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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Parenting after a Loss

     The beauty of a rainbow, the brilliant color after a storm. Hope shining through the dark sky.

     My heart has been all over the place this past month. Mostly I have been filled with intense feelings of thankfulness, of gratitude. My heart has been so full, as I have the opportunity to watch my sweet rainbow baby grow up right before my very eyes. It is truly such a privilege that at one time, I was not sure I would ever be able to experience. Yet here I am, watching my little Noah discover the beauty of this world. Some days, when I see his bright eyes light up in wonder, I just catch my breath, wondering how I am so blessed. Seeing the world through his eyes, has made me look at everything from a whole new perspective. I think back to this time two years ago, when we were facing our very first Christmas without our daughter. It was the hardest holiday season, filled with grief beyond anything I had ever known. That year I skipped Christmas, because it just hurt too much. I did not want to celebrate, did not want to watch others celebrate, I just wanted to cry and be alone. I remember writing in my journal that all I really wanted to was to go to sleep, and not wake up until the middle of January. I just wanted it to all be over. It felt like a cruel joke. It felt like my heart was being sucked right out of my body, and even breathing was difficult. It was all I could do to get out of bed each morning, and I couldn't wait to get home each night, and just lay under a blanket and cry. That season was also filled with eager hope, and bitter disappointment. Josh and I both knew that we wanted another baby. I knew that I wanted it, needed it, to help heal my broken heart. But as much as I wanted it to happen right away, we had to wait once again. So in the midst of my intense grief during the holidays, I also experienced the very clear sign that my body was not yet growing that precious rainbow baby my heart so longed for. It was a very, very, tough season.
     This month, as I anticipate the holiday season that is now upon us, I have been crying out to God to speak to my heart. I have felt a longing, deep in my heart, to continue to minister to others. I have felt God calling me to continue sharing Caroline's story, our story, and Noah's story. There are so many ways that God has woven these stories together, and so many amazing miracles that take place in each of them. It is truly such an honor to watch how God is writing each of these precious stories. I just feel like He has taught me so much, and through that I want to be able to reach out to others. I still do not know exactly what He is calling me into yet, but I pray that He will make it clear in the right time. For now I am praying for an open heart, an open mind, and that I will be ready to answer His call when the time comes.
     Throughout this past 14 months, I have been learning so much about what it means to be a mom to a baby who comes after a loss. This is an area where I was completely unprepared to face before Noah was born. I expected it to be emotional, and to be full of joy and healing. And do not get me wrong, it has been all of those things and so, so, much more! But at the same time, it has been incredibly challenging. I never anticipated the ginormous amount of tears I would cry over his sweet baby head, as I thanked God over and over and over again for allowing me to be his mom. I never anticipated the worry that would flood my heart at the smallest details. I never anticipated the happy tears, and the sad tears that would mix together as I watched Noah experience the precious milestones and "firsts". I never anticipated how my body would handle both the trauma of losing Caroline, and the intense relief of holding my very healthy, much alive, baby boy. I never anticipated all the parenting fails, that leave me feeling full of guilt. I never anticipated the way my mind would wander to worst case scenarios. I never anticipated how not being able to breastfeed my daughter would impact my 13 month breastfeeding journey with my son. I never knew. I never expected. I could not have fully prepared.
     Being Noah's mom, and being able to raise him each and every day, has been my greatest joy and privilege. There are not even close to enough words in the English language to fully express how much this little boy has healed my heart, and brought so much love and laughter into my soul. He is such a gift from God! Noah's story, and the amazing way that he entered into our lives, is truly orchestrated in beauty. I hope to share Noah's story, in full, with all of you in the soon future! As I look back over these past 14 months, where we have been able to hold him here in our arms, I am just filled with such gratitude. God is so good! We love our little boy so much!
     But our journey to parenting Noah has been tricky too. In the same way that my pregnancy with Noah was so different, because of what we went through with Caroline, our parenting is different because of our experiences as well. I have realized that there are not many resources available for parents who are expecting/ parenting a rainbow baby. It is an area that could use more support, and especially more research. I know that personally I had to battle through many tough issues, some of which I am still struggling with each day. Some days I just felt so alone, and wondered why, when I finally had a healthy baby in my arms, was I feeling this way, or that way? I am beyond thankful for my friendship with a dear friend, who was walking down the very same journey. A friend who stood beside me, listened to me, and understood exactly what I was feeling. In so many ways, I wish there were ways to be able to offer that unconditional support to others. I would love to be able to help other moms realize that they are not alone in this parenting journey. Because truthfully, parenting a child after losing a child, is so different. It is SO SO SO GOOD! But it is different.
     I do not know what God has in store for my future. But I do pray that He will continue to give me opportunities to minister to others. To share some of what He has, and is continuing to teach me. I know that this world is a tricky place, and often it is easy to get down with all of the sad news surrounding us. I know that entering into this holiday season has already brought up a flood of emotions for me, and I know that it is only the beginning. It is just a clear reminder that in the good times, and in the bad times, we must cling to the One who holds it all in His hands. May we focus on that truth as we anticipate the joyous coming of our King! May we enter into the advent season with bright eyes, like those of a child, filled with eager anticipation and excitement for the arrival of the True Gift, the tiny baby, the One who entered into this world, our world, as the most helpless babe. Yet through His story, His life, we are able to watch the most beautiful unfolding of this true Gift, the sacrifice, that was given for you, and for me.

         Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him!

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