mama story: Justine

So sorry for the delay, friends! I had all intentions to post this on Monday, but life gets in the way sometimes. Below is another beautiful submission by one of WLG&J's instagram followers, Justine. You can read more of her writing at her blog, here.

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The Elouise Tree

Today is Mother’s Day. May 14, 2017. My first Mother’s Day without Elouise. It’s been 108 days since I found out my baby’s heart stopped beating. 104 days since she left my body. There’s a feeling of defeat that comes with losing a baby. Sometimes the grief hits so hard I can hardly breathe. But lately those days are fewer and further between. I know there will still be moments that will be hard to handle, like her due date, the anniversary of her death, etc. But for now my laughter has returned. I laugh easily. A normal day doesn’t mean I cry anymore. Unless it’s Sunday. So far I haven’t made it through a single church service without crying. But I’m healing. It’s getting easier.

Today is Mother’s Day. And today we planted an adorable baby apple tree in our yard in memory of our Elouise. It wasn’t an organized service – we just had some friends and our families over and we planted a tree. Andrew and I tried to say a few words but our words were limited because it’s still hard for us to not cry.

We bought a wind chime so when the wind blows or the storms rage we can hear her little bubbly sound. Imagine it’s her giggles. The bell on her bike, her shrieks of joy as she runs through the sprinkler. The sounds she never made.

I wrote her a letter. I sealed it in an envelope and buried it under the tree. It felt a bit like closure for me. All the things I wish for. The things I wish I could have said.

My dear sweet Elouise,
There is so much I wish I could say to you. I wish with all my heart I could have placed a kiss on your tiny face. I long for the day Jesus comes back, and maybe I’m selfish because mostly I just want to meet you and your brother. My heart aches with emptiness in the place I hoped you would fill. I will never stop missing you while we are apart.
I wish I knew what colour your eyes are. What colour your hair would be. If you would have freckles like your dad or maybe more like your sisters. We were all so excited to meet you, my sweet girl.
I imagine you with blue eyes and brown hair and a wild spray of freckles all over your face. You’re a girly girl but you like keeping up with your brother. I imagine you in a pink tutu and rubber boots on a run bike pushing hard to keep up with your siblings. You have a laugh that reminds me of bubbles and it comes easily. You light up a room whenever you enter it. You have a special bond with your daddy. I know he adores you. As you grow I imagine your hair takes on strawberry highlights and you earn even more freckles. You are so beautiful.
I wish I could hug you and breathe in your scent. You’d smell like fresh air after the rain. You would be warm.
OH I miss you. I miss all the moments we would have had. I miss feeling your wiggles. I wish I could have heard your heartbeat – even just once. I wish I could have held you in my arms and let you hear my voice so I could tell you just how much I love you.
I would have loved to hear your cry. Your tiny voice. To hear how your words would develop, if you had a lisp or a whirl.
I would have loved to cry on your first day of kindergarten and graduation day. I wish daddy could have walked you down the aisle.
Oh Elouise, I so badly wanted to make memories with you. I had so many plans.


But do you know what? God had something different. And even though I won’t hold you until I get to heaven I’m okay, because I know you’re safe. You’ll never feel pain or heartache. You’ll never know cancer or a scraped knee. I’m so grateful your experience will be a perfect one. And Jesus will take such good care of you! And you even have your big brother to be with you.
Even though these things bring me such comfort I still wish I could nurse you, hold you, cuddle you and dream with you.
Do you know what else though? Ever since you left God has been doing something amazing in my heart. I didn’t understand trust and faith before. I never felt so secure in Jesus’ love for me. I don’t think I was excited about Him coming back because I still had so much I wanted to do. But now I can’t wait! While I’m here and while He still has a purpose for me I hope to be obedient and compassionate. But my eyes are fixed on things above. I can’t wait to be with Jesus. To be with Him in paradise and to hold you and Aaron and kiss you. I can’t wait to see you. To look into your eyes.
I miss you. I wish you had stayed.
Thank you for teaching me more about Jesus. If you had stayed I don’t know if I would understand suffering, joy and peace the way I do now. The bible says we grieve with hope (1 Thess. 4:13) and in everything give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18). As much as I miss you and as much as I wish you had stayed – that you were still growing in my womb, I am so grateful that I have grown and become better. And it’s because of you, sweet girl.
I want to stop wishing for what could have been and start hoping for what’s still to come. I don’t want to feel guilty as I continue to heal. I want you and your brother to know i will always hold you in my heart and I long for the day I can kiss your sweet faces. Even as I heal and my tears don’t fall for you as often you will always be so dear to me. I wait with eagerness for the day we meet.
Dear daughter, you have taught me so much even though your time was short. I’ve changed because of you. You have made me better. And I hold Jesus closer, all because of you. I owe you for that, Lou. You are the perfect baby. I love you so much. Please tell your brother how much I miss him. I love you both with all my heart.

 

Until the day we meet in heaven,
Forever,

Mommy

Lamentations 3:20-23
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lords great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Songs of Songs 4:7
You are altogether beautiful, my darling, there is no flaw in you.

Isaiah 49: 13
Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. 

Philippians 1:3
I thank my God every time I remember you.

This whole journey has been so trying, so devastating. It’s been really humbling to have such an amazing community of family and friends hold us up in prayer and supporting us through our grief.
It was a gorgeous day. The clouds threatened rain, and it was a little windy – but overall a pretty amazing day to be planting a new little tree. We had our friend, who is a horticulturist, help us pick a tree and make sure it was planted properly because of all this tree represents I wanted to make sure it had the absolute best start. This baby apple tree. The Elouise Tree.

Dear Ivory

Dear Ivory,

Here I am writing you again on the eve of your original due date. If you were born around this time last year, you'd be one. Sadly, as we all know, things didn't work out how we had planned and now you've been in heaven much longer than here on earth.

I've been struggling with what to write for a few days now. I feel like my thoughts always come out like a jumbled up mess, so I'll try to share what's been on my mind.

I still wonder why God took you from me so soon. How is it possible that in the eight short weeks you were in my tummy, you fulfilled God's purpose for your life? How is it possible that my loving, kind, generous God so graciously planted you in my belly, helped me sustain your life for several weeks, and then plucked your sweet soul up and into heaven? Why would He do that? Why did He allow me to get pregnant in the first place? Why did He take you if He knew all the emotional and physical pain it would cause me? Why did He take you if he knew my marriage would nearly fall apart in the aftermath, and we are still struggling to pick up the pieces all this time later? Why?

I don't have the answers. I've always said that once I get to heaven, I'll know why He took you. But - I'm not so sure I will know. Maybe it isn't God's plan for me to know what happened. Heaven is supposed to be a place of rejoicing and laughter and dancing, would He really want to bring up the heartbreak and hurt again, if He has made all things new? I admit, I haven't researched the biblical answers to any of this, I'm just pouring out what's on my heart.

I have learned a couple things throughout this process though, and I bet that really surprises you. It seems like I still cry for you an awful lot, and I do, but I'm also learning. If I hadn't lost you, I would have never connected with some of the amazing women that I have. I would have never gotten to share my story and reach out to other moms in the same shoes. With Love, Genesis & Joy would have never existed. This ministry is because of you, my beautiful baby. I would have never learned how to relate to others going through loss. And most of all, I would have never dove into God's Word like I did, searching for answers and praying, praying PRAYING that Jesus would help me through the days ahead. I was so angry at Him for so long, but honestly - what kind of person would allow such pain to happen (even though death is not in His ultimate plan at all), and then never leave your side, and will always be there to help you through it? My Jesus is that person, the One who is holding you for me until I get there.

My body is the first place your heart started beating, you made me a mother. No matter who does and who doesn't acknowledge that, it's the truth. I am a mother because of you. People probably wonder how I could possibly love you so much, even though I never got to hold you in my arms. The simple answer is this: I created you. You are my baby. How could I not love you?

One last thing before I go. I told Naomi about you recently. I said, "Naomi, did you know you have a big sibling up in heaven? Her name is Ivory. Ivory Genesis. She was the pure, beautiful beginning to our family and I know she lives in you now." Ivory, did you know Naomi got the biggest grin on her face when I told her that? I know you made her smile. Just like it makes me smile when I randomly see angel wings - that's our sign and I know it means you're near.

It's time for me to go. Happy original due date, my precious baby. You have taught me so much. I'm sending up a white balloon to you tomorrow, send me a sign when you see it. I love you more than I could ever explain, you have my heart. 

-Mama

                        One of the only pictures I have of me pregnant with Ivory.

                        One of the only pictures I have of me pregnant with Ivory.

Husbands and loss.

This post is inspired by a small conversation with my husband a few nights ago. He had come home from work early (early for his job is around 8:30 at night) and were sitting on the couch talking while the baby was asleep.

We were talking about church the day before, and he said, "Yeah. When that guy got up front and was talking about how hard it was just to worship, how it took everything he had to even lift up one hand, that's how I felt."

"How you felt when?" I asked him, suddenly perplexed at the serious direction our casual conversation was headed.

"When we lost Ivory. I didn't think I could make it either. I didn't want to worship God."

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I always get frustrated because my husband isn't as open about our loss as I am. He compartmentalizes it a lot, which I can't really be upset about because I do the same thing, except for when it comes to our baby. We've had many arguments over the last year and a half because I felt like the loss didn't matter as much to him, that he wasn't as attached to the baby, or because I thought he felt like I was overreacting. Then, he'll randomly say something like our above conversation and I'll realize it absolutely did matter to him and he still feels the pain. He's admitted before to feeling like he has to keep it together for me - even though sometimes I wish he would lay on the floor and just cry like I've been known to do.

My point is this - men process grief a lot differently than women. Just because they don't cry at the mention of your baby's name doesn't mean they feel any differently about it than you do. It took me a long time to realize this. You have to understand that everyone's journey through grief is completely different. I'm still mucking through the waters nearly two years later, but for some people they begin to feel healing much sooner. You can't put a timeline on grief and you can't compare your journey to anyone else's.

My husband isn't a tattoo guy, but I got a tattoo on my wrist to honor Ivory. He got a knife engraved with "Ivory Genesis" and Job 1:21. I put together a shadow box with Ivory's ultrasound picture (I carried this box around the house with me, room to room, for about a week after the miscarriage). He admits to hearing a song on the radio and getting flooded with emotion and memories. We both process things differently, and that's okay.

I'm still waiting for the day that we can sit down together and just talk about the loss without any walls up. It hasn't happened yet, but that's okay too. It will one day, but both parties need to be ready. It can't be rushed.

I was pregnant with Ivory in this picture, and didn't know it yet. We found out the next week. (July 2015)

I was pregnant with Ivory in this picture, and didn't know it yet. We found out the next week. (July 2015)