Beautiful crying forth

As I contemplate my thirteen precious children today, on PAIL (pregnancy and infant loss) Remembrance Day, I am praising God for His beautiful crying forth of ideas which created each one of them.

I still daily get to set my eyes on four of them, and I am daily blown away by His imagination in how He formed each one. They are absolutely spoken magic, woven into flesh.

But there are nine other ideas of His which were spoken into creation by His Words. Although my eyes do not see them, nor my hands get to hold theirs, and my days are not filled with teaching & instructing them; and although their beautifully cried forth souls have flown from their woven bodies of flesh; they are still spoken magic. Fully alive. Glorifying God.

How stunning.

God, thank You for giving me so many children.
Thank You for lending some to me for such a long time.
Thank You for balming my heart when You took so many of them to Your heavenly places.
Thank You for crying forth such beauty even through my broken womb.
Thank You for showing Yourself faithful to me in grief.
Thank You for hearing my prayers.
Help me to show my children how beautifully & imaginatively spoken they are by You.
I believe Lord, help Thou my unbelief.


Light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s an interesting phrase, cliche, concept, and reality.
I remember spending months and years wondering why every light I would see would end up being a train to pummel me rather than the end of the tunnel.
Just when I would glimpse hope or joy, my life would come crashing to a halt again.
The pain and the sorrow, the tears and the utter devastation.
I kept thinking, I can never survive this again. If it happens again, it will kill me.

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The thick shadow of death’s valley was my home for ages.
And to be honest, I can not put my finger on the time when I felt like I was suddenly out in the light again.
Out of the tunnel.
There was not a time where I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t another train.
There hasn’t been a moment where I finally notice the darkness is dissipating and I’m almost out of the shadowy tunnel.

But here I am.
I turn around, and I look back, to see that the tunnel is behind me.
That particular dark journey of thick shadows and tunnel vision is over.

Although I did not know it was coming, or perhaps it was simply that I was afraid to hope against hope and chose the path of denial…
I can tell you now, there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I know because I’m there now.

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To be real, frank, & honest, I haven’t come very far out of the tunnel.
It’s not like I’ve journeyed away.
I still stick my toes in there and dance around the opening.
Sometimes I do it on purpose.
Other times, I simply look up to realize I tripped and somehow ended up inside the tunnel again.
But I stay close to the open edge now – I don’t want to get sucked back into the deep darkness.
If a train is coming, I want to be out in the open so I have a chance to jump out of the way.


So here I sit on October 15th.
It’s Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day.
And I specifically purposed not to buy balloons this year.
I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because the tunnel feels too close right now.
Maybe it’s just because I want to feel like I’m making decisions I want to make,
rather than just continuing with a tradition because, well, it’s tradition.

I didn’t used to believe I would ever come out on the other side. I didn’t know how it would ever be possible to “move on.” I disagreed that I would ever reach a light at the end of the tunnel. I clenched my teeth and sighed to myself when someone would tell me, “there’s always hope.” Honestly, a lot of cliches (true or not) made me want to smack something or someone.

But here I am.
There really was light at the end of the tunnel.
There really was hope.

I have full confidence now that if God did not want us to have another biological child after Gabriel that He would have had a different perfectly wonderful plan for our family. But in all honesty, I did not have that confidence at the time. Everything looked bleak from my perspective back then. So while I know now that God would have been faithful, no matter how black life looked from my unfaithful perspective, I understand from experience that you can not see rainbows when the storm is thick & raging so you can’t even see six inches in front of your face.

But today I am wearing my unwieldy necklace with thirteen metal nametags.
Simeon loves the jingle jangle it makes when he plays with it.
Evangeline likes to find her nametag and read it to me.
The big boys like to read the babies’ names, and ask me their order.
These kids know our family is bigger than it seems.

Life is not what I imagined it would be.
(Me with my dreams of three in diapers.)
But life is good.


Crying used to be a form of daily exercise for me. It was that exhausting.
I would bawl my eyes out in the shower each night because I knew it would limit anyone knowing how broken I was.
I used to think I would be drowning forever, that the nightmare would never end.


I know that I’m not longer held in the throes of deep, dark, ugly grief.
But how in the world did I survive that nightmare through to this other side, called “someday”?!
Grief is horrible. It is caused by horrible things, and it in turn can cause horrible things.
I didn’t know that, in time, it could also cause something beautiful.
I didn’t realize that “beauty from ashes” would look this way.


Grief was exhausting. Not just the crying parts.
But the mourning.
The ache and pain and physical manifestation of internal, emotional, spiritual devastation is horrible.
Just surviving hurt.
The life of being a mama to four little kids, and the underlying pain I have in my physical body on a daily basis still make me exhausted and I still deal with daily pain.
But it’s different. Lesser, somehow.

Mommy-exhaustion from my four miracles is less exhausting than grief.
Grief was a full-time job.
And that’s no exaggeration.
I spent years just enduring.
Ask anyone who has dealt with chronic suffering of any type.
Enduring isn’t for the faint of heart.
I don’t know how people do it without Christ’s strength.

I was telling another loss-mama just this week how encouraging it is, not only to be on the other side of the dark tunnel,
but to be able to better see purpose in my grief.
And not just for myself.
It is good to know that God has woven beauty out of the ashes for my own family.
For me.
But it is even more amazing to see how God allows me to share that beauty with others.
Romans 12:15 and 2 Corinthians 1:4 sum it up pretty spot-on for me.
I love to be that other woman who pulls you through the muck, because I used to be there too.
I love that God urges me to send books and make jewelry for other women whose babies have died.
I love that He lets me burden-bear for grieving women around the world.


So for PAIL Remembrance Day today, I want you to know…
I have been there. I get it. Me too. It sucks.

But I also want to gently tell you that while I don’t know God’s plans for my future, or for yours, I do know with confidence that He will be faithful.
He delights in bringing joy and peace to His saints. He rejoices over us with singing.
He is our keeper. He is the shade at our right hands. He doesn’t slumber or sleep.
He knows the beginning from the end, even when all we can see is one moment of dark, tearful despair when it feels like everything might as well be over.

The story isn’t done yet.
I’m praying in whatever chapter is next, His pinions reach you in a tangible peace.


Sometimes when I think about my babies in heaven, it knocks the wind out of me.
How much I love them.
How terribly I miss them.
How often I wish others knew about them or acknowledged them.
How happy I am in life now, even though the tunnel of grief is still visible and touchable.
Yep, even that.

There are times when it hits me so much harder than I feel like it should.
But I’m a mommy.
And those are my sweet babies.
So maybe it’s just that my brain doesn’t realize fully that it should hit me hard.
Being bowled over by the mixture of love & grief isn’t out of the ordinary.
It’s normal.

You know how moms start talking about their kids? They go off on a dozen rabbit trails, and sometimes you glaze over and think about how you can’t pay attention to another single tangent about this woman’s kids?
I feel like that at the moment.
I feel like I got started talking about my babies, and went on a few tangents and a bunch of rabbit trails, and I just realized that your eyes look glazed over.

I am their mommy. They are my babies. You will never know how much I love them, how deeply I miss them, how proud I am to be their mommy, how thankful I am that God gave me these babies.

Covenant Hope, you made me a mommy first. You were the first other soul ever to inhabit my body. I never got to hear your heart beat, but I felt you living inside of me. You are something super special. You are the big sister that Gabriel forever talks about. You, in the palm of my hand, with your precious limbs and that perfect little umbilical cord and the deep blue where your eyes were forming ~ I think of you and the one short evening I got to spend with you outside my womb. You are the one (of my thirteen!) that I have taken camping. Those were horribly painful memories for such a long time, but I love that those memories now make me smile. Your daddy and I got to take you camping.
Glory Hesed, you made Gabriel a big brother first. You would have been just eighteen months apart, and I often imagine the level of crazy you would have added to our home. It makes your mommy smile. I remember the days when I walked around with you underneath my skin.
Promise Anastasis, you are my summer rosebud. Your life gave me hope. I love that I can now look ahead to the resurrection, when I will see you again. I remember holding you. I remember the world caving in around me. I think it was when I said goodbye to you that I found myself in the tunnel-that-had-no-end.
Peace Nikonos, there is so much I remember about being pregnant with you. I remember every detail of delivering you into my hands, too. It has been seven years since you were knit inside me, snuggling in my womb. You came on an airplane with us to the East Coast. You are one of the few babies who had a chance to hear the voices of your paternal grandparents and even great-grandparents. Besides Gabriel, yours was the first heart we got to both see and hear beating. The immense comfort and delight of that was indescribable. I remember thinking you were a strong fighter, and that’s how I think of you. Fast and strong. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I never once even considered that you weren’t my son.
Mercy Kyrie, a little one who came along with me for a jump into the deep end of immunology treatments. I was surprised to learn you were growing inside me, and overjoyed. We spent an entire holiday season with you in my womb, and the joy and peace and hope you brought to my soul were deliciously addicting. Your grandpapa brought me a bouquet of flowers one day when we had good news about your health. Christmas that year suddenly felt redeemed. I think of you when it snows.
Victory Athanasius, you make me speechless. I remember when we named you, it specifically stands out to me for some reason. And saying goodbye to you. I remember the day keenly. So does your daddy. Again, you specifically stand out to us. The seventh child to inhabit my body, I love to think of you as a dancing victor.
Hosanna Praise. My son. I remember when your grandpapa called and confirmed you were a boy. It knit you more deeply into my heart than I could ever tell you. There’s something about a mommy and her boy. I remember carrying you in my belly. I remember taking you to Mexico. I remember seeing you on ultrasound and loving to watch your heartbeat. Your ultrasound photos might be my favorites (shh! don’t tell the others!). I named you Hosanna as soon as I found out God was knitting you. I didn’t know the number of your days, but I knew you would forever be my Hosanna. And although God’s plan is different than mine would have been if I had been the author (and everyone is thankful that Mommy isn’t, by the way!), I am thankful He heard our cries to save you. I’m thankful He is your Savior and your Lord. When I think of my sons, you are always there in the corner of my mind.
Heritage Peniel, you are the sweet little girl who made Evangeline a big sister. You and I shared blissful joys, baby. I saw you numerous times on ultrasound. I loved every piece of you. I still do. No bigger than my thumb, you were the most beautiful little thing. Holding you in my hands broke my heart, but at the same time, it was one of the best days of my life. That’s weird to admit. It was a horrible day. But oh! I’m so thankful I got to hold you. And kiss you. I miss having you running around in your big sister’s wake, wearing her old clothes, sleeping together in a pink and grey room full of flowers. Even though you are my January sweetheart, when I close my eyes, I envision you with peonies and lacy bonnets. There isn’t a doubt in Mommy’s mind that you would have been the quiet little freckle who could never quite keep up with the firecrackers.
Fidelis Se’arah, my wee faithful babe. Another little May blossom. Plucked too soon. Blooming fragrantly in heaven. You took my breath away. I still catch my breath when I think of you. You remind me that there is Someone who is faithful in all things, all times, all ways. You were the darling who pushed me to the end of a rope, and who gave me the courage to fall.

remembering today,
October 15th, 2016
with much mommy love for my nine xxx


October has always been one of my favorite months. In fact, if I had been a more patient woman, I would have waited an extra five months to get married just so I could have an October anniversary! But as it happened, seven days post college graduation was all I was willing to wait. (No regrets, by the way!) I had often prayed for an October baby (and an April baby, incidentally), and what’s interesting is that in all of my pregnancies, I never had a due date or a loss date in October. I did have some bad-news days in Octobers, particularly when carrying my sons Peace and Hosanna, both who died in early Novembers. And then the icing of the cake was the delicious joy that God (somewhat unexpectedly) gifted me with Simeon in October.

And now, just a few days into this beautiful month, with its cold nights and crisp days… days for wearing boots & scarves & sweaters… mornings that beg me to bring in an armload of wood & stoke a fire… bellies longing for soup and fresh bread…
Now, on October 4th, I can’t stop crying. No anniversary of anything specific. Not even the 15th, which is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s simply a random day.


A day of blinding grief.

I can not explain why. It simply is.

Most days now, I am so busy with focusing on what is right in front of me each day that my grief is faded into a dim shadow behind the hills. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes it is like a cloud that filters how I see things on a given day, but it doesn’t fill the entire lens.

But there are occasional days where the grief is simply blinding. I wish I could put sunglasses on so I wouldn’t be walking around squinting, with tears running down my cheeks.
Today is one of these days.
The bright, sharp pain of grief is everywhere I look today.

It is in my bedroom. My bathroom. My kitchen. The bread rising in the oven.
It is in the knowledge that the house where I miscarried seven sweeties is being sold.
It is in these precious freckled faces all around me.
It is in the sound of Simeon’s cries.
It is in the ache of a womb that wishes it could be filled again.
It is in the frustration of not having a moment’s peace & quiet.
It is in the silence I feel when I hold Heritage’s box in my hands.
It is in the meal I am making for a friend who just had her sixth child.
It is in the load of diapers I have rinsing in the washer.
It is in the necklace around my neck with nine little crystals.
It is in the necklace that sits in my jewelry case, because honestly the thirteen tags on it have simply become weighty & awkward.
It is in the canvas I ordered today of my family of six. Only six.
It is in the nervousness I feel as I anticipate meeting new people at a homeschool co-op, and realizing I once again get to introduce my family & our life story.
It is in the ache of my muscles and the chap of my lips.
It is in the wrinkles on my hands and the grey in my hair.
It is in the songs I sing and the prayers I say over the four little red heads around my table.


It is not as predictable as the path of the sun.
It’s about as unpredictable as the weather.
I have come to understand it and live peaceably with it, as a dim and distant part of my landscape.
But these days of blinding grief that appear sharp and harsh… it stuns me.
I shade my eyes with my hand, I squint, I cry, I turn my face… I run back inside.

I don’t want to face it.
I would rather hide.
There are SO. MANY. good things in my life.
I feel ashamed that there are still days where grief eclipses the rest.


But I am not ashamed of missing my children.
I am not ashamed of how deeply I still love each of my wee babes.
I am not ashamed of being their mommy.

So I cry.
And I miss them.
My heart longs for heaven.


It never ceases to amaze me how our experiences shape and color the lenses through which we look.


Even something as simple as a devotional title this morning… it struck me…
My eyes read “Riding the Rollercoaster of Miscarriage.”
I was surprised to find, upon reading it & then going back to the top to double-check the title, that it was called “Riding the Rollercoaster of Marriage.”

My bad.

Yesterday when I was picking my two big boys up from VBS, someone who I have known casually for over a dozen years made a comment about how perfectly spaced my children are. She seemed to be congratulating me for the beautifully placed stairsteps… and then she asked when the next baby would be on the way (to which my eyes stung and my heart silently cried oh, I wish).



I breathed deeply to keep myself from breaking out into a sweat and allowing my heartrate to rise in anxiety.

I told myself quickly and quietly, she sees my family & me through different lenses.

Another deep breath, a squeeze of my little baby in my left arm & squeeze of my daughter’s hand in my right hand…
They do look stunningly like little stairsteps, I guess, was my reply with a smile.
I continued, Maybe you’d never know that there were nine other babies in there along the way.

I kept smiling, and the woman seemed to try processing my words.
She was blinking.
It’s like I was trying to share my lenses with her, but the glasses didn’t quite fit and the prescription was made for my eyes rather than hers.

Since it didn’t work well to share my lenses,
I just put them back on myself and let her keep her own.
Instead, I briefly explained what my view showed.
I described the picture’s colors to her, since she could not see their variety herself.


We have nine little ones in heaven already. One before Gabriel, six between the big boys, and two between my youngest children.

When she commented that she “hoped I lost them early on,” rather than bristling that her lenses didn’t show her the colors & shadows & silhouettes & nuances more clearly,
once again I just described to her what my lenses show me.
They were young, yes, but they had beautiful little arms, legs, eyes, umbilical cords. I got to hold most of them. They have names. They are my children too, and I love them dearly. Honestly, I can’t wait to meet them in heaven. But until then, I sure am thankful for these four little miracle million-dollar-babies God has given us to raise.

It’s enough.
It is enough to realize that I see things differently than other folks. It goes both ways.
And I praise God that He is giving me peace with my lenses.
He continues teaching me how to see, how to share what I see, and how to learn what others see too.
With thankfulness, grace, contentment, joy.

I pray that He will continue to work on my eyes to better focus
on what He wants me to see in this world
and in the particular life He has given me.

Balloon Release, PAIL Day 2015

I can’t remember for sure if we have done this every year or not, but if it hasn’t been an annual tradition, it’s been really doggone close. I remember doing it with Gabriel at our old house when he was only a year or two old, and how the balloons got caught in our neighbors’ pine tree. Whoops. It has worked much  better since moving out to the country, with more wide open spaces.

This afternoon, my children and I let off nine balloons into the sky.
Why do we do this every year, Mommy? Gabriel asked while Asher blew kisses to our babies in heaven & Evangeline said, Goodbye balloons- I will miss you!
I answered Gabriel with tears in my eyes, It reminds us in a way that we can see with our eyes, how our babies have left us & life here on earth, and gone to heaven where we can’t see them anymore but where we know by faith they still live.
Asher piped up, And this way, our brothers and sisters have balloons to play with.
To which quick & quippy Gabriel responded, oh Asher, they don’t play with the balloons- they probably don’t even see them. We just do it because we love them so much. And because we miss them playing here with us.

And he’s right. We do it because we love our children, and we do miss them. And it is a tangible, visible way to slowly (year by year) teach my children about their brothers and sisters. As I handed each of my three kids three balloon strings, I named off three of their siblings’ names. They repeat them.

With laughter and with tears, with memories and while looking ahead, this was our PAIL Day 2015 Balloon Release.

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Nine Treasures, on PAIL Day

Today (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day)
we are remembering our darlings in heaven,
the nine siblings of our treasures here.

While this day does not cut so acutely into my heart as it once did, it is still a day that bittersweetly blesses and affects me.
In addition to treasures of glory, of Christ, of spiritual hopes & faith ~ we have nine treasures in heaven.
Little treasured people whose bodies I held within mine… and in my hands…
Boys and girls, my sons and daughters, who were beautifully created and wonderfully knit by their heavenly Father.


Covenant Hope, Glory Hesed, Promise Anastasis, Peace Nikonos
Mercy Kyrie, Victory Athanasius, Hosanna Praise,
Heritage Peniel, Fidelis Se’arah

~ oh, how we love you. I think of you all the time and imagine what life would have been like if you had stayed here with us. Your brother Gabriel talks about you a lot. And even Asher and Evangeline are starting to know your names, to remember how your lives have been entwined with theirs, to acknowledge that our family is much bigger than what meets the eye. ~


I am so happy, blessed and honored and privileged, to be their mommy. And I look ahead with joyful anticipation to holding them again (or if I don’t get to hold them, at least being with them and seeing them and singing with them) when I join them on the other side of eternity.


Remembering my Heritage

365 days later, I am somehow still shocked that the rainbow has been obscured so profoundly by the storm again. I keep praying for the shadows to fade, for the sunlight to peek through the clouds, for an undeniable rainbow to burst forth.

But not yet.

Will it ever?

I don’t know…

Heritage, my sweet baby girl, today was your first birthday. I thought of you every moment of today. I looked at your pictures, and remembered some of the moments we shared together. I dreamed about heaven, and smile when I think about joining you there. When I was playing harp this evening, I wondered if you were playing a duet with me on a golden harp I could not see or hear. We are celebrating your big sister’s birthday tomorrow, and I will miss you even more. It seems like forever since I held you. And yet when I think about the fact that you moved on from this life to True Life, I feel like the birth pangs were only a moment ago ~ like it isn’t possible that it has been 365 days since I snuggled you in my palm.

I will remember you every day of my life. I love you forever. xo, Mommy


I tried to pray—to put this baby in God’s hands every day, over and over—but on some days all I wanted in the world was to know the future, even if it was terrible. I wanted to peer into my own belly like looking into an aquarium or a crystal ball. What’s happening in there? Who are you, baby? Will we know you, hold you, raise you?
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p48

Tangibly Remembering

Psalm 105:1-6

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, His servant,
children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

One thing to help us in a visible, tangible way to remember our nine sweet babies in heaven, giving us fodder for conversation about it, and to be a sort of picture to our children here is to release balloons into the sky. I know it may seem like a silly sentimental thing to do, and I won’t deny that there are aspects of silliness & sentimentality here. But I’m okay with that. I love that my kids played with balloons and then said goodbye to them. I love that my kids each had three white star balloons to let off into the sky (3×3=9). I love that (simply due to the nature of having three little kids be in charge of letting off nine balloons into the sky) not all of the balloons were let go at once ~ in fact, they were let off in sets of 1, 6, and 2 which incidentally is the way my babies in heaven have been grouped as well (one before Gabriel, six between the boys, two this year). I love that my kids shouted cheerfully after the balloons, everything from “goodbye balloons!” to “brothers and sisters, we love you!” to “we hope you reach heaven, balloons!” and the boys wanted to be reminded of all their brothers & sisters’ names. I love that we got to talk about heaven, God’s sovereignty, the gift of life, contentment while still desiring more, remembering God’s works, living mercifully together in community. And balloons. We got to talk about shiny white star-shaped balloons too. 🙂

It was silly. Sentimental. Sweet. Tangible. Visible. Fun. Bittersweet.
And in a situation that is often filled with just tears and emptiness and unanswered questions, those are some pretty great adjectives.

Here’s a small glimpse into some of that. And yes, it got dark between playing with the balloons and actually releasing them into the wind. So we added some glowstick wands into the mix. 🙂

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Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work,
and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear Him;
He remembers His covenant forever.
He has shown His people the power of His works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of His hands are faithful and just;
all His precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is His name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Unedited Raw Remembrance

I remember Covenant Hope. She made me “Mommy”—she was the first little image-bearer of my husband and me that God used us to create. I remember peeing in a little glass cup that had a sheep on it. I remember seeing a plus sign in the test window, but it was faint and I did not know what that meant—so I emailed a picture of it to a friend of mine! I remember my friend confirming my mommyhood to me. I remember waiting to tell Steven until the next day so that I could do it picture-perfectly. I remember setting up a special dinner, a gift (an arrow in a quiver), a Bible with Psalm 127 highlighted, a card with the positive pregnancy test in it. I remember telling my parents they were grandparents, and the delight in their eyes. I remember going to my sister-in-law’s wedding across the country, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember going camping with my brother and my other sister-in-law, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember craving Cheezits. I remember feeling so sick to my stomach. I remember being ecstatic to expect a March baby, wondering if the baby would be born on Easter. I remember thinking that I would know my baby’s gender early enough to buy gender-appropriate Christmas gifts for him or her.
I remember being in church that summer Sunday morning. I remember coming out of the bathroom, and asking a couple of young moms in the fellowship room if spotting during pregnancy was okay or not. I remember being nervous that afternoon, but resting in my bed and sending my parents home because we thought I’d be fine if I just laid down long enough. I remember feeling the cramps turn into contractions. I remember timing them. I remember calling the OB on call at the hospital. I remember his name. I remember hating him in my heart for his cold way of reacting to my fear. I remember calling my parents to come back to be with us. I remember sitting on the toilet and delivering the placenta, wailing. I remember being in my little bathroom and delivering my beautiful little baby into my hands, screaming. I remember my parents arriving. I remember holding little Covenant in our hands, each of us taking turns to cup her in our palms—because we knew this was our one and only chance to cuddle her. I remember getting cards and emails, flowers and food. I remember staying in bed, crying my eyes out. I remember the desperate desire to give Covenant a younger sibling. I remember knowing that she changed me forever in so many, many, many ways. I remember making things with her name on it: a necklace charm, stitchery, a scrapbook dedicated to her short but impactful life.

I remember Glory Hesed. This little baby did not live long in my womb. I remember those short days. I remember making Gabriel a onesie that said big brother. I remember trying to teach him to touch my belly and say baby. I remember thinking about having babies eighteen months apart. I remember thinking Glory was a boy. I remember telling people that I was having another baby, and how some seemed so shocked while others seemed so casual about it.
I remember working at my dad’s office that week for some reason… I remember being there, beginning to bleed. I remember very little about how the miscarrying process happened with Glory. I remember it being sudden, shocking me. I remember feeling so blindsided. I remember dreading Thanksgiving and Steven’s birthday, or anything autumnal. I remember sticking that big brother onesie in the bottom of the pile and just begging God to give me another reason to pull it out before it was outgrown. I remember that there were some emails, some flowers, some food again. I remember feeling like everyone expected me to get back to normal pretty quickly. I remember people telling me to focus on Gabriel. I remember wondering why people wanted me to neglect my little Glory.

I remember Promise Anastasis. I remember that she was in my womb for Gabriel’s first birthday and for my second wedding anniversary. I remember calling my midwife and begging for early appointments. I remember anticipating having a baby in the snow. I remember pulling that big brother onesie out again, trying to squeeze Gabriel into it again. I remember having hope that this time my baby would survive. I remember my in-laws being here to visit.
I remember it began with spotting again. I remember going to the emergency room for a blood draw one night. I remember frantic phone calls and fervent prayers. I remember lying flat on my back in bed, not daring to move for fear the baby would come out. I remember waking up the next morning, the baby coming out. I remember leaving the house just minutes later to go meet the local reproductive endocrinologist for the first time. I remember weeping in the RE’s clinic so they gave us a private room, a storage room, to wait in. I remember him giving me an ultrasound. I remember seeing emptiness where my baby had been nestled just hours before. I remember hiding in my bedroom. I remember having to celebrate Father’s Day the next day and feeling like my smile had never been so fake. I remember being told that Promise officially sent me into Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, because she was my third baby in heaven. I remember more necklace charms, more stitcheries, more tears. I remember connecting with women online who were suffering miscarriages. I remember trying to cling to hope.

I remember Peace Nikonos. I remember having renewed hope again because we had just spent three months of appointments, bloodwork, waiting, and getting my thyroid in order. I remember traveling across the country with Peace in my belly, although I didn’t know it yet, to say goodbye to Steven’s grandpa. I remember telling my father-in-law on his birthday that I was pregnant again. I remember calling our baby my little Arrow while he was in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful little body and miraculous heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember sitting on the couch with my friend Margaret, dreaming about having this baby to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—even talking about baby names.
I remember the spotting. I remember the nurse calling to say that my hormones were doing crazy things and that it meant the baby could not possibly survive. I remember my mom telling me about a place online called Hannah’s Prayer. I remember meeting my friend Kristi who was in painfully similar shoes. I remember going back for another ultrasound the next week, and seeing the baby again—our baby, still alive. I remember rejoicing and thinking that God was simply showing everyone that with Him all things are possible. I remember going home and getting back in bed on bedrest. I remember Margaret calling and singing Psalms over the phone with me. I remember calmly going to the bathroom and rejoicing, thanking God out loud that there was no blood—and then suddenly, shockingly, my sweet Peace being delivered into my hands one second later. I remember screaming for my mother, I remember she was cooking in my kitchen. I remember saying words that needed repented of, and I wailed, begging God for forgiveness. I remember calling Steven and simply saying come home now. I remember Steven arriving home just minutes later, and having to tell him that once again our baby had died. I remember the shock of holding my baby in my hands just a matter of hours after having seen his beautiful heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember the feeling of total deflation.

I remember Mercy Kyrie. I remember the incredible delight of what people call a surprise pregnancy. I remember getting in touch with reproductive immunologists across the nation because we were suddenly completely outside the realm of what the midwives, OBgyns, and reproductive endocrinologists could comprehend. I remember trying new medical treatments. I remember beginning steroids. I remember starting iv infusions of a clear sticky looking substance called immunoglobulin. I remember feeling like it was such a mercy to be pregnant over Christmastime. I remember my dad leaving a bouquet of roses on my front porch with a happy note, congratulating me on my excellent hormone levels. I remember feeling exhausted and nauseous. I remember deciding to wait until eight weeks for an ultrasound this time.
I remember my mom came with us for that ultrasound. I remember finding out Mercy had died the same day Steven’s grandpa died. I remember thinking of my babies singing alongside great-grandparents in heaven. I remember getting second opinions. I remember the agony of waiting it out. I remember walking around feeling numb and hollow for nearly four more weeks. I remember calling my womb a tomb. I remember contractions finally starting one night. I remember laboring for hours during that night. I remember delivering in my bathroom by myself. I remember wanting to let Steven sleep through that horrible delivery. I remember bleeding so much and feeling so weak, we were finally almost ready to go to the emergency room. I don’t remember much of what came next. I remember that this is when I began to truly despair. I remember that this is when it felt like life was actually falling apart.

I remember Victory Athanasius. I remember going to a church conference and telling our closest friends when we all got there that I was pregnant. I remember my friend Elizabeth squealing with utter joy. I remember being so thankful for her and her ecstatic response. I remember thinking being due on New Year’s Day was a fantastic thing to look forward to, a good fresh start for a new year. I remember nurses coming to my house to give me iv infusions. I remember the migraines and the nausea.
I remember being coldly told that my baby was not growing, was not alive. I remember getting second opinions. I remember heeding the advice of doctors to get genetic testing done. I remember going to the hospital for a D&C procedure. I remember having to say goodbye to my husband. I remember waking up wailing and weeping. I don’t remember that I kept asking Steven if my baby was gone—but he does—and he had to tell me over and over that yes, our baby was gone until the anesthesia finally completely wore off and I was awake enough to simply weep. I remember begging God not to let our nephew be born the same day as Victory. I remember going through the motions of celebrating Gabriel’s second birthday a few days later. I remember going through the motions of celebrating our third wedding anniversary just a couple days after that. I remember getting genetic results that our baby was a normal, healthy girl. I remember being willing to do absolutely anything to have a living child again.

I remember Hosanna Praise. I remember taking the pregnancy test. I remember climbing back into bed to tell Steven. I remember we had so much hope. I remember he was due on Father’s Day. I remember we had already been to Mexico for a controversial medical treatment three times, but we needed to go a fourth time now that I was pregnant. I remember making airline reservations. I remember craving salsa every hour of the day, and thinking that was so funny because I’d been to Mexico so many times that summer. I remember looking up what the word hosanna meant, and finding that save Lord was the perfect mantra for the pregnancy. I remember nicknaming my baby Hosanna-Baby in faith that the Lord would save him. I remember that during this pregnancy, Gabriel could finally communicate his understanding of things. I remember Gabriel, barely verbal still, praying for the baby. I remember Gabriel cheering me on while I gave myself blood thinner shots in my stomach every morning. I remember getting more iv infusions, and I remember liking some of the home care nurses better than others. I remember those flights to and from Mexico with Hosanna in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful baby on an ultrasound, growth and heartbeat encouraging my soul with hope.
I remember a repeat ultrasound that lasted about ten seconds because all the doctor did was quickly glance, saw there was no heartbeat, and was ready to move on to the next patient. I remember the horror. I remember wanting to vomit. I don’t remember walking back to the exam room from the ultrasound room. But I do remember crumbling to the floor when I got in the exam room. I remember screaming the ugliest sound while pulling handfuls of hair from my head. I remember having to call my parents and tell them my baby died—again. I remember going to a new OBgyn for a second opinion. I remember the incredibly bittersweet gift it was when he let us stare lovingly at our little baby’s still body on that ultrasound screen, to quietly cry over this horrible death. I remember getting a picture of my baby’s ultrasound. I remember not wanting him delivered on Peace’s birthday. I remember going to a new hospital for another D&C. I remember my dad being there with us this time. I remember trying so hard to be brave. I don’t remember saying goodbye to Steven this time, and I don’t really remember waking up either. I remember getting a phone call from a new reproductive immunologist who my father had spoken with—I remember his compassion, just calling me out of the blue to give me a shred of hope for the future, and encouragement not to give up yet. I remember the candlelight vigil our church family held on our front lawn one night. I remember lying in my bed, physically to the point of needing to hold Steven’s arm to walk around, knowing people were outside praying for us. I remember peeking through the miniblinds to see Christian brethren wrapped in scarves and blankets, standing or kneeling or sitting in folding chairs on our grass, holding candles and praying together. I remember getting cards after Hosanna died. I remember my friend Amber calling to tell me she was praying about being a surrogate, gestational carrier for me. I remember finding out Hosanna was a perfectly healthy little boy. I remember grieving hard when I found that out. I remember Gabriel talking about his little brother in heaven with so much clarity, so much faith, so much peace, so much praise.

I remember Heritage Peniel. I remember trying to conceive her for months. I remember thinking I was pregnant each month in the fall. I remember having just one pregnancy test left, and it was about to expire so I figured I may as well use it. I remember getting ready for church while I waited for two minutes, and when I glanced back the test was positive. I remember thinking the timing could not be more perfect. I remember sauntering over to Steven in nylons and heels, paired with a nightie, and asking him if I looked like Mom to eleven. I remember needing to repeat the question, trying not to laugh. I remember immediately calling the baby Little ‘Leven and praying for God to use this child to bring life to the Kingdom. I remember telling my parents later that day by giving them a coupon for two new cheeks to kiss and ten new toes to tickle that would be redeemable in August. I remember the utter delight of actually surprising my parents with this news. I remember telling Gabriel by giving him a letter to read, and I remember the priceless expression on his face when he read Mommy has a new baby in her belly because he had been praying for another baby for months. I remember Steven telling his family via webcam on Christmas Day. I remember planning for a summer baby. I remember thinking I would have three under three like I’d always dreamed of. I remember buying AIO cloth pocket diapers because I wanted to have diapers that would fit all three of my kids who would likely be in diapers at the same time. I remember thinking what fun it was going to be to have a baby just a few weeks younger than my brother’s new baby. I remember thinking how great it would be to spend an entire pregnancy happily side-by-side my sister-in-law. I remember being pregnant together on Christmas Day. I remember my parents gleefully talking about how next Christmas there would be two new grandbabies to cuddle and spoil. I remember feeling like all the shots and all the pills were not a big deal anymore—because I knew they were so incredibly worth every penny, every owie, every inconvenience. I remember Gabriel and Asher taking turns praying with me while I did my shots every morning. I remember telling my dad that we would need bunkbeds before summer came so that we could work on shuffling kids’ rooms and beds around. I remember trying to figure out whether I would put the baby in with Evangeline, or move Evangeline upstairs with the boys. I remember being terrified but telling myself that my fears were invalid. And then I remember going to the OBgyn for an appointment. I remember seeing our beautiful baby and her beautiful heartbeat. I remember deciphering my doctor’s quiet and solemn demeanor. I remember him pointing out that her sac was small. I remember thinking that was a silly thing to worry about, until he explained that 90% of babies with a sac this small miscarry for some unknown reason. I remember putting myself on partial bedrest. I remember forcing myself to drink a gallon of water each day in hopes of helping that little sac grow. I remember feeling encouraged the next week at our ultrasound, finding that the baby had grown appropriately and the heartbeat was still strong. I remember needing to wear bigger pants and taking some pictures of my belly that was starting to remember what to do when a baby was growing inside.
Then at another later ultrasound, I remember being utterly shocked that the baby was still. I remember how horrific it was to see my baby on that screen, but not be able to see her heartbeat. I remember straining my eyes, blinking, squinting. I remember Steven’s head dropping into his lap and his hand feeling limp. I remember my doctor asking if I was surprised. I remember saying yes as tears began to roll down my cheeks. I remember holding it together really well as we waited for an appointment at the hospital for a more in-depth ultrasound with a specialist. I remember going to a craft store to pick up some supplies for Evangeline’s first birthday which was just a few days away. I remember the incredible compassion of the ultrasound tech. I remember loving her for how she let me just stare at my baby, how she printed out numerous pictures for me, how she used words like baby rather than fetus. I remember how I felt in my gut when she zeroed in on the baby’s heart, and there was just a flatline. I remember praying for God to cause it to beat. I remember begging Him for a miracle right there in front of my eyes. I remember leaving the hospital knowing that my baby had died. I remember getting home from that appointment to find my children and my parents waiting for us in our house. I remember my parents gathering my two little ones on their laps to read books on one couch, while Steven and I had Gabriel come sit with us on the other couch. I remember Gabriel looking up into my face and asking how the baby was doing today. I remember I just started crying, unable to speak. I remember his chin quivering, his eyes filling, and then him joining me in my weeping. I remember telling him that the baby died. I remember how he sobbed on my shoulder. I remember my best friend found out she was pregnant the day after I found out my baby died. I remember taking medication to induce labor. I remember walking in circles around my house waiting for it to begin. I remember crying as I put the pills in my mouth. I remember putting my hands on my stomach, knowing that my time holding Heritage inside had come to an end. I remember the pains starting. I remember feeding my children lunch and having them be distracted with a video, as I calmly made my way to the bathroom feeling the urge to push. I remember delivering Heritage with my mother there. I remember how beautiful she was, curled up. I remember looking at her eyes and thinking what beautiful blue eyes she must have in heaven. I remember looking at her little bum and her little back, and how much she reminded me of her big sister. I remember holding her and crying over her. I remember taking pictures with her. I remember Steven coming in to hold her. I remember my dad coming home from work to hold her with us too. I remember my dad taking the placenta to the lab for the genetic testing. I remember saying goodbye to my sweet little baby, and putting her precious little body in a vial that would go in the treasure chest her grandpapa was making for her. I remember finding out that Heritage was a girl, perfectly whole and healthy. I remember hoping my brother’s baby would be a boy—and then hoping that at least my new niece would not have a similar name to what Heritage’s would have been. I remember burying those dreams of baby girl cousins just weeks apart in age. I remember packing away Evangeline’s baby clothes, knowing I did not have the strength to see them on any baby but Heritage. I remember dreaming about having little girls eighteen months apart. I remember waking up from those dreams in tears. I remember wanting to get pregnant again right away. I remember desperately wanting my little Evangeline to be a real big sister.

I remember Fidelis Se’arah. I remember trying some things differently this time. I remember taking different medications, being more monitored, and hoping against hope that it would be different because Heritage’s small sac was probably an anomaly. I remember taking a pregnancy test one morning and thinking it was negative, so I went back to bed and cried. I remember looking at the test a couple hours later and seeing it looked positive. I remember spending that day feeling confused. I remember taking a pregnancy test again the next morning. I remember immediately falling in love with my Darling Dozen, and anticipating the season of Advent this year because he would be born then. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make Mommy’s tummy strong for the baby. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make us happy even if our baby goes to heaven. I remember asking God to give me a similar reckless faith and abandoned trust in God’s sovereignty. I remember praying for twins, hoping for twins. I remember how quickly my belly grew in those early weeks, thanks to supplemental progesterone and high doses of steroids. I remember eagerly walking in to my OBgyn’s office one day, expecting to get good news. But we didn’t.
I remember that all-too-familiar squinting at the ultrasound machine. I remember the agony of thinking I saw the heart beating but then realizing it wasn’t. I remember wanting to melt into that ultrasound table and never get up again. I remember taking deep breaths and preaching psalms to myself while my doctor was talking. I don’t really remember anything he said. I remember Steven had to go back to work. I remember that I had to wait around to be seen at the hospital imaging center, so I went to the grocery store and Starbucks before ending up at Steven’s office so I could just sit and numbly stare at the walls. I remember my dreams of Christmas babies and a happy ending to the hard year being shattered around my feet. I remember the next ultrasound tech and how much grace I had to extend toward her because she had no tact. I remember asking for a picture of my baby, and the way her eyebrows raised. I remember leaving the hospital, feeling like the breath had been completely knocked out of me. I remember driving home. I remember needing to pull over to the side of the road at one point to call my dear friend Elizabeth because I needed to tell her about my baby, and I could not wait until I got all the way home. I remember crying on the phone with her, but I remember that I even laughed on the phone with her. I remember pulling up to the house to find my kids playing outside with my mom. I remember begging God to give me strength and grace and joy in the next five minutes. I remember Gabriel running up to me right away asking Mommy! Is the baby alive?! I remember kneeling down in front of him, holding his hands, and looking up into his eyes. I remember I forced myself to gently smile. I remember explaining that sometimes God says yes and sometimes God says no but all the time He loves us just as deeply and faithfully. I remember believing it as well as saying it. I remember when Gabriel asked if God said yes or no this time. I remember telling him that God said no this time, and that we would have to wait longer to sing with this baby. I remember how sad he was. But I remember him immediately saying he would start praying again for a baby, for God to say yes, for us to be happy with God’s best decisions. I remember feeling most confused with God over Him saying no to Gabriel. I remember getting another ultrasound a few days later before once again taking pills to induce labor so I could deliver at home. I remember not wanting to deliver on Victory’s birthday. I remember resenting my body all over again. I remember feeling so much guilt all over again. I remember the physical process of delivering being faster and easier than my heart thought it should be. I remember taking pictures with our baby again. I remember trying to figure out how to compartmentalize enough to still enjoy Gabriel’s sixth birthday a few days later, and my seventh anniversary right after that. I remember adding that ninth little wooden treasure box made by Grandpapa to the rest. I remember that we had to buy an additional shelf for our room to make space for all the little boxes now. I remember getting test results saying that it was a healthy girl—but then finding out that it was my DNA rather than my baby’s. I remember suddenly realizing that that meant we could not find out if Fidelis was a boy or a girl. I remember getting one bouquet of flowers, which meant the world to me. I remember realizing that I would not have a 2014 baby after all. I remember saying goodbye to my baby. I remember packing away my medications. I remember putting away the stretchier clothing. I remember realizing that I would never have three under three, never have three in diapers. I remember planting flowers and strawberries and herbs while Fidelis was in my womb—and I remember how they bloomed long after my baby died.

I remember so many raw details. I remember so many joys. I remember so many tears. I remember the anguish. I remember the hope. I remember carrying them in my womb. I remember seeing them on ultrasound screens. I remember holding them in my hands. I remember how beautiful they all were. I remember how much I loved them. I remember how vastly I love each of them still.

Covenant, Glory, Promise, Peace, Mercy, Victory, Hosanna, Heritage, and Fidelis ~ Mommy loves you, my sweet little darlings. I’m slowly on my way to join you in song, where we will all together tune our hearts to sing His praise! You are sweet jewels in my crown, and I am so thankful for each one of you. I will always love you.

Little Darlings

If you’ve been marked by what might have been you don’t forget.
You know the day, the years.
You know when the baby would have been born…
It makes the calendar feel like a minefield,
like you’re constantly tiptoeing
over explosions of grief until one day you hit one,
shattered by what might have been.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p110~

I can’t always pinpoint exactly what makes me miss my sweet babies more on some days than on others. But today is a day where I just feel their absence here tangibly. When I was lying in bed this morning, I suddenly noticed I had my hand resting on my belly: almost as if I were waiting for Fidelis to kick me. I keep looking at Evangeline’s things as I pack them away into the basement and wonder what I should do with them… and I wonder what her little sister Heritage would have looked like in each outfit, and whether she would have loved shoes and hairbows as much as her big sister does. All three of my children are infatuated with babies, and even their little babydolls (Bennett, Timmy, and Bea) ~ and when they play house together, I watch with my own arms empty, my womb closed up, my breasts dry.

This year is so far from what I thought it would be. And while most days I am able to not only function with joy & thankfulness & peace, there are the rare occasions like today where all I want to do is crumble into a ball in a dark closet and weep for the children I lost to heaven.

On most days, for me, it’s all right…
But for today, for a minute, it’s not all right.
I understand that God is sovereign,
that bodies are fragile and fallible.
I understand that grief mellows over time,
and that guarantees aren’t part of human life,
as much as we’d like them to be.
But on this day, looking out at the harsh white sky of a Chicago winter,
I’m crying just a little for what might have been.
…I’ll always know.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p110~

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A couple days ago, I read the account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection to my children, and Gabriel said “if Jesus had been here, would our babies not have died either?” I assured him that Jesus indeed was here, and it brought Him joy to take our children to heaven. And I reminded him of how Jesus Himself said all of these things are so that God would be glorified.

Today I miss my sweet babies acutely.
They are my little darlings, and I will always be their mommy.
So I’m thankful tomorrow will carry new mercies, and my God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

All around the world, God is giving and sustaining life to the praise of His grace.
His mercy is new every morning, and it’s always morning somewhere.
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p149~