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Right after Eliana died I was understandably desperate for a baby in my arms. I thought, and cried, and agonized over trying again right away. Some to whom I looked for advice said it would be a huge mistake, that I needed time to heal first. Others, mainly moms who did have another child soon after losing one, said it could be incredibly healing to have another baby as a comfort for the loss. I put it off, and procrastinated, and deliberated so long that I made a decision by default.

I also realized that I would not be able to handle the knowledge that a new baby would only be there because Eliana was not. My hat is off to all the women who handle it beautifully. I just knew that I wouldn’t. In the end, I decided to wait until at least the same amount of time had passed as there was between the other kids. That meant that according to my timeline, I was free to try around August.

Now, five months later, I am still paralyzed in fear over the very idea of it. I want a baby, of course. What I don’t want is the nine months of terror over the possibility of losing it. Knowing that one minute, day, or month of time could mean the difference between a healthy child and one that will die and destroy me with grief leaves me frozen, unable to move forward, and trapped by indecision. What if we pick the wrong moment? So again, I keep putting it off, and sit here wondering how long I can keep this up.

I’m not ancient, but I’m not getting any younger either. I know the chances of birth defects go up the longer I wait, and the chances of conceiving go down. It’s going on two years now since she came and went. Is it possible that another two years could come and go just as quickly and just as babyless because I’m too scared to take the chance?

I don’t know how to do this. I didn’t know how to make it through my grief. I don’t know how to make it through my fear. I don’t know how to make it through a pregnancy without going crazy. And I hate, hate, hate that the only way is to just do it. Here’s me having a conversation with Nike: Them-“Just do it.”  Me-“I can’t. I haven’t planned it out yet, and I can’t predict the outcome. I’d rather not do it, thanks.”

I of all people realize that grief and healing are a lifelong journey, not a destination or a goal. I’m not going to wake up one morning and be “okay” or “ready.” But it sure would be nice to feel a little bit more ready than I do right now. How long would I have to wait though? I’ve already been waiting a long time. Would that feeling of readiness ever actually materialize?

I am scared. I’m just so very scared because I know what it’s like to lose my child. Part of me says to just trust God.

But that’s what I did the last time.

A few posts ago I mentioned my friend who had a tumor removed. The doctors believe they got all of it, and said that the lymph nodes were clean. At the end of the email that was sent out with this update, the person writing it said “Praise His Name for answering prayers.” I’m sure back when I was normal that would have been my first reaction as well. But I’m not “normal” by any means at this point, and any relief or rejoicing I feel is tinged with confusion and jealousy.

In this new reality I live in, I wonder “Why wasn’t Eliana healed?” Don’t get me wrong. Of course I am happy and thankful that my friend’s prognosis is good. But if God is truly in the business of dabbling in our physical world, then why does He heal some, and let others suffer and die? I don’t understand it. I will never understand it. And I suppose the truth is that we are not meant to understand it. People have been brooding over the question of human suffering since the beginning of time, and I doubt that me blogging about it is going to reveal any brilliant insights. Nevertheless, writing is my outlet, so I’ll go ahead and share my thoughts, even if none of us end up with any better answers to the questions as a result.

I am a very….detail-oriented person. I’ll skip the description I usually give, to keep this family-friendly and let you avoid a possible conversation with your child about Freud and his interesting theories. =) Anyway, when naming my children, I go through all sorts of mental gymnastics because I want the name to be perfect. What are the origins, the meanings, the possible nicknames? What does it rhyme with? How does it sound with the other kid’s names? Are the styles and lengths similar? How does it sound with our last name, with possible middle names? Um, yeah, I’m an….I mean detail-oriented. With the first two kid’s names, it was easy, and they fit all my criteria just fine.

Then I got pregnant with our third. I had a hard time finding the perfect name. Nothing seemed just right. I had a list of possibles, and my husband and I went over them repeatedly. I ended up favoring Eliana because of it’s meaning. It didn’t really “fit” with the other girls names, but I felt like I had to have that name. The meaning is “God answered” or “God has answered.” I didn’t know why I had to have that meaning, or what He was going to end up answering. And then for the middle name, we chose to name her after my grandpa’s middle name. He died many years ago.

The other strange thing was that I needed to pray for this baby’s health. I admit I was pretty careless about praying for the other two. I just took it for granted that they were fine. But with this one I had to pray. And I did, daily, for her physical and mental health, and her birth. Nevertheless, I had the feeling through most of my pregnancy that she was going to die. Then I didn’t miscarry, and she wasn’t stillborn, and she didn’t die at birth, so I though I must have been just paranoid.

A month later she gets sick, and then dies. And I am sitting here wondering what in the world this all means. “God answered.”  What am I supposed to do with that? I realize that perhaps early on in grief is not an objective point-of-view to be trying to answer this question, but I have to ask it anyway. Letting my child die was His answer? What awful question was it that I don’t even remember asking, that He decided to answer by taking my baby? Or I could get really superstitious and think that it was bad luck to name her after a dead relative. Maybe I should stick to living family member’s names. Or was it that I jinxed her by saying the words out loud. I should have kept my mouth shut and everything would have been fine. And if God was the one who “told” me that there was something wrong, why not just fix whatever was wrong? I didn’t want a warning. I wanted my baby!

Well, to get back to what this post started out with, I certainly don’t mean to imply that we should not praise God for my friend getting better. Regardless of whether God healed her or she just got lucky, having a thankful attitude about the good things in life is something to strive for. But those are still very hard words for bereaved parents to hear. “Praise His Name for answering prayer.” Why didn’t He answer my prayer? Why does He let die the loved children of good parents, and let live and suffer the unwanted babies of abusers who would never even think to pray for their children in the first place? If babies have to be miscarried or stillborn, why not those who will know only suffering at the hands of their own parents? If He’s merciful, why not let those children escape their awful fate? I just don’t understand.

I know I’ve created here one big, giant ramble with no good conclusion. I wish I had answers. I wish things were different. I think to close I’ll share a quote that a friend sent to me one morning. It seems appropriate here. It was found written on a wall in one of the concentration camps.

“I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining.

I believe in love even when I am alone.

I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Then my friend wrote, “I just thought that if someone in such circumstances had this positive outlook about God we shouldn’t give up.”  And she is right. Rather than give up on God, I choose to admit that some of the pat answers I’ve always believed don’t make sense anymore. God doesn’t make sense anymore. But He’s God. He doesn’t have to. He’d be a pretty lame God if us pitiful little humans could understand everything about Him. If He were that easy to understand, perhaps He wouldn’t be a God worth serving.

Maybe if we here on Earth spent more time trying to do the right thing, than in trying to come up with the right answers, there would be less of this confusing human suffering for us to ponder. Instead of asking why people are suffering, maybe we should ask ourselves what we can do to help them. Maybe the answer to prayer is found in other people’s compassion, and by doing nothing, we are the ones that cause some prayers to seemingly go unanswered. Death is something we’ll always have to deal with. But there is a lot of unnecessary pain in this world that we all have the power to put a stop to. Pick a cause, and go answer someone’s prayer.

I wrote this 3 1/2 months after Eliana died. I realize that I’m probably depressing the heck out of everyone who reads this, but hey, it is a journey of grief, right? Anyway, I guess writing is my way of letting out all of these horrible, dark, depressing feelings. Doing so relieves the pressure a bit, otherwise it just leaks out or explodes at other times. Better let it out in my writing than in my life. Thanks for bearing with me.

This started out as a poem, but I like it better as song lyrics, so I changed it around a bit. This is my first completed song. Now if I could just find someone who writes great music….

What’s Left

by Deanna Parish

I prayed at your bedside

and wept myself dry.

Now I’m left here grieving

and wondering why.

If God’s in control,

then why did you die?

A reason for everything

just feels like a lie.

So what now? What’s left?

Just a shadow of myself

and the agony of your death.

What now? What’s left?

A lifetime of pain spent waiting

to take my final breath.

Now I spend my days

just wanting you here

and I spend my nights

with your ghost and my tears.

I hate my new self;

full of sorrow and tears.

I hate my new life;

because nothing is clear.

So what now? What’s left?

Just a shadow of myself

and the agony of your death.

What now? What’s left?

A lifetime of pain spent waiting

to take my final breath.

I’m tired of feeling

like there’s no end in sight

of the absence of joy

and the absence of light.

I’m tired of knowing

this will never be made right.

I’m tired of the aching

and I’m tired of the fight.

So what now? What’s left?

Just a shadow of myself

and the agony of your death.

What now? What’s left?

A lifetime of pain spent waiting

to take my final breath.

You’re gone,

so what’s left?

Warning-bitter post ahead:

I can’t begin to tell you how maddening it is when someone comes at me with “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” This inevitably rolls off the tongue of someone who has never lost a child. I’m sure there are some people who have lost a child who truly believe this, but at least they have the good sense not to say it to me less than 2 months after my baby died.

I sit and think on these sorts of comments, made by people who are still whole, and who get to tuck all their children in at night. I have lots of time to think about it, since I don’t have a baby to take care of now. And I wonder why I got to be the lucky one. Oh, boy, thank goodness I’m strong enough that God thought I could handle it if He killed my baby. I guess I should be grateful He had that much confidence in me, right?

Well, who knows. Maybe I am strong enough to handle it. But what about all the people who aren’t? What about the people who become alcoholics in their desperation to numb some of the pain? Or who get addicted to sleeping pills because they can’t sleep at night anymore and are exhausted? Or who take their own lives in a last ditch attempt to escape the unbearable? Or those who go completely crazy and end up in a mental hospital? Or who just never recover from the loss and spend the rest of their lives as empty shells of their former selves? What about them?

Did God make a mistake? Whoops, maybe that person couldn’t handle it after all. Oh well, guess He’ll have to find someone else to snatch a baby from. I mean, does anyone really think about what they are saying before they say it? Has anyone thought out the implications of this phrase they so flippantly toss out at me?

I can already hear the argument coming back. Well, maybe those people weren’t Christians. Maybe their faith was weak. Maybe they were faking it. Fine, maybe that’s true. But if it is, then it invalidates the whole concept. It would mean that He did in fact give them more than they could handle. You would think He would know, being God and all, that those who don’t believe in Him are less able to handle it. Or are all bets off if they’re not Godly enough? For unbelievers it’s random bad luck, but for Christians it’s a test anyone should be honored to take?

People keep telling me how strong I am, that I’m doing such a great job getting through this. I guess if that’s true then I have a lot of work ahead of me. I’d better get started right away trying to make myself weaker so He doesn’t come and take my other kids too. ‘Cause you know He wouldn’t give me more than I could handle.

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