Monday, October 1, 2018

It's Not Just a "Cause"

Most everybody knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Two of my aunts are survivors of breast cancer. There is pink everywhere, from people you see wearing t-shirts at the grocery store to NFL players sporting pink shoes on the field. There are several walks to support this cause and billions of dollars pored into research. Millions of people acknowledge it, which I think is a wonderful thing. You basically can't live in the United States and not hear about it constantly during the month of October.

But, not many people know that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is far too often overshadowed. I would never want those other things to be forgotten about, I just want P.A.I.L. (pregnancy and infant loss) to be spoken about as well. I want commercials about it and money being pored into it by giant corporations. It is a worthwhile thing to research, understand, and talk about. 


You can get your own PAIL Awareness images to share with friends, family, on your blog or social media accounts from Luminous Light Studio by clicking here.

My daughter, Lily Katherine was stillborn 2 days past her due date. I had a completely normal, healthy pregnancy and she was a healthy baby. She had a full autopsy done and nobody could give me a reason medically for why it happened. Don't you think it's about time something was done about this? In the United States of America in the 21st century, thousands of babies should not be dying with no explanation. 



I know I talk quite a lot about Pregnancy and Infant Loss. You'll see pink and blue strewn throughout my social media pages, especially throughout the month of October. But you see, to me it is not just another "cause." There are thousands of causes out there, aren't there? Support this, support that. Many of these things are important. This is not a cause, but our children. It's not merely about raising awareness for the sake of people being aware. PAIL Awareness Month is about honoring our babies and speaking out about the dignity and value of their lives, despite how brief. I don't just share the awareness ribbon or take part in the Capture Your Grief Project to make pointless noise. I am as outspoken as I am for a few reasons...

One, I want those who have lost their baby to know they are not alone. I want them to be pointed to resources to help them heal. I want them to know it is healthy and okay if they want to share their stories. 

I also want others to understand how loss affects someone, irrevocably. I want others to get a glimpse into what it's like, so maybe they will learn how to offer support and understanding to those impacted by infant loss.

I want to share my beautiful Lily with the world, my sweet girl who lived a full life in my womb and will always live in my heart. My girl who will always be my baby. This is how I mother her, this is how I share her. It was a gift the Lord gave me when He opened up my heart to love her as much as I do. And because of how much I love her, I miss her with that same great measure. The grief, in turn, is also a gift, for even that points to the sanctity of her life and each life, no matter how brief. I share because I believe in the sanctity of each unique and irreplaceable life, created in the image of God.

Why aren't more people talking about pregnancy and infant loss? I think part of it is because it's an uncomfortable thing to talk about babies dying and people think it will never happen to them. I want others to be aware of the importance of counting their baby's kicks

But, the main reason I think PAIL isn't spoken about or acknowledged is because people have minimized the value of the unborn in our society. It's no wonder people don't think it matters when someone loses a baby, whether at a few weeks gestation or full-term. After all, they were just a blob of tissue, right? They weren't a baby yet, so what's there to be upset about? I ask you, then, when exactly is the baby an actual baby? Was Lily not a baby because she never breathed outside my womb, though she made it to 40 weeks? What about the mother who miscarries her very much loved and wanted baby? Is it a baby only when the mother wants it, but otherwise it's just cells? We need to talk about this! And I believe once this is acknowledged more, people will start valuing and understanding the sanctity of all life.

Women around the world, from all walks of life, are affected by pregnancy and infant loss. 1 in 4 women will face a pregnancy/infant loss in her lifetime. Some more than one.

If you have never lost a baby yourself, please help us stop the silence and raise awareness because chances are this has probably already affected someone you love. Please educate yourself so you know how to support somebody if they lose their baby. Consider changing your profile picture to the blue and pink awareness ribbon. Blue and pink for the precious boys and girls who are no longer here. Let's show compassion. Tell someone who you know has lost a baby that you are thinking of them this month.

This month, I honor and remember all the precious ones who are no longer with us, the sons and daughters of Heaven. Their lives are important and they will forever remained loved and missed by those who know them. Let's get the word out about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. Share your story. Speak out!

Click here to read ideas I've shared for how to get involved during PAIL Awareness Month!

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Luke's Should-Have-Been 9th Birthday

As Summer turns to Autumn and the leaves on the trees begin changing hues and the air gets a bit cooler, my heart remembers...

This is the time of year Luke Shiloh would be turning 9... Today was my due date...

Sometimes it feels like I have no right to feel or express my grief since it was a choice I made. But that is a lie and I share so other women and men carrying this regret are free to speak the truth. I share because of how prevalent this issue is.

How do I explain what October 1st means to me? How do I explain how this date means nothing at all and yet so many things? How February 6th stole what this day would have held. How October 1st will forever have a giant question mark hanging over it, as I imagine who my child would have been and how he would've looked.

A choice I made at 19 is now impacting 29-year-old me.

One choice erased 9th birthday parties and reminiscing over birth-day memories, memories of holding him for the first time, first holidays and first days of school.

My Luke Shiloh, you were but a vapor, silently blowing through the chambers of my soul, leaving me changed by the secret beating of your heart. A heart that beat for much too short a time. A heart that bequeathed my own as "mother."




The following is something I wrote in February a couple years ago, on the anniversary date of my abortion...

**************

I search my own heart, trying to somehow understand a decision I myself made.

On the outside, I know why I did.

When I discovered I was pregnant, panic and fear immediately gripped my heart and that dreadful word captured my thoughts: abortion. The culture told me it was my choice to decide whether or not I was ready to be a mother. I always knew I wanted to be one, but not then, not under the circumstances I was in. Not while I was still a single teenager. I assumed I could be a mother "when I was ready," as if it's easy to open or close that door. Now I wait, with one abortion in my past and one child in the grave, longing year after year for the opportunity to be a mother again.

I was convinced that abortion was my only solution, as if this was a problem that needed "fixing."

My mind was consumed with thoughts of the shame and humiliation that would come with telling my family and friends I was pregnant outside of marriage. I didn't want people to discover the lifestyle I was leading.

I didn't want to face the pain and sacrifice sure to come with choosing either parenting or adoption.

I didn't want my body to change from pregnancy.

I didn't want permanent ties to the baby's father.

I thought someone might never want to marry me if I had a kid already.

I didn't want my entire future as I thought it should be to be forever altered.

I had grown up in a Christian, pro-life family and had not given much thought to the complex intricacies of what could cause someone to choose abortion. After all, it had never affected me personally. Being pro-life is not hereditary.

I had planned on remaining a virgin until marriage. But somehow along the way, I had made one bad choice after another which took me to a place I never imagined I'd be. My beliefs got buried beneath the pressures and the temptations, buried beneath the longing to be loved, to be known, to be chosen. There are many reasons God has revealed over the years as to why and how.

Because I was "taking care of things" so early (I was only 6 weeks gestation), and because it was a pill I would be taking and not a surgical procedure, I thought it was "no big deal." I couldn't feel any movement yet, never heard the fast thump, thump, thump of my baby's heart beating, and my belly was not yet round. I convinced myself it wasn't really an abortion. I didn't consider the fact that in 34 weeks (or even much less), a fully-formed child would be ready for birth.

I found Planned Parenthood while searching the internet, called and made the appointment for that Friday morning, February 6th, 2009 - 8 years ago today.

I convinced myself it was a pregnancy, rather than a baby. But deep down, in a place I was afraid to even visit, I knew that I was already a mother. The tears I cried during that week are proof. As Anne of Green Gables would describe it, I was in the depths of despair.

That morning came and I had collected the $350 that it would take to stop that tiny heartbeat. I cringe at the thought. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that had it not been legal and "my choice," and had an abortion not been so easily accessible, and praised even in this society, than I never would have sought one out. I know that I wouldn't have had a back-alley abortion. That's why I can't stand when people use that argument for why abortion should remain legal. We need to empower women to see they can choose life, while still pursuing their dreams.

I wish I had known that my child's heart had already begun beating. I wish I had seen that even though I was ending my pregnancy, I would never again not be a mother.

I wish I could tell you I didn't take the little RU486 pill that I thought would solve all my problems. I wish I could tell you I ran as far and as fast as I could from that clinic with my baby still alive.

But I can't.

February 6th will be etched into my memory forever. My child would be 8 this year. As Summer turns to Autumn and the leaves on the trees begin changing hues and the air gets a bit cooler, my heart remembers. He was due at the beginning of October...

After that February weekend in 2009, I thought I could forget the nightmare ever happened. I just wanted to get back to my "normal life." The pain quickly began catching up with me. The suffering was too great so I shut myself off, my heart turning cold. I drowned my inexpressible sorrow in drinking, partying, and dating a new guy. I so desperately wanted to fill that gaping wound in my heart.

I felt beyond repair, like there was no hope for me. I kept my mind constantly busy and occupied so I didn't have to face the things I so desperately wanted to escape.

I search my own heart to try to make sense of what happened. On this side of having gone through with an abortion, now 8 years later, the better part of a decade, all my reasoning and struggling to recall doesn't seem good enough. The reasons and explanations that sprang up out of my heart to justify ending a life seem shallow.

I convinced myself that somehow this page in the story of my life could be erased, torn out. That's what the deceiver whispered in my ear. But, now I see so clearly. It was a lie. And I was in such a place of vulnerability and desperation that I was willing, eager even, to believe it.

God has used this experience to give me a deeper compassion for others than I believe I could have ever had. I realize this could happen to anyone given the right, or shall I say wrong, circumstances.

I don't even recognize myself and can barely fathom that it was out of my own heart that I chose abortion. It doesn't feel like it could have been me. I don't even know that person who chose abortion.

As alone as I feel at times in loving and missing Lily, I feel even more so about Luke. But how could I expect others to miss him when I didn't even know him? How can I expect others to love him when I loved him too late?

This wasn't the end of the story... Just a few short months later, God's mercy and love would be demonstrated through another life planted within my womb. A life I did not deserve to be entrusted with. Redemption would be written all over her every cell.

Thomas Watson wrote, "Never do the flowers of grace grow more, than after a shower of repentant tears."

The dam of my damaged turned calloused heart had been stopped up until a little flower was planted, in my life, in my womb, in this world, bringing forth the repentance. And it's through that little flower named Lily that God's grace grew within my life and heart. It's through her that He brought healing from the choice to have an abortion. It's through the love He gave me for her that He opened up my heart to love Luke. In treasuring the sanctity of her life, He taught me to value the sanctity of my first baby's life and all life.

There have been some people who have asked me (some even assuming I feel this way), that God punished me for having an abortion with Lily's death. And to this I say, my God doesn't work that way. The blood of Jesus wiped out my abortion when I came to Jesus in repentance. Any child in the womb is a GIFT! Lily died, but the blessings of her life and legacy certainly are not a punishment. As I've written before, she is an eternal flower sent as an eternal gift from an eternal God. She is the farthest thing from a punishment and the fact that she is in Heaven is a comfort. Yes, I miss her and always will, but I have the peace and assurance at the core of my heart and soul that she was never meant to be a little girl of this world. She was called to a higher purpose.

Each February, I like to go back and read the book and watch the movie Tilly, which is 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."

Honestly, this day is not one of shame, humiliation, and debilitating sorrow. But, it is one of remembrance. Remembering recognizes the sanctity of life and honors and celebrates Luke. Remembering is healthy and important.

One of my favorite musicians, Bethany Dillon (now Barnard) is releasing her first full-length record in almost a decade! It comes out in a few days and since I preordered it, I have access to the first couple songs. One of the songs is called "A Better Word," and it seems so appropriate to be listening to this song on repeat this month. I am singing this over my life and have so much comfort in the Lord.

Here are some of the lyrics (you simply must get the album!): "I hear the blood of Abel speak an accusation over me. I'm guilty and I am in need of mercy. You have broken the power of my sin. The curse I lived in has been reversed. The blood of Jesus is my provision. You have spoken a better word. Your blood speaks of the covenant for the both of us you have kept. Betrothed to You in faithfulness, I am redeemed.... No condemnation, I am free. The blood of Jesus speaks for me. The Lamb was slain, now I can sing a better word...." (see Hebrews 12:24)

Now when I look back at this page in my story, it isn't erased, no... but where the blood of my own child was shed because of my own choice, now I see the blood of Christ covering it.













This poem by John Piper powerfully articulates how a mother whose chosen abortion attempts to view the life of her unborn child as an "it":

I waited in my nausea,
Surrounded by stone-faced bourgeois
With rolls of twenty-dollar bills
In jacket pockets with their pills,
Funds from the ATM outside
The clinic door, because the guide,
Imbedded in the website said
"Cash only in advance." The dread
Concealed - as if I really read
The Mademoiselle - my eyes instead
Were staring at the vinyl floor,
So clean and cold, a wise decor
In case a mother's vomit soiled
The luster underfoot, and spoiled
This sterile place.

And then, all through the brief and mindless interview
And prep, they called my baby "it."
I tried to think that what God knit
In me was only "it." I gripped
For dear life every word - a script
To somehow make this life an "it."

But then, with legs still split
In clamps, I lifted up my head,
And saw there on the table, dead,
A tiny torso, not an "it," but "she,"
Destroyed, and with her, me.

************
I will end with this poem I wrote Luke:

First child of my womb,
Quietly you grew, hidden from all eyes.
Why didn't I choose Life?
Why did I believe the lies?

Flesh of my flesh,
My baby, forever you'll be.
I'm sorry I chose the wrong way.
I'm sorry I didn't SEE.

Your life was not wasted.
Valued and precious you are.
God is speaking mightily through you.
From my thoughts, you will never be far.

From darkness to light,
You will always be a part of the story.
Our Father in Heaven promises
To work all this together for His glory.

Your name means "light" and "peace,"
My precious little one.
That's what He's brought in all of this.
In Christ, the victory is won!

I promise to be your voice
Until my days on Earth are through.
I will never be silent
Until the time that I meet you.

In that moment, 
I will gaze upon your face.
I will hold you, kiss you, know you,
In awe of His great mercy and amazing grace.

Even then I know,
Your legacy will still live.
For He breathes beauty into this story,
And purpose He will continue to give.

I love you, my little Lukey.
Thank you for changing me.
Until we meet, my darling,
A forever part of me you'll be.

With all my might, I'll fight in your honor,
Until the battle for Life is won.
In my eyes and heart,
You will always be my son.

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