Someone Said Her Name

Bill and I talk about Joanna and we use her name often. She is the most spectacular thing that has happened to us in our lives so far and we daily acknowledge her as our first born, as our baby girl.

We also love it when others talk about her or ask us questions and call her by her name. To know that others recognize her as our baby, not just “the child who died” is so special and appreciated.

Such a sweet name, Joanna Rose.

Yesterday I went to see a movie with a friend. As we walked up to the concessions counter, a woman and her young daughter came in who were meeting up with a small group of their friends. The group was to our left and from behind us I heard the mom say, “I see Joanna!”

Instant trigger. I felt the tears immediately jump to my eyes. My stomach dropped. I looked at my friend and said, “That has never happened before.” I begged the tears not to spill over and did not look to my left to try to determine who this “other” Joanna was…

I have never met or bumped into anyone named Joanna before. This was the first time since our Joanna died that I have heard the name used for anyone else. It caught me off guard.

I’m not sure what was worse. To hear someone say her name but not to or about her, or to know there was a little girl next to me named Joanna who is going to get to do all the things our Joanna won’t.

It’s truly amazing how grief can just open wide in an instant. The night before Mother’s Day was the first time I had cried myself to sleep in a while. This is because I’m slowly getting to the point where I know for a fact that this is not just a nightmare. I will not wake up and have my baby back. I’ve begun to accept it, to live with the knowledge and try to live a life my daughter would be proud of. I’ve been trying my best to sleep without the help of a sleep aid. I no longer take Elephant with me everywhere I go. I am finally feeling some healing. Then boom — right back into the thick of it.

Just a stranger who said her name.

Oh, how my heart is hurting today.

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Dear Joanna (4.21.15)

Dear Joanna,

I wanted to pop in and say that I miss you.

I was driving to work from the dentist today and burst into tears. I know…it’s still happening. And I’m not ashamed. My tears for you will always come, and they will always feel right, even though not having you feels so wrong.

Why did I cry, you ask? Because as I was listening to the radio, a song came on called What Hurts the Most. I am sure you heard it before, from inside my belly. It’s about a break up, a great heart ache. About a man who so wishes he had said what he was feeling and acted upon his love for his girlfriend. But he didn’t and she left. He lost her forever. Though you didn’t leave by choice and though I never neglected to tell you how much I love you, I can relate.

I can take a few tears now and then and just let ’em out.
I’m not afraid to cry every once in a while
even though going on with you gone still upsets me.
There are days every now and again I pretend I’m ok,
but that’s not what gets me.
What hurts the most was being so close,
and having so much to say…
And never knowing what could have been.

I also cried because the last time I was at the dentist there was so much joy! I was finally telling everyone that I was expecting you. I scheduled my 6-month cleaning and was already celebrating that you would be here, that I would have a little baby to bring along with me to the dentist, all cute and adorable in your little car seat.

But it was not to be, Joanna.

My arms felt so empty on Saturday morning that I held Elephant close and swayed in the sunlight for a while. I wish you were here, cuddling Elephant, and that I could cuddle you in the sunlight. Sweet girl, you’re one of my greatest loves, and losing you is my greatest hurt – what hurts the most.

Hugs and kisses, beautiful!

xoxo,

Mom

A Breath of Fresh Air

Jane Austen once wrote, “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.”

While she was writing of romantic love, I have found a lot of meaning to this quote in the disappointment that is pregnancy loss, that is a mother losing her child.

When we miscarried our first baby, I cried for days. How could we have waited so long for a child and struggled with fertility nearly two years only to be disappointed days later? I was devastated. I was hurting. I felt alone.

But in my time of pain and sorrow, friends who had experienced the same kind of loss were there for me. From my mom, to my sister-in-law, to friends far and wide who had lost one, two, or more pregnancies. Their kind words and encouragement and shared experiences helped to ease the heartache and bring some hope back into my life.

When we miraculously conceived Joanna only 3 months later it seemed like she was going to be our rainbow baby. Flash forward nearly 26 weeks. When a doctor tells you, “There’s no heartbeat,” it literally breaks your heart. I say literally because you feel it inside your chest ripping in two and then it crashes to the pit of your stomach into smaller pieces. Heartbreak really does physically manifest as chest pain, among other things.

I cried every day for months. I still cry most days. But the outpouring of love and support and prayers from our friends and family has been what helps us get by. One day at a time. Or more accurately, one moment at a time.

Over the weekend I had the chance to visit a friend. A dear, sweet friend. It had been a long time since I had seen her; we hadn’t seen each other the whole time I was pregnant. She has not experienced the same kind of loss, but this deep, precious connection that we have had for so many years – it was the balm I needed. Her sweet cards and consistent phone calls and texts have been coming to me on the days I have needed them most. Yet there is no comparison to seeing a dear friend in person when your heart is aching. There is nothing like a familiar hug from one whose heart is as broken as yours, for you. Friendship is, itself, a healer. A ray of light and breath of fresh air in a dark and saddened place. A glimmer of hope when all feels lost.

I praise God in all things, even the most devastating times. And I thank Him daily for the blessing of friendship, the balm of the brokenhearted.

Joanna’s Playlist

First – sorry for the ultra-long post, but I hope you’ll read it all.

It’s not surprising that music is important to me. I think I get my love for it, and my skill for recognizing songs quickly and artists’ voices easily, from my dad. Not a bad gift to have given, thanks! I can’t do much without music – I have to have either iTunes going or the radio when I am in my car. I listen to various playlists at work on Spotify each day. Silence is hard for me (especially since Joanna died), so I also listen to music when I am falling asleep.

Music has also played a role in mourning the loss of Joanna. From her lullaby to the song playing in the car on the way to the hospital, songs have a way of meeting me where I am, and helping me feel the emotions I need to at the moment.

I recently created a playlist – “Joanna.” The songs are ones that remind me of my pregnancy, the help me express my pain, that help me mourn and that have started to help me heal. I wanted to share the songs with you. For some, I wrote out stories or a specific reason for the song’s inclusion, for others, I just quoted lyrics.

Part One: The Joys and Memories of Pregnancy

Safe & Sound – Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars

Before Bill and I got pregnant, I had a small list of songs picked out for our future children. My plan was (and still is) to pick one special song each time I get pregnant to be that child’s lullaby. For Joanna, I chose Safe & Sound. I would play this song in the car and sing it to her in bed as I fell asleep each night. The hope was that she would recognize it when she arrived. I sang this song to her when she was born as I cuddled her little body close to mine. I know she couldn’t hear me on this earth, but I believe she heard me from Heaven. While it was meant to tell her that I would keep her safe, it still applies – she is safe in Heaven and will never know the pain and heartache that this world can bring.

Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light, you and I’ll be safe and sound.

Leave the Night On – Sam Hunt

This song made the playlist simply because it was my favorite new song on the radio while I was pregnant. It’s a happy song and I loved to sing it on my commute to work, which was often a time I felt Joanna moving around in the mornings. I guess she liked it too! (Or maybe my singing was awful…)

Layin’ down would be in vain. I can’t sleep with you on my brain.

Perfect Storm – Brad Paisley

Have you ever come across a song that makes you cry every time you hear it? Well, that’s what Perfect Storm does to me. It reminds me of Bill and how he loves me. While I was pregnant, my hormones tended to make me cry over every song ever recorded. Now, this song still makes me cry as I think about what it means and remember hearing it often while I was pregnant. Plus, Joanna’s second concert was Brad Paisley and he performed this song.

She destroys me in that t-shirt. And I love her so much it hurts.

Something in the Water and See You Again – Carrie Underwood

As anyone who knows me knows, Carrie Underwood is my absolute favorite artist ever. My friends joke that she is my best friend, but that she just doesn’t know it. These songs makes the playlist for a number of reasons, but the first is that, even in my loss, I know that Joanna and I shared one of the best moments as mom and daughter – I took her to a Carrie Underwood concert (The Concert for Valor). She got to hear Carrie sing these songs live from inside the bump! It was one of the best days of my life. Even though we were far away from the stage and I could only see Carrie via the big screens nearby, we were there and Joanna and I were together. When Joanna died, I couldn’t listen to Something in the Water for a while. But as I am healing, I am cherishing this special memory. See You Again is special in its own right because, for me, it is about seeing Joanna again someday in Heaven.

(Not to mention being pregnant at the same time as Carrie was a dream come true… and she just had her baby last week!)

You are my tomorrow. Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking. But I stay strong and I hold on, ‘cause I know… I will see you again. This is not where it ends. I will carry you with me till I see you again.

Part Two: The Pain of Loss

Cry – Kelly Clarkson

Whenever I feel your memory is breaking my heart, I’ll pretend I’m ok with it all. Act like there’s nothing wrong. Is it over yet? Can I open my eyes? Is this as hard as it gets? Is this what it feels like to really cry? I’m talking in circles. I’m lying, they know it. Why won’t this just all go away?

Over You – Miranda Lambert

This song was chosen because the lyrics of the chorus sum up perfectly how I felt more than once in the last few months. Besides the deepest sorrows a mom can feel when her baby is stillborn, I have been angry. The lyrics here say, “You went away. How dare you? I miss you.” I still feel those words coming up to the surface sometimes. How dare you? How dare you? (This song also reminds me of my grandfather, and we left the hospital after Joanna was born on the 7th anniversary of my grandfather’s death.) Also, Miranda Lambert was Joanna’s first concert.

But you went away. How dare you? I miss you. They say I’ll be ok but I’m not going to ever get over you.

Glory Baby – Watermark

A song that has meant so much to me… Seeing Watermark in concert as a young teen was a fantastic experience. And to hear their story of loss, and now they have three beautiful children, it’s an inspiration. Glory Baby has been a song that has helped me cry the tears I’ve needed to, but also to remember that Heaven is the only home both my miscarried baby and Joanna will ever know.

Sweet little babies, it’s hard to understand it ‘cause we’re hurting, we are hurting. But I will rest in knowing Heaven is your home and it’s all you’ll ever know.

If I Die Young – The Band Perry

I think the song title speaks for itself. However, when we were trying to get pregnant over the past 2+ years, I loved to see rainbows. They were there reminding me of God’s promise to take care of us. I saw many rainbows in the summer when we got pregnant with Joanna and I hope, as the song says, when I see rainbows from here on out, I’ll be reminded of Joanna and that she is safe in Heaven. Plus, babies born after loss are called “rainbow babies” – and we do hope to have one someday.

Lord, make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother. She’ll know I’m safe with You when she stands under my colors. Oh, life ain’t always what you think it ought to be; aint’ even grey but she buries her baby.

Held – Natalie Grant

This song says it all. God didn’t promise us an easy life or everything we ever wanted. He promised to never leave us, no matter what.

Who told us we’d be rescued? What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares? We’re asking why this happens to us who have died to live? It’s unfair. This is what it means to be held. How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was when everything fell, we’d be held.

Part Three: Mourning and Healing

I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe

I’ll let my Facebook post from a month ago sum up why I chose this song for my playlist.

“This song, that I have loved for a while now, has become so much more meaningful to me in the last four weeks. It was four weeks ago today Joanna was born. Four weeks ago on the way to the hospital this song played. And it played the next day as we left the hospital. And it played on the way to the funeral home the day we brought Joanna home. And every word of the song is true and it has helped remind me day after day… I am not alone. God went before us in all of this and He hasn’t left.”

When I walk through deep waters, I know that you will be with me. Through the valley of the shadows, I will not fear. I am not alone. You will go before me. You will never leave me. In the midst of deep sorrow, I see Your light is breaking through. Through these trials, You’ve always been faithful. You bring healing to my soul.

Not for a Moment – Meredith Andrews

After all You are constant. After all You are only good. After all You are sovereign. Not for a moment will You forsake me. Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark, whispering Your promise, even when I could not hear. I was held in Your arms, carried for a thousand miles to show not for a moment did You forsake me.

You’re Not Alone – Meredith Andrews

You cry yourself to sleep ‘cause the hurt is real and the pain cuts deep. All hope seems lost with heartache your closest friend.

You’re not alone for I am here. Let me wipe away your every tear. My love, I’ve never left your side. I have seen you through the darkest night and I’m the One who’s loved you all your life.

What We Ain’t Got – Jake Owen

We all wish it didn’t hurt. When you try your best and it doesn’t work. Goodbye is such a painful word. We all wish it didn’t hurt.

Part Four: Hoping for the Future

Wonderful – Christy Nockels

A song of praise and worship to my God who has been with me through it all. Even on the days when I didn’t think could praise Him.

And my life will burn for You. ‘Cause Your light shined in the darkness. I was hopeless and You lifted up my head to sing for joy with a song that broke the silence of my worship. Now I’m singing all the day. And forevermore, You will be adored, ‘cause You are wonderful.

I Am – Nichole Nordeman

This song reminds me that God is here, no matter what stage of life I’m going through. He is holding my hand and holding my heart. He is healing me and keeping me afloat each day. He is I Am.

When I am weak, unable to speak, still I will call You by name. Oh Shepherd, Savior, Pasture Maker, hold on to my hand. You say, “I am.”

Creator, Maker, Life Sustainer. Comforter, Healer, my Redeemer. Lord and King, Beginning and the End. I AM.

In Your Sight – Kerrie Roberts

There is so much about this song that I love. I love that it talks about wishing to know the wisdom of a broken heart without the pain. Yes, please! If only I could know what this is like and have the experience without hurting so badly. But it also says that God saw EVERY MOMENT before I was even born. While I believe that He could have chosen to save Joanna, I do not think He chose for her to die. I believe that the sin in the world, the Devil, he chooses that. Our free will allowed sin to enter the world and God knows what those choices lead to – and He can prepare us and make a way for us to survive those trials that sin will cause. But think about that. EVERY MOMENT. He knows what will happen and He knows how to use us and lead us in these moments.

This song says that I can rest because God is holding me, holding these moments. It’s about closing our eyes and trusting that we are going the right way, wherever God is taking us. This is important for me because I’m completely terrified of having another baby. I fully believe that Joanna needs at least one sibling, that Bill and I need at least one baby on earth to raise and love on. But getting to a place mentally and emotionally where that is something I can do is hard. This song says that because we are in God’s sight in EVERY MOMENT we can be unafraid. I want to be unafraid. I want to trust. This is part of my healing process and I am grateful for this song.

I wish I never really had to fall this far, could have the wisdom of a broken heart without all the pain. But Lord you saw these moments before I began to breathe. And You see how to use them and where they’re going to lead. And I will rest knowing you are holding me. I believe You will never say goodbye. I close my eyes, unafraid of what I cannot see ‘cause I am always in Your sight.

Thanks for reading to the end. What are your songs for joy, grief and healing?

The First Month

All posts below this one are from my original “married life” blog – Mrs J at Home. I wasn’t very good at keeping it updated, but recent events in my life, mainly the loss of my stillborn daughter at 25w5d, have made me want to share again. So, I changed the name of the blog, and here we go. Writing is both therapeutic for me, and a great way to encourage others who may be going through similar situations. Not to mention, it can help those around me understand how I am feeling and how I am grieving and healing. For an intro post to the original blog, check it out here.

As a starter post this time around (check out the About page for more), I wanted to share some of my heart. My grieving process. My thought process. I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother, and a mother with empty arms (read Joanna’s Story). When I hit the “one month” mark, I realized my heart was still breaking every day. I was sitting in my cubicle one day, unable to work. My mind was everywhere. My heartache was physically manifested in chest pain and an upset stomach. I took a few minutes to write what I was feeling. As I am approaching the “two month” mark next week, the feelings in this little writing below still hold true. Every day I am broken again. But I do feel the healing beginning…

One Month.

Today is January 29 and my heart is broken. I am trying to concentrate, but as I sit at work looking at my beautiful baby’s face on her last ultrasound picture, I wish for the chance to hold her again.

The truth is the heart can break. And just because it’s broken, that does not mean it cannot break again and again. It doesn’t need to be mended or healed first. Every day the pieces can just get smaller, more broken.

I once wrote a blog post in college about trying to heal heartbreak with Elmer’s glue. How you could take the heart and put it back together with Elmer’s, and that even though the cracks would come together and make the heart look whole, the glue, now invisible, would still be there. The heart, once broken, can never be the same.

Sometimes that’s what I think happens. Each day and night I cry tears of healing. The heart slowly comes back together, drying with Elmer’s glue (or just my tears, really). Then each morning I awake and know I am not dreaming; this is my life. I buried my baby after holding her in my arms. I kissed her goodbye when I should have been kissing her scrapes. I sang her a lullaby as a final love song when I should have been singing her to sleep each night. I rocked her, lifeless, when I should have been joyfully rocking her in the nursery each day. And when I wake each morning and remember the nightmare I am living, my heart breaks all over again.

People have said that I am strong. I am not sure they are right. I feel weak. I feel tired. I feel devastated. And I feel guilty.

First: guilt that I was not enough for Joanna. I could not keep her alive and she’s gone.

Second: guilt that it’s my fault. In my head, I know I did all I could for her; I know nothing I could do differently would save her. But in my mama’s heart, I am filled with sadness and disappointment in myself. How could I do this to my baby?

Third: guilt when I feel moments of happiness. How can I be happy when my daughter has died? How can I laugh when I will never hold my little girl again? Will she think I don’t miss her? That I don’t love her? Does she know I would do anything to change what happened?

From Moments Like These by Selah:

I’ve got a little girl in Heaven right now
Those streets of gold are her playground
[The time] she lived was enough to fall in love
She’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever let go of.