I’m making this Facebook official.

I’m really going to do it this time.

I’m deleting my Facebook, and I’d like to share my reasons with you.

  1. Edmund

People keep telling me that I’ll blink and Edmund is going to be a year older. I cannot believe how true this is. It seems like just yesterday I was bringing this little boy home from the hospital and now he’s already seven months old. I don’t know how it happened so fast. While I have seen so much good come from being a part of Facebook I feel that I may be missing things with Edmund by continuing to be a part of it. After I lost Levi I began posting articles about miscarriage and grief and sharing my life’s trials on this blog. Facebook became a mission field to me. I wanted to share that miscarriage is common and painful. I wanted this awful experience that 1 in 4 women face to be talked about openly because it is a real grief. I started receiving messages from several women telling me that they too had gone through a miscarriage. It was a wonderful thing to be connecting to other women even if the circumstances of the connection were painful. Levi gave me a good reason to stay on Facebook and Edmund has given me a good reason to leave it.. Even ten seconds of scrolling through my newsfeed is ten seconds that I lost with my son. I know I’m not going to be able to witness every second of Edmund’s life, but often times after scrolling my newsfeed for twenty seconds, reading three status updates and clicking ‘like’ four times I’m left thinking, “Am I really present? Am I fully here in this moment with my son?” I just can’t be faced with that anymore. I look at him and I just don’t want to miss anything. Levi was a reason for staying; Edmund is a reason for leaving.

  1. Time

This season that I am in is crazy. At the end of the day I often feel like I’ve gone nonstop, but I always seem to have time for Facebook. Even scrolling through the newsfeed for a few seconds is a lot when you really add it all up in a day. I could be using this time to spend with the Lord, with friends and family or just having time for myself. Time is precious…especially right now and I need to be using this time I have for more than scrolling through my newsfeed.

  1. Addiction

Okay, this reason has left me extremely embarrassed. I’m addicted to Facebook. I am. I cannot tell you how many times a day I check Facebook. Most days Facebook is the first thing I do after checking the time on my phone in the morning. It has been this way for years. It’s a problem and I need to cut it off entirely. The moment that I told myself that I was actually going to do this I felt so much freedom. It felt like a weight had been lifted for a few seconds thinking about no longer using Facebook. And then the excuses came flooding in and this time I held on to the freeing feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I have had many days after making this decision that I’ve wanted to back out. This really isn’t easy for me and I think that is all the more reason to cut myself off from the Facebook world.

Facebookofficial

Yeah. This picture was definitely staged.

These reasons and many more are what is taking me away from the Facebook world. I won’t lie to you and say that I am not feeling a little anxious about this. I am. I am worried about how hard this is going to be for me, but I know deep down this is good. This is what I am supposed to do. Please pray for me. Please check in with me as I transition myself out. It may take some time to completely disconnect myself because of the many years of information that I need to collect before hitting the actual delete button, but as of January 1, 2016 I’m done scrolling, updating my status, posting, and clicking ‘like’.

I want to stay in touch with many of you. Facebook has provided a way of knowing what is going on in a person’s life. From engagements and birthdays to what’s for dinner that night my newsfeed is filled with the big and little events in my 407 Facebook friends’ lives. I still would like to stay in connected with you so please send me an e-mail or text with a way to contact you as I will still be checking my Facebook messages from time to time before I leave Facebook completely.

Goodbye, Facebook. It’s been real-ish.

-Ashley

Someone is Always Missing

There will always be someone missing. A person will always be missing from our table, holiday gatherings and our day to day activities. Our family photographs should include one more.

Almost two years ago Mike and I attended the annual Christmas tree lighting with a secret. I had just surprised him with big news by telling him that there would be three of us attending next year. We would be picking out our tree together. The three of us.

 And now two years later we will be standing in the park, one of us holding our six month old baby boy; looking like a family of three, but we are missing one. We will always be missing someone.

The last few days my heart has been brimming with excitement for this day while still feeling a deep ache. This is one of my favorite family traditions. It meant something different after that day I found out I was pregnant with her two years ago. It meant something different after losing her and then it meant something different when I found out I was pregnant with her brother.  And it means something different today. Today we walk to the big tree in Cook Park as three. The three of us, but a family of four.  Someone will always be missing from our dinner table and holiday gatherings. There will always be someone missing, but we carry her forever in our hearts. She will never be missing there.

Levi's ornament

We love you, Levi. We remember you forever and ever.

 

 

Dear Postpartum Self

Dear Postpartum Self,

It’s going to be okay. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but things will get easier. You probably want to scream at me for saying that, but I just have to tell you that things will be okay. It really will get easier.

You probably are still in bed, wearing only your robe because why even put clothes on when it seems like Edmund wants to nurse every ten minutes? And we both know that nursing these days doesn’t look anything like it does in the movies. It’s messy. And it’s hard to keep him balanced. And it hurts. I’m so sorry that it hurts so much. I know the nurses at the hospital kept telling you that it shouldn’t hurt, but it does and it is totally and completely normal for it to hurt right now. It really is. But you know what? It will not hurt like this in the next month or so. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it will be picture perfect or anything, but it will be easier. And don’t roll your eyes at me when I say this, but you will actually grow to treasure nursing.

Looking in the mirror is probably one of the worst parts of your day. Your body is not the same as it was when you were pregnant and it definitely is not the same as it was before you were pregnant. I know you feel like you look like a complete disaster. You are breaking out in postpartum acne and you have a closet full of clothes that don’t fit. You got stretch marks despite applying that cocoa butter on your belly every. single. day. You don’t even feel like you smell the same way you did before. Ash, I know this is so hard for you. You probably won’t feel quite like yourself for a good while now. But you will start fitting back into most of your clothes again.  The acne on your face will start to clear, but it might still be a bit of a rough road ahead. You will smell like yourself again…I’m not sure what that was all about anyways. But the good thing is you smell like yourself, okay? Anyways, you do look different. You do. But those things that mark your body with such unfamiliarity are a result of something so, so good. I’m not trying to tell you to “chin up” and just be happy with it all. I’m really not. I’m just reminding you that the last nine months your body carried the life of your little boy and when he looks up at you he just sees his Mama.

rainy night

You may be on the verge of tears right now. Sad and happy tears seem to come and go at random. Sometimes you just aren’t ready for all these emotions to start spilling out, but they do. It’s okay. There’s so much happening right now. So much change all at once. Please don’t feel guilty for being sad that there isn’t as much time with just you and your husband. I know you wouldn’t change things. You are thankful for this precious gift you have been given. You love your son. Things are just different now and it is okay to grieve the time that was just you and Mike. It is okay to be sad that your attention is split in all sorts of directions and that you are tired.  So, so tired. And that sometimes you just aren’t sure you are doing anything right at all. Listen; please listen to me when I tell you that you are doing just fine. And then there are those happy tears that seem to burst up unexpectedly as you look into the face of that sweet boy. He’s beautiful and he’s growing so fast. Keep taking the time to look at him. These moments of gratitude and awe are the moments that you should take your time with. The laundry and cleaning can wait. Seriously. You just had a baby. Let this be your excuse for why the apartment is a mess. You can use this excuse for a while by the way.

Ashley, these months after having a baby are wonderful, but they can also be really, really rough. They really can be, but please don’t be hard on yourself. You are doing a good job. Hear me when I say that, okay? Don’t just brush it off. You are doing a good job.

Now go watch the rest of season nine of The Office. You are going to go through the whole series one more time before Edmund is even one month old so get comfortable.

With Love,

Me

The Reason for our Grief

Reason [ˈrēzən]

  1. a cause for an action or event.
  1. a sufficient ground of explanation or logical defense.

This is a post I’ve wanted to put together for a long time.

As my wife and I have walked this road of being parents to a child lost in miscarriage, we have had no shortage of sympathy, compassion, and care.  But on occasion we’ve encountered friends that, while sympathetic, don’t ultimately understand the cause of our grief.  For many, the grief of miscarriage is little more than a big disappointment.  At worst, some have gone so far as to suggest that we don’t have real reason to grieve with the intensity that we have.

That is why I wanted to write this post: to show how there is reason to the reason for our grief.  In other words, the cause of our grief has a logical, rational justification.  And there are few cultural scenarios I can imagine in which this justification would be more important.

The reason we grieve is not because we are disappointed that the pregnancy didn’t pan out the way we wanted, though that’s part of it.  The reason isn’t because we wanted a baby right away and were denied it for a time.  The reason we grieve isn’t even just because a human being died, though one did.  The reason we grieve is because that human being was a person.

You may ask, what’s the difference?  Well, in some ways, there isn’t a difference between a human being and a person; at least I don’t believe there should be.  But I make a point of calling Levi a person because of what personhood means.  A person is a being that has innate moral dignity, meaning that their life is valued higher than other species and they possess rights.  We have a moral obligation toward persons by virtue of this innate dignity.  In short, they are set apart; some would say sacred.

To explain it a different way, what is the difference between hunting and murder?  Well, unless we’re playing “the most dangerous game,” we only hunt animals.  Why is that?  In either case, something dies.  Moreover, something is killed.  So what makes hunting any different than murder?

Personhood.

library reason for

Whereas we do not have moral obligations toward animals, at least not in the sense we’re talking about here, we do have moral obligation toward humans.  If someone were to hunt a human being we’d be appalled in a way that ought to eclipse whatever we felt about Cecil the Lion.  It doesn’t even matter if that human was hunted for sport or food.  In fact, I can’t tell which would be worse.  On some intuitive level, we sense that humans are set apart.

Now, I recognize this is vague so far.  Personhood is hard to define, and part of the reason is because it is exactly the definition of personhood that scholars are arguing about.  They recognize that it refers to beings that are owed a particular honor or dignity, but what exactly makes something a person?  Is it some ability they have?  Is it something innate?  Is it achieved?

Well there are a few ideas to that end, but I will only cover the main two here.

First, there is the capacity definition of personhood.  This is the argument maintained by Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, and others.  They would argue that a person is a person when they attain to certain functions, such as a certain level of cognition, the ability to feel pain, the ability to communicate, and so on.  There are different suggestions as to which set of functions constitutes personhood depending on which scholar you are consulting, but ultimately the criteria comes down to observable operations.

Secondly, there is the substantive definition of personhood.  This defines personhood according to the biology of what a thing is.  In other words, something is a person if it is a certain species, in this case human.  If a Christian were articulating the substantive definition, they would say this is because humans have been made in the image of God.  Non-Christian articulations of the same definition have been put forward by men like Patrick Lee (a Christian himself), and are centered around the language of intrinsic value, rather than the image of God.

Now, I reject the capacity definition for a couple reasons.  Firstly, how does one decide the criteria?  It seems that one can offer one set of functions just easily as any other.  There doesn’t seem to be any substantial argument to explain why one criteria is better than any other.  On the same token, I could construct criteria that would confer personhood on a zygote, just as someone else could construct it around a toddler.

Secondly, the criteria tend to be very ill-defined.  Why is one level of cognition insufficient while another is?  Because of the way the argument has to be constructed, any one of us could at any time be excluded as a person by the vagueness of the definitions themselves.  Thirdly, and related, this leaves the definition up to whoever gains enough power to make the decision, in which case personhood could be denied someone because of race, ethnicity, sex, etc.

reason for image

Finally, on the grounds typically put forward, a capacity definition would exclude a number of people groups from personhood on the grounds that they don’t meet the given criteria.  Such groups include: the mentally disabled, the elderly, infants, the comatose, and, in some articulations, the sleeping.  By virtue of this reasoning, euthanasia, eugenics, post-birth abortion, and infanticide can and have all been justified.  Those already vulnerable in human society become even more so.

As for myself, as you may guess, I take the substantive view.  Aside from the fact that this view just seems more common sense, I take it in part because it is streamlined enough to avoid the dangerous pitfalls of the capacity definition.  In other words, biology is not arbitrary.  Additionally, it makes sense given the fact that the DNA structure of a human will remain unchanged, like all organic life, from the moment of conception.  The zygote is, unquestionably, human.  Therefore, given that both sides of the argument mark out humans, of at least most types, to be persons, it seems to me that any criteria additional to biology alone is arbitrarily and unnecessarily exclusive.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the Bible suggests that it is so, not only in Genesis where God confers His image on humanity, but elsewhere, such as in Psalm 139.

reason for 2

So taken together, the weakness of the capacity argument and the simplicity of the substantive argument convince me of the latter.  But what does that mean for our grief?

It means that what Ashley and I grieve is a person, with just as much dignity as any adult, valuable, precious, honorable, and image-bearing.  And that person, lost after 9 brief weeks of life, was our child.  When people diminish the equal personhood, the equal grieve-ability of the unborn, they are diminishing humanity itself.  They are buying into the capacity definition, which would suggest that in order to be grieved a human must meet a certain set of arbitrary criteria.

The question comes down to whether you believe humans are persons.  If they are, then it is not weak to mourn what we never knew except in a blurry, indistinct sonogram.  If they are, then their vulnerability should lead us to give them special honor.  If they are, it seems to me an act of godly and obedient courage to see the horror in the invisible and silent deaths of the miscarried, and yes aborted, children of the world, and to give them the tears they deserve as God’s image bearers lost to sin’s rampant chaos.

-Mike

Much of the research for this post is condensed in Ethics for a Brave New World by the Feinbergs.

This Year

I can’t help but think of the almost one year old I would have crawling around. I imagine her holding her daddy’s fingers for balance as she takes steps around the apartment and using her sweet voice to say, “Mama” as I lift her into my arms. The birthday party planning and the reminiscing about how it seemed like just yesterday she was a newborn.

And I get that knot in my throat when I think of these things. The things that should have…would have been.

I miss her.

Displaying photo.JPG

This year we plan to take that same trip to Kenosha, WI to visit the Kenosha Public Museum, Ashling, and then end our evening walking along the pier just like we did just one year ago. This year we have someone new joining us on the day we remember our Levi. This year we will be taking her baby brother with us as we remember and celebrate what God has done.

This year will be easier in that we do have a baby that we are mothering and fathering. But it’s also that very reason that makes things so hard as we realize all the milestones that we missed with our first child.

As we make that drive back to those familiar places we will be praising God for the work He has done in our suffering and in our joy.

-Ashley

Prayer for Courage

*** Pregnancy Mentioned ***

It’s less than a week until Edmund’s due date and I’m finding myself growing more and more impatient for him to be in my arms. His kicks and punches are some of the highlights of my day, but all I want to do right now is kiss his little face.

Physically this pregnancy has been rather easy, but emotionally …well, I’m not sure I could have been prepared even a little. Fear and I have been in a constant battle. Each day Fear uses something to try to steal joy and fill me with doubts. Fear throws questions and thoughts at me constantly and it takes all of my strength to shut him up. I realize in these moments that I cannot do this alone. I can’t fight this battle without God. But so often I fight on my own. I forget so easily how much I truly need Him.

In this pregnancy, I went in with the knowledge that a positive pregnancy test does not equal a baby being born healthy and alive at the end of nine months. The fear that I may lose this baby too has been playing like a song on repeat since the day I saw that positive pregnancy test back in September. Most days this song doesn’t play quite as loud as before, but there are other days that I just can’t seem to drown it out. Like that day in early October where I bled so much that I almost refused the ultrasound that revealed a little heartbeat at 84 beats per minute. Or just the other day when I was told I tested positive for Strep B and my husband and I foolishly googled this very common bacterial infection only to make our hearts sick with worry. And then there are days where Fear steps in with no announcement at all. I just get scared.

But God has been so good through it all. As I stumble my way back to Him after trying to fight fear on my own He receives me right back. I have to be honest, I am stumbling my way back as I write this very post. I have been trying so hard to fight this constant battle on my own for weeks now. Maybe months. But God continues to be gracious toward me. Even in the little things, like giving me a very active little boy who reassures me with his strong kicks and punches.

I write this post to ask you for prayer. I ask you to pray not only for Edmund’s health and safety before and after delivery, but also that Mike’s and my hearts would be fearless and dependent on God as we near the date.

-Ashley

God is near to the brokenhearted

About two months ago I received an email from my dear friend, Lindsey, asking me to be a part of a guest post series about Motherhood on her blog. Honestly, I was a bit intimated at first, but I was also incredibly honored and excited to have been asked to share a bit of my story and how God has worked in and through my life as a mother.  

 

Please visit Redeeming Naptime to read all of the beautiful and inspiring stories in the With Child series.  

-Ashley

A New Year

We began a new year just over a month ago and ever since the toasts and celebration ended I have felt a strange ache in my heart. Last year, five days after welcoming 2014, we said goodbye to our dear Levi. The hope that maybe she would make it was crushed that day as I heard the doctors in the hospital confirm what I had already known deep, deep down. 2014 was a nightmare of a year. I can honestly say that my heart has never felt so torn and so exhausted. But as 2014 came to a close and this new year began I felt myself grasping at her memory. I didn’t want her to be left behind.

As a mother of two, one living and one in Heaven, I have felt this struggle to be in two different worlds; one of grief and one of joy. As I begin preparing my son’s room and thinking of a future with this little boy and the excitement overwhelms my heart there is this question that flashes through my mind at times: Have you forgotten already?

Have I forgotten my first child? Have I forgotten my daughter, my sweet Levi?  My eyes fill up with tears at the thought of forgetting her…of leaving her behind.

Of course, I have not forgotten. I could never forget her. God has used her life to change me. Because of her I’m not the same person I once was, but still this fear and this ache is left in my heart.

I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are other mommies and daddies who feel this same twinge in their hearts at times.

photo (3)

In the last few weeks God in His goodness and grace has brought about several ways Levi is still remembered. Remembered not only by me, but by my loved ones. And from these kind people I have received tangible things that help me remember and celebrate my sweet girl, whether necklaces or letters or other things. I’ve also been so encouraged by prayers from many people, prayers for comfort and prayers that we would find ways to invite Levi’s memory into this new adventure with her brother. Oh, I cannot express how much it means to me as a mother to have her children remembered.

I am beyond blessed to have such amazing support from friends and family who encourage me and walk with me in this season that I am in, in this in-between place where my heart waits anxiously to hold my son in my arms and at the same time still feels the empty place where Levi should be along with him.

Thank you, sweet friends for your ongoing prayers, support and love for our family of four.

-Ashley

Boy or Girl?

*****pregnancy mentioned*****

Okay, so we have not been very good at making our posts very consistent. We apologize for all the time that has passed and hope that this joyful post makes up for it. On January 8th we woke up with an excited and anxious feeling in our stomachs. On that day we would finally, ten weeks after the last ultrasound (Yes, I’ve been counting!), get to see our baby and possibly find out if we would be expecting a little boy or little girl. But, of course, ultrasound days are always more complicated than that for us.  After losing Levi it’s always hard to keep our anxiety from taking over whenever we go to the doctor’s.  So our plan that day was to busy ourselves till our appointment at 1:20pm.

We decided to go out for breakfast that morning at Egg Harbor Café, take down all of our Christmas decorations and then just try our very hardest to be patient and calm as we waited for the clock to get closer to when we would leave for our long-awaited appointment.  So we had our delicious breakfast, took down lots of decorations and waited.  The snow started falling. We felt anxious. Excited anxious, but also terrified anxious, full of these fearful questions and worries. We just wanted to know our baby was alive and healthy. Fighting that fear is so hard and it upsets me that sometimes fear overshadows the joy that we feel in these special moments. As the clock ticked, we prayed, asking God to fight this fear for us. To allow joy to overshadow fear from now on.

Finally the clock struck 1:00pm and we could finally make our way to the appointment and be done with all this waiting-except not really because there was more waiting to be done in the waiting room. And P.S- waiting with that excited and anxious feeling in your stomach is so, so much harder with a full bladder. Just saying.

Anyways, let’s keep you all from waiting any longer and fast forward a bit. We got into that ultrasound room and finally, after ten weeks, got to see our little one again. So much had changed. The hands, the feet, the arms, the legs. That face. Oh, my heart felt so full. Our ultrasound technician was wonderful as she kept reassuring us that everything was looking just as it should be. That alone was a huge relief.

And then she asked, “So, any guesses?”

My heart started pounding. I said, “Well, I’ve had a lot of dreams about the baby being a girl…”  These dreams had been very frequent and often weird.

The technician and I turned to Mike and he replied, “Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve been looking at a member this whole time.”

The three of us laughed and the technician began nodding her head and said, “Yes. There’s a little boy in there. Are you excited?”

We both exclaimed, “Yes!”

And then the tears started falling as it sunk in.  We are having a little boy. Our little boy.

Our son.

photo (2) -Ashley