Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Faith for the Best and Faith for Acceptance

I try my best to say a prayer at the end of the day. When I pray, I pour out my heart to my Heavenly Father and then I lay down and wait and listen and sort out all the thoughts in my mind, utilizing the spirit of prayer to guide me towards understanding and peace.

The other night as I lay down on my pillow I found my mind stuck between two different paths of faith. I felt I could choose to have faith that this baby would come healthy and living, a much harder path for my mind to take but one full of hope for the best possible outcome. On the flip side of having faith that it will all work out was the path my faith was fully walking down: faith that to accept whatever happens. Now, this has room for a hopeful outcome, but realistically it was consumed in mental preparation for the worst to happen. To prepare for loss again felt safe, it felt like the only way to protect my psyche. 

I vocally expressed to Kyle, "If it happens again, I don't think I can do it. I think I would have a full on mental breakdown. You would have to send me away because it would just be too much." Not the most desirable conversation to start, but I had to get it off my chest. 

"I feel like because I don't want it to happen again, I so badly want everything to go smoothly and perfectly and happily, that because I want it so bad....that it means that it is bound to happen. If I am not willing to accept this trial again, to say that I could have the faith to make it through again, that it means I didn't learn enough from it yet, that more suffering, more sorrow, more learning is needed." 

I tend to just start talking to my husband and the conversation turns into a long stream-of-conscious monologue. I rarely pause to let him divert the direction, he has learned there is no point, I have to talk it out, vocally, to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle are there. 

Then we work together to sort through them and piece them together so that they make sense and that we are both happy with what we are seeing. 

So on and on I went until I was out of breath, exasperated and confused at my mind. I could see the disparities and flaws in my logic, but that didn't make them any less real to me. 

"Why can't you have faith in both?" He finally stated, entering in on my ramblings, "Why must you choose one or the other?"

This was an entirely new thought in regards to this subject. My mind mulled over this ray of light, already illuminating so much. Both, I thought to myself. Faith that it will all work out but also faith to accept what is brought my way. What if the two paths I felt were so far apart were actually linked together. I realized that I have faith in a lot of things at the same time, why did I think faith was so singular. I honestly felt I could only devote my entire faith in one solitary thing, I felt I had to choose. In reality, I always have faith in multiple things, but it was the seeming dichotomy of two paths that made me feel like it was a choice to make. 

It didn't have to be.

We talked it over, this idea of faith in two things at the same time. As our conversation finished and the light was turned off, I let out an exhale and gave silent thanks for an answered prayer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Choosing Joy and Managing Anxiety


Often I feel helpless towards the anxiety that bubbles up every so often during this pregnancy. I entered into this pregnancy knowing that anxiety would be a reality but that doesn't mean that it is any less surprising when a panic attack comes on. Thankfully they have been few and far between but when something rocks me, when fear and grief and darkness enter back into my mindset, I feel a suffocating pressure.


It surprises me that whenever a friend or acquaintance announces a safe and happy delivery online, that while overall I am joyful for them, underneath lurks a jealousy that feels ugly. In my mind, safe deliveries feel like a twisted lottery and when I lost James, it was because my number was up. Every delivery of a living baby is warped in my mind to mean that I could be that 1 in 160 once again.

This year I have found that the mind is a strange place, it has the capability of so much power over our general state of happiness. At times, I have felt that there was absolutely no control over where my mind took me. What I have come to realize however, is that with guidance, effort and consistency,  I can direct the state of my mind away from the anxiety.

Shop for baby
One of the hardest parts after losing James was packing away all that I had taken out in preparation for his coming. All of the onesies and blankets and that stupid bassinet, all were shoved quickly into a closet. Choosing to actually buy more baby clothes is one way that I feel helps me to choose joy. Choosing to plan and prepare and imagine, despite all that I know could happen. Every time I purchase something, it feels like a small step towards hope and that hope brings me a lot of peace and joy.

Rereading The Gift of Giving Life
I first read this book when I was pregnant with James and it helped me a ton to connect to the spiritual side of pregnancy and birth. I also reread portions of it after I lost James, to try to help me understand that even though things had not turned out how I imagined, that there was still meaning and beauty within it all. I was so happy to open it once more once we unpacked it from a box where it has been kept for the last six months. It has an entire chapter on fear that has been IMMENSELY helpful in reminding me how to have peace, which as I have said before is a huge aspect of me feeling joy. (FYI this book is written by  LDS women and therefore much of the vocabulary and references are LDS based. However in reality, I imagine any woman of faith would enjoy and benefit from it). What I love most about this book is that it is a collaboration of personal stories and articles written by midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, etc. It is wonderful to just pick up and thumb through and read a portion at a time, at a pace that works for you.

    Documenting
I have never been consistent at documenting my pregnancies but this time I have made more of an effort to. Each picture of my rounded stomach is a reminder that there is life inside and that brings great comfort.

Enjoying the Kicks
This baby kicks and kicks and kicks and I don't mind one bit. Yes, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. It can be distracting when I am trying to relax or go to sleep, but I am never NOT grateful for each reminder that this boy is alive and well.


Prenatal Yoga
Yoga has been a HUGE lifesaver for me. It focuses my thoughts and reminds me to prepare and take care of this body so that it can do its best growing the life within. Additionally, it helps relieve so many aches and pains that I feel that sometimes contribute to my general state of anxiety. It relaxes me both physically and mentally and gives me a feeling of strength. Overall, I REALLY love it when I make the effort to do it. It can be hard to completely focus and relax with a toddler suddenly visualizing my body as his personal monkey bars, but over time and a promise of ONE crawling under me in hands/knees position, he has been wonderful at giving me a little space. Of course, I also go into it expecting to be interrupted, giving myself permission to press pause or end before it's over.There are some BAD yoga DVDs out there, but I have LOVED Jane Austin's prenatal yoga DVD and the Body Talk Daily series for free on YouTube. I switch them up to keep things exciting.

Writing and Talking
I write on here when I can, but I have started to keep paper by the side of my bed because right before I start to drift off, a barrage of thoughts, worries, epiphanies, and ideas come to my mind. It can keep me up if I don't get them onto some sort of solid source, so I write with a pen and paper. Most of it is rambling, stream of consciousness, but it feels good to let it out. Alternatively, I have been known to wake Kyle up in the middle of the night, to call my mom during her lunch break, and to go over and over the same thing with friends when I visit. My verbal communication skills are probably even more rambling than my written, but nevertheless a listening ear is a huge help.

Scripture Study/Singing Hymns/Prayer
Connecting spiritually with Heavenly Father ALWAYS provides the necessary perspective shift when I feel anxiety and darkness start to close in. I am not perfect at scripture study or always remembering to pray when I start my day, but it has been an incredible lesson to me to realize how much I NEED that spiritual nourishment for my general well-being. It alters my day for the better every single time and I am grateful for an understanding, patient, and merciful Heavenly Father who remains consistent in His outpouring of love. I feel that love when I pray and sing and study.



Time with Family
My husband and son are my rocks. Sometimes I selfishly want to spend time alone, and at times this is necessary. But my days go best when I find joy in who I have around me. They know me and love me and care for me and at the end of the day, they aid me in finding joy now.

My anxiety often convinces me that once baby comes happy and healthy THEN I can be happy and relax and breath and all will be well. But it just isn't true. I will feel the loss of James forever, this is the reality that I have come to accept. Some days feel worse than others, but I KNOW that joy is still possible. Peace and comfort are still attainable and that James WANTS us to choose joy. He wants us to be happy within our circumstances. Pregnancy after loss is tough, I knew it would be going into it, but I am grateful for the way it has stretched me to grow. The observations it has forced me to make about myself, to be honest and open to my weakness in all aspects and to continue living onward through them, gaining understand, strength, and peace along the way.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Making Memories on Vacation

When I was a child, almost every summer we would venture as a family to Useless Bay, Whidbey Island located up in Puget Sound. I have so many fond memories of walking in the sand and finding crabs and building forts from driftwood and just being.

I badly wanted that for Max and so at my insistence, some of my family gathered once more at Useless Bay. I was so excited to share this place with Max; Kyle unfortunately couldn't make it due to work.



Arriving was pure bliss. The sun shone and the air, the air smelled so familiar, nourishing my soul immediately. I felt this internal heaviness and anxiety lift.


Lots of dead crabs and washed up jellyfish.


         
                          Driftwood dreams...                                                           An extra birthday celebration with family

Unfortunately after a day, the weather gave out and we were met with dark stormy clouds, whipping wind, and lots and lots of rain. It is to be expected really, you can never count on sunny weather, especially in western Washington. At first, the weather got to me. It was the week after commemorating James' death and all those dark, stormy emotions caught up to me. I couldn't run from them.


         

One rainy morning (after having enough of letting the gloom get to me), I decided to just love it for what it was. I decided to just walk in the wind and rain. It wasn't so bad. In fact, when I let it, it still nourished my soul.




Plus, realizing Max had complete indifference to the weather was helpful. Rain or shine that boy loved walking far out with the tide and finding treasures galore. He would point out every sand dollar to me and we would search for rocks or driftwood and lift them to find crabs, his favorite were tinted a dark, murky green.

I was so glad I decided to just let go of unnecessary expectations. When I did, I found that joy and memories were right there waiting to happen.



Me: Max what is your favorite thing about the beach?
Max: Green is my favorite.
Me: No, not your favorite color. What do you like to do best at the beach?
Max: Ummmm....green crab.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Remembering James

I had these grand plans months in advance of going on a hike in his honor with friends and family and just conquering some sort of mountain in symbolism of the mountain it has been in coping with his loss.

His anniversary fell on a Sunday and then other plans got thrown in the mix and I realized that I probably wasn't going to want to hike or summit anything at 32 weeks pregnant. So I cried and tried to imagine doing something....anything that felt right to mark the anniversary.

I asked for suggestions on facebook and was met with most of the usual that I had come across in my internet research. Many release balloons, lanterns, eat cake. None of those felt right to me, to us. I don't want to watch something float away all over again, even if it does contain words of love reaching higher and higher. I didn't want to bake a cake, to me cake represents celebration and I can't celebrate losing him. Maybe I can eat cake on behalf of him someday, but not this year, not yet.

 Instead we started off the week planting some seeds that hopefully with bloom into beautiful flowers. We went as a family and while Kyle chased Max around the garden department I spun the display of seeds looking at all the colors and hoping that even though it was VERY late in the season, some might still bloom. We settled on two wildflower mixes, zinnias, forget-me-nots, and a wild sunflower mix. We returned home and tilled the soil, removed the weeds, and together we planted some carefully. We threw the wildflower seeds though, tossing them in far reaching crescent moons.

The rest of the week was spent focusing on Max's third birthday which was a beautiful happy day. That child is light and love and pure joy and we celebrated his existence with gifts and homemade cake and a Spiderman balloon.

I held my breath the rest of the week, walking around my thoughts on tiptoes. So many memories flooded back into remembrance.

I remember the way the nurse in the ultrasound room held my hand when we all knew and words were unspoken. She gripped me with the love of humankind.

I remember the peace our midwife brought into labor and how she didn't leave once he was born and her shift was over. She stayed and talked with us about our lives and her life and I remember she wasn't afraid to laugh with us, as strange as that sounds. In shock, our emotions were all over the place and there were moments with James in our arms where we laughed. I am happy with did.

I remember my breasts filling with milk. They ached, they were heavy and it made me SO SO mad. On top of it all there was that and it seemed cruel and unfair. I remember focusing on it so intensely, that I realized I had to just let it go and once I did, my milk was gone and dried up.

I remember kind souls calling funeral homes so I wouldn't have to. I remember others dropping off flowers and cards unexpectedly in moments of darkness and I would open the front door and there they would be, little rays of light.

Mostly I remember singing to James in a moment of pure aching. I started to sing "I am a child of God," a song I had sung to Max when he was born. I started singing and Kyle joined me and for a moment he wasn't dead, he was just sleeping, calmed by the voice of his parents.

There are many precious moments, moments I ache for and often detest returning to. Memories, while cherished, can be painful.

We spent the Saturday before his anniversary in the temple. Due to scheduling, Kyle and I had not gone together in a few months and it was the best decision we made all week. Every time I have been in the temple since James' death I have cried; tears of bitterness, tears of sorrow, tears of peace and comfort. I didn't cry this time. There was a peace and comfort and a knowledge attained that afternoon that brought so much solace to our hearts as we remembered the promises we had made with God and the promises He had made in return.

Sunday was rather uneventful. We were in Seattle and the sky was covered in a foggy haze and drizzled rain gently, cleansing the landscape and streets, making the leaves shine. I remembered him all day, imagining what it would be like in that alternate universe I let myself escape to sometimes. It seems happy there, but who really knows...it isn't my reality.

My reality has seen lows, but I feel like I understand happiness better now because of it all. So yes, I would be happy with James here in my arms, but even though he isn't here here, it doesn't mean that happiness can't exist in this reality. Because it does and I understand more completely now that true source of happiness and how to maximize it and grab hold of it and relish in it.


For all that I have, for all that I have lost, I am happier than I have ever been. All because he existed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Radiate



-Radiate light at home and beyond; bringing love, truth, peace, and joy to those around me.-

This is a personal mission statement that I crafted earlier this year as part of the joy equation, a course that seeks to help those who feel they are in a quarter-life crisis. I will be honest, I didn't finish the course. I started it in Arizona and we moved three-fourths of the way through the equation and I just wanted to take a break from all the heavy thinking and I just never started it back up. BUT! That doesn't mean that I didn't gain anything from the exercises, just that I never got to the goal setting part of the whole course. The course encourages you to think deeply and analytically at your life, to consciously discover what it is that you love to do, are scared to do, what is holding you back from living your fullest life. 

So I crafted my mission statement and then let it all fizzle, but it was there in the back of my mind, a constant reminder that I really wasn't limited by my circumstances.

Flash forward to this week.

Waves of sorrow as I remember losing James all over again. His death brought depth into our perspective as a family, to the way to want to live and spend our time and over the course of the year we have struggle to come to terms with that new perspective. This week, today in fact, we are remembering that a year ago there was no heartbeat and on Sunday we will remember that a year ago we got to hold him and sing to him for a little while. All of those memories are flooding in and forcing me to take a look around at where we are as a family and where I am personally. Am I living as authentically as I can be to the truths that I have discovered and learned this past year?

Honestly, the answer has been no. Part of me understands that I have to be patient with time, circumstances, and the extension of myself to do all that I know is possible and part of me is disappointed, knowing that I can do better, be better, live more authentically. 

Last night I prayed for direction, remembering to seek guidance from above. As I finished my prayer and settled into to the comfort of my bed and the blasting of cool air, I started thinking about my writing.

I have found great comfort in writing on this blog, knowing others are reading my voice. I have also been scared to be completely open or to write about hard topics for fear of being criticized, misunderstood, or hurting someone's feelings. I love when someone tells me they enjoy my blog, my writing, and that it helped them in some way. I love knowing that friends are sharing it with others who are struggling or hurting, I love imagining that light of common understanding spreading across the internet. But my fear has overwhelmed me and kept me from believing in the power of my words, my thoughts, my voice. My writing, opinions, and thoughts are not perfect, but the fear of their imperfections needs to stop.

I want to start writing more openly, honestly, and consistently in this space. I want to improve my writing, my ability to share my ideas and radiate light. To do this, I need to believe in the power of my words and ideas. I want to meditate upon, write, and share my journey, my struggles, questions, discoveries, and joys! Not
just about losing James, but about being a mother, being a woman, being a convert, being me. There is no shame in sharing our stories, however imperfect we feel they might be.

Trying to improve, to grow, to become better, even when trying and failing or trying and getting nowhere is brave and worth the effort, always.

So I hope that you will find more of me in this space and I hope that you will read with open hearts and minds, remembering that our journeys, experiences, and perspectives are our own. But just because they are ours doesn't mean that no one else will understand or gain insight. Sharing our stories brings strength and unity to this world and most of all, it brings light.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Pregnancy Reality

I remember before I was ever pregnant, back when thoughts of my own family were just daydreams I totally and completely idealized pregnancy. To me, it seemed pregnancy was glowing women with perfect, rounded bumps joyfully awaiting a new, cozy bundle to enter their arms and life.

That daydream first splintered when I was pregnant for the first time and experience a miscarriage at 8 weeks. I had no idea that those dreams could be so quickly ripped from me and replaced with such heartache and dashed hopes.

Gratefully we were able to become pregnant again with Max and more cracks in this pregnancy fantasy began to show. My days were shadowed with overwhelming nausea. Enough to keep me in the fetal position on the couch as soon as I got home from nannying. I rarely threw up, thankfully, but I hated feeling so useless and sick all the time.

As soon as I passed over that nausea phase, I realized I had the ability to do things again. Except, I couldn't. I didn't realize how limiting pregnancy was. From don't eat this to don't do that to can't go there. It felt claustrophobic and I was anxious for that baby in my arms both to meet him and to just eat a cold cut sandwich again!

Obviously, I realized the trade off was worth it. Nine months of limitations was nothing for the happiness that came when Max arrived. I realized it was SO worth it.



Then I went through those nine months. Nine months of doing my best to stay healthy and informed and preparing and then just like before it was all ripped away. This time though, it happened after I had made all those sacrifices. All those sacrifices for empty arms.

This is where my thoughts are this pregnancy. I so badly want to focus on the joy of this baby and I try every single day to visualize and mentally chant, "This baby will come. This baby will be healthy and full of life."


But it is so hard for me to believe that now. You see, to accept the reality of this pregnancy, I had to accept the fact that I could put in another nine months of my life, sacrificing my body to grow another all for it to end in sadness again.

Maybe that is depressing, but for pregnancy after loss, that is now my pregnancy reality.

Ultimately, faith is the only thing that allows for glimmers of that joy that I see other expecting mothers expressing so easily. I have prayed often for peace and comfort and gratefully, I have received it. I have received the knowledge that despite whatever the outcome of this pregnancy is, that choosing joy is ALWAYS possible.



Choosing joy is another post entirely, one that I will get to I am sure. But for now, I guess I felt it necessary to help others understand the reality of this pregnancy that I am experiencing. I can't say that I have perfect knowledge that this baby will arrive alive in my arms. I can say that I have faith that Heavenly Father loves me and cares for me and wants me to be happy. However my life continues to play out, that will ALWAYS be true. It will be true if this baby arrives safely and it will be true if I put in another nine months for empty arms all over again.

So yes, I still dream and imagine this baby arriving joyfully, tearfully into our family, but I cannot expect that. What I can do is know that God is aware of me, He knows me, and I trust in Him. I know that all that I will experience, "shall by for [my] good" (D&C 122:7). This alone brings me comfort: knowing that my willingness to accept the pains of this life joined with His power to help me overcome all of that pain is what allows me to experience pure joy. Joy that is made more real because of my awareness and experience of sadness and grief.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Highly Recommended Book for Everyone


I read this wonderful book called Global Mom:A Memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford. It was a wonderful and difficult book to read, wonderful because Dalton-Bradford has an ability to write such profound prose in a simple, yet elegant way. It was difficult because three-quarters of the way through the book her oldest son dies suddenly and the rest of the book deals with the grief and aftermath of that loss. I was not expecting it and rightly it resurfaced my own feelings of grief that I have a tendency to suppress. But the way she wrote about grief affected me greatly. She normalized it for me in a way that no one had done before.

Then I discovered she was completing a second book, On Loss and Living Onward, that was solely about loss. I awaited for it's publication and ordered it from Amazon and as soon as it came I plunged into it. This book is one that will never sit on a shelf. This book is one that will jump from table to table in my home from hand to hand as I share it with my family and friends. This is a book that I open for the comforting knowledge that others understand my grief because they have been through it.

This book recounts the Dalton-Bradford family's experience with loss and in between touching and telling examples from personal experience, she has compiled sections of quotations on different subjects relating to loss. There is a chapter of quotations on the healing aspect of crying, on having others mourn with you, on a new reality, on so many other subjects. The quotes come from scripture, books, president's, celebrities, but they are ALL so so good.

This book has helped me understand that grief is both unique and universal. It has helped me realize I am not alone and also how I can help others to know that they are not alone.

If you think that this book isn't really meant for you, you are wrong. I truly believe everyone can benefit from this book whether you have experienced personal loss or not. This book will help you succor and support those around you, it will help you make a little more sense of this tragic world we all live in.

Buy it for yourself, for your grieving friend, for your mother and father and for your neighbor. Buy it and read it and turn to it when loss hits close to your home. Refer to it for inspiration and help to know how to be a guiding angel for others.

I know that before we experienced our own loss I never had any clue how to help others and usually I would address it with "they need space" and ultimately felt like too much time had passed for me to jump on board and mourn with them. But the reality is that no one ever truly "gets over" grief, it just becomes a part of their reality, thoughts they live with everyday. So it is NEVER too late and I believe this book can help others understand that and what to do with that knowledge.

You can buy it on Amazon here or at Barnes and Noble here.