Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Unexpected Compassion & Comrades


a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” “in association”

Last weekend I headed to Colorado for my 20th high school reunion. I grew up in a really small community in the mountains west of Denver. I moved to Carolina shortly after I graduated from college and have really never looked back. Let's just say I was ambivalent (at best) about going...especially in light of losing Matthew so recently. I gave myself space to go or not go. On Thursday night, the night of my scheduled flight, I got on the plane. And I am really glad I did.

Many of my classmates knew about my loss from Facebook or through the grapevine. And what I found from these people that I used to drink beer with on the side of the mountain or sing in Christmas pageants with as 2nd graders, was deep empathy. People were eager to ask questions and to listen. They gave me great big hugs and teared up as we talked about Matthew. And they shared...their multiple stories of miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility. I am learning that this life experience is much more common than I ever realized. Common, but not easy.

God works in mysterious ways. I left my reunion weekend with the profound sense that I had been given a window into these old friends' worlds that I wouldn't have had otherwise. Because of my loss, I was able to enter into their stories in a way that would not have likely occurred at a reunion if all this hadn't happened. It doesn't make losing Matthew worth it, but it does remind me that God never leaves hard things unredeemed. I was given a gift to share in people's stories and that somehow helps. I know further that I am not alone in this. I share my loss with them and my friends' losses are shared by me. And somehow, as we share, we weave our hearts together, and find ourselves more buoyant against the currents of life's storms.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"How are you?" and other complicated questions

In the days since Matthew's death, I've been asked "How are you?" about a zillion times. I'm appreciative of the inquiries, because I know that, generally, people care. But as time has passed, how I answer has become a struggle. Immediately following the trauma, it was perfectly fine for me to answer with "horrible" or "awful." That is what people expected. But now, we're almost three weeks out...and over the last week or so, it feels like the question "How are you?" has gotten a lot trickier to answer. Because I feel like there is an expectation that the socially correct answer is "much better, thank you." But, truthfully, a lot of times, I don't feel all that much better. I'm not sobbing uncontrollably as much, I've woken up a few days without bursting into tears, but that doesn't mean I am fine.

I know some people want my answer to be "better" because they love me and want me to feel better for me. But I can't help but feel like there is some unspoken social expectation that I ought to be doing better "by now." Whatever "by now" means. I feel like our culture demands that we do our very best to get over hard things as soon as possible, so that they don't have to be referenced in social exchanges. As though if we pretend that hard things don't exist, life will be easier. But that's a lie.

Having a first-hand experience with grief recently has me thinking a lot about our culture. Generally, I love to think about culture and social interactions (hence the oh-so-useful sociology/anthropology B.A.). But this examination has been painful. Some cultures share grief very differently than we do. They mourn together, they mourn loudly. They have physical expressions of grief. They have extended periods of mourning. I'm not saying they have it all right, but I've simply been noting the contrast to our society.

Many of my friends (lots of you, dear readers) have bucked our social norms by giving me permission to take my time, by acknowledging that this wasn't a "typical" miscarriage (I acknowledge that ALL miscarriages are significant losses, it's just that this one was so late), and by being willing to simply BE with me during this emotionally turbulent time and let me know you don't think I'm losing it completely.

But then there are others who think I need to be moving on. And that really hurts. And then there are others who simply haven't acknowledged it whatsoever. And that just confuses me. Do they not care? Or do they think if they acknowledge it, it will somehow remind me of what happened (as if it isn't just below the surface of every thought I have all day long)?

So now when I'm asked, "How are you?" I feel like I'm navigating all the possibilities of what the person they want the real answer, do they want to hear that I'm "fine," or do they want me to act as though none of this ever happened or as if I don't know that they know what happened. And I have to analyze it in about 2 seconds. And that is making me tired.

I long to answer people's questions with authenticity and grace, and do so in a way that conforms to appropriate social norms. I'm just not sure I've figured out how to do that yet. So the next time you ask me how I am, forgive me if it takes me a few moments to answer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Organize My Recipes

I love to cook and love to find recipes online. Because of this, I print a lot of recipes and have quite a collection. Said collection had gotten out of hand.

I've now got two notebooks that contain my recipes and are ordered. Let's see how long it lasts. :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: Half the Sky

This week I read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn. The title of the book comes from a Chinese saying that women hold up half the sky. This book chronicles women's issues predominantly in the developing world. While the content of the book is difficult (topics include sex trafficking, child prostitution, slavery, honor killings, acid attacks, systematic rape as a weapon of war, female genital mutilation, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, female infanticide/selective abortions of female fetuses), this feels like one of the most important books I have ever read. The authors do an amazing job of speaking directly to the realities of these horrors women experience daily while telling personal stories of women who have survived them. They also talk about efforts that have been successful in combating the realities women face. Women's empowerment, they conclude, is found in educating women and helping them to become economically viable and independent.

As difficult as it was for me to read the stories of women who suffer savage atrocities, I also found myself hopeful for them. Without the stories of women who overcome, this book would be extremely dark. Yet, because of the amazing storytelling, I find myself inspired to do what I can to help empower my sisters in the world. The book includes many ways that we can make a difference for women, even with what we feel are limited resources.

I also found myself feeling grateful for what I have...that even in the midst of my grief and loss, I have a safe home, a loving husband, a reasonable hope that my two daughters will be respected and valued as people and that my son will grow up knowing that girls are of equal value. I have economic independence and have been privileged to an amazing education. I grew up with a family who told me that I could do anything I wanted, that I was smart, and who sacrificed so that I could capitalize on that. In the midst of a dark time, this book made me so grateful for my life.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Read it, no matter your gender. And then figure out what inspires your participation. Because we can take part in providing hope.

Proverbs 23:18

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Holy Yoga Radio Interview

This is a link to an interview that Brooke Boon, my yoga teacher and Holy Yoga Founder, did last week on national radio. If you're interested in hearing what Holy Yoga is about from her, check it out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mommy & Me time

Wednesday afternoon, JL & I just needed to get away for a little bit. We decided to go get pedicures. I chose a bright seemed to remind me that I am still alive. JL chose an ocean blue...a big surprise since there was a sea of pink & purple polishes for my girly-girl to choose from. She had a blast & I was glad for a sweet time her.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Unforseen Turn of Events

I had planned a post for Friday this week. It was supposed to be a very exciting one, the one where I disclosed that I was checking off the item on the list that says "Decide if we want to have another baby and start trying." Because on Friday, I was 17 weeks pregnant and headed to my "big" ultrasound appointment. We were excited. We were hoping for a boy. But what I wanted most of all, was to be reassured that I had a healthy baby.

Instead, we immediately saw an absence when our sweet ultrasound tech placed her magic wand on my belly. We saw an absence of fetal movement, an absence of a flickering heart. I knew before the ultrasound tech did. I was the one who told baby was dead. After a long 30 seconds, she confirmed it. Yes, there were no signs of life. He was exactly the size he should have been for his gestational age, and they estimated he'd been gone for no longer than a few hours to a day.

In a moment, one of my worst nightmares came true. I was whisked to a room where we met with a kind doctor who explained we'd be going to the hospital to deliver our baby. We were met by a sweet nurse who explained "the process." We were treated to the most compassionate medical care imaginable. I was given drugs to induce labor and 6.5 hours later, my son was born. He was tiny, he was lifeless, but he was my son.

In the 48 hours since we first started on this awful journey, we've received a tremendous outpouring of support from friends and family. We feel surrounded by love for which we are so grateful. And yet, we're acutely aware of the reason for this outpouring...our son is not here, nor will he be. We believe that he is alive with God, and that his spirit and true life is not lost. And yet, we were so excited to have him here with us.

I'm wresting with all the "nevers." We will never hold him again. We will never change his diaper. We will never know what color his eyes are or what his hair will look like. We will never know what he likes to eat. We will never set to sing him to sleep or get up with him when he cries in the night. We will never get to do a million things with him that we imagined doing. And that hurts like hell.

My blog is about how I navigate life in a way that tells a good story with my life. And yet, I never anticipated something like this when I put "decide if we want to have another baby" on my list. And now I have no idea what to say about the status of that list item. And, please, I know that I shouldn't even be thinking about this right now. But the reality is that I am.

So, I may veer off topic for a while. I may need this space to process what my reality is. I hope you'll stay along for the ride. And I hope to God that somehow, someway, it ends up telling a good story.