Wednesday, March 2, 2011

about the miscarriage

I have decided to write about a few things relating the miscarriage I experienced last month. I have this idea that my words and thoughts might encourage someone else who has been through a similar experience.

Matthew and I feel that the Father has put us in a position where we live our lives rather in the public eye. Sometimes that is hard. Sometimes, though, it gives us freedom to express things in a way other people only wish they could. Maybe some of you have experienced the pain of miscarriage, and not been able to share it. I write this especially for you.

Disclaimer. This is a LOOOOOOONG and emotional post. But I am not forcing you to read it so don’t whine about it, ok?!!!

For clarity, I am going to refer to the baby as “he”, despite not actually knowing the gender for fact!

Matt and I shared the news of my pregnancy early, when I was about 4 weeks into it. We had “planned” this baby, and felt that the Lord had spoken to us about when and where he would join our family. Of course, we never imagined that we would never know this baby on earth.

I miscarried at 9 weeks. So the baby was only about 1 inch long. It was a fast, whole miscarriage and I held him in my palm, oh-so-perfect, this little one. Fingers, toes, perfect little cord that had given him life while he was inside my womb. Matt and I had watched him swimming and playing on a huge screen just that morning. We feel so honored to have had the chance to see him while he was alive.

My initial response was GRIEF. Sadness that ripped my body apart.

I did not feel anger toward God. I had fully expected I would. Instead, I was angry at China, angry at the incompetent doctors I had seen. I wondered if environmental conditions, or the water I drink had contributed to this miscarriage.

I was afraid, because I knew I had this giant LUMP inside me, and had no idea what it was.
I felt guilty, because I had been such a cranky, sick, first trimester mama. I wondered if I was going through this because I wasn’t “worthy” to be a mom again.

As my body became suddenly not pregnant, I felt guilty, because I was really enjoying being able to eat food again, without feeling sick. And I was really enjoying the taste of coffee after 2 months of it making me puke!

Two weeks after the surgery, when we were home in Kunming, Matt decided I needed to get away for a few days. I wanted to get away as well. I wanted to confront my feelings and emotions head-on. I wanted to wrestle with God, I wanted to ask Him my questions, and get some answers, or even just some peace.

While at the hotel, I read the word. I listened to sermons from Bethel and IHOP. I listened to my playlist of “feel good songs” and my playlist of “Jesus” songs. I yelled and cried and told Him everything.

The two big breakthroughs I had were these.

First. There was a specific image in my mind that was setting me off into a vortex of grief and pain every time it came to mind. I described it to my Father, and asked Him to help me find a way to handle that memory.

These are the things He reminded me of… but in such a way, it was as though I was being told for the first time.

“My Son died in a flood of blood, just like yours”

“My Son was in me, and a part of me, and ‘supposed’ to be safe, just like yours”

“I loved my Son, I knew Him for eternity. I knew Him for 30 years on earth. If you loved your child so much after only 9 weeks, imagine how much I loved mine! I know exactly how you feel”

Those three things sound so elementary, so fundamental to my faith, it is hard for me to fully explain how profound they are to me right now. And how completely they healed me. Every time I recall that image, that memory, I smile with joy for knowing that He knows how I feel.

He understands. And that makes it ok.

Second. One of my dominate emotions was of feeling totally ungrounded. Like I was riding a roller coaster with no end in sight. I feared I would end up like that forever, and “wimp out” on the whole living and working overseas thing.

I listened to a sermon from Jason Ma. In it he used an analogy of being on a ship in the ocean. He spoke of the consuming, and mind-numbing seasickness he experienced his first time on the ocean.

He described how his uncle put his arm around him, and suggested he focus his eyes on a mountain that hung over the horizon. As he focused on the mountain, the seasickness gradually faded away. As long as he kept his eyes on the mountain, he didn’t feel like he was going crazy. He didn’t throw up. Everything was ok.

In the same way, Jesus is my mountain. He is my constant. When I focus on Him, the crazy lady in my head fades away. My fears seem oh-so-much-less consuming. China isn’t so scary, and my life seems manageable.

Oh my GOD. My constant. The One Who really Understands me.

The smile on my face when you see me around town is real. The pain that still occasionally stabs me is real. The joy that grows out of my thankfulness and Father-given peace is real. Who HE is, and how HE loves, is real.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

signs on my body that they were here

My sister Rachel and I often joke on skype about the cosmetic surgery we are going to do someday. When we are all done having children, we tell each other, we are going to be lifting, tucking, scrambling to re-capture our youth. And then we grimace at each other, and start laughing our heads off. Because, really, when are two knife-shy old ladies with better things to do going to make cosmetic surgery a priority?!!

I tell you what though. Even if I had a fairy godmother at hand, ready to lift and tuck to my heart’s desire, there are a few things I would never change.

The stretch marks my first daughter gave me. I hadn’t even ONE, on the day I went into labor. But after 48 hours of active labor, when I begged for the epidural, my legs swelled so much from the drugs that I got my first stretch marks. They speak to me of perseverance, and the faithfulness of my Father to get me through scary times.

The little lines that came with my second daughter, as I traveled to a new country. When I started my life over in China. As the Father healed the scars on my heart by giving me a beautiful, and satisfying natural birth experience.

And the sign that this, my third baby, really was here. I almost feel lucky, that I have a physical reminder of his life. The pink, thin line below my bellybutton. Witness to the bad thing taken out of me, the cyst that my baby pointed out. I think it is pretty amazing that at 9 weeks old, unborn, and perfect, he maybe saved his mama’s life.

These lines, bumps, and scars are the sign of an amazing thing. A body designed for miracles. It blows my mind!

So… Rachel, maybe instead of a vaca where we lift and tuck, you and I can just escape to a beach in Brazil when we are done having kids?

P.S. For the record, Matt says he wouldn't be opposed to making a LITTLE lifting and tucking a priority

A Good Way

“Let’s see, dear God, I want to tell you, in a brand new way
‘I love you!’ But I cannot think of anything to say.
I know, dear God! I will run and do something for someone, and then when you see me doing it, of course You’ll understand!”
-Mary Dixon Thayer

Matthew was gone for a long time yesterday. He took Zoe with him, and headed out into a village to sign the lease on our new children’s home. It was supposed to take a couple hours, but stretched, (not surprisingly) into 6 hours!

While he was gone, Esther and I were able to catch up on some much-needed cuddling that we have missed during the excitement of the last week and a half.

I lay in bed, and propped a pillow over my lap to protect my healing incision from a loving 2 year-olds elbows. I arranged other pillows into a “nest”. She brought her “nay nay”, (pacifier) and blankey, along with a large pile of books. We read for an hour, just the two of us. I don’t know if that has EVER happened.

One of the books she brought me was a Little Golden Book… “Prayers for Children”.

The verse above caught my eye, and made me think of the second week of this New Year.

ALL of us got sick with the flu. At least it happened in the staggered formation that gave me time to nurse everyone before I was laid out by the vomiting. First Matt… then Esther. Just as things were starting to look up, Zoe and Andrew started throwing up. Our living room was a disaster zone. I had a shower curtain spread out, with a sheet on top of it for Zoe. Then, when she would miss her bucket, I could just wrap up the sheet, throw it on the porch, and get out a new sheet!

As for me, I wasn’t sure where morning sickness ended, and the flu started. It was just DAYS and NIGHTS of stink and diapers and YUCK! I know mothers and fathers all over the world go through this, so seriously, I am not complaining. But you know how it is if you are a parent, you just DO what you gotta do!

One night, toward the end of the onslaught, I had just finished a diarrhea diaper clean-up in the bathtub on a certain 2 year old, and was greeted by the 4th of the day from little Andrew. Now, I am just going to be honest here. It was REALLY starting to gross me out. For your own child, you have a certain amount of grace that the Father gives you when they are sick. Love pulls you through when your mind just wants to give up.

As much as I love him, I don’t FEEL like Andrew is “mine”, I know, in the deepest of my heart, that he already belongs to someone else…

Anyway, there I was, hanging over the bathtub, sick to my stomach, rinsing the filth from the rear of this tiny, crying little guy. “I DON’T LIKE THIS” I yelled, at no one in particular. (I guess I just needed to say it). And I thought about his parents, somewhere out there, WAITING FOR HIM. Loving him, and wondering if he is ok. And the tears came. And I know he is just in a million who are waiting. I know it is just a drop in the bucket of need. But for you, his mommy and his daddy, wherever you are, I will wash his bottom, I thought. I will love him, until you get to.

So, I wrapped him in one of our last clean towels, and I told him I was sorry I was such a poor excuse for a mama, and that SOMEWHERE, his mommy and daddy can’t WAIT to wash his little bum! But until they get the chance, we gotcha covered, little dude.

“Let’s see, dear God, I want to tell you, in a brand new way
‘I love you!’ But I cannot think of anything to say.
I know, dear God! I will run and do something for someone, and then when you see me doing it, of course You’ll understand!”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Story of Baby Andrew (JUST THE FACTS)

(for those of you who like all the emotional stuff, see following post)

On Thursday, December 2nd, I was at home, wondering what in the world I was going to do with my 4 and 2 year old that afternoon. Matt had been gone for a few days, and I was looking forward to him checking in that day… a little adult, ENGLISH conversation with your best friend goes a LONG ways!

When he called, the first thing he said was, “go check your email”. Being the ever-suspicious wife of a man who has a new idea every 5 minutes, I told him to tell my WHY first.

There was this little Dude Matt had fallen in love with at a foster home he was visiting. The child had turned 1 year old that day, but look more like a 7 or 8 month old. When Matt walked into the room, the little guy started waving, laughing and singing to Matt. After asking around, it turned out there was not really enough room for him at that foster home, and everyone would be thrilled if we could take him away for a few months and give him some extra attention and love.

We had been thinking about fostering for quite some time, and felt that when the time came, we would KNOW. It turns out, we did know. After giving me all the details, I told Matt I needed 10 minutes alone to talk to the Father.

And the next day, Matt hopped on a plane, and brought him home!

His English name is Andrew, and his little brain is perfect. He watches everything and is involved in everything going on around him. He has only 1 pinky on one hand, and the other hand is fine. His toes and legs need some attention, and later on, in his adoptive family, he will need some surgeries. Because he has spent so long in an institution, he cannot sit up, push up, or do most things a typical baby would do at 1 year.

Soon he will go on to be adopted internationally, and we are looking forward to him having his own family for keeps. But for now, we will be working on building his muscles and abilities, and giving him lots of love.

We are not able to adopt yet from China. For no other reason than that we both have to be 30 years old. And one of us is NOT yet 30 ☺ We know it will be hard to let him go later, but we DO understand how this works, and we do not have delusions about the end result.

He is the happiest baby I have ever met. He laughs, and sings, and smiles. He obviously does not appreciate a dirty diaper, or being hungry, but for the most part he never cries. We are blessed indeed.

You can pray that we all find joy in loving him, that we are united as a family, and that our girls have understanding beyond their years about this boy. We want them to have no fear or misunderstandings about what we are doing with Andrew. Pray that he grows healthy, and stronger than ever while he is with us.

Baby Andrew (What Matt calls the GIRLY EMOTIONAL STORY)

On Thursday, December 2nd, I was at home, wondering what in the world I was going to do with my 4 and 2 year old that afternoon. Daddy had been gone for 4 days, with a 2 day trip preceding this trip, and I was recovering from a cold and Thanksgiving.

I was psyching myself up for some fabulous romp on the playground, reminding myself of all the reasons I wasn’t going to let my kids watch TV all day.

I had been waiting all day to hear from Matthew. He was having a great time, and I was having a great attitude, but being alone with the munchkins and no best friend gets old fast.

The call finally came around 4, and the girls were jumping all over me, screaming to talk to daddy, so I put on the ever faithful sesame street and told Matthew he had my full attention. I was glad I did not obey his command to check my email as soon as he got on the phone. If I had, my emotions would have gotten even MORE confused by the story he started to tell me. The abbreviated version follows below. (this was the picture in my inbox)

M: So, how ‘bout I bring a baby home tomorrow?
H: WHAT?!!!
M: I met this cute baby and they said I could bring him home tomorrow!
H: NO! you can NOT bring a baby home
M: well, just let me tell you about him… no pressure
H: right.
M: blah blah blah, he goes on to tell me all about the baby
H: is he going to be adopted?
M: Yes
H: soon?
M: hopefully
H: does he honestly need us? Even for a short time?
M: yes
H: it is going to cost a LOT extra, formula, diapers…
M: Whatever. There is always enough
H: I am a TeRRIBLE mom. He does NOT deserve to live here with me…. Crying
M: why don’t you just go ask Father about it? If you say no, that is ok
H: when do they need to know?
M: um, like, um, 15 minutes
H: wow. Ok. I am going to go in my room and talk to Father

In my room, screaming, crying at Father. (very glad my girls are engrossed in Elmo’s latest adventure) What should we DO?

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was homeless, and you invited me in…”

Me, to Him “but I am a TERRIBLE mother! I will ruin his life! He will be so scarred. My girls…”

“I give you everything you need to parent Zoe and Esther. I can give you everything you need to parent Andrew, too”

Me, “really REALLY? You will give me EVERYTHING I need?”


I stop crying, smile, and start thinking about all the things we need to do to get ready. Diapers to buy, doctor appointments to make… boy clothes to round up.

I call Matt, and say, “bring him home”. All right he says, I have to go, I will let you know when we arrive at the airport.

I stare at my daughters. I think about a house full of pink. I calculate diapers, I guess how big he will be. I call a few friends with boys, and they tell me they will look through their clothes and see what I can borrow. I freak out. I thank the Father that I know how to hear His voice. I thank Him that I can be confident in His promises.

The girls and I get on the motorcycle and head to Pizza Hut for a celebration dinner, and I am shaking like I drank 10 cups of coffee or am drunk. We head to Walmart and pick up a case of diapers that will end up being WAY to big for the little guy.

And we go home. Get ready for bed, and dream about tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Memories, and My Girls

Here it is, Thanksgiving week, and I am still trying to formulate these thoughts into a coherent blog post. Bear with me. Or is it bare with me? Beer with me? Hmm, I am sure one of you genius home schoolers will tell me.

As “the Holidays” are rolling in, so are a 101 of my memories, ideas, and insecurities.

For instance, we bought recently our first ever fake Christmas tree. Horror, mingled with excitement, mingled with desperation were welling up in both me and my husband. Born and bred Oregonians, going to a huge, semi-clean shopping center, buying a FAKE Christmas tree?! Can this be HAPPENING?

My personal Christmas tree memories involve slogging through mud, or maybe even through snow on a good year. For SURE my memories include a long walk back to the truck/15 passenger Dodge Ram van while pouting that my parents did not pick the tree I wanted… some years, a trip to the mountains for a wild, mangled-looking evergreen that would NEVER look quite right.

And, every Thanksgiving of my life has had a pecan pie. Call my lazy for not looking hard enough, if you want, but for the LIFE of me I haven’t seen a single pecan since I moved here. And I didn’t bother bringing them with me to China because it never occurred to me that there wouldn’t be pecans on every shelf at Thanksgiving time. Hah!

I think about nights that I feel asleep in the back of our VW van, (these were the early years, when there were only 5 or so children in my family) on our way home from my Grandparent’s home in the mountains. Winding our way down the mountain roads in the dark, watching for deer, confident in my dad’s super-human driving skills, until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

ALWAYS, my dominant memories are of the security in tradition, in routine. Of being loved, and most of all, of being SAFE with my parents.

I feel sad, or even angry on occasion, that my children are not safe coming home late at night. That they are careening down dimly lit roads on a motorcycle, barely missing being hit by cars going the wrong way without head lights. I feel irritated, that they are not going to munching pecan pie this Thanksgiving, or cutting down a real, living tree that we will smell in our living room for the next month.

BUT, last week, we were on our way home from something, “late” at night, (maybe 9pm?) and I was holding Esther in my arms in the back seat of our motorcycle. Matt was driving. We were all quiet, and there was a full moon.

Esther was laying back in my arms, face turned up to the sky, completely relaxed. She was singing a song about seeing the moon under her breath.

I looked under my arm at Zoe. And to my surprise, she was asleep! She had somehow wiggled her rather long, 4 year old body down to get her head (in it’s helmet) onto my squishy belly, and flung her feet up over the side of the back rest. She was smiling in her sleep, and she hadn’t a care in the world. Daddy was at the wheel, Mommy had Esther, and it was late at night and we were going HOME. Her home.

We were going home, and in the morning, she might not be eating pecans, but she’d be dumping fresh strawberries on her granola! Her Autumn memories will be a jumble of real pumpkins, leaves we made out of crayon shavings, and fresh strawberries!

And once again, it hit me like the wind, the voice of my Father, “This is HER childhood! These are THEIR memories! They have traditions, and routines, and feel loved… and look at that little girl, she feels safe!”

I am thinking a lot about something sis-in-law Heather mentioned to me once, how my children’s memories are their own, and just as beautiful and life-shaping in their difference from my memories, as mine are from my mother’s.

How blessed are my children. To live in a land not their own. To see their heavenly Father provide for them each day in unique and amazing ways not possible in America. How blessed they are, to eat fresh strawberries when everyone else in America is making do with apples. How blessed they are, to have no fear on the motorcycle, and to come home to a warm home that Daddy and Mommy have made their own. How blessed they are, to be safe, along with Mommy and Daddy, right in the will of their Creator?!

So here is a big hurrah for a Thanksgiving and Christmas season full of old traditions, and new. Full of memories all their own. Full of their home, if not the one I have always thought of as mine.

I love you, Zoe and Esther. I am proud of you, and you are headed into the best Christmas of your life!

Here are a few photos, looking back :)

Zoe October 2006

North Carolina

Zoe and Esther October 2009

Esther and Zoe October 2010

Ziebar/Ray/Barros Christmas 2005
5 months pregnant with Zoe

Ziebart Family Christmas Tree 2009

Ziebart Family Christmas Tree 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Spitting/or being TOO accustomed to a different culture

PRE-SCRIPT: in the event described below, no one other than the author’s own sensibilities were offended.

Spitting in a national past-time. It is culturally acceptable in a variety of situations. Say, at your average restaurant when you have something in your mouth you don’t want to swallow. If it is morning, and you are riding the bus to work and have a gigantic wad of phlegm just begging to be released… and so forth and so on.

We were driving our friend’s car home the other day, after going on a family outing. I cheerfully sat in the front seat, peeling small mandarin oranges for the girls to eat in the back seat. I noticed the sign for “Construction Bank of China” across the next intersection and hollered at Matt to pull over so I could withdraw some cash.

I hopped out of the seat, wallet in one hand, a peeled orange in the other, happily humming the song we had just been listening to in the car. (something about “do to others, DO to others, as you would HAVE THEM DO TO YOU”)

I waited in line for my turn at the machine. Munching little orange sections.

Spitting the seeds out on the floor of the bank, without a thought.

Not a glance my direction from the guard, the business man in front of me, or the average looking girl at the machine next to me who was in the process of shooting a “snot rocket” onto the floor.

I stepped up to the machine, and caught my reflection in the little mirror you can use to watch people behind you.

I took a second look.

Had I just spit an orange seed onto the FLOOR OF THE BANK????!!!!

I looked at the floor.


Horrors. I looked behind me and saw a trail of about 5 seeds.

They were all mine.

I soberly spit my remaining 2 seeds into a Kleenex I found in my pocket, withdrew my money. And turned silently toward the car.