Thursday, May 26, 2016

parenting through loss

It's hard to be a parent when you feel broken. It's hard to live for someone else when sometimes you can barely live for yourself. Parenting through grief is just plain hard. You want to be in the moment for your child, but sometimes it's practically impossible to juggle it all.

The week we traveled to Chicago for my procedure, James and I left Joe at his parent's house. I remember the day we dropped him off like it was yesterday. It took every ounce of strength I had to let my mother-in-law take him from my arms. I was already losing one child, and in that moment, it felt like I was losing another. But deep down I knew it was for the best--I needed to protect him from everything that was happening. I needed to protect him from seeing his mom and dad so broken.

I think that innate sense of protection comes with the territory of being a mother. I actually think it's something that you instinctively gain the second you see that 2nd pink line on a pregnancy test. I just want to protect Joe from the sadness that is happening all around him so he doesn't have to feel any it.

But lately, "hiding" my emotions from Joe has become somewhat exhausting. And as it turns out, I'm not that good at it. Kids just know when something is wrong, no matter how hard you try to hide it.

So what am I really gaining?

I don't want to be an emotionless family, or a family that pretends everything is okay when in reality it isn't. I want Joe to feel like he can come to me when he's going through something difficult. I want him to know that it's okay to show your emotions, especially in front of family. I want him to be comfortable expressing himself. I don't ever want him to think grief is something he has to carry alone. 

So maybe I've had it all wrong. Maybe showing some emotion around your kid doesn't make you weak... maybe it makes you more human. More approachable. Parents are supposed to lead by example, so what would make this any different?

Ironically, Joe has been learning all about emotions at school these past several months. The few times he's seen me cry, he's been quick to point out "momma's sad" to identify my emotion. At first, this made me even more upset. I felt like a terrible mother--like I was "ruining" my son. But every time Joe proclaimed my sadness, he would come over and immediately give me a hug and kiss. He would show me compassion. And his innocent display of love would always make me stop crying. Joe has gotten to experience the power of love first-hand, which is something you can't teach.

So have I completely ruined my son by crying in front of him? I honestly don't know the answer to that. But if at 2 1/2 years old he has learned that sad people need extra love, perhaps he's not a total goner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

cars birthday

Well, it took 4 months, but I finally transferred the pictures from Joe's 2nd birthday onto my computer. (Mother of the year, I know.)

Joe's birthday this year was a challenge, to say the least. It was 2 1/2 weeks after we lost Grace and my heart was still in a million pieces. I was in a complete fog, not eating or sleeping. I remember at that point, I gave myself 1 tiny task a day just to feel like I had a purpose. I barely changed out of my pajamas, and I'm sure Joe's teachers were worried after seeing me in the same yoga pants for days on end.

Those were the hardest weeks of my life.

I think our family assumed we were going to cancel Joe's party. Actually, at one point, I assumed we would too. But I remember waking up one day and telling James, "We are going to throw Joe the best damn birthday party we can, no matter what." And we did.

His party wasn't over-the-top, but it was the best I could do at the time. I bought some quick decorations at Party City. I made his favorite meal, sloppy joe's and mac & cheese. Despite having grand plans to always have home-made birthday cakes for my kids, I made it easy on myself and ordered it from Publix. Even though I felt self-created mom-guilt, it didn't make any difference to Joe. His face lit up the second he saw it.

Looking back now, it warms my heart to see him so happy in these pictures and I'm proud of myself for throwing it. And even though I can see the pain in my eyes, I see the strength too.

cars birthday

cars table

cars birthday cake

stoplight cups

car carrier birthday cake

car cone decoration

car flags

"You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have"

Friday, May 6, 2016

gaining faith. losing religion.

When you're raised by two teachers who are also athletic coaches, you learn at an early age that hard work = success. It's a common sense equation. Whenever I wanted something, I just worked harder to get it.

I think that's why my miscarriage last April was such a hard blow. It was the first thing I really wanted that I couldn't work harder to get. It was also the first time I really started leaning on my faith in God.

I was raised Catholic and spent my childhood going to church every week. I was an alter server, sang in the church choir and could pretty much recite an entire mass by heart. I lost touch with the church quite a bit after high school. I still had a very strong sense of faith, but the idea of organized religion was difficult for me to get on board with.

After our miscarriage last year, I told James I wanted to try out some different churches. We found a non-denominational Christian church nearby that seemed like a good fit. It's was a young environment and it seemed welcoming, unstructured and relatable. The pastor's words always left me feeling rejuvenated and inspired (and sometimes in tears). I finally felt like I found my place.

Today, I can honestly say that my relationship with God is the strongest it's ever been. But, my relationship with the church is quite the opposite.

Since we lost Grace, I've been struggling. Really struggling. My fellow Christians--my community, my people--are the ones who are outwardly hateful to me about the personal decision we made. I've gotten numerous private Facebook messages from these so-called Christians attacking me and my faith.

"I would really love for you to review the Bible and back your decision biblically. Otherwise, you're really supporting your decision with your own belief, rather than God's, with choosing abortion."

"We cannot murder in the name of love."

"Bad cards being dealt are never easy, but we can't buy into Satan's lies."

It just doesn't make any sense. I thought Christians are supposed to live and tell the love story of Jesus. I thought we are supposed to spread good. I thought we are supposed to support one another. I thought we believe God is the only one that can judge us. These "Christians," these people who judge and spread hate, are not what I signed up to be. I don't understand how the Word of God can be interpreted so differently.

Even though these past few months have been difficult and confusing to me, I don't question my faith. I don't question God's love for me. I don't question my decision to end Grace's life. 

I question whether or not I want to associate with the Christian community. 

A day after we learned Grace's fatal diagnosis, I went to a local walk-in clinic for medicine. I had been battling a severe cough and it was getting worse by the minute. With my surgery only days away, I wanted to go into it with the best health possible.

Like any routine medical history review, I had to provide the date of my last period. Once I told her it was 5 months prior, she of course asked if I was pregnant. I immediately started sobbing. It was less than 24 hours after our diagnosis and it was just too much to handle. At that point, I felt like I had to tell this poor doctor what was going on so I told her about our daughter's diagnosis and the decision we had made. She told me she was so sorry for what we'd gone through. She seemed compassionate and asked if she could pray for me. Her words actually comforted me. I thought it was a nice gesture--a sweet stranger was going to pray for me and my daughter. I was not expecting that the prayer was going to happen right then and there, and I certainly was not expecting to hear the words that came out of her mouth.

She walked up to me, placed both of her hands on my belly, and asked God to remove Satan from my soul. She asked God to save me from evil. She prayed that I would see the light and not be convinced into murdering my baby.

It just kept going and going. I was crying so loud I'm surprised no one came to check on me. The entire "prayer" probably only lasted a couple of minutes, but it felt like a lifetime. I was shocked and hysterical. I didn't speak. I just laid there and let it happen. She left the room and I was left on the table, face full of tears, shattered into a million pieces. 

It was a moment I will never forget. It was also the first and only time I have ever regretting leaving Chicago.

I knew sharing my abortion story publicly was going to invite hate and criticism. I knew opposing viewpoints were going to be shared, and I accepted that going into it. What I didn't expect, however, was the amount of criticism I would receive on just 4 little words I proudly proclaimed in my letter:

I am a Christian.