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The Price of Love

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Margaret Lucille Hatcher Coleman. These pictures were taken at one of her favorite places, doing one of her favorite things, surrounded by her favorite people about two weeks before she died in 2016.

I said in my last post I had really sat down to write about my grandma. And then I didn’t.

I want to now, but I’m not even sure how. All I know is that in the last month I’ve missed her horribly.  Like physical pain miss.  It seems that so many things are reminding me of her. Strawberries. Church. Music. Just looking in the mirror. Banana pudding.

We used to eat at her house on Sundays.  It was a day she made a dessert.  Sometimes she made coconut cake, but she knew I didn’t care for coconut cake.  So, she would get a pack of strawberries from the freezer to thaw so I would have something sweet.  I would smother one of her biscuits in the fruit and be perfectly happy.  I can’t eat strawberries now without that memory.

I’m supposed to sing a special in about a month at church. I thought I was going to sing a praise/worship song.  I’ve been working on it for over a month now.  It’s almost ready.  But during that whole month, one of her favorite hymns keeps going through my head. In the Garden. We sang it at her funeral. So, I’ve changed my mind. I think that’s what I’m supposed to sing. It brings tears to my eyes to even think about it. I hope she hears me.

My husband loves banana pudding.  It was another one of the things she would make for dessert sometimes.  It was so good.  My sister had the recipe. . .it was what she called her handy dandy easy peasy recipe.  When I contacted my sister for it, she told me about the day Grandma shared it with her. I could hear her voice in my head telling Jerri about it. The way she said Jerri’s name wasn’t like any other person. Makes me smile.

Since all these memories have arrived, I’ve had a hankering for fried shrimp and cocktail sauce.  I can remember sitting in the trailer at the Outer Banks, peeling shrimp she had cooked to dip in the cocktail sauce she’d whip up for us–ketchup and horseradish. I prefer fried shrimp, but it doesn’t dampen the memory of her boiled shrimp on those trips.

Her forgiving me for being a brat, even in my adulthood.

Grief is love. It’s what we have left when we have loved someone fiercely and known her fierce love in return. There are so many things I wish I could tell her about the last three and a half years. So many things I want to sit at her table or at the kitchen counter and share and have her soft hands reach out and pat mine.

I have a bottle of lotion my aunt gave me the day Grandma died. It was her favorite scent. I can’t wear it; it makes me sneeze. But I get it out sometimes to smell it and to remember.

I can’t say anymore, except I don’t mind this price.

Agent #4

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I don’t know if I will ever publish this one.

We call it Agent #4 because, well, we never really had time to get past the fact that we were at #4. And then, it was gone.  Snuck in like a secret agent, and just as stealthily, left.

Possibly, we should have never known we were pregnant. I was having a long and weird period.  One of the causes was possible pregnancy. . .fearfully, a possible ectopic pregnancy.  I didn’t want that as I only have the one Fallopian tube, and I’d like to keep it.

So, we did an at-home pregnancy test to rule out that reason.

We were sure it was really just stress. . .end of school year responsibilities, the upcoming change of me being a homemaker, the anniversary of Monkey’s due date, other little things on top of all of this.

Two immediate pink lines.

But I was bleeding. . .not spotting.  BLEEDING. A more pronounced flow in the mornings that tapered off to basically nothing in the afternoons. . .a pattern that had been occurring for 7 days.  I kept thinking my period was going to be over.

On Wednesday, a doctor’s visit with blood tests confirming pregnancy and hormone levels that were consistent with a 4-5 week pregnancy.

On Thursday, the pattern continues.

On Friday, a gush of blood and blood tests confirming that hormone levels had dropped significantly, indicating the end of the pregnancy.

And I’m still bleeding.

Agent #4. A three day mission of undisclosed parameters. Here the same week Monkey should have been.

This is hard.

After the gush of blood on Friday morning, I wrote this:

My God is an awesome God. His power is greater and His ways are higher. He knows all and is all.  He created the universe from nothing. He made blind see and lame walk. He healed my broken heart and covered my sins with His grace. Whatever my story is, He is the Author.

And I believe it with all my heart.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t think this sucks. Or that I don’t get to be sad. Or that I can’t be angry. Or that I can’t question why.

Because He is an awesome God and He can handle all of that. . .and He is sad with me.

Personal, not Private

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Today, I’m a little sad.

Today is the anniversary of finding our Little didn’t make it.  The heart just stopped.

Yesterday should have been our Nugget’s first birthday.

It’s a tough few days.

I don’t usually do this, but I wanted to share some statistics about pregnancy loss in this post.  Mostly, I want to do that because recently a friend mentioned to me, after I had brought up our losses, that she had been praying for us but hadn’t wanted to call because she knows it’s a private matter.

Death is not private.

Death is personal. . .deeply personal.  But it isn’t private.  And I have come to feel that the privatization of pregnancy loss does way too much harm.

Here’s some things to consider: according to American Pregnancy Association 10-25% of ALL clinically recognized pregnancies {meaning we know we’re pregnant} will end in miscarriage.  The same article states that there’s a 15-20% for a miscarriage in healthy women.  Putting this in personal terms, if you’re in a group of five, chances are one of you has experienced pregnancy loss.  Most of us know at least five women.  But do you know what grief they may be carrying? Somewhere along the line, pregnancy loss became private.

I think it’s partly the word that is associated with it: miscarriage.  It implies through its connotation that the women did something wrong. . .they carried the baby wrong.

Pregnancy loss, in my mind, alleviates some of that blame {which let me tell you, is difficult to do because despite knowing statistics and science and having faith and hope, it is a struggle to remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do}. Having that word “loss” attached to what happens validates the idea of death and grief.

The death of any family member is personal.  That relationship on earth ends. There are only memories and stories to retell.  When a pregnancy is lost, it’s the same.  The relationship on earth ends. The memories are different and in some ways a product of our imagination because we have started to add potential to the child that would be. It’s still very personal.  But it’s not private.  It’s loss that we need acknowledged, not closeted.

I am in a 1% of women who have recurrent pregnancy loss, a statistic I found on March of Dimes’ website. Most women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss, up to 75% of them, will never know why.

Nugget was ectopic.

Little was intrauterine fetal demise.

These losses are very personal to me, despite the very scientific labeling of them.  They are my children.

But Nugget and Little are not private events in mine and Steven’s life.  They have impacted us, changed us, and therefore, impacted those around us in a personal and intimate way.

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Nugget: grew up until a little over 7 weeks.

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Little: this shot the little heart was still beating

Dear Nugget

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It’s been a year. I’m not sure what to tell you about this past year.  At least not anything that is new and insightful. All the regular cliches come to mind–especially that one about how the earth keeps spinning despite what is happening in my life.

That sounds melodramatic, and I can see you rolling your eyes at me just like any good child would at his mother.  I can smile at that thought.

My experience with you has lead me to believe that not enough mothers and fathers realize how often pregnancy loss happens.  I understand some of the shush–the questions that surround a pregnancy loss. There’s a struggle with validity of loss.  But, it is a loss.  There’s the loss of the real and the imagined {your father wrote an amazing piece about just that thing when we lost your little}. So, you my Nugget, have placed a passion in me to somehow normalize the sharing of pregnancy loss.  The “secrecy” places too much pressure on those who experience it. . .too much blame. . .too much guilt–when in reality we just need people to listen and acknowledge our grief.

Grief. . .that’s the other thing that I have been learning this past year.  It’s a doozy. And it’s not a prescribed so many steps program.  It lifts its head unexpectedly and demands attention.  And wouldn’t it be so much better if we all felt that we could just do that. . .give grief attention when it needs it and not feel guilty? Because here’s the thing. . .every person on earth is going to have to do that very thing at some point.

Oh, dear Nugget, our lives changed because of you.  We knew they would from the minute you announced your presence, but we had no idea it would be in this manner.  I miss you and wish you were here, but I also know that what has transpired in the last year has brought your father and me together in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.  Our love and awe of our God is stronger.  Our love of each other is stronger. There’s nothing to say that your presence today wouldn’t have produced the same results. . .and I’m not ashamed to say that I sure would have liked to have seen that. But I’m grateful for this year.

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After your little I decided to do something to honor you two.  I hope you like it.  When your father and I went to Savannah after losing you, he jokingly asked me if I wanted to get a tattoo after passing a shop.  I immediately knew that it would be Romans 8:28.  I don’t have stretch marks or any other tell-tell signs of pregnancy  {though I do have the scars where Dr. D took you from me}. But I have this. My prayer is that it reminds me of God and you and your little and that maybe someone will notice it sometime and feel it’s ok to talk about their loss too.

 

 

 

I love you, Nugget.

Just Keep Swimming

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I do love that little fish, Dory. But, this isn’t about her.

Several years ago, I had a bad year professionally and this became my mantra.  I knew that I just had to keep going, moving forward, doing the best I knew how to do.  And I made it.  It wasn’t without exhaustion, and it wasn’t without tears, and it wasn’t without bruises.

I would take that bad professional year again if I could trade in the past six months.

But, I can’t. So I have to keep swimming.

I’m not a strong swimmer, actually.  I can stay afloat.  I did pass the swim test in order to receive my degree from college–a requirement when I matriculated. I’d much rather lie on a float though.

This school year began with my maternal grandfather being moved to Hospice House for his last days.  Being a support to my mother and being by his bedside was emotional. Knowing that I wasn’t creating those all so important first day relationships at work was stressful.  A month later my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Barely past Opa’s death, I launched into watching my grandfather’s love for my grandmother as she said the things she needed to say and did the things she wanted to do.  And after a month she took her last breath on this earth.

And then there was Nugget.

Grief is not something you deal with or get over.

Grief is something you swim with.

Some days, I want that float or to just lie on the bottom of the pool and watch others float on by.  Some days, that’s exactly what I do–hoping that grief will soak off.

But, it doesn’t.

It’s part of me now. And every stroke of swimming with it strengthens me in ways I may not understand now–but will one day.

Because, I have hope.