I didn’t hold my baby today

There are days where it still aches. And there are days when the pain is not so tangible anymore.

But there has yet to be a day where I forget.

My baby was supposed to make an entrance into this world, bright and breathing and full of life today. That life left this world months ago. Today will be a day that I will always remember, but never a day where I get to hold my baby close.

I loved my baby, and I always will. That sweet little child, just the size of my thumb, with the cutest little tongue I’ve ever seen. I wanted to stare at Z’s tongue forever, and never let my baby go.

When the contractions started, though full of sorrow, I was determined to deliver my baby at home. I remember telling God that if I had to lose my baby, I needed him to at least let me hold my baby. Being in the hospital wouldn’t give me that option. I came across lots of reasons to go in for a D&C when I started looking up natural miscarriages online. The bleeding and passing could take weeks. It is too traumatic and emotional to deliver a baby who is already gone. There is a risk of not passing everything, or bleeding too much. But I knew this was the right decision for me.

So when those contractions started, I went into delivery mode. With every contraction, I encouraged my body to keep going and deliver my baby. They started around 3pm, very similar to how my previous labor began. Throughout the evening they became more intense, but nothing I wasn’t expecting. I gave birth to my son without intervention, and this baby was much smaller than my 9# first born.

One of the saddest parts was allowing myself to take ibuprofen. It’s a medicine you are not supposed to take during pregnancy. Taking it that night only confirmed one terrible thing – my baby was not alive.

I labored for a while in the tub as the contractions got more intense. With every contraction I relaxed my body and coached the muscles to do their thing, all the while thinking, “I will hold my baby.” I congratulated my body after the hard contractions. And I wept between them all.

My son was still breastfeeding and I nursed him to sleep every night. This night was no different. I needed him close. I needed to know he was healthy and strong and full of life. And from my crunchy, natural mama research, I knew that nursing him would encourage the contractions to get stronger.

And they did. I delivered the placenta just as my husband put my son to bed. The next couple hours were filled with stronger contractions and more laboring in the tub. It was around 9pm when I began to think maybe I wouldn’t hold my baby after all. Maybe my baby was much smaller than I expected.

Just as I decided I had somehow missed my baby I felt the urge to push ever so slightly. Squatting in the shower I delivered my baby, small as my thumb, in the gestational sac. Alex was there in the bathroom with me. I asked him to come in after our son was in bed. I opened the sac, cut the umbilical cord, and asked Alex if he wanted to see our baby. We cried. And we marveled at such a tiny human. A tiny little human who looked to be so perfectly formed and knitted together.

The contractions kept going, and I kept losing blood. After talking to my midwife we decided to go to ER to make sure there weren’t any complications. I am a very matter of fact person and spent the next hours in ER without any tears. Everything was fine.

My body did an amazing job in a terrible situation. I was able to hold my baby. I studied every little detail. Only two inches tall crown to rump, but full of wonder. Ten toes, ten fingers. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth. Itty bitty tongue. Just twelve weeks old.

I will never know in this lifetime why my baby left so soon. July 30th will forever be a day that ends with more questions than it does answers. It will be a day that I will not hold my baby as long as I am here on earth.

But there was a day that I held my little one. It was a sad day full of weeping. But it was a day that I will forever be grateful for. It was a day that testified and served as witness that there was life in my womb. And that life was beautiful.


Naming Baby Z

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for weeks. And even now I’m still not sure how to start. I’ve already written half the post once, but erased it all to start again.

My brother Zeke loves picking out baby names. And let me tell you, he picks the most unique of them all. Suggestions have been Chuck Norris, B.A. Baraccus, Bathsheba, Black Widow, King Solomon, Captain Ezekiel…the list just goes on and on. Every time he finds out he’s going to be an uncle again he starts spouting out the least likely suggestions.

When I told Zeke I was pregnant at Thanksgiving he simply said, “Call him Isaac.” I was dumbfounded with the normalcy of this name suggestion. Isaac…really? Not Night Rider???

Anyways, I just tucked that memory in my head and figured we would cross the naming bridge when we had our 20 week ultrasound.

But that day never came. At 13.5 weeks I delivered my tiny little baby whose heart had already stopped.

While I was in labor I thought about names. What would we call this baby that we loved and lost? We didn’t know if Z was a boy or girl. We would never know. But I wanted Z to have a name nonetheless.

Between contractions in the tub I thought about Isaac. I grabbed my phone to look up what it meant. In the middle of the most intense sorrow I’ve ever felt in my life, the words staring back at me were “He will laugh.” My heart smiled and wept at the same time. Isaac…in the Bible it was the name given to a baby whose conception in and of itself was a miracle. A son who was asked to be given back to the Lord. A son of inheritance and promise.

But what if the baby was a girl? After reading the meaning of Isaac I knew I wanted Zibah to be the girl name. For years…even before I was married…I had been trying to find a variation of Hephzibah that I liked. There is a passage in the Bible where God tells the Israelites that he will change their name from Desolate and Deserted to Hephzibah – “My delight is in her.” It’s a message that speaks volumes about God. It shows us a God who calls things that are not as though they were. It shows a God who is full of delight for his people, even in the midst of their hearts being far away from him. It shows the God I know. He’s a God of hope. He’s a good God.

And so, in between contractions in my bathtub, I decided that my baby would be Isaac Zibah…Baby Z…cuz I’m from the hood and hear the “z” sound in both these names 😉

He will laugh.

My delight is in her.

I want people to know the joy that only comes through knowing Jesus. It’s a joy that is present even in the darkest of times. It is joy that can carry you through even the worst storms. It is joy and delight that Z will always know, completely untainted by the darkness and foolishness of this world. Z is full of laughter and delight in the presence of God in Heaven. When I think of Z, I want to be reminded of the God who delights in me and in whose presence is fullness of joy. When I talk about Z and share Z with others, this is the message I want their hearts to receive. God delights in you. He is full of mercy and abounding in steadfast love. His love for you cannot be shaken. Though there is pain and suffering and all sorts of hurt on this earth, in the presence of the Lord is the one place you are guaranteed to find the fullness of joy.

Losing my baby was, and is, the most terrible thing I have ever lived through. My eyes were swollen from crying for a week straight. It was 11 weeks ago today that my body was moving into active labor. It was a terrible day. It was a day full of sadness I have never known. Oh, but if there were some way to transfer to your heart and mind the way the Lord was holding me in those moments, I would. He gives me laughter for sadness and joy for tears. I am reminded of the pain every time I think of Z. But I am immediately reminded of the nearness and compassion of my Lord, too. When I think of Z in Heaven all I see is laughter and delight.

And it is my prayer every day that this blog is a place of healing that brings joy and delight to the darkest places. Oh, that you would see the way Jesus loves you! If only you could see why Zibah smiles in His presence. If only you would fully know your worth and the delight that the God of the universe takes in you. This is my prayer. And I believe it is Z’s prayer too, as s/he stands in the presence of the Lord day and night, night and day.

19 Weeks

Every Thursday I am reminded of the morning the bleeding began. It was pink and I was hopeful it was just harmless spotting that so many women experience.

Every Friday I remember when the blood turned bright red. I remember the cramping. I remember scheduling the appointment. I remember listening for what was no longer there. I remember contractions coming in the night.

Every Saturday I remember going into labor. I remember telling my body it was okay and commanding my body to embrace and encourage the contractions. I remember delivering my baby and all of the tears.

Sometimes I remember these things quickly without much pain, other days I weep. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little.

But today is Tuesday.
And every Tuesday I remember how old my baby is. I usually mark the week off in my mind and carry on with my day. Always happy I didn’t forget, and yet sad that baby Z is gone.

19 weeks today.

Today was one of the days I thought about it but moved on. Daniel and I enjoyed breakfast together like usual. And he asked for more eggs many times.
We went to work. I worked, he played. We have a good thing going there.
When we came home, he ate a snack while I lifted weights.
I prepped for dinner and then woke Alex up so I could go to my appointment.

This Tuesday I had a follow up appointment with a midwife at my birth center. I figured we would just talk about my body, how it was doing, and when it would be safe to try for another baby.

I didn’t think this would be a Tuesday that I cried.

But then I got in the car and started driving. The last time I made this drive I was sitting in the passenger seat just trying to hold it together. I was desperately trying to keep Alex from seeing how scared I was. It was a silent drive, but my thoughts were screaming. I kept repeating over and over in my head, “My inheritance is life.” It was the only true thing I could think of. Just hoping that this little one would have a life on earth, but knowing Z would inherit life in heaven if that was not the case. The last time I made this drive I was trying so hard to be brave.
This time I just let the tears come.

I felt the anxiety build up inside my body as I got closer and closer to the birth center. This would be the first time I entered those doors knowing there was no life growing inside of me. My heart began beating fast and I had to consciously release air with every breath, even as I walked up the steps and told myself to hold it together.
When I sat down to wait I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make eye contact. All the staff knew why I was there today. All the staff knew my baby was gone. All the staff knew my pain. There is no hiding when everyone knows. I wanted to hide.

I was escorted to my room. The same room where I laid on a table and listened for what was no longer there. I sat on the same couch where just a few weeks ago I sat crying as the midwife said, “I’m so sorry.”

And then the midwife came in and asked me how I was doing.
I couldn’t help but let loose and cry. That is still such a terrible question. I shared about the drive and sitting in that room. She listened and she cried with me.

We sat and talked for an hour.

And just like last time, I cried on my drive home.

Its Tuesday. And today my baby is 19 weeks.

Just another Tuesday with my little buddy

You are my Favorite

I was sitting in a room of 20,000 people. I was in the last row with the easiest access to the exit. Moments before I had been standing and bouncing, bouncing, bouncing. Daniel was strapped to my body and it was his nap time. I bounced him to sleep and then sat down from utter exhaustion. I was focused on the stage, but surrounded by distraction.

I was trying to be engaged in the worship that was being led from the stage. Eyes checking on my baby then back to the screen finding the words to sing, sometimes finding a moment to be closed and focused. Hands taking turns patting my baby and being raised in worship. Trying to engage and trying to keep my baby asleep. Wanting to be at the front away from all of the distractions but needing to be in my seat because carrying a toddler and being pregnant is hard, hard work.

I had very few expectations coming to this conference with a breastfeeding toddler in tow. Every session either started at nap time or bed time. I expected to miss most of what was going on. I’ve spent the last year and a half as a mom very distracted, very limited in time, and barely seeking the Lord like I had in years before. And if I’m being honest, going to this conference I truly felt least worthy and unimportant to the Lord. In a room of 20,000 people, surely everyone else was more faithful in their devotion of seeking Jesus than I. I didn’t deserve it or somehow earn to hear from Jesus. (News flash…we never do.) But, I had asked the Lord to meet me there, regardless. I asked him if he would respond to me, if he would speak what I needed to hear.

Then the worship leader began singing a song that struck my heart, bringing weeping and relief all at the same time. Every word she was singing was aimed like an arrow straight to my soul. God was using her. I was the target. And she was dead on. She started singing my story. Here’s what she was saying:

I feel the Lord say, “Don’t hold back your love from me. Your devotion might not look the same as in the past season. But I see your reach for me. Little girl, I see the way you’ve poured yourself out at 16 years old in your bedroom, in the secret. When you thought no one was looking and you opened up the word and you whispered little phrases. Pouring out yourself at your youth group. Spending late nights speaking into younger ones. And in your heart you say, ‘God, I’m not in my youth anymore. I’m tired and I’m weak. Staying at home with my children. The only time I can give to you is 10 minutes of my day.’ And Beloved, I hear the Lord say your devotion is still the same. Little girl, I see your reach for me. You give me the little minutes of your day, little whispers of your day. And I say its real. I say its passionate. He sees you. He’s moved by your devotion.

[You can watch the worship set here…fast forward to 29 minutes. If you are a mom, it is a must watch!]

Oh, I was undone. (Have you ever been undone by the kindness, the goodness, the sweet gentleness of God the Father? It is so precious. It breaks through every dark and hard place and brings the most life giving air you’ve ever breathed!) I just sat there with my arms raised, tears streaming down my face. At this young adult conference, with 20,000 people in the room, Jesus was singing straight to me through this woman. At a young adult conference where half of those in attendance were men, and 80% of the women there were not moms, Jesus asked her to sing *this* song. A song that would only minister to a handful of the people there. A song that would fly like an arrow into *my* heart. Me…of all the people there…Jesus wanted to speak to *me*.

As I was happy crying, I thought about the night before. Allen Hood was standing on the stage when Mike Bickle asked him what he was thinking. Allen just started sobbing and said, “I’m His favorite. I am God’s favorite one.” This grown man just stood there sobbing with this revelation. I was markedly intrigued. I thought, “Of course Allen Hood is one of God’s favorites. He has done so much for the Kingdom and has been so faithfully dedicated to the Lord.” I had wondered why that revelation made this man sob. As all of this flashed through my mind in an instant, I understood why Allen Hood wept in that revelation. I was weeping in that revelation. The God of the universe chose to sing this song at this conference just so I could hear. The God of the universe chose to respond to me in the midst of 20,000 others. The God of the universe heard my prayer asking him to meet me here and he said “Yes!” He embraced me, he commended the devotion of my youth and he affirmed the devotion of my now. He picked me out of the crowd because I am His favorite one and said, “Amy, I see you and I love you.”

He delights in me. He delights in Allen Hood. He delights in moms who only have minutes in their days to set their eyes on Him. He delights in YOU. It’s not something we earn or deserve, it’s just something we get to receive. He loves you, because He loves you, because He loves you (Kim Walker throw back right there). Just receive that love.

Hephzibah – My delight is in you. I knew it before, but the Lord chose to bring it back to the forefront of my mind. This was how he wanted to start my 2019. He wanted me to know that He is the God who sees me, He is the God who responds because He is the God who delights in me. I have replayed my experience at Onething again and again in my head since my miscarriage. I desperately needed the Lord to meet me at that conference. I had no idea I was going to lose the baby I was carrying in my belly weeks later. And had it not been for that fresh touch from the Lord I honestly don’t know how I’d be doing at the moment. But these past weeks, though the most sorrowful I’ve ever had, have been full of encounters with Jesus. I have found myself running to him, embracing him, and clinging to him because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE SEES ME, HE LOVES ME, AND HE DELIGHTS IN ME. Even in my weak love. It’s not something I’ve earned, just something I get to receive. It’s His love that is sustaining me as I continue to grieve my Baby Z.

Babywearing at it’s finest – Daniel sleeping through the noise of 20,000 people!

Behold and Sing

I have a box full of journals in my basement. Journals I started when I was 8 years old and all the books I’ve filled since then. But this journal has been my nemesis. Its 2019 and I still haven’t finished it. I started this journal in 2012. I wasn’t married yet. I still went by Amy O. I was still a teacher. I was still living in Detroit with plans to never, ever leave.

And so much has changed since then.

For years I have been frustrated that this journal still has empty pages. Journaling has always been my way of connecting with God so an incomplete journal reminds me again and again that I’m not seeking Him out as much as I once did.

“What you behold is what you will sing.”
I wrote that years ago as a reminder to myself. If I wanted to lead others in worship, into the very heart of God, into unconditional love and into chain-breaking freedom then I had to behold that first. I had to seek to know the heart of God. I had to know what his love could really do. I had to behold his face. And then, only then, could I sing and lead others to that place.

But as I look at the words I scratched into the front of this journal I am at peace. I’ve found myself singing these past two weeks. Singing in the midst of deep pain and sorrow. Singing with a broken heart. Sometimes barely singing and mostly weeping, but singing in my soul nonetheless. And when I glanced at the front of this journal my heart rejoiced. Oh, I have beheld my God. I have continued to behold him. It looks a lot different than in years past, but he’s the solid rock on which I find myself standing today. And even in this deep sadness, I cannot be shaken. Even now, I can sing. I can sing because I know who my God is. I can sing and I can weep because my God is worthy of it all. He can handle my pain. He can heal my pain. And he is worthy of all my praise.

I pray you behold the Living God, too. And I pray that it shakes everything that can be shaken until you find refuge in Christ alone – the only rock I know.

The Pain of Never

There’s a lot of pain in loss. Pain that, as one friend put it, “breaks you in ways you never knew possible.”

I never thought I would say that I am 1 in 4. That I lost my baby. That I buried my child. But, here I am, in this loss and experiencing this pain.

I am not the first, and sadly, I won’t be the last mother to feel this pain.

But there are other mothers, other women who have known the pain of never. Never hearing that heartbeat. Never conceiving. Never carrying a healthy baby to full term. Never holding their own flesh and blood, breathing and full of life. That is a pain I do not know. That is a pain I cannot imagine. And the breaking that comes with it is one I cannot fathom.

I was washing dishes and all of a sudden was hit with the most beautiful picture I’ve ever seen. I saw women in Heaven. Women that knew the pain of never. Barren women. Women who desperately wanted to be mothers on earth but for one reason or the other never were.

Babies were being handed to them. Babies of all ages. Babies like Z, just the size of my thumb. Older babies and younger babies. Little ones who were unable to live outside of the womb. Little ones who were dearly wanted and those who were not. These women were beaming with delight and overflowing with joy. The joy they had was indescribable. The kind of joy that spills out of your heart with laughter and tears. Women who were broken in ways beyond words here on earth having the joy of receiving these little ones. They rejoiced. They treasured these little ones. They nurtured and cared for the babies with joyful delight. It was their great pleasure to hold onto these babies until the day their parents joined them in Heaven.

I smiled. And then in an instant I wept. I wept because my God is so good. He is a God full of redemption. He is a God that calls things that are not as though they were. He is a God who brings restoration. He restores the broken hearted. He comforts those who mourn. He brings laughter in the place of tears. He takes all of our pain and, because of his death and glorious resurrection, because He and He Alone defeated the grave, gives us life in it’s place.

He takes our mourning and turns it into dancing. That is what I saw in this picture. I saw broken hearts fully restored. I saw the glory of the eternal Kingdom of my God. I saw Baby Z being handed over to the most delighted woman and I knew my baby would be loved beyond words until the day I can hold Z again.

You take my mourning and turn it into laughing.

You take my weeping and turn it into dancing.

You take my sadness and turn it into joy.

You bring restoration, You bring restoration to my soul.