My Nonviable Pregnancy

Last night I had a dream that I was pregnant.
My baby was born with complications and did not live long after birth.
In the dream the mourning process was so intense, I was sure it was actually happening to me. You know those dreams where something in your mind keeps saying, “This is just a dream. It’s not really happening. Wake up.” I had that somewhere in the background, but it didn’t matter. The pain felt real.

I was so sad and no matter what anyone said or did, it wasn’t helpful or comforting.

In 2005 I experienced a traumatic miscarriage. One that could have taken my life.
I remember the look on the tech’s face while staring at the monitor. It went from relaxed to furrowed. I said, “What’s wrong?
There was silence followed by her reply, “Let me get the doctor. I’ll be right back.”
Why? What do you see?” I begged.
“I’ll be right back.” she responded.

It’s amazing how quickly, pure unadulterated joy can turn into confusion and emotional chaos.

You can guess what happened next…the doctor came in to say that there was no heartbeat and it was no longer a viable pregnancy.
I watched her mouth move, not really hearing a word she said.
I don’t understand?” I said.
“These things happen all the time.” she answered.
Not to me, they don’t! This has never happened to me!” I screamed almost in a whisper.
“You’ll get pregnant again. Don’t worry.” she said as she patted my knee.

She then explained the procedure they would need to do to remove all the tissue that made up my “nonviable” pregnancy.
We walked to the checkout counter and scheduled the appointment for the next week.
That was a Friday and the appointment was the next Tuesday.

What happens between now and then?” I asked.
“Maybe nothing…or your body may decide to start the process on it’s own.” she responded. “Either way, we will need to perform the procedure to ensure safety for you and future pregnancies.”

We walked through the door marked exit.

For the next little while her words played over and over in my mind.
“These things happen all the time…You’ll get pregnant again, don’t worry.”
It was surprising and upsetting to me how quickly this life was dismissed. Though present only for a short time in my womb, surely it deserved a little more acknowledgement?
Is it okay for me to be sad?
Is it silly of me to cry and feel like I’m losing my baby?
Is it ridiculous that I cannot even think about getting pregnant again while I’m still sorting out the details of restoring my body to normalcy after this miscarriage?

The next few days played out like a movie.
I began cramping at work, knew something was wrong, left work and drove home. By then I was hemorrhaging. I had never seen so much blood.

Chris was on his way home to take me to the ER.
I remember the nurse on the phone saying, “Stay with me until he gets there.”
She said an ambulance would take just as long, maybe longer by the time they found the house so it was better to wait on Chris. I remember asking her if I was going to die. She said, “Not if you get to the ER in time.”

I did get to the ER in time.
I didn’t die.
I went on to have beautiful, healthy, children.

When you ask me why I take pictures of families experiencing the loss of a child, I think this is part of the reason. My loss is nothing compared to the way some families experience losing their baby, but it was still my loss.

It hurt.
It was lonely.
It was scary.
I needed someone (preferably a girlfriend) to walk alongside me and just be.

Do you know a woman like that?
The kind who will just be with you and doesn’t require small talk or entertainment? They are content with the beauty of silence.

I think I had that dream last night because it prompted this post and someone needed to read these words today.

So for that someone…no matter what stage of pregnancy or postpartum you experienced your loss, all of the feelings you feel are valid. Feel them deeply and for as long as you need to. I am convinced, now more than ever, that is the only true pathway to healing and peace.

Twenty-four hours with Asher

Many of you have followed Asher’s story. In my writings I said that it was Lindsey’s story to tell and she would talk when she’s ready.

Well, she’s ready. It’s beautiful…full of hope…an example of courage in the midst of horrendous circumstances. I have not changed or added to any of Lindsey’s words. They are directly from her.

I know she would appreciate your comments and sharing with others who could be positively impacted by her story and Asher’s life.

3F9B9906

“As Joy so beautifully and eloquently wrote, my son Asher Knox, has a story. Our family has a story because of this miracle baby. Anyone who met our sweet precious boy, has a story…like Joy does. It’s because most people can’t tell stories of angels because they never meet one. I grew one inside me for 35 weeks and 3 day.
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Some outsiders may say Asher’s story is one of heartbreak, one of tragedy and that it has ended. I can see how that can be a thought as I would be lying if I said those thoughts never entered my mind. But when it comes down to the truth, Asher’s story is one of all-consuming love, a will to fight, and down right determination.
3F9B9571I will not go into the 9 months of details, but what I will share is that my husband and I found out when I was 15 weeks along , that Asher had a form of Skeletal Dysplasia—aka dwarfism. Since it was caught so early on, the many doctors I saw were confident that it was a lethal form…meaning IF Asher made it to term, he would not breathe and would die very shortly after birth. We were given the choice to terminate at that point, which is an awful place to be for anyone…PRO CHOICE or PRO LIFE. You are deciding the fate of your child to a certain degree at that stage.

I was never one of those people who voiced their opinion on PC vs PL as I figured I would never be in that position and I could see arguments for both sides. However, when it came down to it, we felt that if God didn’t want us to have Asher, then why allow us to conceive him? If he was not meant to be, God would end the pregnancy at some point but we could not bear the thought of stopping our child’s heart by choice. If he were to go, it would be when it was his time.
IMG_6172Fast forward to May 26, 2013 when I gave birth to the angel inside me. I had no expectations but hopes that I would be able to hold my son and have him look at me long enough to know I was his Momma. I got that moment. I got not only that one but 23 hours and 45 minutes of moments. Each of those seconds I spent with Asher were not filled with tears, but of hand holding, hair smelling, belly kissing, storytelling, and more cuddling and group praying than I can count. Because of Asher, my husband, Asher and I were able to feel more love from family, friends and strangers than I could EVER begin to imagine. We felt very blessed and still feel blessings entering our lives each and every day.
3F9B9263Yes, I said BLESSED. You may be thinking, “Why does this woman feel blessed if she carried her child to term, only to say goodbye less than a day later?” That’s just it. I had a day. Actually I had almost 36 weeks of enjoying ultrasound photos and kicks and somersaults. I got to watch my belly get bigger every week. I was able to be a MOTHER. How many people never get that opportunity? I truly believe there are many women out there that cannot get pregnant or carry their own child, and if given the choice, they would take 24 hours versus nothing.
3F9B0101To quote my favorite movie Steel Magnolias…..”I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” I have watched that movie easily 75 times in the past 20 years. How ironic that that quote would be something I would experience and believe myself when my son was created.

So what is life like now after Asher left to fly with the angels? It is tough, no ifs, and or buts about it. Actually tough is a kind way of putting it. Grief is a feeling that cannot be put into a definition properly. It consumes you at certain points. It hits you when you least expect it. Just when you think grief has left the building, it becomes the act on the main stage. I miss my buddy, every single second of every day.

Never would I have thought I would welcome the heartburn, the painful feeling of pressure from him pressing on my organs, the Gestational Diabetes and pricking my finger 4 times a day. That sounds like bliss because HE was with me, safe and sound.

I realize there will be no rocking to sleep, no report cards, no chances for me to leave notes in his Toy Story lunch box. My husband and I will miss out on teaching him to ride a bike and kiss booboo’s. No homecoming dances, no first haircut, no cliche Easter bunny and Santa Claus pictures. That’s the stuff that hurts the most~the things not only we, but Asher will miss out on.

I know I will see him again and that he is waiting patiently for us. This life is temporary and I am comforted knowing that at the end of the day, I have an angel baby that I will spend eternity with. I would never have that opportunity if we didn’t choose the road less traveled….carrying to term.

Again I say, I AM BLESSED. Everyone has darkness in their lives, but there is also light. You just have to look for it …or be open to it. My darkest days did not kill me. They may have knocked me down and I still have to take it one minute of every day at a time. But I choose to be happy. I choose to honor my beautiful son Asher by not seeing his life as a tragedy or one that has ended.

His story is just beginning. And so is mine.”

Just like that, a Mother is born

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new.”
~Rajneesh

I remember that moment when the first cries were heard and the rush of tasks began to care for a newly born baby. The room seemed to spin around the delivery table where I was still lying. Life would never be the same.

The part one might not know about “giving birth” more than once is that the experience is never like that of the other. I went in feeling as if I had never done it before with each of my children. It’s the strangest and most wonderful thing.

We then take the baby home and do the best we can with what we have to 1. Keep them alive 2. Shower more than once a week and 3. Resemble some semblance of sanity.

As they begin to grow we encourage them to start talking by sounding out words and making ridiculous faces. We motivate them to walk by dangling things just beyond their reach. We urge them to hold a spoon in their chubby little hand and feed themselves, all the while entertained by the fact that more of it is on their face and the surrounding area than in their mouth.

And then the day comes, I can’t tell you exactly when, we start shhh-ing them and telling them to “be still.” We scold them for smacking, avoiding their napkin and dropping food on the floor while not “leaning over their plate.” Weird, right?

Maybe not? If you think about it, it’s just how life evolves. In recovery we compare many of our milestones to that of a child. And we celebrate when we reach them as if celebrating a child’s firsts. It’s crucial for our continued momentum.

Today, Andy Stanley is wrapping up a series called Future Family. I have to be honest, I’m rather sad about it. Each week I have walked away with something applicable that I could start doing. Each week at the close of his message I have desired to be a better wife and mother. Each week I have gained knowledge that I will pass on to my children and hopefully their children. Do you know how huge that is?!

For this girl, who was a mother before I had even figured out how to solely take care of myself and who has made more mistakes than I care to mention, to have someone come alongside me and “teach” instead of condemning me is HUGE.

I’m the girl who learns by trial and error so to find something that works without making a lot of messes beforehand is invaluable to me.

Being a mother is hard. It’s wonderful too, but let’s be honest, that perspective usually comes (especially in the early years) when our little one is sleeping. I depend far too heavily on caffeine most days. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to ask one or more of my children to “please forgive me.” I raise my voice too much, I loathe dusting, I don’t “play” enough, at times I feed my children cereal for dinner, I am completely unorganized and I am incredibly selfish. BUT, if you ask my children if I love them, they would say “Yes.” If you ask them if they know who God is, they would say “Yes.” If you ask them if their mommy and daddy love each other, they would say “Yes.” Those three truths are of the utmost importance to me.

So when I have a conversation with my 14-year-old about some really hard “stuff” that I, personally do not think she should have to worry about yet and I hang up the phone feeling like I know nothing at all. I can ask myself, “Does she know that I love her?” Yes. “Does she know that I want what’s best for her?” Yes. “Does she have her own personal relationship with the God of her understanding?” Yes. “Does He have a plan and a purpose for her life?” Yes.

I don’t know why this topic is on the forefront of my mind? If for no other reason, maybe it’s to encourage you, as a parent, to cut yourself some slack. If you’re a total slacker, maybe it’s to tell you to step it up. What I know for sure is that, my children are a gift and that it’s okay that it’s difficult.

Sandra Stanley said something in the message last week (when accompanying Andy on stage) that I will never forget as it refreshed my perspective on parenting. She said, “The days feel long but the years are short.” Realizing that for me, right now, there is no job on earth more important than being a parent is the mother in me being born and coming to life.

What do you think? Do you love every aspect of being a mother/parent? Is it as difficult for you at times as it is for me?

Looking for great parenting material?
Check these mamas out…
Courtney Defeo blogs at Lil Light O’ Mine She uses truth and humor, grace and love, to navigate her way through motherhood. Check out her site, but be prepared to spend some time as you will keep finding material that you love!

Leanne Penny blogs at Leanne Penny She shares her experience, strength and hope to find joy in the journey. She has an incredible story and you will be better after reading her heart.

Lisa~Jo Baker blogs at The Gypsy Mama She has an extraordinary amount of wisdom that pours out on every page. Her life is not perfect, but she has a unique way of turning trials into triumphs.

God doesn’t need another Angel

This is going to tick some of you off. That’s okay. Remember this is only my opinion. Hopefully it will get all of us thinking about how we view God and others, especially during difficulty.

Unfortunately, over the past two years I have had several friends go through the agonizing experience of losing a child. Most recently, my beautiful friend Katie. I was so blessed to meet the miracle that was Hallie Lynn Green. I am eternally grateful to Chris and Katie for allowing me into that precious time.

It is every mother’s nightmare. Which is why neurotic mothers, like myself, would get up multiple times once the baby was sleeping through the night and check to make sure he was breathing. Or the first night the baby sleeps waking up with the sun coming through the window and panicking, wondering if when I looked in the crib my child would be lifeless.

Many fear this, but no one actually thinks this will happen to them.

No one is capable of preparing for a loss this deep. No one.

Maybe you have lost a child or know someone who has. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you never will.

However, if you do, please, I am begging you, do not respond to their news by telling them that “God obviously needed another angel.”

Honestly, it’s one of the ridiculous things that Christians say when we are at a loss for words. Friends, it’s okay to be at a loss for words and avoid saying something as asinine as God needing to take someone’s child to add to His choir.

If God needed another angel, why not just create one? The God I know would not allow one of us to experience such intense sadness for the sake of adding to the heavenly host.

I have three babies in heaven. That’s a post for another time, but I can tell you that anytime someone said to me, “Aw, God needed a sweet little angel.” I wanted to punch them in the face.

I cannot imagine serving, loving and worshiping a God that manages the heavens and eternity that way. Can you?

I know that some of you reading this have said these very words to avoid the uncomfortable silence that looms over a conversation this weighty. I’m not calling you an idiot, I’m just asking that you please, be comfortable in the silence. Or, if you are unable to be comfortable, be uncomfortable for those few moments, usually brief, when you express your condolences.

The thing that meant the most to me after losing a baby early in pregnancy, was coming home to find a small vase of beautiful white roses on the doorstep. The card said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

That spoke volumes.

Pardon me while I step down off my soapbox. May you never experience the loss of a child, whether while in the womb or after birth. The pain and void that it leaves is indescribable.

I beg you, if someone close to you does lose a child, or someone you are merely acquaintances with or don’t even know, please don’t tell them that “God needed another angel, so He chose their baby to go back to Heaven.”

Do you have experience walking through this with a friend? Have you lost a child? What is your best advice for someone wanting to provide comfort after something so devastating?

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?!

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012.

(Guys, ya may wanna skip this one)

I was talking to a friend recently who just had a baby. Several times throughout our conversation she exclaimed, “Why doesn’t anyone tell you these things?!”

I had to agree with her. We really do go into this whole parenting thing completely ignorant of what is actually happening to us. The transformation, so to speak, is subtle. One day you are in the bathroom and find it odd that no one has followed in behind you or that you don’t have a baby sitting on your lap.

For me, if someone had told me with all certainty, what the journey of being a mother would look like, I wouldn’t have believed I was capable of such and would have prevented pregnancy at all cost.

Just as He does in times of uncertainty, the good Lord gives us the strength we need, when we need it. He always arrives right on time. His time, that is. It does not always coincide with our time.

So for those of you who have yet to take the plunge into parenthood (and for those of us who have), I have compiled a list of “The things no one tells you, but you wish you knew, until you know, then you wish you didn’t know”

(drum roll please)

Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, your body no longer belongs to you. You are now a human incubator. Instead of looking at your face, people will look directly at your belly while talking to you. (This doesn’t change after baby comes either. People now want to see baby more than they want to see you. It’s okay. Just eat your slice of humble pie and move on.)

There will be times when you feel like the Thanksgiving turkey (especially after your belly button pops out!) with family assessing and taking wagers even, on when the baby will be born. Or as one family member put it, “When the baby’s done.”

Your stomach will stretch beyond recognition and you will begin talking to it.

Strangers will touch your belly as if they’ve received an invitation.

Those support hose that you made fun of your mother for wearing, will become your best friend. Spanx now makes ‘em with room for your belly. (You can thank me later for that little gem of information.)

You will feel physically sick at the mention of something that you used to crave and instead dream of things like, cheddar cheese and peanut butter with a side of dill pickles accompanied by a glass of chocolate milk (my personal favorite).

Your body temp will seem to rise by about 120 degrees.

If you didn’t snore before, you will now.

You will become closely acquainted with the clothes that have the best elasticity and how many colors your favorite drawstring pants come in.

You are forced to be aware of everything that crosses your lips. Artificial sweetner? Not anymore. Deli meat? Not unless it’s heated. Sushi? Forget about it. (Oh and this gets even more strict if you decide to breastfeed).

At the first sign of a full bladder, find the closest restroom. You’re just going to have to trust me on this. A cough or sneeze could be hazardous.

Go see lot’s of movies. You will not have this opportunity often after the baby comes.

Oh, and that thing that happens to your chest…well, that’s a conversation to be had in person as there are just too many variables with that subject.

Parenthood

For a mother, not all, but many, from the moment conception is confirmed, we fall in love. As our bellies protrude and we get kicked in the ribs, we begin to picture what the baby will look like and the kind of personality they will have. We start making big plans.

Nothing will prepare you for what happens next.

From this point on, we are forever changed. We can’t go back and make it the way it was before. Our new normal will be all of the stages of our child’s life.

Having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body. You are no longer a single being. Depending on how many children you have, through adoption, birth, or loss through physical death, that is how many pieces of your heart are out there. And don’t worry, there is always plenty of a mother’s heart for all of her babies.

If someone tells you that having a baby will save your relationship, they are wrong. As wonderful as it is, it is equally as difficult and demanding in ways that you have no prior experience.

Just as your love expands and multiplies at a rate which you never thought possible, so you are stretched in ways that you never thought extendable.

The days are filled with beauty and firsts. Just as they are interrupted by pain and uncertainty.

I became more conscious of absolutely everything around me. It was as if with my children came the ability to see the things I couldn’t see before. Mortality became a reality. Things that seemed mundane were now cherished traditions. Families looked different, bad or good! Holidays took on new meaning (as did showers and brushing my teeth on a regular basis).

Nothing that I say here and nothing that the one closest to you can say, will prepare you for what it is like to have a child. It just can’t.

Here’s why…because everyone is different.

As I listened to my friend talk about all of the challenges of those first few weeks with a newborn, I thought to myself, “I’m past that. I’m a veteran. It does get easier and there are more hours of sleep in the future. I can speak into this out of experience and truth. I think I’m officially a grown-up!

I smiled, put my hand on her hand and said, “I promise, it’s gets easier. Enjoy these moments. They are fleeting. When you come to the end of your precious one’s first year you will think to yourself, ‘It’s all a blur! Where did the time go?!’ And it does not slow down from there. So try, as difficult as it is when you’re going on a couple of hours sleep and multiple days without having showered, to enjoy these sacred moments. Children remember moments, not days or weeks or even years. Specific moments. And these moments are what make up our memories.”

Your turn! What surprised you most about becoming a parent or watching your friends take the plunge into parenthood. Come on…don’t be shy…we’re all friends here.