when the rivers join…

Over the weekend, my husband and I were sitting around a fire pit with some friends. We are having unseasonably warm weather, here in Pennyslvania, and it felt good to try and capture some of the “normal” we’ve lost due to the pandemic.

At one point my husband mentioned growing up near the river, and spending his youth swimming in it, jumping in, etc. I smiled a little bit, because while he and I did not know each other when we were younger, this was something that we had in common. After a twenty-seven year journey with this man, I looked at him and said “the coolest thing about us both doing that separately, is that eventually our two rivers came together.”

And it’s true.

Often, though rivers join, they also branch off again. It happens. It is natural. No matter whether they are patched with rapids, or pitch-black depth, these flowing bodies of water hold life. They are life.

So many of us want marriage to be this beautiful union, and it is. And sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you’re in sync and other times it feels like you’re so incompatible that it may destroy you.

It’s normal. That’s life.

Sometimes the rivers branch off, but sometimes they come back together.

Today marks a special anniversary with this man and I. This man who is my partner in this winding life of adventure. We haven’t had a perfect relationship because no one does. We’ve had a real, honest and lived one, and honestly, that’s what counts.

I couldn’t imagine sharing the darkest parts of my life, or the brightest, with anyone else.

some form of something…

As a classic self-doubter with added combo bonus of overthinking, when I set out to learn about liturgies, last month, I was unprepared. Initially, writing a liturgy was a bit of a challenge that came about in my Mastermind group. While the other women talked about the books they’d read and their own experience with liturgies, I sat scribbling mental notes that looked a bit like Learn how to write a liturgy.

And so, I googled “how to write a liturgy.”

Then I scoured pinterest in search of the best, most straight forward liturgy how-to.

I kept my eyes peeled for some mystery webinar on the subject, which would inevitably pop up in my internet ads, as literally all things I search for do.

I had misconceived that I had to create some formal/fancy form or religious, old-fashioned poetry.

When I found no guidance, I began reaching out (subtly at first, and later full-on-begging) for ANYONE to tell me how this was to be done. I needed help…

But really, I didn’t.

I believed that I needed line by line instruction, and could list out a dozen (plus) reasons why I was not capable of such a task. (things like my lack of education, my disregard for traditional writing strategy and rules. Good grief, I hadn’t even known what a liturgy was before last month.)

My lovely friend sent me the book Every Moment Holy and, as I poured over the pages of beautifully crafted captures of often ordinary moments, I began to see myself in them.

In the cups of coffee.

In the moments of mundane uncertainty.

In vibrant sunsets as well as the eighth miserable day of Pennsylvania drizzle. Slowly, I began to understand this need that I have to operate on a level deeper than merely existing. I began to realize that this notion of liturgy could be my how.

I could chop vegetables for a stew, while being overwhelmed with the volume of pain I felt with each movement, because this body of mine lives in a constant state of such hardship… OR… I could choose to work through this place of intentional gratitude for my ability to make dinner at all, preparing the meal with love. I could choose to soak in the stillness of routine, coupled with the natural engaging of my senses, as I did the tasks before me. Suddenly, the basic chore of folding my husband’s t-shirts had become something so much deeper, and satisfying.

The truth is, I’m just me. Some super brilliant theologian could stumble upon these words and tell me I’ve got it all wrong. To this I may respond two ways… First, I may urge them to move along because everything here is not meant for them, and I feel complete peace in that. Second, while many may feel that my acts of doing the mundane in intentional and connected ways cannot be an act of worship, I kindly disagree.

Here’s what I know:

When my feet sink deep, into collapsing sand as the sea kisses its shore, I am my most authentic me. As the sound of waves crashing thunders throughout my very core, I am my most connected me. While the aroma of salt and life take over my senses, working together to form this entire experience, I am directly plugged into the very thing that fills me up. I believe this is God, and I begin operating on a wavelength so different than everyday life. For me, this is my truest form of worship. It does not need “praise hands” lifted high, or Chris Tomlin written lyrics sung from my lips.

When I am in a still, mossy wooded space, deep in the mountains, I am my most authentic me. With the morning, patches of fog littering the air, I am my most connected me. The gentle gurgle of a creek breathing life, somewhere nearby, can carry me straight into that same wavelength of centered connection.

The collection of these moments keep me going in the harder times, as I believe they are the moments when I was tapped into my Creator… In those times, I am made up up gratitude, love and serenity…

My reality, however, is that I cannot always take to the coastline or the mountaintop. What if I could choose some form of something in my daily moments along the way?

My life is not a liturgy. I am WAY too messed up for that. I am learning that my days however, can contain them…

(In the most synchronistic turn of events, I stumbled upon a 30 day instagram challenge, for the month of November, utilizing the hashtag #liturgyofthelittlethings. Already, just a few days in, this has been a centering practice during these days of anxiety and election overwhelm.)

October 26th, 2000

I was twenty-four years and seven months old, to the day.

The doctor who had saved me with a shot six long years before had been the one to tell me, with saucer wide eyes, that my uterus had been the biggest mangled mess he’d ever seen.

That poor piece of me had survived through so much brutality. I was sad that she was gone, but also relieved too.

My eighty-nine year old soul was tired…

The thought of never having to wonder if I was pregnant, or if I’d lose a baby again, was something only alive in my past.

Seven little babies who would never know me, my arms or the beautiful bits of this world, had become in that pocket of me. The excruciating loss of those seven little heartbeats would forever be the ugliest bits of this life, for me.

I had a scheduled procedure which led to an emergency hysterectomy. In the course of one day my body experienced the equivalence of a catastrophic train wreck in my endocrine system. As I lay, half drugged, in my hospital bed, the doctor tried explaining to depth of it all to me.

I could barely comprehend the reality that my uterus was gone, much less the information about my last ovary being taken too, the discovery of cancer cells, screenings for the rest of my life, or the hellish journey that lay ahead due to the sudden halt in my hormonal system.

My second day in the hospital resulted in the worst migraine I have ever known. While I screamed and throbbed, begging for help, the nurses had to restrain me because I had an abdomen full of sutures and staples that needed care. When I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t help my head pain, they expressed their matter-of-fact answers about this being what happens when a woman loses her ovaries before her body is ready.

I was warned nearly every time that a doctor or nurse visited my bedside, that I was at an incredibly high risk of breast cancer now. I was also being automatically put on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), which they cautioned would increase my odds of breast cancer significantly.

“It’s a little scary that you’re so young and you’ll take it for so long. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared for you.” one nurse muttered, one morning as she took my vitals and changed my bandages.

In so many ways it seemed like there was a community opinion that I were there as some consequential result of a horrible decision I’d made.

There had been so many hospitals, so many nurses and doctors, over those years. SO MUCH negative, so much pain, and so little compassion… When I was wheeled to the car, the day I was discharged, I was filled with relief at the closing of that horrible chapter.

It has been twenty long years since that day. Two decades of life and loss, love and light. So much time has passed, so many things forgotten, and yet…

And yet, I can travel back to those moments where my aching heart fragmented over and over again, in an instant. Trauma is like that.

I could be both the woman who had lost her babies, and the woman who flourished beyond those chapters of my life. It is possible to be both, because I am. Remembering the big, dark things, is as important as reminiscing about the brightly lit ones too. Life is a balance. Acknowledging the hard does not mean we won’t move on.

“Getting over” a horror, is not healthy. Let’s stop expecting that of grieving mothers. Those babies, though the other side of heaven now, are just as much a part of me, my story, my purpose and my every breath, as anyone’s babies are.

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I have shared my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

fade to black…

It is not that I didn’t fight to get pregnant, and once I did, to stay pregnant. I did the holistic creams on the belly, I drank the raspberry leaf tea. There wasn’t an internet in those days, so whenever some well meaning person had some “advice”, I was willing to take it.

When I found out I was pregnant, for the third time, I was surrounded by all of the people who chimed in with third times a charm, as if this was some fun game I had been playing. I was working the night shift, in those days, at a physically taxing job. Immediately my doctor (new to me, because I was always on the lookout for a professional who seemed to care) notified them I was a “high risk” pregnancy, and while it seemed my employers were very irritated, they were flexible. It was only three short weeks of their begrudging accommodations, before a 3 a.m. call for an ambulance had me on the way to the hospital. The pain and the bleeding had ripped through me, from side to side, like the slash of a sword.

I remember I felt all at once devastated and matter of fact, as though I’d been holding my breath and waiting for this to happen.

I lost my baby. I was just under 8 weeks along, and there were odd complications so I was put on 7-10 days of bedrest, determined by pain and bleeding. Ultrasounds were less frequent, I guess, because once it was confirmed that I was miscarrying, the hospital didn’t feel one was needed.

We passed the days reading cheesy romance novels allowed, in bed. (well, Chw still went to work, but when he wasn’t working…) Somewhere along the 6th day, I received a registered letter (which I had to get up from bed to answer the door for, which felt like the icing on the cake of that situation) that I’d been fired from my job. While it wasn’t a loss to the caliber our baby had been, we needed the money and panic set in.

I never did like pulling up to that production plant, after that, which was something we’ve had to do fairly regularly as my mother-in-law still works there.

The ambulance ride had ushered us into the era that felt so much like a numbed out version of shampooing. Scrub, rinse, repeat… Scrub, rinse, repeat…

My fourth pregnancy, sometime later, had me miscarrying at 7 weeks, only to learn three weeks later that I’d been pregnant with twins and one had survived. This sweet little survivor became known as our miracle. It was hard not to feel a shift in the universe with this plot twist. I was put on bedrest and I was determined to make “this one stick”, but at 15 weeks, I was once again in the hospital saying goodbye.

Throughout the duration of both of my following pregnancy losses, I remember very little. It seemed I’d grown so skilled at the art of miscarriage that I went about it completely blank. I remember settling for a deli job close to home, and a lot of tension because my husband’s employer threatened his job often due to the missed time he’d had, from ER visits and my hospitalizations. He took that frustration out on me, which is valid. We were young. By the time we lost our seventh baby (6th actual pregnancy), he was done. His biggest reason was grief at work. I was not done. My biggest reason was my achingly empty arms.

Some people mean well, with the words they give the grieving. Some people don’t stop and think about what comes out of their mouths at all. In the five years that felt literally defined by struggle and loss, I had a lot of such words.

One time, flipping through the channels, late at night, I caught a seen from a horror movie. The face of a character morphed into this terrifying demonic being. I knew nothing about the context. I wasn’t even one to stay away from scary movies. Even so, decades later, that face will still randomly pop into my vision, and I hate it. This is similar to the ways those words stitch themselves into our souls. I hate them. I don’t cling to them, but forever they are there, reminding me.

Reminding me of my failure as a woman…

Questioning if I’m even a woman, since I can’t do the one thing women were made to do.

Highlighting my flaws, and how God, or even those precious little babies, chose to leave me.

I’m older now. I know better. I know just what to do with those words (and frankly, their speakers) but this doesn’t take away the instant power to knock me down, that the wordy memories have…

This week, on the Rainy Day Collective Podcast, guest Ashley Cherie is here sharing her story with loss and how she has used that pain in incredible ways, to restore rightness to the world around her. Her story is so inspiring and brave, and I hope you’ll check it out!

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

a little lemon yogurt cup…

I don’t remember learning that I was pregnant again.

I DO remember that we couldn’t afford a baby and I was panicked about how to keep the light bill paid, have some semblance of food in the house, and the timing seemed overwhelming. We didn’t even have the “luxury” of a telephone, which is a thought I cannot even fathom now.

Months into our marriage, it felt morally different this time. The deeply buried shame surrounding my first pregnancy, and loss, belonged in the past. This time it was all different.

I was differenent.

It was all right, and proper. Even though it heaped onto the stress of struggle, we were excited about this little baby our love had made. We saw ahead to only good things…

It was a completely ordinary day when the spotting occurred. In a panic, I went to my neighbor’s house to phone my ob-gyn first, and my husband (at work) second. The doctor wasn’t worried, but wanted me to come in anyway. My husband was trying not to worry, across the phone lines, as he assured me he’d be home as soon as he could. These were the days before cell phones. The days of a shared car, and living in the middle of nowhere because it was cheap.

I waited, resting and paranoia-still, in the embrace of our waterbed. It felt like it took forever for my husband to make it home. Eventually I drifted off, into a dream where I rocked my baby in a warm room, streaming with rays of dusty sunlight. When he finally came through the door, and woke me with a kiss to the forehead, I knew that everything would be ok…

It was different this time.

My engineer minded husband, with all of his facts and science, grew so animated as he told me about how he’d felt prompted to stop at a yard sale on his way home. He didn’t know why, but as he quickly scanned the table, he’d seen these three adorably vintage nursery dishes and he knew they were meant as a sign.

“It’s different this time!” He’d said the words I was gripping, so tightly, hope pouring from his mouth as a glint shone in his eyes. The hope from him poured all over me. I was usually the one who chased after signs and clung to the projected evidence I needed so desperately to believe in.

Last time, he’d been so detached. Wasn’t his presence proof enough that our baby would live? He was usually so negative, wasn’t his optimism the evidence I needed?

For the thirty minute drive, the man I loved chattered on and on about the nursery and how cute it would be.

“you love to decorate and I can’t wait to see the home you make for this baby!”

Signs, signs… everywhere were signs

In the waiting room I was, naturally, surrounded by other pregnant women there for routine appointments. I allowed myself to live in their energy. They baby bumps became more of the same signs I was seeking. I’ve been wearing maternity clothes for a few weeks now, once that happens, it’s obvious the baby is going to be just fine. I spoke the lies deep within the confines of my mind. They were naive reassurances for me, but also bargaining tips for God, as if to say “you’re the one who let it get this far, so don’t you owe me now?”

On the other side of the waiting room door, my doctor saw no concern.

The spotting was light. “Normal”, his monotone delivered. An ultrasound showed a healthy baby boy, and his words literally promised us there was nothing to be concerned about. He sent us home with bedrest instructions, and we floated the entire way.

My mother was my best friend in those days, and I was too elated of the news that our baby was a healthy boy, so before I headed to bed I went next door to make a collect call.

It had been just over four hours since the spotting had started, as I stood at Heather’s yellow phone mounted on her kitchen wall. I wore a flowery cotton maternity shirt and white capri pants. My own baby bump was small, but present. Since it’s appearance, my left palm always wanted to cover it. As I stood there, I couldn’t stop touching that tight, round tummy. I remember how divinely bright the world seemed, reminding me of my sweet dream from hours before.

Everything was going to be ok.

The call wasn’t more than a few minutes long. Even so, before I was able to cradle the receiver, I felt the unexpected crack of an egg break against the top of my head. I still remember the feeling of that imaginary egg’s insides as they traveled through my head and down… Down my center, gaining momentum and force, until it pushed through to my toes.

It was instantaneous and jarring. My neighbor Heather let out a small scream, jolting me from the confusion of the moment. I looked down to note the now crimson crotch of my pants and the red quickly pooling, at my feet.

I ran to the solace of my own bathroom, my husband on my heals. As soon as I pulled my underwear down, we saw it there, our boy. Pink and palm size.

I could still see dusty sunlight everywhere.

From a thousand miles away, I could hear my husband’s wailing. I knew I had never heard an agony like the one escaping him, but I could not take my eyes from that which I held in my hand.

Was this him?

Was he gone?

This wasn’t how miscarriages happened. It was too fast. It hadn’t hurt at all.

The doctor had promised

Heather’d had the sense to call our doctor, and then drove us in. They’d asked us to bring the fetus, so we put him in a large plastic yogurt container because what else were we supposed to do?

I remember, it was from an old lemon yogurt. Lemon was, oddly, the only yogurt I’d ever been able to eat, but I loved it and ate it every chance I could. In those days of poor man’s meals, yogurt was a luxury.

I spent the long car ride staring so intently at that cup. Beside me I could still hear the devastation of my husband. Even more distantly I could feel the quiet-wet of tears upon my face.

“Yep, that was the tissue.” the doctor delivered, as he walked into the our exam room. His tone was the same as if he were announcing the appearance of junk mail, in the mailbox.

“I thought he was going to be ok?” my voice cracked some, as I asked it. I realized I had spoken nothing, and that my throat muscles had been strained tight for far too long.

With a slight chuckle he responded, “yeah, obviously I did too.”

He reminded me, as if I’d forgotten, that I had experience with miscarriage and to just go home and rest like I did before. Nature knows how to take care of things.

There was no physical pain until later that night. Two ER visits later I had an emergency procedure done, sans anesthesia or pain killer, in the hallway of a Caldwell Idaho hospital, by a resident doctor acting on impulse. I held my husband’s hand and screamed. It was a pain I’d never known before, and then we were sent home with a prescription of codeine. As the days passed, the pain only grew more intense. It would take an entirely different doctor actually listening to me, to solve the problem with one shot. Eleven days later, anyway.

Those days had my husband running into interstate traffic because he was so overwhelmed with the grief he felt. There was walls punched, agony screamed. Every day felt like the emotional equivalent of the pain from the hospital hallway.

Those days had me numb to the agony of loss, while consumed by the shame I felt at having not been able to give him a baby…I knew that this horror he was living, was because of me. The guilt I felt over not going home immediately and instead standing to call my mother. If I had done as I was supposed to, I was certain our baby would have lived.

Also, I felt stupid… Stupid for hoping. Stupid for believing. Stupid for thinking we could have a baby. We couldn’t even have a home phone.

I would never buy a lemon yogurt again…

I was 18 and he was 20.

Our pregnancy had been just shy of 16 weeks along.

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.