accepted a new job which will offer him an amazing opportunity to build his experience and professional skill set.  He is really looking forward to it and I'm excited for him.  But that job requires another big change ...

We will have to move across town.  About 40 minutes away from where we currently live.  It's not a drastic change, we'll still go to the same church and be close to family, but it's still a change.  And we're building that house from the ground up, which is pretty exciting.  Construction will start soon and take about four months.  Projected closing date is the end of September, one week before ...

Baby #4 is expected to arrive :)  Yes another sweet Rieke baby is on the way.  Another big, exciting change.  It'll definitely add to that "fulness" I was mentioning earlier! 

I also anticipate homeschooling Micah's PreK 4 next year.  That is certainly subject to change as well, but with so many new things happening (new baby, new home, long drive to his current school), I am already feeling the need to keep things close to the vest.  So that's a new venture.  But I think I can do it?

So that's where my heart and mind have been lately, in a nutshell.  Feeling like I don't have the same platform as before, coupled with general other life necessities and anticipating new beginnings, have left things quiet around here.  And, as I mentioned before, I'm going to let myself be ok with that.

That being said, I absolutely still feel very strongly about reaching out to mothers who have lost babies.  If you have a friend who has experienced this tragedy please, please don't hesitate to send them my way, via email or facebook.

Thank you friends for still reading and caring about me and my little family.  I am still here, just maybe in a different way than before.  And I think that's ok.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ladies' Speed Friending

Ladies need other ladies.  It's a fact.  We are just social beings in need of connections.  It's how God wired us and it's good.  But sometimes, even in a church full of lovely women, we can feel lonely. 

It was mulling over this feeling of loneliness and non-connectedness that led me and two of my most beloved womenfolk (MIL (mother-in-law) and SIL (sister-in-law), to be exact), to brainstorm how to battle this feeling within the church, specifically, our church.  We wanted an event that could bring women together and allow them to get to know each other individually and feel personally connected to many other women in the church.  It was a tall order.

My SIL basically said we needed an event that would "force" (in a nice way ;) women to talk to each other so they wouldn't just gravitate to their own friend groups per usual.  Something to make people talk to each other one-on-one.

My mind grapes were a'brewing.  And, then it hit me ...

Speed dating!

After the initial laugh from my MIL and SIL they thought a bit more.  It could work!  But it would be called ... Speed Friending.  And then my SIL came up with the best title for this never before done event ... New Year, New Friends: Ladies' Speed Friending.  


Well, I'm happy to say we hosted (hostessded?) this event a couple weekends ago.  And I'm even happier to tell you it went swimmingly (we seriously weren't sure if it would haha!).  So swimmingly, in fact, that many people have inquired how to host this event at their own church.  So here it is, the how-to (I'll just explain what we did and you can adjust according to your group and setting):
On one half of the room, set up chairs in a circle. You need one less chair than people (kind of like musical chairs). So if you have 30 ladies, only setup 29 chairs.
On the other half, setup one on one tables. Number the tables 1 through (?) however many you need. In the center of each table, place a fishbowl (something people can stick their hands into) with slips of paper (conversation questions all cut up). We purchased the fishbowls at the Dollar Store.
We also had a welcome table setup with sticky blank name tags and a sheet for people to write their name and phone number, which we gave out at the end of the night.
We also had a snack table (we asked all who came to bring an hors d'oeuvre to share), and an area for hot and cold drinks. I just asked our ministry team to not bring a snack but a drink instead.
Flow of Events:
We started the event at around 7:15. We played the first game for about 30 min. Then we broke for snacks for another 30 min. Then we did the speed friending, which took about 45. When that was over we invited people to stay and chat or leave if they needed to.
This was the first game, the one with the circle of chairs. Everyone takes a seat with one lady standing in the middle. She makes a statement like ... "Anyone who wears contacts!" If you wear contacts then you must get up and switch chairs. You may not sit in the chair next to you, it has to be at least 2 chairs away. Eventually, after everyone scrambles for a new chair, there will be one woman standing. She's "it" and has to think of a new description.
These descriptions can be thought of randomly but to help people out, we had a white board with several question suggestions on there.
In the event that a person can't think of something, the can shout "Mutiny!" and the whole circle must find a new chair.
Speed Friending:
Everyone sits down at a table, one-on-one. The hostess starts a timer and you get two minutes to talk to the person in front of you. You can use the questions in the fishbowl as startup conversation pieces, but we encouraged women to not try to fly through the questions but to use them as jumping off points. At the end of two minutes, those facing the back wall switched to the next consecutive table and the others stayed seated. This continues until you're back with the person you started with.
There is one slight problem with this that we didn't foresee until that night - since half the group moves and half the group stays put, those within each group never get to talk to one another. No one seemed to mind though and it just made us think we need another event like this!!

So there you have it: Ladies' Speed Friending.  I hope it proves to be a wonderful night of connecting with the women in your sphere of acquaintance.  And please stop back here and let me know how it goes!!  

What do you think?  Does this sound like something you'd enjoy?  What questions might you ask?  Have you ever gone actual speed dating?  

ps ... if you email me I would be happy to send you the questions we used!