Monday, October 15, 2012

Unashamed: A Miscarriage Survivor's Story

October 15th is National Remembrance Day for Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss.

This is my daughter's story.

August 26th was a day that changed me. I have heard it said that people don't change overnight. Well, I beg to differ. All it takes is one significant event to make someone wake up the next day a different person. For me, the event was a miscarriage.
This pregnancy was completely unplanned and unexpected. My husband and I weren't trying to get pregnant, especially since we had just moved across the country and we had our second child just a few months prior. Yet it seems that God has made us an EXTREMELY fertile couple, despite our efforts to "wait a few years" before having another baby. Just two months after giving birth, I conceived again. 

Over the course of the next two months, my husband and I would casually joke about my daily cravings for slushes and other iced drinks, and the way I would cry at the drop of a hat (both were things that happened while pregnant with each of our sons). Even when I was unable to lose weight and had a few occasions of nausea, we attributed it to the stress of the move and getting the house in order. I had spotting here and there, which I assumed were light periods. I had even taken pregnancy tests that came back negative twice.

Then one day I was working out and started to get a really sharp pain in my lower abdomen. I brushed it off, thinking it was just a cramp and would go away. But it didn't. I started bleeding as well, and thought it was my cycle coming around. This continued for two days. I was in the kitchen that late afternoon on August 26th, getting ready to make grilled cheese, when I felt a sharp pain. I stopped what I was doing and bent over in pain. Something that felt like a huge clot slipped out, and I rushed into the bathroom.
There on my pad was what I was later told was the amniotic sac. I called for my husband and he was worried, so I sent a picture of it to my mom. She called me almost immediately, telling me I needed to go to the hospital asap. Blood and clots were pouring into the toilet so fast I wasn't able to catch anymore pieces of the tissue that was coming out. (After an ultrasound the next day, it would be confirmed that the baby had already slipped out as well, most likely while I was sitting in the bathroom.)

The trip to the emergency room and waiting for an explanation from the doctor took forever. Was this a bad period? Was this lining from my uterus that came out? Surely I wasn't pregnant. I just took a test the other day, and it came back negative. All of these things rushed through my head for hours.

The doctor finally rushed in with a nurse, and they were moving so fast I didn't know what was happening. Next thing I knew, I was in stirrups and heard the worst news of my life. "It seems that you had a miscarriage. You were pregnant, and what you brought in was in fact the amniotic sac. I am so sorry." According to my last cycle the baby was almost 10 weeks old.

I felt like the world had stopped and I was just there. The doctor kept talking, but all I could do was lay my head back down and stare at the ceiling. How? Why? I had two babies already, why didn't this one make it? Why didn't I know? How did we miss the signs? WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO ME?

The car ride home was silent. Neither me nor my husband could find anything to say. We pulled into the driveway, and the shock wore off. A tidal wave of emotions hit me and I sobbed uncontrollably in his arms. No physical pain in the world could have hurt as much as my heart did in that moment. The only thing I could say was "Our baby died. Our baby died inside of me, and I didn't even know."

The days that followed kind of meshed together now that I look back. I didn't know one day from the next. I cried a lot, felt a sadness I can't explain. I couldn't go on Facebook without sobbing at the ultrasound pictures various friends were putting up. I held my sons around the clock, and it made me sad knowing I wouldn't get to see that baby grow up. My husband would hold me at night while I cried in my sleep.

People from our church brought meals and prayed with us. I started to develop a friendship with a woman who had a miscarriage many years ago. While it obviously still made her sad when she talked about it, seeing her being able to work through it inspired me. Losing a child isn't something you can just get over, but it does get better with time.
The next six weeks was a roller-coaster of emotions. Some days would be really good. I would think about it and not break out into tears. The next I couldn't stop crying. I was okay one moment, and having a breakdown the next.

My faith in God helped me, and I knew He was there. But if I can be completely honest, I struggled. I wondered why God would give us this baby and not let us keep it. I knew that there was a reason, and even though I couldn't see it, God had a plan for it all. I just wanted to know what that plan was so that things could start making sense. I wanted to be filled with joy again, not random moments of happiness. I received it through God's Word a week ago.

A woman that I admire greatly suggested I look for a verse that led me to Isaiah 54. After reading just the first few verses, I felt what I can only explain as a spiritual awakening.

Isaiah 54:1-7 NLT

“Sing, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem,
you who have never been in labor.
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband,”
says the LORD. “Enlarge your house; build an addition.
Spread out your home, and spare no expense! 
For you will soon be bursting at the seams.
Your descendants will occupy other nations
and resettle the ruined cities. 
“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband;
the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you back from your grief—
as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.

While I am not barren, my loss of a child is still a loss. And for that reason I believe this passage of Scripture applies me and every woman out there that has ever experienced any kind of pregnancy or infant loss.

I have spoken to friends who have also lost a baby, and most have experienced some level of distance from God. That is not to say turning our backs on Him, or discontinued belief in Him. Not at all. Its more like the latter part of the passage from Isaiah, feeling abandoned. Knowing that God is still God and He loves you just the same, but wondering where He is in the midst of this great heartache.

Isaiah 54 encourages us to sing to the Lord. To rejoice, because the best is yet to come. Out of the hurt and the pain, God will give us joy and expand our territory. The sorrow is only temporary. God can and will bring us to a place of joy in Him, and with that the promise of descendants. This could mean having children of our own, and it could also mean for some to take in those without motherly figures and be that mother to them. Both are just as much a blessing as the other.

Another thing this passage points out is an end to the shame and fear. 1 in 4 women experience some kind of pregnancy or infant loss, but few talk about it publicly. Our culture doesn't embrace the importance of the lives of the unborn, and therefore can downplay the loss of one. 

But we see in Jeremiah 1:5 that God values every single unborn life:
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
Before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

 David knew this as well when he wrote Psalm 139:13:

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and 
knit me together in my mother’s womb."

Whether you got to hold your baby or never felt a single kick, your loss is important and have every right to talk about it openly. Doing so can help you deal with it better, and you may surprised at how many other women you know that have been down that road as well.

When I came out with the news of the miscarriage, it was amazing the number of people who not only encouraged us, but also related. I got a number of messages from friends who never felt like they could tell anyone about their miscarriages until they saw my posts. Prior to my loss, I couldn't completely understand what other women were going through. I could sympathize, but I didn't grasp what they were feeling.

Having gone through this, I have finally come to a place where I am starting to understand why God allowed this to happen to me. It wasn't a punishment. It wasn't that He didn't love me or think me fit to be a mom. My baby could have had unforeseen health problems, and God saw it would be better to bring them home to Him rather than suffer here on earth. My body could have not been strong enough to take another pregnancy so soon. There are many possibilities, all of which make sense.

In the bigger picture, I know that I was allowed to go through this so that I can relate to and help other women who experience the loss of their child. I am blessed to have a caring family and network of friends to support and encourage me, and faith in Jesus to keep me strong when I am weak. But not every woman has that. I want to use my on-going journey as a tool to reach those women, to show them that it is okay to allow yourself to feel and to grieve. It is okay to talk about it.

And if you are searching for peace and love and cannot find either, maybe its time you give God a chance. You will be amazed at how He can fill in the void, and heal your heart. I am not saying everything will be perfect, because it wont. But God's love is sufficient for you. The peace He gives is greater than any form of meditation or therapeutic activity out there. Its real and tangible and it lasts.

August 26th was a day that changed me. I am not the same woman I was before, and I will never be that woman again. But who I am is a miscarriage survivor. I am a woman unashamed of what I have been through. A woman who, through the love of God, overcame the sorrow and is moving forward. I will never forget my baby, and miss them every single day. I am still on my journey, and I hope through my story more women break the silence and shake off the fear of speaking out with theirs.

My son in-love and daughter are proud parents of two active boys. They first met at the age of 13. They were reunited at the age of 19 via Facebook. They married a year later. Currently, they have two active boys that keeps momma busy throughout the day while daddy serves our country in the United States Air Force.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Version of the Latest Denim Skirt Trend

First, I must tell you why I ventured out to make this skirt. My youngest son is graduating from basic training soon. I wanted some new clothes to wear during the time we will be near the Army base. We have decided to go a few days earlier for some rest and relaxation since we are literally flying across the United States.

I saw this denim skirt on Facebook and decided to check out the website Love My Jean Skirt for more information. I had never spent that much money on a skirt. So I looked around to see if I can find something similar at a cheaper price. During my Google search, I found a denim skirt on Apostolic Clothing. Still out of my price range.

I talked to my husband about it. He wanted me to get it. But, in my heart, I couldn't bring myself to spend that much money. That amount of money on one item would put a dent in our clothing money this quarter. My youngest son decided he would pay for it because he knows how much his momma "loves blue jean skirts". I didn't buy it that day...

The next day I sent a message to my Facebook friend Jessica who's also a lover of denim skirts. I asked her opinion on the skirts. She thought they were cute. Then I talked to my cousin Tony over at Well Watered Woman because I wanted her opinion. She sent me some wonderful tutorials from Youtube on converting denim jeans into skirts. Which I will do later.

It dawned on me when I recalled a Scripture about God asking Moses what was in his hand. The light bulb came on. I have my hands. I can make a skirt. God has given each one of us gifts to use. God has given me the gift of sewing. I decided to try and make my own version on the skirt.

I used a basic skirt pattern.

Altered the pattern to give me a semi-fitted fit.

Basic 7 inch zipper that's made for denim. Noticed the used the yellow thread for a contrast look.

The split in the back.

Inside the split in the back. I didn't use my serger machine because I didn't have enough yellow thread or denim needles. So I just used the settings on my regular machine to overlap the edges.

This is how it looked before the waist band, the ruffles and the flower.

For the ruffles, I used 4 inch wide strips. The length is about 2x as long as the measurement around the skirts. You can use more if you like. Putting the ruffles on the skirt is easy, but it may be time consuming. The results are well worth it :)

I needed a guide for the flower so I used a small plate.

I used dots to help me guide the ruffles for the flower. About an inch from the border and then another inch until your ruffle is finished.

This part may take some time. Be patient and work at it. I promise you, you will love the results.

Here's the finished skirt. You can make a little circle to put in the middle. I had to do mine by hand. The material was thick and I didn't want it to get stuck on my sewing machine.

The flower close up. You can also see that I used a band around the ruffle on the skirt. 
I loved the way the thread shows up against the denim material.

The back of the skirt near the split.

I had enough denim left over to make a handbag.

I made a padded pocket on the inside to protect my phone.

Total price for the skirt was $18.90. With that being said, I can honestly say that if you purchase one of the skirts from the links above, it's well worth the price.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Freezer Apple Pie Filling

I was blessed this week with a box full of apples from an older couple at church. I decided to make Apple Pie filling and freeze it for the upcoming holiday pies. With the left over apples, I will make apple butter. (Apple butter taste delicious when it's spread on some hot, homemade biscuits.)

Here's the recipe for Apple Pie filling:

About 8 cups of apples
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar (I use a 1/2 cup of white and 1/2 cup of brown)
1/4 cup of all flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Put sugar and all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix.

It should look something like this when you're doing mixing. 

Dump the mixed dry ingredients in a freezer bag. 

Peel and core apples. I don't have one of those machines that peel apples. So to save time, I used an apple slicer. Once sliced, I peeled and sliced the apples.

Put the sliced apples in the freezer bag with the dry ingredients. Leave the air in there and shake the bag so that the dry ingredients coat the apples. 

 This is after the apples are coated with the dry ingredients.

 Add lemon juice and vanilla extract.

 Now, make sure all the air is out of the bag and mix. 

Now it's ready for the freezer.

I'm looking forward to baking Apple Pies this holiday season. This year we are celebrating Thanksgiving early. Two of our sons will be home. We look forward to spending precious time with them.

Word of Encouragement:
Let us, as Christian women, be busy about our homes. There are so many things that would come in and take time away from our families. If we allow those things (internet, social media, phone, going from house to house, etc.) to steal our time; it's time we can never get back.