On Trees and the Difference a Year Can Make / / What I Remember, Before I Forget

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I should be in bed right now, getting well-rested for the play date Izzy and I have in the morning with two of our favorite people. But I really wanted to get on my blog tonight and write.

I love that I can often go back to an e-mail I once wrote to assist me in composing a post. It shows me that what I share here, I have also been blessed to share one-on-one with those who have been keeping in contact with us. When I write these posts {that I can copy and paste from e-mails into}, I realize that I’m not just writing out into some vast cyber-galaxy, wondering if what I write ever reaches a soul, let alone passes them in the “street”. Of course, when someone comments, I know at least that person has read here. But it’s just an extra boost to know that we have the individual correspondence going on as well.

Such is the case for my post tonight. But for this one, I didn’t even have to go back very far. I lifted my words right out of a message to a friend that I sent just minutes before coming here to write. And, so that I don’t have to re-write them for my post, here is what I sent to her…

Even with the nice weather, today was hard for me. [A year ago] today is when we tried to become pregnant… in hopes of having our second. So this was a hard day—to think that we had to go through so much loss because we chose one way over another. Of course, I wouldn’t change a thing. But it’s all still just so emotional. I just wish I could go back and say, “Let’s wait one more week. Or try again next month.” But that would only be to avoid the pain, and in avoiding the pain , we would have also had to avoid the gift. And [then] we would never have met [Anysia]. So I guess there is no point in thinking like that. Even when I don’t, it’s [still] just hard. [Today] being a milestone, I miss her so much.”

Yes… April 6th of last year, we became pregnant with our second child.

I don’t remember much of those details… and even if I did, I would think I’d hold back sharing them out of embarrassment. But I do remember feeling the implantation of the fertilized egg the next day… just as I did with Izzy. Yes… that’s really possible. This was the first inclination proof I held onto to convince myself I was pregnant. It would be followed by many strange symptoms that I only ever felt once before… after I became pregnant with Isaac. Coincidentally, also almost exactly one year ago, Isaac and I had a play date with my dear friend, Aimee, and her daughter, who are the two we are going to have a play date with tomorrow morning. I remember sharing with her {as she came over for our play date only days after I became pregnant} that I was certain in my heart of hearts that I was pregnant again. I remember receiving the warmest hug from her and finding her to be so happy for us… something so encouraging to receive, because I had felt somewhat uneasy about being pregnant again so late in life, and I had had a terrible feeling that something was wrong since day two, when I felt implantation occur. {Gosh, not in my worst nightmare could I have imagined what it could turn out to be, though.}

She was the very first person I told I was pregnant with certainty… yes, certainty, though I had not and could not yet have taken a pregnancy test to prove it. Up until that point, I had only told Mr. B with certainty and told another friend of my suspicions that I was pregnant. So it will be sort of special to be sharing another play date with her tomorrow… one year later.

Anyway, I wish I had had more forethought and had been more organized this past month in hopes of doing something special for this day. I mean, we’ve known since somewhere right around the end of the pregnancy that we wanted to plant a tree for Anysia in our yard come Spring… if we were to lose her soon after birth the way doctors were preparing us to. But we never really picked a day to do so. Now that today has come and gone, I realize that this would have been the perfect day to do so.

Having never planted a tree before, I honestly don’t know what the proper time of year is for planting. I guess it depends on the kind of tree… and maybe even the type of soil we have?

But I do know we wanted it to be in the Spring, and as today was so beautiful {finally!}, I can’t help but think I should have planned to plant her tree this day… one year from the day she was created.

Though I missed the opportunity to do something special and significant to mark this milestone, we still plan to plant a tree. And it will be just as meaningful to our hearts, even if it doesn’t look as special “on paper” per what the calendar says.

We’ve already decided that we want to plant some sort of evergreen so that it looks like a Christmas tree and we can decorate it with white twinkly lights when Christmas comes around each year… as well as her birthday which is just days before. We think this would be such a special thing. Then it’s not just a tree growing in our yard year after year, but a tree that we can create a yearly tradition and remembrance around, as we string on the lights and think about the precious life that entered ours for such a short time.

I’m amazed to think back to that day a year ago. Like I wrote to my friend, we could have simply decided against growing our family that day {which was very close in weight—on the scale on which we weighed our choices—to the weight of having one more child}. Or we could have postponed trying for a month or two. But we did not. It makes me truly believe nothing is left up to chance. I don’t think her life was a mistake. And I don’t think it could have gone any other way than what God had planned for it to… the way it did go. I believe Psalm 139 applies to every life… not just the ones that last closer to what we naturally expect for this world.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

{Psalm 139:13-16, ESV}

I believe wholeheartedly in the sovereignty of God… something I have been studying a lot more lately. It’s common after trauma or loss, suffering and grief to question all that you believe… and reevaluate those beliefs, or why you hold to them. I very much understand why someone would throw in the towel and walk away from God or their beliefs after something so terrible as the loss of a baby. But I want to let this pain only further affirm what I already believed to be true of God {and I’ve had to pray that God would keep me thus}. In fact, I recently listened to this interview podcast, and it rekindled the flame that is the hope I have in the face of our loss… much like it was rekindled back when I was pregnant with Anysia and I came across this audio message.

Yes… as of even just days ago, I was struggling so much. Not really with questioning why this past year happened, but as I often say to others who ask how I am doing… it’s not the loss itself that is so difficult as the days carry on as much as it is the figuring out how to relate with everything that’s left and all who remain. Things change. Relationships change. People disappear and you are left wondering why. {Though many come along who you did not expect to… which is such a treasured gift.} You change and no longer fit into life the way you did previously.

But as difficult as things became over the past month, I once again found comfort, and my hope and peace were restored again after listening to that podcast and reading several other things with a message in that same vein.

Will I have more weepy and difficult days? You bet! And if you don’t bet, I will. Will I still go to grief counseling this Thursday night? Yes. By all means, because I know I am not out of the woods. Not even close.

But tonight as I reflect on what this day is… what it was a year ago, and how it changed me forever—that single choice, made in an instant, to grow our family by one, which might have never been made… I can’t help but think about so many things. How we got here and made it to this point as un-wrecked as we did {though many times we felt ruined}. How different everything looks to us. How amazing, while devastating, an experience it is to make and then lose a daughter… truly, I stand amazed. How unfathomable it all still is. How confusing it is to think about when that first cell split and everything from that point on went wrong… every single cell that formed was off and “diseased” and a threat to the very life that it was forming into. How I will never be the same… which is actually my prayer, but I realize that “never the same” can mean forever bitter, too… so I fight a weary fight to keep from going there.

I’ve touched on why we won’t have more kids after Anysia here before, so it’s not my intent to get into that again now. But it did come up in the e-mail exchange I had with the friend I wrote to above… when she asked if I didn’t mind her asking why we choose not to have more children after our loss. I will share some of my response… not so much to illustrate what our reasoning is, but rather to give a glimpse of what this year has been for us…

When we became pregnant with Anysia, it was such a last-minute thing. We had already decided to be done. But moving into this house and seeing how fun it would be for Isaac to have a sibling here, we thought we should give it a second thought. It seemed like a no-brainer because we had the room. And given how well everything went with Isaac[‘s pregnancy/birth], we thought it would go well [a second time], even though I was almost three years older than the first time I got pregnant.

If we had said, ‘not now, but maybe next year’, we would have talked ourselves out of it, because we knew it was pushing it even to have one right then… given our age. I don’t just mean from the standpoint of the risks. I mostly mean from the standpoint of how tired we were and how we wanted to be done with that part [of family life] by a certain age… The young age of children is very hard on the “old age” of older parents. So if it was iffy then, it’s pretty much out of the question now. I know the percentage of having another baby with Trisomy-18 is low. But we are still totally afraid to have another because of what we went through. And not only that, but if we felt old before Anysia, we feel more than just a year older now… we feel about 10 years older. It really [took its toll] on Mr. B and me physically, mentally and emotionally. Of course, I know some of that will be restored and we will feel more like ourselves as the grief subsides a bit. But we are just so dog tired and want to pour into Isaac as much as we can. Of course, having another [now] would be for him. But at what cost? At the cost of giving way less of our energy to him because we are past the point of being able to handle another? If so, we just can’t do it. Of course, we will always wonder if it could have worked. But we are just too disheartened to give it a chance. If we had to go through anything like what we just went through again, it would kill us. I honestly think so. You know how people say God will never give you more than what you can handle? Well, last year was about all I can handle. I simply can never go through that again. Not only that, but even if the pregnancy/baby would be healthy, I had the worst pregnancy [due to severe nausea], and I don’t want to go through that again either. Again, it’s like taking another year away from Isaac… or from ourselves with Isaac. Maybe others could handle it. But we know our limits. And we can’t.

I know it sounds negative. But [really, it’s simply that] I want to be grateful for the fact that we have Isaac and had Anysia. And I don’t want to push it. I just want to pour all that we can into him. I have seen many studies as of late that show how only-children actually adjust well in society, and it does not have the same stigma as it used to. Of course, I want [another child] for myself just as much as for him. I grieve that I will never again experience all the things I have experienced with Isaac so far. But it’s not enough to make me push Mr. B to let us have another. So I have come to accept… this is my life. It’s pretty full. I can not complain.”

Of course, this paints a weary picture. And I will admit… I am weary. I remember, after not having slept one wink the night before Anysia was born, a nurse said to me that I deserved a lot of sleep because of my long day at the hospital and not sleeping well many nights toward the end of my pregnancy. She said, “Yeah, you are several days tired.” I laughed out loud and replied, “I’m six months tired.” I figure it will take as long to do the bulk of recovering from those six months as it took to go through them. If so, I am half-way there.

But I must say that it’s not all weariness. There are those moments of growth and strength I feel taking root and growing up from the frozen ground… just like I hope will happen with the tree we plant for Anysia.

In the same way that I hope the dust Anysia returned to {after the dust from which she came} will nourish and cause that tree to grow strong, I pray the dust of all we’ve lost will only nourish our lives and make us stronger people… and that we will continue to see little sprouts and evidence of new life and growth.

I saw it today. I grieved as we walked to the park to celebrate the first really nice day of the year. I grieved because she should have been with us. But we were thankful to be together, and we felt something new… everywhere.

All around us.

Deep within us.

Mr. B was sick while we were there {as he’s been the past several days}. But despite how he felt physically, we all had such a beautiful day together. I know that it is time, in general, that makes us never the same. But besides that, as we all spent those moments together, I knew it was also our experience… what we’d all come through {and are still coming through} as a family.

Today was hard. However, I was expecting more hard days. I wasn’t blind to the reality that there’d be more, just as I know there are yet more on the way. But after gaining the courage to get back on Facebook tonight {having been off of it this entire past year}, and after explaining why I’d been gone, I received so many thoughtful messages from people… even private messages from people I have never even met, because they saw a mutual friend respond publicly to what I had written. One such person wrote to me and told me that her family went through what we did, eleven years ago, and that they still miss their little one very much… still grieving the loss even now. Eleven years later!

So I am not at all naive about the fact that our loss will be difficult the rest of my life. But I am equally hopeful that each day will bring more and more beauty as we heal.

This is why I look so forward to planting a tree. I will get to watch it grow and become more and more beautiful. I will watch it nearly die each winter, just as our hope nearly did many times this past winter. But then I will watch it again spring forth with new life {and beauty}… again and again and again. Year after year.

What a difference a year makes.

Below are a few more photos of the three of us today… exactly one year after Anysia’s life was formed… with her still very much in our hearts. She is always there, so today, though we didn’t get to plant that tree, she was with us wherever we went. Here we all are together, at the park among trees on a beautiful day filled with hope and renewal and, once again, joy… because she entered our lives.

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We three miss you, sweet baby girl.

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{One last little story, because I don’t want to forget it… Isaac said to me this morning, “Mama, do you buhmember [remember] when Anysia was in your tummy?” His sweet voice and sentiment warmed my heart so much. Yes, Izzy… I do remember… very well.}

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