Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New normal

Almost exactly 7 years ago, I went through the darkest season of my life. We had recently moved to NC. Rich was working full time and just starting the PhD program at Southeastern. Martin was about a year and a half old at the time. Martin and I spent those very long and lonely days together just trying to fill up the days. We were away from all of our family, and still trying to get used to it. I was almost 12 weeks along with our 2nd child and thrilled to be welcoming another Holland baby to our family. We were already thinking of names for our new baby, dreaming of holding him in our hands, and thinking of the future with two children in our family.
We were also uncertain of our health insurance situation at the time and were trying to get all that worked out before I could be seen by a doctor.
Once we figured all of that out, I made my way to my first appointment ... at almost 12 weeks along ... and the appointment was about a 45 minute drive from our home. Rich was in class all day, so he was not able to go with me. So, I packed Martin up with a few snacks and headed out for the appointment. I was super excited because this was the day I would get to see that sweet baby for the first time through ultrasound!
Martin was such a good boy! He sat in his stroller through everything. He played with little toys and looked at books. I'll never forget what a relief it was that he was being so well behaved while the nurses took care of me that day.
I finally got in to see the doctor and found out that they probably wouldn't be doing an ultrasound. They brought in the doppler to listen for the heartbeat ... afterall ... I was already 12 weeks along. The resident tried and tried to find that heartbeat, but apparently the baby was being stubborn because try as she might ... she could not find it. She told me not to worry ... it was still a little early to hear it. So, she brought in the portable ultrasound machine.
She got the machine all hooked up and sure enough ... as soon as the screen came up ... there was our precious baby ... perfectly formed ... my heart soared!! It wasn't long, however, before I realized that the precious and perfectly formed little one's heart was not beating. It was, without doubt, the most haunting moment of my life. Even still ... my hopes were not crushed! There had to be some mistake, I thought. They immediately moved me to another room with a more sophisticated ultrasound machine. In my mind, they needed to get a better look at the baby to make sure that the other less sophisticated machine was malfunctioning. In reality, they needed to measure the baby to find out the age of the precious baby to pinpoint when he stopped developing.
I was trying hard to hold it together ... afterall ... there had to be some mistake ... and I had Martin with me. It was clear in the 2nd ultrasound that our baby was no longer alive. At this point, I was no longer able to hold it together. I was devastated, and felt very alone. They guided me off to a very nice room that contained comfortable furniture and a phone, so that I could call someone to come and help me. (that's right ... no cell phone!!) I was immediately faced with the reality that I had absolutely no one that I could call. I didn't know anyone here in NC. Rich was in class without a cell phone, so I couldn't even reach him. So, I sat there in that room and just sobbed.
I remember the drive home. I remember trying to see the road through my tears. I remember that Martin had no idea what was going on, but was an absolute angel through it all. I remember walking into the house to the phone ringing. Rich was waiting on me to come pick him up at the seminary. I am not sure why he didn't have the car with him that day. I do, however, remember clearly having to pick him up that day. He knew immediately, by the sound of my voice, that something was terribly wrong. I told him that the baby was gone...and that was about all I could say.
I went to the seminary to pick him up. He and I sat in the front seat and sobbed. Strangely enough...his tears, sobbing, and grief helped me tremendously. Up until that point, I think I saw it as something that was happening to me. How selfish that was, I know! It was happening to us. His tears reminded me of that.
The next week was a whirlwind. My lifelong friend, Jennifer was at my house within less than 48 hours to help me through this dark time. I needed help with Martin over the next few days of doctor appointments. I never asked her to come. She called me to tell me she was coming to help us. I don't know what I would have done without her. My Mom happened to be in Florida on vacation.
I remember some very dark days following the news. For a couple of months, I kept wondering when everything would return to normal. I remember crying out to the Lord many times a day, begging for the pain to go away, asking for mercy, praying that I could be the mommy I needed to be for Martin in the midst of all the pain.
I didn't do a very good job at giving my struggles and pain to the Lord, however. I was far better at holding on to my grief and letting it consume me. I was far better at dwelling on the pain and being angry than I was at allowing God to use it for good.
I'd love to write a post telling of how I was able to see the good in the midst of the bad ... that I was able to see God working through me during those dark days ... and that the joy of the Lord was my strength during that time.
Unfortunately, that was not my reality. And since I long to be genuine and authentic...I have to tell it like it was. I was angry. I was hurting. As much as I was always the one to trust the Lord without question ... I was not a model of a trusting and faithful daughter during that time. I allowed myself to be consumed by my grief.
There were specific events, however, that brought me back down to reality. During that stretch of grief, pain, and darkness I became desperate to replace what I had lost. I didn't realize at the time, however, that another pregnancy was not what I really needed. What I needed was to let go of my despair, grief, and darkness and allow God to heal my brokenness. Once that happened, I was a new person. You'd think that just the knowledge that letting go of your deep struggles and allowing God control would be enough to make you do it immediately! For some reason, my instinct seems to be to hold on to my struggles for dear life.
Once I finally let go of everything, I really began to feel a little bit like Larissa again. Nothing was normal. Normal never returned. New normal did set in and take hold, however. I think that new normal was even better, though. Now, I look at it as walking through God's refining fire. It was a dark time, but I came through it a little more refined. All glory to God for that.

On the due date of our precious child that we lost - April 12, 2004 - I found out that I was expecting Aaron. What joy to be expecting another baby and blessing! My entire pregnancy with Aaron was a test in trusting God and letting go. After losing a baby at 12 weeks, the innocence of pregnancy was lost for me. I was desperately afraid that I would lose another baby. Once again, I was faced with needing to trust God no matter the cost!

Many women have similar stories of loss and struggle. Some women handled it much better than I did. Others may not have. What is your story? The older I get ... the more I believe these stories should be told. It's okay to say ... I really messed up. I knew what I should have done ... and I didn't do it. However ... I learned from my mistakes, and God can use what I learned for His glory. Praise God for that!


  1. Larissa, we too lost a baby, July 4, 2004. We had only found out the day before at our first checkup that the baby was gone. I think I already knew the baby was gone, I had had this really bad feeling every time we told someone we were pregnant, I shrugged it off everytime. They did an ultrasound in the doctors office, no heartbeat, but a small glimmer of hope, they sent us for a more intense ultrasound in case they just couldn't pick it up with their equipment. Jody wasn't able to be back during the ultrasound and the technician didn't say a word to me, but I saw the baby and it wasn't moving, no little tiny heartbeat. I clearly remember seeing the umbilical cord and the blood flowing. I remember walking in a daze afterward all I kept thinking was "i'm carrying a dead baby". I ended up miscarrying on July 4, 2004 and ended up in the emergency room because I was losing so much blood in such a short time. After being told by ER doctors and nurses that "my pregnancy" was still early (i was 9 weeks) it was my body's way of disposing of a baby that more than likely have major birth defects. We kept saying "our baby" and this was God's plan, it was all I could say. They gave me several shots to stop the bleeding and eventually had emergency surgery and after spending the night at the hospital I was able to go home. I remember hugging Emma and holding her and not wanting to put her down or out of my site for months. I was so angry and hurt, it was so hard not to say "Why God?, Why me?". But on the same side, "Why not me?", I'm a regular person, nothing special about me, just because I am a child of God didn't mean I was exempt from hurt and pain and losing a child! During that time in my life God used so many other women that had lost children to minister to me and in turn I have been able to do the same. Your post brought back so many emotions for me, but also thankfulness that I've been able to have 3 beautiful children since!!!

  2. Thanks for your reply, Sarah. You are absolutely right, "why not me?" We can only hope to be able to use experiences and dark times in our lives to minister to other people who are also experiencing dark times.

  3. Wow Larissa and Sarah...heartbreaking...every detail still seems so fresh. I have never experienced the heartbreak of losing a precious child, but I praise God that those who have can comfort others who know that pain. And the Father of all mercy has given you both 3 more beautiful children to join the one in heaven!

  4. Wow, Larissa, I had no idea that you had experienced this loss! I am so sorry. I only wish that I had known you then and could have been with you (or at least someone you could've called) so that you didn't have to sob by yourself. I'm so sorry but praise the Lord that you have handled this so well.

  5. Larissa, you already know my 'story' and my heart breaks to read the similarities. Finding the new normal is tough. You are now in a club that no mom ever wants to be in. Losing a baby is losing your hopes and dreams for that child. Be it at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, or 30 weeks.

    I will never be the same person I was the moment before the ultrasound tech told me my son was gone. But the person I am now is much stronger. Given I was neurotic with my subsequent pregnancy, I think I cherished it much more than had I not lost Zachariah.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I always knew you lost a little one well into your pregnancy, but never knew the details or the pain you went through <3

  6. Thank-you so much for sharing your story, Larissa!! The pain can still be so very real- can't it!? Thank-you for allowing your pain to encourage others. I have been so blessed to read of how God worked in and through you!

  7. We lost a baby too between our two boys so I have experienced those same feelings of despair and being at such a low I don't have the words. Now I can find joy in God's plan and His sovereignty. I know one day I'm going to see my baby in Heaven - what a day that will be!

  8. Wow, a great post.......very near and dear to my heart. The worst day of my life was January 15, 2007. I 'should have' been 13 weeks, but from the ultrasound it looked as though development stopped at week 9 or so. I felt hollow inside as soon as my Dr. turned the u/s screen away from us. He said, "I'm sorry" and began to explain to us what was happening. He let us cry (thankfully Jim was with me). It was a very difficult time for us to go thru - but 'hindsight is 20/20'......right.

    Jim said to me that night while lying in bed, "God has a plan. He knows what we need and He will find the perfect puzzle piece to fit our lives and He will make our family complete. We have to trust Him and let Him help us to get through this."

    I can now find a bit of comfort in all that we went through. I see Lj now and he IS the perfect piece for our family. I am thankful that God let me see that his plan works....even if we don't understand it all the time.

    January 15 doesn't come and go without a pull of the heartstrings......nor does the due date. I lost a baby - and that will never go away.

    Thanks for posting, Larissa.