Mommy Confessions

To the Babies Born Sleeping

This year June 18th came and went and when I realized it had passed, it punched me in the gut.

When I was 24 years old, I had lost three babies to miscarriage.  Miscarriage. Such a pretty word to explain the devastating loss of a child. To gloss over the fact that the life that was once living inside a mother must be removed…somehow.

My medical record says I’ve had three abortions.  Abortions. Because the medical community doesn’t differentiate between the loss of a child via choice and the loss of a child when a mother was pleading with God on her knees…sobbing…begging to save her baby.  Every year when I have a physical they ask, “How many times have you been pregnant?” I say, “Five.” Then the follow-up, “How many live births have you had?” “Only 2.” And into my chart they record 3 abortions.

When I was 24 years old I had given birth to three babies asleep.  I prefer this to miscarriage.  Three babies born sleeping.

The first two times were in public restrooms at Grand Valley State University.  So unimaginably small yet so unmistakable in their form.  Amazing how quickly a baby is a baby.  Yet they were damaged and I could reconcile that maybe God had been merciful and His plan was perfect. They were meant to grow up in heaven.

On June 18, 2003, I gave birth to my third baby sleeping. I was home.  I was alone.  The doctor had told us a few days prior that we no longer had a heartbeat. The baby was so small, “the body would pass it on its own.”

She was born in the shower.  Unlike the others, she seemed perfect. So impossibly complete.  Yet so terminally small.  She could have fit into the fingernail of my pinky.  Yet there she was.  Unlike the others, there was no doubt.  I had a daughter.  And now before she could begin, she was gone.

I called my Aunt Shirley and sobbed my eyes out. How could God be so cruel? What did I do wrong? How can I continue when this hurts so much? I told her the biggest hurt was that these children didn’t matter. The world didn’t care. They didn’t exist. Another abortion on a spreadsheet that the mother didn’t chose.

Shirley patiently listened to my rant.  To me sob, to me plead for something other than the pain I was feeling.  And then she told me to say a prayer and name all three of my babies the first name that came to mind. She said make them real.  Give them a name.  They were real.  They deserve a name and to be mourned.  She said to bury my tiny third baby and to pray to God that I could heal.

So I closed my eyes and I prayed.

Baby #1 – Sarah.  God had promised Sarah she would have children. I took comfort in that this name coming to me was a promise that I wouldn’t grieve forever. Somehow God would fill my empty arms.

Baby #2 – David.  The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart.  Also, once upon a time, I had loved a boy very much whose middle name was David.  I prayed that in heaven, God had my baby David and he was a man after God’s own heart and he was kind like the boy I had loved.

Baby #3…I still held her in my hand as I prayed.  I was devastated.  I was alone.  And suddenly I remembered the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her she would have a son.  My third baby…my perfect baby girl born impossibly small. Too small to survive.  Gabriel.  Due February 29, 2004.

I buried Gabriel under a Rose of Sharon in my yard.  Until this day and until I take my last breath every home I own will have a Rose of Sharon to honor my baby girl.

I would love to tell you that after this I felt closure and that I was healed. That God miraculously closed the wounds in my heart and I moved forward. But that would be a lie. I grieved and grieved. I felt hopeless.  I wanted to die with my Gabriel, my David and my Sarah. I wanted to be where they were.  My life felt meaningless and void.

My husband, Mr. Businessman became angry with me because I could not overcome my grief.  “When will you get over this?,” he yelled.  “When will you be normal again?”  I didn’t know.  It felt like never.  I couldn’t explain to him the emptiness and at the same time the overwhelming abyss of grief.  A deep pit of grief that felt like it would swallow me whole, and I wanted to give into the grief.  I knew God in his mercy would forgive me if I just gave into the grief. And then, I thought, I wouldn’t hurt anymore.  I’d be with my babies.

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Three weeks after I said goodbye to my Gabriel under the Rose of Sharon, I ended up in the emergency room with severe nausea.  Again, I was alone.

They asked if I could be pregnant.  Devastated, I said “No, I lost a baby 3 weeks ago.”

“Ma’am, we are going to do an ultrasound”.

Okay, I thought.  Maybe appendicitis. I mean what else could God throw at me right now?

“Ma’am. We have a heartbeat.”

“We have a heart beat”?

My head spun. How is this possible? Did I miss a health class that explained how you could give birth to a baby asleep and three weeks later have a heart beat with no intercession in between to cause it?

The doctor’s explained that they were going to treat this heart beat as a new pregnancy because to err on the side of new pregnancy was safer for the baby long term.

I was numb. I wasn’t ready to accept a new baby or to fight for a new baby. I wanted Gabriel, not new baby. New baby was just another baby that would be born asleep.  I wasn’t strong enough to say goodbye to another baby.  They calculated new baby due date as April 29, 2004. Exactly 8 weeks later than Gabriel.  It made absolutely no sense from any calendar or activity in my past…but I didn’t argue.

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New baby was a fighter. This baby was a fighter when I wasn’t strong enough to fight anymore.  My heart was convinced it was another baby I’d have to lose alone.  I’d bury this one next to the sister in the Rose of Sharon.  But…I reached the glorious 16 week mark (a record for me!).

They did the ultrasound and new baby was a boy! I honestly didn’t care.  The ultrasound said he was alive!  He was a boy, who cares?! He’s alive!  They shook their heads and said, “He’s measuring 4-6 weeks ahead.”

Who cares? He’s alive!

I started to believe maybe we could make it.  This baby and me.  We were going to survive. I didn’t have to give into the darkness, to the abyss.  We were going to live together!

Then 20 weeks came.  I started to have contractions.  I was bleeding.

This time I was with my mom and she rushed me to the hospital.  He was trying to come to soon.

“Dear God please no.  Not this time…please. I don’t think I can do this again.  Please, I beg you.  Don’t take him from me.  I’ve come so far…I was just starting to hope, to believe.  I can’t do this.  If you take him from me, I won’t make it, this will end me.”

They were pumping me full of so much medication to stop labor, my heart felt like it would pound out of my chest.  My emotions were out of orbit and I thought, if he doesn’t survive this, I won’t either. I don’t want to.

They managed to stop contractions, but I had started to dilate.  They had to rush me to surgery to physically stop him from coming.  To close my body. To make it impossible for him to come.  As long as we could keep the contractions at bay.

I laid on the operating table alone. They can’t put you under for these procedures…too dangerous for the baby.  I asked them, “What happens if this doesn’t work?  What happens if he’s born?”

The doctor looked at me and said, “He’s too small, he will die.  We will let you hold him, but he will die.”

Again, I begged God…”Please no. I can’t do this again.  I’m not strong enough.  Please save him. Take me…but please don’t take him.”

The surgery was a success. I was sent home on complete bed rest. From November 2003 until March 2004, I was in and out of the hospital at least 2-3 times per week.  They would pump me full of medication to stop the labor.  Sometimes I would break down and cry because the effect on my body and my mentality were overwhelming.  But he had fought so hard, I was determined to fight as long as he would.  It was him and me against the world.  We were in this together. I wasn’t going to let this baby down.  We were going to fight this together.

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On February 29, 2004, I thought of my little Gabriel.  She was due that day and I mourned her loss.  But still, my boy was still safe inside me. I’d made it past all the danger zone dates.  I knew that if he was born now, he had a fighting chance.

On the evening of February 29, 2004, he tried to come with a vengeance.  So much medication to stop labor.  A doctor looked at my chart later in life I was 27…shook her head and said, “You’re lucky they didn’t kill you that night with how much they pumped into your body”.

I was alone and sobbing in my hospital room.  Alone.  Begging for my baby and yet at the same time, selfishly begging for the whole ordeal to be over.  I was 25.  I’d giving birth to 3 babies sleeping in the last 18 months. I was tired. My soul was at its end.  A nurse came in and asked “What’s wrong?”.  I didn’t even know where to start.  How to you explain you are mourning the child who was supposed to be born today, while fighting for the one inside you, while all alone in a hospital room?

They managed to stop labor that night.

After that, the pregnancy went very bad.  In the next 3 weeks, my blood pressure skyrocketed and my kidneys began to shut down.  My precious baby’s vitals were not good.

On March 24, 2004, they agreed, it was time.  To prolong the pregnancy was putting my life at jeopardy as well as his.  He was far enough along that he should be okay.

He was born on March 24, 2004. They had a team on standby to rush him to DeVos Children’s Hospital since he was a preemie.  A whole team of med students observed to witness a preemie birth.

And he was born.  Absolutely perfect.  7lbs, 7oz.

No rush the NICU.

The doctor said, “That’s no preemie.  We should have never recalculated his due date.  That’s why your body was shutting down, it was all the symptoms of an overdue pregnancy. This baby was a twin.”

My fighter.

His name is William Gunnar.  He’s a soccer player.  A black belt.  An emotional cannonball.  He wants to serve his country and attend the Naval Academy.  He’s an emotional cannonball.

And his twin sister was Gabriel.

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Mommy Confessions

Why I Left “The Church”, but Not Jesus

Why I Left “the Church”, but Not Jesus

I grew up in “the church” as we called the church attending members of the Christian faith. Until the last 4 years, I was a regular attender. I taught Sunday school, worked nursery, sang in the choir. I did Bible study and MOPS. I tithed. My kids attended a private Christian school. I was part of “the church”.

As Gen X and Millenials came of age, there became a growing concern “in the church” as people in these generations fled and stopped attending. I’ve read many articles from people still in “the church” attempting to explain (rarely to actually understand or accept accountability) why these generations are just leaving “the church”. The lack of self-awareness or humility among “the church” has just shown over and over 1) why our generations our leaving and 2) how much they just flat don’t get it.

So here is my take on where we, the generation of Jesus-lovers and church avoiders, sit. You aren’t showing us the love of Jesus. We love HIM. We reject you because “the church” isn’t where we find Jesus anymore. In fact, I’m not sure for our generations that it ever really was…

“The church” only loves and offers charity to those people who fulfill an unwritten list of standards. When you are part of “the church” you are subconsciously aware of these standards. I grew up wondering why we only helped certain people and ignored others. Just in the last 12 months I’ve personally experienced the ostracization and judgement from Christians who are still in “the church.” In my experience, the following will disqualify you from any sort of empty or charity from “the church”:
a. Divorced Women. You can be a divorced man and still get acceptance from “the church” since it is ultimately a patriarchal organization. However, divorced women are almost 99% out of luck. Unless your husband commits adultery – and you have undeniable proof -like it was on Facebook Live – you are a now a pariah. Abuse get you back in the circle because Bible cherry pickers will only allow for adultery. Even if you are a woman who gets the jackpot of proven adultery from your ex- you will never be fully back in the fold. You will always be slightly outside the center and it will be evident when you are no longer asked to teach Sunday school, when your children aren’t included on the PK’s birthday parties, etc.
b. Anyone with mental illness. You see the issue is that you just aren’t praying hard enough for “the church”. You will be told that God only gives us what we can handle. So if you are depressed, anxious, bipolar, etc, you are just not praying enough. You won’t qualify for any empathy or help from “the church”.
c. Non-church attending Christians. You aren’t real Christians as far as “the church” is concerned. You don’t deserve any love, support, empathy, charity or help regardless of your circumstances. They have catty nicknames for you – biannual christans, C&E Christians, Chrieastians, we really are really clever in our judgement. It would actually be better in “the church’s” view point if you didn’t call yourself a Christian. Non-Christians are more likely to get support from “the church” than people in this group.
d. Drug Abusers/Criminals/Prostitutes. All sins are not equal to “the church”. They say the are – but actions would show this is a total lie. Some churches do have outreach programs for people in these groups. However, they are usually on Tuesdays at like 11a when you are least like to be seen or dishonor any of the “real” members of “the church”. If they can get away with it, they will even hold meetings/groups for these people completely off church campus as to not taint “the church” with their presence.
e. Parents with special needs children. I mean going back to the whole “God only gives you what you can handle” this is a real problem for the church. No societal group probably needs MORE help than those with special needs children. But their desperate need is really off putting – because God gave it to you, so you should be able to handle it. Also, our cherry picking Bible friends will love to refer to the sins of the father being passed on to future generations. Soooo….I mean….for “the church” your child with special needs is a pretty strong indicator that you or your forefathers weren’t “real” Christians and thus you deserve to be punished with this child’s special needs.

So, while I really don’t want this to be a bash “the church” post…I do want to challenge church leaders to really seek first to understand. To love. To offer aid, empathy and help to the very people that seem least deserving. It’s easy to help and love people who meet our standards.

However, I think we were called to something greater.

We were called to love.

I’m waiting to see that from “the church”. I see it regularly from people in my pariah list. Why not “the church”?

Until we see it, we will continue to leave you and your buildings.

Mommy Confessions

I registered my son for karate to get a “mom break”…Now he’s a Black Belt.

Mommy confession time.  When I registered my son for karate at the age of 6, I never thought he’d be an 11 year old black belt.  It’s not that I thought he couldn’t accomplish a black belt.  To be completely honest, it never even crossed my mind.

In January 2011, Gunnar’s friend invited him to attend Standale Karate on a “Bring a Friend Night”.  Now up to this point, we had tried T-Ball and I watched him play tic-tac-toe with himself with dirt in the infield and pick dandelions in the outfield. We tried soccer and he came home from practice sobbing because he would never be able to kick a ball with the inside of his foot like his coach had instructed.  So I had honestly just accepted that maybe sports weren’t Gunnar’s thing.  No biggie, he was 6 years old.  Certainly plenty of time to find his passion.

So on that January night when I took Gunnar to Standale Karate for the first time, I also expected it to be the last time.

However, much to my surprise, Gunnar loved karate.  The instructor, Master Rick Heath (now Grand Master Rick Heath) had a playful yet authoritative approach with the kids.  He was one of those men with seemingly endless patience and a gift for teaching children. He instinctually understood Gunnar and how to methodically help him with the various blocks, kicks, and stances.  Gunnar instantly loved Master Rick.

After class, Gunnar asked if he could come to karate again.  Let’s be clear…Gunnar had *never* asked to repeat a sport before.

I inquired with the Director, Jan Heath, on the cost of the classes, uniform requirements, times, dates, etc.  She told me it was a flat monthly fee with no contract required.  We would also be required to purchase a uniform from the school for approximately $30.

Confession moment.  Here’s what I heard from Jan: “For a small monthly fee, plus the cost of uniform, we will give you a mom break up to 4x per week”.  At that time, my husband, Mr. Businessman traveled overnight every week for work, leaving me alone with two young boys 6 and 4 years old.  I was also working a full time job at the Meijer Corporate office.  I was functioning as a single mom while working a full time job with two young children.  I was flat exhausted.

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Gunnar – First Night in Uniform

I looked over at my little Konrad and saw him playing along side the other younger kids that had brothers and sisters participating in the class.

I couldn’t sign Gunnar up fast enough.

For a small monthly fee with no contract…you are going to occupy BOTH of my children?!  Not only that, this is like a good thing right?  I mean, I’m not dumping them with a sitter…I’m doing something constructive here.  Gunnar’s getting exercise and maybe earning a couple belts, which is good for self-esteem.  Konrad’s making some new friends, no small feat for him.  And for up to 4x per week, I can enjoy watching my son in karate, or play Angry Birds on my phone, maybe do some of their clothes shopping on-line, text my friends, etc.  I can generally chill for up to 4 hours a week.

Mommy. Lotto.

Fast forward to March 2016.

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Gunnar & Grand Master Rick Heath

Gunnar actually stuck with karate and Master Rick.  They’ve formed a bond that has forever shaped the man Gunnar will become in all the right ways.  Master Rick taught him discipline, respect, determination, precision, and most importantly, the unconditional love of a male figure.  He also taught him it’s okay to have fun and be determined.  I’ll forever be grateful that God brought Rick Heath into our lives.

Gunnar successfully participated in multiple karate tournaments throughout this time in karate. He medaled in the 2015 Sate Games of Michigan Summer Games as well as the 2016 Winter & Summer State Games of Michigan.  He also competed in the 2015 State Games of America, earning 4th place in Weapons and 6th place in Forms.

In many ways between the relationship with Rick Heath and the confidence he built at tournaments, Gunnar found himself in karate.

Now on March 19th, 2016, Gunnar was 11 years old and testing for his 1st degree black belt.  The test was 5 hours long and juried by a panel of high ranking black belts including Grand Master Rick Heath.  His co-testers included adult 3rd, 5th, and 6th degree black belts.  To prepare for the test he had committed to 3-4 practices per weeks over a six month period and numerous private lessons all while adjusting to middle school and participating in travel soccer (refer to second paragraph for that touch of irony). Also, he was sick with the flu the whole week leading up to his test.

But he did it!  Gunnar earned his 1st degree black belt.

And you know what? It doesn’t really matter why I registered him for classes back in 2011.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you..plans to give you hope and a future”

 

 

*The professional pictures of Gunnar were taken by Angela Lawson.

She has a Facebook page of all her wonderful work: https://www.facebook.com/aglphoto/

Her website: http://www.aglphotography.net/wp/

 

Baking Recipes, March 2017, Mom Life, Mommy Confessions

I Let the Bananas Go Bad Again

Can I be honest with you?  This is a real mommy confession moment. I, Tracy, suck at giving my kids fresh fruits and veggies.

I try.  I swear.  I try really, really hard to ensure my kids have fresh fruits and vegetables.  They are on every single grocery list and 99.9% of the time, you can find them in my crisper drawer or on my counter.

And let’s be clear.  My kids are not the problem.  I hear moms complain that their children won’t touch vegetables, won’t eat fruit.  Not mine.  My 10 year old loves brussel sprouts.  My 12 year old’s favorite is asparagus.  Not only do they love the veggies that most kids find cringe-worthy, they also like them simple.  Just boil them for 2-3 minutes to warm them up but keep them crunchy.  No butter, no salt, nada. No fuss, no muss.

My kids see fruit as a desert.  I followed all the mommy articles I read in the magazines while sitting with my toddlers in the pediatrician’s office.  I didn’t give cookies or deserts or any sugary foods for the first 2 years.  In fact, neither one of my boys would touch their cakes on their first birthday parties – there were no traditional cake smashing pictures.  They poked at their cakes with suspicion and cried.  The only “treats” they got as babies and toddlers were fruit.  So now as preteens, they will often turn down cakes and candy when offered.  They just prefer fruit.

So why am I so bad at this?  Why am I constantly throwing away spoiled produce?

Honestly…sit down.  Here’s the big revelation.

I am busy.

I get tired.

Somewhere between soccer practice and games, karate, orchestra, choir, piano lessons, science competitions, laundry, housecleaning, homework and oh, my job…my best intentions turn into what’s most convenient.  I plan a full month of meals in advance (with veggies! and fruit!).  Yet more days than I care to admit, the task of making a full homemade meal after work while still fitting in after school activities, homework, housework, and family time…it just doesn’t happen.

So here’s the deal.  My kids have a mom and step-dad that cheer for them at every sporting event, piano recital, school concert, and science competition.  Nearly every night they have a homemade main course for dinner.  We diligently sit with them and help them with their homework after dinner every single day.  We play board games together.  We go camping, hiking, fishing, we watch movies together.

And somewhere along the way…the bananas get overlooked on the counter.

So when that happens…forgive yourself and make banana bread.  It may not be as healthy as fresh fruit, but hey, it does contain fruit!  And even my “anti-sweets” kids will eat it! Here is my Aunt Eleanor’s recipe in case you don’t have one.  It’s a personal favorite at our house.

Banana Spice Bread

-By Eleanor Langseth

(reprinted in the “Langseth Homestyle Cooking” compiled by my cousin Alicia Baer)

Combine:

  • 1c (2-3) bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Sift together:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Add to sifted ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (the recipe calls for shortening…the butter is a “Tracyism”)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • Banana mixture from above

Then add:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat together.  Pour into greased loaf pans.  Bake @ 375 degrees for 60 minutes. I recommend covering the edges with tinfoil to prevent them from burning during baking.