A Birthday After Loss

Today is my 31st birthday.

I have been secretly dreading this day for months now. Not the part about getting older or aging. Quite honestly I couldn’t care less about that and it is the least of my worries. But rather the part that has given me such anxiety is just how empty this one feels.

If someone would have said that during year 30 I would lose my father to pancreatic cancer, learn I miscarried my son at twenty weeks the very next day, have my first two major surgeries in life and have an additional health scare, I would have without question just tapped out from day one. It was simply too much to take.

As my birthday approached I have also been overcome with deep sadness that the two people who created me are no longer on this earth with me on this day. I can barely put it into words but just know that it is beyond heartbreaking to have a birthday without both your mother and your father. And the fact that this would have been my first birthday as a mother has been equally excruciating to hold.

For all of those reasons, I honestly could have skipped September 9th altogether this year and truly would have been better off. As I stared into the approaching 31, I was completely numb.

What if? What if 31 is the same or God forbid worse than 30 was? There were many days I felt like I crawled through fire and that is something you just can’t process doing twice.

This morning I didn’t know what to do so I started the day off in silent reflection and prayer.

In that silent reflection I made a very important decision for the year ahead. I decided that I will eliminate all expectations for myself this year. I can’t predict the future and I am not going to even try anymore. It doesn’t mean I won’t have any goals or positive plans for my life moving forward. But rather my goals and plans this year will be broad enough to allow them to come to fruition however God intends them too. I realized that the times when my life expectations were so narrow, that they had to appear in one particular way, were often the times I was most devastated when they didn’t appear or not in the way I envisioned.

This year I choose to stare at a blank canvas and allow the paint strokes of my life to appear in the colors and designs as they were meant to be. I won’t be forceful with the brush and I won’t be disappointed if a blue stripe appears instead of a green one. I will do my best to sit back and enjoy the experience along the way.

Let me be clear, removing expectations will not bring my parents or my son back. Removing expectations will not take the pain of 30 away. Removing expectations will not make me the person who I was once before.

But removing expectations will allow me to be open to possibility. And maybe just maybe possibility will along the way begin to fill the emptiness.

So I walk into 31 with possibility and a whole lot of faith.

~ C ~

Journey of Healing

I have spent the last 8 months on a journey of healing. Every minute has been hard, yet in the midst of it I have found joy. It has been pitch dark at times, yet at the same time I have been showered with immense light. It has been the worst period of my life, yet I know without it I would still be lost.

When I made the choice to move forward in my life after loss, I began by making a series of pivotal life shifts. I started a life long voyage of making healthier choices. I made focusing on my mental health and building effective coping mechanisms my number one priority. I embarked on a journey to relearn how to learn so I could grow in every facet of my life. I surrounded myself with only those people who lift and fill me up. I made a promise to find ways to serve others as often as possible along the way. I made a conscious decision that I will no longer be just a taker from this earth and find ways to give back and reduce my footprint. I reduced clutter from my physical and mental spaces to make room for possibility. I ran towards change because remaining in the same spot was no longer an option.

Day by day, I have made small decision after small decision, each with those life shifts top of mind. Quite frankly focusing on these decisions and shifts saved me from thinking about the people I had lost, the life I would no longer know and the person who I would never be again. At first I was fueled by blind faith alone. But slowly I saw the tiny changes I was making each day compound and make an actual difference in my life.

Today I am so proud of the person I have become through these decisions and shifts in my life. It doesn’t mean I have “made it”, I never will. It doesn’t mean I won’t have any more bad days or setbacks, I am positive I will have plenty. It doesn’t mean my grief is over, it is tattooed on every aspect of my being. But what it does mean is my joy and pain can coexist. It means my darkness and light can stand next to each other. It means the decisions I make today will positively affect my future. I am proud I have arrived at a place that seemed impossible to get to only 8 months ago. And moving forward I will continue to take this healing journey the same way I have over the past 8 months, step by step.

~ C ~

David Jacob

Today June 3rd was our sweet baby boys due date. Tragically we lost him several weeks ago. Although he is not here physically with us, today we celebrate his life and give thanks as he has forever changed our lives.

On January 15th I sat holding my father’s hand as he took his last breath after his courageous battle with cancer. Jesse and I were completely heartbroken, yet we still had a light inside us because of our unborn son and we knew we had to stay strong for him. The very next day January 16th, we pulled ourselves together to go to the twenty-week appointment for our baby boy.  At that appointment the unthinkable happened.  Our previously very active baby had no heartbeat to be found. In a 24-hour period we had lost my father and our son.

There are just no words to describe that dark day and the devastation we were suddenly engulfed in.

The next several days were a living nightmare. Many excruciating decisions. A 14-hour delivery and surgery. Leaving the hospital without our son. A painful recovery. Realizing we had to miss my father’s memorial as traveling post-delivery was too dangerous. And that was just the first week.

In those extremely dark hours I questioned life and everything about it. And despite the hell we were currently burning up in, I knew in that moment there was choice. I could choose to fight for life or not. I knew it was going to be the hardest decision of my life, but I chose the former. I chose to live.

To begin the healing process, I had to step away from the world as I knew it for a while. Every ounce of energy I had needed to be focused on the very next step in front of me and nothing else. And I have found that I spent every moment of the last 4 months fighting. Fighting to breathe through sadness. Fighting for answers. Fighting to smile through devastation. Fighting to navigate the awkwardness of child loss. Fighting to seek wellness. Fighting for hope.

Yet that is not the full story. Because even in the midst of such darkness and despair, we have been showered with such incredible light and love. Family and friends have rallied around us every single step of the way. Doctors and nurses went above and beyond the call to hold our hands through the entire journey. Our new church community loved us and treated us as if we had been lifelong members. Strangers who happened upon our story would stop us to let us know they were thinking and praying for us. Despite the physical, mental and spiritual pain I was feeling, I simply could no longer question God nor humanity, because we were witnessing the very best of both.

I know with every fiber in my being that there is purpose in our pain. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss happen.  They create a terrible silent lifetime membership club that no one wants to be invited to. But once you are forced to join you suddenly realize its membership is large, loving and so supportive. And its allies are kind, understanding and present. 

As I continue to grow stronger physically, mentally and spiritually, I will share more of our story. Because if telling about our journey with the loss of our son can help one single person, then it will all be worth it. If letting them know that the loss will never go away but you can make it through dark times, then it will all be worth it. If sharing resources that I’ve found to be helpful in the grieving process can help one person, then it will all be worth it.

Today Jesse and I stand in a place stronger together than we ever have been before.  Today we are able to experience joy in the little daily gifts while balancing the sadness from the what could have been.  Today we focus on living in the moment without worrying about tomorrows.

While I move forward in my healing journey, I will continue to take the personal time necessary, as grieving is a process and unfortunately not a destination. In addition, we will continue to find ways to honor our sweet son David Jacob.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has walked with us in this journey. There are so many of you I still need to reach out to with deep thanks and love.  Please know that every single prayer, text, call or act of support means more to us than we can ever put in words. Thank you. ❤