Three Lilacs and a Statue

by Laura

boy-and-girl-garden-statue

I had 9 perfectly normal pregnancies and deliveries. Well, my ninth baby was premature but things worked out fine and we had her at home and kept her at home. She was just a bit on the tiny side but all went fine.

Over the course of the next 2 years, I experienced 3 devastating miscarriages. One right after the other. I was stunned. My body had never betrayed me like this before. I never had trouble conceiving or bearing children. Why was this happening to me? I had never felt this kind of hurt, this bereavement. As a Christian, I comforted myself with the thought that ultimately we all wanted our children to end up in heaven, right? Well, I had 3 that had made it there safely already. Yet my mother’s heart ached and broke for my little ones that I would never hold, never nurse, never kiss good night. I wrote a loving poem for each of my babies. I named them and loved and missed them terribly.

During this time, a very dear friend of mine had also suffered a miscarriage. She and her husband bought a tombstone and buried their baby in the local cemetery. She shared with me how healing it was for her to have a place to go to mourn and cry. She wanted the same thing for me. She asked me to look around for some sort of memorial that I would like and then to let her know what it was and she would send me the money.

Up to $100 she said. Wow! We were so poor that I felt like $100 to buy a memorial was a lot of money! I started looking around at different stores and finally settled on a garden statue that I found at a local nursery. It was a young boy and girl, sitting on a little bench reading a book together. I imagined the book would have the words of Jesus printed on it, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me”. It seemed just right AND it was within my price range.

Unfortunately, the store had to special order it. I called my friend and told her about it and she thought it sounded lovely. She sent me a check and I went back to the store (40 minutes away) and ordered the memorial for my babies.

I never breathed a word about it to my husband. You see, I didn’t know if he would approve or not and I was afraid to ask if it would be okay for fear that he would say no and then I would be stuck. In my world, if my husband said no…that was it. No. I had as much say as one of my children. I figured out that if I just did what I wanted, it was easier to take the consequences and still have “my way” than to risk him saying no and getting nothing. I didn’t use this tactic often, mind you. Just when I absolutely HAD to have what ever it was. And this was one of those times.

I had to wait a few weeks for the statue to arrive. I remember getting ready to plan a grocery shopping trip to the town where the garden center was. I would go after I knew the statue had arrived. I couldn’t make a trip there just to get the statue because then my husband would know about it and he might forbid it. I had planned to just get my statue and bring it home and present it. Then what could he do? It would already be there and he would not have spent any money on it so it should be okay right?

WRONG!

The statue came in. I was SO excited. I brought it home. I held my breath… When I showed it to my husband, he was not at all happy with it. “Take that thing back!! It is just like having an idol in the front yard! I won’t have any idols around here. TAKE IT BACK!” When I tried to explain that I hadn’t spent any of “our” money on it, that it had been a gift, that it was a memorial for my miscarried babies and that it wasn’t an idol, he would not hear of it.

So….being the submissive wife that I truly believed I was supposed to be….I wrapped it back up and returned it. I cried all the way back to the garden center. I can’t remember what the lame excuse was that I gave the cashier when I returned this statue they had special ordered for me but what ever it was, she took pity on me and gave me back the money.

Later that year, I went to another nursery and bought 3 white lilac bushes. These I planted together in the corner of my front yard. They became the memorial for my three lost babes. When my marriage fell apart and I had to leave the farm, I went out to that corner of the yard and stroked the leaves of those young bushes and sobbed my heart out. It was like I was losing my babies all over again.

Christianity was supposed to be a comfort. Something was wrong with the picture. I had no idea what it was then. I thought I was doing the right and godly thing by obeying my husband’s command to return the statue. No matter how I felt about it. Isn’t that what a godly, submissive wife does??

For Nicholas
11-31-01

Oh, my precious Nicholas,
My early leaving boy.
I know you’re safe in Heaven now.
God’s filled you with His joy.
You’ll never skin your little knee
Or have a bad night’s dream.
Our Jesus will walk with you
Down Heaven’s streets that gleam.
And though your Mama cries now
Not to hold you near her heart,
The day will come, my precious son,
When we’ll never be apart.
It will seem long to me
Yet to you, just but a day.
While here on earth I toil,
There in Paradise you’ll play.
My loving arms are empty now
But the day will come, I know,
You will not return to me
But to you, my child, I’ll go.

I love you Nicholas!!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

For Sarah Joy
9-13-02

What is it like there where you live?
Are you filled with the joy only Jesus can give?
Do you dance and play in that beautiful land
Holding your big brother Nicholas’ hand?
Do you sit at the feet of our Savior there?
Does Grandma Adele stroke your beautiful hair?
Does the angel choir thrill your heart
When the harps and voices, their praises start?
Are the city streets really gleaming gold,
And the walls all jewels as we’ve been told?
Can you see my sorrow at losing you?
Do you miss your mama’s love so true?
Do you see my empty arms, my tears
My heart that weeps because you’re not here?
Do you patiently wait for your mama who
Will someday be called to come join you?
Does Jesus kiss you for me each day?
Does He tell you I wanted you so to stay?
My precious daughter, my babe, my own
Into Jesus’ arms so early flown.
I longingly wait for the glorious day
When I’ll look in your eyes and then I’ll say,
“I LOVE YOU SARAH JOY!”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Little Baby yet un-named,
Seems you left before you came.
In the twinkling of an eye
No hello, just sad good bye.
Though you’re hidden from us, we know
Now you bask in Heaven’s glow.
I trust the Savior to hold you tight
And hug and kiss you now good-night.
With Nicholas and Sarah stay;
We’ll come to join you there some day.
I know you’re safely home today
And yet my heart hurts anyway.
I dreamed of holding you close to me,
But, my love, ‘twas not to be
I’ll have to wait until the day
When Jesus calls me home to stay.
Then you’ll take me by the hand
And show to me sweet Heaven’s land
And all you’ll ever know or see
Is Heaven’s joy for Eternity.

12-31-02

For Heidi Rae

Laura’s Story:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13

More from Laura:

  • Kaderin

    Oh. Oh my… I honestly have no words. This is… awful. Just horribly, horribly awful. How could he do this to you?! To deny you the chance to grieve and the closure that comes with it?!I’m sorry, I’m barely coherent *sad laugh* Maybe I’ll try to write a more eloquent comment later. But right now, I just want to send you one big cyberhug!Have you thought about purchasing that statue now?I hope you have found some sense of closure. My heart goes out to you *hugs again*

  • EK

    The whole time I was reading the first part of this, I kept chanting to myself, “Don’t let him do what I think he’s going to do; please not THAT.”And he did. Oh, my dear. What beautiful names for your kids. I hope one day you get your memorial tombstone for them, and inscribe their names there. There’s a tear rolling down my cheek as I type.

  • aimai

    Laura,that is just so hard to read. So terribly hard and sad. Its not too late to choose a memorial to those babies, and to your other children to hold when you can’t be with them. I believe there are some places where you can have a necklace made with one pearl, or one stone, for each of your children. It would be very nice to have something you can carry around with you, or wear all the time, as a talisman.What a Pharisee your husband was, as though g-d couldn’t tell the difference between an idol and a memorial!aimai

  • enlightenmentgirl

    That was just cruel. He was the father of those children. Wasn’t he also saddened by their loss? Couldn’t he see that it would have given you some consolation and closure? How would he like just being buried somewhere on the farm without a marker because your children didn’t want to set up “an idol” to distract them from God. I’m so sorry, Laura.

  • EK

    Good idea about the jewelery as memorial, aimai. This idea appeals to me personally because I love having something to hold onto throughout my day (though Laura must of course do what feels comfortable to her).

  • Pearl

    I’ve been reading this blog since I first read the Salon article about Vyckie a few weeks ago, and look forward to each new post.The amount of abuse that you two have gone through is astounding, and my heart aches each time I read one of these posts. The complete and total disregard that your ex-husbands had…This post and your story about the mixer are really indicative of the (lack of) value placed on “women’s work” and “women’s business”. Your comparison of his power tools to the mixer was a valid one, and it’s really upsetting to know that he didn’t consider them compatible. IMO, it is absolutely /not fair/ to think that women (or men, in an egalitarian society) should simply be content with the position of homemaker if the work they do each day is not seen by others for what it is: a demanding, 24-hour job. (This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be happy to be a homemaker, if that’s what they’ve actually /chosen/). Unfortunately, it isn’t seen that way, because in our society, 1. the value of work seems intrinsically tied to the amount paid for it, and 2. there is little value placed on work that is seen as “exclusively” and “intrinsically” a female activity (childbirth is, but homemaking and childrearing are socially deemed so).And then this: your desire for a memorial to help you grieve after your miscarriages. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t sound like he was that involved in the pregnancies besides impregnation. It really seems that childbearing and childrearing were of low value to him, and I think if he valued them more, he would have actually understood your need for a memorial. I’m so sorry that you’re still battling to see your children, because it’s clear that you put so much of yourself into raising them only to see them because a court mandates that your have custodial rights for those under 18 years. I really hope things can change. I haven’t had children yet, so I can only guess how hard it is for you.Anyway, I look forward to your (you and Vyckie’s) updates in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Laura, I’m so sorry. So much loss, and then not being able to do what feels right to honor their memories. I have no idea if you’ll want this now or ever, but the internet has quite a community of parents who have lost babies. The site I know is “Glow in the Woods.” I think the current contributors all lost their babies later than you did, but they welcome “parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds.” If you’re looking, that might be a good place to start.I’m not part of that community, but I am awed by the support and love they give to parents and the way they come together to help each other honor and remember their dead. It seems to mean a lot to parents to know that there are people out there who remember that their children existed and that they matter.I’ll be remembering yours.Aurora

  • Laura

    I just want to thank all of you who have empathized with me after reading this story. I really didn’t think I had any choice in the matter when it happened. When I dug out my poems to share I sat and read each one and it made me cry all over again. I love my children very much. All of them. Those I have held and those who were taken from me before I could hold them. I will say that “being a Christian” during that time of horrific loss gave me something to cling to. Yet, I don’t see that as enough reason to give up one’s personhood in order to be a servant to another person and figure that you’ll get your reward in heaven so just keep on keeping on. I love the necklace idea! Thank you. I will make myself one soon. I do have a mother’s ring but it is just about maxxed out in the stones department. It only holds 12 and I would need 14 to include my miscarried and my living children! Smile!

  • Anonymous

    I know you’re still getting used to breaking out of the mindset of “any body alteration is wrong,” but… have you considered a tattoo? Hey, put three lilac blossoms on your shoulder, and you’d never have to leave them anywhere.

  • Laura

    Dear Anonymous just above, I must tell you that I broke down sobbing when I read your comment. Thank you so much. I cannot say that enough. I am constantly amazed by the love and care expressed toward myself and Vyckie here. I have spent so much time over the last few years seeing myself as the bad guy and the one at fault for everything falling apart and it is so hard to get that voice out of one’s head. I know that many in my former circle do not approve of my blogging my story and feel it is harmful/hurtful to my children. It’s hard to go against what people you once respected and loved so much think you should do. It’s hard to incur their anger. But I feel I have to do what I am doing. I just have to.If I get that tattoo, I’ll post a pic here okay? Thank you again, I am speechless at your concern and care for me…all of you.

  • Anonymous

    Tat!Anon again, here. I’m… not surprised you were guilted. And while I don’t know what’s best in all cases, silence nurtures abuse. I think anyone’s children who’ve learned about abuse should see someone breaking the silence. I think you can trust your judgment and drive on this one. If you get it, I would be delighted to see a pic.

  • Anonymous

    My heart hurts for you, Laura, and I’m also filled with outrage at your husband.Apparently in this version of Christianity, “husbands love your wives and lay down your lives for her” isn’t part of Scripture.When I had a miscarriage, what we did was take a new-baby book (the kind where you put in pictures of their first steps and such) and wrote goodbye letters to the baby in it, and put it with our special things.KR Wordgazer

  • Laura

    Dear KR Wordgazer, I think that “wives be subject to your husbands in everything” was well understood and practiced but “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” was sort of swept under the rug. How could a man be a leader and patriarch and be a servant to his wife giving himself up for her. I didn’t like this hypocrisy but what are you going to do??When I had my miscarriages, my midwife gave me a tiny pair of crocheted booties and a granny square for each child. A tiny blanket and booties. Very sweet and thoughful.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry for the babies you lost and then for the glaring hatefulness of your husband.Your lilacs sound beautiful, and I think the tattoo could be a great way to carry that with you forever. Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

  • Charis

    Laura, I don’t think telling the truth will hurt your children. Putting a mask on tightly and pretending to be picture perfect to preserve the family secrets- that will hurt children. Honesty and transparency is healthy. I cannot imagine them reading this heartwrenching account without compassion. I really hope your ex-husband reads this blog and repents for failures such as this. For the sake of the children, I hope he is not self-justifying and defensive about these episodes you are recounting. I hope the blinders come off and he realizes how horrible this was for you. I hope he confesses to your children his callous disregard toward their mother’s needs and hurts, lest they grow up and think such heartlessness is acceptable in their own relationships.

  • Melissa

    Laura,Please do not let these people make you feel guilty for telling the truth. Your children need to know you. They might reject what you say now, and they may very well reject what you have said later, but they will at least know you. And by knowing you they can put their own lives in context. I came from a dysfunctional family (parents who were very much into drugs and alcohol and who later were very much into conservative Christian values. In fact, my mother would have loved nothing better than for me to have followed the path that you did, and for a while I thought it was what I wanted to.) Anyway, I have only been able to have closure over my lost childhood because I have finally been able to see my parents as humans and to empathize with their lives. By seeing their struggles and the many ways that their dysfunction affected their lives, I was able to do two things: 1) acknowledge the sad reality that because they have never changed their lives that they are never going to know what happiness is and 2) be able to carve out some normalcy in my life and to be exceedingly thankful for it.I think you are giving your children an incredible gift. Whether they decide some day to continue in the QF lifestyle or if they decide to come out of it, they will KNOW that there is an alternative and they will KNOW you (and thereby be able to try to know themselves).Plus they will know that their mother loves them unconditionally and will accept them for who they are and that your love is not conditional about them behaving or making choices that are being forced on them.

  • Arietty

    Laura I cried reading your story here.. I am so sad for you to have had your own grieving dismissed and called “an idol”. It is good to be able to tell these stories now as I am sure you were unable to when still in that life, to give voice to this kind of pain. I know myself that I’ve found it healing just saying a few of my stories here in the comments, ten years on people would label me “bitter” for telling them but most are completely unvoiced and untold. I thought the lilac tattoo suggestion was absolutely beautiful.

  • Anonymous

    LauraI cannot believe what you had to endure. I have many questions. I know that Vykies kids are glad that she has left the bad situation, and apparently two of your kids, at least a little while ago, were not happy with this blog. Are the others okay with it? Do you worry about losing relationships with them? Is your daughter that wrote on this blog your oldest? Has your ex ever said that he was wrong in his abhorrent behavior? It seems to me that he must read this and either 1. weep, or 2. defend and justify his behavior (as if there could be any justification.) Are there any older kids, or is your daughter that we heard from on here the oldest? I have just started reading, on the advice of a friend, having been through a difficult Christian marriage with a controlling, but not Partiarchal man. I can’t believe that there was no other Christian people in your circle that would stand up for you. Have all of your “former circle” turned against you? How sad. My prayers are with you.

  • Alyzza

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. When I had a miscarriage, my husband took me to a local shop that sold rocks of various kinds and bought me a piece of flint along with a small, business-card sized plaque bearing the month and year. His reasoning: that when flint is struck, the resulting spark may or may not start a fire, but that doesn’t mean the spark never happened. My husband has always taken seriously the admonition, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” I’ve tried never to take him for granted, but your blog has put into even sharper focus all the ways he is a good man. I found it really helpful to have a definite place for my sense of loss. And you know, it’s never too late for you to do likewise – to make a new memorial.

  • emf1947

    I don’t know Dale, or Laura either, but I don’t think Dale was being “just plain cruel”. When a child dies, it is not unusual for the parents to grieve in different ways. Men especially tend to react to loss with anger rather than sadness. I suspect that Dale wasn’t really worried about an idol in the yard, but that rather than being comforted by the statue was he sharply reminded of a loss he couldn’t express, even to himself, and came up with the best explanation he could think of.I mean, look at this from what may be his point of view: his wife, with no warning, comes home with a garden statue of a little boy and girl, like Nicholas and Sarah Joy, and expects him to be happy about it. But this isn’t his way of handling grief, and he wasn’t consulted about it. Even in a normal, egalitarian marriage, that incident would provoke anger and defensiveness. Of course, in a normal, egalitarian marriage, Laura would have talked to him about the statue first. In a normal, egalitarian marriage, Laura would have been able to say, “This isn’t really about idols, is it. The statue that comforts me hurts you. What can we do that would comfort us both?” In a normal, egalitarian marriage, Laura would not have been reduced to responding like a little girl, but could have been a true equal offering comfort and understanding. Dale dug the hole he found himself in, so I don’t see him as an innocent victim, but I also don’t see him as a monster. To me, he sounds like a grieving father who just wanted to bury his pain because he didn’t know how to handle it.

  • Anonymous

    I remember reading “Escape” by Carolynn Jessop. She was one of the wives of a polygamous man in the FLDS.She mentions a story of how she once ordered shrimp in a restaurant and her husband sharply berated her since he hated shrimp. She wasn’t allowed to have likes and dislikes of her own.Just like Laura wasn’t allowed to grieve in her own way. She had to grieve in a manner approved by her federal head. If the way he approved didn’t do it for her… Oh well, Stinks to be her. At least this is how it is in Patriarchy land.Whatever.I’m glad you’re out, too, Laura, and can have a chance to be your own person.Mara

  • Anonymous

    I, too am horrified by this story and I, too have many questions about the others in Laura’s life. How could they let her live like this? Do her kids think this is just fine? Do these people only hang out with other crazies, or did she have any normal church types to try to help her? Hope it all goes the way you hope for…

  • kisekileia

    I remain a Christian, and do not believe that Jesus would react to this with anything but compassion for you and fury for how your husband handled this situation.

  • aimai

    emf1947,You know, I usually try to look at all sides of a situation but I don’t think, even using a “culturally appropriate” model of gendered ways of dealing with grief that Dale escapes severe condemnation here. He’s not “a monster” but he is definitely not entitled to act out some histrionic version of silent, manly, male grief either. At some point in our adult lives we have to take responsibility for the relationship we are in. If Dale had arrived at his mid to late thirties or forties, been the father to nine living children and the father of three miscarried babies he has had more than enough time to *grow up* and learn to consider other people’s feelings *even if* he is grieving himself. The moment of surprise which, you surmise, would have made “even an egalitarian husband” respond with anger lasted a minute. The decision forcing his grieving wife to return the gift lasted the rest of their marriage. That’s a darned long time for a guy to get up every day and be angry that he can’t grieve properly, and act as though lashing out at his wife is appropriate.This gets back to a discussion that Vyckie and Charis and I and others were having about the infantilization of men in the Quiverful movement. You are infantilizing Dale by making excuses for his behavior when there is really no excuse. An adult person, of whatever sex, has a duty to their partner and their loved ones to consider that person’s feelings very carefully, where appropriate. That means you don’t give over to the other person control of all *your* emotions and desires, because that is not appropriate, and you are careful not to offend or overly control their emotions, because that is not appropriate. Dale isn’t a slave to his masculine need for silent mourning. He allowed himself to use his tiny bit of power over Laura as king of his little kingdom to lash out at her for grieving. To my mind that compounds the offense, it doesn’t mitigate it.aimai

  • Anonymous

    aimai: That’s more or less what I would’ve said. Except that I would’ve been meaner. Also, Laura… Wow… The depth of honesty in your writing amazes me. I am so sorry for all of the pain that you have experienced, and I believe this is the first time that I’ve ever teared up in reading a blog post. I’m really glad that you got out of that situation. I believe that your writing will prove healing to many readers out there, and I hope it will do the same for you. You have been through a lot of trauma, and I applaud you for speaking out about it.

  • Becky

    “Dale isn’t a slave to his masculine need for silent mourning. He allowed himself to use his tiny bit of power over Laura as king of his little kingdom to lash out at her for grieving.”One thing we all need to remember is that Dale isn’t writing here. We are hearing one side of the story. There are always two sides to any story. While most of think that Dale’s behavior was atrocious in many, many respects, (the trip to Brazil alone, the not allowing Laura to go to college, holding her captive to his desires, etc.) we also have to realize that we’ve not read anything he’s written in/about his own defense/mentality/thinking.

  • Lurker

    Dear BeckyI think we’re all aware of the one-sidedness of this blog. But, as the comment you quoted says and you yourself have admitted – for certain things there simply is no defense. Just excuses and rationalizations that don’t take away the fact that Dale’s behaviour in this particular story was hurtful and abusive.IMHO this reminder would have been better on the (for example) guitar story ;D

  • aimai

    Becky,I totally get that friends of Laura ‘n Dale, or friends of Dale, or even just neighbors and aquaintances might be shocked and sort of defensive about hearing this totally new and strange story of a marriage. But, of course, the reality of a marriage is always going to be different from what outsiders see. I, personally, feel a lot of sympathy and pity for Dale which I don’t bother to express here very often. But that is because Dale isn’t actually asking for my sympathy and help. And I don’t think its my place, or anyone’s place, to ask Laura to sympathize or empathize with Dale and his story. It sounds from reading her posts like she did plenty of that already. I mean, you can make up a story in which Dale was forced to become a Christian, forced to assume headship, forced to have eleven children and then left holding the bag but its not very likely or logical given the gender relations that QF’ers promote and that, as far as I can see, the women Laura knew in the movement think are normal. At any rate if there is some kind of equity issue between Laura and Dale it is for them to work out. He has no more right to have his story told here than he does to appear as the hero in Laura’s personal diary. The commenters here are not here as some kind of super-imaginary-jury that has to hear “both sides” in coming to an equitable decision. And we’re not some kind of piece of marital property either, to be divided evenly between the two parties. Laura is free to write her own story, and to express her own feelings to her new community and so is Dale. And we are free to choose to respond to that, as a new if ephemeral community of women with our own histories and expiriences. I guess what I’m saying is that although Dale’s story might be different from Laura’s he doesn’t have any moral claim on our attention.aimai

  • Anonymous

    emf1947:As a husband who lost a baby with my wife (stillborn at 36 weeks, spitting image of his older brother, completely heartbreaking), I can guarantee you that we grieved differently.But the issue is not grieving differently. The issue is denying her way of grieving. If he didn’t want it in the front yard, I can see a place for coming to an accommodation over a more acceptable place. But demanding that it be sent back is not asserting his own way of grieving but rather denying hers.

  • aimai

    emf1947,You have all my sympathy, emf1947. How terrible for you and your wife.aimai


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