I’m sitting here on my couch on a Sunday afternoon and I’m staring at a blinking cursor on a computer screen. I’m supposed to be writing a completely different blog post. I’ve been trying to answer emails, trying to accomplish tasks, looking at my editorial calendar, trying to figure out what deadlines I have coming up, thinking about the laundry that needs to be done, the food that needs to be made… basically, I’m trying to mentally get back to a sense of normalcy in my own mind and in my own life. But I keep freezing up.
The past nearly two weeks since we lost our baby Elijah are a giant blur where it all runs together mixed with vivid details I’ll never forget. I have this constant battle in my mind of fighting off deep, unrelenting sadness, while also trying to shake off the trauma of what just happened and move on.
Maybe people who haven’t experienced something like this might not think this is that big of a deal, but I can tell you, the grief is real. We loved our son from the moment we found out we were pregnant. Four months of praying and dreaming about the life of this sweet baby. I felt his flutters. I felt the constant nausea. My belly grew faster than my other pregnancies… This baby was ours. And then, in an instant, a moment of shock, he was gone.
So many things, big and small, everywhere I turn, remind me of our loss.
There are the reminders I expected: the pain and discomfort of physical recovery, having to consciously look at and put away sonogram pictures hanging in our kitchen, seeing people in public that didn’t know about our loss and asking about the baby, pop up notifications on my phone and in my email telling me how “big baby is” at 18 weeks… Those things are hard.
Then there are the reminders or the painful things I didn’t expect: like the fact that my milk tried to come in a few days after my surgery… To be completely frank, it wasn’t 12 hours after we got home from the hospital when I felt my breasts begin to get tender and a day or so later I was standing in the shower and I felt myself begin to let down and I watched colostrum come out of my chest. A physical reminder that my body thinks it should be making milk for a baby that is no longer here.
Going to a funeral home the day after surgery to sign paperwork to have our baby cremated. Seeing his name on the screen – Elijah Timothy Stillman – next to the word: deceased – made things all too real. Then we get the call from the funeral home Friday afternoon that Elijah’s ashes were ready for us to come pick up. It was too late in the day for my husband and I to make it over there together and I had a complete and utter breakdown that night… as silly and ridiculous as it sounds, the thought of my baby’s ashes sitting alone on a shelf for even one night broke my mama heart. I couldn’t stand the thought of him being alone. Maybe it’s completely irrational or maybe I’m not the only one that would feel like this, but I completely lost it.
Saturday morning rolls around and I wanted to get over to the funeral home to pick up his ashes as soon as we could. What I wasn’t prepared for was the conversation we had to have with Lilly about where we were going and what we were doing. How do you explain to a 4-year-old that “we are going to a funeral home to pick up the ashes of the baby brother you never got to meet or play with”? How do you explain that there’s a “baby in that box”? How do you explain to a 4-year-old what cremation ashes even are? There is no instruction manual for these conversations.
Then there’s sitting browsing the internet and Etsy looking for custom urns to put your baby’s ashes into. How do you even begin to pick out something like that?
There are the nightmares that keep me up at night.
Pregnancy loss has many, if not all, of the aspects of the physical pain of labor and delivery coupled with the “sleepless nights” that you have when you have a newborn… but there’s no reward. Pregnancy, labor, delivery, and those newborn sleepless nights? There’s at least a reward. A sweet, beautiful child to hold and love and have as a part of your family. There’s no reward with pregnancy loss.
I share all of this with you not to make you feel sorry for me or feel pity or whatever. That’s not my goal. As I’ve shared with you before, my goal through sharing these raw and unfiltered emotions as I process them, is to hopefully, somewhere, somehow, and someway help another mom or family going through the same thing. To help them know they are not alone. It’s also to help myself begin to heal and allow myself to grieve and mourn the way that I should and the way that I need to. Additionally, my prayer is to encourage others that God is with you in your storms. God is with you in the midst of your trials. God is with you every single step of the way. I know this to be true. I know this because the Lord has been with me. I mean it with every fiber of my being, without Jesus, I would not be able to make it through this. Jesus gives me hope. So much hope.
But again, while I have hope, I’m also not in a place where I’m ready to move on. I have a lot of work to do.
Society and culture tell us, generally, to just move on. To get up, dust ourselves off, quit crying, and move on. However, as I mentioned, grief and mourning and processing hardships and tragedy are a natural and important part of life.
“The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction.”
― Charles Haddon Spurgeon
My greatest life lessons and the strengthening of my faith have always come out of times of pain. Nothing in life that has come easy has really, truly taught me anything. I’ve learned over the past decade or so that when I ignore my problems, when I ignore my grief, when I ignore my pain, when I ignore the troubles of this world – I retreat to a much darker place and I end up suffering worse because of mistakes made, relationships hurt, or lessons unlearned.
It is a fact that the enemy wants me to “just move on” and the enemy wants me to be angry with God and he wants me to blame God for Elijah’s death and he wants me to point fingers at God for all the other pain and hurt in my past. Ultimately, what is happening is that the enemy wants me to be distracted in order for him to keep me from doing big things for God. The problem is, the enemy doesn’t realize who he is dealing with. The enemy picked a battle with the wrong woman.
Look, I’m not trying to sound overly woo woo or crazy… this is reality that cannot be denied. This is the world we live in. We live in a broken and sin-scarred world. There will be pain and suffering. There will be hardship and affliction. There’s no question about that. In fact, Jesus promised us that life would be difficult.
“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
I know that healing is not going to be a quick process. After talking with my husband and some close friends, I have made the decision that I am going to seek counseling. Once again, there’s this stigma against seeking help – especially professional help – when we need it most, and as tough as it was for me to admit this to myself and to my husband, I know that this battle is one I cannot fight alone. I do not want to let myself be overcome with fear, anxiety, and postpartum depression again. I do not want this to affect my relationships with my husband, my children, my friends, my family, and my community. I do not want this to affect my relationship with myself. So I’m going to ask for help. I’m going to get help.
We are not supposed to do life alone. We aren’t supposed to fight our battles alone. God created us to live in community and support each other in good times and in bad.
So with all of that said, I’m taking things one step at a time. I am giving myself grace as I do my best to pick up where I left off. I’ll get back to posting my regular content a little at a time…
I can’t even begin to thank you for your grace, for your comments, for sharing your stories, and so much more. I can never repay you…