It’s been almost 3 months since I last posted…January 6th, to be exact. I know this because the post, Dear Baby #3, was a dedication to our miscarried baby who was supposed to be born on that exact date.
When I published Dear Baby #3 a few months back, I already had my next post written, planned to be sent out a few weeks later on January 29th. I am also certain of this date, exactly. It was going to be January 29th. Why? Because I was supposed to be 15 weeks pregnant.
It was my rainbow baby, my beautiful ending, the blessing I couldn’t wait to share. Unfortunately, I miscarried again, and found out about it on January 6th, the very day we chose to share the painful experience of our first miscarriage.
Coincidence? Ironic? Whatever it may be, it was CRAZY.
So it’s been awhile since I wrote because I didn’t even know where to begin. I was somewhere in between “let’s just get something on paper” and actually agonizing over it. So today my hands are up, I surrender, and I’m simply going to post it, certainly not because someone is making me, but because once again it’s all a part of the crazymaddening journey, embracing the ups and downs of life while struggling with mental health.
We found out we were pregnant unexpectedly, but we were thrilled nonetheless. I remember that first ultrasound, the anticipation (there’s just ONE this time, right?!) and that heartbeat. What a remarkable, miraculous sound. The nausea, the throwing up, the constant sickness (not just “morning” this time around) – certainly no fun. But it’s so worth it, and as I write this, I’m reminded that I would do anything to get it back if it meant I was still carrying our baby.
Things were running smoothly. Being pregnant during the holidays is quite lovely as I didn’t think twice about the extra sweets and treats, although I mostly craved all things salt and carbs. Christmas was different this year celebrating in Florida but still very special. I was getting the ultimate Christmas present and nothing could top it – another baby!
My next appointment and ultrasound was on January 6th, our 3rd baby’s original due date. I thought, “How cool are you, God? Today is a sad day, a day that we could think about death, and yet I’ll get to hear life today (in the form of the baby’s heartbeat). I was 12 weeks pregnant.
So today is the day, and I sit in the waiting room forever (don’t you always at the doctor?) Meanwhile, I’m receiving an abundance of emails and private messages from people who read the blog post and want to share their personal stories of miscarriage and suffering. I’m reading these heartfelt messages feeling honored, and yet also a little bit guilty, because they’re pouring out their hearts and also giving condolences about something that happened several months ago, and now I’m actually pregnant.
Until I’m not. Present tense to past tense, just like that. I wait forever in that room only to find out there is no heartbeat. The baby measured at 11 weeks, and had died.
WHAT? Seriously? HUH? Shock. Utter shock.
I’m still kind of shocked. Acceptance, mostly. But shocked? Yes.
This pregnancy made sense. It was different, a complete surprise, totally natural and unplanned and from God. Although I’ve never spoken of our infertility struggle on the blog, Miles and Norah received the help of science (and yet still just as much God – my infertility warriors just said “Amen”) to come into this world, as well as the pregnancy from spring of 2016.
So you see, it seemed perfect. It made sense. I had no doubts that this pregnancy wouldn’t result in a healthy baby. Chris and I were beyond excited. And then just like that, in a split second, everything can change. I leave the office with nothing except 10+ extra pounds and nothing to show for it.
Very few people knew. Some family, some close friends, a couple neighbors. I just got around to sharing with some of my new Florida friends the NIGHT BEFORE. And so I’m kicking myself and saying why couldn’t I just have waited a little longer? Why did I do this?
But wow, was I wrong. I was instantly reminded of the important of fellowship and community as that group of women provided flowers, cards, and a meal for my family every night the following week. Relatives came for appointments and sent food.
Side note: I wish I was one of those “I don’t eat when I’m sad or stressed” people, but I’m not. Quite the opposite. So the food was a blessing.
Everyone is different, but once you experience grief you have a better idea of what to do when someone else is mourning. The “Tell me what I can do to help” or “I’m hear to listen” is great, don’t get me wrong. But it was the “I’m making a meal and bringing it over ______ day” or the “I’m picking up the kids to play one day this week – what day works for you?” that was wonderful. Also the random cards/flowers/pictures mailed. Those things helped. No one wants to ask for help. Sometimes we don’t even realize we need help, so that proactive, assertive hand was much appreciated.
I immediately went back on my Lexapro preparing for the hormone drops to come. I’ve wondered if it’s going to be enough but for right now it is. It’s so crazy to think that just over a year ago I had 4 or more meds to take regularly just to get through each day. I truly believe living in the Sunshine State over the last 8 months has done wonders for my mental health.
So in the end, to the people who messaged and emailed and sent their love on January 6th, the day of the “Dear Baby #3 post”…there are no words. Because you see, although you thought you were sharing and giving and sending love because of a painful miscarriage months ago, you were giving me exactly what I needed since another one happened that very day. Whether you knew it or not, you were being used by God. And I thank you. I thank you very much.
So, that’s that. Will we every have another child? I don’t know. Our family doesn’t feel totally complete, but yet I’m at peace with the wonderful gifts we already have in the form of Miles and Norah. I won’t do anything to jeopardize my mental well-being for another child (and in turn jeopardizing our family) so fertility help is out of the question (because it’s probably part of why I went to the hospital in the first place, a post for another day). We will just have to live life as its meant to be, adjusting our expectations but staying humble and grateful all the same.
2017 has not been easy. I’ve been at the dentist and specialist at least a total of 10 times already. They know me well. Thankfully my teeth are fixed and we’re good to go. On a more serious note, my dad started off the year sick and continues to struggle. I was in Chicago for a couple weeks in Feburary while he was in the hospital, and unfortunately he’s back there now. He has been on a challenging uphill climb, facing battle after battle, but the Lord is by his side. I see this so clearly.
I’d like to blame all of this on President Trump, but I try to keep politics out of it.
There are exciting things happening in the next month. We are headed to Disney this weekend for the first time with the kids. Some of my previous students will be there from Illinois for their band trip so I can’t wait to see faces from home! Our first vacationers arrive to visit the first week of April, we get to see Chris’ brother and awesome girlfriend in Orlando the weekend after, and then we head to Chicago to see friends and family!
There’s lots of positivity on the horizon. God is good. He is faithful. We will march on. And do us a favor – keep my father in your prayers.
I’ll end with a verse my brother reminded me of today:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” Psalm 40:1-3
To the high school student in the pharmacy drive through, dropping off various scripts with your friends, crying over how you’ll explain why you’ve missed school for the last few weeks due to a mental hospitalization…
You’re not alone. It’s no one’s business even though people talk. People will think what they want to think. You could’ve traveled to Mexico, and without a tan, rumors would still fly. When I left work for almost a month, the rumor mill rolled. Most people assumed I had a miscarriage. I didn’t agree, but I didn’t correct. Better that than the looney bin, right?! ………….. Too soon? Sorry.
Taking the time for YOU and gaining the tools and coping skills necessary to live your best life is priceless. One day you’ll look back and realize it was one of the tipping points, one of those valley experiences that got you back up the mountain again.
So tell them what you want. Someone has cancer. Someone died. You went on a mission trip. Didn’t you know I sing/act/perform in a traveling circus on the side? You were personally selected for a medical trial because of your special genes and it’s very hush-hush. People believe the craziest shiitake, really.
Or, tell the TRUTH. Say you needed some time to yourself to figure things out. (You can go with the traveling circus line; I didn’t tell the truth, either, at least not until the blog came out).
Although I’m almost double your age, when people hear of my experience, it’s not weird, or pity-filled, and there’s usually no elephant crowding some tension-filled room. Sure, sometimes it’s awkward, but do you want to know a secret?
I think a lot of people are actually envious. The concept of exiting your current life and responsibilities to “figure you out” is very hard to imagine, but something I know more people wish they could do. It seems impossible. Unimaginable.
Heck, when I was told the hospital had been called for my “exit from society” and “entrance into the unknown,” I calmly explained (it was a true “calm before the storm”) my 7th graders had research papers due and I was in charge of the current food drive at school. “Let’s just push it back a month,” I said, plain as day. “Surely there is a better time for this.”
But there is no better time.
(There were lots of ugly tears and angry words before I ever believed that statement, so it’s okay if it takes awhile).
Now, if y’all really know me, you know I couldn’t listen to this desperate teen’s brokenness and drive away while I’m in the lane next to her waiting my turn. So truth is, I did talk to her. Right there. It was quick, and I wish I could’ve listened more, but I told her what I thought.
I’m proud of you. I’m so proud of you for taking the time to work it out. There’s the scared ones, the ones in denial, the cynics, and many more. But you, my dear friend – you are one of the BRAVE ones. It’s takes courage to look deep inside yourself, strength to get help. Screw the gossip and the people who will use your absence to become the latest story. Keep your head up high and your smile wide. You go girl.
And when I drove away, I cried, grateful for that opportunity, and hopeful for that girl. And I knew in my heart – that was no coincidence right there.
Almighty God, even in the drive-thru, Your presence is so alive.
Less than 2 weeks ago, millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day, a time to gather with friends and family and appreciate the freedoms of this great nation.
Independence….such a loaded word. We pride ourselves on being independent – self-sufficient, self-governing, fully autonomous – yet we were built for relationships and community, made to love and rely on one another.
This idea does not come easy for many of us, myself included. We like the feeling of independence…less vulnerability, smaller chance to be disappointed by others. (I mean, who can forget Destiny’s Child? All the women, who are independent, throw your hands up at me…)
I seriously just YouTubed the video and took a dance break, a tribute to my high school years.
Anyway…behold below, a reflection on my journey from independence, to dependence, and back again.
When I originally recognized some of my “struggles” for what they really were – not just a weakness or character flaw, but a true CrazyMad medical issue – you would think I would naturally feel better. “Yay! It’s not me; it’s the chemical imbalance, a mental battle that will not resolve with the mind over matter concept.” Relief, right?
Sort of YES, but mostly NO. Accepting my anxiety to be more than a personal error meant I had to depend on something bigger than myself to get better.
As a Christian, you would think this idea of dependence would be easy. I know God is great and powerful and my need for Him is unquestionable. There is nothing we can do as human beings to be truly fulfilled apart from Christ; this is the foundation of my faith. In various seasons of my last 29 years (yes…the 3-0 is coming!) I’ve wrestled with God, stubbornly refusing to let Him into situations where I needed Him the most. But however cheesy the mantra “Let Go, Let God,” it rings truth. When I surrender and depend on Him in the day-to-day, life isn’t necessarily easier (it’s not supposed to be), but it sure is more peaceful.
I digress. My whole point is that the idea of dependence should have felt somewhat familiar because of my faith. So I have to depend on a counselor or a medicine to be “normal;” who cares, right?
Wrong. I cared.
At least at first. Although I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for a solid decade, I’ve only embraced it in the last couple of years (and honestly finally accepted it when I outed myself with CrazyMaddening World this past fall), and for a lot of that time, it only made me feel more dependent and less fully…me.
Then 2014 comes kids. Immediately any independence I had left flies out the door with a big smack in the face. Nursing twins and simply keeping them alive was a full time job. I felt chained to my house and literally imprisoned, sometimes crying in jealousy when Chris got to leave and go to work. Even if I wanted to go somewhere, I had to be back in time for a feeding or pump while I was away.
On a sidenote, I’m aware the breastfeeding was my choice, but it was one way I could feel a little less dependent on Chris. For the first time in my life I wasn’t working (or getting paid at least) and nursing was a way to save money and contribute.
You would think the fact that Miles and Norah were solely dependent on me would bring some sort of validation, but it rarely did. For the most part I felt completely dependent on everything, all independence gone, and It. Was. Terrifying.
With all this talk of dependency, where does the independence and freedom come in?
Well, fast forward to the last 6 months. Nursing is complete. The kids are able to do more on their own. I’ve made a “working at home/stay at home” life for myself through the gym, bible study, library activities, play dates and church opportunities. I resigned from my job, albeit hesitantly, having full faith in the Lord and my husband that with sacrifices we could make it work together.
The thing is, I used to judge myself based on my career and schedule. The busier I was, the more important I must be. Watch me knock off this to-do list! These lesson plans rock! Look at all the people who need me! I could go on and on and on.
Part of me used to feel more independent then. Stronger. Really needed. Very “important.”
Truth is, I was suffocating. And it made me more sick. And I certainly wasn’t my best self.
So today, I’m here to share that although I have reasons to feel more dependent than ever (especially considering I make no income), I actually feel more independent than I have in awhile. I can actually breathe!
Allowing breathing room in my life has transformed me. Yes, I have to get over the fact that I’m not as busy. I have to shake off the feeling that people think I must have it soooo easy (stay-at-home mom, what do you do all day anyway?) even if no one is thinking that. I have to rely on God and things that truly matter for my self-esteem.
No, I don’t make money. I don’t delegate duties or run any committees. I have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees that aren’t being used at the moment.
BUT. I can play with my kids whenever I want. I can go to the gym whenever I want. I can plan my day however I want. I can take a nap any day I want (provided they nap well that day). If that’s not independence, what is? It’s pretty awesome, and sometimes, I feel guilty.
Well, today I’m exchanging the guilt for grateful and thanking God for my independence!
For those of you feeling the exhaustion and monotony of the daily grind, I feel you. I hear you. Sometimes it seems like you’re stuck and there’s no way out, but there are choices. Do what you can to take care of yourself. Don’t get pressured by the idea that more is better. Do something kind for someone else. Give yourself breathing room.
Turns out, my full resignation and complete dependence on what (and Who) matters most during this season has given me more independence than I’ve experienced in a long time.
Tonight I had the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mama at a Christian radio (shout out to 104.7) Girls’ Night Out, featuring artist Laura Story and Proverbs 31 Ministries.
If you haven’t heard of Laura Story, you have to check her out.
Her music and writing is beautiful.
She has an amazing story. And yes her last name is Story. Irony is so much fun.
What makes her music so real and powerful is the fact that she’s willing to share her life story through the writing of her songs. As she quoted tonight, she has “surrendered her story.”
When I started the blog, that’s exactly what I did. I waved the white flag, said the jig was up. Time to take off the make-up and reveal the pain underneath the “nice and pretty.”
I’m cracking up as I write that last sentence, because anyone who only knows me from the gym is thinking, “Make-up? Really?”
You know it’s bad when someone you work out with at least three times a week doesn’t recognize you in the grocery store even when you say hello and start a conversation. LOL true story.
Which also brings me to digress…senior year of college a fellow peer (a MALE peer) said to me, “Wow. I’ve never met someone who looked so different without make-up.” Thank you. Thank you for that.
So back in November I “took the make-up off” to uncover the truth about my mental health struggles (if you remember, as an assignment by my psychiatrist). Since my “coming out” (let’s just keep the figurative language rolling…)I have felt vulnerable. Bits of perfection have seeped through my veins as I’ve wanted the blog to look or read a certain way. It has made me insecure, unsure, and at times searching for self-identity and acceptance.
BUT, believe it or not, most of all, it has been a BLESSING.
Laura Story has a song titled “Blessings.” Here are some lyrics:
“What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?”
We all have a story.
Tonight Laura stated what we all really want to know. Does the pain we’ve experienced during our hardest trials and tribulations have a point, a purpose? Was that pain worth something? Will we ever understand or get answers to the never-ending WHYS?
Growing up my mama always told me God never wastes a hurt. And she was right.
As painful as it was to be hospitalized for mental health – TWICE – it was just as terrifying to put it out there on a writing board. But by surrendering my story, dozens of people from my past and present, and even strangers, have come forward to share their story and the impact the blog has had on them.
If my experience can show others they aren’t alone – whether in their depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or motherhood (or for that matter, anything…let’s just grab a bite…this CrazyMad can find some connection to your life’s hiccups, I’m sure) – I can officially say my pain is a blessing.
God has redeemed it. He has used it to help others. He has used some of my “greatest disappointments” and “aches” to remind us of His promises. He is ALWAYS near, ALWAYS faithful, a come as you are kind of guy.
So I challenge you…will you surrender your story? It doesn’t have to be on the internet or broadcasted throughout all social media. Perhaps you simply share with one person. Think about it. You never know how your struggles will positively help those around you, turning it into one of your greatest blessings.