Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Birthday

Dear Teddy,
          Today was supposed to be the day that we finally held you. We should be in the hospital straining to bring you into this world. Family and friends should be excitedly waiting for news of your birth. Before the day is done, your Dad and I should be able to hold you in our arms. That wasn't God's plan.

Today I sit in quiet, devoting the morning to you. Tonight our house will be filled with crazy toddlers and snuggly babies ready to Trick or Treat, and I will love every moment of it, but there will also be moments when I miss you. When I imagine you and Sadie and Wyatt sharing the friendship your brothers have and cry a bit. However, I don't want your life to be about me crying. Your short 18 weeks mean more than that. Birthdays are about celebrations and counting your blessings. Today of all days, I want to pause and tell you how you have made me a better Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister and Friend. I want to Thank You for all you have brought to my life, and to thank God for the precious time we had together.

You have taught me to slow down. Before your death, I subscribed to the cult of busy.  I thought that being busy meant I was important, or doing my job. Now I know that it is a form of selfishness. If I am too busy to love and appreciate my family and friends, to see my students as humans, to spend time with my Heavenly Father, then I am not really engaging in life. I am avoiding it. Your illness and death made me stop. All of time stopped and I had to learn that busy isn't what I want to be. Loving, giving,  and living is who I want to be.

You have taught me to depend on God for all of my needs. I thought that I was in control, but I wasn't.  Life can change in a moment, but God is constant. His love never changes. He is always with us.

You have taught me that it is ok to vulnerable. I hated looking weak. I would hold thing in and not share what I was really feeling. You gave me the gift of vulnerability. The inability to even express what I was feeling meant that I was utterly dependent on those I love. They embraced me, buoyed me, uplifted me, overwhelmed me with their love. I now know that love and friendship are bigger, deeper things than I can comprehend, and am so thankful to be able engage in them.

You have shown me sides of your father I was unaware of. In our 13 years, I never know the capacity for love, grief, compassion, and giving he had. You have brought these out in him. He is a different person as well. Our marriage has changed. Our bond is deeper. You will always be our baby. You will be with us forever. When we both say goodbye to this world, the three of us will be buried together. It seems morbid, but you have deepened our love in ways we never could have.

You have made me appreciate all of your brother's moments. Harrison would have loved playing with you. He loves babies, and you would have been his baby. He is such a silly, lovable, compassionate, whirlwind of a boy. You have made me more present with him. You have taught me to pour more love onto him. You gave me the clarity to stop being torn between my professional life and my desire to  mother. You have given your brother a better mother. Someday, I will try to find a way to explain to him.

You have shown me that all things are possible through God who strengthens us. When we found out you were sick, I didn't think I would make it. I wanted to curl up and die with you. As I lay in bed crying, you kept kicking and kicking, reminding me that you were God's child before mine. I sit here today because of the gift of perfect grace and perfect love.  Without God, I wouldn't have gotten out of bed, and that would have been a horrid way to honor your life. With God, I am daily learning and pushing to share love, struggling to give forgiveness, working on offering grace and humbly accepting that the purpose of my life is to share God's love. That is a much better way to honor your life.

I will always miss you, will always long for you, will always want to hold you, but know that I am so thankful for you. The blessing of being your mother is worth all of it and more. The gifts  you have brought into my life have blessed me 1,000 times over. Someday we will be reunited and together we will turn to praise the Giver of All Life,  until then know that I love you, I miss you and I am so utterly thankful for you.

Love Mom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A note to my husband

Dear Justin,
Today is International Infant Loss Day. My counselor has called to ensure I am fine, and the women who I speak to in my support group have shared their stories. My grief is validated and recognized, but  yours has been marginalized or put aside for me.

 A majority of people easily identify my loss and my pain. My physical appearance changed. My pain was obvious. The amount of resources and reminders of love I receive are huge. Four months later, people still stop to ask how I am.

I don't see the same support given to you. I know you will say that I need it. That you want me to have help and support, and that you didn't experience Teddy's death in the same way. Society tells me that Dads heal faster and are impacted less, but I know that isn't true.

I know that in the midst of of trying to be there for me, your heart was shattered. I know that you dreamed of holding our little man and had already committed a large part of your heart to him. I know that you still speak to him. That you miss him. That your grief is as large as mine.

You have bravely shouldered the burden of your own grief, and allowed me to fall apart. You have held my hand while I learn to put myself back together again. When the world was too much, you shielded me from it, but when it was time, you encouraged me to start living again.

Together we found a way to arrange cremation and choose an urn. Holding hands, we brought him  home. For the rest of our lives, he will be our baby. When we are old and gray, and I break down over a half century old loss, you will understand and hold me. Together we are figuring out this new life, this new reality. Together we will manage the questions of more children, improved health and healing.

The loss of our son has changed everything about our lives, including my love for you. I had no idea that I could love you more. That you could make me this proud. That you could love me this much. Seven years ago we swore to love one another "for better or worse", and we had no idea what "worse" meant.

Today is International Infant Loss, and we are one in four parents who lost their child. We grieve together, we heal together, we hope together. I wish that you never had to feel this, that your heart was never broken, that you never had to grieve. I know that I couldn't have come this far without you, and I rest in the knowledge that whatever may come we can face it together.

I Love You,

Juli Ann

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes it is really hard

Sometimes it is really hard to power through. My iron was down so low  that I had to drink an infusion on Tuesday. This means that I constantly feel like taking a nap, or sleeping all day, or just staying in bed for the rest of my life. Exhaustion is a hard battle, and knowing that your exhaustion is a lingering side effect of losing your baby is harder. Taking a step backwards in your body's healing the same month that said baby was due feels impossible.

It is as if my body knows that we should be preparing for a baby to arrive on Halloween, and is doing its best to act like it is as tired as someone who is  nine months pregnant. Overall, this was a rough week. I wanted to give up, I wanted to be upset and mad, I wanted to wallow in my own sorrow, but God challenged me to be more loving. To increase my giving, to reach out to more students, to pray for those I am struggling to forgive, to offer grace to those hurt me, to bring love into each moment of my day.

When I am exhausted, I do not feel like being loving. I feel like being crabby. I feel like shutting down. I feel like I don't want to do what I am being called to do, but God is showing me that the only way to spiritually mature and do what He is calling me to do is to lean on Him. I am tired, but if I am willing He will give me the energy I need. If I say "yes God", He will rejuvenate and revive me. If I say, I can't do it without you, then He says "I wouldn't want you too".

Here in the month of October, the time I have dreaded since June. The due date that never was and the son who isn't coming grief and bitterness could overwhelm my heart and soul, but God is calling me to love. He is telling me to reach out my husband daily, to send messages of hope, to take an extra minute with that student and encourage that coworker. He is telling me to create an environment of hope for my students, and to tell my Mama how much I am thankful for her. He is taking a time that could be dark and selfish and showing me that the only way to heal is through love.

"Beloved, lets us love one another, for love is of God and anyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God, he that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love" 1 John 4:7 God is love. God is my only path to healing and He is love. It is a love that I as a human and incapable of on my own. My physical exhaustion alone would make me too cranky to want to love anyone.

Love and heal. Feeling bitter and tired? Find someone to pour love on. Angry and exhausted? Seek out a person to uplift. Confused and sad? Take a moment to pray for someone you know is struggling. Feeling alone and grieved? Connect with your husband and son. Practicing love is keeping me from shrinking into a bitter shrewish person. It isn't easy. In fact it is impossible. I can only do it through Christ who strengthens me, and whose love is greater than I can fathom. Please pray for me to continue to turn to love and reject bitterness. Pray for strength and healing. Pray for peace and contentment. Pray that those who interact with me will see Christ's love. Pray that I will continue to grow and learn. Please pray. I will pray for you too.