I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who read my post about my experience with infant loss – the comments, inbox and text messages, emails and other replies were simply heart-warming. While so many women have told their stories of infant loss, I find that they are most often followed by “but now we have [insert number here] beautiful children.” I wanted to offer a different narrative – 3 years after our loss, we do not have children; we have decided to focus our time and energy in different ways. And although we are not the ultimate determiner of fate, we have made a conscious choice to not direct our attention towards conception. I honor the experiences of those who do, but I also find that stories like ours remain untold or silenced by shame or embarrassment – so thank you again for reading.

In For Carter I referenced re-evaluating my life while at home on bedrest. This post is dedicated to a snippet of what that process was like for me.

6 weeks is a LONG time to be at home, unable to drive, with virtually no visitors and A LOT of quiet time. While this was not where I wanted to be – who does? – I was determined to make the most of it. One of my amazing sorority sisters mailed me a huge box of books so I read. I’ve never been a fan of televangelism, but I was confined to the house so I sought “TV church” for inspiration and encouragement. And of course, I love to write so I journaled.

Over the course of those 6 weeks, something happened to me. I began thinking about how stressful my job was and while my condition was not pleasant, I was actually happy to not have to be in that work environment. I started thinking about all the things I used to enjoy doing that I hadn’t done in a while: spending time with my girlfriends, going dancing, visiting art galleries, listening to international music. I reflected on how I’d lost my way – who had I become? Had I reached a point of being so consumed with my marriage and ideas of the “good wife” that I completely silenced God’s voice in my life about what I should be doing and the direction my life should be moving in?

I had many moments when I literally cried out – I was ashamed. I had allowed my own voice to slip away completely or at select times, whisper in the shadows of someone else’s. I have no idea who I’d become. So I started writing profusely – what were my dreams? How do I get there? What do I love? What are my talents? What activities/careers have I always been drawn to? What was my life story up until this point?

During those 6 weeks I applied to seminary unsure of exactly which route I would take while enrolled, but knowing that I wanted to study the implications of religion and health. I just made the application deadline. Quite naturally, I was drawn to the intersections of religion and health because of my personal experience, but also by the experiences of so many I knew. It was during this time that I also knew that seminary would be but 1 of the degrees I would pursue – I wanted to get my doctorate. I want to teach!

Let me pause here and say that my life has forever been changed by my teachers. I have always been blessed with amazing teachers who offer special care and concern for me, who inspire me in more ways that I can imagine and who provide whatever lack I may be experiencing at that time. As I’ve told countless stories time and time again, I have realized that my encounters are not shared by all – so I have a special place in my heart for teachers. I also love the art of teaching – of offering a new perspective (whether accepted or not); of exposing others to the world through a different lens; of creating experiences where students can find their best selves and cultivate that reality more fully. And finally, teaching is one of the few things I’d do and have done for free. I remember being just 6 or 7 years old, lining my doll babies and other stuffed animals up in my bedroom and teaching to them.  I remember completing my undergraduate applications and declaring myself as an education major, only to be told that I should find something more prestigious to pursue. And then I remember the day some umpteen years later when I realized just how much I love teaching, how naturally it comes to me and how I truly believe it is my gift.

During this time I also admitted to myself that I needed to leave my job. I didn’t know where I was going or how I would earn my portion of the household bills, but the time and energy spent at my job (and often once I got home) stressing over ongoing issues was taking a toll on me. I contacted my supervisor and told her I’d be back, but would definitely be transitioning out of my role. I was both relieved and frightened.

As I was nearing the end of a physically and emotionally draining 6 weeks, I’d re-found my purpose. I recommitted to service. I recommitted to my church. I recommitted to my journey. With all this recommitment I lost balance in my marriage – more on that later – but the next 2 years would be spent getting back to me. Everything worked out with my job. I was able to transition to part time and eventually leave the organization altogether. Right before school started, I was offered another positon working on a faith-based public health initiative – perfect! And during my 2nd year of the program, I was accepted into the doctorate program of my choice.

Although losing Carter is one of the most painful things I have ever experienced, my pursuit of a purposed and service-driven life eases the pain just a little. I feel so encouraged that the way that I am living my life now honors him and his memory. While I recognize that there is absolutely no replacement for a child’s love, I also accept that there are so many ways to love and be loved; to give and to receive; to serve and to contribute to the world. I cannot change the past, nor can I control my ability to have children. BUT I can control how I live my life each day just as it is. My ongoing prayer is that I am on my path to living authentically, appreciating what I do have and giving to others.

Here is what I have to offer to you if you feel like you’ve lost your way:

  • Don’t wait for a traumatic event so force you to re-evaluate your life
  • Find some quiet time to reflect: who are you? What do you believe about your life purpose? What do you enjoy?
  • Even in the most loving and supportive relationships, there is the potential to confuse compromise and sacrifice. Remember who you are and what your goals are. Even if they are delayed, never lose sight of them.
  • Remember the things that bring you joy.
  • Stay the course. I finished my first master’s degree in 2005 and NEVER thought I’d return to school but I always knew the field of public health was and remains for me. Through various career choices, roles and responsibilities I have stayed the course! Today more than ever, I am assured of my decisions for this season.