Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February 7 Years Later

This past weekend, the heavy memories were swirling forcefully through my mind. They are hazy, bits and pieces coming back that I had forgotten about in these past 7 years. At this time in 2009, I had my abortion.

The memories are mostly on February 6th and 7th. With the RU486 (what is known as medical abortion), it is a multi-day process. On the 6th, I took that little pill that was intended to cut off the life-supply to my growing 6-week-gestation baby. That day holds the memories of being in the Planned Parenthood. Then on the 7th, I took the next set of pills, that causes a woman's body to essentially go into labor. That day holds the memories of the pain that racked my body, the nausea, the throwing up, the bleeding, knowing my baby was flushed down a toilet.

The memories are from that entire week leading up to the 6th and 7th too... the buckets and buckets of tears cried, the anguish at the core of my being. I can recall bits and pieces of my pain and experience, but honestly sometimes the intensity of pain humans experience can be so severe that the brain blocks those things out in order to protect us. I believe God has protected me from the ability to relive that excruciating pain, but I still remember having experienced it.

This year, I have remembered a couple other things that I had blocked out, things that are happening again this year that have triggered memories from 2009. Obama had just had his inauguration in D.C. I remember watching coverage on television, the details like a movie playing in my head. With the upcoming election this year and the debates that have been going on, that memory was triggered.

Another thing that triggered a memory is the Super Bowl being this weekend. I remembered how the Super Bowl that year was on February 1st, less than a week before my abortion. Not only that, but I actually went to a Broncos/Panthers game around that time and that is who is playing in the Super Bowl this year.

My mom had a dream around the time of my abortion (she didn't know I was having one) and in this dream, she was awakened to me crying out in anguish and desperation, "Mom! Mom!" She said she feels like that was my spirit crying out for help, even though she had no idea exactly what was going on. That does explain the state of my soul at that time, feeling so broken and far from Jesus, but no strength to turn from my sin and bondage in and of myself.

I hesitate to share all these details. Satan tries to convince me I am somehow a worse sinner than other people, that there is something especially "wrong" with me. He tries to make me feel isolated and alone. If you have had an abortion, you are not alone. There are millions of others who have been there too, millions of others with painful memories on the anniversary of their abortion each year. Don't let the devil make you feel you are the only one. By the age of 45, 1 in 3 women will have had an abortion.

In the last week, two women have said to me that it is only by God's grace that they did not have an abortion. They both said if at my same age, they had found themselves in similar circumstances and pregnant, they think they would have had an abortion too. How easy it is for us as humans to judge other people and the choices they make, when honestly, who is to say we wouldn't have made the same choices, if we had similar circumstances? There are multiple factors that cause people to make the choices they do. These things are not excuses for sin, but they can explain why people turn to the things they do outside of Jesus. The devil wants to shame us into believing our sin is the worst of all and there is no hope for us to be reconciled to God. Don't believe that rubbish!

On this weekend more than any other, I remember the weight of my sins and the glorious light of the cross and what Jesus' death and resurrection means. It means the weight is now light. It means Luke is safe and whole. It means I am forgiven and free. Thank You Jesus for the cross...

My sister-in-law Kala knows this is a tough weekend for me and asked if we could do something together in honor of Luke. She suggested we get balloons and go to Lake Johnson in Raleigh to release them. I hardly know what to do on this anniversary, but the fact that she not only remembered, but suggested we do something and even came up with the idea was extremely meaningful to me. She simply acknowledged his life with me, and me being his forever mother. She is a nonjudgmental and loving example of what a Christian should be.

we both released a balloon

Here is the video I took of us releasing the balloons. It was a chilly but beautiful day at the lake. We watched the balloons dance into the sky for a long time, until they were so high we couldn't see them anymore.

Tears were shed as we talked about the reality of abortion and the hope we have in Christ. We talked about Luke's life still having purpose. We talked about the many women who live with a past abortion. I played Flypside's song, "Happy Birthday," which I do every year. Kala had never heard it before. I don't believe in everything he says, but the song is still powerful.

I lit a candle on February 6th in honor and memory of Luke.

Tilly is a book (and movie) about a mother who regrets having an abortion and dreams of Heaven where she meets her daughter and finds healing in the love and forgiveness of both Jesus and her daughter.

The last paragraph on the last page brings my eyes to tears and causes my heart to nod along in understanding: "And she would weep quietly, with this and with every new April {February}, for all the children who had no names and no parents, who still lived though never born. Most of all, she would weep for the little daughter {son} she never knew, and give whispered words to what she had always known: "Tilly {Luke}, I love you." But now her heart was at peace and that peace was hers to keep. She only wanted to remember. Just remember."

Luke's ultrasound that I got 3 years later

Luke honored with his name in the sand in Australia
I also played this for Kala when we were talking and rocking in the chairs at Lake Johnson. It is a clip from Arise Sweet Sarah (which I will blog about soon... Luke and Lily's names are in the end credits!). The dancing and lyrics are just... wow. So healing, comforting, and freeing.

This post left me:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

No Less Important or Real

Her birthday is next month.

This morning, I looked through the most precious keepsakes I'll ever have - her foot and handprints, snippet of hair, foot impression, ultrasound photos, hospital bracelets, the hat she wore right after she was born, and the outfit she wore at the hospital, one of the only 2 she'd ever wear (the other is her "going Home to Jesus" outfit).

I just needed the reminder that I really am a mommy, even though my daughter who would almost be SIX! isn't here. As my friend Stacy wrote to me, my mothering Lily might look different than other people, but it is no less important or real.

This post left me:

Good To Me

I recently shared about how difficult it is for me when children are due and then born on or around Lily's birthday. Today I saw another friend of mine from 9th grade who was due with and had her daughter last year on March 14th, Lily's due date.

I know another friend from my junior year of high-school that had her son on the exact same day I had Lily - March 16th, 2010.

I can think of at least two other people off the top of my head, one person from last year and one person this year, whose babies share Lily's due date.

I hear the whispers of the enemy, attempting to convince me that my God loves these women and their babies more than He loves me and Lily. A good God wouldn't allow such suffering. He's left me on my own, the only one whose lost a child and the only one who doesn't have a man in my life and able to have another baby.

As I have been struggling with this today, I have searched for something positive and uplifting in it. There has to be some lesson God wants to teach me, something He wants to cultivate in my spiritual life. Honestly though, I can think of no reason why I have to see multiple people have healthy babies on the same date that mine died.

And it hit me... We won't always see the "why" behind suffering. We won't always understand what God is doing or why He does the things He does and allows the things He does. When we cannot understand, we can trust His character. I am called to trust in the dark. I am to have faith, even when it hurts and there are shadows cast over the heavy questions I carry.

I must remind myself of truth - God wouldn't let Lily die because He doesn't love us as much. That's not the way He operates.

Suffering is not for nothing.

Don't let the lies of the enemy of your soul seep into your heart. Expose his lies, rather than meditating upon them. Choose instead to dwell on God's goodness. Play songs, like this one below, on repeat when you need to remind yourself of who He is. Email subscribers click HERE to listen.

"Good To Me"
by Audrey Assad

I put all my hope in the truth of Your promise
And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness
When I'm bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

I lift up my eyes to the hills where my help is found
Your voice fills the night - raise my head up to hear the sound
Though fires burn all around me I will praise You, my God
And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

Your goodness and mercy shall follow me
All my life
I will trust in Your promise

I cannot comprehend the glory that is coming. With all I am, I believe I will get to raise my little girl and I will realize tangibly and completely that I didn't miss anything - even if it feels like I have right now. Glory is coming.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Friendship Bracelets and Tattoos

Here's another post I've been meaning to publish...

Last August, I went out to Colorado a few days before I was to arrive at Ellerslie to spend time with my friend, Bex. You may remember reading about her before (click HERE to read the posts about her and our friendship). She placed her son for adoption less than a year before I got pregnant with Lily. I knew about her story and reached out to her when I needed a friend and someone who understood what I was going through. She was that friend to me.

Here are our friendship bracelets with our tattoos for the little ones who brought us together in friendship 6 1/2 years ago.


She was one of the first people to know about my little flower and the first person to know the name that is now forever on my wrist. 

We had a wonderful visit, going to Boulder, downtown Denver, and just hanging out drinking coffee and sharing our hearts. Every year in August, I am reminded of how we became friends that same month in 2009. It was interesting that the first day I arrived to her house, she got a reminder on her Facebook Memories that we became "friends" that exact day 6 years before... I never could have imagined all that would happen in those years and what a dear friend she would turn out to be. :)


This post left me:

PAIL Nails

I'm trying to post some things that have been in my drafts...

In October, while at Ellerslie, my friend Olga and I painted our nails with the colors from the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Ribbon, in recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! She was sweet to do that with me. :)


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kids the Age She'd Be

This post has been in my heart (and sitting in my drafts) for a long time. I saw something today that prompted me to finish it.

Grief over the loss of a baby is multifaceted. When my doctor spoke those words to me on March 16th, 2010, that Lily's tiny, perfect heart was no longer beating, I didn't know all the layers to this profound loss that would be unveiled through the years without her.

A friend posted about how her daughter turns 6 today, with a photo of what a big girl she is now. This is a friend of my family that we've known for many years. We were connected during our pregnancies, due less than two months apart. I sent her a baby gift and a card, saying how I was excited for our little girls to meet in person one day soon... Two months later, they sent me a sympathy card and a Willow Tree.

I know many people whose children were born around the time Lily was, a few even born on the exact same date! Friends from high-school, friends I met taking classes at the pregnancy center, acquaintances, friends of friends, family of friends... you get the picture.

Lily has three cousins that were born within just a few months of her. My cousin Daniel's son, Owen, was born three months before Lily. She also has two other cousins who I don't write about, a little boy who was born five months before Lily and a little girl who was born half a year after. They are Lily's father's niece and nephew. I never see or talk to them, so I don't know anything about their lives. But I have seen photos. I still know that they are out there and that they are Lily's cousins. There is a little girl who is now taking the place of Lily as the oldest granddaughter growing up in that family. A little girl who will miss out on having a girl cousin close in age to share life with. It absolutely breaks my heart to think of this little girl, who Lily will never know and I will never know because Lily isn't here. It breaks my heart even more wondering if they care for or think about Lily at all.

My child is the only one who didn't make it. All these children are healthy and thriving. Lily will never grow beyond 21 inches, 7 pounds and 9 ounces. She will never speak a word, never even take a breath.

The only reason I know others who have babies who died is because I purposefully searched out people to connect with, both locally and online. Nobody I know in "real life" lost their baby like me. Don't get me wrong, I am glad they didn't. It just makes me feel alone.

What people don't seem to comprehend is my pain was not left behind in 2010. Year after year, I see these children who were in the womb at the same time Lily was. Whether I want to be reminded or not, their full lives remind me my daughter is in the ground.

Each time I see, hear about, or think of these children born around the time Lily was, it is a reminder of the little girl that was lost, the life she will never live. With each post of their child's birthday, how their child is learning to read, or how emotional it is that their child is growing up too fast, such as when they registered them for Kindergarten, it is a blow to the tender place in my heart that will always grieve for my little girl who will never experience a single one of those things so often taken for granted.

And not only that, but literally EVERY SINGLE YEAR since Lily's birth in 2010, I have known friends and/or acquaintances who were due on or right around Lily's due date and birthdate. Every single year. So even apart from the children who were actually born near the time Lily was that I associate with her, it is yet another fresh blow when children are born in mid-March each year. I know it sounds weird to someone who hasn't experienced it, but her name and birthday are some of the only things that are hers in this world! They are sacred to me. Her birthday is most certainly not typical, making it painful to see others celebrating her bittersweet day with only happiness. It is also hard to see the pregnancy milestones others are experiencing lining up with my memories. I imagine the pain would ease a lot if I were able to have another baby, but I'm not.

I love how John Piper describes the loss of a baby in a letter to the mother of a son who was stillborn (it is one of the most comforting and validating things I've ever read and my mind constantly goes back to it):

"Amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So grieving is like and unlike other pain.... there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God's gift - and God in His gift - so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel Him never letting go of us - in that longer sorrow He is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to Him not away from Him. And therefore the length of it is a way of showing Him to be ever-present, enduringly sufficient."

2010 was the severing. And now, six years later... I am still hurting. I am still writing. Because the countless might-have-beens go on. The pain of the gone-ness is relentless. I share because I love her. I share because she still matters and I still miss her. I share because I am a mother. I share because I treasure the gift of her life, and God in His gift of her. I share because He has never let go of me and my writing is me not letting go of Him.

My little girl is just as loved and real as these children, yet the reality of her presence isn't here. I feel invisible in my motherhood, much like Lily is invisible to this world. I ache for what might have been on this Earth had she lived. It is a loss that runs so deep it could never be described, only felt. I don't even know if I'm making sense much of the time, trying to express what I feel.

My friend Stacy wrote me something encouraging last year when I shared with her how hard it was that Lily wouldn't be starting Kindergarten and seeing posts of people whose babies were born the same month (and day) as Lily that would be.

These are the comforting words she sent me: "Lily has the BEST Kindergarten teacher ever!! She goes to the BEST school... She is safe... She is healthy and whole... She doesn't even need immunizations!! I know this doesn't remove any of the pain. I know it doesn't make you want her here any less... I know that it hurts like crazy to hear others complain about things you long to experience with your girl... but one sweet day Hannah, you will be reunited with her FOREVER. Your separation is temporary. Your mothering Lily is different than theirs, but it is no less important or real... Anyway, I'm not trying to say it shouldn't matter, because it does and I totally understand... just want to encourage you that while this life hurts, it isn't even a drop in the bucket of time that you have to look forward to spending with Lily... in a place where it's not scary to let her run free without your protection. I can just picture how beautiful she looks right now running through fields of flowers and skipping on streets of gold. She wouldn't enjoy Kindergarten near as much."

If you want to know how to encourage someone who is grieving, use that as an example. Validating and encouraging at the same time. Please don't be afraid to say Lily's name. Please tell me you think of her and remember her. Please tell me you're sorry Lily isn't here for whatever milestone she'd be experiencing. You can never know what it does for my heart to have others love her too.

This post left me:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Less Than Two Months

My stomach is literally in knots, with the knowledge now in the forefront of my mind that in less than two months, we'll be celebrating yet another one of Lily's birthdays. Both Kala and my mom recently said how they can't believe it's nearly been a year since her 5th birthday, when we took the comfort boxes to the hospital where Lily was born and I got my long-awaited tattoo.

Each year for her day, I like to do something different and special. I've already been to her spot in Virginia for one of her birthdays, and we went to the hospital and took the boxes, which is something I've wanted to do for years. Now that we've spent her day in the city where she was born and in the town where she's laid to rest, I have decided for her 6th birthday this year, I'd like to do something else I've been wanting to do.

This year, I am planning on and praying it works out for my mom and I to spend a few, or even just a couple, days on the North Carolina Coast. I looove the beach and live close enough (only 2 hours away) that it's totally doable. The Carolina Coast reminds me of Lily because I spent a few days there when I was carrying her in the fall of 2009.

This year, I feel the need to simply relax and be on Lily's birthday. I want to be still in my memories of her and my thanking God for her life, and the beach has a way of fostering a peaceful atmosphere like that. The sites, sounds, and smells of the beach make my soul breathe deeply and calmly. I just need this time away. I think it will be a sweet time of remembrance for two older generations celebrating the third.

I have some other things planned and usual traditions I'd like to keep up with. For one thing, I am going to be donating one boy comfort box and one girl comfort box to Lily's hospital. We'll of course also be having something red-velvet. But on March 16th and at least a day before and after it, I want to just be with my mom, remembering our precious little flower.

This post left me:
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