By: Kayla Leibner
My life story begins thirty-one years ago, but my life-changing story began just two and a half years ago in August of 2017…
From diagnosis to death, we had five days to digest the circumstances threatening the life of our unborn daughter, Melody. Our world was shattered into a million pieces when she died. Nine months later, any progress we’d made in our grieving process was completely obliterated when we lost our baby, Jamie, through a traumatic and horrifying miscarriage when I was eleven weeks pregnant. Needless to say, our family had been through hell and back… twice.
So who am I now, and how did I get here?
That’s one loaded question, and there is no simple answer. There are many things that have contributed to the progress and healing I’ve experienced in my life as a bereaved parent. I’ve faced painful and unexpected triggers, worked through emotional setbacks, and have grown in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. Among the many contributing factors, there are a few things that have been and are especially significant in my journey to this point.
The first and most important thing that stayed with me and remained constant throughout my life before, during, and after my losses is God. I grew up with a conservative Christian background and have always believed that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). However, after our losses I was so angry at God. I refused to pray. I tried to understand how a loving and just God could allow this kind of pain and injustice to happen to me – to my babies. That question caused my feelings of anger to grow. I went to church to “set an example” for my living children, but they saw me – sitting empty and broken in the pew.
The first step to regaining the hope I had in my pre-loss life was admitting my anger and giving it up.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I also knew that God did not do this terrible thing to me and that He would use it to mold me into what He needed me to be. Since that turning point, God has been working in me to build me up, restore my faith in His goodness, and to give me the desire and ability to help others who are on this journey, too. I am a stronger, more faithful, and more sincere Christian than I ever was before my losses. I owe that all to God. He carried me through the darkest of times and loved me despite my ugly resentment towards Him. He restored my faith and repaired my broken heart. I am not the same person I was before losing my babies, but because I believe in a God that is bigger than my pain I also believe that someday I’ll see them again.
They say you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. If that’s the case, then I’m golden. I quickly realized who was really there for me when we lost Melody. People I’d considered the best of friends for years quickly vanished or fizzled out.
Once, while I was feeling lonely and forgotten by those who had been absent in my desperate time of need, someone special reminded me that a circle doesn’t have to be big to be a circle.
My inner circle, or my tribe, is made up of the most important and influential people in my life. They know my innermost hopes and dreams, but they will also choose to sit with me in the darkness. I know I can call out to them at any time and they’ll be there. For me, these people are my husband, my mom, and my best friend. I can always count on them to be exactly what I need in a moment, even if I don’t know what I need. Their love and support have enabled me to become the best mom, wife, sister, and friend that I can be. After the deaths of my babies I lost many connections and relationships that I had considered precious, and in that I learned an important lesson about the true value of my inner circle, my tribe.
This one is a little different, but equally influential in the process of getting where I am today. Before, I spoke of God and how He consistently loved me even though I had become distant in my relationship with Him. More than that, He insistently pursued my heart despite my anger and disgust for what He had allowed to happen to my family. Once I realized that God wept with me in my grief, that He carried me when I couldn’t go on, I saw how much He had been loving me while I resisted Him. When I finally did admit and let go of my consuming anger, I not only allowed God to really love me in my weakest moments, but I also began to love myself. I had held myself accountable for the deaths of my children for months and had grown to loathe the sight of myself in the mirror.
When I realized I wasn’t responsible for what happened, my eyes were opened to a whole new opportunity for healing.
Being able to “let” God love me enabled me to also love myself so that I gave myself permission to begin the healing process. This was a significant turning point in my life.
My journey is ever changing and growing.
It’s one that I realize will come with many challenges and setbacks, but also opportunities to grow and help others. Who I am today will always remember who I was and where I came from. I’ll remember the euphoric feelings of my mountaintop highs, and I’ll remember rising from the ashes after I’d hit rock bottom. Each moment – good or bad, big or small, beautiful or tragic – made me who I am now.
About Kayla Leibner
Kayla is a Christian, a wife, a mother, and a preschool teacher. She and her husband, Ben, have been married for five years and live north of St. Louis with two of their children, Jace (12) and Kiley (4). They also carry two of their children in their hearts – Melody, and Jamie. Kayla and her family have deep and strong roots in their faith and have relied heavily on God and His comfort in their journey of loss and grief. Kayla hopes that her writing would be of help, comfort, and encouragement to families who are suffering this same tragic loss.