Now What?

Now What?

“Now what?” is a question I have asked myself often in these early days of grief. As Ray and I have tried to process what has been the greatest emotional roller coaster of our lives thus far, as the reality sinks in more at the most unexpected times, and as life around us continues to move at a very busy pace as always, it is a question that has gone mostly unanswered beyond addressing those daily necessities. In so many ways, Sam has kept me grounded in a routine, and subsequently grounded in my own body.

I’ve sat down with my bible at a complete loss as to what to read; driven by an intense need to be in God’s presence. Beyond the wealth of emotions and questions I bring with me, there is an urgent feeling that if sense is to be made from losing Dylan then it is to be made at the feet of Jesus. I am so thankful for the very real people within the Scriptures that grieved openly.  They have given me the freedom in many ways to grieve honestly with Jesus, trusting that He is big enough to handle the weight of it, believing that He grieves with me.

Psalm 95: 4-5 says, “In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”

This is my strength for today: that God holds the highest, the lowest, the most uncertain, and the most stable points of my life and experiences in His hands. Whether I feel as though I am drowning in the sea, secure on dry land, lost in the depths of the valley, slugging it out on the climb, or celebrating on the summit, He holds me. Furthermore, He has promised that I will not be overwhelmed by these things. Isaiah 43 is full of beautiful promises and reminders of God’s faithfulness to us, especially in moments where we feel overwhelmed by the waters, fire, depths or desert. Reminding me that, though I may feel overwhelmed, God reigns over His creation, makes a way where there does not seem to be a way, and is faithful to His promise to keep me securely in His hand.

Let me be clear: the truth of God’s sovereignty does not negate my grief. None of this is meant to gloss over the very real pain of all of this. There are no religious cliches that can suddenly make the loss of my child okay. Not to wade into murky theological waters, but I am unconvinced that God willed this loss, or any loss of life. I believe it breaks His heart; everything within His character works for life, redemption, and restoration. However, the truth of God’s sovereignty, the reality that He holds the heights and depths in His hands, gives me a safe place to grieve, to question, to weep, even to rage. The truth of God’s sovereignty empowers me to grieve; giving me the authority in Christ to reign over the emotions and thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me, so that I can process them, appropriate them, and communicate them.

Thank you for bearing with me as the blog has become an outlet to process. As always, please be reminded that I’m no authority on theology or biblical studies. Take this, hold it up to Scripture, seek counsel, and then, as one of my favorite pastors says, “Take the meat and leave the bones.”

-a

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Dylan’s Story

I realize I have been MIA for quite some time on the blog. Life has a way of getting crazy when you decide to go back to graduate school and keep up with an active toddler who is all boy. The last two months in particular have been an extra special kind of chaos. As the semester was wrapping up, I realized that something had to give. The lack of sleep, the extra coffee, the anxiety, the exhaustion all caught up to me and kicked me in the butt. Despite sleeping more, studying less, and even kicking the caffeine, I couldn’t get a handle on my body. My sweet husband cautiously asked me a few times if I might be pregnant, but I was resolute in being 95% sure that was a negative. I just needed to get through finals, and then I would have a week off to rest, adventure with Sam, and be refreshed for summer classes. Plus, last minute changes in my degree plan had caused a lot of extra frustration and now that I had a settled schedule, my summer was looking a bit easier to handle.

The weekend of finals also came with two positive pregnancy tests, overwhelming nausea, and a lot of emotions. My immediate response to both of our pregnancies has been one of excitement and instantaneous, sheer terror. Since I had been so confident my body was going crazy because of stress related to school, I found myself caught off guard to say the least. Suddenly my week of rest, relaxation, and adventuring with Sam turned into a week of debilitating nausea and fatigue. I confessed to my counselor that though I was excited, somewhere deep deep down, I was mostly overwhelmed in every part of my being.

It’s amazing how tackling morning sickness can make you feel ten times more optimistic about growing a human. I stopped beating myself up for resting or letting Sam watch a lot of TV or letting chores slide so I could nap when Sam napped. Little one proved to be extremely different than my pregnancy with Sam, keeping me on my toes for sure. The Thursday before Mother’s Day, when I was finally coming out of the fog of first trimester symptoms, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to get my own mother and mother in law something for the holiday. Sam and I packed up and headed to Target. I felt like what I imagine Olympian’s feel like tackling errands with Sam and baby in utero. As Elevation Worship played on our way home, I felt the Holy Spirit gently and powerfully convict me of my fear concerning raising two babies. I had been so consumed with my insecurities and inadequacies, so overwhelmed by how all of this was going to work with Sam, school, etc. that I had completely forgotten the world changer I was carrying and the One who was shaping him or her. Tears flowed as I prayed for a shift of faith in my heart and my mind. In that moment, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

A few hours later, after settling into study, I felt a sharp pain followed by a flow of blood. I wept helplessly as the life inside of me felt so fragile. A dear friend came to watch Sam while Ray and I went to the midwives. I held my breath as she began the ultrasound, never more happy to hear that strong, beautiful heartbeat. Baby looked great, but we were encouraged to be “reassured but cautiously optimistic.” The bleeding continued into the night, filling my spirit with more caution than optimism, but we hoped and pleaded for life.

On Tuesday we went for a follow up ultrasound that would check on baby and tell us our due date. Mom tagged along to hang with Sam and I while Ray headed to work. The sonographer looked grim as she looked at the screen, with a calm, clinical voice she told me she had bad news. We had lost baby’s heartbeat.

What followed was a blur of meeting a new doctor, discussing my options, calling Ray with the worst news of our marriage thus far, and thousands of thoughts and emotions flooding my brain simultaneously. I had to email my professor, I had to finish my homework, I had to pick up milk for Sam from the local grocer because it was Tuesday. I forgot to get a picture of the ultrasound; why didn’t I get the damn picture. I clutched the steering wheel and bawled, while Mom sat nervously in the passenger seat and asked me if she should drive. I didn’t know how to tell her that I felt an intense need to be in control of something, anything, otherwise I might spin completely out of control.

We stopped by the grocer and splurged on fresh, local strawberries, treats from the bakery, and my favorite pint of Jeni’s ice cream…and Sam’s milk. Sam danced to the music in the attached café, stuffed his face with strawberries until his fingers were stained pink, and serenaded us on the way home. He is such a precious gift.

On Thursday, we headed to the hospital for surgery. I was nervous, it took all within me not to let death have the final say in all of this. The first nurse we met in pre-op held me close, looked me in the eye, and with all compassion told me she had experienced an early loss and this surgery herself. She settled us into our room and told us she was praying for us as she left. Everyone was kind, and clearly treaded carefully into our room, unsure of what to say beyond anything clinical. Our nurse at discharge gave us a bereavement folder and warned us about a poem; Ray glanced at the poem, his eyes filled with tears, and he quickly pulled the sheet out and gave it to the nurse so I wouldn’t have to see it. I was thankful she had our back. I was also thankful she had Toradol. My coping skills were shot, so even the mildest cramping felt unbearable.

It has been perhaps the most hellish week of my life. Without question, it has been the most insane emotional roller coaster of a week I have ever experienced. We have been surrounded by the best support system, felt sustained by the prayers of those around us, soaked up all the snuggles Sam will allow us, and felt overwhelmed by waves of intense grief. To say that this part of our story hurts is an understatement, but we know this is not the end. We decided to name the baby Dylan, a name we liked for either a boy or girl since it was too early to determine gender, a name after the author of one of our favorite poems.

Though we grieve, we are not without hope. Though sadness sits like an elephant on my chest, making breathing feel impossible at times, we are not without joy. We have no idea what is next, nor do we know how to navigate this, but we trust that God wastes nothing. Somehow, in all of the ugliness and heartbreak, He’ll bring beauty and redemption out of this…. He always does. I have never been more thankful for the reality of the Gospel, nor have I hastened heaven as I have in this past week.

I don’t say these things to gloss over what feels like a nightmare we are walking through. I say these things because, though it feels as though death has won, it has been defeated. Love won on the cross of Christ. We trust that love will win in Dylan’s story and in our own.

-a