Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Things That Matter Most

I always find myself a bit sentimental around the holidays.  This year is no different.  I thought I'd share a bit of that sentiment with our readers, promising more of our traditional, resource-oriented posts in 2013.  

Part I: 
I used to live snugly under a blanket of naive protection, moving forward in life, fully anticipating all of the great things to come.  A husband, and a family were what I hoped for most.  Being in my early thirties, I had not yet experienced anything in my life that I would call a "tragedy".  There weren't really even many challenges worth mentioning.  

When I met my husband, I learned about love in a way I had not previously understood.  We started a family and that love and understanding again grew.  With my second baby, I fell into the trap of expecting things to go just fine, just like they always had.  Why not hire a midwife?  After all, I had never known anyone who had lost a baby from traumatic delivery.  

Let's just say that blanket of protection disintegrated into thin air.  Left shaken, raw, and rocked to our core, we had no idea how to deal with the loss of our baby.  There was no more security in things being okay.  There was no more "guarantee" that any of us would live another day.  Instead, that naive trust was shattered.  We were afraid, insecure, and not sure what the future would hold.   Sometimes it still feels like we're bracing for the next big blow. 

(You can read more about Magnus's story here.)

Part II: 
Until tragedy touches our lives directly, we cannot appreciate fully the challenges others deal with on a daily basis.  I don't know if it's the season, or just me, but on many occasions, I find myself reading a story or watching a television program in a mess of tears for the heartache with which another family is wrestling.  I'm inspired even further by the strength these families have demonstrated along the way.  

“Wounding and healing are not opposites. They're part of the same thing. It is our wounds that enable us to be compassionate with the wounds of others. It is our limitations that make us kind to the limitations of other people. It is our loneliness that helps us to to find other people or to even know they're alone with an illness.  I think I have served people perfectly with parts of myself I used to be ashamed of." ― Rachel Naomi Remen

This post is dedicated to any family or person who has suffered loss, injury, illness, loneliness, or tragedy of any kind.  My hope is that one day you realize that our wounds have the potential to lead us forward to be better versions of ourselves, and further enable us to reach out to our fellow man in ways that others cannot.  More than ever, I realize how much our compassion is needed in this world.    

I've been reminded of the need for this kind of compassion by the lives of so many friends this year.  A family whose child is valiantly fighting cancer, a family who recently lost a father and husband to a sudden heart attack, a friend enduring the trenches of divorce,  a neighbor whose father suddenly passed away, the family looking for resources to help their injured baby, the family swallowed up by the grief of losing their baby, and so many more.  

I often think about our soldiers too, and how sheltered I feel from the sacrifices they make for us each and every day.  It's not because I don't care, or that I'm not grateful for the daily risks they take on our behalf, but because it's a path (just like all but one of those mentioned above) I haven't walked personally, and therefore cannot fully appreciate.  Somehow though, after having dealt with the unexpected loss of our child, I can relate to the harsh reality of tragedy in a way that I wouldn't have in years past.  

It is in fact a soldier's story that best exemplifies the compassion I'm speaking of this week, a compassion that can erupt from the ashes of the darkest moments that life too often brings.  Shilo Harris is a man who demonstrates beautifully, the opportunity and gratitude that can come from tragedy.  He, and many others have inspired me.  He sums up his attitude in the following quotes: 

"There are no guarantees that we'll be alive tomorrow, or that we'll have the same health we have today, but we can count the blessings we do have."  

“You have to look at everything that God gives you as a gift.  It may not always be the gift that you want, but you have to take what you get sometimes and turn it into something else.  And that’s kind of what I’ve done.”  Shilo Harris

I can't say that I believe that the tragedies we face are gifts.  Shilo is a better person than I.  I can however say, that with the perspective that comes from enduring difficult situations, I can more easily relate to the struggles of others.  And further, with that perspective I can offer compassion in a way that many others cannot.  We can choose to turn life's darkest moments into something else.  There is something profoundly healing to my own being in helping another find their way forward.  What better way to honor a loved one, or heal from the challenges we've faced than by reaching out? 

Final Thoughts: 
We live in a culture filled with doubt.  In the most challenging of moments, I find that this doubt can easily overcome us.  One's faith in the unseen and unknown will go one of two ways in the face of tragedy.  It will a) dissipate, allowing doubt (aka grief, loneliness, sadness, shock, etc) to flood our very being, or b) grow stronger.  There are times in my life when my own faith has been tested beyond measure.  Yet somehow I realized, I never really walked that journey alone.  

I've come to recently understand something new, from a beloved children's holiday movie.  I think this little collection of thoughts will speak to many of you who have endured difficult events in your lives: 
"Sometimes seeing is believing, but believing is knowing the things you cannot see, are real...The things that matter most are the things we cannot see."  - Polar Express

And so I've spent a lot of time thinking about all of this, spinning it around in my head like a potter's wheel.  These are the things I've come up with that matter most to me...those things we cannot see, but know to be real: 

Faith in something bigger than ourselves (Namely God)

When I think about our son, who left this earth far too early, I am instantly filled with love.  I can't see him with my eyes, but I sure know this list of words to be far more real than I ever imagined because of him.  That in itself is a gift, a gift I intend to share with others who need it most.  I hope many of you who have walked darker paths, will find peace in your hearts this holiday season knowing you are not alone.  I hope that you will someday see your experience as an opportunity to reach out to another, and remind others that often the things that matter most are those we cannot see.  I invite you to make your own list of what matters most to you.  Thank you my dear Magnus for helping me "see" more clearly than ever, and for helping me find a way to share it with others.     

Happy Holidays!

From our Hearts to Yours, 

The Families of Safer Midwifery for Michigan


  1. Thanks for sharing. I had my last three children at home with midwives here in the northwest rural part of Michigan. A level 1 hospital is 25 minutes away; a level 3 hospital is 1-1.5 hours away. I simply got tired of male docs yelling at me during labor and then the arguments about pushing and episiotomies during delivery. One doc said I had to get cut for a 7 pound baby but then did not have time to cut me for our 3rd almost 9 pound baby's birth because he was handling four different labor/births at once. Somehow the docs always thought they were smarter, cleaner, and better than me/I was or would ever be. Midwives see me as an equal and capable of educating myself. Happy Holidays!

  2. Dear Undercover Midwife,
    Congratulations on your home birth of three babies. How fortunate for you that things turned out well. They sure didn't for me, or for nearly twenty other families in recent years in MI. I'd take a yelling doc and an episiotomy any day if it meant my son was alive today. Your sarcastic sentiment really doesn't have anything to do with this post, but I do appreciate your visit. Being capable of educating yourself is different that being indoctrinated with lies. Sending the false message that hospitals are awful, so home birth is a safe alternative is misleading beyond words. I suggest you start a blog that addressed the issues you had with the maternity care system, and fight for changes that will really help women, instead of promoting an alternative that is in disarray in our state. Women do need better options. Michigan does need to address rural maternity care. Substandard, unprofessional, and unethical practices are not an acceptable solution.