Lettered Hope

How to Celebrate Your Due Date When There is No Baby

MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment
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When a momma loses a baby to miscarriage the amount of emotions she experiences is overwhelming. For the first few weeks it often feels hard to breathe; like time has stopped. Getting through each moment is hard enough, let alone each day. But slowly, she inches her way forward through this silent grief.

I call it a “silent” grief because our society does not do well with early pregnancy loss. We feel judged for grieving our babies; if we do share publicly about our losses we are worried people may think that we’re just seeking attention and being overly dramatic. But we’re not. Losing a baby early in pregnancy comes with so much heartbreak. We barely have any memories and it’s confusing even to us why we feel so unbearably sad over a baby we never met.

It often seems that just as we begin to “turn a corner” in our grief, we are faced with our empty due date. It’s impossible to forget when your baby was supposed to enter into the world and it ushers in heartbreak all over again. We survive through our due date, and then just a few months later we are met with our baby’s birthday; or the day we lost our baby. My anniversaries of loss are much harder for me than my due dates, but it’s different for every mother. Either way, we find ourselves wanting to acknowledge the life we were blessed and privileged to carry for a short time, but don’t know how.

It’s often something we prefer to “celebrate” privately, partially due to fear of people judging us for still being sad. But how do we celebrate someone we never met? How do we pay tribute to a baby we never got to hold? Are we overreacting? Should we just let the day pass without acknowledgment? I don’t think so— I think it is healing to celebrate our baby’s life. But many mommas are unsure of how to do so, so I’ve compiled a list of ideas. Some are my own ideas and some are ideas I’ve seen and read on social media.

If you have a due date or other hard date approaching, I pray you find the perfect way to honor and celebrate your precious little one from the list below.

  1. PLAN AHEAD: Plan ahead of time. Give yourself time to grieve in the days leading up to a hard day/anniversary as well as on the day itself. Remember that if you want people to acknowledge you on this hard day it may be best to remind them of your expectations so you are not let down. Even if you don’t stick to the plan you’ve created I think it helps to have a plan in place that you can look ahead to. It helps keep anxiety at bay when you know what to expect.
     
  2. GET AWAY: Plan a mini vacation and get away for a few days. It can be healing to escape your everyday life. We unintentionally had to go out of town (for my husband's work) over the first anniversary of loss for our first baby and it ended up being exactly what I didn't know my heart needed.
     
  3. GET IN THE WORD: Read God’s Word. Seriously. I know you may not want to, but it is the best way to start a hard day like today. If you’re unsure where to read, perhaps try: Psalm 23, Psalm 34, Psalm 61, Psalm 91, Psalm 121, Lamentations 3, Isaiah 25-26, Isaiah 41, Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 1, 2 Corinthians 4, Philippians, or Revelation 21. 
     
  4. JEWELRY: Order a piece of memorial jewelry. I think it is one of the most comforting things to have a necklace, bracelet, or ring that you can wear everyday and hold your baby's memory close.
     
  5. TREAT YOURSELF: Maybe there's something other than jewelry that you've been eyeing such as a mini swaddle blanket, stuffed animal, ornament, sign, book, artwork, etc. Go ahead and order it for yourself.
     
  6. GARDEN: Plant a tree, flower, or plant in honor of your baby. Depending on the season, consider picking something that blooms around the time of year of this hard date.
     
  7. STEPPING STONE: Buy a kit to make a garden stepping stone and decorate it together in honor of your baby. You can include your baby's name, the date, or a quote that is special to you. You can pick stones that match birthstones. The act of using your hands to create something for your baby is so healing.
     
  8. WALLOW: Spend the day at home in bed eating junk food and binge watching a show. Obviously this isn't something you should do everyday, but sometimes we just need a day where we shut out the world and indulge in some guilty pleasures.
     
  9. NATURE: Spend the day out in nature. I personally love to just get lost on country roads. If I lived near the ocean I’m sure I’d wind up at the beach. Try to wake up early to watch the sunrise or carve out time in the evening to sit and enjoy the sunset. There is something special about watching the sun rise and set; it slows down time and allows you to reminisce. 
     
  10. PAMPER YOURSELF: Schedule a spa day. Go with your mom, a friend, by yourself, or even with your husband. Sometimes we just need to feel cared for.
     
  11. REFLECT: Visit a place that is special to you and your baby such as a cemetery or perhaps a park you went to often while pregnant or shortly after finding out your baby had died.
     
  12. CANDLE: Light a special candle in honor of your baby. I have a candle for each baby and only light them on hard days such as due dates, loss dates, and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
     
  13. CARE PACKAGE: Put together a care package and take it to your doctor’s office or the hospital where you had your D&C and leave it with instructions to give to the next mother who has a miscarriage. Helping other mommas in their grief has been one of the most healing things I've done. You may be surprised by how much it helps you!
     
  14. THANK MEDICAL STAFF: Put together a basket of snacks and take it to your doctor’s office, the Fire Station if you called 911 when you miscarried, or hospital where you had your D&C as a thank you to the nurses and other medical staff.
     
  15. BLESS A NEW MOMMA: Create a newborn care package and take it to the Labor & Delivery ward where your baby would’ve been delivered to bless a momma who has recently given birth. Include a letter to the momma explaining that this gift is in honor of your child who should have been the same age as her’s. Tell the nurses to give it to a deserving first-time momma.
     
  16. WRITE: Write a letter to your baby. Perhaps buy a special journal and use it specifically for writing letters to your baby on hard days. Or if you have a blog, consider posting the letter on your blog.
     
  17. RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS: Do a random act of kindness in honor of your baby. Buy the person’s coffee or meal behind you, tape money to a vending machine, hand out flowers, etc. Make a printout explaining that your random acts of kindness are in honor of your baby.
     
  18. CAKE: Bake a cake with your family and celebrate your baby’s memory. This can become a sweet yearly tradition to share with your family as it (hopefully) grows.
     
  19. DONATE A CAKE: Go to your local bakery and ask to pay for a current birthday cake order.
     
  20. SHARE: Post a tribute to your baby on social media if it is something you want to share publicly. Not everyone likes to say anything publicly, but I find it hard to let the day pass without acknowledging my baby. Acting like it's a normal day just doesn't sit well with me. If you feel nervous, you can simply post a pretty picture of something you did that day and the caption can be left blank, or maybe just put the date as the caption.
     
  21. NAME: If you haven’t already, name your baby. It is healing.
     
  22. DONATE: Make a donation to a charity in your baby’s name.
     
  23. RELEASE: Release a balloon or sky lantern in honor of your baby. If you’d like, attach a tag for the person who finds your balloon or lantern explaining what this day means to you. [And yes, I know balloons are terrible for the environment and that sky lanterns are illegal in some states/regions. Do your research and choose what is best for you and your heart.]
     
  24. BUTTERFLIES: Do a butterfly release.
     
  25. FLOWER DROP: Drop flowers in a stream and watch them float away.
     
  26. PAPER BOATS: Write a letter to your baby, fold it into a paper boat, and send it floating away.
     
  27. FLYING WISH PAPER: Write birthday wishes to your baby on this special paper. Once you've written your note or special message, you roll the paper into a tube, light it with a match, and it will "jump" into the air and then float back down as ashes. You can collect the ashes and keep them in a special jar and add to them each year.
     
  28. PHOTO BOOK: Spend time making a photo book in honor of your baby. You may be surprised by how many photos you have from your pregnancy even if they aren’t photos of you or your baby, yet still remind you of when you were pregnant or during your loss. I made a photo book because I had a coupon for a free photo book several years ago. I had no idea how healing it would end up being for me. Taking time to select photos, write captions, and design the pages made me feel like a momma because mommas with living children do that sort of thing. It was one of the most motherly things I ever did for my babies. I now have a photo book for both of my babies gone too soon.
     
  29. SERVE: Take a meal to someone who is also suffering or find a way to be there for someone else who is also grieving a loss. They may be going through something very different from a miscarriage, but suffering connects us and when we find someone else suffering it helps us to not feel quite so alone.

How do you celebrate and honor your babies who have passed away? I'd love to hear in the comments. Be blessed, sweet mommas <3

Father's Day Gift Ideas for the Bereaved Dad

Jessica ScheksComment
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Shopping for men is so hard. Especially when it comes to loss! You want to acknowledge your husband on Father's Day because he is a dad and this day is just as much for him as it is for the dad with quadruplets running around. But how? I'm in several private Facebook groups for loss mommas and Father's Day gifts has been a popular topic of discussion lately and I've seen a lot of good ideas! Hopefully one of these ideas will sound right for your husband. If you have another idea please share it in the comments below!

  1. Engraved Pocket Knife
    I love this idea because my husband doesn't just love strictly memorial gifts. I think he (and probably many men) would rather have something somewhat practical that he can carry with him each day. While it's practical, he still gets to carry the memory of of our babies around with him. I have not actually ever purchased an engraved pocked knife for my husband, but I loved all the options on Etsy.
     
  2. Key Chain
    There are so many different key chain ideas on Etsy. Just search for personalized key chains and find the style you'd like and then you can come up with the exact wording you want. Another option is to have a little hole drilled into a penny (or other coin) with the year on that you lost your child. I did this one year for my husband, I found a 2015 and a 2016 penny and made a little key chain for him. I love how subtle the pennies are; my husband wouldn't want a key chain that was obviously about our babies because that's just not his style. But having pennies on your key ring is subtle, yet meaningful.
     
  3. Engraved Formal Items
    For the husband who dresses up frequently, consider engraved tie bars, cuff links, or collar stays. You could also have a hankie embroidered with your baby's name and/or special dates. Looking on Etsy for all of these items would be my go to!
     
  4. Sports Attire
    My husband has been hinting lately (by sending me direct links to items) that he would like a "Number 1 Dad" Miami Dolphins t-shirt. So if your husband is a huge sports fan like mine, perhaps google his "favorite team + Dad shirt" and see what you can find.
     
  5. Favorite Things Basket
    Maybe items with dates and sentimental value are just not your husband's thing. Many men are very private about their grief and may not want anything that outwardly displays it. If that's the case then consider buying some of his favorite things such as movies, books, snacks, gift cards, etc. and filling a basket to gift to him on Father's Day. Even though there is nothing directly tied to the memory of your child(ren), he will feel acknowledged on a painful day.
     
  6. Wedding Band
    If your husband's wedding band isn't already engraved and is a material that supports engraving, you could have his wedding band engraved with either your child's name, initials, birth date, etc.
     
  7. Watch
    If your husband likes to wear a watch you could have his engraved on the inside or you could buy him a new watch and have it engraved.
     
  8. Tree or Garden Stone
    If your husband likes to be outside a lot, perhaps you could have a tree planted in your little one's honor. You could also buy a plaque or garden stone to go with it.
     
  9. Leather Bracelet
    My husband would never go for this, but there are tons of leather bracelets on Etsy for men that you can have customized with a Bible verse or your baby's name and dates.
     
  10. Washers/Tokens
    You can have some little washers engraved with your baby's information on them. On one you could have the name, on another you could have the loss date, on another the due date, etc. Then he can keep them in the change section of his wallet or put them on a key chain or necklace chain.
     
  11. Card & Food
    If you'd like to keep the holiday a little more low key because that is your husband's style, then simply buy him a Father's Day card and make him his favorite meal. Whether you bring him breakfast in bed, cook an elaborate steak dinner for him, or order takeout, he will feel loved and acknowledged as a father.

April 15, 2018

Jessica ScheksComment
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A lot can change in a year.

Last year I wrote this post in tears as I celebrated and mourned our second child's due date who we lost on September 2nd, 2016 and anticipated Resurrection Sunday the next day like never before.

I remember how the months that stretched between losing her and her due date were full of despair. I was clinging to the Lord with all the strength I could muster, and it wasn't much.

Mixed into that grief was the roller coaster of trying to conceive. Each month was met with tears and heartache as I realized that, once again, my womb would remain empty. I cannot begin to explain how this type of grief adds to the depth of the grief of loss. It was more than enough to make me feel like I was drowning. Looking back, I have no idea how I made it through. It was hands down the hardest season of my life and yet I felt ashamed; as if I did not deserve to grieve so hard, and so I kept it locked up in my heart.

Trigger Warning: Scrolling past the photo below will bring you to the announcement of a healthy pregnancy.

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This past December, I took a pregnancy test expecting it to be negative just like it had been every other month for over the last year. It was only three days before Christmas and I was dreading the holidays because I felt anything but festive. And yet this time, the test was positive. It was five in the morning on December 22nd, 2017, and suddenly I was filled with joy. I was carrying our third child! The best Christmas present I've ever received.

The first trimester was so scary as I went through tests, began taking blood thinning shots two times a day, and had a few scares. Not to mention the awful around-the-clock morning sickness that made me lose 15 pounds. However I think the sickness helped keep me distracted from worrying too much and reassured me that this was a healthy pregnancy.

And here I am on April 15th, a day that was filled with only sorrow last year, now filled with joy. I am just days away from being half way through this pregnancy and instead of tears falling as I type, I feel our third daughter, Ella Brooke, moving around in my belly. She is due September 5th, just three days after her big sister's birthday. And I am secretly hoping that they will share a birthday.

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As cliche as it may sound, God's timing amazes me. In the thick of the wait I would not have said that. I probably would have cried if someone said it to me. But nevertheless, I cannot believe I've made it this far in a pregnancy. I used to ache as I wondered if I'd ever get to wear maternity clothes and have a cute little bump or if I'd ever have an adorable profile shot of my child in an ultrasound. It still feels so surreal to me.

I've always loved the name Ella. Once we found out we were expecting a girl I knew that was the name I wanted to use but we could not think of a middle name we liked. I never in a million years would've guessed I'd use the name 'Brooke' but it just fits. Ella means 'light' and Brooke means 'God's promise.' To me, she is the light of God's promise.

I haven't blogged for months and I hope this post serves to encourage because I know how devastating a pregnancy announcement can feel. Goodness do I know. But I pray that for each momma reading this today who finds herself still in the wait, that she would recognize God's faithfulness in my story and claim His faithfulness over her own life and story. He is good. And He does good.

 

Psalm 30:11

Faith, Miscarriage, Wednesdays In The WordJessica ScheksComment

This is a hard scripture to talk about today. I'm kind of surprised that I included it on my list of verses to talk about this year for this series. But here goes nothing!When I was pregnant for the second time I saw a post on Facebook with this verse and it resonated very deeply with me. I had walked through a season of heartache and was truthfully still grieving the loss of our first child, but I was pregnant with our second and I was rejoicing. This verse described exactly how I felt.

Isaiah 43:1-3

Wednesdays In The Word, Miscarriage, FaithJessica ScheksComment

I love the bold promises in this passage of Isaiah. As I was meditating on this verse this morning and thinking about what I may write about, my mind immediately went to flash floods for some reason. Like the name suggests, flash floods happen really quickly and are super dangerous. They blindside you and take over everything in their path before you even have time to react.

Genesis 39:21

Wednesdays In The Word, Miscarriage, FaithJessica ScheksComment

But the Lord was with Joseph.Those words bring me so much comfort. If you don't know the story of Joseph I'd encourage you to read it because it is one of my favorites. Essentially, Joseph was his father's favorite son and his older brothers were so jealous and full of hatred that they sold him into slavery. Fortunately, Joseph found himself favored by Potiphar, an officer to the Pharaoh of Egypt and he was made overseer of Potiphar's house. Eventually, due to some really unfortunate circumstances at no fault of his own, Joseph wound up in prison and was there for two whole years before being released. Chapter 39 is about Joseph's time in prison.

My Umbrella Box

MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

And the thing is, you can tell each box is infused with love. On her website, Alaina says: 

"This project and ministry is my dream that came from piecing some of the broken places of me back together."

It's quite evident that she spends a lot of time personalizing each item which makes it that much more special.

Psalm 145

Wednesdays In The Word, Faith, MiscarriageJessica Scheks2 Comments

This entire chapter of scripture brought me so much comfort shortly after my first miscarriage. For some reason Psalm 145:16 came to my mind within the first few days after my loss and it brought peace to my aching heart. A few months before my miscarriage, and about a month before I found out I was pregnant, I was visiting my best friend Julie down in Springville, Alabama. I was sitting next to her in church...

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Miscarriage, Faith, Wednesdays In The WordJessica ScheksComment

The Father of mercies and the God of ALL comfort. That amazes me and convicts me all at once. How many places do I go every single day looking for comfort, even if just for a moment, that are not the Lord? Sometimes I go to my coffee or a dessert, sometimes I go to my husband, sometimes I go to Netflix, sometimes I go to Marshall's, sometimes I vent to a friend. But if I would just go to God and seek His face, I would be surrounded by His comfort. We make it so complicated; we allow ourself to wallow in sadness sometimes because we seek comfort in all the wrong places.

The Privilege of Heartbreak

Jessica ScheksComment

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the privilege of heartbreak. It sounds impossible, but not when God is involved. I truly believe that the deeper the pain we experience, the deeper we get to experience God. He enters into our pain as He comforts us, heals us, strengthens us, and grieves with us and it allows us to get to know Him in a deep and intimate way.

Isaiah 25:4

Wednesdays In The Word, Miscarriage, FaithJessica ScheksComment

Isaiah 25:4 covers it all; we are reminded that He is our strength when we are poor, in need of something, or in distress, He is our refuge from the storms of life, He is our shadow that we have the privilege of abiding in when the heat of a trial becomes too much for us to bear, and He protects us like a wall protects a city during a storm. Nothing enters into our lives that He has not allowed to pass.

Psalm 61:2

Faith, Miscarriage, Wednesdays In The WordJessica ScheksComment

No matter how far away He feels, He's ever so near, working on me and my story. No matter where I go, no matter how hopeless it seems, or how far away from God I feel, I will keep crying unto Him... When your heart is overwhelmed, cry out to God. He is so, so faithful to meet us in our moments of despair. In the middle of our mess, He enters in with peace, sits with us through the night, and helps us move forward in hope to the breaking of the dawn.

Psalm 139:7-10

Faith, MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

As I've said before, while I was pregnant with our second child I was so fearful. I had already had one miscarriage and I could not fathom going through another. I often told the Lord that I'd rather die because I figured I would anyways as a result of another heartbreak. I truly felt like I could not handle it. As I entered into what would be the last week of my pregnancy, I began experiencing some scary symptoms and dread consumed me. 

The Depth of Heartbreak

Faith, MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

Recently Michael and I were invited to our friend's house for dinner. All week long I was so excited! I couldn't wait to get through the week and hang out with our friends.  

Then the day arrived and as each hour passed I grew more and more anxious. My mind was flooded with so many what-ifs. There was another couple invited as well and we are really good friends with both couples. The women are some of my very best friends! So why in the world was I so anxious?

Genesis 22

Wednesdays In The Word, MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

After my first miscarriage I read Angie Smith's book I Will Carry You and it was so comforting to me. Angie lost her daughter, Audrey Caroline, after carrying her to full term. At around 20 weeks pregnant Angie and her husband were told that their daughter had a diagnosis that was "incompatible with life." They chose to carry their little girl instead of terminating the pregnancy like doctors suggested and so many beautiful things have been born out of Audrey's life despite so much heartbreak.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Wednesdays In The Word, MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

Isaiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it contains so many promises that I cling to. I still remember the first time I heard this verse and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I was listening to a Bible study online and when the pastor spoke about this verse I fell in love with it. At the time I wasn't even experiencing extreme heartache or suffering, but these verses spoke to me even then.

He Is Faithful

Faith, MiscarriageJessica ScheksComment

Someone recently told me that she admired how deeply my two miscarriages have affected me. That was such a refreshing thing to hear because I often feel unworthy to even feel so much grief over what society calls "blobs of tissue." But she reminded me that my grief was my own and if I feel this way in my heart, then I need to allow myself to feel this way without guilt.