Friday, July 17, 2015

Truths of the Journey

By Bethany Conkel


Dear Brave Momma and Poppa,

I’m sitting here today thinking of you. I call you “brave” because I know you are walking a journey you never asked to walk – a journey you probably never even dreamed of walking – yet here you are. I imagine you might be muddling through the best you can, doing what you need to do to keep your head above water. Some days are good, other days are horrid.

Navigating this seemingly endless road is so complex. At times it can be dark, overwhelming, and gut-wrenchingly painful. Other times it can be filled with joy, pure love, and beauty. Although you are willing to move forward each day out of love for your baby, it does not change the difficulty level or the weariness that sometimes comes. Despite this, you still continue to move forward. This is why you are brave.

Each journey is unique and filled with different challenges as well as surprise blessings. And, each stage of your journey, from newly diagnosed, to carrying your baby, to saying hello and goodbye, to keeping your sweet one’s memory alive after they are gone, has its own set of highs, lows, and obstacles.

Sadly, as you walk this road, not only are you going to be faced with the internal struggle of navigating this ever evolving path, but you will also be met with something else unexpected – the judgment of others. This is not something that is often talked about openly or addressed. We want to think that the people around us are going to be kind, loving, and supportive. We want to believe that society is going to embrace this new journey along with us. After all, we live in a world that preaches “tolerance” and “acceptance” – yet those concepts do not always apply to the “taboo” that is our reality.

Although you will find that many will live up to the expectation of kindness and understanding that we hope for, not everyone is going to understand the love you have for your baby. People you expect to offer support may fail you. People you thought were your friends may vanish. People you love dearly may question your choices. Total strangers may say hurtful or nasty things to you out of ignorance (this is especially true if you share your journey publicly). Some people will never understand the approach you have chosen to take. Many will never be able to FULLY comprehend that you are doing your best to parent your little one during an impossible situation. Others will never grasp that you are truly making each choice out of pure love for your precious baby.

As you encounter these people, please know that during this journey, the seed of love that you have for your baby, planted deep in your heart, will grow and take root. As it does, it will provide stability and strength for you. It will create a layer of protection from the hurtful people, and keep the people who truly love you and your baby close. This seed of love is what keeps you moving forward despite the roadblocks and hurdles.

Oh, dear sweet Momma and Pappa, I want to encourage you – KEEP LOVING YOUR BABY! Keep making the choices you know are best for your little one. Stand strong in the approach you have decided to take as a family. YOU are the BEST parent this little one could possibly have. Regardless of what others say or do, know that YOU are the best advocate, voice, and protection for your little one. As hard as it is, tune out the negative people. Allow people to walk away if they are unable to understand your choices. Embrace those who are willing to show you love and support. Focus on the people who have come alongside you, and who are willing to celebrate the amazing little person you have chosen to treasure. Overlook the nasty comments when they come, and re-read the ones that are overflowing with words of blessing.

Yes, this journey is complex. No, you never asked to be here. But, since you must brave this road…continue to love your little one fiercely!

From my heart to yours,
Bethany


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Bethany Conkel lives in Ohio and is married to her wonderful husband, Eric. She is the mommy to two amazing children – one who is in heaven, the other here on earth. Bethany carried her precious son, Amalya Nathaniel (meaning: “work of the Lord”, “given by God”) to term after receiving the diagnosis of anencephaly when she was 11 weeks pregnant. Amalya lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes before taking hold of the Lord’s hand. After he passed, his liver, pancreas, and whole body were donated to scientific research. Bethany has since created a website about neonatal organ, tissue, and whole body donation called Purposeful Gift to help other families explore the option of donation. She is also a certified Birth and Bereavement Doula through Stillbirthday.com and serves with Sufficient Grace Ministries.

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