P E A C E & loss | A Blog for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

It passed without me realizing it, as it usually does. It’s been almost exactly 4 years since we went to that doctors appointment and saw nothing instead of something. I still remember the confusion on Thomas’ face… how do you understand everything and nothing all at the same time?

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I remember this girl above. Newly pregnant and so excited about the things to come. Sometimes I look at her and cringe a bit at the events that are about to unfold. If only she hadn’t gone on that road trip to Chicago. Maybe she wouldn’t have gotten that blood clot that might have caused her miscarriage. The thing with if only statements in that we see things one-sided. Had the events not unfolded as they did, would we have had our sweet Hazel? An answer I’ll never be able to find, but what I do know is that God works everything together for our good. And His. And He wanted Hazel to set her feet on the soil of this earth.

Then last year another loss, one unexpected in so many more ways than just the obvious. The pregnancy was a surprise; the loss left me utterly perplexed. What was it for, Lord? I guess we find those answers along the way, but we can’t let the answers be our destination. Our destination must always be closeness with Christ.


My grief has worn a lot of different shades over these last 4 years, and I imagine it will continue to change in the years to come. The mistake I’ve made is in thinking that I’ve finished grieving, or that I will one day. I’m thinking, today anyways, that if we ever got to a place where we were done grieving the things that cause us pain in this life, then we’d have no need for the peace of Christ.

I forgot I needed it for awhile.

Around Christmas time last year I went to a church service specifically for those grieving the loss of a loved one. I went for my grandma, and I realized not too far into it that I was really there for my babes. I was recognizing the places in me that had yet to accept their swift journey Home. Maybe this was the cause for the anxiety always on the rise inside of me?

My pregnancy with Hazel was full of depression and anxiety, which was odd because I felt the best I’ve ever felt when I carried Malachi. I didn’t know a person could become depressed during pregnancy, and unfortunately I had to learn that in real-time. And then that anxiety never really went away. Like my grief, it just sort of took on another shade, and I learned how to live amongst it. But it was always there, creeping up on me and doing a dang good job of sounding convincing.

Amidst a hurricane of anxiety and fear this week, the Lord kindly called my attention to Philippians 4:6-7:

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.”

I don’t know the answer to this anxiety that has come upon me since the loss of our first babe other than it comes when I saturate my life with prayer each. and. every. day. His peace was there in that doctors office. And on that phone call. And in that hospital room. And as we faced one another and soaked our pillows with tears.

What I know is He is good. And that His peace is a promise He will always keep.

There's a peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
What anxiety fails to remember is peace is a promise You keep
Peace is a promise You keep

-Peace | Hillsong Young & Free



To that girl down there who was about to enter into a kind of heartbreak she’d never known before, what I know to be true is that God will be faithful. He sees you, He loves you, and He is already working everything out in a way that will leave you feeling the unexplainable peace and contentment that only He can give.

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To every person out there who is living their days as the “1” they refer to in the 1 in 4 who will experience miscarriage or infant loss, your story and their little life, is immeasurably valuable. I’m grateful for a God who is still good, even through life’s greatest hurts.

My Big Question

My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.

As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.

Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.

 

What if you never change?

 

What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?

 

Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.

 

What if?

 

While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me.  We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.

"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch.  Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue.  It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.

"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:

  • shorter
  • thinner
  • faster
  • stronger
  • dress "hipper"
  • be "more frugal"
  • crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)

I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation

In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.

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I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.

So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?

There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"

I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.

So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.

Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.

To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net

Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5

Childbirth

I've been thinking a lot about childbirth lately (no, not because I will be experiencing it any time soon. Although I do have the fever pretty bad). You see, I've returned to my home town just in time for the recent births of several babies. Friends, friends of friends, co-workers... Seriously, babies everywhere. It's just the most wonderful thing. My heart just smiles seeing these families become parents for the first time... remembering our not too distant past filled with sleepless nights, crying for what felt like hours and a belly button scab that I just couldn't wait to be rid of. All of those beautifully exhausting things, that truly slip by in a moment. Now he's almost a year old and so much of that is of the past, never to come again (for him anyways). How many more times will I experience them? How many more times will I anxiously (and angrily and painfully) anticipate the birth of the baby I've been making for 9 months? Only He knows and I will boldly and loudly exclaim that if it's even once more we are blessed beyond what we deserve. We are already blessed beyond what we deserve simply because we have M.What's been on my mind has been the process of childbirth. You see, due to my proctocolectomy (surgery to remove my entire colon and do some pretty cool stuff with my small intestine to get me up and running again) I am unable to have a vaginal birth. I must always deliver via c-section. For some moms this would be devastating. For me, I was just thankful to even be able to carry a child. We were given hopeful odds for conception, so we went into it thinking it wouldn't be a problem. Motherhood reality check number one. It doesn't happen very easily for everyone. Nearly two years (and many tears) later we found out we were expecting. This news, coming amidst news of loss and heartache for others around us, was the second motherhood reality check I had received and for me the chapter had only just begun. How different motherhood is for everyone. How fascinating to know that it happens to people in so many different ways. Whether by surprise, after many heartaches, accompanied by lots of doctors and injections or by someone who is not able to care for the child themselves, the process of becoming a mother is wonderfully unique. My third reality check was two days after M was born, when I realized I was unable to breast feed. Years ago I had a breast reduction under the impression from my surgeon that I should "have no problems breast feeding when the time comes." He had "never had a patient who was unable to successfully nurse their child." Suffice it to say I went into this whole nursing thing with my head in the clouds and my heart left unguarded. Little did I know, there is a very small percentage of women who are able to nurse after a reduction. (For more accurate information on this go to www.bfar.org.) To say that my heart was broken would be quite the understatement. By His grace I was able to watch my heart change by the hour as I went from heartbroken to thankful for whatever He provided that would allow our son to grow healthy and strong. After months of playing around we landed on goats milk formula as the best possible alternative for him. That is a different story for another time. The fact that I couldn't nurse was hard but I got over it relatively quickly... Until recently. Something about seeing so many friends with new babies... Hearing the stories of their milk coming down, or how well their child is eating... A little voice in by head asks the question, "Am I less of a mother? I don't know what it feels like to have my milk come down, so am I not the real thing?" In hearing these recent stories of childbirth, so fresh in their minds, I've soaked in the uniqueness of each one. It's truly amazing how no birth is the same. I love each story just as I love the families who brought these little people into the world. The thing is, you don't often hear many stories of people just walking into the hospital for their appointment to get numbed up and cut open to birth their child. Usually there are contractions, timing, walking, bathing, squatting, and a whole slew of other things involved... Even if the end result is still a c-section. I love our memory of waking up to the alarm, getting everything in the car, kissing the pups goodbye and praying the entire 4 minute drive to the hospital. I love the memory of walking up to the desk with a giddy smile across my face and saying, "I'm Laura Ferguson and I'm here to have my baby." There was no rush. There was no contracting or Lamaze breathing or yelling at my husband. It was scary and exciting and nerve wracking and possibly one of the best moments we will ever have shared together. But I didn't feel any pain. I don't know what it feels like to be in labor. Am I less of a mom because I don't know what that feels like? Am I not "in it" as much as the others because I haven't felt that horrible pain (so I hear)? Reality check number four. The thing with this reality check is that it didn't hit until 10 months after he was born. It took that long for the lie to grow and fester to the point where I could acknowledge it. All of our birth stories are different. And all of our birth stories are valuable. As I've fought this ugly slimy lie these past few days I've tried to focus on the women in God's word who were mothers. Certainly He would've included some truth to comfort me in this battle over my mind. I found that none of these women's birth stories were recorded. None. The fact that the child was born, that was it. No hint to their pain, their delivery method, whether they labored for five hours or sixteen. Just the beautiful miracle of the person. The little, wonderful, life changing person. There is also no mention of nursing. Obviously one would assume that they all did this, but what about women who just couldn't? I mean there had to be some around back then too, right? But again, no mention of that, just of the strong men their babies became. The recording of the amazing futures these men held, to me, is a nod to the provision they were given by their mothers. They were obviously cared for. They were nurtured, fed, clothed, changed, kissed, disciplined, taught and let go. These women were moms. They did what they needed to do. The only thing that was recorded was the reoccurring theme of barrenness. This is a very real and very prominent thing in the lives of so many women. So many that each of us interact with regularly, whether we know it or not. Children are truly a gift from God. To some, it may seem more evident. As I've read about them, their struggles and blessings, and I've thought about the mothers around me, I've been encouraged to know that mothers are kinda like snowflakes. There are no two that are alike. Similarly with the way we become mothers. Sure there are only a handful of means but each heart, each family, has been perfectly crafted for that child. There is a reason why God not only wants but needs for you to be the mother to that child. Whether you carried the child or not, labored or didn't, nourished by the breast or by a next best thing, you are just what that child needs. There is no one who could do a better job than you. So, after all of these words and all of these thoughts, I'm prepared to put these slimy lies behind me and know in full confidence that even though I can't say I know how it feels to be in labor, I know that I am just the mom for M. The one who was created so that he might be created to live a life to bring Him glory. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah (who was barren and was blessed by the birth of Samuel) says to Eli regarding Samuel, "As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to The Lord. I prayed for this child and The Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to The Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to The Lord." That is motherhood. Giving them to The Lord, for their whole lives.

Be still my heart. Thank you for letting me process these things with you. Be encouraged, mama. You are everything they need for this day.

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