Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

This morning, I keep thinking back to the past two Christmases we've shared as a family.

In Christmas 2007, Cynthia was just going into her third trimester with Cara, and carrying her so beautifully. It was a really nice Christmas together. And while we enjoyed that Christmas together, we spent most of our time dreaming about next year's Christmas and what it would be like to share all our traditions with Cara. I can still here all the "next year with Cara's" when I think back to that Christmas. One special memory for me was the Christmas Eve service. As some of you might know, our church has its Christmas Eve service outside. This year, we were out in the middle of a field, next to a few farm animals and a tiny manger. I was up in front of the congregation playing guitar for the service while Cynthia with Cara in her belly was out in the crowd. I know it wouldn't seem like a special memory for everyone, but for me, playing guitar at such a beautiful service with Cynthia and Cara there meant a lot. It was one of those memories of sharing music and the miracle of Christmas with Cara that I'll never forget.

Last Christmas, we were pretty much in a completely opposite place. Instead of experiencing joy, hope and peace through the holidays we were finding deep despair. Just a few months ago we had lost hope from the miscarriage, and at the time we were hoping that we'd get pregnant very soon. The one bright spot of the season came through our trip to the mountains. We knew we had to do something different to take care of ourselves over the holidays and getting away for a couple days to the mountains was the perfect fit.

This Christmas again seems almost like a complete reversal. With Molly here, there is more hope and joy in our lives than there's been since our pregnancy with Cara. As we've written before, Molly is a gift to our family, and in a way a gift from Cara, and with her here there is a physical, tangible sign of life and hope in our family again. But this Christmas season isn't all roses. Very often as we've put up the tree or gone to Grandma's house for cookie day we've grieved Cara's physical absence from those traditions. It's heartbreaking to think that Cara should be here, and if she was she'd be a beautiful little one and a half year old getting into all kinds of trouble.

Tonight, we'll gather with our church again outside in a barn. It will be quiet, dark and cold. I'll be up there again playing guitar, thinking about Cara and looking out into the congregation for my beautiful wife and daughter.

We miss you so much, Cara. We wish you could physically be here. You would be a beautiful, dark-haired little toddler by now and it would be so fun if you were here. Help us feel you close to us this Christmas season. You are our angel. We love you always.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Service of Lessons and Carols

I found a new love this morning. The Methodist service of Lessons and Carols. Our church brought in a professional storyteller to weave the journey of Christ's coming to the world. The congregation sang hymns between the passages of scripture from the Old Testament Prophets to the Good News of the New Testament.

As I sat rocking Molly singing one of the hymns, Tim and I caught eyes. He smiled at both of us and tears welled up in my eyes. I could have just as easily been rocking Cara. It made me miss her so much. The finality of her absence still hits me at times.

As the service continued, a beautiful member of our congregation stood to sing Breath of Heaven, Mary's voice in Jesus's coming. The woman is one of those refreshing untrained voices, who simply listens to the song and hears the notes. Even more beautiful was knowing she carries a son, and that as she placed her hand on her belly, her 20-week old baby was likely bouncing inside.

It was a completely divine moment until I heard soft sniffles beside me. How could I have forgotten? My dear, dear friend should be just as pregnant, their due dates days apart. She should know the joy of a new life growing within her womb. And she did until two months ago when it all came to a painful end.

I held my little Molly close with one arm and wrapped the other around my friend. I heard the sniffles become louder, the shakes more violent, and in that moment I learned what it meant to be in the shoes of those who sat next to me so many Sundays. The friends who sat there as I cried through sermons, as babies were baptized into the church, as pregnant women were celebrated around me. So many times I had the gentle touch of a friend's hand on my shoulder as I sat and wept.

Today I felt completely and utterly helpless. I wanted to take my friend's pain away. I longed to absorb all the pain from her, to take it as my own. I knew my friend was hurting, and in that moment I was also hurting so desperately for her. It made me realize what my friends must have felt all those months.

I suppose this is what it means to be body of Christ, to share in one another's brokenness and desperately pray for redemption. This world is broken, but I'm eternally thankful for family, friends and church, who have walked this painful journey with us as we seek to find healing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress

"Do you check to see if she's breathing," they ask me. Then before I can even answer, they say, "of course you do, every parent does."

True, but does every parent convince themselves that their child is dead? Does every parent look across the room at someone else holding their baby and believe the child isn't breathing? Or look in the bassinet and only see an ashen-colored baby when really there are rosy cheeks?

I recently told Tim about these experiences. It was a few short days later that he saw one play out. I was holding Molly in public when I felt I couldn't hear her soft breathing in my ear. I tried moving her and she felt limp. (Of course she was, she was completely asleep.) But nearly paralyzing fear played out for me as I tried to rouse her, to see some movement of life.

Tim looked at me and said, "It just happened, didn't it?" In the car on the way home, I asked what he saw. He said it was evident I was scared and fearful.

I guess it's post traumatic stress. I suppose it comes with the territory. I just wish it didn't have to be my reality.

Monday, December 7, 2009

21 Months Later, A New Season

"This is going to be the best Christmas of your life," they tell me. Do they say this because it is a line society delivers to every parent of a living child that first Christmas? Or do they say it because we just lived through the worst Christmas of our lives?

As we have taken Molly to various holiday parties and introduced her to friends and family for the first time, Cara is drawn to my mind more and more. As people ooh and aah over Molly I find myself wanting to talk about Cara. Do they wonder what she looked like? Yes, Molly looks exactly like me, but I long to share how Cara was clearly her father's with Tim's dark, silky hair and distinctive nose.

When they tell me how perfect Molly is, I wonder to myself if they think Cara was any less. It was not her fault she died, I long to tell them. It was me, my body failed her.

I even struggle with my own inner battle as I deliver lines to Molly like, "You are the most beautiful baby in the world." She is, but her sister was too. I end up feeling guilty as though I have forgotten Cara's beauty, because I am not face to face with it every day.

The reality is we still continue to learn how to navigate this unexpected life of losing a child. We lived through many firsts in the last year and a half but there are still many more to come.

How do you sign your Christmas card? At first it was just our last name, but then we opted for our three names with Cara's absent. We hope the nature of the card we chose draws to mind the one who is missing.

Does Santa only come for the living children? Yes, but we have chosen to donate to First Candle in Cara's memory the same amount of money we spend on Molly.

As these new life scenarios play out, we pray we are being faithful to both our daughters and our little family of four.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here Comes The Sun

This time last year was a very dark place for us. It was our first Christmas without Cara, we had just suffered a miscarriage, and months of infertility followed both of our losses. The holiday was cancelled. No celebrating. We desperately longed for our ray of hope to shine through again.

Music is a crucial part of our lives, so we were intentional about what albums we listened to as the holiday swirled around us. Yo-Yo Ma offered a sweet gift to our battered souls with his Songs of Joy & Peace album.

There was one song, Here Comes the Sun, that resonated deep within my soul. I longed to fast forward to this year, to have a Little Darling to sing this song to. I wanted out of the proverbial winter we were living in. I drove around town, I sat in my kitchen working, I listened and I cried.

The moment I dreamed of is finally here. I have my Little Darling. I can rock her and sing to her about the sun coming on these cold winter days, but the tears don't come like they used to. There is far too much joy in her life. The tears that were once of indescribable pain and longing are now full of thanks and praise to the Giver of Life.

Here Comes the Sun

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right

To those longing for a Little Darling, I pray this time next year you too can join our song.