A birthday mix

antiquated mixer used by ancestors

antiquated mixer used by ancestors

Something is stirring in my soul.

It will take me a bit to fully understand and even embrace it.

Meanwhile, I will be focusing more on posting my photographs and images, and less on writing publicly until I can feel comfortable again with my thoughts and words.

Apologies ahead of time, but here’s fair warning that my heart requires me to step back

slightly until I know that things are being processed well.

Additionally,

today is the 17th year since my oldest daughter was miscarried.

The following is my birthday letter to her.

You have my permission to read it.

Thank you, dear readers, for your constant encouragement, acceptance, and friendship!

Love, Gracie

welcomed by light

welcomed by light

Happy Heaven day, Lilly!

We miss you!

Your existence and life and death have shaped me for the better in so many ways.

Although my tears have slowed over the years,

you are and will always be my firstborn daughter,

and your place in my heart is forever etched.

I love you, baby girl!

Thank you for welcoming our sweet baby Samuel to Heaven.

I know that you were next to Jesus as our little boy opened his eyes on that side of eternity.

It comforts me to know that he had such a warm reception.

You are forever in my mind as a sweet and inquisitive four year old who bounces everywhere instead of walking.

I am well aware that you have been gone for seventeen years, but somehow I feel certain that your childlike faith and innocence is very present.

As I continue to learn and be shaped here on earth, know that you are in my heart.

Know that I am striving to live every breath for God’s glory, by His grace, empowered by His love.

Know that my arms still ache to hold you at last.

Hug that precious baby boy of ours, as well as all of the dear beloved ones who have led the way into that “great cloud of witnesses” on your side of eternity.

You are so precious and loved, dear daughter.

We will see you when it’s time.

Until then, we hold you in our hearts.

Love,

Mama

Advertisements

The Change

https://www.facebook.com/aplaceformom/photos/a.10152904374540109.1073741824.186222545108/10154560114560109/?type=1

Change, it is a-coming!  As I prepare for surgery, I will be posting only on Monday, Wednesday & Thursday in the next few weeks…unless I feel loopy enough to smuggle the laptop away from James and make y’all laugh at the outrageous, unedited and medicated reality that is Gracie on pain meds. 😉

I realized today that my humor is sometimes used as a defense mechanism.

Forgive me, dear readers.

This is hard.

It’s hard facing surgery that would not have been necessary if the correct test had been done sooner.

It’s hard knowing that I may not have miscarried had the correct test been done.

It’s aggravating to have literally no.control. over my emotions or my tears.

Humbling, hard, yet good.

The good has been evidenced in the care, the prayers, the concern, the love, and the many kindnesses that have been lavished on us.  Nurses, shopkeepers, friends, and family members have hugged me, reassured me…and listened.

I, Gracie K. Harold, am about to officially “lose” the part of me that has embraced five of my children.

That fact does not change who I am.

I am God’s beloved daughter.

I am Christ’s dearly beloved bride.

I am comforted by the Holy Spirit.

I am the wife of my beloved James.

I am the mother to all 8 of our precious children.

I am the wife of a college student.

I am passionate about justice, survivors, mercy, and LOVE.

My uterus may be taken, my pregnancy may have ended in miscarriage, yet I am still me.

I was made in God’s image…swollen belly, infected body, stretch marks and all.

I am HIS.

When you look up at HIM, do you see with His eyes?

Do you see HIS delight in you…simply because He made you?

He loves you.

Let Him.

Beloved, be. loved.

Love.

Lightbreak - Change (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Lightbreak – Change (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“I Will Not Cry”

“I never got to meet you,

I never saw your face.

I never heard you laugh

and never saw you cry.

We didn’t get to laugh,

we didn’t get to cry,

we didn’t get to play

or even get to fight.

All I have is a name

and now you’re gone.

Yet still I will not cry.

I will not cry yet.

I will not shed a tear.

For one day I will get to meet you.

Then I will cry

great tears of joy,

for on that day I will

get to meet my baby boy.”

Written about Samuel Nathan, for Gracie K. Harold by James Harold.

(c)Gracie K. Harold for James Harold 2014.

"I will not cry"(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“I will not cry”(c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

It’s been close to a year…we miss you Samuel.

Mrs. J.

Reminder - You are beloved! (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Reminder – You are beloved! (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Dear Mrs. J.,

Thank you.  I was best friends with your son all the way through High School and some of college.  One week, during Spring of my Freshman year in college, you kept getting “nudges” to pray for my reproductive organs. You told me later that it was “weird”, but you did it.

My ovarian cyst ruptured that week.  I lost a lot of blood, and when they went in for surgery, they fully expected to either do a hysterectomy, or remove an ovary, etc. They were rather surprised to see that they only needed to drain the blood.

Almost twenty years later, I am celebrating the three beautiful “bonus” children and the three beautiful children of my womb that I get to hold in my arms along with the two children who were held in my womb…even if they are only now held in my heart.

I don’t claim to know why your particular prayer was answered “yes”, when other ones for fertility have been “no” or “wait”.

I don’t understand why I still lost the two babies that I miss.

But I am so thankful for the extra time that I was given, for the stolen moments of a miraculous creation…five times.

Through it all, Mrs. J.,  I have learned that motherhood is not just physical.  It’s visceral, spiritual, emotional, and physical.

I am a mother.

I have a “Mother Heart” for all the children that I have ever loved; my own, my “bonus children”, my miscarried ones, the ones that I had hoped to adopt, the ones I had hoped to carry in my womb, the ones that I teach, the ones that I smile at in the store, the ones that I baby-sit, or bounce on my knee at church.

Your prayer may have gifted me with extra years for my womb to produce, but the time allowed my heart to produce more offspring than I ever dreamed of.

Thank you seems so small…so consider this my virtual “hug”.

And by the way, God?  Here.  You already have my heart.  Today, I offer you back the uterus that you loaned to me.  I really did try to take care of it, but I am sorry for all the years that I wasted not appreciating it for the gift that it is.  Thank you for allowing me to have a Mother Heart, and for enlarging it more than I ever dreamed it could be.

Love,

Gracie

An Open Letter

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: Women’s health, uterus, pain, and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Women (c)GracieKHarold 2014

Women (c)GracieKHarold 2014

Dear Uterus,

You are a pain right now.  I hurt because of you.  I am by no means a wuss.  I once had a cyst rupture, yet I continued my speech and drove myself to be examined; where it was determined that I had lost close to 2 liters of blood.  I don’t give in to your whining and sniveling easily.  I don’t have time to slow down, cradle a heating pad, and curl up in the fetal position.  I have blog posts to write, a book to promote, a husband to love, and 6 kids to raise, as well as some beloved girls to mentor.

For the last three weeks, I thought I had you properly ignored and pushed aside. I was wrong.  Believe me, I am sorry.

I apologize for the way that I ignored the nagging pain and discomfort. I was wrong to procrastinate making an appointment.  After the emergency room visit, two doctor appointments, three lab draws and debilitating pain; I humbly admit that I should have paid better attention to you.

This really hurts.  Hugely.  In a way that feels like a knife is scraping me as my entire insides are turned inside-out.

I am sorry that I let things digress to the place where I am currently on two different antibiotics, anti-hive medicine, antihistamine, pain killers, and anti-nausea medicine; not to mention the IV antibiotics that were given in the ER.

The irony is that I had just recently decided to become better friends with you.  The truth is, for years I was bitter at you.  I hated that you miscarried my two babies.  I hated that you adamantly held on to the stretch marks from all of my pregnancies…in a bright red, obvious declaration that 5 little lives had once resided within.

Recently, however, I was challenged to join in on an international project which transformed my thinking about you.  I am excited about the results (which will debut this Fall), yet I am also chagrined at how many years I have wasted in my hatred towards you.

Instead of honoring the gift of life that you held within me, I focused only on the negative qualities that you possess.  I failed to be thankful for what and who you had given me…three children to hold, and two children to hold in my heart until I can hold them in my arms.

Recently discovering that I have a genetic disorder which causes stretching of my tendons and ligaments helped me understand that it’s not your fault; it’s simply who I am.  James is quick to remind me that the red marks show visibly the depth of my love for each of our children.

A wise friend of mine once said, “As women, we compare our insides to other women’s outside appearance”.  How many years did I waste comparing you, my insecurities, and my bitterness to other women’s fashion choices, make up artistry, or hairdo instead of seeing them as my sister, in need of encouragement.

So, dear uterus, you’re “killing” me here with pain, and the doctor’s orders are that I need to rest more than I am active…but I wanted to thank you for slowing me down enough to appreciate the gifts that you’ve given me.

"Marks of Love" (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014. only cropping has been done, no touch-ups or filters were applied.

“Marks of Love” (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014. only cropping has been done, no touch-ups or filters were applied.

Love,

Gracie

“Across the Street From Normal” Preview

The proof of my book has arrived! I am slipping out a sneak preview because I.cannot.keep.it.a.secret 🙂 20140715-074238-27758244.jpg

Filters & Distortion

2014-05-15 17.50.32-1

I’ve been feeling the impulse to cry, a lot.  I miss my baby boy.  His birthday would have been close to this season of life.  It amazes me to see how far we’ve come in this journey of grief, and yet there are moments when I feel like I am still that bereft woman who wants to scream for her baby.

I keep thinking about the way he would look when he sleeps, and about how sweet he would smell after a bath.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds; instead I think that we simply learn how to numb our wounds, or how to adapt to our wounds.

After 16 years of grieving for my daughter that I miscarried, I had settled into acceptance.  I miss her at times, but my loss of her no longer consumed every waking moment of my day.  I am still her mother, even if I don’t shed a tear for her every day.

The depth of my grief this time still takes me by surprise.  I don’t grieve Samuel’s death more; but it’s a newer grief. I am still mourning the death of the dreams and expectations that we would have had for him and beside him.

I confess that there are moments when my arms physically ache to hold a baby. I remember the same phenomenon after my first miscarriage; and I was told by my grief recovery group that it’s common.

2014-05-15 17.50.32-3

(c)Gracie K Harold 2014

There’s a fine line between being honest and sincere with my grief and being consumed by it.

If I filter life through the lens of my grief; if I am consumed with my loss, then I will become obsessed with control and I will unknowingly begin to push my dearest ones away from me.

If I filter life through the lens of all that I have lost, I will become bitter and isolated.

If I filter life through the lens of denial and put on a false face of bravado; I will become deceitful and over-busy.

If, instead, I unflinchingly admit that I am grieving; if I openly confess that I miss my baby boy as I look to God and ask him to walk beside me through the pain, then I filter life through the lens of His love for me.  I cling to the reality that He carries me through my grief.

The following song captures our journey:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvZFynN–NA

A bit ago, I took this picture.  To me, it was a vivid reminder that my Grandpapa and Aunt Ann are in Heaven alongside my sweet babies.

2014-04-28 13.09.55

(c)Gracie K Harold 2014

 

Today, may we see life through the filter of His love for us…and heal.

 

The Thirty Second Pregnancy

2014-04-23 10.41.56

“The 30 Second Pregnancy”

By Gracie K. Harold

Trigger word warning:  pregnancy, miscarriage, grief, expletive (bull$#*!), appalling lack of medical professionalism, hospital

My pregnancy test was positive…for a whopping thirty seconds before it faded to “not pregnant”.  This happened on a day when I was expected to be in meetings or appointments all day long.  So, I called my doctor; whose office ordered blood work at the local hospital.  I was assured that as long as I arrived before 7 pm that evening, they would receive the results as soon as possible.  We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 pm.  My lab order was nowhere to be found; and of course, it was a Friday night so the Dr.’s office was closed. We went home to wait until Monday, after being told that there was nothing else that could be done.

Meanwhile, I started spotting.  Monday morning, I called the Dr.’s office again; and the nurse asked why we hadn’t called the after-hours doctor on call.  No one had ever told me that was an option. I had asked about it at the lab in the hospital, but they informed me that they were unable to call and inquire about the lab order. So, I rushed back to the hospital for my blood work.  The lab tech was able to rush my results so that my Dr.’s office would have them within an hour.

After two hours, the office called to tell me that they wanted me to take another pregnancy test.  When I expressed my confusion after having just had blood drawn for the pregnancy test; she stumbled over her words and said, “Oh, now I see the test results. I will call you back after I read these to a Dr.”  So, I waited.  Remember that I had a miscarriage this past summer, so my fear of losing another child was palpable. A nurse called me back another hour later.

The following is a direct quote from her: “The Dr. thinks that you are getting ready to start your period, so please take some ibuprofen and rest.”  Insert Christian expletive here; no, on second thought, insert what I really said here: “This is Bull$#*!”

I had been spotting and cramping for 5 days, and had taken two different pregnancy tests which I was anxiously awaiting the results from.  Additionally, I can’t take Ibuprofen; it’s clearly documented in my chart. I re-explained the reason for the office to call me back; that I was waiting for the blood test results.  “Oh, well, the Dr. only said that you were starting your period.  Oh, wait a minute, I didn’t read the other notes from your phone calls this last week.”

Ok, time for a few sarcastic comments. I was under the impression that a professional office is expected to do all of their research BEFORE they pick up a telephone to answer a patient’s questions.  Perhaps I am anal and picky, but isn’t there a certain protocol to protect against liability? I thought that protocol usually called for a complete picture of the patient’s history and complaints.

At this point, I told the nurse that I would either drive the five minutes to their office in order to stay in the waiting room until I was seen; or she could schedule me with a provider in the next two minutes.  “Oh, I think there’s an opening.  I guess I don’t understand why you need to be seen if you’re not pregnant.”

That’s how I found out that I had a false positive on my pregnancy test.

I love my Dr., I really do.  However, as this is the second time I have experienced this gut-wrenching treatment and lack of sensitivity by the nursing staff; I can’t possibly fathom being willing to undergo this a third time. Call me a cock-eyed optimist; but I was under the impression that an Obstetrician’s office was in existence to compassionately walk alongside their patients throughout all phases of their journey to have a child; especially after the loss of a pregnancy.  Apparently I was sorely mistaken.

I curled up in my bed, and sobbed until I went to pick up James from work.  It hurt worse than a ‘hellish pain”. It was hell.  I knew all of the platitudes, all of the “reassurances”, all of the Bible verses. I hurt. I cried. I screamed and cussed. I journeyed through, accepting it as it was; how I felt right then.  It’s ok.  I am completely allowed to have a weekend of grieving over what I thought was a new life.  Likewise, I am also allowed to feel relief in alternating waves; and then come back to the grief again.

Needless to say, I now see a different Dr.  On my first visit, I told her about the false pregnancy test.  Her response was to say, “Oh my word!  That’s like…(at this point, she took her hand in an uphill motion while making an airplane-takeoff-type noise, then sharply brought it back down with a crashing noise).  I smiled through my tears and said, “That’s it exactly…and that was the absolute, most compassionate response that I have received in the last year from the medical community. Thank you for treating me as a grieving mother; and not just as another patient.”

Grief hurts, and that is ok. You have permission to grieve. Life brings joy sometimes, and that’s ok as well. You have permission to laugh. Both of them are part of the grief journey.  Every step may look different from the last; but no matter what, please know that you are not alone.  I railed at God; spewing expletives as if I were a nail gun and he were a new building under construction.  He listened.  His love for me is still here.

So even in my sadness and grief; somehow, I can cling to Him honestly through my exposed, jagged heart.  I know that He will continue to carry me on the days when it literally hurts like Hell.

Dueteronomy 33:27 states, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”  Go ahead, join me.

****As an incredible side note, I was hiding out in my favorite writing “cave”.  Behind me was a wall.  I set about taking pictures of the stopwatch screen on an old phone that I planned to use in this post.  Below is the gallery of the progression of the photos.  IN NO WAY DID I ALTER THESE OR SUPERIMPOSE THEM!  All I did was flip between filters.  I think it’s like God is reminding me that all of my grief is covered by the cross; and He’s here to walk me through it.****

 

“The Cricket”

crickets reprised“The Cricket”

By: Gracie K. Harold

Trigger Word Warning: miscarriage, grief. ***Kudos to V.I.Pets for allowing me to photograph the crickets***

A cricket was in my bathroom the other day.  I was busy, and caught its leaping out of the corner of my eye.  I was the only person home at the time, so I quickly grabbed an empty vinegar bottle, trapped the cricket underneath it, and went about my business.  I was so intently preoccupied with other things that I completely pushed all thoughts of the cricket out of my mind…until today.

I wasn’t feeling very well, so I curled up in bed to take a nap.  I was almost asleep when I heard the creepiest little scratching sound.  I was perplexed for a few moments, and then I remembered the cricket.  That poor critter! I had originally intended to catch and release that bug as soon as possible; and completely forgot all about it.

I pulled myself out of bed and found a jar to transport the cricket outside.  When I took off the empty plastic jug, it didn’t even jump; it merely scooted into the jar.  I brought the bug out to the garden and gently pushed it onto the ground.  I returned inside, only to realize that the cricket is an allegory for how I handled my miscarriage.

I was in utter shock when it happened, and I surrendered to fear and worry. I didn’t tell James right away.  I didn’t tell my Dr.  Instead, I lived in denial.  Finally, I couldn’t bear keeping the truth from my dear husband anymore.  What a fool I was to fear his reaction.  He has been so tenderhearted and kind and strong through everything.

Kind of like me trying to cover up a cricket with a plastic jug, huh? It is rather ridiculous.  Honestly, so often I say to God, “Are you sure you still want to use me? I am so foolish….so often!”  All I can say is thank God for His grace (and his sense of humor)!

On a more serious note, though, I think so often as Christians, we fall in to the same trap with our grief.  We stick it down deep and refuse to face it or even admit how we are really feeling.  Trust me; denial gets you nowhere.  It will only cause more complications until the issue is dealt with.

It was so humbling and painful the night I told James what happened with the miscarriage and asked his forgiveness for not telling him sooner.  What a merciful man to forgive me immediately.  What a foolish thing for me not to trust him to handle this by God’s grace.

We have been so engulfed by love and thoughtfulness.  So many have sent us encouraging notes, or hugged me, and prayed for us.  Every single one of our children’s teachers individually let me know that they are praying for us.  Some of the children’s friends have also encouraged us.

I’m learning that when I’m honest in my grief without letting it control me, I’m able to worship and trust through my pain.  The other night I was hit hard by the loss of my expectations; we had been to a store and I was lamenting to James how we didn’t get to see our little boy toddle over to us, hear him coo, count his little baby toes, or smell his hair as he snuggled into our shoulders and fell asleep.  James simply held me while I sobbed, and we wept.  Then he was choked up and teary eyed as he said, “Do you know what God showed me today? We are so sad about everything we are missing with our son; but we are forgetting to rejoice in everything he is experiencing right now.  No pain, no sickness, no sin…”  He’s right.

Tears are healthy.  They are strong.  It takes courage to admit when we hurt, instead of stuffing our emotions like they are an inconvenient nuisance.  Jesus wept.  After Lazarus died, and Jesus saw the grief of those around him, Jesus wept.  Jesus knew Lazarus was coming back to life, and he still cried.  If the Savior and Creator of the Universe can cry when someone dies, we can also.  However, Christ didn’t stay stuck in his grief.  He didn’t let it consume him or control him.  He still stayed intently focused on His purpose.  He fulfilled His purpose while staying authentic and genuinely honest about his grief, sorrow and pain.

This morning I had a dream that James and I had our baby boy in a bassinet.  We watched him sleep a little while, and then he started crying.  We picked him up, and took turns holding him, resting his head on our shoulders, and just snuggling him.  Then we placed him inside an old-fashioned buggy stroller, and we pushed it into this bright expanse of a room.  Father God was on His throne, but He rose when we walked in, and he asked us, “What did you bring for me, my children?”  Together, we said, “Here’s our son, Father.  He’s yours.”  He bent down to pick up our little baby. He held our baby, and He laubaby buggy editedghed adoringly after every happy coo that Samuel made.

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming peace.  I miss my baby; I miss not being pregnant, and not being able to watch him grow up.  I’m sure that certain things will trigger my grief and I’m positive that I’ll start crying again.  That’s okay.  I know that God has hold of my baby.  I know that God’s big enough to have hold of me too. He’s big enough to hold you as well…why don’t you join us?

Tell him your pain.  Be honest, trusting that He’s big enough to handle your grief.  Remember, Jesus wept.

Give yourself permission to grieve.  You are allowed to take time to heal.  Just please don’t make my mistake by trying to hide a cricket under a plastic jug.  Eventually, it will make itself known, and you’ll have to pull yourself out of bed to deal with it.