I had been working on it for a while. It started as a doodle one night as I was crying while I was writing in my journal before bed. I realized that night that if you look at 43 sideways, it looks like a broken heart.....
As Rachel's birthday approached, my heart could feel it coming. I wanted to get the tattoo for her birthday, but since God had given us a baby name in September - and my cycle had started again in October - I got it done the month before just in case that all meant we had a baby coming our way. I didn't want to not be able to get it, I had been working on it for a long time. So I went on the 3rd. And I'm glad I did, because three weeks later, we found out baby E was on the way.
I have only shown a couple of people since I got it. It feels so personal, so private, that I didn't want to reduce it to a 'cool tat' and have people checking it out like it was just some body art.... because it is so much more than that to me.
Matt & I went together, but he had to leave in the middle because our sitter needed to go home. The artist that does my tattoos is a Christian and he always has contemporary Christian music playing. (I love that I don't have to look at or hear nasty things in his space like in other tattoo places I've been) As I watched him pierce my skin in the shapes of hearts, dandelions, daisies and 43's, I wondered why the physical pain barely hurt and yet could somehow momentarily relieve the pain in my heart.... I don't know... Maybe because I feel like I have control over it. Like I can make it stop if I wanted and yet it leaves a forever mark on me, just like Rachel. I rested my head on the seat and watched him transfer the thoughts in my heart onto a picture on my arm....
So, in short, this tattoo says to me... with every beat of my bleeding heart, (heart over my artery) she is ALIVE... her body is underground, (the roots/flower bulb) but she is still ALIVE... and still blooming (the daisy) and spreading seeds through her life and death (the dandelion gone to seed) and with how she has left her mark on my heart. (the permanency of a tattoo, long after the wound heals) And she will continue to live on in each seed of love and hope that has planted in each of my children as well... her legacy through us.
I also had him touch up the "My Girl" under her handprint on my other wrist because some of the ink had fallen out. He wrapped both of my wrists up with ointment and saran wrap and I left.
The weather wasn't bad that day, so I decided to walk home after. It sounds sad to say, but the smell that reminds me of Rachel is the smell of antibiotic ointment. When she was born, I insisted they care for her head just like they would if she were going to live. So they used ointment and a gauze pad under her hat. Walking home that afternoon, the smell of the ointment would swirl up and meet my nose and I would smile. For the next couple of days, every time I cared for my new tattoo, I smelled Rachel....
So, why am I sharing this now? After almost 4 months why do I feel like it's time? Well, when I got my tattoo, the song I remember playing on the radio was "I need you now". It spoke to me at that point because I was aching as her birthday approached, but since then I've heard it a couple times and it felt heavier than my heart did. But, the other day as I was driving, it came on the radio... right after I posted the blog "I Need You, God" the night before. And I just started crying.... I felt it in my heart. God, I need you now......
I have worked with everything in me since August 4, 2010 to make something beautiful out of all of this. Out of heartache, despair, death, pain.... I have gone to great lengths to convince myself and everyone else that this isn't just ugly. And I'm happy to say that along the way, not only did I do that, but I came to believe it. To see it. God has been so good and He has done unbelievable things through my deep valley. But no matter how many good things happen, it never removes any of the pain. It just helps me to keep living. Because some days, I've literally been in survival mode... just trying to keep breathing. And in my naivety, I thought that losing her would resemble my miscarriage - and it didn't. And when it didn't, I was caught of guard. When getting pregnant again didn't make me feel any better about Rachel, like it had with my miscarriage, I was confused. When holding Asa made me miss her more, I felt helpless. When over 2 years later, it still hurts, I am realizing how completely unprepared I was for this... because it is worse than I ever imagined. And yet somehow it remains beautiful. More so than I ever imagined.
The last few weeks have been strangely difficult. Not in my grief necessarily, but in the things that have always helped my grief. The things that have become what I 'do' to keep her legacy going. Somehow I am starting to feel like I'm going in the wrong direction.
Not much is different from before. I've come up against so many road blocks in the last 2 1/2 years and I've always made it through, found a way. But lately, I can't push through. Internally I am messy, frustrated, distracted from God. Everything I have tried to do - every request for help I've given - even simple things like scheduling a meeting or asking someone to make a phone call - or simply respond to an email - have turned into huge obstacles. And although I have hit all these same obstacles in the past, there is something different. Something bigger than what I can climb. I thought it was just because I'm pregnant... but I was pregnant with Asa when I did Rachel's Playground AND her first race. It's more than that. I thought it was that the people helping aren't into it anymore, and perhaps they aren't - but I feel like even that should be able to be overcome. But I'm not getting my usual "Keep going" from God. I'm getting "This season is over and it's okay" from Him. It feels like HE is standing in my way.
I don't regret anything I have done for Rachel's Legacy in the past. I know God was leading me in all of it and that is why it was successful. I also believe that had I not been working on all of that, I would have balled up on the couch and cried my life away - and I think God knew that too. And I am hesitant to say it, but I think He is leading me away from more than her race.
And to be honest, that both relieves me and completely breaks my heart. I want to stop. To break. To just be still and enjoy my family. And I know I need to. But at the same time, when I slow down, the death of my baby becomes something I have a hard time finding beauty in. Because I HATE IT. I hate it. And she just feels dead. And I want to believe there is beauty - meaning - something more than death... and something more than waiting for heaven.
I want to be mad at the people, places and things that have let me down. I want to be mad that I have nobody to help me make decisions and it all falls on me - and I am. And I'm so tired of feeling mad. I hate feeling resentful. I hate feeling discontent. And this was never what it was supposed to be. It's not beauty. It's not glorifying my God. Even if I can do it outwardly, internally if I am negative and angry and feeling alone, it doesn't glorify Him. And I can't live with that. Because on August 4, 2010 when I heard my baby was going to die, I made a commitment to her, to myself, and to God that I would glorify HIM in this. No matter what the cost to ME. And I intend to do that because without Him I cannot survive.
I don't often get on my knees to pray anymore. I used to most of the time when I was in AA cause it's something they recommend. It's humbling. But lately I have fallen to my knees over and over - just like I did the day I saw Rachel laying on the couch in the funeral home. I can no longer kiss those perfect chubby cheeks anymore though... all I can do is cry out to God and beg him
Please God please take this. Give me strength to just keep breathing. I want to believe there is beauty. I want to find meaning here. I am standing on this road that I didn't want, I didn't plan. I have this gaping hole that is healing so slowly, but will never be filled this side of heaven.... I get so tired of holding on God. Tell me what to do and I will do it. I completely surrender... it's all Yours.
And I hear Him say "Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, have no fear for I am with You."
I know I have some hard decisions to make in the near future. And somehow even though it hurts, I am thankful for it. Even though I am confused and unsure of what to do, I am willing. Because I feel like His mercy is upon me... upon my family... and I know He has something better. And I know He can see the big picture that I cannot. And I know without a doubt that He is creating this wall I can't climb because I am better off on this side. He's protecting me.
I got a message from a friend the other night that said that she is watching and waiting for God to do what He always does and pull me from this current struggle. That through my journey she has learned that God always wins. She said it's similar to how I watch and wait for Rachel's tulips to come up each spring... the message had me sobbing....has my willingness to share the messiness really helped people see God? Well, I suppose it's more about what He does with and - in spite of - my messiness.
I have a favorite line in a song that says "From broken earth, flowers come up, pushing through the dirt - because You are HOLY" and her message made me think of that. It also reminded me that this trial is not what is beautiful. It's not. What is beautiful is what God can make of broken and dry dirt.... that flowers can push up from that and bloom. But the flowers don't need to try, it just happens. God does it.
And that is what this used to be. I just blogged and shared about my journey - and God did the rest. And I want that back... where I just am who I am and God makes it beautiful. Because my best efforts to do it myself fail and leave me wanting. I can't make the ugliness of death pretty. But Jesus Christ makes it more than that.... He makes it beautiful....meaningful....and I'm ready to rest in that Truth.
We got in the van to go visit Rachel yesterday and this song came on again as soon as we did. As I sang along "I'm trying to hear that still small voice... I'm trying to hear above the noise..." I started crying again. And I realized... I think I cry because I am afraid. I'm afraid of losing everything I've worked so hard for and regretting it later. I'm afraid of her legacy being lost and forgotten. I'm afraid that my writing won't be enough. I'm afraid of making the wrong decision. I'm afraid that I will hurt more.
But I am so willing. I hear what He's saying. But I still feel so uncertain as to how to go about applying it. I'm trying to move slowly so that I do it right, while inside feeling this intense desire to just get there. But even in this time of the unknown, I am still so positive that He has heard me cry out.... and He is answering.....