Counting it ALL Joy

This Sunday will be James’s first birthday. There will be no smash cake, no adorable photo shoot, no big party to celebrate our baby getting another year older. Just reminders of all of the things we missed out on this year. No first laughs, no sleepless nights because he isn’t feeling well, no tummy time or learning to crawl. 

It’s so lonely when normally happy, joyful moments are clouded with a yearning for what you were supposed to have. I had a new niece born this summer and she is so beautiful.  I LOVE when I get to see her and spend time with her. But I so long to be passing along advice to my baby sister about what worked with James when he started teething, or how we got him to sleep through the night the first time. I can’t though, because that was taken away from us.

When we were finally ready to start trying to have another baby, we got two pink lines the very first month! For five days I was so excited. For five days I knocked the dust off the old nursery plans. For five days I started thinking about baby names & holiday plans & how we would tell our family the good news – we were going to announce on Mother’s Day.

Then, after five days, I learned what it was like to lose a baby that I never had a chance to name. I discovered that five days is long enough to become a mom again. Five days is long enough for the grief that comes after to pull you under. Five days matters.

During the eight months between losing James and losing our second baby I can’t count the number of times I said, “I don’t know what it’s like to have a miscarriage.” I encountered so many people who were walking paths of infertility that included devastating miscarriage after miscarriage and I felt so inept to offer support, because I knew that what I had gone through with James was different.

I thought what I had gone through with James was harder than a miscarriage, and in a lot of ways it was. But all of the things that made losing him so much harder, were the same things that allowed us to experience joy even in the sadness. I felt James kick. I heard his strong heartbeat. I held his precious, beautiful little body.

I experienced none of those joys with my second very brief pregnancy. Does that make it easier? Maybe. I don’t think about that baby every single day. I don’t imagine it’s little face when I hold my niece. While I’m incredibly sad about losing it, I have no memories of that baby aside from some mild nausea and two pink lines.

Two losses in such a short time are not fair. I’m still dealing with a lot of anger, but I also appreciate the perspective that our second baby gave me. We have amazing pictures from our time with James that we haven’t shared because it was too hard, but if my miscarriage taught me anything, it was to hold on tight to those memories. Most women who lose their babies don’t get those moments. I want to remember every detail of our precious boy and every minute that God gave us with him.

When James was born I bought a lot of scrapbooking supplies because I was going to put together a baby book that told his story. I wanted something to remember his time with us, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to start working on it until now. With James’s first birthday coming up it is time. I’m looking at pictures again, and it’s bringing back a lot of really tough emotions. It’s also reminding me that we were so lucky to have that time with him. We were so fortunate to have an amazing friend in Amanda Morgan who was willing to come to the hospital at 9pm on a Saturday night and stay until 4:30 in the morning capturing the moments that we will spend the rest of lives trying to never forget.

A lot of you purchased the necklace I designed last year when we were building James’s Memorial Garden. Your support was so overwhelming and we are so grateful to have such a loving community around us. This year I’m hoping to sell just as many James’s Joy Necklaces because 50% of the proceeds will be going to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep in memory of James. This non-profit provides photography services for parents like us who are dealing the their worst nightmare & trying to capture some joy to hold onto.

Several have already responded. If you are one of them thank you so much! If you haven't had the opportunity yet, I would love your help. Maybe you or someone you know needs one of these necklaces as a reminder to count it all JOY. Maybe you could share James’s story on Social Media so your friends and family can know how special our little boy was to so many of us. Maybe you just want to make a direct donation to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in memory of James, I would love that too.

We will celebrate his birthday this weekend. It won’t be a typical first birthday party with a lot of guests and presents and cake. It will simply be time spent in his garden loving on our family. We are still grieving, and probably always will be, but this weekend will be about the Joy he brought into our lives for a season, and the lessons that we learned about faith and family through his short life.

It's going to be an emotional week, thank you in advance for your prayers and all your support.