Archive | October 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness

The month of October is a busy month of ‘awareness.’ I searched for a full listing just this evening and every list I found included a cause that the previous list did not include. Here are a few: Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Eye Injury Prevention Month, Hunger Awareness Month, National AIDS Awareness Month … the list could go on and on.

Every one of these causes is important to someone, lots of someone’s. If not, they wouldn’t be recognized. Some are so important that they are recognized not only nationally, but globally.

I have spent a lot of time this month focusing on pregnancy and infant loss awareness. Last year, I was still so fresh in my grief that the month came and went without too much notice. This year, it was my mission to bring awareness, if even to just one person. If just one person learned something or was touched in some way by what was shared, then it was worth the focused effort.

At the same time, I feel like I have overlooked another important cause in my life: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer. Both of them fought hard to win the battle. One grandma lived several years cancer free. There are several other women I know that have fought the battle and won. My other grandma fought it off, only to have it return as bone cancer a few years later. She lost her battle in June 2012. There are other women I know that have fought the battle and lost.

This post is dedicated first to my Grandma and my Grandma Nina, strong women who will always be a source of encouragement for me, even from heaven. This post is also dedicated to all women who are survivors of breast cancer, those who lost their battle and those yet to come who will endure the pain of learning they have breast cancer. May we someday find a cure for this horrible disease!

Grandma, Leann, Grandma Nina and my sister, Amber ~ May 2007 baby shower

Grandma, Leann, Grandma Nina and my sister, Amber ~ May 2007 baby shower

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A Way with Words

Since October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, throughout the month, I have posted statistics, facts and articles to our Kyleigh’s Gift Facebook page about pregnancy and infant loss. Most of what I posted had to do with miscarriage. I was hoping to do more around stillbirth, but the month caught up to me and it just didn’t happen. If you have not seen the beautiful photos of candles lit for October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, check them out. I was overwhelmed by the love, support and sharing on that day.

This post is meant to wrap up the month of awareness. I can share all the statistics, facts and articles in the world surrounding pregnancy and infant loss, but if people don’t think before they speak, all of that information is worthless.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

How many times have you heard that phrase? It has been awhile for me, but one that I heard and recited as a child. Back then, it was just a silly rhyme that I probably repeated on the playground at school or at home when my sister and I were playing Barbie’s. I never really stopped to think about what it meant.

I sure know what it means now.

“Don’t worry; you can always have more children.”

These words were spoken to me more times than I can count after I had my first miscarriage. What people did not know is that we had been trying to have a baby for over a year before I got pregnant. What people did not know is that I have an endocrine disorder that causes infertility. What people did not know is that we were told it would be difficult to have children without the use of fertility drugs. What people did not know is that we couldn’t afford fertility drugs and we decided against using them. This pregnancy was our miracle. For all we knew, this pregnancy could have been our one and only. We didn’t need people telling us, “Don’t worry, you’ll have more children.”

“Maybe next time you’ll be healthy.”

I was standing in the sanctuary at church when someone told me this; again, referring to my first miscarriage. I remember the moment and I remember the person who said it to me. He expressed his condolences, of course, followed by a few statements regarding my health and how I’ll have to make sure I stay healthy next time. I don’t drink alcohol or even soda when I am pregnant. I don’t smoke or do drugs, ever. I don’t partake in risky behavior. I get plenty of sleep and eat healthy. I was not sick with the flu or other illness when I miscarried. So what was this man talking about? Was he implying that I did something to cause my baby to die at 11 weeks? Surely not. Surely he didn’t mean what he said.

“How has your summer been so far?”

I was teaching elementary art when we found out we were expecting our first child. It was early spring and contracts were coming out for the following year. I had to make a choice: sign my contract and take maternity leave when my baby is born in December, or resign from teaching and stay home with my newborn. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mom, so even though I was early in my first trimester, I resigned from teaching. I kept my reason quiet because we had decided to wait until the end of the first trimester to tell most people. Family and close friends knew we were expecting and as we neared the end of the school year, and I got closer and closer to my second trimester, the word started getting out. I had shared the news with a handful of teacher friends, but decided to wait and tell my exciting news to all of the staff at the end-of-year teacher luncheon. It was also a celebration for those teachers who had resigned or retired. I was 11 weeks pregnant.

Three days before the last day of school, also the morning of the celebration, I awoke to some pregnancy complications. I called the doctor and the only time they could see me was during the luncheon. I had to go. I had to make sure everything was okay with my baby. I taught my morning classes, made a brief appearance at the luncheon and then left for the doctor’s office. Our baby no longer had a heartbeat. I was having a miscarriage. I never returned to school again that year. The staff was told I was sick and a substitute finished out my school year. My mom and a dear friend packed up my room. When I returned later in the summer to pick up my things, a teacher commented on how ill I looked that day at the luncheon. I don’t blame her for her words. She had no idea what had happened.

It was someone else I knew that did know what had happened that spoke the words, “How has your summer been so far?” only a week into summer. A week after I miscarried. A week after I left my job because I thought I was having a baby in December. This person knew every detail of what was going on in my life and asked this question like I had spent the week on the beach enjoying the sand and sun.

“Have another baby; it will take the pain away.”

Someone actually said this to me after Kyleigh died. The end.

“How is your incision?”

Lunch was brought to us the week after we buried Kyleigh by someone that we used to be very close to. After everyone ate lunch, the kids went outside to play. As we sat and watched, everything under the sun was talked about, except Kyleigh. The reason why this person was at my house was not even mentioned. This person who at one point was one of my closest friends could not even say my daughter’s name. In what turned out to be close to a two hour visit, the only reference to Kyleigh or anything to do with what had happened were the words, “How is your incision?” She was referring to the incision from my C-section. I have not communicated with her since.

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I could keep going. I could continue a list of the things people have said to me that hurt. These are the top five, if you will. These are the words, the moments, in my grief and pain that stand out as being hurt by someone else. I remember each of these instances as if they happened yesterday. I don’t replay them over in my mind, but if asked about them, I can give you details, obviously.

I am not writing about these hurtful words to call people out. I do not hold grudges against these people. You may disagree based on my words, but what I have done in many of these instances is removed myself from unhealthy relationships. If people whom I consider close friends cannot acknowledge my loss and pain, why should I subject myself to the hurtfulness?

I give you these real-life examples so that you can see how what some would label simple words can be so hurtful. It wasn’t until Kyleigh died that most people found out we had had a second miscarriage in 2008. We didn’t tell people because the words spoken to us after our first miscarriage were so painful to hear, we didn’t want to hear those words again.

Be aware of what you are saying to someone when they are grieving. If you don’t know what to say, say that! It’s better to acknowledge that you don’t want to cause the person any pain by your words than to ignore the pain or sit in silence. If my friend had said, “I don’t know what to say,” instead of, “How’s your incision?” our relationship would probably have sustained that.

I have only touched on words that are hurtful to bring awareness. Trust me, for every hurtful word, I have had a hundred kind, gentle, compassionate, loving words spoken to me. They are written in cards, sent by email and spoken in word. Take a minute and think about your words. Think about how what you say affects the person you are speaking to. This goes for all areas of life, not just pregnancy and infant loss. I recently had a conversation with a friend about stepping out in faith and pursuing what God has called her to do. She hesitates because of hurtful words spoken to her in her past. Words that told her she wasn’t good enough. That she couldn’t do it. She knows this isn’t true, but the words have stuck with her after all these years. They creep back in and rob her of feeling like she can do anything God calls her to do.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Bones heal. Harsh words hurt.

October 15, 2013 ~ Candles

Candles lit on October 15, 2013 ~ National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, in memory of babies who have left us too soon …

The Wave of Light candle was lit in memory of over 100 babies, including Kyleigh and our two miscarriages, from Nora’s mom on Still Breathing.

Thank you to everyone who lit a candle. Whether it was in memory of your own baby, or for Kyleigh, you are helping to bring awareness to pregnancy and infant loss by remembering.

Remembrance Day

October 15, is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Everyone is invited to light a candle at 7pm in memory of all babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Take a picture of your candle and email it to: info@kyleighsgift.com. I will post the pictures soon after.

There are many organizations and support groups that hold ceremonies on or around October 15. You can find a list of activities across the U.S. here, http://www.october15th.com/activities-walks/, or by doing a quick internet search on your own. I apologize if the event you find has already happened; I was hoping to get this information posted sooner.

My hope is that this time next year, we will be holding an event through Kyleigh’s Gift to honor and remember all babies who have left us too soon. Stay tuned for more details after the first of the year!

Throughout the month of October, I have been posting information regarding pregnancy loss on the Kyleigh’s Gift Facebook page. The first few weeks have focused on miscarriage and I plan to conclude the month with facts about stillbirth. If you are on Facebook, hop on over and ‘Like’ Kyleigh’s Gift.

In honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, we will be holding a raffle fundraiser for Kyleigh’s Gift! Stay tuned for more information coming soon!

Last, Kyleigh’s Gift has email! You can contact us at: info@kyleighsgift.com. Feel free to contact us with questions, your own story of loss or just to say hi!

Intersections

In recent months my travels have been more numerous than I have experienced in many years. Back in mid-September, I found myself in Calgary, Alberta for another few hours of meetings that required a day of travel up and back. On the previous trip I was surprised at the amount of foot traffic at the airport for an 0600 flight, so I decided to get there a bit early in hopes of beating the crowds. I was successful.

I have this rather unfortunate ability to wake up before my alarm. This is especially true when there’s something on my mind that starts early in the morning and I know that I have to awake. On the night before my flight, I packed my bags and set the alarm for 0345. I awoke the next morning at 0315. Off to the airport I drove with very few other souls awake in Calgary.

I arrived at the line for customs a few steps before another guy, but I let him go ahead. People are often surprised by a simple gesture such as this, as was he, but I figured, I’m 2.5 hours before my flight and heading to the gate, so a few extra minutes in line waiting for him to clear won’t hurt. We followed the line and snaked through the silly people-routing lanes only to find the door to the customs hall was locked. As it turns out, you cannot get into customs until 0430, so we were numbers 1 & 2 in line. We had 30 minutes to stand there and chat while the queue built behind us. He was on his way to Baltimore. “Where are you going and where are you from” is always a fascinating question to me, but it’s rather superficial. His professional story was a bit similar to mind, but his allegiances were much different. His next trip was 2 weeks away, and he was to fly out on his wife’s birthday. Bad idea man, bad idea. He decided it was ok because they were celebrating the weekend before, but still, only the relationship between me and my God is more important to me than what my wife and I share and my heart broke for her. Such is business travel…or so it trends.

When the doors finally opened we rushed through the next room of people-routing lanes. We all moved left then right, left then right…it’s probably a comical sight for the “first line of defense” officers that guard our countries borders. He was detained a bit and I sailed through. That made me first through customs and I thought to myself, “this is new.” I’ve traveled so much recently that I’ve sort of run-out of “first” experiences so I was a little surprised by it. I was first through security and was so excited by this that I told the agent checking my boarding pass. She politely congratulated me and sent me on my way. That popped my bubble as I realized she gets that every day and she was about to work with a steady stream of people for the next 6 – 8 hours. I’m very grateful that my job has some variability to it.

After my “first” cup of coffee, “first” arrival at the departure gate and “first” to select from the comfy chairs in the terminal, I crashed until it was time to board. I don’t usually travel home on Saturday’s, and this time we had a Roller Derby Championship game (Way to go ROYAL PAINS and my crazy sister Amber!!) to go to in the evening so I was ready to catch up on the hours of sleep that I lost in the hustle of travel. I had an upgraded seat on the way out of Calgary, so I knew I would sleep on the flight. I was wrong. I fell asleep during the taxi and safety briefing, but I was wide awake once we were airborne. I decided that was ok as I had a short layover in Salt Lake, then one more flight to KC. I just knew that I would sleep on the second leg. I opened the laptop and typed another few pages of emails in the never ending stream of static communication. It’s ironic really…the longer I work in my profession the more I hate email. It’s the least effective form of communication yet it’s the one we rely on the most for the most important information. I cannot wait for the day when this is deprecated for something more effective (like FaceTime!!).

After the layover, I settled onto the plane using my coveted early-boarding privileges (that’s the same …thou shalt not covet…) and I was just getting comfortable when the last of my “firsts” was about to commence. A man named Richard sat next to me and started asking the typical traveler questions. It started out the same as the conversation that I’d had a few hours earlier with the guy in line at customs. I figured he wanted to know where I was coming from and where I was going, then he would leave me alone and I could sleep. In the spirit of full disclosure…I have one homeward bound travel shirt that I wear for this purpose. It’s an oversized KU shirt that is very comfortable, and tells people where I’m going. Generally speaking, it preempts the conversation before it starts. You look at the shirt, you see the logo, and you realize there’s no point in asking. The end result is that we both sit there, quietly, enjoying the hum of the engines and hopefully drift off to the place were dreams prevail. But he would have none of that.

When I asked, “what do you do,” he told me that he recently (within the past few years) had started his second career. He said he used to be a lot like me, traveling around and doing business work, but that later in life he found something (or Someone) that gave him purpose. But it was that comment, “that he used to be a lot like me,” that kindled a fire inside of me. He had no idea who I was and he certainly had no idea of my story. He had no idea that I live everyday full of purpose. A few minutes into the flight the question came up, how many kids do you have? For some reason I felt this was not the time for simple answers and I felt like this man deserved to hear the story. Five. I have five children was my response. Two of my boys are with me at home. I have one daughter in heaven and two more whose gender I do not know. But I know that one day I’ll meet all of them together with my Savior, and my, what a reunion that will be!

I figured this would do one of two things. I feel that people today are generally afraid to talk about death. When the subject comes up, they either change the subject by talking about rainbows and unicorns, or they think you are a lunatic who is fixated on the subject and not worth their time. But Richard was different. He did neither of these two things. He started asking me about my grief. About my wife’s grief. About our sons grief. He didn’t try to diffuse, derail or otherwise distract from the subject. He was genuine, sincere and listened patiently while I told my story. I wanted to tell him that I was nothing like who he used to be. Thankfully it didn’t take me a lifetime to figure out my purpose. I’ve already posted about the importance of Ephesians 2:10 to me and my life, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” It took just six minutes, eighteen months ago today, for this to crystalize in my mind. From 5:57 to 6:03 when my world turned upside down and it was time to test all that I had learned and believed in the fires of adversity. It is not surprising to me that the result is just as the Scriptures have promised.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:6-8

My intersection with Richard was not coincidental. Neither was it lucky. These words have no place for someone in relationship with Christ. As it turns out, Richard was en-route to visit a friend whose son had developed a severe medical condition. It sounded as if his life was in the balance and by God’s grace, it would go either direction. We talked about prayer, and that many times in prayer the answer isn’t always YES, but there is always an answer. It gave me an opportunity to talk about Kyleigh, about my friend Joe, about my God and about how everything we do either turns people toward or away from Him. He also told me a great deal about the city of his childhood, a place not 48 hours before I had decided I would take Leann for a weekend escape in the weeks ahead. I’m grateful for my intersection with Richard, and for this “first” opportunity to share my story with a complete stranger who simply wanted to listen.

May God bless your ministry Richard, and may He grant Leann and I the rest we seek over our weekend away.

~Rodg