“Stop moving around so much!” “Quit wiggling!” “Would you please stop kicking me?” 

As the mom of two very active boys, I catch myself saying these phrases (and similar ones) on a regular basis. I say “catch” because after the words leave my mouth I’m taken back. 

Taken back to the Saturday evening I was on Skype with my mom and my 36 week unborn son pummeled me from the inside. Silas rolled and flipped and kicked and it was rather uncomfortable. I’m grateful I didn’t utter those words that evening because it was the last time I felt him move. Later I would realize that it was likely those movements that caused the twisting of his umbilical cord and the cut-off of oxygen and other nutrients to his little body. Over the next two days, I would beg him to move, kick, or wiggle, but it was not so. He was born, still, on Wednesday morning. 

Taken back to when I was pregnant with Benji. I didn’t feel his movements as early as I did with Silas and given his brother’s tragic death, I was certain Benji would never make it. When I finally did start to feel his movements, I was obsessed with them. I noticed that whenever I ate, he responded. So, I ate at weird hours of both day and night to make him move and reassure my anxiety-ridden mind. Even when he turned breech and head-butted my ribs, I never asked him to stop moving. 

Taken back to the morning of Benji’s birth, when he went absolutely nuts—kicking and rolling and flipping. Even sitting in pre-op, in a hospital, I panicked. I internally begged him to calm down—lest he do what his brother had done less than a year before and at the same gestational age.

Nearly seven years after Benji’s birth, asking my kids to be still and stop wiggling gives me pause because I have lived and continue to live with, grieve, and survive the stillness. Movement is what I crave.

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“Look for my nephew when you get there. He’s single pastor and has a ton of free time. If you need anything, he’ll help you.” When these words were spoken to us nine years ago, we didn’t know they would be the understatement of the millennia.

We met Alonso at a reception at the First Baptist Church in Arica, Chile. The reception was a blur—with so many names and people and Spanish on our first night in our new home. We met Alonso there, but he didn’t give off any friendly much less helpful vibes. We wrote him off and decided to invest our time in other friendships. He later confessed that he was thoroughly annoyed that so many people were talking to and attending to the newbies (us) and ignoring the elderly and less social members of the churches present at the reception.

Through a mutual (and new to us) friend, we starting spending more time with Alonso. The four of us were all relatively new to Arica, with the two of them claiming that it was nothing like the rest of Chile. We culture shocked, worked and adventured together. When our other friend’s wife and young child joined him in Arica, our group of four became a group of three most days. We road tripped south with him, staying with various family members and seeing the country we were growing to love. It was a blast–the three of us and the open road.


Marcelo, Alonso, Blake and me in 2011

When our lease was up the next year, we moved in with Alonso while we looked for a home for our soon to be family of three. He traipsed around Arica with us, pointing out issues with potential rentals and, finally, helped us seal the deal on one we all loved. After the house, we all furniture shopped together. Since wood is incredibly scarce in the desert, he helped us figure out how to order a bamboo and wicker rocking chair for the nursery from a local artisan. He also said he’d buy his new nephew a real wood high chair when the time came.

A couple of months later, our parked car was totaled by a drunk driver. When we were awaked in the middle of the night, he was the first person we called. He stayed with us until the coroner and last police officer left. We used public transit some, but Alonso also drove us around a good bit. I was pretty pregnant at that point, so buses were not my preferred transportation.

When Silas stopped moving, Alonso drove us to the hospital. Like us, he was relieved when the hospital staff told us there was nothing to worry about. The next day when my doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat, Alonso drove us to another clinic for the ultrasound that changed our lives forever. He was waiting outside of the exam room when we were told that Silas was gone. We didn’t have to tell him the news; he heard my wounded cries as my soul broke. He led us out of the clinic and back into his car and drove us home. He drove us back to the clinic later that night for my induction.

He didn’t leave the hospital while I was in labor and after I gave birth, he didn’t leave Blake’s side. Together, they ran all of the necessary errands to the different offices to get our sweet baby home for burial. I came across all of the paperwork a year or so ago and it was so much red tape from so many different places. One of the things they had to secure was a death certificate. As it turns out, birth and death certificates are issued from the same office. As I lay in a hospital bed listening to and sobbing at newborn cries, Blake sat in a government office full of newborns. There is no way Blake would have been able to do all that he had to do alone, grieving, and in another language. I’ll never know what the two of them went through, though I will always be grateful.

Alonso drove us home from the hospital and, again, was Blake’s shadow until a few days later when he drove us to the airport. When we came home to grieve with our families and bury our son, Alonso kept our dog and looked after our house. Looking back, I can’t imagine the weight of his own grief and feelings of helplessness.

When we returned to Chile three months later, he was there to pick us up at the airport and take us to our silent, still house. He was there when I got the incredibly painful news that my sister was expecting a baby. Happy for her, of course, but I honestly wanted to just die. 

Shortly after we found out I was pregnant with Benji, we nearly lost him and was I put on bedrest. Almost immediately after I got cleared to travel, Alonso took us to the airport to get me home. Still grieving and anxious about my pregnancy, Blake returned to Chile to wrap up our work and lives. During that time, I don’t think he and Alonso spent much time apart. Alonso was going through some tough times then, as well, in addition to sharing our grief. Even dealing with his own stuff, he helped Blake sell and give away everything we’d amassed for what we thought was a lifetime of work there.

Over the last six years, we’ve called and texted, always picking right back up where we left off, always promising that we’d see each other again.

What a joy, indeed, it was for us to introduce our dearest and closet friend to our kids, families, pets and life over the last two weeks. If you saw or briefly met Alonso while he was here, you probably didn’t know just how special he is to us. I got a chuckle last week when one of my students acted surprised that Alonso was staying with us. “Wait. The visiting teacher from Chile is staying with you? Y’all are friends?” “More like family.”

“Look for my nephew when you get there… if you need anything, he’ll help you.

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It’s Just Not That Easy

I know I’ve mentioned a couple of phrases or questions that make me cringe, but today I’m going to address one that I loathe. I’m a firm believer in forgiveness, so if you’ve asked this question to me or someone else, I forgive you. You don’t need to email me to apologize for it. You don’t need to comment saying that you had no idea this was hurtful. You just need to never ask it again. Ever. Why? Two reasons. 1) You have zero idea the reproductive history of the person you’re asking (even if you think you do–miscarriages and infertility are not always obvious) and 2) It is none of your business.

“Are you going to have any more children?”

Variations include “When are you all going to have kids?” “When is So-and-so going to become a big brother?”

When someone asks me when Benji is going to be a big brother, I just say “It’s not that easy for us” and move on. I’d like to hand them a copy of what I’ve written below…

Besides burying my son, being pregnant with his brother was the most terrifying experience of my life. I can’t speak for other parents out there, but I think when something takes the life of one of your children, you live with a fear that something awful will happen to the one(s) you have left. I’m convinced that fear never really goes away, but I think, for me, the worst of it is behind me. “The worst of it” left me clinically depressed and underweight. If you’ve seen me lately, you’d know I’ve managed to overcome one of those things.

At ten weeks pregnant, we were in the center of town raising money for the children’s home when I had a major hemorrhage. We flagged down an out-of-service cab, headed for the hospital, and called my doctor–that succession of events sounds way less frantic and scattered than it was, trust me. I cried on the way there. I sobbed when I saw my doctor (the same doctor who delivered Silas) and she assured me that sometimes this kind of thing happens.

To my absolute shock, the ultrasound confirmed that our baby was okay. It also confirmed that something wasn’t quite right and I was sent home with orders to get in bed and stay there. The next six weeks were iffy, at best. I’d have a few good days when it would seem like everything was normal, then I’d have a couple of days when I was certain no baby could survive what my body was doing to it. Because I was so scared of losing our baby, I had a very hard time connecting with it.

I’m not sure when it happened, but the lonely days laying in bed started to get to me. Blake continued teaching classes and serving as the interim minister at a local church. He tried to be with me as much as he could, but it was never enough. I was terrified that something would happen every time he left the house. The four walls of our bedroom felt like a prison cell. I read books. I watched t.v. I posted on message boards. I did everything I could to keep my mind off of my situation, but it didn’t work.

Not knowing what was happening inside of my body was so difficult. Being powerless to prevent another tragedy was maddening. I couldn’t sleep at night, afraid something would happen while I was sleeping. I couldn’t eat. Instead of starting to gain pregnancy weight, I lost fifteen pounds. I wanted to eat for the baby, but I could only stomach a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes or a few sips of Gatorade. I got what felt like a stomach virus a couple of times, but I’m convinced now that it was just nerves. Even though I don’t believe God deals with death, I begged God to take me if the baby didn’t make it. That way, I reasoned, I could be with both of my babies. When I started wondering if I even wanted to live if the baby didn’t make it, I probably should have told someone. But I didn’t. I continued to suffer in silence.

Going to the clinic for appointments was a nightmare. Before each one, I’d have to walk past the room where Silas was born, the nursery he never slept in, and down the hall to the room where my doctor first couldn’t find his heartbeat. We’d find our way to the waiting area and I would stare at the floor, shaking. Blake would hand me his phone to play on or take my hand in his own, but it didn’t help. One time we heard a baby crying down the hall. I sat there choking down silent sobs, tears running down my hollow face.

At my last appointment before I returned to the United States, my doctor handed me a prescription for Zoloft. I was grateful that she took note of my tormented state and did something about it. I was relieved that the burden of suffering from depression and anxiety was no longer an untreated secret. I knew I needed help.

That’s a snapshot of what pregnancy after loss (PAL) looks like. Every moment of it is terrifying, as you try to appreciate what you have at any given moment. For me, the struggle was worth it and I have sweet Benji now. Sadly, not everyone gets a happy ending to their PAL. Lightning does strike twice, three times. It’s heart-breaking and it’s unfair.

Will Blake and I have more children one day? It’s just not that easy.

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Joy After Unspeakable Heartbreak

A year ago I called my eight-year-old niece to wish her a happy birthday. Or so she thought. It just so happened that her birthday fell on a day that I desperately needed to call my sister. Since I needed to call my sister at 6:30 in the morning, I decided to play it cool and act like I was calling MaryGrace. That day, on Facebook, I posted “Today I am grateful for the niece that gives me hope that there can by joy after unspeakable heartbreak. I need that today. Happy 8th Birthday, MaryGrace!” Continue reading

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Calling My Big Sister

I remember, well, the day Blake and I saw two pink lines appear on the home pregnancy test. I had left the test in the bathroom and paced back and forth in the hall. Blake had stopped my pacing for a hug and, I’m sure, a quick prayer. I peered into the bathroom from around the corner, as if the test would work better if it didn’t know I was watching. I saw the lines, ran into our room and shrieked “What does two lines mean?” We didn’t have the forethought to read ahead of time what we were looking for, but it didn’t take too long for Blake to find the answer. Continue reading

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When “Bad” Days Really Aren’t

The following is what I consider to be a “word vomit.” Grammar, spelling, and other things that I normally feel are important are not espoused in what is below. I change tenses. Several times. I use periods. Where I shouldn’t. I would go back and edit, but I’m tired and I want an ice cream bar. Feel free to fix it in your head, or edit it and send me your revisions. I will happily re-post a cleaner version. : ) Continue reading
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Piles of Clothes

There are times in this journey, when my grief pops up out of nowhere. Sometimes I nod my head to acknowledge it. Sometimes I run past it to something else to occupy my mind and body. Sometimes I am paralyzed by it, unable to focus on anything other than what death has taken from me. Continue reading

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What’s in a name?

I meant to re-post this a few days ago… Here’s a recent blog by Blake.

Thoughts of a Recovering Seminarian

As many of you know, our family grew a little larger on October 17 with the birth of Benjamin Young. As you also know, our family, while bigger, is still incomplete as we continue to mourn the loss of our dear Silas, who would have turned one today. Some will say that having Benjamin (Benji) makes it all better. They think that Benji can in some way erase all the pain of losing Silas; that our grief will be erased by the birth of our second son.

That’s simply not the case. 

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A year ago

As I sit and watch my newborn son try to figure out thumb-sucking, I can’t help but think of his older brother. Would he have preferred his thumb or a paci or would he have cared for either? It seems that whenever Benji, as young as he is, expresses an interest or preference, I think of Silas. Would Silas have been stubbornly opposed to breast-feeding? Would Silas have preferred to be swaddled with his arms tucked in or out? Would his hair be strawberry blonde like mine was or orangey red like Blake’s? Continue reading

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Coming Clean

If you’ve seen me since I arrived back in the United States this summer, you can probably ignore this blog. You’re welcome to read it anyway, but its contents shouldn’t be a surprise for you.

Since April or May, Blake and I have asked our prayer partners to pray for my health. I’m sure they’ve noticed extreme vagueness in those prayer emails, but we just haven’t been ready to talk about what’s been going on in a bigger forum. Now, it’s time. Continue reading

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