Thursday, May 29, 2014

Noah's Birthday Story: Part One

lately i've been thinking a lot about noah's birth story and all the events surrounding his entrance into the world. maybe it's because his birthday is coming up. maybe it's because we're quickly approaching miles' birthday. most likely it's both.

so you wouldn't mind me sharing the story with you, would you? i love talking about noah.

warning: there may be some TMI moments ahead. it's a birth story after all. so if you're cool with that, let's begin. 

noah was due on june 10th, but like almost every expectant parent, we were hoping he'd decide to come a little early. and well, being the good boy he is, he did just that.

on the evening of june 4th, 2013 (it was a tuesday if anyone cares) my husband and i had his parents over for dinner. they were leaving the next day for a vacation to mexico, so we were spending some time with them before they left. we made crock pot chicken parmesan. (another meaningless detail that doesn't really matter.) anyway it was near the end of the night and i went to the bathroom. while i was sitting on the toilet, my water broke. (which seems to me the most ideal place for this to happen, right? thanks, noah.) this will be just the first of many 'thank you, noah, for making everything about the birthing experience so perfect' moments.

john called the midwife and she suggested we come into the hospital to confirm it was indeed my water that broke. (i have never gone to medical school, but in my opinion, there was no denying it was my water that broke. i had a towel down my pants.) but i didn't complain. i couldn't wait to get to the hospital and meet this boy! so we said our good-byes to john's parents, (after john showed off some of our dog's 'really impressive' tricks to them), grabbed our bags (just in case we were going to be admitted) and left our dog, samson, in the dust.

i remember, with adrenaline going crazy in my body, feeling the type of excitement a 5 year old might feel on christmas eve. times a million.

on the way to the hospital i called my mama to give her the update. even though we were far from anything really 'happening' she immediately jumped in the car and made the hour drive to our house. a grandma in waiting.

we arrived at the hospital and were ushered into the "holding room." since it was like 9pm at night, the whole place was super quiet and empty. another ideal situation.

because i wasn't having any contractions, our moods were positive and we were feeling great, chatting with the nurse. i remember thinking, what a wonderful experience this is turning out to be!

funny random memory: when the nurse went to check and confirm it was my water that broke (and i didn't just have a gallon of random liquid continually gushing out of my body) the second she even took a peek i heard a loud, "OH GIRL!! DEFINITELY your water broke. we can stop right there." 

so then the midwife came in and explained that because i had been having some high blood pressure the last couple of weeks, they'd like to admit me so they could monitor us. they weren't worried, but just wanted to be on the safe side. (otherwise they probably would have sent me home to see if contractions would start on their own.)

i didn't object. 
it was happening. within 24 hours, we were going to have a baby.

when we got settled in our new room, the nurse gave me a sleeping pill so I could try and get some rest. but even with that, i didn't sleep a wink that night. too excited to sleep.

my mind wouldn't shut off... what was the next day going to be like?

to be continued!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blessing in the Battle

it's not very often you hear people say,

my marriage fell apart, i'm so blessed.
it's such a blessing to have my heart completely broken.
i lost my baby, what a blessing.

more often, however, we hear things like,

God has blessed me with an amazing marriage.
had a great weekend. feeling so blessed.
america is blessed with so much.

words like that probably came out of my mouth at some point, no doubt. 

this past year, while in the depths of pain from losing noah and isaac, i have become increasingly sensitive to the language so many people use around the idea of "blessed." especially christians.


[i love christine caine and have tremendous respect for her.
there are just parts of this that don't sit well with me.]

when i hear someone say, "God has blessed me with two healthy children" or "God protected me from harm and suffering" i feel incredibly isolated and hurt - like, why did God decide to bless and protect them and not me? am i not blessed?

or more to the heart of the matter - does God not favor me as much or love me as much because of my loss and far-from-ideal life circumstances?

when did we, as a culture/society/religion, decide that what it means to be 'blessed' is to have a cushy, comfortable life where everything comes easy? does blessing really equal prosperity, wealth and 'good things'?

to simplify. if i'm blessed when good things happen, then when bad things happen, i must not be blessed.

this type of, i believe, destructive 'blessed' language builds the illusion and reinforces the belief (lie) that if things are going well in our life, we must deserve it because we are one of God's favorites and maybe just a little bit better of a human being than someone who is struggling financially, spiritually or emotionally. 

can we just say we are grateful for our good circumstances, and leave at that?

it's my understanding that true blessing occurs in the midst of mourning, or when we make peace with others, or show mercy, or act humbly [matthew 5]. nowhere does it say, "you really must be doing something right if life handed you a good one."

could it be that i, mccayla butler, a bereaved mother who literally lost her heart and got ransacked by life, am, indeed, blessed? 

life has definitely not gone the way i had hoped. i have cried more than i've laughed. at times my suffering was so bleak and dark, it seemed plausible to end it all.

but somehow, i believe i am blessed. it's topsy-turvy, and doesn't make logical sense, but it's the truth.

because i believe blessing comes not in the form of good things happening to us and living out a life of plenty and happiness, but in the form of God's unrelenting presence. and no matter what we face or endure in this life, it's God's love that is stronger.

this type of blessing has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with a good God who oozes grace.

while at church this last sunday for the second time this year (but who's counting and who cares), i heard this song...

                                                                 Rejoice // Dustin Kensrue

i love this verse especially. it sums up what i'm clumsily trying to communicate...

all our sickness, all our sorrows
jesus carried up the hill
he has walked this path before us 
he is walking with us still

turning tragedy to triumph
turning agony to praise
there is blessing in the battle
so take heart and stand amazed

next week is the first birthday of my treasured son who is no longer here with us. in two weeks-ish we will welcome, with awe, another son into our world.  i feel the heavy weight of fear, anxiety, despair, anticipation, and wonder every moment of the day.

i have no idea what the future holds. it could be laced with beauty or ravaged by sorrow. most likely, both. all i know is that God is with me still and will ever be, for eternity. i am marked by him and because of his love, i know i am blessed.

you are too.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Facing Tomorrow in an Ocean of Fear

i passed a car accident today and in the midst of flashing lights, sirens and a herd of firefighters, i saw a woman in a neck brace being strapped onto a stretcher about to be sped to the hospital.

that was me 6 weeks ago.

i had just left home on my morning commute when i started feeling really lightheaded. the next thing i remember is the sound of crushing metal.

i had fainted. my car crossed the center line and hit another car head on.

thankfully i couldn't have been going more than 25 miles an hour and the driver of the other car wasn't injured at all. if i weren't pregnant i would have walked away unharmed too, just shaken up and saying goodbye to a totaled car.

but i was still feeling dizzy and i couldn't feel miles moving...
pure terror.

the first few months of my pregnancy with miles i was worried about everything. was he even in there? he's so fragile, what if we lose him before he gets a chance? 

then pretty quickly after all that happened with baby isaac happened i miraculously was filled with hope and peace. after everything we have been through, miles had to be okay. there was no other option. i remained in this denial/blissful/shock-induced sort of state for a few months.

then i got into a car accident. and i was immediately thrust into an ocean of fear for which i have yet to recover, all in the final weeks leading up to miles' arrival.

nothing could be more rude of a reminder that your life is utterly out of your control, then passing out behind the wheel and causing an accident. i had never lost consciousness before in my life. what happened in those brief few seconds dramatically changed my course and i had no say or no way of stopping it. i'm not comfortable with that. in fact, i am incredibly uncomfortable with that.

as much as i plan, do good, take care of myself, prepare and protect - tragedy strikes. anything can happen at any time.

oh, and fun fact. they say after you lose a child your chances of dying go up 300%.

and this is the ocean of fear i find myself drowning in.

but who cares about me.

there's nothing i can do to guarantee that miles will be okay. there's nothing i can do to guarantee that my husband will live to 100. there's nothing i can do to ensure a perfect, pain free life or that the most precious beings to me will be protected from this cruel world.

fear is a vulnerable, shaky and borderline breakable place to be in. and it's reasonable i'm here in fear.

i know what it feels like to have the "unthinkable" happen. i can go there in my mind in a split second. when noah died and isaac never came home, my world was completely rocked and turned upside down. "every parent's worst fear" is the reality i live in everyday. i think i have a right to fear, because the "million to one odds" actually happened to me. my fears are not far off.

and if you've never lost a child don't you dare tell me... do not fear. fear is bad. fears are lies. in christ, there is no fear. everything will be okay. just seek after God, and you'll be fine. not because those words aren't true, but because you have no idea what fear is until you lose a child. so glossing over my complicated reality with simple, trite sayings is not only not helpful, but spirit crushing.

the only thing that helps, when my mind hijacks my thoughts to the darkest of places, is remembering what i do know for sure. it's not much, but it's everything i need right now in this moment to know.

God is good. 
He will be with me no matter what. 
In the end, all will be put right.

knowing only this, i can face tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Many Looks of Motherhood

my husband and i received a very thoughtful "parents-to-be" card last week congratulating us on miles and telling us how we're going to be such great parents. really very thoughtful and loving. however, as with almost everything in life these days, reading that was very bittersweet. the words "parents-to-be" and "going to be" hit me a little sourly and i actually felt quite hurt.

what about noah? what about isaac? aren't we already parents?

it's frustrating that sometimes in this world, if something or someone doesn't look or act like the "normal" version, they are discounted altogether. or at least it feels like that sometimes.

recently i was sipping lemonade ice teas with one of my favorite people, who i look up to very much. we were discussing loss and life and fear and love. and then, near the end of the conversation, kind of out of the blue, she said,

"i hope you know, you are a really good mom."

like water to a sun-scorched land. it overwhelmed me and i cried.

i don't know why affirmation is so powerful.

actually i do know why. it's bearing witness to the existence of noah, isaac and miles, and my role in their lives. and that's like getting a shock of love right into my heart, speaking directly to my heart's deepest desire. and so often i feel like, because i drive around a car without a car seat and don't have sports schedules to juggle, i'm forgotten altogether as a mom.

just because you don't see my children, does not mean they aren't there.

all i've ever wanted my entire life was to be a mom. ever since i knew what a mom was, i wanted to be one. it's why i majored in elementary education. it was as close to majoring in "motherhood" as anything else. everything in my being, the way i'm built, is designed to mother.

at some point in college i overheard a good friend of mine talking about me to someone else and said, "she could fail at everything in her entire life, but, to her, if she succeeded at being a mom, her life would be a success."

that became my life's motto.

and although my vision and idea of what i thought becoming a mom would look like isn't anything like i had imagined, my dream still came true. i am a mom.

and to the single mother who lost her husband and is raising children on her own,
to the mother who has opened her home to foster children,
to the woman who fell in love with another woman and their children get two moms,
to the mom with 2.5 children who drives a minivan,
to the 'young' mom who's been a mom for 80 minutes,
to the 'seasoned' mom who's been a mom for 80 years,
to the working outside of the home full-time mom,
to the mother who continues to be a mom even after her child is no longer on earth,
to the stand-in-mother, mothering the friends of her children,
to the grandma who is a mother to her child's children,
to the woman who, out of love, made an adoption plan for her child,
to the woman mentoring young adults at her church,
to the high school volunteer mothering all her 9th grade girls,
to the elementary school teacher caring for herds of young children,
to the mother of adopted children who look nothing like her,
to the mother of biological children who look just like her,
and i could go on and on...

to all of you. happy mother's day. the world is a better place because of you.
let me rephrase that. because of us.