Monday, December 27, 2010


"How did you cope with a loss and a birth at the same time".  This question was asked by a beautiful woman named Rachel who's writing has carried me over the last year.  She writes of the most inspiring things...  Her blog is called Waiting for Morning.  My friend Brooke told me to visit her blog a long time ago and read this post about a lemon tree.  I cannot count how many times I have thought to myself, I have been cut but my roots are growing deeper.  I will push through this.  I can do this.  The lemon tree has given me so much strength and I am grateful she wrote it.  And if you're reading this, thank you Brooke.

At any rate, it turns out that Rachel reads my blog and she left a comment and asked "How did you cope with a loss and a birth at the same time".  It is the first time that anyone has asked me this.  I cannot believe it is the first time anyone has ever asked.  And yet I wonder, how can the whole world not think it?  Sarah was born, less than 24 hours later God came and whispered in Marie's ear and she got up and followed Him Home.  Who does that happen to?  Who has to deal with that?  And the truth is, I don't really know how I cope.  I don't fit in anymore among the mother's who have never lost a child, but even among those who have I cannot help but feel that I am somehow different.  Just because of how it happened, how God twined my daughters together, how His plan fell into place.

There are moments.  Real.  Honest.  Horrible.  Moments when the pain is so intense that my chest seems split in two and I scream in a voice that scares me because it is too much and to terrible to comprehend.  The baby, the beautiful little brown haired girl that I carried inside me, the princess that I could not get enough of, the hand I held constantly for two years, five months and twenty five days... she is gone.  And on Christmas morning I screamed in a cemetery.  I clung to Luke's fleece jacket and screeched in a voice that is not my own because sometimes it hurts that much.

Then I took a deep breath.  I wiped the tears on the back of my hand, I wrapped my scarf tighter, fluffed my hair, blew a kiss to Heaven and told that little girl I love her, and I got back in the car with the other two and held it together.

How do you cope with loss and birth at the same time?  To have one arrive and barely have celebrated it and have your heart ripped out at the others leaving is surreal.  I did not put Sarah down for weeks.  Rarely did I let her out of my arms.  I held her like a lifeline.  I rocked and crooned and cried and held on to that tiny baby with everything I had.  And Josie... she was so lost.  And who could tell her no to anything after her sister had just gone.  She developed a huge attitude and I was having to deal with her, and worry about her, and try to keep it together enough that she would be okay.  And Luke was so lost and my heart hurt so much for him because Marie was his.  His baby.  And his baby was gone.

I don't know how we made it through that.  Still make it through that, because we still have to.  Every day we still have to make it through.  I dreaded being asked how old Sarah was, because answering meant telling them just how long it had been since Marie was gone.  I am so grateful now because I can just say "Sarah is one".  I don't have to tell them it's been almost 16 months...

My body was so confused for a long time.  The pain of recovering from Sarah's birth was sharper, the cramps crueler.  My legs ached, my back hurt, my womb felt like it was being pierced by a knife.  I think my ability to handle the normal pain of recovering from childbirth was just not there.  I was not able to move through the pain as well.  I would look in the mirror and despite having Sarah in my arms I couldn't comprehend that I was not still pregnant.  The grief of loosing Marie took so much energy to process I never really came to grips with the fact that I had just had a baby.  It took me a long time, and Sarah was probably eight months old before I really absorbed that I was not pregnant anymore and in passing I was no longer shocked to see my profile. Sarah was probably eight months before I really began to rejoice in that tiny little white-blond haired girl.  The easy baby with an easy smile.  It is horrible to say that it took me that long to really celebrate her.  Oh, I loved her so much from her first breath but my heart was too broken to celebrate much of anything for a very long time.  Praise God for her health, yes.  Thank God for her being there because I knew she was saving me, yes.  Coo, kiss, cuddle, sing to, play with, oh yes.  But really celebrate with joy in my heart?  A long time coming.

How do you say hello to one and goodbye to another?  For twenty minuets our three girls were together in one room on earth, then Luke took the big girls home and they have not been together since.  I dislike very much being a family of four here.  I dislike very much when people point out the large age difference between the two children they see.  Six and one?  What a space!  I want to scream at them, I have a three year old!  But how can they know? 

I have gotten much better at just letting things go.  I tell people about Marie only if they seem worthy of knowing about my special little girl.  The one who was "made for so much more than all of this".

How do you cope?  Tonight it is after ten pm and Josie cried when I prayed with her at bedtime because we saw Tangled and in that movie the King and Queen lost their Princess and we have lost our Princess too...  And she cried because she has a whole life to live before she goes to Heaven and she is not very happy about being away from her sister for such a long time.  She is more than I little jealous that Luke and I do not have as many years left.  How do you cope?

I don't think we do.  I think that God carries me when the pain from my broken heart is too much and my legs are too weak.  I feel Jesus near when I am shaken and yet need the strength from somewhere to pretend that I am not.  When it is all too much I know the shade from the shadow of His wings and I hide there (Psalm 57:1).  Our faith has become more of a desperate thing, so much simpler though, and so much deeper.  I cling to the Word in a way I never did before.

I have no idea how I got from August, 2009 to where I am now; teetering on the edge of 2011.  How am I the mother of an almost seven year old and a feisty one year old?  How can my beloved brown haired girl have spent two Christmas' in Heaven rejoicing among the angels?  Life is a funny thing.  It has taken turns that I did not expect, and somehow I have made it through what I once believed would kill me.

I am blessed by a deeper appreciation for so much.  For the miracle of my children, for the scent of their hair and their being here to hug.  I am so taken with my husband.  The man I was made by God for.  His strength and his quiet determination.  His annoying desire to tease me when I am sad until I get either angry or smile.  His being there for me in ways I had no idea that a man ever could, and for the father I have been blessed to see him become.

I don't know how we make it through the troubles...  I have been carried, sheltered, held.  I am blessed to have seen God at work in my life and to have felt His hand on me.  I love Jesus so much more than I could have imagined... and I believe Him when He says:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Does it answer the question, How did you cope with a loss and a birth at the same time?  I don't know.  I don't have an answer I suppose because I don't think I coped.  Somehow we just made it through, and every day we make it through another day.  I hope that I am like the lemon tree because my roots are deeper and I feel stronger.  My branches are beginning to stretch skyward again... and someday, just maybe I will bear fruit.  And just like the birth and the loss, just like a lemon,  I know that the fruit will be bittersweet.


Clarissa said...

I've said it before and I'll say it now, I am so blessed by Marie and you and your family. I have no strength to go through losing my baby... but Jesus will be my strength as He has been yours. Love and hugs to you and yours... saying a special prayer for Josie, sweet girl. My heart aches for you all but rejoices in God's name being glorified through your life!

Val said...

Thank you for sharing those feelings with us...what a heart felt answer...the tears just don't stop.

DESJ and Company said...

That was so beautiful and heartfelt.

Anonymous said...

a beautiful post! I ditto what Clarissa wrote! I am blessed by you and your family! I see Christ in you and I rejoice and Thank God! I know that God will be Clarissa and Joeys strength when it is needed! May God continue to be with you all and be your strength and comfort. We are always praying! ~Elisa

ANewKindOfPerfect said...

Shan, thank you ... for opening your heart and your life to us. For sharing with us the raw emotions. I cannot imagine trying to cope with such extreme emotions at the same time. Reading about Josie after she watched Tangled brought me to tears. You are a beautiful family, with a gorgeous angel watching over you all.

The VW's said...

I have often wondered how you coped through such a bittersweet time....I have no idea how you did it, except by the grace of God. Love and Big Hugs sweet friend!

Rachel Tenpenny Crawford said...

Lovely. I am encouraged by your honesty. Tears are streaming down my cheeks because I understand what you feel too well. I can't say that I have coped either. I know I have been carried. I was a heap on the floor, broken and too weak to even move, but somehow I woke up day after day and I realize I was surviving. Two babies gone, yet I was surviving. I am glad my story about the lemon tree was encouraging to you. My heart knows your heart. And our girls are together...and so we will be when our time here is done.

Anya said...

Your writing is absolutely beautiful, so heartfelt, honest, loving, sad, happy..... Although everytime I read your blog I cry :) I have a daughter that is so similar to Marie. I think about Marie constantly as well as the rest of your family. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate you sharing your story.

Katie Jackson

Tales From the Land of Motherhood said...

I came across your blog via the rusted chain fingerprint friday link post.i read this post and felt the need to post a have an amazing testimony of strength.the tears ran down my face when I got to the point of you in the cemetery.i can't even begin to imagethe days weeks and months that followed the birth of one daughter and the passing of your sweet heart goes out to you and your family.may God bless you and your family in ways you can't even image and that you chinas your strength in Him and your wonderful pastor.