Home » My Story » How Grieving Has Brought Me Joy :: A bit of my birth story (and a Giveaway!)

How Grieving Has Brought Me Joy :: A bit of my birth story (and a Giveaway!)

When my son was born, the experience was anything but what I anticipated. We planned for a natural birth, but 12 days before his due date an ultra-sound told us he was breech, amniotic fluid was low, and the cord may or may not have been wrapped around his neck. We were already in the maternity ward for an external version, so within an hour Jack was delivered via c-section.

prepping for surgery

prepping for surgery

My memory of that hour is fuzzy as my eyes blurred, my heart pounded, my anxiety built. I held my breath during the spinal and tried to control my body one last time as I lay down only to be reprimanded by the surgeon. I searched my husband’s eyes for hope as they put the pressure on my belly needed in order to squeeze Jack’s 6 pound 12 ounce body through the incision. My ears strained to hear my baby’s first cries from the other side of the blue sheet which divided me from him.

As they wheeled me from the operating room I wondered, “Did I just give birth?

It was hardly the story I envisioned and, in a state of shock, not one I could rejoice over.

But I had a healthy baby. And that’s all that mattered.

Or so they said.

_______

What do you do when life should be joyful, but it’s not? A fight breaks out the third day of your honeymoon, your beloved infant develops unexplainable colic, a dream job turns out to be beyond your ability to handle?

As Christians we are often taught to bite back the tears, cling to “the joy of the Lord,” put on a happy face, and move on.

But according to Margaret Feinberg, “When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve well, something inside us dies.” (Fight Back with Joy, p 79) Grief is not an experience to be swept aside, but an opportunity that is vital to our ability to have joy.

“Sometimes we need to give space for grief in order to make room for joy. No one is immune to sorrow, and only those who learn to grieve well can recapture the healing it brings. Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief.” (FBWJ, p 72)

________

At the end of my pregnancy with Ben, I received the news that he was also breech. After many failed attempts to flip him (including somersaults in the pool, standing on my head, and an external version), I faced my second unwanted c-section. For the first time I let myself feel. Feel the disappointment, the pain of Jack’s delivery. I wept over my sense of failure. I lamented my fear and shock. I mourned the loss of a vaginal birth (which I still inexplicably desired).

Grieving the painful circumstances of Jack’s birth freed me from the negativity of my past. Mourning my experience enabled me to see God’s work at the time. Fear of my feelings was replaced by confidence in the good grief brings. For the first time in three years I was able to say with certainty that I gave birth to Jack. And I would give birth to Ben the same way.

If anyone knows about seeking joy in the midst of the worst circumstances, Margaret Feinberg does. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer before the age of 40, Margaret decided to not only fight the cancer, but to Fight Back with Joy. Her new book (Fight Back with Joy) documents her journey through the diagnosis, chemotherapy, grief, loss, and pain all with the firm belief in the power of joy.

morethanwhimsy

I am treasuring her words as Margaret shares her story in Fight Back with Joy with vulnerability, courage, and hope. She is teaching me, the often pessimistic, perfectionistic, mother of two, that Joy is possible. Even when it is least expected.

_________

fightbackwithjoyTo win a copy of Fight Back with Joy,Β comment below on how grief and joy have coincided or collided in your life, subscribe to The Toothless Grin blog,Β shareΒ this post through your favorite social media, like my page on Facebook, Follow Me on Twitter. Up to five ways to enter! Be sure to let me know how you have entered by writing a comment below! (if you already subscribe, like, or follow me, then just tell me!) Giveaway ends on January 22, 12:00pm MST.

This post was written as part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob blog tour for the release of Fight Back with Joy. To purchase a copy of Fight Back with Joy check out Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Or for the 6 week bible study DVD series for your small group, click here.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

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22 thoughts on “How Grieving Has Brought Me Joy :: A bit of my birth story (and a Giveaway!)

  1. I reluctantly handed Bryan the tiny pair of USC (his alma mater) baby socks. It was the grand gesture I had planned to announce our first pregnancy. We were sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean in Corona Del Mar, CA, where we were visiting family during our Christmas break from Seminary. It was a beautiful day. But I was filled with anxiety, because I knew that even though the test was positive, something was terribly wrong. I was bleeding. I had made an appointment for that afternoon, and so I was forced to tell Bryan quickly about this news, the good and the possibly-not-so-good, all at once.
    The ultrasound showed no evidence of a yolk sack in the uterus. Blood was drawn and I was sent away to wonder what it all meant. That night, we traveled an hour south to Oceanside to stay with friends. They had a young daughter at the time, and knowing that I was in a fragile state, they offered me her bed. Bryan slept on the floor next to me, but I did not sleep. At some point during the night, in the middle of physical pain that I had never felt before, I knew in my spirit that my precious baby was dying inside of me. I looked up, and the girl whose room I was in had hanging on her wall a picture of Jesus holding a small baby. I was grieving, but I had peace.
    The next morning my pain increased severely. For some reason I knew this wasn’t a normal miscarriage. I asked Bryan to take me to the ER. We sat for FOUR excruciating hours in the waiting room. Long story short, after another ultrasound, it was determined that I had a very dangerous tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, was bleeding internally because the pregnancy had ruptured my fallopian tube, and I was going to need immediate surgery. Wasn’t prepared for that one!
    Days after the surgery and recovery, we made the long drive back to Denver. We were greeted by a huge stack of Christmas cards that had arrived while we were away, and I was faced over and over again with my reality as I opened cards filled with family photos and pregnancy announcements, while I sat with empty arms.
    Consecutive pregnancies brought with them both the excitement of hope and the dread of a repeat ectopic pregnancy (my chances had jumped from like 1 in 10,000 to some other big percentage I can’t recall). My nephew was born two days before my surgery. His birthday brings back the memory of the one I lost each year. But I have three beautiful healthy children. In fact, I conceived my oldest five months after that initial loss. But I will always grieve that moment when we had to hold our first-time-parents excitement at bay. It was not how I had pictured things unfolding.
    I am a pretty healthy griever in general. I do believe it’s because I have had to do plenty of it! I am not afraid to acknowledge that life is painful. But this also frees me up to acknowledge that life is also beautiful and rich and full of so much love. I rejoiced all the more when my babies were conceived and “landed” in the right spot, because I knew the pain of the alternative. Grief intensifies joy, and vice versa. And if we try to cut ourselves off from experiencing grief, we inevitably cut ourselves off from its counterpart, and in the midst of that, we are not truly living.
    That’s all for now! πŸ™‚ That’s my short answer, too!

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    • Candice, thank you for sharing your story with me. What a heart-wrenching turn. I appreciate your candor, your faith, and your willingness to share your experiences with us all. You’re right. If we cut ourselves off from grief, we cut ourselves off from life. I’m learning life is a series of goodbyes, but each goodbye is an opportunity for a new hello. We need to say goodbye well.
      Bless you, dear sister.

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  2. Grief is quite the thing, isn’t it?! Of course, the most natural and perhaps prominent example is grieving loss of a loved on. A missed experience (like natural birth– something I’ve also missed out on!) is something that lots of people surrounding you may not realize requires grieving.

    A question for you– a young friend of mine was just diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease and learned that she will go blind over the coming years. She is grieving so much right now. Since you’ve read this book, do you think this would be a good book for her? She’s the type of person who always strives for kindness and optimism, so the joy part seems like the right fit. πŸ™‚

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    • I pray for your friend right now that she has peace and courage for the next several years. That is a rough diagnosis. I can’t imagine.

      I think this book would be really great as Margaret seems to write through the disease in a way that I don’t think I could. She speaks hope in a very dark place in her life. Margaret is a Bible teacher (should have stated that stronger above) so each chapter has accessible teachings on Scripture. I hope that gives you an idea of what it’s like. Maybe check out the book on amazon (link above) and see if you can check out a sample of the book to get a better idea of its content.

      Thanks for your comment, you are IN the drawing!

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  3. It was 32 years ago this month when my second baby was due. At that time we did not have the luxury of an ultra sound to tell us anything about our baby. After having a healthy girl it would be fun to have a boy to complete our little family. We could not wait untill this child was born and we were eager to see if God gave us a boy or girl.
    The delivery went fast and we were at the hospital less than 2 hours. The doctor laid this beautiful baby boy on my tummy and my husband put his head on my chest & cried. It was a joyous moment but suddenly the delivery room fell silent. My husband noticed the medical staff as their eyes glanced back and forth as if they were communicating something only they could know. We wanted to make phone calls to our family but the doctor said there would be plenty of time for that later.
    Then our doctor left the room & I could see he was making a phone call. When he came back into the room he looked at us and said “I hate to put a wet blanket on things but it appears your baby has Down Syndrome.” His words hit us like a ton of bricks and we were not prepared for such news. My husband acknowledged that he thought something was wrong the minute Josh was born. He did not look like our daughter and his eyes were oddly shaped, not to mention the purplish color of his skin.
    We were in shock and had no clue what was in store for our family. This is something that happens to other people and certainly not us. After a long sleepless night for both of us, I was anxious to get to know my baby the next morning. Who was this baby God laid before me and how was I going to take care of him? I was scared and disappointed and grieved for the healthy baby all the other mothers were taking home from the hospital.
    Josh went on to have many medical problems, life threatening pneumonia at 8 weeks old, open heart surgery at 7 months old, tubes in his ears 5 times and the list goes on.
    There have been many ups and downs the past 32 years. Even though the road was sometimes difficult, it has alway been a joy to be Josh’s mom. I couldn’t have asked God for more, even though my son was not “normal”. As the saying goes, “normal is just a setting on the dryer.”

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story and your post on grief bringing joy. It is hard sometimes to find the joy – but your words are encouraging to do just that!

    When my mother died unexpectedly 2 1/2 years ago, I was devastated…and grieve I did. But I knew where she was; I knew she was not suffering any longer. I knew she was with my father and his parents and her sister…but it never occurred to me until I read “Heaven is for Real” that my mother had been reunited with her own mother – who she never knew because her mother died in childbirth. Perhaps this was when I could let the grief become joy! I can’t imagine how it must have been growing up without a mother…I had mine for almost 61 years!

    Your words of encouragement and inspiration is much appreciated!

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    • Unexpected deaths are very difficult. I’m sorry for your loss – and so glad for your joy. My grandmother died from ALS on Leap Day in 2000. We all said she lept into heaven which brought us a bit of joy in the sorrow. Thanks for your comment. You are entered in the drawing!

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  5. I am the type of person who always feels the need to be strong for everyone else, it is only recently with dealing with my Mom having dementia that I have learned how to grieve, and to find the joy that follows. I love that quote you shared especially this part- “Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief.” Thank you for sharing.

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    • It’s hard to be the one others depend on. My friends and mentor has been blogging about her mother’s alzheimers and being the primary caregiver. There’s definitely grief and joy in it. Thank you for sharing your story. You are in the drawing!

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  6. I discovered that I had to grieve after my husband was miraculously healed from a catastrophic bout with cancer (I know, it sounds crazy–it’s a caregiver thing, I think–I wrote a post about it for Stand Up to Cancer called ‘Good Grief’. I’d love to be entered in your giveaway–I follow you on twitter and liked your Facebook page :)).

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  7. Pingback: How I am rising above shame (and the winner of Fight Back with Joy) | The Toothless Grin

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