Abortion, Death, And A Call To Love

“Paula” was raised in a conservative church. When she wound up pregnant out of wedlock, fear of judgment from the church drove her to a dark secret place where her baby was killed and discarded as medical waste. Paula is a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.

“Betty” was raised in a prestigious home, so becoming pregnant as a teenager was a “stain” on the family’s image. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. Betty is now a Christian and can share the love of God with everyone else, but struggles to forgive herself.

“Carly” became pregnant after being raped by a trusted family member. Her parents forced her to have an abortion. They were leaders in their faith community and regardless of how the pregnancy came to be, a pregnant teenager would not reflect well on their image. After turning to substance abuse and years of shame, Carly is now clean, makes a daily choice to forgive herself, and works to help others heal from trauma.

“Barbara” was surprised to find out she was pregnant. Although she was married, they hadn’t necessarily planned on having more children. She’d had several miscarriages early on, a stillbirth, and a preemie. When she went to the doctor for her first prenatal appointment he said, “You don’t have to go through with this you know.” She refused to see that doctor again and delivered another preemie, who today is a thriving beautiful child.

“Joy” had a miscarriage at six weeks pregnant. She grieved her baby’s death as deeply as I’ve ever seen anyone grieve their child. Her doctor said miscarriages happen all the time and made her feel like her grief wasn’t vaild. Her family and friends struggled to relate to the depth of her loss.

“Tara” called me when she had her first miscarriage, unable to flush the obvious baby who was unrecognized by the medical community as a “life” so therefore didn’t have the right to ritual and burial. Together we were able to secure a proper resting place for the baby she loved deeply. She had several more miscarriages to follow before going on to have surviving children. With each loss, the pain and bitterness and anger grew because so few people recognized her losses as real babies.

“Tammy” was told her baby had a lethal diagnosis and would never survive outside of the womb. Even while desparately wanting her baby, she chose to terminate. She carries her baby’s memory and the “what ifs” with her every day.

“Sue’s” baby was terminally diagnosed during pregnancy, but she chose to continue to carry. While her child has special needs and life hasn’t been easy for them, this beautiful soul is now a young adult and has taught all of us much more about the meaing of life than any formal education ever could.

And during a stillbirth I attended, I tapped out the following message on my phone to ask a few friends for prayer.

“It is sacred and peaceful in this space now. After the initial shock of the silent ultrasound machine, the doctors saying there’s no heartbeat, and as compassionately and matter-of-factly as possible, plans made to induce labor at just less than 5 months pregnant.

We’ve sat through hours of intake process at the hospital, nurses coming and going, the IV specialist searching for a suitable vein. There was even another ultrasound just to be sure…

No silence screams louder than a quiet monitor from that big machine that confirms for us hope and life or stillness and death.

Now, now we are waiting for the doctor to induce her, but in this space, husband and wife have both moved beyond exhaustion and surrendered to some moments of sleep. My heart breaks, hurts so deeply for their pain, for the unanswered questions, for the ways they feel abandoned by God.

Lines from a favorite song keep replaying in my mind. “One day soon we’ll see his face. And every tear he’ll wipe away. No more pain and suffering. Oh praise him for the mercy tree. Death has died, love has won. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Jesus Christ has overcome. He has risen from the dead.”

But here, there are tears. Lots of tears. Suffering beyond the ability to articulate. Words seem wasted trying to describe the intensity of the pain. There is fear. Fear of physical pain and knowing that after the physical pain is the most intense heart pain. To know this physical pain when there is hope for new life makes everything bearable. To know this physical pain will just bring you closer to the reality of death, for that, there are no words.

There is anger. Anger that this dream would “dangle in front of them” just to be jerked away. Anger for bodies that seem to fail us. Anger that a God who is good and for whom nothing is impossible still allowed death to call once more.

These emotions are normal. They are a part of the questions and grief. Yet God is still good. He is the bestower of peace and comfort in the midst of our hardest hard. He is the kind and gentle Shepherd, loving in spite of questions, fear, anger, and pain. 

The hardest pain is yet to come. The pain of delivery and the anguish of a quiet birthing room. The physical pain of empty arms that hang heavy by your side when every part of your body is reminding you that your arms should be cradling hope, new life, joy.

We need your prayers. We need your petitions that God would be our very present help in this time of trouble. May the presence of Jesus, the risen Christ, be with us in this time. While for us, death still holds a sting, may we cling to the hope of the Mercy Tree where death has died and LOVE has won. May we hold with a steadfast hope, the promise that our present suffering cannot be compared to the eternal glory that awaits us. Amen.”

These are all women I know personally. Theirs and many other personal stories I could share about abortion, pregnancy loss, family and community reactions, society’s view of the unborn and the challenges that creates for those grieving pregnancy and early infant loss.

Our own firstborn daughter was a dwarf, a “little person.” During our appointments with the prenatal specialists they offered to “terminate” the pregnancy even though there was no indication that her diagnosis was lethal and there was never any concern that hers or my life was in danger. My husband and I could not even entertain the thought of intentionally ending the life of our baby that had such a vibrant personailty in my womb. She died nearly seventeen hours after birth, but I wouldn’t trade those precious hours for anything. Ever.

Years earlier though, I was in a toxic relationship and thought I was pregnant. (Turned out I wasn’t.) While I had always wanted children, I was ashamed, horrified, and surprised at how quickly the thought of abortion entered my mind out of fear for myself, the baby, and judgement from family and church. I didn’t have to wrestle further, because I wasn’t pregnant, but it humbled me to think of the women who truly face that situation.

With New York’s newest laws passed and a bill introduced and tabled in my own state regarding third trimester abortion, these conversations have become front and center on social media, in our homes, Bible studies, and especially among our child-loss support group.

There is no question internally where I stand on the issue of sanctity of life for the unborn, but my heart simultaneously hurts for those who already live in judgement and regret. While there might certainly be those who’ve chosen abortion without carrying their judgment, I don’t personally know one single woman whose post-abortive regret and sorrow hasn’t consumed her in one way or another. As the church, we must provide space for these women, and men, to grieve, to talk, to call on the grace of our Savior whose kindness leads us to repentance and healing. (Romans 2:4)

As righteous indignation rises up in me regarding these bills, I have been repeatedly challenged by the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13.

As radical as it sounds, I keep thinking, “If I post my oppositon to this legistalture with memes and Scripture, but have not love, I am nothing. If I protest at the local, state, and national level, but have not love, I am nothing. Even if I gave my own body for the sake of the unborn for which I profoundly and fundamentally believe are sacred and worthy of that level of my commitment, but have not love, I have gained nothing.”

Love doesn’t mean inaction. Love doesn’t mean silence. Love doesn’t mean not standing up for the most vulnerable among us. But Love does call us to operate in a spirit of love. 

Colossians 4:2-6 says to pray steadfastly, that God may open the door for us to declare the mysteries of Christ, to walk in wisdom toward those who do not believe. That our speech be gracious so that we might know how to answer everyone. (Paraphrased.)

It is from this perspective that I prayerfully measure my words toward all. What if I could sit with those who propose and support these bills I oppose? Would they hear me as a individual, or chalk me up as one more obscure number to defeat? What approach might help them listen? I will call. I will advocate. But I will also offer the invitation for conversation, praying that God might open a door for me to share the mysteries (and love) of Christ. Because only when hearts are opened to the Truth, can lasting change occur.

Lovingly signed, a mother of four including one in heaven and one by adoption.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals. 

 

 

 

 

Happy Adoption Day

It is with unspeakable joy that we officially introduce our daughter, Korana (CORE-ahna) Sky Harlow.


We are not naive to the sorrow that brought her to us, and we are especially mindful of our own sorrow that opened our hearts to receive her as our own. Our first-born daughter, Sadie Rose, would be 10 this year. She died less than twenty-four hours after she was born. Korana and her birth family have had their own sadness that is not ours to tell, but Korana has truly come “By Way of Sorrow.” (Song references and words used by permission of the writer, Julie Miller.)

The nights joy slept for us have finally awakened to days of laughter. The healing addition of two more rockstar biological children, a non-profit in our daughter’s memory, and this sweet babe complete our family. 

We are eternally grateful to all who supported us on this incredible journey of preparation to become foster parents, caring for us upon her arrival, and walking with us on the uncertain road of fostering through the social services system. Thank you for those who prayed for us as our own hearts were torn between genuinely believing for a fully restored birth family and the unimaginable reality that until now she wasn’t ours to keep.

Many times I fell to my knees, unable on my own to support, pray, and accept all the twists and turns of this journey. Many times I re-lived the hours after Sadie’s birth as life and loss hung in the balance. Many times I could hardly catch my breath as fear and hope tangoed in my heart. Many times I surrendered it all to God. Many times I took it back, scared to hold on, terrified to release.

Much more about this journey in my forthcoming book, “By Way of Sorrow – a story of life, death, adoption, and hope.”

With genuine compassion for all who are part of this story, her story, our story, we celebrate our “gotcha day,” April 24, 2017.

Below is a seven minute video summarizing the past eighteen months. The first accompaniment song is “By Way of Sorrow,” written by Julie Miller and recorded by the Wailin Jennys. The second song is “Happy Adoption Day,” written and performed by John McCutcheon.

 

 

Tiny lives, big impacts; in honor of pregnancy and infant loss awareness month 

Although it is taking slightly longer for the air to cool this year, I feel autumn in my bones. Hints of color christen the green summer leaves, the evenings are noticeably shorter, and the mountains call to my melancholy nature to retreat for the season. 

Since our daughter died in June 2007, that innate instinct to retreat beckons even stronger. Thats just my nature. The mountains and solitude are where I find myself and God. 

But retreating for a season is not an option, especially since our daughter died. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and I must rise above any hiding I might want to do to help bring a voice to the one in four women who suffer pregnancy and infant loss and to honor the memories of the babies that live on in our hearts. 

Although most people in my life know how greatly we loved Sadie Rose, there have been people who would minimize her impact because she lived a short seventeen hours. For some reason, often without realizing, our society places less significance on a life known only to the parents and/or immmediate family and friends. 

It matters not how well-known our lives are to the world. What matters is how deeply we were loved by those closest to us. 

Before going further, I have spent countless hours in my work through the Sadie Rose Foundation with mom’s whose young child, teenager, young adult, or adult child died. I hear stories of their child that suffered a terminal illness, was the victim of a horrible fatal accident, died by suicide, succumbed to a lifelong illness, etc. My heart breaks with every single tragic story. I would never claim to know exactly how they feel nor would I ever compare my loss specifically with theirs. I pray I never know the anguish of the kind of loss they’ve known. This post is not about comparing losses. 

From my experience, there is never an easy time for your child to die. 

The purpose of this post is to give permission to all those who’ve known the life-long impact of pregnancy and infant loss a platform to share and to know they’re not alone. 

In a society where mother’s who have known this loss are often confronted with comments like, “You are young, you can have more children,” “There must have been something wrong with your baby and this was god’s/natures way of dealing with it,” “At least you weren’t attached,” etc., raising awareness of the impact these tiny lives had on us is of utmost importance.

I even had someone accuse me once of not being truthful when I said our “child” died as an infant without explaining she only lived seventeen hours. As if to say because of her short life she could not be considered a child. Likewise, there were times I would catch myself saying, “She only lived seventeen hours,” as a way decrease the impact my story had on the horrified listener who had just found out we had a deceased daughter. 

But here’s what I want you to know about this 2-pound, 3-ounce, 11-inch hole in my heart. 

I dreamed of being a mother my whole life. I was raised in a culture where motherhood was among the highest callings and I knew there was nothing more I wanted for myself. Life took it’s sweet time in connecting me with Prince Charming and I spent my early twenties watching all my siblings marry, (including my two younger sisters) and most of my friends. I sat through many painful mother/daughter events with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart, even while celebrating my own awesome mom. I began to wonder if my dream of being a mother would ever be realized. 

In my late twenties, Prince Charming finally arrived. His horse hadn’t broken a leg, he wasn’t captured by dreams of his own fancy, he was simply waiting for that one right princess to carry off into the sunset. I thank God every day for the gift he is to me. 

Less than three months after our October wedding, we were pregnant. To say we were thrilled was an understatement. Finally, finally, the dream of a lifetime would become reality for me. 

My two younger sisters were pregnant at the same time, but due in early 2007. I was due September 16, 2007. The three of us are the youngest of seven children and throughout our childhood we were called, “The three little girls.” How exciting to be on this journey of growing babies together! 

My sisters delivered a healthy girl and boy. I went for my twenty-week ultrasound in the spring. It was then our doctor and friend had to tell us the difficult news that our baby’s measurements were not adding up. He referred us to a prenatal diagnosis center. 

There were many solemn consultations, hours of ultrasounds, moments of despair, and whispers of hope. At some point in the process we were told our baby had dwarfism, but they could not diagnose the specifics. 

At the last ultrasound before I went into labor we were told it looked our baby would be, “A healthy dwarf.” The specifics of her diagnosis wasn’t what mattered to us. All we knew was that we were madly in love with her. 

I went into labor at twenty-six weeks. They flew me by medical helicopter to a university hospital where I remained until Sadie arrived a week later at twenty-seven weeks. 

She was perfect. She was beautiful. We were holding and loving our own flesh and blood! 


As the day went on, the doctors watched her closely. That evening they came into my hospital room and said these dreaded words that still ring in my ears today. 

“We’re so sorry. Sadie’s too sick. She will not survive.” 

Numb. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Guilt. Fear. Paralyzing fear. I felt like an outsider observing someone else’s story and yet the pain was all too real. It couldn’t be. This life that had so much personality even in the womb, that had already been so loved and wanted, this babe that had made me the mother I’d always dreamed of being, was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. 

No anguished prayer, no fist raised heavenward, no screaming at the medical staff, no world-renowned scientist or advancement in medical technology, no human effort could keep the inevitable at bay. My baby was dying. 


This! This is who she was and is! This is the hole in my heart that I celebrate and grieve in the same breath. To minimize her life, to reduce her to cliche comments of having other children or quality of life is to shred my heart into another million pieces. 

I am grateful that we have more healthy vibrant amazing children and I celebrate every single day with them, but none of them replace Sadie. Nor would I want or expect them too. 

I am beyond grateful for all the connections we have made through the non-profit we started in Sadie’s memory, but I still long to feel the warmth of her little body again and smell her baby breath in my face. 

My life is blessed far beyond my ability to articulate, but I live with the ache of Sadie’s absence every single day. 

So for every mother who has suffered pregnancy or infant loss, I will not retreat in silence. I will not sit on the sidelines and pretend your baby didn’t exist or didn’t have an impact in your life. I will raise my voice along with yours until the day we stop saying, “it was just a miscarriage, just a pregnancy loss, they only lived…” 

If you have never known this loss, but know someone who has, please consider letting them know you remember with them. Whether it is a card, a text, a cup of coffee and the words, “I remember,” the simplest gesture can make all the difference for those of us who carry our babies in our hearts instead of our arms. 

To October. To moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents and friends remembering our babies gone too soon. 

My Love,

Regina

The Sadie Rose Foundation will participate in the worldwide Remembering our Babies events October 15th for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. For more details, visit our website or Facebook page. 

Anger; a beautiful release

I attended a spiritual retreat this weekend. One might think it was coincidence that a day before this retreat was to take place that a family I know lost their 11-month-old daughter in a tragic accident. I believe God used this tragedy to reveal himself to me in a new and beautiful way. (***I do not believe God causes tragedy, but I do believe he can use it to form and transform us when and if we are ready to allow that.)

Through our time together, with people unrelated to this incident and most of whom were unassociated with my work through The Sadie Rose Foundation, God’s Spirit revealed to me that I was harboring anger, lots of it.

I admit, when I have the faith to believe that God can raise a child out of a sick-bed and he chooses not too or when I feel he could have easily prevented a tragedy, I wrestle with anger. I don’t just wrestle with it, I get downright mad. When I talk with families grieving their precious children gone too soon, I wonder why. Over time, these have snowballed into a jaded feeling that my prayers are ineffective and I have questioned at times whether or not God really cares. Why does he allow these tragedies to happen? Why do innocent children suffer?

At the retreat, we were given a Scripture to meditate on and to ask what God might be saying to us through that passage. Two phrases stood out to me as I read it again and again.

“They know his voice,” and “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:4 and 28)

I contemplated why these two phrases and wrote the following in my journal; answers I believe came from the Holy Spirit of God.

” Those children whom I call, know my voice. They are not afraid. I give them eternal life and no one can snatch them out of my hand. I know your pain. I know you feel these children have been snatched out of the hands of their family, but they are not afraid to come to me. They innocently trust and know and are comforted by my voice.

They do not perish. In truth, they never die. They are transitioned from their bars of clay into eternal life in the spirit.

They are held lovingly in my arms and no one, not death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate them from my love or can snatch them out of my hand.”

Wow… a new perspective for me. I did not get my “why” questions answered, I probably never will this side of eternity, nor do I claim to understand it. I am not disillusioned to think that this will keep me from ever feeling that anger again, but I know that I felt a beautiful release of anger, a letting go, and a new and fresh peace to move forward.

May the Holy Comforter be near to all who mourn this day and may we hear and recognize the voice of the Gentle Shepherd inviting us to trust him.

Births, Illnesses and 5K’s

What a crazy hectic week and weekend! Besides hosting our first-ever Annual Sadie Rose 5K, my mom, step-dad, Aunt Edie, Aunt Ruth had gone to Edisto Island with my sister, Amy, her husband, Michael, and their kids. Not having them with me to help coordinate the 5K was a big deal. They are always my most loyal Sadie Rose volunteers. (Check out The Sadie Rose Foundation.)

Things were looking good by Thursday as far as the 5K planning. I thought we had it all under control. Then, Friday morning, my brother-in-law, Michael, got sick. Very sick! The family was planning on returning from the beach Saturday, but headed home first thing Friday morning instead. They were 10 hours from home, but thought they could make it back to our area so he could go to our local hospital. With every passing mile, my sister grew more concerned.

Continue reading “Births, Illnesses and 5K’s”