Guest post by Nicole Fisher
I read Nicole’s words and I just had to ask her if I could share them. It’s hard to imagine what life will be like after something terrible happens. With Hannah’s Wish that terrible thing we always deal with is the loss of a baby. I’m not good at looking past the tragedy and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Who is? My friend Nicole Fisher could tell you she wasn’t either ten years ago after they lost their son Rowen. Nicole has taken the time to write about how things were after her loss and how they are now, and what she’s learned in the last ten years. If you have just been through this, reading this will give you hope. I know it did just that for me. Here is her heart and what she has learned to know these past ten years…
10 Years Later
I have a slight obsession with numbers, especially round or even ones. If I wake up and I planned to get up at 6:30 a.m. but the clock says 6:28 a.m. I will actually wait around until it hits the even number exactly. And if I nod off and it’s now 6:34 am, I’ll have to wait a minute until it gets to 6:35 am. That might be a touch of neuroses perhaps. I also like to make things round out; for example, if I have three cookies I might as well have one more to make an even four. Anyone else, or is that just me? Seems completely logical, especially when we’re talking cookies.
It’s been 10 years now since our sweet son Rowan came into this world and abruptly left, completely changing the course of our lives. Ten. A decade. That sounds like a lifetime ago when you say it that way. But it still doesn’t feel like a lifetime ago. Some days it can feel like yesterday – when a song comes on the radio and I burst into tears or we meet a family with a child named Rowan and my day is flooded with memories and what ifs. But sometimes it really can feel like it was so long ago that it never happened – joy filled afternoons at the beach watching my boys play or the hustle at the end of the day with clanging plates to get dinner on the table and constant chatter. Noise. Always lots of noise. The noise can be boisterous laughter, angry shouts, small giggles or tense negotiations – it all depends on the day really. But noise speaks joy, passion and LIFE. Ten years ago there was no noise, no joy, no passion and no life. Ten years ago I was broken. I was on maternity leave that July to heal my body from delivery and to care for a baby that I had already buried. My body had betrayed me and continued to do so by producing milk that was not needed. I cried a lot. Sobbed really. It was usually in the shower or my closet where no one could see or hear my brokenness. I had been so strong, at least that’s what everyone told me. Family and friends surrounded me, but to be honest, I felt alone. Like I was on an island. Stuck in quick sand. Sinking. After a few weeks everyone went back to their regularly scheduled programming. It’s not their fault, that’s life. But I was still on the island for much longer than anyone realized at the time. A castaway.
This July, ten years later, I’m enjoying the summer as a stay at home mom with my three boys. There is very little crying (at least by me anyway). Our days are filled with nerf wars, swimming, Legos, video games and sometimes I even catch them all reading (motivated by those summer reading prizes of course). I take pause sometimes and think about how I never imagined this. How I could go from being so broken to THIS LIFE. Maybe you are in the broken place right now and you think this sounds like a fairytale with a happy ending that is out of your reach. ‘Good for her’ you’re saying under your breathe with contempt. I get it, I have said that too. Or maybe you read this and feel a glimmer of hope, that your life can be restored and you can one day be looking back on the broken you in the rear view mirror.
So, because I’m obsessed with numbers, and I love a good list, here are ten things the last ten years have taught me:
1. Solitude is a virtue. I always hated being alone and silence made me anxious. But when you’re entire world is turned upside down and being around people feels suffocating, you learn to embrace silence. It allowed me to breathe, think and feel without any distractions. I actually craved solitude, being alone in the dark where I could finally let my guard down and take off the mask that hid my pain. I got to know myself better. Those quiet moments allowed me to push the pause button when life was spinning out of control. And I still need to push that pause button sometimes.
2. I am NEVER alone and neither are you. When I was in the dark, in my shower, in the closet – I wasn’t really alone, that’s when God showed up. I mean, I know He was always there but it was only in that solitude that I could really just BE with Him. Even if it was to yell at Him with all my ‘why’ and ‘why me’ questions. I felt closet to Him in that brokenness than I had ever felt before. Not a warm and fuzzy kind of closeness but a clarity and sense of security that He was holding me up when life was knocking me down. And life is always knocking us down in one way or another.
3. God is working for your good even when you can’t see it. The rear view mirror allows us to see things that when right in front of your face are somehow blurred. Now I can see Him working all through the last ten years, almost like a trail of breadcrumbs leading to this day. I didn’t see any good that July and if you’d told me this then I might have punched you. My grandmother who lived thousands of miles away holding our sweet newborn who was born unexpectedly and would only live two hours? A card in the mail from a long distance friend months later but at just the right time? A blanket with a note that stirred my heart to the church that we now call home? An invitation from a new friend to join a group for moms that would later yield many friendships and much support? So much good was happening all around me, cushioning the blow and paving the way to THIS life today.
4. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ life. Before Rowan, I was a control freak. Just ask my husband. Up until the day of his birth, literally hours before, I was making lists and organizing things to be ‘perfect’ for the party we were having that day for our first born son. Well, that day didn’t turn out perfect at all despite all my efforts. Nothing in life is perfect as it turns out, not the kind of fake, superficial perfect I was striving for before. Life is raw, unexpected and sometimes perfectly imperfect. I embrace my life now, mess and all, because it’s authentic and I own it.
5. Let go and let God. Remember I was a control freak so this did not come naturally to me. I had literally had so many things happen to me that are not ‘normal’ in life that I finally threw my hands up in surrender. Kind of with a sigh under my breath, “Fine, do whatever you will with my life, I’m just along for the ride I guess.” But you know what happened? Out of that frustrated surrender came a celebration – a release like confetti spilling out of those hands I had thrown up. I didn’t have to be in charge anymore (well, I never really was but I didn’t know that at the time). A verse that encouraged me during that transformation was Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Stop striving and just trust. He’s God, he’s got this.
6. Being transparent is liberating. I used to hide myself a lot. Maybe you gathered that from all the talk of me in the closet. But even before that, I didn’t let many people close enough to see the real me. I had control (there’s that word again) of the ‘me’ I could show people. We all do that to some extent I think. When I let go of the need for control I realized it had such a tight grip on so many aspects of my life. I have no problem now talking about things that are emotional, inviting you into my usually messy house or being honest about mistakes I’ve made. I no longer worry about the reactions from others or if they will think I’m worthy. I place my value in how God sees me, which frees me to step out and just be myself.
7. Timing is everything. Not my timing of course. God’s timing is perfect but also perfectly frustrating. Trying to conceive again after Rowan was difficult and every month that the test was negative was like living a death all over again. When it was positive, it was like the tide finally changed and everything would be great now. When I miscarried, it was death all over again. And then more waiting. It was all consuming. I finally conceived our middle son and was pregnant with him when my first born entered preschool. I met the most supportive women in that preschool pickup line. They brought meals when I delivered and offered help when I was on bedrest. They invited us to attend church with them and they prayed for us. We don’t always understand the timing in the moment but in the rear view it comes into focus.
8. Gratitude is a life raft. I’d like to say that after we had our middle son that life was now filled with joy and our troubles were over. Smooth sailing. But I’d be lying. He was a pretty cranky baby and speech delayed toddler. I remember rocking him many nights – him crying and me sobbing from exhaustion, all while praising God for the job of rocking that inconsolable baby. On the hardest days in life, I look for the good and remember to be thankful. Some days it might be hard to find, but it’s always there. Find it and hold on tight.
9. I had to be broken to be rebuilt. Healing doesn’t come from the fact that I now have three healthy children. That doesn’t make up for or erase the pain, heal the wounds or quiet the anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I am humbled that I get to be their mother. Humbled. When you are broken down to nothing and can admit that, then you can begin the process of healing. My entire life before Rowan was spent trying to make things ‘perfect’. When I got married, things would be ‘perfect’. When we had a baby, things would now be ‘perfect’. When we bought a house, we’d have the ‘perfect’ life. I was pretty full of myself. The day I gave birth to Rowan, it all came crashing down. Slowly over the next year I was broken down emotionally to a point that I had nowhere left to go but to God. I relinquished the control, trusted His timing, threw myself into bible study, started attending church, gained strong Christian friendships and with each step, God was rebuilding me. He was now my foundation and upon that I built my faith, my hope, my trust and my life.
10. I’m thankful for the journey. Seems a little crazy to hear myself say that sometimes and I often get a raised eyebrow or two. People seemed shocked to hear that I could be thankful for pain, grief, loss and so much waiting. But the rearview provides a view that puts all of that into perspective. The events of the last ten years have all been wrapped in grace – every single one of them. I now have eyes that and see God’s fingerprints everywhere and in everything. My experiences allow me to share in the grief of others and offer a ‘me too’ when others can’t. I’m happy now because I’m free, unburdened by the weight of the world that I’ve happily surrendered to the only one who was ever meant to carry it.
As I drive off into the sunset I won’t just leave behind this decade. I’m loading it in the trunk and taking it along with me onto the winding roads I have yet to travel, over the mountains and through the valleys of life. But when I do glance in the rear view, I see that the road was not quite as bumpy as I remember it and that without that journey, I wouldn’t have a trunk full of lessons for the next one.
– Nicole Fisher