Dear Joanna (7.27.15)

Dear Joanna,

I miss you. Always.

It’s been a while since I have written to you, but I know you’ve been busy playing on the clouds and singing old country tunes with your great grandpa. I often find myself looking up at those clouds, trying to see past them, to see you.

A year ago yesterday we learned you were on your way. Though we didn’t know pregnancy would happen so quickly the second time around, we knew you’d be coming someday and had just purchased a house with the perfect room for a nursery. I remember a week of negative pregnancy tests so I figured I wasn’t…but something said, “take one more test.” Those two pink lines popped up and I was pretty surprised and scared too, hoping you’d be the baby we would keep. The baby we would bring home.

Well, little one, we keep you in our hearts while Jesus holds you close. Some day we will hold you again, but you know what? We feel Jesus holding us too, and in that we are confident that we are together.

Yesterday I went to a concert and saw Kari Jobe perform “I Am Not Alone.” You probably know it well. We listened to it on the radio while you were here, and it played on the way to the hospital to have you, and on the way home. Maybe you had something to do with that. It made your playlist and it’s been very near and dear to me ever since your birthday. It felt right that I was there last night, that I could be in a place of worship and healing and come full circle – finding a few pieces of my heart are glued back together with the love I have for you. Finding God’s healing in the midst of these trials. All on the anniversary of the day you told us you were coming!

Joanna, most days are still hard, even when we don’t show it. Most days have triggers and some things set us off. Today, at 30 weeks postpartum, I think that you really should be only coming up on four months old. I think about what you would have looked like. I think about how it would feel to hold you, all warm and soft. And I wish you were here.

But I heard a little voice yesterday at the concert…a little voice that said, “You’re going to be a mom again. There will be another little one. Joanna is not an only child.” And I wonder, have you already met your little brother or sister? Surely God knows who he is sending next. I hope you are together. I hope you’re telling your sibling[s] to grow strong and to be brave. And to, pretty please, kick and punch and roll and hiccup as often and as much as he or she likes.

We love you, J. We are homesick to be with you and hold you again. But we’ll see you in a little while.

In the meantime, I’ll keep peeking past the clouds to catch a glimpse of you.

Love you, sweet girl.




Holding on to Hope

I said to my friend today that, “Hope is like a double edged sword. You know? It carries you through a lot of tough stuff, but at the same time, when you hold it that closely it really hurts later on.”

I think this is applicable to many areas in life.

Let’s talk relationships. You want to get married or want your marriage to work. You’re holding on to hope that you can make it work, that things will get better, that you’ve finally found the one…or whatever your situation may be. That hope can pull you through the tough times, through waiting for the right person to come along. But when the relationship doesn’t work out, and you’ve held hope so closely, your heart is broken.

Babies. I was holding on to hope that I would get pregnant someday. Then I did. Then only a few days later I wasn’t anymore. But I held on…I hoped that it would happen again. With hope we went to the fertility specialist to see if there was an issue. PCOS, they said. And in the midst of testing and hoping, we found out we were pregnant again. So I pulled hope in a little closer and I said this would be it – this would be our take-home baby. And that little one grew and grew, until she didn’t.

My tight grasp cut me like a knife. Broke me in a million pieces. Pieces I am still cleaning up.

I feel like Joanna was our hope, and I had to let go of her. I had to give her back. I had to leave her alone in that hospital. Pretty much the hardest thing I ever did, maybe the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I left the hospital feeling hopeless, and helpless. And empty.

As we grieved, we knew we wanted to have more children. Somehow, little by little hope came back. I reeled it in when I discovered it was there. And here I am, holding so tightly it burns. And with each passing month, my heart is getting tired of holding. With each new pregnancy announcement, my heart is losing its grip. With each nightmare, hope fades a little. The tighter I try to grasp it, the more it hurts.

It carries me through, but it cuts deep. Today, I want to let go. Let hope go. I don’t want the pain.

But I will grasp it tighter. I will pull it closer. If hope is Joanna, if hope is her sisters and brothers, maybe some pain is worth the holding on.

Dear Lentil

Hi, everyone. Just a little change for the week. I invited my friend Polina to write a letter, and so today’s post is written by her. She and her husband Joel lost their son Lev Ryan, affectionately known as Lentil. Like Joanna, Lentil entered the world silently in December 2014 at 33w3d. Bill and I met Polina and Joel at our MIS support group. Without further ado, here is Polina’s letter to Lentil.

Dear Lentil,

Two months ago your Daddy and I went to see Scott Bradley and Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) in concert. Back in September, your Dad introduced me to this band on YouTube. They take modern pop-music and turn it into more classic music styles (jazz, blues, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s styles, and many more). I remember that was the week when we read that you could hear us, hear music and different beats and we should play music for you. When your Dad started playing their songs, you liked it so much that we could feel you kicking and enjoying it. We played them for you several times, and you definitely were very fond of PMJ since you always let us know by kicking with the music. Last November, a few weeks before we lost you, I went to see “Fiddler on the Roof” and I felt you inside bopping along with the music. I came home and told your Dad that you are going to love live theater and have a good musical ear just like I do.

It was very good to see your Dad having a great time and enjoying the concert so much. I loved hearing him laugh when he would recognize the song that the PMJ was about to play. I haven’t seen your Daddy so happy in a long while. I felt happy in that moment as well, there was truly phenomenal singing and dancing. However, after we left the concert, we felt really sad and missed you even more. The last time we heard this band, there were 3 of us, and you enjoyed the music as much as we did.

Our little boy, today is exactly one year since we found out that you were a boy. I asked the nurse to place the paper with your gender into an envelope and seal it, as I wanted to find out at the same time as your Dad. We opened the envelope at the same restaurant where we had our first date. Then we called our parents to share the news with them. It was a very special moment – one I will never forget. We were so looking forward to meeting you, and all we wanted was for you to be healthy and happy.

We miss you every moment of every day, and when there is a time when we don’t think about you, the thoughts of you come to us with even more intensity. We talk about you all the time; what we would be doing with you being 6 months old right now, what your milestones would be now, where would we travel with you…

I often get so angry that we won’t get to experience all the things with you. We’ll never see your first smile, never see your first step, never see you run in our new house which seems very empty and sad right now, and we’ll miss so many other firsts that we were robbed of. Most of all, I get so sad thinking that YOU won’t get to experience those things.

Lentil, of course, is your nickname. Your Dad was the one who came up with it. When we just found out that I was pregnant with you, I found an app that tells you about what size the baby is at any given time of the pregnancy. At that time, it said that the baby is the size of lentil, so Daddy started calling you Lentil. Our friends said that nobody will call you by your actual name after you are born and everyone would still call you Lentil. I wish it was the biggest of our problems right now. Lev Ryan is the name you were going to have, after my Grandfather Lev and your Dad’s Grandmother Ruth. I always knew if I was going to have a boy, he would be named after my beloved Grandfather. It makes me sadder knowing that you are not here to honor their names and share all the love that was waiting for you from us and all of our families and friends. Who am I kidding, if someone told me to call you the weirdest name imaginable, but that you would be born healthy and happy, I would have done it… and, of course, later faced the consequences from you. ☺

We love you and miss you so much,

Your Mom and Dad


Learned in a Week

In a week or less you can learn to knit or crochet or use a sewing machine.

You can learn to throw a baseball, catch a fish, paddle a kayak, pitch a tent.

There are many things that don’t take long to learn at all.

This week, I learned that you will never get tired of eating those hot dogs you can only get in Erie, PA. I learned that just because it costs more, does not mean you’ll get a better mani-pedi than the last place you went. I learned that it’s easy to assume you know about people by their emails, their Facebook pages — but that most people have hidden stories that are begging to be uncovered.

I learned that the pursuit of happiness can wear you out. And that happiness can slip away in a week. Although, let’s be honest, I learned 6.5 months ago that happiness can slip away in the blink of an eye, the last beat of a heart.

Last night was one of the worst in a while. I was laying in bed crying “over nothing” which is what I say when I don’t know exactly what has made me break down. Every time I thought I was reigning it in, the floodgates would open right back up. I made Bill late for work because, bless his heart, he hates to leave me alone, especially when he knows I’m so upset. If I were to try to put my finger on it, I might say it’s our upcoming trip to Pennsylvania that has put a damper on my happiness. Perhaps, I am scared about being with all the people who haven’t seen us since we lost J. Will they ask questions (I would prefer this), or will they just look at us with sad, pitiful eyes (to this). Or were the tears shed for that which is missing, seeing my nephew and knowing that he and Joanna would have had so much fun together…or seeing how happy he makes my parents and not getting to see that joy in their eyes holding J.
If you think about that for a second, it would probably make your heart break too.
But I’m also (re)learning that even in my weakest moments, my saddest moments, I’m not alone.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

that Your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50

Pursuit of Happiness

What a rough week last week. 6 months. 26 weeks. Aching heart.

Faced with a 3-day weekend, I was thinking I’d spend my time alone, in the basement, binge-watching Food Network or HGTV.

This is typically what happens. Bill might do some work around the house. I might do some laundry or vacuum. But mainly, we stay home, quiet. Then, Bill will go to bed, since he works overnights. It’s a lot of time to myself, to be alone with my thoughts. To ponder what life might be like if Joanna had not died. To wonder if I could have done anything differently. To read our “Dear Joanna” tags. To sit in my grief and feel all the feelings that come with it, especially anger last week.

But I had a thought. If I am striving to reach happy, to find that place where we honor Joanna but we are happy more than we are sad, how am I helping myself by sitting alone in the basement? I decided on Thursday that Bill and I would #dosomethingfun (per my Instagram account) every day of the long weekend. We would try to get out and to be happy and to celebrate life – because though Joanna’s life with us was cut very, very short, we can still live for her, for us. We can still pursue happy.

And what a perfect weekend to do so – Independence Day.

Thursday we had dinner together, at the kitchen table. We had real conversation and good food. Together. Then, we went bowling and I won 3 of 5 games. Bill had the highest score of the night on our final game though.

Friday I met up with a friend from our support group for breakfast. It was nice to have the chance to get out of the house and talk to a friend who knows how I feel, but to be able to be together and talk about other topics too. Friday also brought sad news of a friend’s 17-week loss. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, to have your heart break so hard and so fresh in one moment of devastating news, and then to have it soothed by a friend who relates. By Friday night , I was ready for our #dosomethingfun – we went to the movies and saw Jurassic World. Ironically (?), our trip to the movies was free, as I remembered to use an unused gift card from my co-workers that they had given me after J died – something to get Bill and I out of the house together.

Saturday morning I got up and ready to go and as soon as Bill got home we headed out to Occoquan for kayaking. This is an activity we have enjoyed in the past and on vacations and have been meaning to do for a while now. We spent two hours on Occoquan River, listening to birds chirp and waters flow, admiring boats at the marinas we passed, taking selfies and, unbeknownst to us, getting sunburn on a very cloudy day. Afterward, we went home, ate some Smith’s hot dogs from home and had ice cream sandwiches. After Bill went to bed I spent the evening watching Call the Midwife (still not sure how I watch this show after what has happened to us, but it’s almost therapeutic) and comforting the dog because he is terrified of fireworks.

Finally on Sunday our #dosomethingfun was fishing! We have been talking about fishing for so long but haven’t gone. Saturday after kayaking we stopped at Dick’s for our licenses (and a Calia by Carrie Underwood workout headband that I have been eying since March). So Sunday we drove up to Manassas Battlefield Park and hiked down a trail to one of the small lakes. I caught the first fish (after Bill put a worm on the hook for me…) and he caught the second, which was about three times the size of mine. We didn’t stay long because the bugs were bad, but we had a good time just being out in the woods together. Peace. Quiet. Worms. Bluegill. And lots of love.

To some, I suppose this just sounds like a nice holiday weekend. To me, it was a huge success, a big step forward. And regardless of whether I end up taking a step or two back, because I am sure I will…I feel like this weekend was a win. We got out of the house. I didn’t hide…I flew! Bill and I spent time together doing things we love, things we haven’t done in a long time, things that are a part of who we are. I don’t think Joanna would want us to forget that we are a happy couple – competitive, fun-loving, adventurous. We can still be J’s parents, we can still grieve, but we can still pursue happy and have fun. That doesn’t detract from how much we miss her, it adds to the ways we honor her.

By living.


Have You Noticed?

Sometimes, I wonder how observant people are. Do you?

Do you wonder if people notice things as small as: you trimmed your hair a half inch; you lost 3 pounds; you changed your nail color; you wore mascara today?

I wonder if people notice seemingly small things that are actually big: working late at your job not just because it’s the right thing to do (small thing) but because you don’t really want to go home and be alone in your quiet house with your loud thoughts (big thing); you’re clearly angry today (small thing) but this is a 180 from the last six months when you have been so sad (big thing); you’re texting with friends about babies, fertility and their TTC journeys (small thing) but your responses get shorter and have much less enthusiasm every day (big thing).

(I also wonder if Bill will notice the mess I made all over the stove because I didn’t notice dinner was boiling over as I am writing this…)

Somedays, I want to yell at people and say, “Can’t you see this is insensitive? Let’s not talk about it.” But at the same time, I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me, so I tend to bite my tongue. I’m sure this hurts me more than it would hurt the others if I told them how I was feeling. But again, eggshells. We don’t want that!

Along this journey over the last 26 weeks and three days I have tried not to be angry. I have fought so hard not to be bitter. I think I was succeeding. But three days ago it changed. I don’t really understand why. I’m just being honest here – I’m angry. Maybe even a little bitter.

I’m angry a lot. I’ve noticed it. I wonder if others have… It’s not that I don’t want to talk about babies or to look at them or to see my friends’ kids or pregnancy announcements on Facebook or whatever the conversation may be, it’s just that it’s hard. And just because it’s been six months does not mean that it’s easier than it was before.

It will never be easy.

You know what else I wonder? If the cleaning crew at my office notices that I have ultrasound pictures and that they will never change.