Hi, friends. Candy here. This blog is a little different from most of my upbeat and happy ones. I want to hit on a couple of subjects that are tough, but that are near and dear to my heart. They are tough to talk about, tough to walk through, and tough to watch someone else walk through. I’ve tried to write this blog so many times, but I wasn’t ready. Even this time, I wrote it about 3 weeks ago, but sat on it before posting it. I don’t know why it is so hard to be vulnerable, but it is. We tend to want people to think we’ve got it all together. So, today, I’m going to be transparent and I pray it helps someone who may be walking through something similar to know that you are absolutely not alone.
Let me start by giving some of our back story for anyone that doesn’t know much about our story.
On October 16, 2007, we had a baby girl. Her name was Lily. It had been a long and difficult pregnancy after finding out her diaphragm was not developing correctly. This was my third pregnancy. We had miscarried our previous baby at 9 weeks into the pregnancy. Baby Lily’s herniated diaphragm was causing further issues that we wouldn’t even know the full extent of until after she was born. Doctors gave her a 50/50 chance of survival after birth. Long story short, though she was born full-term and had the absolute best care, our precious baby spent her entire 13 days of life hooked up to life support awaiting a surgery that she was too sick for. As you can imagine, our hearts were broken. I was broken. Her fragile little body finally couldn’t take any more, and she was gone. I left the hospital with empty arms, an empty car seat in the backseat, and with a severely broken heart. I got home to a fully assembled baby bed I wouldn’t be using, baby clothes that were no longer needed, and couldn’t bring myself to pack them away. I wasn’t sure I would ever recover from such a tragic situation. I went through every stage of grief. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. There were days I was in complete denial. The whole thing just felt like a nightmare. I didn’t want anyone around me, but I didn’t want to be by myself. Paul didn’t know what to do with me or for me. He just threw himself into work. I was a mess…a completely broken mess.
In my mind, I should just accept what happened because God is in control…right? So many people had said to me, “You are so strong. You know, God never gives us more than we can handle.” Can I just say…that’s a bunch of bull! I couldn’t handle it. Some days, I still can’t handle it. I know they meant well, and even meant it as a compliment to me, but it just isn’t true. I couldn’t handle going to the church where we had her funeral service (where Paul was also on staff). I couldn’t handle it in the parking lot when I saw a new mom getting her baby out the car seat. I couldn’t handle it at the grocery store when the very innocent cashier asked me how my day was going. I couldn’t handle it when my at the time four-year-old daughter, Emily, asked me why her baby sister had to die. There is nothing in life that prepares you for those kinds of things. Nothing.
I felt guilty for not being stronger for my family. I felt guilty for falling apart on unsuspecting people. I felt guilty for being angry.
My faith was big. I served the Lord. I lived my life for Him. What did I ever do to deserve this? Why did this happen to me?
Have you ever felt like that? I know many of you have experienced something similar. I didn’t know that then, because at that time, no one really talked about it. Miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss…in my mind, those were things that happened once in a blue moon to people I didn’t know…I felt so alone; depression and anxiety overwhelmed me.
We are about to celebrate Lily’s 11th birthday in Heaven this month and I still don’t fully know the answer to those questions.
But, here are some things I do know.
- Life isn’t always fair.
- We live in a broken world.
- My God is Sovereign.
- My faith is BIG.
- I have had numerous opportunities to share my story with other hurting mommies.
- I treasure my children…even more than I did before.
- Time does help, but the hurt never goes away.
- It’s still hard sometimes to answer the “How many children do you have?” question.
- It’s ok to ask for help.
- God never gives us more than HE can handle.
- Life is precious and our time with loved ones is a gift.
- This world is not my home.
It has taken me years to get past the anxiety attacks that followed the experience of losing my baby. I’ve been on and off of a low dosage anxiety medication for years now. I hate to depend on medication to make me ok, but I’m so grateful for it at the same time. There was a time that I couldn’t be in public without having an anxiety attack and breaking out in hives. I put off talking to my doctor about it for way too long. I didn’t want to appear to be weak because I was “supposed” to be a “living testimony” of faith, hope, and all of that. When I finally told her what was happening at one of my annual appointments, I broke out in hives when I was telling her I had been breaking out in hives. She was so kind in how she handled it, and me, in that moment. I will forever be grateful to her.
When we started full-time RVing over three years ago, I was so relieved that I didn’t have to be around people all of the time. I didn’t have to worry about breaking out in hives during a meeting, at church, or any other place. It was such a freeing experience. What started out as a “hiding” experience, has turned into a healing experience. It has allowed me time and space to heal in a healthy environment. To be honest, the first two years of our full-time RVing adventures, I felt that way off and on. I was not in a good place. I needed time to be ok, to draw closer to my Savior, to learn to rest in His embrace again, to trust Him again, and to learn to walk by faith in every aspect of my life.
It’s interesting to me how many people we’ve met on the road with similar stories to ours.
I don’t want to tell his story for him, but Paul was in the same place I was the first two years of traveling. Some of the same reasons, and some different. We were both pretty screwed up emotionally and mentally.
I have to share a milestone with you. We have both been off of medications for some time now…Paul longer than me. We recently attended a local dinner event in a small community of people in Iowa. We knew no one, knew the dinner would be served “family-style” at round tables, and we would be sitting with people who would probably talk to us, and ask us where we are from (the whole out-of-place accent thing…my Texan and Paul’s British/Texan accents show through pretty quickly). Even a year ago, I would never have done this. We were both nervously excited about the event. Our conversations beforehand were about what we should wear and how we wanted to get there in plenty of time to get a seat, but not too early so it would be awkward. It was a farm to table event, which we were both pumped about. We are big “foodies”. Paul let me pick our table because he didn’t want to be responsible for picking the “wrong table”. LOL! We had the absolute best time, made new friends, enjoyed the delicious food and drinks, and I didn’t even break out in hives! Hallelujah!
I guess my whole purpose in writing this blog is to share a piece of my heart, but also to encourage you if you are walking through a tough time. It seems like mental health isn’t talked about, and is even sometimes frowned upon, especially in Christian circles. Sometimes life deals us some really crappy circumstances. Even for people who love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and mind, sometimes bad things happen, and the healing process takes….its time.
No matter what circumstances we find ourselves faced with, there are three promises you can cling to…all of which were crucial to my healing, and continue to be.
You are not alone, and God has not left you.
- “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
- “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18
You can come to Him. God is well acquainted with grief.
- “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
- “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
He Works All Things for the Good
- “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
- “The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works. The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.” – Psalm 145:13-14
We will celebrate Lily’s birthday, October 16th, like we always do, but it will be different this year. Every year previous, we have gone to the cemetery and done a balloon release and had a family dinner to celebrate her life. This year will be different because we aren’t planning to be back in Texas that early. I don’t really know how we will celebrate yet, but we will celebrate her. We will celebrate the life she lived, the lives she touched, the growth, the victories, and the hope that we have of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Thank you for walking this journey with us. This blog has been a big part of the healing process. God always seems to know just what we need. My guess is that this blog was placed on my heart because someone else needed it today….someone who is in the trenches of their own grief or heartache. So, if that’s you…know that you are not alone, you have permission to grieve, you don’t have to hold it together, and prayer is your greatest tool. Give yourself a little time and space to heal. Talk to your doctor if you need to. And, as always, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Though we can’t offer professional advice, we would be happy to lift you up in prayer or be a listening ear.
If you are not walking through a season like this right now, remember to be kind to people. You never know what they may be walking through. Just be kind.
OK…deep breath…I’m going to hit the “publish” button now….