Sunday, April 30, 2017

13 Observations to Consider from 13 Reasons Why

Right now the internet is blowing up with all kinds of posts and commentary on the hit Netflix original series titled 13 Reasons Why in which the character Hannah Baker commits suicide and leaves cassette tapes behind with 13 reasons why she made this decision and specific instructions on who needs to listen to them. The most common things I am seeing online are that this show is dangerous, potentially causing teens to commit suicide, and that they should have made it more family friendly if they wanted to raise awareness, rather than alienating a large population of people by the graphic content and vulgarities. Before we go much further, I want to validate the concerns that people have shared in regards to this show as it is jam packed full of vulgar language, sexually charged scenes including rape, physical and verbal violence, and an incredible gory depiction of the act of suicide. There are some who really could experience triggers from the raw and realistic content. This is not at all an advertisement encouraging everyone to watch it and there are some people who probably shouldn't watch it. I simply feel that there are things that we need to consider about this show and we must not turn a blind eye to these issues, as hard as they are to look at. I know this blog post may not be a very popular one, especially among the Christian circles but having lived so much of the content of this show in my own life I feel compelled to share more in depth about my experience watching it. I ask that you read this in full and consider my perception before you bash me in the comments.

Just like Hannah's character in the show I have had less than desirable images of me circulated among my peers, I've been 'slut shamed', experimented sexually with the same sex resulting in rumors, I've been raped, witnessed and participated in criminal activity, I have failed my parents time and time again, as well as attempted suicide on more than one occasion. Unlike Hannah, I failed to complete the task and for that I am eternally grateful. I related to her character in the deepest of ways yet I was not triggered, I felt that the show gave people like me a voice and an accurate portrayal of the pain that has been inflicted and the heavy weight that we carry. Maybe I wasn't triggered the way that others have been because I have experienced healing from my past or maybe its because nothing really shocks me after all that I have lived through. If even hearing about this show causes you to be triggered, I would recommend seeking therapy for those unbearable pains and traumas of your past.

Now I want to share my 13 observations and reasons why I think we need to look past the vulgarities and grit of this series and allow it to change us and the way we look out for others.

1. We are in the world. This does not mean we need to be of it or repeat the content portrayed in this series but the truth is, these things are happening all around us. We cannot simply plug our ears, cover our eyes, and live in a sheltered bubble. Homeschooling our kids and throwing away our televisions will not protect our kids from the terrible things in our world either. The more we can learn about what is happening, the better we can prepare our children to navigate the trials in our fallen world. How can we prevent things that we are not even knowledgeable of? Your teen will most likely find a way to watch this show and if not, they will hear descriptive details about it from other kids. Kids are tech savvy at downloading and removing apps in the blink of an eye, it's not that hard to log into a friend's Netflix account or to watch it on a friends phone at school. Kids can be sneaky, even really good kids with hyper vigilant parents. It's important for the perspective of this show to be delivered from your mouth to their ears. You want your voice to be the dominant one. If you simply say, 'don't watch it' or start listing all the reasons why it's bad show, based on all the fb posts from other people who haven't seen it either, your child is not going to hear you and you will only make them more curious. Consider 'taking one for the team' if you are in good mental health and binge this series, hopefully you will finish it and have some serious discussions with your teen before they form their own opinions based on watching it without your knowledge.

2. We need to know the warning signs. How do you know what to look for if you haven't been made aware? This series did an amazing job at accurately portraying the escalation process that leads to suicide. As the saying goes, 'Would you rather learn in the sanctuary or in the storm?' Although the language and actions in this series are anything but what you would find in a spiritual sanctuary, I think for the sake of our teens and loved ones that it is better to learn from a fictional series than to miss the signs and go through the real life storm at home. Although this is a fictional series, many people are living an identical reality every day so we can't simply discount the lessons portrayed in this show.

3. Rape happens everyday and many women don't even recognize it as rape. I've been raped by at least five 'men', I have no doubt that there are still experiences that I have blocked out or do not remember. None of these sexual assaults were violent. They never left bruises, never held me down, I never said no. The guilt and shame that I lived with for years stemmed from my lack of understanding about what consent really looks like and how rape affects women at the core of their being. Can you be raped by a boyfriend that you have consented to in the past? YES. Can you be raped by a spouse? YES. Can you be raped by a guy that you actually really want to have sex with but find that you were never given the chance to consent before the rape occurred? YES! Rape is not always violent and aggressive and actually involves people you know, love, and care for more often than it does a stranger. How do we know these things if they are not talked about? The scenes that depicted rape in this show were hard to watch, this is no reason to turn a blind eye to the reality that so many woman experience each day. If only we would shed more light on rape, especially non violent rape, then maybe more women would come forward in strength and courage and fight for justice and to prevent their rapist from harming one more woman! How can we advocate for this is we are unwilling to first be made uncomfortable in efforts to better learn about it?

4. Kids don't always show us what lingers below the surface of their demeanor, even when we ask the right questions. This series shows quite an accurate portrayal of what teens may experience even in the most wholesome home environments. Teens who have kind, supportive, loving, and attentive parents can still be at high risk for suicide. As Hannah's character shows us, teens want us to dig deeper. They want us to catch them and uncover the things they're involved with which are harmful to them. They want us to find out about secret relationships and abusive friends, they want us to run and chase after them and not settle for the default answer of 'I'm fine'. Although it is unrealistic for them to expect us to be mind readers, if only we would be more aware of what they are facing, then we would have a head start on investigating their secret places and be more knowledgeable of the open ended questions to ask them. If we don't know about the slang terms, popular apps used to sneak around online, or common trends regarding drugs, alcohol, and sexual exploitation, we won't know what to warn them about or how to protect them.

5. We need to teach our kids how to identify and report criminal activity. In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah witnesses the rape of her unconscious friend. Later on she is with a friend who ends up hitting a stop sign and fleeing the scene, as a result there was a fatal accident at the intersection. She was also the victim of sexual exploitation and bullying via a cellphone image being circulated. Although you could tell she wanted to do something about these issues, she just didn't know how. Had her parents ever taken the time to discuss what to do if she were to ever witness or fall victim to these things? Maybe her parents never entertained the idea that their daughter would ever be in an environment or situation to be exposed to such things, after all they raised her well and sheltered her. Same goes to us as parents. Do we share current events that involve teens with our own kids? Do we take the time to discuss scenarios and role play problem solving tactics? How will we even know that particular types of problems exist in this generation of youth if we close our eyes and plug our ears because the F word is so offensive? Yes, we need to desire purity and wholesome talk in our lives, we need to be cautious of what we expose our hearts to, but I also say AT WHAT COST? If we know its happening, even to the kids in our church youth groups, even to children of spiritual leaders, then maybe we ought to absorb a few F bombs on behalf of awareness. Talk to your kids, role play, and present scenarios. These conversations need to take place and this show gives some extremely sobering reasons why. Our kids may roll their eyes or blow us off but they do hear our words and if we are willing to have these conversations before a crisis happens, they are more likely to come to us if and when they need help.

6. Our kids need us to see and hear them, especially when they are doing a good job of being invisible and quiet. Are we so absorbed in our own problems that our kids don't want to burden us? I know I have been guilty of this and it took some very scary things happening to one of my children to open my eyes back up so I share this info from a position of regret and experience. With that, this show gives us a unique insight into the teens perspective of having parents who are too busy or stressed out. These are good parents but they have responsibilities. If Hannah had gone to her parents with her serious issues, I have no doubt that they would have stopped the world from spinning just to show her they cared. They would have been attentive and taken the proper course of action to protect their daughter but she didn't go to them because they were so stressed about their own stuff. As a recommendation it's best not to discuss financial concerns or marital problems in front of the kids. Take time each day to check in, share the positive things going on in your family from the adult perspective, invite them into your world in ways that their teen mind can grasp. Celebrate the positive milestones as a family and if you have to tighten your belt a little due to a low pay period or an unexpected expense like needing new tires don't complain about it in front of your kids. We can often see the tangible things we worry about like bills and job security as more important than whether or not our teens have a date to the dance or if passed a test. Their brains function on a different maturity level and their problems may seem small or frivolous to us, but to them their issues are astronomical. We can't compare the size or importance of our kids issues versus our own, we just need to be available to them and they won't come to us if they feel as though their burden will be what causes us to sink in our own waterlogged ship. This does not mean that we hide our problems or pretend that all is well, its just an encouragement to be real with them in age appropriate ways and allow their maturity level to catch up before we reveal too much of our own problems. We need to be their safe and stable place. For Christian parents, we can take this a step further to show them who our true Rock is. We need Jesus and He is our source of reassurance and strength. May we never be too busy or consumed to be the first source of stability for our overwhelmed kids and may we eventually transition them to seeking Christ first as He is the ultimate problem solver.

7. If we don't know what kids are doing, how will we know what to protect them from? This series exposes many awful things that are taking place right under the noses of involved adults. This show depicted many teen characters as having involved parents and teachers. They still missed things as we are likely to miss them as well if we don't know what to look for. Teens today have the ability to capture digital images and send them out within seconds. This means that our kids can also receive unwanted and unsolicited images, potentially even child pornography. They can even delete those images but I promise you, they will stay on your phone and if any further investigation is done, those images can be uncovered and your child can be charged with child porn. Us parents NEED to know this stuff and educate our children on how to proceed if they receive an image on their phone. Kids can also download apps and remove them within seconds, we need to know what's out there and randomly check their devices. Digital bullying allows faceless accusers and this creates temptation to participate in behavior that is typically out of our children's normal character. Photo shop and snapping pics at odd angles can allow for innocent images to be tweaked to look like inappropriate content. So many kids are gaining more access to drugs and alcohol and with more and more families having two working parents, there is often less supervision at home. I am not against two working parents, my husband and I both work and we are so blessed to have a work from home option for most of what we do but not all parents have that option.

We also need to provide accountability and a way out. Every time we drop our kids off, we need to ensure that they have the means to contact us in the event that they need us to pick them back up. We need to develop code words so they can ask for help without provoking other kids to tease them. Also, we need to do a better job at following up with our kids and providing accountability. My daughter recently had a friend stay the night and she said that her friend was going to pick her up at my house to take her home and that her dad was okay with it. I told her that I needed confirmation from her dad that it was okay and shortly after I got a text saying that it was her dad and that it was okay for her to get a ride home from her friend. I didn't accept that, I called the number and verified that it was really her dad. I would never want to send someone else's child out of my door and assume that the parents were really okay with it only to find out that they were not and heaven forbid an accident occur. We NEED to know where our kids are at, who they are with, and what they have access to. Even then they can still find ways to sneak around and make poor decisions that can snowball out of control way too fast. We must remain vigilant, aware, and informed. This show did an excellent job of covering what our current youth are facing, may we be willing to be educated and may we strive to find ways to allow them the freedom they need to grow into their own person while preserving their innocence and protecting them from harm.

8. When we see the end result of missing the signs without actual real life consequences then we are more likely to prevent those things in real life. We must not take these education opportunities for granted, even when they are hard to hear and see. I love the saying 'experience is the best teacher, if you can afford the tuition.' In this series, the experiences are tragic and the tuition is fatal. The characters are played by actors, no one was raped, or committed suicide in the making of this show but what this show depicts is very real. Being a fictional show does not discount the awareness it spreads. As I stated above, I have lived the reality that this show depicts and actually even worse, and the only part in the show that I found to be slightly off as far as accuracy goes was the mom's reaction to finding her dead daughter in the tub. You see, I found my mom's dead body in a bathtub, I have reacted to such an awful discovery in real life. To critique her performance, I would have have gone one of two ways. Either a much more frozen, can't move or speak, shock or a more hysterical frantic reach in and pull her out kind of thing. For me, it was the second, although my mom was fully submerged under the water unlike how Hannah Baker was depicted with her head and shoulders still upright. Other than that, this show was spot on, nailed it, accurate. We can experience these things vicariously through the show without the tangible consequences lived out in our lives. We can gain the insight into all parties involved, the victim, the peers, the predators, the parents, the teachers. We don't have to go through it ourselves to glean the wisdom we will need or to see the red flags that we so desperately need to keep our eyes peeled for. When we shy away from this show for the sheer reason of language and content, we are casting aside one of the greatest 'text books' offered today in regards to being educated on the issues plaguing our youth.

9. We need to be more invested in knowing who our kids are friends with. Each time during this series when a kids told Hannah's parents that the knew her, they were shocked. They had no idea who her friends were. The show depicted so many events where she was with many of the same kids but her parents never even knew them. We need to be involved. We need to meet their friends. Our kids have a rule that they are not allowed to program anyone's phone number into our household cell phone until we meet them face to face. This creates an urgency for them to introduce their friends to us. If they won't meet us, that should speak for itself of their character and interest in our kids. Before they go to anyone's house, we have to meet their parents. Although I am kind and welcoming, I am blunt. I tell them that they are not allowed on social media profiles and that I do not want any images taken of them. If my oldest wants to take pics with her friends then they can use her camera that does not have the capacity to upload anything to the internet. If the parents or friend acts strange about it then I'm not going to allow my kids to spend much time with them alone, they can hang out at our house all they want, under our rules and supervision, but I am very selective of the environments I send my children into. This show depicts how little Hannah's parents knew about her friendships. Being able to witness the lack of involvement from the outside looking in helps us to be more attentive in our own families before it's too late. We are not control freaks and for everything we say no to, we strive to offer alternatives and our reason for saying no. I give my children plenty of space and I give them freedom to fail in safe environments so that they can learn to pick themselves back up. We give more room until we see warning signs then we pull back in and have some deeper talks, we've got to implement balance and stay involved.

10. The chain reaction of the events in this show can be fatal when combined. We may be doing many of the things on this list quite thoroughly and well, but if we are not aware of the signs of some of these things, then when combined we could have a way bigger mess on our hands than we can realize and address before it's spiraled too far out of control. It's not just the seemingly inappropriate image being circulated and she knows the truth, what he said happened, didn't. If it was just the one rumor, you can overcome that. If your best friends ditch you, you can find new ones, it's not that big of a deal, after all you are a likable person and they are the ones missing out on your friendship. If it were just witnessing a couple of crimes take place and you had an open dialogue established with your parents, you will probably feel safe to open up to them and feel protected when coming forward with information, especially if they already knew where you were, and with whom you were with. Keeping a few secrets now and then doesn't necessarily drive anyone to suicide so those things alone can be dealt with in time. Rape is awful, it is violating, traumatic, demeaning, and sometimes paralyzing but if you have a solid support group you are more likely to move forward into healing then to give up in despair. When a counselor just can't read between the lines and make you feel heard, you move on to someone else. But when you have no one else because of the series of events that have unfolded, like in Hannah's life, then you just can't take one more thing. It was the combination of all of these issues that left her feeling void. Watching these events unfold offers unique insight into compounding issues. It's not just this or that, its the combination that creates the perfect storm. What is the cost of choosing not to see the realistic portrayal of what the perfect storm looks like? It's not always obvious, it's often very quiet, discreet, masked over, and then BAM it's too late.

11. Some people will never change, regardless of how they negatively impact your life. This show does a good job of following the reactions of those that Hannah listed as her reasons for killing herself. It really exposes why we shouldn't make impulsive decisions based on other people and what they happen to be like at the time we make said decisions. Some kids had genuine remorse, they wish they would have been kinder or made better choices. They didn't see their negative impact until it was too late. They couldn't go back and make it right but they were driven forward to do better. The producers did a great job of showing that the teens who fell into this category did so on their own, not only because of Hannah's death but because they were already in the process of making changes before she died, therefore not justifying tragedy for positive change but showing the reality that if only we held out longer, the people who have hurt us may just come around and make things right. They also focus on another set of peers. These ones really have no remorse for their actions that led to Hannah's decision to take her own life, they only care about no one else finding out so they don't have consequences. If her goal was to make them pay or get them back, it didn't work and that is a message that our teens need to hear. Some people will be jerks no matter what, may we not be consumed to the point of our own suicide with wanting them to change and may we not sink to their level in efforts to pay them back. The series also depicts another scenario, the domino effect. When remorse and grief hit so hard, some may feel so bad for what they have done and they can't apologize to a dead person, therefore they may also attempt suicide and that is exactly what happens with another character in the show. Had Hannah stuck around longer and this other teen been allowed to go to her and ask forgiveness and make amends there could have been healing and restoration but that was denied and its a brutal load to carry and this show revealed what that looks like. At the very end of the series it also alludes to yet another teen who is stock piling weapons and ammo, my guess is that he intends to go after the bullies at school. Because of what Hannah shared about him doing in her tapes, he started being bullied, rather than harm himself, the show leaves us feeling as though he will take it out on them which is still not the solution. Once again depicting that when we have a 'pay back' mentality and we remove the option for healing, forgiveness, and even criminal prosecution of those who harmed us, we are the ones who pay the price, not them. I don't understand how this message is being confused as to condoning or promoting suicide when it was made so very clear.

12. This show is all about perception. Just like a car accident on a street corner. There are so many witnesses and they saw it happen from a different angle and perspective, so will we all see this show.  My perception of this show, through the lens of surviving the nearly identical experiences that Hannah went through, is that this is a show about awareness. Hannah poured her heart out to someone who hurt her deeply and she watched as he crumpled her letter up and threw it on the ground, only he didn't. It was revealed after her death that he still had the note and it had meant something to him, he felt bad and took her words to heart but it was too late for him to communicate that to her. She was convinced that Clay, a guy who totally loved and respected her, hated her, he didn't, yet she pushed him away because of her perception. At one point Clay is in a conversation with a guy who tells him, 'You know that I'm gay, right?'. Clay had no idea. Clay was dense, he didn't pick up on things so here was Hannah hoping at all costs that Clay would pick up on her needs, he didn't. That wasn't his fault or anything but she followed her own deceptive feelings rather than waiting around for the truth to emerge or being very direct in expressing her needs. Perception is an awful thing at times and it's honestly hard for me to see how people don't see the clear messages in this series, even the producers commentary lined up with the exact things I perceived as I watched it. I was able to see what they intended to present yet so many are not. My husband said that its because I have live it so I see differently, I responded by telling him that we can all see it without living it if only we can choose to see through the vulgarity. I'm sure that many people will frown on me based on my my opinion and perception of this show. How can a Christian woman, a pastor's wife, support such a controversial, vulgar, and gritty series. I support looking at things from all angles and sharing information based on experience, perception, and facts. My experience, perception, and the fact that these things are legitimately happening all around us is what compels me to speak up about the validity of the message this show is trying to portray. They could have shared it in a different manner but as you will see in my 13th observation and reason, it just wouldn't be the same or fair to the real life victims that these issues address.

13. It is ugly, uncomfortable, and shocking. In a conversation with my husband about this series, he said that they could have made the show without the cussing, the rape scenes, or the graphic suicide scene (he has not seen it FYI). In that moment I felt some righteous anger well up inside of me. This is actually what drove me to write this blog post because I, along with many other survivors out there, NEED people to be more aware. Saying, 'I' really care about what happened to you but when you tell ME how you feel, would you please sugar coat it for ME so that 'I' feel more comfortable and so that MY ears don't have to hear those words and so that 'I' don't have to envision what happened to you because 'I' just don't like how that makes ME feel.' Who is this all about anyways? It has taken me 15 years of healing to develop a healthy filter but back in the day when someone asked me how my mom died, they got the full blown description of how I found her body. They didn't really want to know that but in my traumatized condition, if I started telling the story, I would relive it and couldn't stop the triggering process until I finished it. It wasn't something that I did intentionally to be gruesome or offensive, it was something that I subconsciously did for ME. It made it real for me each time and each time it became more real, a little more healing took place. I'm so sorry if what I lived through is unpleasant to YOU. Pardon me. I don't think people realize how selfish it is to hold the position of requiring victims to alter the realistic events that happened to them into stories that sound better on other peoples ears. I compared this to a children's animation of Jesus' crucifixion to that of the depiction in the Passion of the Christ. The passion of the Christ is straight up gory. A kids animation with a tiny red drop of blood falling is not. It is not healthy for a child to see such graphic imagery, it can literally cause problems in the development of their brain and cause mental health issues. But if an adult only ever watched the kids animation version of the crucifixion, they may be like, 'Well my sin must not be so bad if Jesus got a paper cut for me.' No, when we see Jesus whipped, his flesh torn off with the chunks of glass embedded in the leather straps, the crown hammered into his scalp, and to see him held down as nails are driven through his wrists and feet, it really causes us to take a long hard look at our sin. Even in the movie, his lower region was covered, in real life he wasn't. How humiliating. He did that for us.

If we want to perpetuate the cycle of suicide then we should keep telling people that we can't really handle hearing or seeing what they have been through. I mean if we can't handle hearing about it in accurate descriptions then how are they supposed to LIVE with it? Imagine a small child who has been rescued from sex trafficking being questioned by the police about what happened to them and as the child begins to give descriptions of the crime the officer stops them and says, 'can you use a different word for that private part because that's kind of vulgar sounding' or a doctor examining the child saying, 'I don't want to look between your legs to see the damage that has been incurred through these assaults so just describe your injuries to say that you have an owie where you go pee pee, it just makes me too uncomfortable to see it'. After I watched all 13 episodes in this series I also watched the producers commentary, they were accompanied by the therapists who helped work on this series. In the script for the episode where Hannah was raped, the camera man was directed to zoom in on Hannah's face and leave the camera rolling just a little longer than what was comfortable to see. BINGO. It is so uncomfortable to watch and it should be. It is so uncomfortable to listen to a rape victim describe their experience but who is more uncomfortable, the person who is reliving the nightmare or you who only has to hear it? Can we not bear this burden with them? Can we not lay aside our own comfort for a few moments to share in someone elses experience so that they can spread awareness in a realistic manner?

Over the years I have alienated myself from a lot of people because I don't have much of a filter. I share descriptions and details that are uncomfortable, not intentionally or for the shock value but because it needs to leave my head, I can't keep it all in, its just not healthy. When you have seen what I have and experienced the pain and trauma of the events, such as are depicted in this series, you just can't keep it to yourself. If you do, it will ultimately lead to substance abuse, self harm, promiscuity, and even suicide. Is this where we really want to drive people through our unwillingness to be exposed to a few choice words and some graphic descriptions? I mean we can't just go around telling people to water down their stories for our own comfort. Yes, this series is fiction, it was not based on any one true story but I guarantee you this much, it was the most accurate portrayal of so many people's shared experiences that I have ever seen, it may as well have been some one's true story, it was almost mine. Thankfully it's not mine but I will never turn a blind eye or plug my ears to others.

As I stand on this side of healing, I now work for a non profit founded by Former Planned Parenthood Clinic Director Abby Johnson. The ministry, And Then There Were None Pro-Life Outreach, reaches out to abortion workers in hopes that we can help them transition out of the industry and into hope and healing in Christ. We do this by offering them transitional financial assistance, job search resources, free legal counsel, emotional and spiritual support, and no cost healing retreats where they can open up in a safe environment about their past in a way that promotes healing. You can find more info here. I cannot begin to scratch the surface of the things I have heard, the descriptions of the terrible things that happen to women and children in these clinics and not one time EVER have any of our clients been told that we need them to spare the details to make it more comfortable for us who haven't worked in the industry. Because of the traumatic details I have heard from our clients, who have been allowed a safe place to open up and talk about their experiences, I have actually been mistaken as a former worker by other clients because I am so knowledgeable of the terminology and feelings surrounding having worked in the industry. One of my clients once told me that she was shocked when she realized I hadn't worked in the industry because she could tell that I 'got it', that I knew what she felt. I can never claim to truly understand but I care enough to listen to the raw and authentic experiences that my clients have been through. I quite literally bear their burdens with them and sometimes even recognize random things that most people would ignore as something that would trigger one of my clients. It has made me sensitive to their needs.

This series offers the same thing to us. I didn't have to work in an abortion clinic to understand the needs and traumas of my clients and we don't have to lose our children to suicide to find the warning signs. It is all laid out for us in this series and as a parent, teacher, or anyone who works with youth, I would ask you to consider watching it with the above mentioned observations in mind, so long as you are in good mental health. It is prevention and awareness first and foremost and we can never shed enough light on the topics covered.

If you have made it this far, I appreciate your desire to take in another opinion and perspective on this series. In closing, I want to follow up with a common misconception I am seeing online. Many people keep referring to Hannah as the main character of this series and that teens are tempted to follow her footsteps since she is the focal point, well Hannah is NOT the main character. Clay is and we would all do well if we were a little more like him. Sure, he is a teen, he is dense, doesn't always get things right away and even makes his own foolish decisions but he is ultimately portrayed as a heroic character and that is who the producers are emphasizing as the one to follow after. People are saying that this series glorifies and romanticizes suicide, it doesn't. As I already stated, my mom ended her own life in a bathtub and I found many similarities between my own experience and the depiction of Hannah's suicide and the aftermath to follow. The fact that Hannah's locker had no stickers or personal items inside of it, the fact that she didn't surround herself with rose petals and candles, the fact that she didn't put on the most beautiful dress and do her hair and makeup is the evidence that this was not glorified or romanticized, it was eerily accurate.

I hope that my perspective has helped you better understand what this series was intended to do, raise awareness, and that you will consider stepping into the shoes of someone like myself and the fictional Hannah Baker and be willing to hear our stories shared accurately rather than asking us to leave things out to make you feel more comfortable. Who knows, you may just save a life with all the knowledge you glean.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

141. Is This Really Happening?

Kyle and I had arrived at the hospital around eight the night before, it was now around five or six in the morning. I got a little bit of sleep but it was so hard. I felt like these could be the last moments of ever feeling the life of my child, I didn’t know how long my baby would live once he/she was born and I didn’t want to miss a kick or a hiccup. I was in pretty intense labor by the time I woke up. When the doctor came to check on me I was around 4-5 centimeters. With all the pain I felt, I had expected to be further down the road in my labor than that! I kept asking why it hurt so bad when my water hadn’t yet broken? With the other kids it basically felt like heavy menstrual cramps until my water broke, then it felt like it did now. I just kept telling Kyle that if this is how bad it felt now, I was terrified to have my water break. The nurse asked me if it had already broken. It couldn’t have as my bed was bone dry and they were measuring my urine due to the toxemia. Every time I went to the bathroom it was in a hood, and there were no excess fluids at all, in fact I had way fewer fluids leaving my body than they wanted to begin with.

As the morning progressed we got various phone calls and our closest friends at the time stopped in to see us. We had also asked a friend of ours to take pictures of my whole labor and delivery as I had been inspired by the ministry of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I knew that if our baby was going to die shortly after birth that I would want to capture as much evidence of his/her short lived existence in this world as I could. Even in the hustle and bustle of nurses coming in and out, watching our baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, and experiencing very strong contractions, I still just didn’t feel like I was really going to have a baby. The emotional trauma that I had been stuffing and masking had created a huge sense of denial. I knew I was pregnant, I knew I was in full blown active labor and that I would not walk out of the hospital until I was no longer pregnant but it just didn’t seem real that I was about to give birth to my baby, a baby that was planned, a baby I was not guaranteed to keep. I recall looking at my husband many times over and asking him if it ‘felt real’ yet. Each time he replied, no. I had never sat back and wondered how he was dealing with this whole mess. Not only did he have the same concerns of losing our baby but he had been putting up with me. I was a straight up lunatic by the end of my pregnancy. I had stopped making real meals, cleaning the house, and doing laundry. I basically lived on the internet where I tried so hard to help other women navigate their own hard pregnancies but quite literally could not handle my own. The difference was that abortion was never an option for me like it was for these women so I felt compelled to just stuff my own issues down and fight for the lives of their babies. The whole time I just felt like my life was hanging in limbo until I would find out if my baby would live or die, now it was time and it didn’t seem real yet.

Here we were now, together at the final stretch of this hard season. It was like all the crazy just vanished and we were once again in the safety net of our unbreakable bond in Christ. My contractions picked up even heavier and I kept asking if they were going to break my water. All I had ever known was induced labor. Go to the hospital and have my cervix dilated overnight, then get Pitocin, wait till I was about 4-5 centimeters dilated, have my water broken, writhe in pain, get an epidural and then push my baby out! This time I was in labor before I got to the hospital so the cervadil they gave me was just for good measure and boy did it get me going! The nurse came in and checked me again and I was about 7 centimeters dilated, still no water. Eventually the pain got so bad that I asked for an epidural. When they sat me up it was so hard to sit still and I knew that was the most important thing for me to do. I literally felt like I was sitting on my baby’s head, I even mentioned it a few times. They were able to give me the first spike but didn’t give me the full blown epidural and then they had me lay back. Immediately I told them that I had to push, I had so much pressure and it felt like my baby was about to fly out of me. Sure enough, one peek down below and they said they could see the top of baby’s head. I had gone from a 7 to a 10 in about 20 minutes and part of that time I was sitting up. I really had been sitting on the baby’s head!

Final moments of being monitored before hard labor began

Our friends were still visiting and she had a video camera so we asked if she wanted to stay in the room with us and video tape. She was more than happy to do so and was blessed that we would ask her to. They didn’t even have time to start taking my bed apart, this baby was ready to make his/her grand appearance. I was so overcome with unknowns in that moment. Outwardly I was very composed but inside I was throwing a tantrum. Not yet, I wasn’t ready. It happened too quickly, if my baby did have trisomy 18 the clock was now ticking and from what I read at the time I may only have a two-hour window. That wasn’t enough time, I wasn’t ready to find out. One last time, I looked up at my husband as he held my hand and I asked him if it seemed real to him yet and one last time he told me, no. We didn’t have a choice, it was time, it was real and with just four pushes we welcomed our little girl Tabitha Jael into the world.

Because of my anxiety level and how much time I had prepared myself to let go, I paid particular close attention to everyone around me. I didn’t know if she would be alive when she came out so I just kept watching the faces of the doctor and nurses for any kind of signs or reactions. It didn’t take long to notice that something wasn’t right. They were not handing her up to me, they were not smiling or excited, and they were speaking to each other in very hushed tones and scurrying about the room. In that moment I just bluntly spoke up and looked at the doctor and told him that I knew my baby had a fairly high risk for a fatal birth defect, and that if something was wrong that I needed to know. I told him that I had spent months preparing myself for loss and that I promised not to get all crazy but that I just wanted to hear what was happening so I wouldn’t be shocked. I could handle a play by play account of what they were doing and in fact I needed that if they wanted me to be calm, I could take it. He just kind of looked at me with a head tilt and wide eyes and the nurses paused and looked at him. He gave them a slight nod, then the room really began to bustle as there was no more trying to hide their concerns. He quickly explained to me, as I watched my daughter turn a deep purple color, that she was not breathing and they were going to attempt to resuscitate her. I looked to my husband and we just stared at each other waiting to hear that our baby was dead. It was time, this is what I had prepared for, I knew this was a possibility and now it was happening. I don’t even know if I said a single word but I just sat there watching them move her around and do what they needed to do as they tried to get her to breathe.

It's a little hard to see in this light but if you look close you can see how dark her skin was before she started breathing

This was right after she started crying when they handed her to me, you can still see how purple her skin was

Fun Fact:
We got married 11 months after we became an official couple, were married on 11/11 at 11:11am, got pregnant 11 months later, she was born 11 days before her due date, and her head and chest both measured 11cm...
If you guessed that our favorite number is 11 you would be correct!

After a few minutes of their efforts I head the most beautiful sound, my daughter crying. My sweet Tabitha Jael. They had been able to revive her. Her color returned quickly after they brought her over to me so I could hold and kiss her. I still had no idea what we were facing but I was so grateful to hold my warm baby against my chest. The doctor sat there flipping through my chart, reading all the notes in regards to the trisomy 18 suspicions. Once things calmed down a bit he asked us more questions and ordered some tests. Everything came back looking clear. They had no further reasons to suspect trisomy 18 although they didn’t do a scan of her brain to see if the cyst was still there. At first he sat there explaining things in a professional and medical tone but after a few minutes it turned into a casual conversation. We were able to share our faith, the ups and downs of my pregnancy, and how we were able to overcome and hold onto hope even on or after the ugliest days of unknowns. He just sat there perplexed and asked if he could hold Tabitha. As he sat there holding our daughter his eyes welled with tears and he told us that he had doubted God so many times, that he wasn’t even sure about what he believed but that he could not deny the miracle he had just witnessed through seeing her odds at life, watching her nearly die, and then seeing her thrive. He was moved to awe as he sat there staring into our little girl’s face. He even told us that he would remember her story to share with other patients who have similar suspicions for birth defects, I couldn’t help but feel like my daughter’s short little life had already been used by God to save many lives and I had no doubt that this doctor would share her story and help save more. I couldn’t believe that she was finally in my arms and that we were so fortunate to not have to say goodbye. We had a few visitors pop in here and there and our friend brought the kids to the hospital so they could meet their new sister. It was all so surreal and the day passed so fast.

The doctor gazing at her in awe

Our first family photo

This was one of the shots that I had wanted most in the event that we would lose her

Even though all of the tests they did came back clear I still had twinges of paranoia running through my mind. What if the cyst was still in her brain? It may not be connected to trisomy 18 but what if it’s something else? Can it still hurt her? What if she bumps her head, will it trigger some type of aneurism? I was soaking up every moment I could get with my daughter and I found it very hard to take my eyes off of her. I had done such a good job of preparing to let her go that I didn’t quite know what to do with her now that I didn’t have to say goodbye.

How could we ever take her life into our own hands? We would have missed out on the most amazing gift!

My all time favorite newborn picture of Tabitha

Monday, February 1, 2016

140. The Ugly Stuff That No One Ever Tells You About Themselves

With the cyst still in my baby’s brain it was really hard to remain hopeful and excited. I was at peace and accepted God’s plan, regardless of whether or not we would get to bring our baby home, but the walking it out part was still hard day to day. There were just so many unknowns. With having increased doctor’s appointments my ob/gyn began to grow concerned over the increasing amounts of protein in my urine with the added swelling in my ankles. He decided to have me do a 24 hour test, basically I had to collect every drop of my urine for a full 24 hours to ensure that I wasn’t just having an elevated level at a certain time of day versus a constant presence and risk for preeclampsia. So for the next 24 hours I had to continually add my urine to a jug in my refrigerator, pregnancy can be so glamorous at times!

After the 24 hours had passed I then had to take my sample to the hospital to drop at the lab, they had made this test sound so important and time sensitive so I expected to hear back fairly quick. Nothing in my house suggested that I was just two weeks away from giving birth. No crib or any other baby items laying around. I never hit that nesting phase either. Other than the fact that I could barely touch my toes while sitting down and had random blows to my bladder, spinal cord, and other internal organs, I didn’t really feel pregnant. It was like I was physically pregnant but mentally I had already buried my child. It was the worst feeling ever.

A couple of days passed and I still hadn’t heard back from my doctor about the protein test but my ankles were so swollen that I couldn’t touch my fingers together with both hands around my ankle, there was about an inch gap on each side. My hands were also swollen and it was extremely painful to bend and wiggle my fingers. I was completely miserable and I grew very impatient. While I was making lunch that day just waiting for my phone to ring I ended up having a complete meltdown. I don’t really remember much of what happened other than standing in the kitchen and quite literally screaming bloody murder at my children. I was making them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I remember this because of the jelly stains on my ceiling that took years of scrubbing and several coats of paint to remove. I barely remember the jelly being in my hand one second and then everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE the next. I feel so awful even recalling this memory. My poor kids must have been terrified. I never hurt my children physically but I used to have major issues with screaming and throwing things. I have received so much healing from God as well as sought some really intense therapy to equip myself with the practical tools to deal with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but sadly at the time of my life when this incident occurred, I was still completely unaware that I even had PTSD and the current circumstances of my life were only furthering the damage. All I knew is that now, in the midst of whatever had triggered me, I had a giant mess to clean up and it was all my fault.

I tried to wipe up the bulk of the mess so it wouldn’t get tracked through the house but stopped part way through to call a friend. I knew this day was too big for me to handle so she came and got them from me. I knew I didn’t want to hurt them but I was afraid of what I was capable of if I lost control again. Crying out for help and telling a trusted friend that you had an angry outburst and having them pick your kids up does not make you weak or a bad parent. It actually means that you are a good parent because your children’s safety is more important than your pride. I had not an ounce of pride left by the time I found myself sitting on the floor of an empty house, barely able to use my swollen hands and cleaning up an incredibly sticky mess that I had made in fit of rage.

That night while explaining to my husband what had happened while he was at work I began to freak out again. He kept lovingly telling me that it was okay and that everything would be fine and that I was a good mom. Hearing him call me a good mom after the way I had behaved just made me more angry and self destructive. I was convinced that child protective services would step in and take my kids away, I was certain that my kids would be terrified of me for the rest of their lives, and I actually became very suicidal. I found myself in the bathroom with every bottle of medication lined up. I wanted to make sure that I had enough for a lethal dose before I started ingesting anything. I figured that maybe I would be able to take enough medication to kill myself and that they could just take the baby in an emergency c-section. I began to hyperventilate and get very dizzy and I just continued to spiral down. I didn’t have enough meds to ensure my own demise so I sobbed and sobbed as I stashed it all back away to ensure that I wouldn't get caught. I entertained the idea of filling my tub, like my mom had, but my tub was small and there was no way I could position myself to drown. I entertained so many ways to die. After another sobbing screaming altercation with my husband I went and hid in the laundry room and placed a plastic bag over my head and began to breath in and out as quickly as I could. I wrapped the bottom around my neck as tightly as I could and held it with my hands while choking myself. I got really dizzy super fast and thought for sure that I could ‘get the job done’ before Kyle thought to look for me. I didn’t want to have him find me that way but I didn’t see another way out of the situation I was in. I was really disoriented but I remember feeling his hands on my head as he tore at the bag. I kept my hands around my neck as tightly as I could but he won and got the bag off of my head. He was yelling at me. He had never yelled at me before, it wasn’t in his nature but it scared me.

I barely remember him gently dragging me back over toward the front of the house as I kicked and screamed and flopped like a fish and then I began to hit myself. He did what he had to do to try to get me to stop so I began hitting him. I barely remember my fist striking his face but I will never forget the look of hurt that he had. Not that I was super tough and delivered an abnormally painful blow but more of a hurt like, 'why are you doing this? I love you, please let me help you, I’m on your side!' I wanted to hurt, I wanted the pain that I was feeling inside to be physically manifested so it made sense, I just couldn’t take one more thing. Kyle had to literally grab my arms in a way to restrain me from harming myself and from assaulting him further. He basically had my arms pinned behind my back and his legs wrapped around mine, all the while being very gentle in his movements and being mindful of his strength versus mine. I remember him saying things like, don’t hurt the baby, you are upset now but you will regret it forever if you hurt the baby, calm down, its going to be okay, we’ll get through this. I never wanted to hurt Kyle and I didn’t want to hurt the baby either, I just snapped and didn’t know how to come back down to reality. He could have called the cops on me that night, he could have had me placed in a mental hold and slapped assault charges on me as well. I was completely in the wrong and to this day, I don’t know if he has ever told another living soul about my behavior that night. He has never done anything but love and protect me. Love covers over a multitude of sins and he has covered me so beautifully. I just have the tendency to tattle on myself in ugly transparency because I know that I am not alone in these struggles. There are other women out there going through waves of emotion and grief, combine that with crazy hormones, PTSD and less than ideal circumstances and you have a recipe for a nightmare. That was the first and only time that I ever physically assaulted my husband and because of God’s grace and healing, I can assure you that it will remain the only time. I remember the two of us leaned up against the corner in our bedroom, he still had my arms restrained but I had pretty much broken by that point. I just leaned against him and sobbed uncontrollably until I fell asleep. 

The night before had been so awful but I have no doubts that my husband saved my life. He was right there with me when I woke up and even brought me something to eat. He told me that it was a new day, that yesterday was gone and forgiven. He made me promise that this day would be treated like a clean slate. I had the tendency to be very hard on myself after these types of meltdowns. It was as though I heaped up condemnation on my own head and I never knew how to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. This was one of the worst meltdowns I had ever had so it took every ounce of love from my husband and respect for him as my covering to choose a clean slate for myself. He could clearly see how the stress had taken a toll on me and that I was not holding it together so he wanted to spend the day out of the house and away from ‘responsibilities’ to just give me freedom to put it all out of my head. The kids were dropped off with us late morning and Kyle decided that it would be nice to take them to a movie, I think it was the very first time we had ever taken them to the theater as a whole family. 

We ran a few errands while we waiting for our movie time. While we were out and about I mentioned one more time that I was really frustrated that they treated my protein test like a big deal and it had now been days without hearing anything back. I was used to ‘no news is good news’ but my body wasn’t so reassured, I was in pain and swelling even more. I had no ankles, wrists, or knuckles. I decided to call one more time and ask my doctor what was going on but my call went to the office voicemail. We went to the movie and really enjoyed it, it was fun to see the kids’ faces light up, especially after I had freaked out so badly. They didn’t seem to be scared of me, sadly they were all too familiar with my outbursts so in a sense they were used to it. When the movie reached the peak of its plot and I could tell it was almost over, my phone rang, it was my doctor’s office. I didn’t want to step out of the theater so I just shoved it in my purse and figured I would call back within 10-15 minutes. As we exited the theater I listened to a frantic voicemail from the nurse at the office telling me that I needed to be seen IMMEDIATELY. I called on our way to the office to let her know we were coming in. She profusely apologized and explained to me that my doctor was out of town and the on call doctor didn’t know to be on the lookout for my results. She called the hospital after she got back from lunch to get my results and was told that my protein levels were dangerous and that I was full blown toxic. This had been days earlier! No wonder I was a psychopath, no wonder I felt miserable and could barely move a joint!

They took me straight back once we arrived at the office. The on call doctor came in and his first words were “if we don’t have to do an emergency c-section…’ I was in shock! He then went on to explain that my health and that of my baby was at great risk, that I had toxic levels of protein in my system and that we would need to get the baby out ASAP. He took my blood pressure, checked my cervix and then sent me home to pack my hospital bag and told me to be there within the hour. As soon as we got this info Kyle contacted our friend to pick the kids back up. By the time Kyle was done packing the kids, I had my bag ready to go. Just a week earlier we had picked a name for a boy and a name for a girl. For a boy we decided on Caleb Joshua and for a girl we decided on Tabitha Jael. We didn’t know how long we would get to know our baby or if he/she would ever come home with us but it was time to find out whether we were ready or not. By the time we made our way to the hospital I was already in labor. That cervical check had done the trick. I was having regular and painful contractions from the time we walked out of the office. It was reassuring to see a woman from church come in wearing her nursing scrubs. She had to get my IV started but my body was just so out of whack that she couldn’t find a vein. She had a very distressed countenance as her eyes gazed at the monitors. The on call doctor came in and told her that they needed to prep me for a c-section, the baby’s heart-rate had plummeted two times within 20 minutes and he didn’t want to take a risk. After he turned to walk out I looked at my friend, the nurse, and told her I didn’t want a c-section. She told me that even if I did, I wouldn’t want one from that particular doctor as there had been many cases where his c-section patients did not heal up the way they should have. We began praying, texting our friends and family as well as my friend reached out her hands and prayed with us right on the spot. As soon as we were done praying she said that she had remembered a similar birth where the same thing had happened and the doctor was able to do a certain test to see if the baby was at true risk. It had something to do with the timing of certain things on the monitors, some medical stuff that I will never understand, and that she was going to find him and recommend that before making the final call. She came back in the room and told me that he agreed to give us one more chance but that if the baby’s heart-rate dropped again that I would go in immediately for a c-section.

Things settled down a lot once I was all hooked up. I was having routine contractions so all they did was give me cervidil to get my cervix ready to dilate so I was glad to avoid all the other stuff like pitocin, I hated that stuff in my other inductions. Kyle and I stayed up late that night, he just crawled into my bed with me and held me, we had really been through so much in the last few months and even more so in just the last few days. We went from excited to be meeting our baby to having gentle tears roll down our cheeks. We truly had no idea of what to expect but thankfully the baby's heart-rate was steady. In a matter of hours, we were going to meet our baby and the rest, whether we would get to know this new little person and or bring them home, was all up to God.

Monday, January 25, 2016

139. Let Your Sufferings be a Light to Others

All I had ever known of pregnancy was ‘OOPS’ followed up with a massive overload of rejection, trauma, and being alone. Now I was in a position where I had done everything in the ideal order; met and married a godly man from church, waited till our wedding night, then planned an intentional pregnancy. I was convinced that this would be a dream come true. If I had made it through my first two pregnancies alone and shell shocked, then this pregnancy was supposed to be like a slice of heaven. However, it was rapidly turning into hell on earth.

The first twenty weeks were summed up in this manner; your baby could kill you, you have some rare bacterial infection that could kill your baby, you may be experiencing a miscarriage, by the way your baby may not live to term and if it does it could potentially have the life expectancy of two hours! I couldn’t take much more. My poor family was quickly learning to walk on egg shells around me. Despite the normal hormonal mood swings, I was planning my baby’s funeral and going from cloud nine to doom and gloom from moment to moment. I really did trust God and have my faith firmly grounded in Him but I grew tired and more irritable each time that I had to explain to someone why I was not wanting to have a baby shower or receive gifts until after birth. I did not want to take apart a crib that my baby would never sleep in, I didn’t want to have a pile of diapers that my baby would never wear, and I didn’t want to process what to do with mounds of gifts and clothes that would not be needed in the event that I never got to bring my baby home from the hospital. It was overwhelming to say the least. The fact that so many people wanted to bless me and offer their support was the sweetest thing ever but I don’t think that many people sit back and evaluate what it feels like to be in the shoes of someone who’s baby may pass away. Well-meaning people can often inflict some of the greatest pain because they don’t take the time to empathize, they just think about what will make them feel good and blessing others with nice baby gifts tends to make us feel great. Most people understood when I explained myself but some took offense and acted as though I was rejecting their kindness, that only added more pressure and mixed emotions. Slowly I began to recluse away so I could avoid people all together. I didn’t want to explain my situation one more time, I didn’t want the responsibility of other people’s feelings to deal with, I had more than enough of my own and it took every ounce of will I had in me to not traumatize my family with my roller-coaster of emotions.

Even with the suspected concerns of Trisomy 18 (T18) I continued to go to my regular prenatal visits. Each time my baby had grown and still had a heartbeat so I praised God for that reassurance. Then came time for my glucose test and I failed the first one. I thought I was SO funny when I hysterically laughed and told my doctor to just inform me when I had gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and needed an emergency c-section as my pregnancy was only lacking those elements as far as the bad news went but I wasn’t thinking it was so funny anymore. I had to go in for a second one where you sit there half the day, starving, and get poked with a needle five times for all the blood draws. Just knowing that my baby may not even live made the whole experience that much more frustrating, I really began to empathize with people who felt that abortion was the best option in the case of a poor prenatal diagnosis. Empathizing didn’t mean that I justified or condoned abortion in those cases by any means, I just understood the medical pressure and the emotional strain of going through all this stuff just to say goodbye before you even get to say hello. I chose to utilize these struggles in a way to benefit others and promote LIFE so I shared frequent updates on a pro-life website that I volunteered on. I knew that abortion wasn’t an option and I felt that this experience was giving my voice even further validity in sharing the sanctity of human life. I wasn’t on the outside judging someone in circumstances I knew nothing about, I was right smack in the middle of my own storms and lifting my hands to say that trusting God leaves no room for regrets or ‘what ifs’. By the grace of God I was able to encourage many women through my testimony to give their baby a chance at life. So many women I talked with cancelled their abortion appointments and even more chose to never make one to begin with. Sadly, there were always a few here and there to still went through with it but I vowed in my heart to love them unconditionally and offer support and healing resources even though it was especially hard for me as I had no idea what would happen to my own baby.

Sometimes pro-life people can be very selfish or hurtful when it comes to their efforts to protect babies from abortion. The intent is genuine and pure but the delivery of those messages can be so cruel. There are couples out there who want nothing more than to have children together but no matter how hard they try; they just can’t seem to conceive. The fact that a woman may be abortion minded does not entitle these couples to solicit her in hopes to adopt her baby. Adoption is a beautiful and noble thing, but there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. Telling a post abortive woman that ‘someone would have taken her baby if she didn’t want it’ is not the heart of Christ. Telling an abortion minded woman who hasn’t gone through with a procedure yet that ‘someone else can give her baby a good life if she doesn’t want it’ is also not the heart of Christ. The truth is that she can give her baby a good life, one they both deserve to live together. Deep inside she does want her baby, she just doesn’t feel like she has a choice or that she has what it takes and if she ‘can’t’ keep the baby then she doesn’t want to feel like she is ‘giving up’. A woman in these shoes would be best informed of local resources that can assist her in making a parenting plan and preparing for needed lifestyle changes, she needs to be empowered and loved into a position of confidence and stability. If she still expresses that she is not in a position to parent, that is when she is reaffirmed that she has a protective heart of a mother to want better for her baby than the less ideal circumstances she may have to offer and that if she so chooses to, you could help her make an adoption plan in which she can select a family to parent her child. She can place her baby in the care of another family, not ‘give it up’. The words we use can build up, empower, and speak life, or they can tear down, embarrass, and strip away. No matter what, a post abortive woman should never be told ‘I told you so’ when she expresses regret, even if our tongues have to bleed from biting them so hard.

One of the hardest moments during this stage of my pregnancy was when I opened a package from a friend who lived several states away. It was an adorable outfit with a matching blanket and booties. I had specifically told this friend that I didn’t want her to send me anything for the baby, it was for a girl, which we were not finding out the gender, and her and I had been through a gut wrenching experience early on in my pregnancy. We had both been single moms of two kids from two dads. I had even told her about the pro-life website I volunteered on and she made an account where she often shared her story and encouraged other young women to choose life, telling them that if she could do it, they could too. She also made some beautiful youtube videos that focused on the sanctity of human life and shared them everywhere in hopes to save lives. She called me in near hysterics toward the beginning of my pregnancy telling me that she had just discovered that she was also pregnant, we were due just three days apart. She was freaking out and didn’t know how she would manage three kids on her own. She told me that she had been to a clinic and was scheduled to take a pill to make her not pregnant. I quickly reminded her that abortion by any other name is still abortion and she just kept telling me that taking this pill was different, it wasn’t ‘really’ an abortion, it was just bringing down her period and causing a natural miscarriage. This is the description the clinic had given her. My heart was aching and I felt so hopeless being so far away. I wished I had been close enough to sit her down face to face and remind her not only of the truth but of her own efforts of advocacy that she had put forth to save countless other lives. It was like she had blinders on, she couldn’t see how hypocritical she was being and I just begged and pleaded with her from every angle. Nothing I said made an ounce of difference and she told me that she was going to her appointment the next day and asked if I wanted her to call me after ‘it was done’. I told her that if she decided not to go through with the abortion to call me and that if she decided to take the pill to give me time and allow me to reach out to her when I was emotionally ready to make the call. She was culpable, she knew the cold hard truth about fetal development and when life begins. I loved her dearly but I had to also guard my own heart and I knew I wouldn’t be ready to just jump on the phone with her while I knew her baby was slowly dying inside of her body.

I told her that I would always be there for her but that taking this pill would forever change our relationship. She deserved better, so did her baby. I sent her the videos she had made and links to the amazing words of advice and encouragement that she had sent to other young scared moms, who ended up choosing life due to her support, yet she was willfully walking into the clinic to do what she had begged them not to. It was a lot to take in and absorb. I prayed so hard and fierce that whole morning and had I not lived so many states away, I would have been right outside of that clinic waiting for her to show up so I could beg her one last time to not go through with it. My phone rang that afternoon and it was her number, I was so thankful as I had told her only to call if she hadn’t taken it. I answered my phone and she was crying, she told me that she took the pill and already wish she hadn’t, she didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know either. All I had known back in 2007 was that if you didn’t take the second set of pills that you would be at risk for an infection and could die. I told her to go to the emergency room but they couldn’t do anything for her, they told her the same, that she had to take the second set of pills. I spent the next few days on the phone with her, listening to her cry and go through waves of awful pain. At one point she called me and told me that she had just passed her baby, he/she was in a little yellow liquid filled pouch. She took it out to the father to see if he wanted to see the baby and he just cussed at her and told her to flush it, so she did. She was so broken and filled with regret from the moment she took that pill. She was so convinced that it wasn’t ‘really’ an abortion but the same results played out, she was no longer pregnant and her baby was dead. Today, if I were to encounter a woman in my friend’s situation I can tell her about Abortion Pill Reversal but it wasn’t yet available back then, I felt just as helpless as she did. I felt like I had failed her and her baby. This was the second time that I was pregnant at the same time as someone I cherished dearly in my heart, due just days apart, and both of them chose abortion. One chose a surgical abortion and one chose the RU-486 abortion. It hurt just the same.

Receiving this package of baby clothes in the mail from her was brutal. She had told me how she was so afraid of not being able to afford clothes for her baby, that would be one of the many reasons she told me that she had to abort yet here she was sending me baby clothes. I didn’t want to hurt her or pour salt in a fresh wound so I just absorbed that pain and thanked her. I was in a position where I wasn’t even guaranteed to keep my baby and she willfully chose for her baby to die, but God put it so clearly on my heart that I was never to tell her ‘I told you so’. She was remorseful and broken, she didn’t need me to grind it in further, she just needed support and to have the truth validated in her heart. I was able to connect her with post abortive counseling in her area but she has never quite been the same, neither has our friendship. My love for her has never changed but you can’t drag someone into healing, they have to pursue it and want it and sadly, abortion often kills a part of the woman who makes that choice and there is a part of my friend that has never returned from that clinic.

My stress level was through the roof the night before we went in for my 28 week ultrasound. I knew that even if the cyst wasn’t present that my baby could still have this condition and I knew that if it was present that God could still work a miracle. I remember laying down in bed, all curled up on my side, and enjoying the little movements. I wondered how long I would get to feel them not knowing if my baby would make it to term or not. Then my baby started thrashing around all crazy. I was laying on my side and it felt like a leg was going to protrude through my belly and embed in my mattress. It just stuck down into the mattress side of my belly and pushed so hard, then moved in a steady motion toward my rib cage, it hurt so bad. At least I knew that my baby was super active so it brought some comfort. We made our way into the appointment that day, decided on the fact that if the cyst was there, we would find out if we were having a boy or a girl and if it was gone we would continue to keep the gender a secret. Since the night before when my baby went all crazy my side had been hurting and I couldn’t sit comfortably, I still felt something lodged under my rib cage. When the radiologist put the ultrasound probe on my tummy he immediately zoomed in on the sweetest, pudgiest little face in the world, then we noticed something odd. There was a foot just randomly sticking out above the baby’s head. My heart skipped a beat and I quickly asked him if it was attached to another baby. As he moved the probe around my tummy we could clearly see that there was just one baby but that my baby had managed to pop one leg up over his/her head. My always funny radiologist laughingly informed us that we were having a contortionist. It sure explained the pain and discomfort from the night before and lightened the mood just enough to handle the news that the cyst was still on the baby’s brain. There was no sign that it was a fluke, it was dense and not a fluid pocket, whatever it was, it was there to stay.

Kyle and I looked at each other as if to make the announcement that we wanted to find out the gender so we could get to know our baby in a gender specific way before birth and then at the last minute he said that he wanted to continue to trust God and be surprised. I was kind of mad at him but I had fully surrendered my pregnancy to him as a gift, he got to make all the decisions and he wanted to be surprised. I had also surrendered my pregnancy to God, only He knew if my baby would live or die, after all we could have walked out of our appointment that day and been hit by a semi. We can’t predict everything and we can’t rely on all the 'knowns'. We simply have to walk by faith at times, as hard as it is, and just take things one day at a time. For this day, we knew that we had an even higher chance of losing our baby and we were just going to accept that if that’s what we had to do. We would continue to trust and praise God in the good times and bad.