If you’ve missed any part of this series, click on any post directly below.
Part Two-My Storms in a nutshell
Part Four-More Depression
Part Five-Even More Depression
Part Six-Guest Post, Dan Blanchard
Part Seven-The Last Depression Post
Part Eight-Death of a Child
Part Nine-Death of a Child
Part Ten-Guest Post, Holly Good
Part Eleven-Death of a Child
Part Twelve-Death of a Child
Part Thirteen, Death of a Child
Part Fourteen, Death of a Child
Part Fifteen, Death of a Child
Part Sixteen, Conclusion
And I’m extending the give-away until Tuesday night—winner to be announced on Wednesday! If you haven’t entered, click here.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It didn’t take long before I realized that sitting alone in a house full Noah’s things was doing me little good. I found myself wanting to sleep most of the time, disappointed when I’d wake up, realizing the pain and emptiness were still there. I would look at the clock a hundred times a day, shocked at how slowly the seconds ticked away.
For the first time in my life, I was literally wishing away entire days at a time.
I had no desire to talk on the phone, letting nearly all the calls go to my answering machine. I couldn’t stand the thought of staying in the house alone, yet the thought of leaving was just as frightening. I had no desire to eat or exercise. I wondered how long I’d have to survive like this before I would get to die and join Noah in Heaven.
I never actually contemplated suicide, I just wanted God to take me too, so that I could be with my son again. The separation from Noah was immersing me deeper and deeper into my depression.
I’ve heard many parents of deceased children say that after the child’s death they would “hear” the child again…hear the child’s cry or the child’s giggle, only to realize that it wasn’t the child. It was something else…or nothing at all. My experience with this came by way of the dogs that lived in the house behind us. The muffled sound of their barking through the closed windows of my home sounded just like the little grunts and movements coming through the monitor when Noah would be waking up from his nap. It was the strangest thing. For the first few weeks every time the dogs barked, I would flinch in response to go retrieve Noah from his crib. In a split second, I would realize that it wasn’t Noah…only dogs…and that pathetic reality spiraled me further into my pit.
Once I had a dream that Noah was alive and I was laying down with him sleeping on my chest. I was patting and caressing his back as he lay peacefully with me in my bed. When I woke up, I was still patting and caressing…but Noah was not there. Everything about my dream was the same, but Noah was gone. A strong twinge of pain pierced my gut, and I began to weep. ” Oh God,” I begged, ” just take me home. I can’t live like this.”
It was a strange position, being a mother without a child. At the time, Noah was my only child, so I was alone in my home ten hours a day. Alone in an environment fully equipped for a baby and a stay-at-home mother. Memories of my former life hovered over every room of the house. I knew that if I didn’t do something, I would die in that house.
I honestly would not be able to share our story without describing to you the various tools the Lord used to repair my heart. Often, the repair came in unexpected ways. Sometimes I didn’t realize until months or years later how much something or someone truly aided me in my long recovery. But other times, I knew from the start that God had allowed someone or something extraordinary into my life that became like a soothing balm, over and over again.
My daughter, Rebekah, is one of those “extraordinary someones.”
After Noah died, I had one person tell me that I needed time to “heal” before I thought about getting pregnant again. At the time, that statement sounded absurd to me (and still does) but I didn’t know how to respond. People often warned me not to try to “replace” Noah with another child. In fact, over two years after Noah died, someone said it to me again, with regard to our attempts to adopt a third child, Elijah.
I try to extend grace for the people who think and say these types of things, knowing that in reality they have no idea what it is like to lose a child. I know they mean well. It sounds logical to them, that a parent could try to “replace” their dead child with another. Maybe they think there would be some undue pressure on that child to live up to the image of the deceased child. Or maybe they fear we are not emotionally stable enough to handle the care required to parent an additional child. And that may be true on some level, but I have yet to meet a parent of a deceased child who demonstrated these unhealthy attitudes. And I have had the honor to meet many of these precious parents.
I feel strongly that as you move through a strong storm of any kind—not just the death of a child—you need to make these type of life-altering decisions independent of the opinion of others who have no idea what it is like to experience the same storm. You need not worry about making the wrong decision. Just focus on staying close to Jesus. He’ll lead you down the most healing pathway.
For us, that path meant trying to conceive just two weeks after Noah passed away. We were successful. And nine months later, I gave birth to Rebekah. From the moment we made this decision, I have never once regretted trying to conceive Rebekah in the pit of my grief.
It turns out that this one decision to try to get pregnant became a primary, multifaceted, and continual recovery aid. An aid that continues to this very day.
I know all our storms are different—and I definitely know GETTING PREGNANT is not the key to everyone’s healing! Mercy! Can you imagine? But the point here is to allow God to lead you throughout your storm. He will reveal the exact things you need, when you need them.
Looking back, I’m simply overwhelmed with all the ways Rebekah’s life has mended my heart.
Here are just a few:
*I wanted so desperately to think about something else besides Noah’s death, but it was impossible early on. The thought of having another baby someday helped me to concentrate on something important, if only for a few minutes here and there.
*It forced my husband and me to become intimate again…something that realistically may not happen for months after losing a child. Sorry if that’s too much information, but this was a bigger deal than I realized at the time. The intimacy helped keep us connected at a time our marriage was incredibly vulnerable, and could have collapsed altogether.
*One of the biggest agents in my healing came in the knowledge that I had a living child inside me. I struggle to put into words the awful feeling of not having a child after being a parent of a living child for nine months. It was so difficult for Jon and me to find our place.
To be with our friends with children was so painful. We had a child too, but he was in Heaven. I wanted to participate in “baby discussions” with them, but the subject of my baby brought awkward silence.
To be with our friends without children was equally painful. Our pre-child days were long gone. I had no desire to live our lives as though we had no children.
There was no way anyone could relate to our loss of identity as parents.
But with the news of our new pregnancy, came a renewed sense of motherhood for me. Within a few weeks, I got to hear her little heartbeat. Then I got to see her on a sonogram. Then I was able to feel her moving inside me…she was my baby that I got to “hold” (in my womb) for nine months while I grieved the loss of her big brother.
*For once, it was nice to share good news with our friends and family. Our loved ones wanted so badly for us to be happy again. All of our family lived out of town, and I can only imagine how helpless they felt each time they ended a phone call with one of us. Conversations became increasingly laborious.
I was hurting.
I was sick of hurting.
I was sick of talking about hurting.
And no one knew what to say to make it better. Finally, after a month of trying to find something to talk about besides losing Noah, we could share with people the good news of our expected second child. I could talk to people about morning sickness, maternity clothes and sonograms. People were truly happy for us.
*Once I was pregnant, I knew I had to take care of myself. It forced me to get out of bed, eat right and get some exercise…things I never would have done so soon if it weren’t for the pregnancy. Spiritually, it gave me something else to pray about. Admittedly, my faith was low and my prayers were weak, but I prayed for the baby anyway.
*I will always remember being in the delivery room and hearing my doctor say, “Jon, come over here and see your new daughter!” followed by a new little cry.
Alive! She is alive!
She was so warm and so alert. She smelled so good. It was easy for me to fall right back into the rhythm of motherhood. Baths and diapers and nighttime feedings…I saw it all in a brand new light.
What a miracle.
What a privilege.
Never again would I complain about any of my duties. (OK…I’ve sort of faltered on this one over the years.) Never again would I wish away a stage of life. Never again would I take for granted simple pleasures like reading a book to my baby or pushing her in a stroller around the neighborhood. I knew that I wasn’t promised tomorrow with her, and that caused me to treat every minute with my new daughter with the utmost respect. Taking in the details of every day became a passion for me. After nine months of wishing away the hours and the days of a difficult pregnancy, I was desperately trying to soak up every minute with her. I memorized her face, her smell and the feel of her skin. I wanted to make certain that if the Lord took her to Heaven, I would remember everything and have no regrets.
*Suddenly, I had instant perspective. A clean house and a daily shower seemed so insignificant, compared to sitting down and quietly nursing my new daughter. Those middle-of-the-night cries that tend to be so burdensome (and rightfully so) to new parents sounded like sweet music to me.
“I’ll happily get up and tend to my healthy, living child,” I’d think to myself.
The demands of life that pull on so many young couples rarely affected me now that I had my new baby. The most important thing in the world was to love the beautiful family with which God had blessed me.
*Rebekah forced me to smile every day. Several times a day, in fact. Smiles and laughter are like a balm to a wounded heart. Proverbs 22:17 says, “A merry heart is good like a medicine.” It is so difficult for a grieving and depressed individual to find humor or joy in much of anything. But there is something about babies. They can warm even the hardest of hearts.
* And she was a constant, living reminder of the goodness and mercy of God. Rebekah is now ten-years-old. She is articulate, funny and passionate.
My seven-year-old son, Elijah is sensitive, kind-hearted, and silly.
And Elliana—sweet, cuddly and precious.
Not a day goes by that I don’t truly marvel at the way God uses these three children to continually demonstrate His love for me. Sometimes in obvious, overt ways. Other times simply in the realization that God has blessed me with more children.
In any case, I have three giggling reminders that God remembered me in my pit, and didn’t leave me there alone to find my way out.
Again, my experience is not reproducible for all people—no pun intended. I realize how difficult it is to sense God’s leading when you are in pain and confusion. But that is the beauty of God.
I believe He does His most meticulous and intricate work on the hurting heart. I believe this is when He speaks the loudest. This is when He scoops you up and holds you more closely than ever. And when the storm passes and the sun breaks through the clouds, you can look around at all the miraculous ways God provided for your journey. And you will praise Him for it.
Now go grab a tissue and hug your kids. That’s what I’m going to do.