Grief lessons: Love is intentional.

Grief is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be around someone that is grieving and it’s without a doubt uncomfortable to be the one grieving. Many parents of loss testify that their friends and family give them the cold shoulder when they have a miscarriage, stillbirth, or experience infant loss. Why is this? Is it that they no longer love the family member who experienced the loss (or never did)? No, I imagine that more than likely the miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of a child shortly after birth made them feel too uncomfortable to show their love.


But, true love-the 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love-is sacrificial. It means I’m willing to sacrifice being uncomfortable in order to show YOU that I love you and that I care. It’s not thinking about myself for a minute, but putting your possible needs first.

On this grief journey over the past year, I have learned that many people will say that they love you and that they support you, but few people are willing to sacrifice their time, money, or personal comfort to put action behind their words. I spent a good chunk of the past year angry, disappointed, and hurt. But the beauty of it all was when I began to focus on what my experience could teach me about being more loving.

I was forced to do some serious introspection and asked myself whether or not I really show people that I care about that I love them. The answer is most of the time-No. I, like most of the human population, am addicted to my personal comfort and rarely do anything that requires me to sacrifice my own comfort.

This is where intentionality comes in. What does it matter if I tell my daughter that I love her over and over again, but don’t spend quality time with her doing her favorite things? My love for her requires personal sacrifice on pretty much a daily basis-meaning that even if mommy is tired and had a really long day, I’m going to do my best to make sure we read a story before bedtime. It means that even though I have literally ten billion things to do, I’m going to stop and listen when my husband needs to talk about something that’s bothering him. Love requires sacrifice. Love is intentional.

None of us will love perfectly all the time, but I think if we’re intentional about loving, our relationships will thrive and the people we love will feel that we truly care for them.

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Wounds and Scars

My pregnancy with my first son was a time that feels like ages ago and just yesterday at the same time. I remember waddling around, extremely pregnant, trying to brush off questions about the baby like ,“Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?” Most expectant moms love to answer these kinds of questions, but for me, they felt like sprinkling salt in an open wound. “No,” I would respond to the boy or girl question. Obviously, the follow-up statement is “We want it to be a surprise.” However, this was not true. The fact was we just didn’t know the sex of the baby because there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby for its sex to be visible in an ultrasound. Right after having these types of conversations, I would scream inside, “I can’t wait until this is over.”

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Photo credit: Create Her Stock

Thirteen months and 4 days since giving birth to Israel David, it’s still not over. It’s a popular saying that “Time heals all wounds.” I’m not sure that I believe that. Time makes a wound transform into a scar. Sure, I don’t have the same gaping wound that I had in the days and months after Israel’s death when I was pissed off at the sun for shining or when it seemed like boy babies and pregnant women were everywhere just to taunt me. Even still, there are the rough moments, when my wound is no longer crusted over, but feels like a gigantic hole.

I think in the case of infant loss, it’s a bit more accurate to say, “Time makes things different.” A mother never forgets the loss of her child. It was only in the last few months that I felt up to attending a pregnancy and infant loss support group meeting at the hospital where I both gave birth and said “good-bye” to Israel. The meeting facilitator was a nurse who’d also experienced the loss of her son shortly after his birth. She recounted the circumstances of losing her son over 20 years ago and told us that even now, there are times when the pain still feels fresh. What I appreciated even more than her openness was how she reflected on ways that she and her family incorporate her son into their celebrations and their lives. As mothers of angels we don’t move on, but we move forward, carrying the memories of our lost babies with us.

No, it’s never over, but it can be a good kind of “different.” If I’m completely serious with myself, I don’t really want to go back to the way things were before losing Israel. Yes, I wish I could take the pain away; I wish I could feel the void that was left from having a little boy that I can never see grow up or who I can’t hug, kiss, and read stories to. But, there are changes in my life and in myself that I love—like the boldness that comes from knowing that I’ve hit my lowest point and there’s nowhere to go but up. I’ve made it through the grief, the isolation, the depression, the shame; I can make it through anything. Despite the fact that time itself cannot make all of the pain go away, I’m grateful for my battle scars.

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

Staying High

 

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Labor Day 2016

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 marked one year since I both said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to my newborn son, Izzy, and what a year it’s been. My family will be walking and fundraising for the March of Dimes March for Babies again this year in Izzy’s honor, therefore, here I am starting a blog series on the lessons I’ve learned and the encouragement I have to offer one year post infant loss. I’ve had highs and lows, but most importantly, I’ve grown and learned to keep pressing on through it all.

 

One of the key truths I’ve learned over the past year is that life is both the pain and the joy, the despair and the hope, the tears and the laughter—all of it is entwined and it’s impossible to have one without soon having the other. Somebody once said that if you never have the valleys, you won’t know what the mountaintop feels like. Every day that I find myself smiling or laughing, I’m in awe of the glory of God and the mysteries of life because I remember days when I thought I would never be able to smile or laugh again.

One of my favorite songs right now is “Stay High” by Jonathan McReynolds. Bruh has helped get me through the storms this year. After a friend invited me to see him live, I’ve been hooked on his music. Let me know what you think in the comments!

My family and I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in honor of our angel. We’d love for you to donate to our campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!

 

Faith as the Ultimate Optimism

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

 

Sometimes it’s hard to remain optimistic—at least for me. One of my heart’s desires has always been to have at least 4 kids. I’m an only child who grew up wishing there was a sibling around that could relate to what it was like growing up in my household; I wanted someone I could say “Mommy [or Daddy] is crazy” and they would understand exactly what I was talking about! Even though, it’s too late for me on the sibling front, I want my daughter to have siblings that she can grow up with. After having each pregnancy after my daughter ending in miscarriage or infant loss due to a rare birth defect, for no apparent health-related reason, I began to wonder if it’s worth it to continue hoping or trying for the vision that I’ve always had for my family. It’s hard to not be afraid of bad news when I even consider trying to have another baby and I imagine for anyone else who feels like God is rejecting or, at the very least, delaying your heart’s desire that it is hard for you too.

Whether it’s just a central topic of Christian thought or because it’s the Holy Spirit at work, probably both, it seems like every sermon I hear talks about how God uses suffering and challenging circumstances to develop and refine us into the people we are meant to be, using our pain and trials to make us more like Him. No matter how many times I hear this, I still need to hear it over and over again until this truth marinates inside of me and replaces my anxiety with peace.

I’ve come to realize that maintaining faith that God is good, that He desires a bright future for me, and that all things really do work together for good is the ultimate form of optimism–and this is the type of optimism I seek when doubts enter my mind. For anyone else of faith that finds it hard to consistently believe that good things are to come despite past disappointments, here are some of the verses that I lean on when I need a refill on faith-based optimism:

When I get stuck on, why did/is this happening?

 “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3

Is God still good? Does He still love me?

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34

What am I supposed to do with this pain?

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Will my feelings or circumstances always be this way?

 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.” Psalm 71:19-21

How do I find peace?

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

So…I’m definitely not a theologian and I’m a firm believer in doing your research on context when studying any Scripture, but the few above have helped me and continue to help me through many bleak moments and I hope they do the same for you. Selah.

 

Three Truths 7 Months after Infant Loss

After my blogging series on grief leading up to the March for Babies, I wondered if I should keep blogging about my grief. Part of me hesitated because I needed some time to process my emotions in private, while another part of me didn’t want to continue making people uncomfortable. My decision to continue writing about my grief journey was made when I realized that this is my blog—I run this—therefore, I can write about whatever I want to write about 😉

Since the last time I wrote about grieving the loss of my newborn son, Izzy, I’ve realized a few huge truths that have been hard for me to accept, yet necessary to accept in order to move forward.

1) I have experienced a traumatic event and neither I, nor my life, will ever be the same.

A few months after losing Izzy, I was fortunate enough to start speaking with a clinical social worker about my grief. She’s extremely educated, keeps her short, relaxed hair laid, and shares my love for LUSH cosmetics and natural beauty products. I talked to her about my struggles with explaining my grief to friends and family members and finding the support I needed. She told me something that set me free, assuring me that I wasn’t going crazy, but simply grieving. She told me, “You have had a traumatic event happen to you.” When she said that, I felt a calm settle inside me, if only for a moment. It was perfectly normal that I felt like I was falling apart—my beautiful, much-wanted firstborn son died and I was in pain. This truth gave me permission to not only grieve, but to seek healing for something that was definitely worthy of grief.

 Dunes2) I will have to learn to live with joy mixed with sadness for the rest of my life.

Grief is sneaky. Even on those days when everything seems to be going well and peace tries to make itself comfortable in my soul, grief tends to show up and yell “Here I am!” For me, it’s especially during those times when I’m expected to be happy—holidays, birthdays, celebrations—when grief decides to show up and knock the wind completely out of me. Even on days that seem like they come straight from a storybook—clear skies, green tree leaves blowing in the breeze, the sun casting rays everywhere and just showing out–I sit and wonder, “How can it be a perfect day when my son is not here? How can it be this tranquil outside when there’s a storm brewing inside of me?” I’ve learned that even when there are things I am genuinely joyful and excited about going on around me, there’s still a longing and sadness inside of me. I can sit in awe of how much my 3-year-old daughter has grown and how proud I am of her, but still feel a weight in my chest and a longing for my son because I love him just as much as I love the daughter that is physically here with me.

 3) This is an incredibly hard and lonely road.

Any kind of grief is isolating; it’s something personal and completely unique to each individual. However, when people question the validity of your grief, it is even more isolating. Even in the year 2016, babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are not fully believed to be valid losses worthy of grief. Many times during the last few months, the silence I felt from those around me has been deafening. There were times when I wondered if I was to blame or if I was imagine that my son actually died because of the behavior of people around me. I’ve been ignored by family members that I was once close to and told the reason was they wanted to give me space to “get myself together.” I have listened to people try to minimize my son’s life and my grief by telling me that it “is normal and happens.” I’ve felt judged for my sadness and struggle to fit in despite the fact that inwardly I was fighting for my life every day because of the emotional pain I felt. I’ve felt like people expected me to move on before I even really started the grieving process. This is hard and it hurts like hell.

Even though I hurt, I am constantly encouraged by the women I see and connect with online who are celebrating their angel babies and doing phenomenal things in their babies’ honor. They are taking something that could’ve destroyed them and are becoming more compassionate people from it. These ladies along with my belief that all of this pain will somehow result in good keep me fighting to live life for Izzy every day. August 25, 2016 will be mark seven months since I met and lost my Izzy and I’m still here, fighting to live just as he fought to come here to say “hello” to me.

Essence Fest 2016 (What It Is)

I had the privilege of experiencing Essence magazine’s Essence Fest for the second time this past 4th of July weekend. It was simply everything. I saw some of my favorite artists perform like Mariah Carey, Babyface, and a new favorite, Jidenna. Yet, anybody who really knows me knows that seeing the one and only Maxwell perform again (my first time was back in 2009) and posing next to him for a picture just made not only my weekend, but my entire life. He epitomizes real musicianship, style, class, soul, and individuality in a way that is breathtaking to me. I’m still in shock that I was standing right next to him even if for only a few seconds!

Even though I’m a huge fan of Essence Fest and hope to attend as many times as I can while there is breath in my body, I understand how it could look to the highly critical among us, being that I’m one of them. There were times when I waited in line after line at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the humid, NOLA days when I wondered if it was all worth the hype. Was it all just a series of marketing ploys and self-promotion? There were celebrities autographing recent book and CD-releases. There were vendors selling all types of wares and southern-styled meals. There were major hair and beauty brands giving away samples—ranging from small trial-sized packets to full-sized bottles of products. Sure, there were various empowerment stages, speeches, and sessions but were all of those amazing messages drowned out in a sea of marketing and consumerism? Was there really more lying beneath the surface of superficiality?

You bet your bottom dollar there was! Let me breakdown exactly what Essence Fest is…

Essence Fest is drinking a cool glass of lemonade on a blazing summer day (the Beyoncé brand).

It is that gentle breeze underneath your sundress when you’re drenched in sweat.

It is what it feels like to come home (the Diana Ross in “The Wiz” version).

Where else on earth can you go to find hundreds of melanin-drenched people in one place where it’s not only acceptable, but required to embrace the uniqueness and beauty of African American culture? Where you can eat as much fried chicken, collard greens, and peach cobbler as you want without the guilt of feeling like a stereotype? Where there is no doubt that black lives always and will forever matter? In fact, the question is redundant because it’s a given. Essence Fest is a type of nirvana for African American women where everything about them—their unique experiences, interests, goals, passions, and beauty—are all validated, celebrated, appreciated, and understood.

Although I left Essence Fest 2015 rejuvenated as well, I experienced a whole other level of appreciation for the event this year because of the many changes in my life and in my own personal development over the past year. I have been brought down to the ashes of the person I once was after losing my son and dealing with other struggles in my personal life, but Essence Fest 2016 has given me even more courage to hand my ashes over to God in order to become reborn like a golden, blonde-haired phoenix (check out the new “do”).

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Chilling poolside on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel and having some amazing conversation on a day off from the hustle and bustle of Essence Fest events!

 

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What do you say to someone whose concert may be the reason why you and your spouse got married? You say the obvious, “I love your music so much!” and just cheese really hard.

 

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Uncle Charlie never disappoints and he almost bought me a $400,000 car! :-O

 

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The “My Black is Beautiful” booth gave away full-sized hair products, t-shirts, and printed photographs for those patient enough to wait in line for them.

 

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I loved everything about Jidenna when the “Classic Man” first came on the seen, but I have an even greater appreciation for him and his music after seeing him live in the intimate Ford “Hot Right Now” superlounge at the Superdome!

 

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Bishop T.D. Jakes talked about his upcoming talk show and almost started preaching before he stopped himself short! I don’t think anybody would’ve minded him going on, especially me. His ministry kept me going on many’a rough days recently!

 

 

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I loved the random celebrity sightings at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Eric Benet just strolled through with a few members of his crew/security.

 

 

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I grew up loving Mariah Carey’s music and Mimi did not disappoint. There was nothing like singing along to her hits and watching her in all her “diva-ness.”

 

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Another take-away from my Essence Fest weekend was a determination to finally check out Omari Hardwick in “Power.” The show was highly recommended by a new NOLA friend and even compared to “The Wire” so I’m intrigued.

Free Mother’s Day Gift Basket Giveaway!

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As many of you already know, the POPPED family includes this blog and Popped Handmade, my up-and-coming natural skin care business. I encourage all of my POPPED ladies to enter Popped Handmade’s Mother’s Day Gift Basket Giveaway! It’s completely free, but it is only for lovely ladies living in the Chi or the surrounding areas because you will need to pick up your basket if you win. The basket will include Popped Handmade luxurious, whipped body butter and some yummy treats for your sweet tooth, including Treasure Corn Oreo-flavored popcorn and Mickii’s Sinfully Semi chocolate chip cookies. Check out the Popped Handmade Facebook page for info on how to enter and for more details! Good luck!