FINDING GRACE

I originally wrote this post as a five part series 5 years ago, around the time I started blogging.  This is the story that starts my journey into motherhood.  This is my story.





It is time.  It has been seven months since the day our lives took a drastic turn and I’m finally ready to let go and tell our story.
Children, I believe, are how I was created to serve and love the God who created me.  There is something about children that bring out an honest side to me.  The real side of me. 
In high school I met and dated my now husband.  I was a sophomore and he was a junior.  We were in Algabra 2 together and he would offer to turn in my homework assignments for me.  I thought he was being flirtatious, so immature me had to crush on him back.  I soon found out that he was being oh-so-kind because he needed my assignments to copy off of. Silly, little immature me. 
However, at the end of the semester, I received an orange note on my desk while taking the final exam asking for my phone number.  I saw him continue to walk to the front of the class towards the teacher’s desk and turn in his test just 15 minutes into it.  As he started walking back with his beak of his black hat covering his eyes, I slyly slipped the bright orange note back into his hand with my home phone number written with pencil in my best and most impressive penmanship.
After three days and an almost Disneyland date for me with another guy, he called and two weeks later we were calling each other “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”.  And two break-ups and 5 years later we wed on a Saturday morning with friends, family, and lots of people we didn’t know {you know how those mothers of the bride and groom are with their first wedding}. 
We eventually settled down in our hometown in the perfect little two bedroom home tucked back by a long private driveway with a gated pool (planned perfectly for preventing wandering kiddos) and a large kitchen that would make any newly married 22 year old wanna-be Susie Homemaker proud. We filled the home with nice furniture, stocked the shelves with nice things, set the table with new dishes and tableware, made the bed with fancy duvets, and stocked the garage with a Toyota Tacoma and Honda Pilot.  We were the classic young American family making our way to our “rightful” place in America’s Middle Class.
My husband was the lead electrical mechanic at a water pump company, while I was the lead instructor at a children’s gym.  We both were active in our church, where we were both employed as the Youth Directors and hosted weekly youth gatherings at our home.  We were settled and ready to start a family. 
Quickly after we decided to start trying for a little one, I woke up in anxiousness to see those two pink lines.  After my husband left for work and I saw his truck pull out of the driveway and turn onto the street to drive away, I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom holding my bladder in hopes this would be the time!  And it was!!! 
I was so excited.  I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and run around the neighborhood waiving the perfectly peed on stick high in the air.  Instead, I made a call to my sister sleeping soundly in Australia.  It was the middle of the night there, but I wanted her to be the first to know.  After I got off the phone, I got dressed and grabbed my purse and headed out the door to purchase little baby items to decorate the house with before my husband got home to surprise him with the news. I was so elated that I locked the door with the keys inside.  I called my husband, but had to be so careful not to spill the secret.  He suggested I climb in the kitchen window using one of our patio chairs.  I thought you have GOT to be kidding me He had no idea our little baby was snuggled safely inside my belly, otherwise I’m sure being a new dad, he would have had other easier suggestions. 
So I crawled and wiggled through the kitchen window.  3 hours later I was home safe with bags of baby bottles and newborn Onesies.  I crafted a sign to hold while he walked through the front door.  I waited the longest 2 hours for him to come home.
            When he walked through the door, he stood there, read the sign and quietly gave me a big hug.  It was the start to the rest of our lives.  Two weeks later I would be sitting on the edge of my bed with the doctor on the other on the other end of the phone reading the results of our first ultrasound, “I’m sorry, we couldn’t find a heartbeat.” 



  

            I never thought it would happen to me.  The possibility never crossed my mind.
            When he said it I went numb.  I just listened to him continue to tell me that chances were I was having a miscarriage.  This term, although so commonly used, seems so empty because to me, I was possibly losing my baby.  He ended the conversation by informing me he had scheduled an internal ultrasound for the next day to confirm results.  I laid my head in my hands and every fiber in my being slumped into the fetal position.  I wept.  I wept and wept.
            I remember pulling into the parking lot of the clinic.  I found a parking spot away from the other vehicles.  I rested my forehead on my hands holding tight to the steering wheel and allowed myself to become so raw with God.  I begged him.  I pleaded with him to let this all be a fluke and a baby would still be thriving inside my womb.  I felt a peace come over me that I was sure was God confirming me that it was all going to be ok.
            I remember the ultrasound being painful.  I asked the technician if that was how it was supposed to be.  She answered very monotone.  She wasn’t comforting.  She seemed lifeless.  I thought, “You are paid to view life or to confirm life and you, yourself, do your job lifeless.”  It was a little too ironic.  I also went to get blood tests that would also confirm results.
            I waited the weekend until Monday in hopes to receive the call informing me of the results like I was told the call would come.  It never came.  Tuesday I called my doctor.  No results yet.  I waited. 
            That Wednesday evening our marriage group was meeting like they do every week, but I called to say we wouldn’t be attending that night because I was struggling with the news I was WAITING to hear.  Instead, I was encouraged to attend so that my husband and I could be prayed over.  We did.  As a group we went to the emergency room where I took another ultrasound.  The group, although it was late at night, called babysitters and decided to stay with us to support us in the news.  {You might be asking yourself why we went to the emergency room.  I was not in pain.  I was not bleeding.  I was uneducated and told that the emergency room could get answers for me quicker and apparently my doctor did not appreciate me going there}.
            After multiple tests, I was sitting on a chair in the ER doctors office, where she showed me my lab results as well as my ultrasound.  I was losing my baby.  The doctor was warm and caring and allowed me time to sit there.  She grabbed my hand and let me cry.  She just sat there silently.  It was what I needed.  I saw my husband walk out to the lobby where our marriage group was waiting.  I saw his head slumped down and them all surrounding him with their arms all wrapped around each other to form one big huddle. 
            That night, my husband and I sat on our bed with our legs crossed and our hands in each others.  We prayed.  We asked God to let this form a purpose.  Let our little one exist for a purpose, even if it was for a few weeks of life.    
            After getting a good lecture from my doctor’s nurse and then doctor about how rude and unnecessary it was to go to the emergency room, I arrived to take a pill that would speed up the miscarriage process.  My doctor was concerned that I would get an infection since it wasn’t happening on its own.  The pain was excruciating.  That night, I went in for a D&C.  The next day, my womb was lifeless and empty. 
            It took a while for that peace that I had found that day in the parking lot to resonate deep in my soul again.  I wondered why I had felt that peace if I was still having a miscarriage.  Summer was coming to an end and I was still trying to understand that peace.
*****
            I was asked to write a skit to perform for our Church’s Women’s Christmas Banquet.  What to write?  My heart was still heavy over the loss of our first baby and the idea to write a skit about it kept coming to my head.  So I sat down and wrote and on that Saturday morning of the banquet, this is what I performed… {video not available}
 I received an overwhelming response of women in attendance about their own experiences of losing a child.  Often my story seemed so small compared to the loss they experienced.  But I knew my loss was not in vain.  I was to be strong for others.  I finally understood that peace.  Everything was going to be OK.  I shared my experience two other times at church functions and the response continued to inspire me. 
            I was ready to take my experience and give it back to a world of hurting.
            Four months after that Christmas performance, my husband and I realized we needed to completely sacrifice ourselves for what we were created to do.  We felt a personal conviction to let go of our selfish desires and the American Dream that we were chasing.  We knew we wanted kids, but since that at the moment, it wasn’t in the bag for us, our hearts felt fueled to dedicate our lives to loving children whose parents wouldn’t or couldn’t take care of them.  So, we decided to give up all of our possessions (big items were sold for income while everything else was donated to a local charity), say goodbye to our jobs, and treck the 1,500 miles to a Ranch in Arkansas where seven boys would await us.  So on May 12, 2009 we said goodbye to family and oddly enough, hello to another set of two pink lines…   





My first thought was “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”  This couldn’t be happening.  Not now.  We were floored.
We had just committed to move to Arkansas to raise a group of boys whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of them.  We had rid ourselves of all of our belongings (except what could fit in our Honda Pilot), gave up our 2 bedroom house, and decided to take a LONG break from trying to conceive a child of our own {don’t you love it when you make such detailed plans and then POW,  ‘nuf said}.
My second thought was “Oh no, we just lost our health insurance.” 
We called up the Ranch to tell them our news and they were still accepting of us.  So we packed up our Honda Pilot to fill every inch and crack we could of our most intimate of belongings and headed east.
We decided to take a couple of days on our journey to enjoy the last days of it just being the two of us, but by this time I was around 12 weeks pregnant, super nauseas and hadn’t seen a doctor.  We took a five day trip and it was the Longestfive days of my life.   
When we arrived, the sights took my breath away.  It was beautiful.  Arkansas was my love.  My husband and I quickly fell in love with our surroundings and staff who welcomed us with such grace and sincerity.  We had made it home.  This was where I knew we needed to be.  This was where I wanted to be.
It wasn’t long after our arrival that we felt settled in and received our first group of boys.  There were three.  Soon after, we received another boy just about 5 years old.  I felt complete.   I had my home, my husband by my side, and four boys for my heart to call its own.  But then, I remembered, I was pregnant.
We still had not received medical care.  My husband was stressed for me, while I, on the other hand, was panicked.  We applied for Medicaid and were denied.  I remember the day the call came.  My husband was out of town with the older boys at scout camp.  I had our two youngest at home.  The phone rang and I heard the words "denied".  I pleaded with the lady on the other end of the phone to try to find some other way.  When we hung up, I walked out to the living room, put on a movie for the boys, told them I needed to use the restroom and would be right back.  As they were entertained and clueless of my heartbreak, I collapsed to the ground in my room and cried.  I was mad at God.  Why now?!  We were responsible.  We had tried to do everything right.  We used preventative methods.  We were honest on our application.  We had died to live and this was what I was living out.  I didn’t know what we were going to do.  My emotions took over me and I couldn’t control my breathing.  I wanted my husband home.
I called the house parent next door (who I had become great friends with) and she told me to come bring the boys over to play with her boys while she helped me process everything.  I did.     
We made enough income to be listed in the 200% of the US Poverty Level.  We should have qualified.  But we were denied.  We called all levels of the system to try to see if any mistakes were made in our application.  Denied.  We were honest people.  We weren’t trying to cheat the system or abuse tax payers’ dollars.  We just wanted health care for our baby’s sake.  This process took two months.  That’s an additional two months of my pregnancy I did not receive health care.
But God’s sovereignty remained despite my own lack of trust.  One of the Board Members of the organization was an OBGYN.  He was willing to work out a discount as well as a payment plan that his clinic didn’t offer.  It was a huge blessing.  But it was money we didn’t have.  $3,600 to be exact (not including hospital bills).  We prayed and saved every penny we could.  But our monthly income didn’t even match up with our payments.  But by God’s grace every payment was made and we received care.
Along this process, three more boys were added to our home, making us a wonderful family of nine with a budding babe on the way.  {For their privacy I’ve given them all nick-names that speeks of our memories of them} We had B-rad, a rambunctious 17 year old, Fergalicious, our vibrant 13 year old who really could have been our very own child because he was the spitting image of a personality to my husbands, Flapjack, our creative and imaginative 10 year old who seriously was JUST LIKE ME as a child, Darth Vader, our 7 year old natural leader who seemed to have no fears, Tim Gunn, our younger 7 year old who seriously knew how to dress himself well, Spitfire, our full of personality 5 year old, and our little  2.5 year old Boo who took to me like a child takes to birthday cakes. 
These boys had captured my heart and everything in it!  They were the reason I got up in the morning.  They were the reason I pushed myself beyond what I ever believed I could do.  I had fallen in love and they were mine.
My pregnancy made me feel held back.  I wanted to get down on the floor and roll around in the dirt to play.  I wanted to have sword fights or dance offs in the living room like everyone else.  Instead, I was the round lady with the camera standing off to the side.  But I still enjoyed my boys.  Joss, on the other hand, was merely getting a neglected relationship between “mommy-and-belly-dweller.”  I was too distracted.
I did my best to bond with her.  I felt bad about not being the kind of pregnant mommy had I dreamed I would be, but there was too much to get done and too much in our home I was afraid I would miss out on. 
The boys, however, bonded with her perfectly.  They were excited to have a baby sister.  Each in their own way.  Little Tim Gunn even gave her his special seashells he would receive for good behavior.  He asked me to put them in her room so she could see how much he loved her {goodness, I’m going to cry all over again}.  I still have those seashells.
Months came and went.  Birthdays and Holidays were celebrated and special memories were made.  I remember one night my husband and I were lying in bed while all the boys were snoring away.  We talked about how we never wanted to leave.  We committed to each other that we stay for as LONG as we were allowed.  We even dreamed about retiring from there.  The Ranch had become our Home.  The boys had become our children.  The staff had become our family.  And Josselyn was going to have to join in.  This world would be all she would ever know, or so I thought... 
   





This is the hardest part for me.  So far I’ve managed to tell my story with ease.  But this is where I find myself tempted to go back to the empty wallows where I started this year.  I am about to expose my emotions to you and become completely raw.  This is where I put it all on the table.  No hidden emotions.  No sugar coating the feelings I had.  This was me.

*****

She was absolutely beautiful, but I was too drowsy to completely comprehend the life that just entered my world.
            We had walked into the Labor and Delivery floor the evening before for our scheduled inducement.  Our seven boys were back at the Relief Home.  My parents had traveled from California and were waiting outside the room for the arrival of their grandbaby.  And after 22 hours since the moment we signed the hospital papers at the check-in desk, we finally had our baby girl.
            I didn’t get to hold her.  I remember the image of seeing her right as she was pulled out.  The rest of my memory is a little blurry.  The nurses cleaned her and struggled with cleaning out all the fluids she had inhaled during birth.  They whisked her away and four hours later, after the drowsy drugs wore off, I woke to the sound of my husband sternly speaking into the phone demanding his daughter NOW
            Eventually a kind nurse wheeled her in our room and I studied the details of her face.  She was beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful. 
            It wasn’t long after our beautiful family of three was ready to join our seven waiting back home.  I was so anxious to get back to them.  I remember constantly thinking about their reaction when they would get to see their baby sister.  So, on Wednesday night, twenty-four hours after Joss’ arrival, we were discharged and on our way home.  The very next day we would get our boys back.

*****

            It felt like I woke up a completely different woman {that is if I ever really went to sleep that night}.  I didn’t want them back.  I wasn’t ready.  I needed more time.  I wasn’t sure what it was exactly.  Something just hit me.  I became angry and bitter.
            They call it Post Partum Blues.  It wasn’t quite depression {though I was never clinically diagnosed}.  I found myself clinging to the baby girl I had just given birth to and wanting everyone to just go away.  I panicked.
            I had been around children my entire life.  Children were the reason I felt I existed.  I was a nanny.  I babysat.  I helped run a children’s gym.  I raised seven boys 24/7.  But a baby, I had no idea what to do.  I stayed locked up in our bedroom holding my baby girl.  I rocked her all day long.  I randomly burst into tears and I had no idea why.  My heart grew hard and I couldn’t seem to find a way out.
            The sleep deprivation got the worst of me.  It ate away at the joy that had previously filled my soul.  I could hear the children playing in our living room or outside.  My heart was saying “Jhen, this is what life is all about,” but my head was saying “shut them up and make them go away”.  I was so emotionally torn that I couldn’t handle it anymore. 
            I communicated with the office of the Ranch that we worked for about my feelings.  But nothing seemed to change for me.  Emotionally, I grew angrier, bitter, sadder, and more tired.  My husband had to tend to every part of our home since I couldn’t and wouldn’t.  He was having to maintain the piles and piles of laundry that were accumulating but had to be washed, pressed and hung every day.  He had to feed regulated meals to our boys and maintain the home that had started to be overcome with the tension that I was creating.
            I was finished.  I couldn’t handle it any longer.  My emotions were screaming at me to give up; throw in the towel and leave.  I begged my husband to get me out of here.  By this time, his spirit was withering.  It seemed that very few around us actually saw what was happening to our passion; otherwise I believe wholeheartedly, things would have been different. 
            I was lost.  I was empty.  I was downright blue.  I was yelling left and right at the boys.  They didn’t deserve it.  They did nothing wrong.  I knew deep down this is wrong.  I was wrong.  But I just couldn’t stop myself.  My husband had to send me away to the room because he saw the anger that was coming out in me.
            One night, I sat the boys down in the living room and cried.  I allowed them to see just how real of a person I was {as parents we always try to be strong and keep our struggles behind closed doors}.  I apologized to them for my behavior.  I asked them to forgive me because I was having a hard time adjusting and they were making no mistakes.  I was sorry.  I cried and cried in front of them.  I thought I was getting better.  But I was wrong.
            The next morning things were back to usual.  As soon as I got out of bed, I was angry again.  This went on for two weeks.
            Eventually Jon and I sat down in the administrator’s office trying to figure out a way to fix things.  I didn’t know what to do anymore.  The boys were suffering at my expense.  I knew things had to change but I didn’t know what.  We needed help.  By the end of the meeting, the only outcome we could see as a fix was to leave.  These boys needed the best and I felt just couldn’t give it to them anymore.    
               We had woken up just a few days after that meeting with heavy hearts.  I headed quickly to a doctor’s appointment for my baby girl while my husband got the boys ready for the day.  He then loaded them into our 15 passenger van and headed towards the Ranch Office.  I met them there.  I remember walking into the office and the boys’ had tears in their eyes.  They were heartbroken.  They had just heard the news that we were leaving them. 
            It was their tears that broke the anger.  It was their tears that destroyed the blues.  Their heart had healed me.  But it was too late.  We hugged each of them and whispered “I love you” into their ears.  I can see each of their faces now it still haunts me to this day.  They were escorted out of the room and that was to be the last time we would ever be allowed to make contact with them again…





Guilt had kicked in.  The last two days we remained at the Ranch packing up is all a blur to me.  I went numb and shut down.  I remember very little.
We trekked the 1,500 miles back to Southern California and were beside ourselves.  We had just downsized from a family of 10 to a family of 3.  We had just moved out of a 3,500 square foot house to a whopping 300 square foot room.  My parents had no more rooms left in their home so they emptied out their family room, put up a temporary wall with a bed quilt for a door and we moved in: All three of us.
We had very little money to our name, no insurance, no jobs, a lot of bills and a heart full of guilt.  Jon kicked it into gear real quick.  He started applying for everything under the sun.  I, on the other hand was quite content in my jammies.  I was too numb to do anything.
My sister was staying with my parents for a couple of months while her visa was in process so she can go back to Australia.  She helped take care of my baby girl while I struggled with finding passion and joy.  Something switched in me.  The guilt continued to grow and fester and I started to blame my little girl for taking me away from the boys I loved.  “If I just hadn’t gotten pregnant, all of this wouldn’t have happened.”  I started listening to the lies that I was just like some of the parents that had abandoned them before.  People would ask why we left and assumed that because I had my own child, I no longer wanted other peoples.  I struggled with fighting against what I knew was right, with the guilt that was taking over my heart. 
I would go to bed at night and as soon as all the lights were out and all was quiet, I would see their faces.  Their tears.  I would see Boo’s face of confusion as he saw everyone else in the room hugging and crying.  He was too young to understand that the man and woman he would come to feel safe and comforted with would leave him and never return.  The images haunted my mind and fueled the guilt.
I slowly pulled away emotionally from my little girl, but my husband and sister were there to pick up the pieces.
As days went on, and my baby girl started to grow and blossom, her personality started to shine with smiles.  I remember her first real smile.  It was beautiful.  There was nothing special going on, just the face of her mommy and daddy standing over her watching her every move, and she smiled.  And my resentment towards her turned to blame towards me.  What have I just done?
Not only had I just abandoned my seven boys, I had just blamed an innocent 1 month old baby for it.  It was then I hit rock bottom.
The blame had now turned to me.  I felt like a failure.  I had failed the boys.  I failed my husband.  I failed my brand new baby girl.  This went on for a long time. 
Many people close to me probably have their own take on what happened.  Each in a different way.  I know so because I received many emails, some supportive, some not so much.  I had hurt a lot of feelings during this process and for that I am greatly sorry.
Each day was challenging.  I was fighting from all different angles.  I woke up each day and fought the urge to wallow in my self -pity.  I fought the lies that I wasn’t a good mother.  It took every fiber of my being to do what needed to be done.  But it was the night that robbed me the most.
 This is why I co-sleep.  At night I would refuse to close my eyes, ‘cause when I did, my memories would take over and ‘cause me to break into tears and the guilt would overwhelm me.  My husband was very supportive, but he needed his full nights rest (he didn’t get any responses to his applications so he just worked as a laborer in construction) and my midnight sobs were keeping him up, so he was anxious for me to get over this struggle pretty quick.  So I would go, grab my sleeping babe in her crib, and cuddle with her until I fell asleep.
Days started to get easier.  But I still didn’t feel whole.  So I started writing.  I wrote to my little girl.  I purchased a $2.00 journal from Marshalls and wrote on the first page:

To My Beloved Daughter,
Josselyn!  May you
Forever know how much you
Are loved.

Because I couldn’t show her yet in full, I committed to showing her in words.  I wrote to her our story.  I wrote to her how much I love her.  I wrote to her about her seven brothers miles away.  I wrote their stories.  And with each entry, I was able to think back and cry a little less.  So I was on my way to recovery.
*****
I’m still not completely there yet.  But I’m able to let go.  I can look at those sweet memories from last year and the previous year with more joy than I did the previous day.
I see her smile at me and wonder how such a little one can look at me with such innocence and grace after all I have done to her.  And she still loves me.  My, what a God we serve.    
I am not perfect.  Goodness, many can attest!  I don’t strive to be.  I have been shown such a grace and forgiveness in my life that the hurt and pain I have put people through and I have put myself through will not win over me.  So, as we continue to learn to live in this new life we’ve made of the mess I created, grace abounds. 
I am learning daily what grace really means and each time she smiles at me, I see forgiveness all over again.