inspiration

I Was Scared, Too

I had a comment from a friend today: “I finally looked at your blog. I was too scared to before.”

I totally get it.

I often feel that – not towards this blog (for obvious reasons), but towards other blogs and articles.

A title like “My Experience of Miscarriage” or “Seven Things Not to Say To Someone Who has Experienced a Stillbirth” can have a rather stressful affect on me. I don’t know what is written in the article. I don’t know if it will hit an extra raw part of me. Maybe it will just make my heartache intensify. Maybe it will just be annoying.

I also remember the fear I had of looking at Theodore the morning after I had birthed him. I remember I spent quite some time preparing myself and steeling myself. I didn’t know what to expect. Was he going to be shrivelled up? Grey or blue in colour? Would his cheeks have sunken in?

It was really quite stressful.

Then I finally looked at him. What a huge relief!

He was beautiful. More beautiful than I could have imagined. The purple tone his skin had when he was warm and just born had changed to a soft pink. He was still but looked so peaceful. He looked like he was sleeping.

I know other friends were nervous to look at him. Some have shared how they were so filled with fear that they were scared to look at him, but then they did see him, and their fear dissipated.

I remember how I was too nervous to kiss him, because I didn’t know what his cold, immature skin would feel like against my lips. When a friend visited, and cuddled him, and then kissed him before putting him back in the cooling crib (which was keeping his body cold so he wouldn’t deteriorate quickly), I was watching very closely to see her reaction. She gave me the courage I needed so I could be brave enough to kiss my very own and very loved baby. I wasn’t brave enough before.

It makes me cry so much to even write that. I feel perhaps I ought to be ashamed because I wasn’t brave enough, but the truth is I am not, because it isn’t something to be ashamed about. Sometimes things can just be too much, and we need someone to help us. I am relieved beyond measure that one of my friends was brave enough and could, unknowingly, give me the courage and strength I needed to do something so simple and also so incredibly profound. Without her, I may never have kissed my son, and I would likely be struggling with regret over it the rest of my life.

Because of my friend, I don’t have that. I have treasured memories and beautiful photographs instead.

So don’t think that I don’t understand if you have been afraid to read what I write, or if you were afraid to look at my tiny son. I do understand. And I am glad you found the strength you needed.

Eleven Months of God’s Faithfulness

As it approaches the first anniversary of Theodore’s death and birth (in that order), a kind of protective numbness seems to be sweeping over me again. A surreal feeling of “did this really happen?” and “is it really me that this happened to?”

The reality is there, however. I see it in so many ways.

  • The knowledge that my son would be coming up on eight months if only he had lived and been born in December, not August.
  • The keen awareness that his birthday is not in the right month.
  • A frustration with those who appear to take their healthy and alive children for granted.
  • A knowledge that death really can happen at any time, and no one is immune.
  • The realisation that my husband and I are “bereaved parents” – a label that is at once a comfort (parents) and a heartache (bereaved).

Recently, friends have had the shock of having their little boy diagnosed with leukaemia. They have begun a blog (edwardisham.com) as a way of responding to this huge and hard life event. Within their writings, I see reflected some of my own journey since Theodore’s death.

  • The time in the hospital and the specialist appointments (though they have far more than I did).
  • The realisation that life seems more fragile now.
  • Taking time to adjust to a new label: cancer parents.
  • The knowledge that as hard as it is, that does not mean it is unfair.
  • And, above all, the belief that God will hold and sustain them through this, that he is faithful.

Seeing the response toward the Isham family is such a blessing. It is beautiful to watch and be a part of, and it reminds me of how much support Julian and I have been given over the past eleven months. To see and hear the prayers for them, and the words of hope and encouragement, makes me wonder, ‘is this what people also did for me and my husband?’ It thrills me to see it happening, to see people caring and loving and praying and practically supporting.

I have been reminded of how much each word and each hug or hand squeeze meant to me. I know how needed those things are, and I am so glad to see them happening.

They are not the same situations. Tiny Theodore was stillborn. Little Ned has leukaemia, but there is a great deal of hope and expectation that with the treatment and care he is now receiving, he will go on to live a full life.

Whatever happens, we make it through and we lean on God, and we have hope that he will bring beauty from the ashes of these hard times.

He is faithful, and he is trustworthy.

He is My Inspiration

Theodore’s early death is a source of grief, because we looked forward to having him and raising him so much. His life, however, is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me now. It spurs me on to love more, forgive faster, and to have my eyes focused not on the temporal but on the eternal.

After his death, I remember reading Psalm 139. Verse 16 was a huge source of encouragement for me. It says this:

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

I read this, and I knew beyond doubt and beyond questions that Theodore had already lived his life. Every day ordained for him had been lived out. In less than twenty-four weeks, he had lived every moment he was meant to live.

I remember being so blown away by this. I was so filled with peace and satisfaction; any feeling that my son’s life had been robbed from him was banished. Instead I had an awe-filled knowledge that he had lived his life, every day he was intended to have. It is hard to be too full of sorrow when you start seeing things like this. Yes, the grief of losing him is still there; grief is a process. But, for me, this helped to resolve practically all of the anger and confusion I had been feeling at times.

At the same time as feeling the relief that Theodore had lived his life, I felt a responsibility settling upon me. If Theodore has lived all his days, if his earthly life is spent, then it is my responsibility and my husband’s responsibility to make sure we allow the purpose of Theodore’s life to come to fruition. This calls us to a higher level of love and trust and faith. It spurs us on to behave in a way that is kind and patient and understanding. We could so easily have shut ourselves away and let ourselves become bitter and angry. We could have refused to believe that any good could come of this. We easily could have blamed God. But we were so careful not to let this happen. We did all we could to keep ourselves open and caring and loving. We did all we could to make it easy for people to share in our grief, and also our joys. We have worked hard to keep our eyes trained on the faithfulness of God and his promises.

It is not always easy. I think sometimes, people see me as being more healed than I am. I keep trying to be patient, because how can I tell someone that they are hurting me, without hurting them in return? So I try. I try so hard to keep walking in love, in patience, and in forgiveness. There are times I see Theodore in my mind’s eye, ahead of me, encouraging me on. “Come on, mum. Keep looking up.” And I am reminded that this life is just for a short time. I am encouraged that I can live this life well, and walk in love for every day of it.

Theodore’s short and precious life motivates me so much to keep my eyes firmly fixed on what I am living for, on who I desire to become. It helps me remember the peace and joy I have when I intentionally – trustingly – release myself into the safe and steady hands of God, and into the unknown, surprising, demanding, exciting future and purpose which is in store for me.

Quite frankly, my son is my hero. He is my coach, my champion, my muse, my encourager, and my inspiration as I live out everyday, every moment of my life.