What I Remember, Before I Forget

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I’ve tried to sit down to write this post for several weeks, and never once did I even make it past the title. I knew, since the moment I thought of what I wanted to write, what I would title it. And I’ve had a strong sense of what this first post would say. But I’ve not been able to bring the thoughts to “paper”. Even now as I type, I am not sure that I can.

However, because today was Anysia’s two-month birthday… and also the anniversary of when we lost her… I feel compelled to try whether the words seem to flow or not.

When I was pregnant with Anysia, I always wondered just how I would tell her story… our story. I knew that if I ever decided to do so in any form, it would be very difficult, because I had not been writing or journaling throughout the entire pregnancy, except for at the very end. All those months, I felt as though I should have been writing down everything we were all going through… what my pregnancy was like, how we handled the news, what we did to fight despair, the ways our grief was affecting Isaac, where and in what we found joy in spite of pain, etc. Even if no one would ever read it or care to, I felt there should be something for the three of us to look back on.

Some might say, “well, why would you want to remember the details of such a painful time?”

Of course… it is difficult and sad to purposefully recall and think about all those details, or even just the big picture. It is the reason, I’m sure, that it has been so challenging for me to sit down and begin this series. But my counselor helped me to see the importance of remembering, as well as documenting, all of what we went through, even though I was already quite impressed with a sense that I should.

Sheri {the one who has counseled me throughout these many months of our ordeal} and I had a mostly conversing-via-email relationship during those months of my pregnancy after finding out about Anysia’s diagnosis. We did talk in person on occasion, and there were several times she came by to tangibly help me as well… i.e., babysit Isaac, help me clean my house, bring us a meal. {Bear in mind, she was a friend and choir mate first… then, as a lay counselor at our church, she followed through with the calling she felt to counsel me through our diagnosis, pregnancy, birth and loss.} But it was mostly through emails that I found support in my mentor and friend, as well as limitless counsel when I needed to be reminded of God in all of it… whenever I would begin to lose sight of Him. {This is still going on, by the way}. It was the kind of thing where I could write and just share anything at all with her… all about the good days, the bad days, what I was struggling with, what my needs were, what surprise blessings and gifts we were discovering even in the middle of such horrifying circumstances, etc. There have been over 600 email exchanges throughout all these months… hardly a day went by that I did not hear from her, often more than once.  In these emails can be found the gist of her counsel, but also, the gist of my life as it played out during those days.

Anyway, back in September, after connecting me with another mom in our church who had/lost a baby to Trisomy 18, I wrote to tell her how blessed I was to be able to meet this other mom, and I shared just how much I saw God’s hand of goodness through the meeting and through the woman I met with herself.

I will share Sheri’s response, because it bears the majority of the reason I have chosen to tell my story.

I am SO glad that the visit with Angie exceeded your expectations. I’m glad you found her to be the sweet and compassionate person advertised! ;). It sounds like your meeting certainly was an answer to prayers for what she could mean in your life. I’d like to encourage you to start a list of God sightings as you go through this oh, so difficult passage. Write down these moments and circumstances where you can see His fingerprints. For example, you mentioned that right before you found out about Anysia’s condition, or soon after, several long-lost friends made contact {myself included}; having that package mis-delivered only to find out the neighbor that had it is a believer; this meeting with Angie; letters, cards, texts coming at just the right moment; your sister’s gift; my friend choosing me to give a gift when she wouldn’t know you otherwise…

I’ve encouraged others to make these ‘Ebenezer’ lists {Israel had a standing stone, a monument called ‘Ebenezer’ which means ‘we’ve come this far by God’s help’ } when they are going through tough times, because sometimes the trials are so overwhelming that we need to have a rock to cling to. This list is such a rock, because it reminds them that God is still with them in the midst of the trial. On those really down days, they can pull it out and remind themselves how God has helped in the past, and it gives them hope for the future. It keeps us looking for things to add to the list, so it returns the focus repeatedly to the positive. It’s also a great thing to pull out and just read it over to give thanks and praise—often a sacrifice of praise on a difficult day.

I’ve also told some of them that such a list is a legacy to give to their children. Isaac is too young to really process this yet, but someday, when you tell him about this period in your family’s life, you can pull out the Ebenezer list and say, ‘It was a very hard, very dark time in our family, but look what God did in the midst of it. Look at how He kept showing us that He was there, and sending His comfort.’ “

Just rereading this email excerpt now, after I pasted it in, is causing tears to flow… near to weeping, as I remember just how dark some of those days were and remember, also, just how far we’ve come by God’s help. {Like I said, this is why it’s been hard to sit down and write this all… I knew this reaction would ensue.}

I never made this list she suggested. But all my emails contain written accounts of the many “moments and circumstances” where we saw “His fingerprints”. They will be part of my story to tell.

I recently recalled with great detail {while awfully sick with a stomach virus} how horrible of a day it was when we found out that our baby had a severe abnormality in which her intestines had not formed within her abdomen, but rather, had formed and were developing outside of her body. It was by far the very worst day of my entire life in 42 years. That day, not only was I vomiting because of severe pregnancy nausea, but even more so because of shock and anxiety over the news we’d received. Thinking so much about that day while sick a few weeks ago was what spurred my decision to write about everything here. I thought about how I can hardly believe I survived that day. That may sound dramatic, but I truly did not handle that day well. I thought I might end up in the E.R. just from dehydration because I had gotten so worked up and so sick as a result. Though he was not vomiting as I was, I watched my husband, equally shocked and undone, struggle to make it too.

It is tremendously difficult to think about these things… to stir these memories up.

But I realize that I can’t quite convey {to Isaac or anyone else} just how far we’ve come by God’s help if I don’t convey and describe where we were coming from. I can’t proclaim His goodness to us throughout what we went through if I don’t also share what it was that we suffered that made His goodness so significant a part of the story. {Not to say God’s goodness isn’t always significant, because it is… whether in suffering or in green pastures.}

So, those worst moments will also be a part of my story to tell. In fact, the fingerprints were often entwined with the dark moments… sometimes I could see that immediately, other times, not until later.

As I said, I felt such a need or desire to have a record of our story, at some point, anyway. So, during those many months, I sometimes felt like I was doing myself and Isaac a disservice by not writing things down… by not keeping a journal each day or on as many days as I could. I remember once thinking, How in the world can I begin to tell or write about this chapter of our lives, when what we experience each individual day is enough to fill an entire book?

That aside, most days I just felt too tired and overwhelmed to write a single word about it… very unlike my pre-pregnancy self. I was usually just too emotionally drained. And I had not the clarity I would need to write. Up until we got pregnant, I had been blogging regularly. Writing was enjoyable and not something I dreaded. But throughout those taxing pregnant days, I was so depleted of every strength, I longed and hoped just to make it to my pillow each night {when I was able to sleep, that is}. So I wrote not one word. Me. The open book. The chatter box known for writing the longest emails and leaving the longest voicemail messages. I could not write one word.

This would often make me sad.

I wanted to tell my story as it was being lived. Not everyone can. Not everyone should. But among the few blogs about families dealing with baby loss that I came across, there were some who could write about it as it was happening. I wanted to be able to. But I simply could not.

Part of me is glad that it wouldn’t come easily. I needed to be silent for that time. I checked out of the social media world then, too. It would not have been a good thing for me to have such a distraction at that time. I’m still not ready to go back there, and I honestly don’t know if I ever will be.

It was not the social aspect that prevented me from sharing our story, though. I could have simply written privately, in a notebook. But even that would not come.

So I found myself very often frustrated and afraid that I would forget the little details that I desperately wanted to hold on to… until one day, I realized that I had already been telling my story as it played out. I had been telling it to the many who reached out to me during all those months, individually, in one-on-one conversations. Several people started to wonder where I went, after noticing I went off the social grid. And many reached out to ask, concerned and wanting to make sure everything was okay.

As I began to fill people in, I was sharing my story without realizing it, bit by bit, email by email… especially to those who would continue to reach out and check on us. And then there are those hundreds of emails to my counselor, where probably 75% or more of my story was told.

Cards. Emails. Texts. Phone conversations {the ones I can recall}. This is where my story can be found… or at least the parts of it that I am not able to rely on memory to recall.

So in a way, it’s already been written.

When I realized this, I knew that this would be how I would some day tell my story… through the words it has been told in among all those correspondences and through whatever memories my brain could retain.

But I couldn’t start. I sat down to attempt it time after time, always with no success.

So, even now as I type, I wonder how I will get this accomplished. How can I relive such awful days? Just reading and posting one short excerpt from one of many emails made me cry… practically weep. How am I going to do this?

The answer is, I don’t know. Probably with a box of kleenex, or twenty. Or maybe not. Maybe it will heal instead of hurt. Or maybe both will result, one from the other.
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I recently saw this quote {above}… I think on a baby-loss grief support web site. It was one more affirmation to me that I should at least try to write out, with as much detail as I can, what we have been and come through. I quite agree with what it says… I think we have a duty to tell our story, even if for Isaac alone. Survives is not a word I use lightly, either. Survive, we did. On many more levels than I could ever fully explain.

Surviving still.

Like the Israelites who survived the battle they faced and afterward set down a stone in a specific place to remind them from where and how far God had brought them, I want to do the same. I found a devotional page about this Old Testament account of Samuel and that Ebenezer stone, and I like what it says at the end…

We each have a story to tell of how God has worked in our lives, and we, of all people, need to recall those provisions and works of God in our lives. God is real, He is at work always around us and in us, and He cares. He cares that we would remember His goodness such that we would choose to believe and be faithful in the present.

We may not have named a stone ‘Ebenezer’ in honor of God’s deliverance, but surely we have our own stories to recall to mind of His faithfulness, provision, mercy, love, and power. When we feel like giving up or giving in or if we begin to feel nothing at all in regard to our Lord, let us be faithful to recall to remembrance the faithfulness of our God. May God enable us to be intentional about remembering and to beware lest we forget.”
{from www.relevantbibleteaching.com by Brent Barnett}

There are still times that I feel like giving up or giving in… not as intense of moments as there were between last June and December, but there none the less. So I definitely want to recall and recount those days and all that we faced, because I definitely want to remember God’s faithfulness through it all, even now… especially now… and not just when we’ve made it to the other side.

Besides that, I love details. I want to have them all accounted for. They are what make up the whole. I have always been detail-oriented. Even in our most painful struggle, the details are important to me.

I feel that Anysia was the most significant part of my life so far, as her life and what we went through to have her encompasses so much else that is a part of my life. Hers is an important story to tell. Her story is my story. Her entire life is one chapter of mine.

When I think about her {as I did so often today on this two-month anniversary of meeting her face-to-face}, I think so much about another quote I recently came across…
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View More: http://sherahgphotography.pass.us/anysia-bateman

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I’m not sure if it’s the hormonal changes that often makes me forgetful {otherwise known as pregnancy brain}, or if it’s just some sort of coping mechanism, but I can hardly remember any of the pain I went through up until the time I met her. I mean, of course I remember the details if I really try to {although even trying fails me at times}. But often when I think of her, it is in terms of meeting her and the gift of that experience… not in terms of going through hellish pain to meet her. Much like a healthy pregnancy and the birth of a healthy, thriving child—where, once they arrive, you forget all that you had to go through to bring them into the world—I have forgotten the pain, sacrifice and heartache we endured to have her. And when they put her in my arms, it was all over… all that pain disappeared. I knew more pain was waiting for us around the bend, as I knew she would likely leave us quickly or endure a short-lived and difficult life full of struggle and suffering. But right then and there, we were together. And I forget the rest.

Or at least, that is what I want sometimes… to forget the rest.

But only until I return to what is spelled out on the first two photos above, which is where I’m reminded that I ought to remember and tell this story.

So in this series that will last as long as it takes, I will tell it. It may be a post about something I had forgotten, that came to mind out of the blue. Or it may be a post about something I’ve been thinking about and already have plans to share. It might come from my memory, or it might be pieced together with parts of emails and letters that were exchanged. It may be brought on by something I see in my surroundings. Or it might be sparked by an image of her. I may use photography to sometimes help tell the story, whether my own or hers, or even hers.

Whatever the method, I will tell all that I can.

This was not my official first post. This was just my explanation of why I will commit to this… why it’s important to me.

Today was bittersweet. I could not believe how much longer the second month seemed in comparison to the first. On January 19th, one month after, it felt like just yesterday she had come to us and died. The memory of meeting her and the pain of losing her were as fresh and raw as the day we lived it. But one more month down this river of grief, it feels like so long ago that I held her. It feels like many, many months ago… not merely two.

Today, I both smiled and cried at the thought of her or at the sight of her photo on my refrigerator… sometimes within the same breath. Many times today, I buried my face in my hands, crying… still in disbelief. Many times, I felt immense joy that we got to meet her… one of those goodnesses of God that I want to shout from the rooftop… and joy that she was a part of our lives period. All of it.

Whether read by one or by many, this series of posts titled What I Remember, Before I Forget will be our story… Anysia’s and her family’s… and ultimately, one tiny part of God’s. I don’t write because I think myself gifted at writing. I don’t write because I feel this story more tell-worthy than the next. I simply write for these reasons. For Isaac. So I won’t forget the details. To testify how far we have come by God’s help. And because I feel it’s my duty.

I pray that my memory serves me, and that all the correspondences I’ve saved over these past months will help me when it doesn’t.

I pray that it helps or blesses at least one person.

I pray that it will honor the beautiful life of my sweet baby girl.

And I pray that it will be honoring to God, who is my all.
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Photographs by Sherah G
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