I’ve had the thirst to sit down and write for quite a while. I have lost count on the amount of blogs that I’ve started, only to delete. A large part of my grief journey in the immediate and early stages of losing Nathaniel has been to write what I was experiencing. Having writing be my outlet played a huge part in my healing journey and in a sense has allowed me to feel at peace seeing my pain and hurt transform into words.
Today, at this moment, I am allowing myself to sit down and continue writing my life story. I do this with the hope that I will be able to bridge the gap between grief and joy.
Being pregnant with our newest blessing was an experience that compared to none other. The naïve outlook that I felt at the beginning of my other three pregnancies was nonexistent. The innocence that death could not touch my unborn child was replaced with the fear that death would absolutely be making its way back into our lives. I wished to have felt the unrealistic expectation that children will outlive their parents. Instead I felt that at any moment I would be faced with the heartache of another Miller baby waiting for me in heaven.
Each day I would take out my Doppler and find my babies heartbeat. In the early stages when finding the sound of his galloping heart was hit and miss, thoughts of how to face yet another devastating loss often filled my mind. Anxiety and fear would consume the rest of my day until I heard that sweet sound again. It was only then that I could exhale, it was only then that the uneasiness I felt in my gut let up a little bit and I could let myself feel joy.
No one could have prepared my heart for the emotions that took over as I was navigating my way through such unfamiliar territories. Without the innocence of not knowing the sting of losing a child I was stuck with figuring out how to allow myself to wholeheartedly love the new life while remaining loyal to the life that was lost.
The struggle which remained up front and center was knowing that our fourth child would not have been able to exist had Nathaniel survived. I still cannot allow myself to focus on that undeniable truth for too long. When we were mourning Nathaniel’s life on his actual due date back in June 2016, a new life was growing inside of me. Trying to allow myself to grieve while being joyful felt impossible. There were days that I felt such guilt for having too much of either of those emotions and not enough of the other. Had it not been for prayer and daily cries out to God, I don’t think I would have been able to find balance. I did not want myself to become numb and in turn not feel the joy of my fourth baby. I believe that God equips us with what we need to tackle life’s hardships. I believe that God knew that I needed to hold Nathaniel’s body in my hand in order to find peace. I believe that God has worked in my life and my families’ lives through the insurmountable loss.
Pregnancy after loss is undeniably hard. Emotionally and mentally it was unlike anything else I have ever felt. The constant fear that I could at any moment relive the same devastating incident shook me to the core. The innocent comments strangers would make referring to my pregnancy as my “third baby” was a hard thing to hear. Of course, it was absolutely right in assuming that “baby on the way” was number three, but the truth was not so. These innocent, non-malicious encounters that happened so often weighed huge in my grieving mom heart. The sorrow in knowing that an extremely small percentage of people will ever know of Nathaniel’s existence is a very hard reality that I still face to this day.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast
1 Peter 5:10
The strength that I found was knowing that God himself provides restoration. God carried me through the deepest valley after losing my baby. God held me close when I wept tears of guilt because of feeling blessed to have another life given to me. My strength through it all is in the Lord.
Jaxson Justin Miller was born on January 13th, 2017. Joy. Pure Joy. He has brought such joy to this house. His smile brings joy, his laugh brings joy, and his life brings us joy.
When he was born he cried only for a short time and then got very quiet. I remember being somewhat in a panic asking Justin if he was OK, I did not expect the fears of losing a baby in the womb to transfer to fears of losing a newborn. This was again a new set of feelings that I did not face with my older two boys. I held Jaxson for quite a while after he was born, I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to hold on to him as long as I could and feel the warmth of his body next to mine.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions regarding a family who welcomes a new baby after the loss of another is that things get easier. It would be a lie for me to deny that I, myself, have often thought the exact same thing. Surely grief must slowly slip away as excitement surrounding the new baby takes over. This for me, couldn’t be further from the truth. Walking out of the hospital with little Jaxson was empowering and scary both at the same time. I was now walking a path that was unfamiliar, parenting a child after a loss. Almost everything was a learning curve, as if I had never done this before. Laying Jaxson down to sleep at night opened the door to nervousness. What if he stopped breathing while I was sleeping? What if he rolled over and suffocated? These thoughts were pretty distant in my mind for both Ethan and Konnor but with Jaxson…they were at the head of the line. Justin put a camera in his room and I had the tablet on right by my bed so that I could see him, so that I could see his stomach go up and down as he breathed. I still have the camera up beside me at night but now as time has gone on, I am able to sleep better. He is old enough now to roll over, crawl, pull himself up….I still fear the unthinkable but my nerves are far more at ease now than they were just a few short months ago.
For the first couple of months when I would be feeding Jaxson (which felt like a continual thing), I would often go up to my room, make myself comfortable on my bed and soak up the one on one time I had with him. During this time, I would be looking down at my new baby boy alive and well and then as I looked up slightly I would see Nathaniel’s urn sitting on the shelf right beside me. Every moment spent with Jaxson reminds me of Nathaniel. At first, it was hard. Hard to separate the two, hard to wrap my head around loving both of them so much but knowing they could not exist together. I had to shut down those feelings repeatedly in order to keep my sanity.
As hard as it has been and as unprepared I was to be in the situation I am in, I am extremely thankful that not once did I feel any resentment. Not once did I feel distant from my baby boy. I have always wanted Nathaniel and Jaxson to be two separate people in our family, which we have be successful in doing both in how we talk about them and the order in which” the brothers” line up…Ethan first, Konnor second, Nathaniel third and Jaxson fourth. Every time Jaxson reaches a millstone I think of Nathaniel, I wonder at what age he would have been doing the same thing. I think this is normal. I never want to get to a place where I don’t associate Nathaniel as part of my “boy team”. He definitely holds a unique and special place in our family.
Needless to say, life after a loss is hard. No it didn’t get better, no it didn’t get worse. Healing for Nathaniel has come with God helping me see the good in a tragic situation. Healing did not come with a new baby. I know that God made me to be the mother of all four of my boys, each one chiseled exactly how He needs them to be. God has equipped me with the mom tools I need to love and raise up His arrows. Truth is, one of His arrows was shot directly back to Him. Every day that I have with my boys is such a gift. Every smile, hug, slobbery open mouthed kiss (if you can call it that) which Jaxson gives me is a wonderful blessing. I am deeply in love with baby Miller #4, he has brought an abundance of joy to our family.