One Lost Sheep

This is a message from the site creator.  It has graphic and disturbing content  and is intended to provide a resolution to a particular conflict that has arisen that has not been able to be reconciled privately.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  (Luke 15:1-7)

When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents were not married.  They were thick in illegal activities and running from the authorities.  My mother had a traumatic birth experience which began with my father driving her to the hospital, in full labor, on the back of the motorcycle, and ended with her feeling ashamed and dirty and alone with a wailing, needy baby.

Two years before I was born, my mother gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, whom as she recalls she was forced to name but unable to hold.  Heather Rose is my older half sister, conceived by a different father.  I do not know how she died, only that she was stillborn.

After my birth, my father resumed his illegal activities, and my mother attempted to fulfill all domestic responsibilities alone, fighting her own addictions and habits, and fighting just to survive my father’s abusive and violent temper.

When I was almost two years old, my mother tried to leave my father.  She took me and stayed hidden at a neighbor’s house, I suppose until she could figure out what to do next.

My father responded by decapitating our dog, leaving him on the front porch, with a note that said that we were next.

My mother fled to a different state.

Her background followed her, and so did the authorities.

I was placed in emergency state custody, while my mother was sent to prison.  Nobody could find my father.

I spent several years moving around various foster homes, until the state-to-state compact of social services could figure out what to do.

They finally located my father, and, not knowing that he was still very much involved in illegal activity, only knowing that my mother was in prison, they believed that I should be reunited with him.

I lived with my father for about a year.

I spent the remainder of my childhood trying to navigate and survive a life of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and rape.

Every six months I had a new foster home, a new program I was supposed to work through, a new family I was supposed to become a temporary part of.  I entered into new schools, exhausted and broken, wanting a friend, and finding torment and social abandonment instead.

As a teenager, even while in the midst of trying to sort out who I was and what purpose I even had, I had an empathy for others who were hurting.

I became involved in counseling programs for children, even as I was receiving counseling for my own childhood.

I spent years, volunteering, supporting, validating, and loving.  It was rewarding, and even though it didn’t take my own pain away, it was very healing.

I began to pursue social work academically.

As I rushed through my studies to achieve a MSW, I became pregnant.

Through my pregnancy, I learned about the amazing maternal physiological changes that take place during pregnancy and during childbirth, and I was captivated.

I knew, I just knew, that if I could make more parents understand this, then they would fall in love with the experience – and subsequently, they would fall in love with their children.

“Preventative Social Work” is what I called it, as I began to explore the concept of doula work.

I learned that others have come before me on this marvelous expedition of understanding and harnessing the profound changes that take place during pregnancy and childbirth.

As a doula, I began working with the same demographic that I was accustomed to: economically and socially high risk mothers.   I taught them about everything I knew of pregnancy and childbirth, and through the experiences, not only did they have satisfying outcomes, they had less interventions, better bonding, and, they learned about something consistant and stable they could take home with them long after I packed up my doula supplies: they learned about God, and His plan for families.

As I continued to work with my clients, I became increasingly aware of a need to provide a deeper sense of trust.  They didn’t just want to hear about why an intervention could be avoided, but why these interventions were even options.  I began to explore my doula information in a more complete way, providing information on not only the risks of interventions, but also the benefits, and, how to work with them should they become needed.  I have provided doula support for hospital births, birth center births, homebirth transfers, and homebirths.  Regardless of the high percentage of high risk clients I have, I have an extremely low intervention rate.  When interventions are used, the mother knows and trusts that they are in fact needed.

This more analytical view led me to explore controversial websites, including Dr. Amy’s Facebook group, “Fed Up With Natural Childbirth”.  The title to me was totally absurd.  I was absolutely baffled that anyone could truly be fed up with natural childbirth.  So, I joined, just to introduce myself and see what it was all about.

I was quickly attacked.

I was immediately put on the defensive, and found myself not only explaining the benefits of doulas, but explaining the value of the Bible to me in my life.

It was exhuasting and honestly it was hurtful.

I thought about leaving, but I wanted to persevere and not only learn why these mothers were so angry, but to teach them that natural childbirth is good, and so is the Bible – that it’s not just about leading people to Jesus and hoping they convert, but simply about leading people to what is right, and then allowing them to see for themselves if Jesus is in it or not.

Then, I had my miscarriage.

I told them about it, and about the way the doctor treated me so horribly.

And, all of the questions stopped.  I wasn’t attacked or blamed for thinking that my doctor did a really terrible job of providing information to me.

They were gentle, honest, compassionate, empathetic, and, real.

But, to the rest of the world, they remained angry and unapproachable.

As I put stillbirthday together, I remember understanding the hurt that many of the mothers in that group were carrying.  The feeling of rejection, of failure, of no one to validate their pain.  I knew I wanted to leave a legacy for my miscarried baby, one that would be honoring and would be something that would help.

And I saw that these women were trying to do the same.

So, when stillbirthday was ready, I asked two of these mothers if they would be interested in being a part of it somehow.  They both agreed.

They are both still involved in a tangled internet mess that involves old things they’ve said in their grief, and resentments and doubts that people carry toward them because of the intentional pain and confusion they have attempted to retaliate with.

Now, as I have covered the history, I address this more directly.

The memories of pain don’t just go away.

I was a little girl, who had to start a new school every 6 months, sit at a different dining room table every 6 months, and I never hung the same Christmas ornaments twice.  I didn’t know what traditions were, family memories were, or what consistancy was.

I was angry.  I wanted desperately to fit in.  I wanted, to fit.

I grieved what I never knew, and I never got freedom from that until I was an older teenager, in my own apartment, and finally stopped moving.

I had to face that grief again, though, when I started dating, and I was confused and extremely insecure about my sexuality.

I had to face that grief again, though, when I became a mother and realized that my children would not have grandparents from my side of the family.

I had to face that grief again, though, when I experienced my pregnancy loss, and knew that my mother had had a pregnancy loss but that I couldn’t turn to her for comfort.

I had to face that grief again, though, when I discovered that I was the mother to a daughter, as my other children are boys.

In Matthew 18, Peter approaches Jesus and asks Him, “How many times am I to forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times.” (Matthew 18:22)

You see, I am constantly reevaluating my past, and my grief, through the lens of my current situation.  Grief is ongoing.  We move through it, yes, but it is something we will always be moving through.

There is a grieving mother right now, whose sweet son was unexpectedly born still, and who feels angry that two mothers who could be so angry in the past now are using their stories and their passions for good through stillbirthday.

This grieving mother is using her anger to attempt to show that she has been a better griever all along than these other two mothers, who have also experienced pregnancy and infant loss.

To this grieving mother, I say:

I am so very sorry for your loss.  I know that there is nothing in the whole world like losing your child.  The helplessness, the emptiness, the devastation.  I am so sorry.

I didn’t know about you or your story until very recently.

I have tried to reach you privately, but I believe you feel defensive and hurt, and so I make this statement publicly so that you can read it knowing that others will read it too – and so that you will know that my feelings toward you will not change.

Stillbirthday is a safe place to work through grief, to share our stories, to learn from each other, to admit faults freely without condemnation or shame, and to hope again.

These two mothers, who were once angry and hostile even toward me – the doula, the Christian – are very different now.  They have watched a great many mistruths being shared about them, they have watched as their old blogposts and online comments have been thrust back in thier face in accusation and disgust.  They have watched as their grieving style has been ridiculed, they have watched as they have been publicly slandered, laughed at, mocked, and scorned.

They have a great deal of passion to help hurting mothers, and they both agree to the very rigid expectations I have of them while working as a part of stillbirthday.  Just like any other of the over 250 companies and individuals working to represent stillbirthday in one form or another, they will be held accountable if they breach their agreement with stillbirthday.

I know that you don’t trust that.  You remember the hurt that your conversations inflicted on you.  I know that.

And I know that, just like any grieving mother, you want to share your story with the world, and through your two friends, you have found a way to do that.

I know what beliefs you have regarding childbirth, regarding your care provider, and regarding your birth plans.  None of that is excluded here.  This is a place of healing.  It has nothing to do with any of that.

The offers I made to you privately still stand.

You are a grieving mother, who deserves as much validation as any other.  I see the lesson you are hoping to impart on these two mothers through your anger.  You are worried that they only set out to harm, and you want them to find real peace in their grieving.  I believe that they are.  They have come a long way from the biting, angry women you still see them as.  If you cannot yet forgive them for the hurt you feel, please know that I do forgive you for the way in which you expressed your concern.  I forgive you for publicly slandering me, publicly slandering two mothers who are working through their grief and working as a part of stillbirthday, and I forgive you for publicly slandering stillbirthday.

In my forgiveness, it is my deepest hope that you will see that where these two mothers are, and where they are headed, is much more constructive than where they were.  I hope you see that the anger you throw at them is not going to engage them in an online destructive aggression with you.  I am concerned that you will see that the way you are sharing your own story is not as productive as it could be, that it is tainted with its own areas that need developing and growing, and that your two friends are shaping your story to promote something totally unrelated to your son at all, and that his legacy is going to get lost in the propoganda.  In that concern, I do believe that you will come to recognize the integrity and value of this website, as so many have before you.

Stillbirthday is not going anywhere.  It has stood against several kinds of oppositions before, and I believe it will in the future.  It has remained a solid, trustworthy site and has served thousands of families all over the world in only a few short months.  When you are ready to use your story -when you are ready to allow your son’s legacy to be used for a higher purpose- stillbirthday will be here, and my offer to you, to come join us will still stand.

You are on my heart.  I am so very sorry for the death of your son.  It is my hope and prayer that you are able to work through this aspect of your grief in a constructive way, and that you always know that stillbirthday does not judge or condemn you for the way you are currently working through it.  I know why you are.

And you will always have a place here, just like any other grieving, stumbling mother.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  (Luke 15:1-7)

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3 Responses to One Lost Sheep

  1. Melissa says:

    Oh, wow. This sounds like a jumbled mess. I agree that trying to speak privately on the matter is better for all involved. I sure hope there is some resolution to this situation soon. This poor mom, she must feel like she’s all by herself fighting the whole world. I wish she knew how valuable this website is. Still Birthday is an amazing place, and it even seems like you stuck your neck out for these other moms and that you want to do the same for this mom too.

    I hope she sees that her friend is not really helping at all but is only antagonizing things.

    I hope she knows how much support therre is here for her.

    Poor thing. 😦

  2. Outsider says:

    My heart goes out to all the mothers that have rainbow babies. Stillbirthday you are offering a wonderful service where people can just talk to others about their feelings with someone who has suffered loss. Often their friends and families no matter how hard they try just don’t get it. It is unfortunate that they have resorted to bullying.

    With regards to Elizabeth the more I read her blog and messages on facebook (and no I am not part of any “group” I am simply an observer intrigued as to how birth and mummy hood can bring out the best and worst in us all), the more i consider her to be a narcissist, and her friend is just a pawn in her agenda. To her friend, I acknowledge your anger over what was said and that no one should tell you how to grieve or that your grief is wrong, but it from an outsiders perspective she (Elizabeth) is fueling your anger. Elizabeth thrives on attention, causing arguments and validating that she is right.

    • Outsider says:

      Sorry the “it is unfortunate that they have resorted to bullying” referred to the other blog site and what they are doing to stillbirthday, not the friends and families of loss mothers.

      Also to the stillbirthday site creator, I admire your strength and ability to rise above; and create some good out of the horrific childhood you had. May you continue to keep helping others.

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