Sunday, May 25, 2014

Where I Am Now

Our family altar on the day of the burial. We each brought a flower for the baby.
It has been five and a half weeks since we found out we lost our baby, almost four weeks since I passed the baby, and almost two weeks since we buried our little John Paul.

The burial was probably one of the sweetest things the Church has ever done for me. Did you know that there is a rite of burial for an unbaptized child? That is what Fr. M prayed with us at the cemetery. The children were quiet and attentive, and Father reminded us of what we have been all too aware of these days: when choosing to be open to having children, we are choosing to be open to suffering. All parents go through suffering and loss to some extent over their children, some more tragically than others, and many before they every thought they would. Suffering comes with loving others.

When M and I broke up after the first time we dated, I had just read The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. This quotation from it was central to my understanding of love at the time:
"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable...The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."
-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I think sometimes I fear having another child because I fear the suffering that comes with it, even pregnancy itself has its share of discomforts. And while I am still sorrowful from time to time about losing John Paul, I think now about the possibility of another pregnancy. It is hard not to worry about every little detail of possible future pregnancies. My co-writer at Truth and Charity wrote this sweet and realistic article about Choosing Hope while pregnant after losing babies. I know now is not the time to close myself from suffering, but I am being called to be even more generous to new life.

And then there is still the pain of our recent loss. I am pretty sure I need to have a good cry, but it has not happened since before the baby passed. In college I would have found my household sisters and asked them to pray over me until it happened. (Maybe I just need a phone call with my awesome friend C.) Further, I am still waiting for the completion of my post-miscarriage healing. When that occurs I know I will have a lot more peace about everything.  I ask for your continued prayers, and am so thankful for the ones you have already offered.

And don't worry too much about me, I am feeling particularly melancholic lately; just as long as I don't stay here... :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 23

1. When most people write their Seven Quick Takes, they include in the title a few details of what they discuss. I think that I like it a little better this way. It is like opening a present. You know you are getting to read something interesting and fun, but you don't know what it is until you click the link, right? I was really bummed that I did not get to writing these last week, especially after so many of my dear friends and readers expressed how much they like to read them, but I literally had no time to sit down and even write very quick takes. So, I hope by starting to write them on Thursday, I can get them up for everyone by Friday. :)

2. Last Friday we had M's 400 level (how do you write that out?) philosophy students over for a dinner of my mom's spinach lasagna made with the sauce that I had cooked to perfection. The students consisted of one woman who hopes to be a cloistered Carmelite nun after college, two lay philosophy students, and eight seminarians finishing out college seminary. It was a very pleasant dinner, and G and L managed to find two willing seminarians to play with them out in the backyard for most of the evening. They told us at the end of the night how much they had enjoyed playing with the girls, which is great. They left us with enough lasagna for another dinner for us, but managed to eat all of the salad, which cracks me up, because I know a few teenage male cousins who will not touch salad.

3. On last Thursday I spent the evening baking 235 cookies:
Here we only have 229, since a few had to be sampled. Don't ask who ate 2... ;)
I bake these for M's last day of classes every year, mostly to have a reputation of generosity towards his students and to be known for my cookies. His medieval philosophy class knew of these particular cookies as the "Anselmian" cookies, that is those-cookies-of-which-no-greater-can-be-thought. They were a hit in the classes, and I managed to get the rest of them eaten by the seniors who came over on Friday. Please pray for M's sanity this next week as he grades 114 papers...

4. Remember the four baby bunnies I told about in our garden a few weeks ago? Well, there is now a sole baby bunny and her (G and L insist on calling the baby a she) mother living under our shed. The mother has always lived there. I do wonder what happened to the other three, especially since two took off the moment we discovered the garden. I bet the survival rate of baby bunnies in the wild is not that high. We re-rabbit proofed our garden and since then have only seen the bunnies in our yard. The girls and I have daily viewings of little Cottontail from the breakfast nook windows:
"Now my dear," said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "You may go into the fields or
down the lane, but don't go into Dr. Spencer's garden:
Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. Spencer." 
 (Actually, the only rabbit I ever cooked was flambéd.)
5. The girls have been pretty crazy about dandelions, and I have mixed feelings about our whole backyard turning into a dandelion field with absolutely no grass. I can't imagine that that is very pleasant for little feet to play on. I am digging up the few out of our front yard, but we are leaving the back for now. On a recent walk, they found a jackpot of dandelions in a neighbor's yard and now we have this on our table:
Only a mom would allow this many on her kitchen table...
6. This morning, while the children were waiting for me to get my act together (I was doing things like vacuuming...) to read to them about flowers (our "unit study" preschool science), they, of their own initiative, built there very first blanket and kitchen chair fort.
For some reason it makes me really happy to see them doing things kids do. F is not really happy about it since she cannot seem to squeeze her toddler belly past the chairs. I am leaving it up for them during quiet time.

7. Another thing I finally did this morning was get out the summer clothes for F. The poor kid has been stuck in long sleeves during this nice warm week (which also means she did not get sunburned like her sisters did...woops). As I went through them I became extremely nostalgic for toddler G; I think I will always associate the 18 month girl clothes with G's toddler hood.

Anyway, that's it for now. Have a great Memorial Day weekend, whatever you choose to grill... :)

Linking up with Jen and her Conversion Diary.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: Something Other Than God

I read Something Other Than God during my recovery time from my miscarriage/extreme loss of blood/trip to the ER. I found myself engrossed in passages where Jen Fulwiler told how she had been up at the wee hours of the night trying to figure out God during times I was supposed to be napping or going to sleep at night. It was a pretty realistic encounter with the book, as I took my foggy, tired mind to the concepts her foggy, tired mind had been trying to figure out. I highly recommend reading it that way.

And without further ado, read my real review from Truth and Charity:


During the three days it took me to read Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir, Something Other Than God, my husband made the same joke every time he picked it up. He would skim the endorsements on the back of the book from famous Catholic authors, radio hosts, and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and then become extremely impressed when he saw that on the inside of the front cover C.S. Lewis had also “endorsed her book” saying this:
“All that we call human history…[is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
He would then laugh at his own joke, hand back the book, and move on to something other than my reading.

As I was reading Something Other Than God, I realized that my life has been so much simpler than the life of an atheist convert, having Catholicism taught to me from a young age. Yet, she was taught to investigate the world and seek to learn everything she could about it. Fulwiler starts her story with childhood encounters with zealous Christians and her realization of her own mortality. She spent the next years of her life trying to escape from the haunting realization that everyone dies. Once she started dating and then married her husband, Joe, she lived a life of traveling almost continually and attending parties regularly. She immersed herself in distractions so that she would not have to face the reality of death.

Then they had their first child. It was during the first few months of motherhood that she realized that her experience of love for her husband and her baby did not fit with her atheism. From there she slowly moved toward faith, starting a blog to investigate the questions she had about God and Christianity. She eventually, after a long intellectual and emotional struggle, converted to Catholicism with her husband.

The genre of memoir is interesting in how one picks very specific episodes from a lifetime to highlight as crucial to the endpoint of the story. Fulwiler was ultimately explaining how she moved from being a happy atheist to a happy Catholic. It makes sense that it took her six years to write the book, tossing out entire drafts several times.

It leads me to wonder, if I were to write a spiritual memoir, would it look anything like hers? If I looked at where I am now in my Catholic faith and where I was as a young child, I would be able to pick out moments of grace in my life that solidified my faith at a deeper level. I would see where God had impacted me as His child and drew me into loving and serving Him more. I would find where I had made deeper commitments to forming myself in virtue. A life of faith is one full of moments of conversion, where we enter little by little deeper into our faith. Fulwiler had a parallel experience, starting from where she was raised and ending up in the Church.

But for her, as for all Christians, the story does not end there; it continues. Christians cannot stop with the point of conversion or the moment of full initiation into the Church, we are all called to go deeper into relationship with God. I am reminded of the end of The Last Battle, the final story in the Chronicles of Naria by C.S. Lewis. The Earth and Narnia has been destroyed and made new. When the main characters enter the new Narnia, the deeper they go into it, the more beautiful and new everything becomes. They are told by Aslan to, “Come further up! Come further in!” That is what the Christian life is; going deeper continually.

We can never be satisfied with where we are now, and that is why reading about someone’s conversion is so beneficial. It reminds us that we are called to be more than what we are, that God is always calling us to love Him more fully. It is easy to be caught up in our daily distractions and to seek something other than God to satisfy us, even when prayer and the Sacraments are a regular part of life. Fulwiler encapsulates the first part of her journey into faith so beautifully in Something Other Than God, and it is inspiring to read, and to remember that we are always called to know God better and to grow deeper.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How To Almost Burn a House Down and Make Amazing Sauce: One Hot Mess

Last week I did something that my husband has always been afraid of doing. We are usually pretty good about checking every appliance in the house before we leave. I guess I just really need him to help me keep it all together these days.

I was so proud of myself for: getting the big kids snacked, pottied, socked, and shoed after nap (by myself), cutting, bowling, and covering the pineapple and putting it in the car, making a huge pot of tomato sauce to be used for a dinner later in the week and frozen for later dates, and waking F from nap to whisk her to the car and get to the party on time. We were all happy, the kids and I, jamming to our favorite celtic jams, during rush hour traffic, and we were almost to our friends house when I remembered:

I had left the burner on.

I had every intention of turning it off as I was leaving the house. I really did. That was one of the last things on my mental to do list: get F up, change her diaper, turn off the burner, lock up the house, get in the car... woops. I had forgotten it. We were 20 minutes from home in traffic. Sorry kids, we are going to be soooo late for this party. I was looking at at least 40 more minutes before we got to the dinnertime party, and I was stressed. Because I had just left 12 cups of sauce simmering at home. By the time I got home it would have been simmering for well over an hour. We had to go back, there was no choice. Plus, the gas tank was so close to empty.

We drove back to the house in tense silence, well I was tense and silent and anxious and annoyed at myself. The kids switched between laughing and joking with each other and peppering me with questions about whether or not the house was on fire. And then they suggested we pray for the house and the sauce, which was really sweet, and the right thing to do. So, we said some prayers. Traffic was slow. I was still worried.

We finally made it home, and I ran into the house. A rich smell of delicious sauce hit my nose as I walked in back door. I saw that the burner was indeed still on, but only felt a thin layer of burnt at the bottom as I stirred the sauce. It was too hot to taste, so I turned off the sauce and headed back to the party, taking the time to fill the tank on the way. The party was fun. The kids were dirty from the sandbox.

And after we got them bathed and into bed, we were left with this one hot mess:

Ugh... wish I had bought that Norwex scrubber...

As it turns out, the sauce ended up really tasty and I still have some in my freezer. I think I will simmer my sauce for longer amounts of time, but with me at home...
This is not the sauce in the freezer, but in the refrigerator waiting to be put in the freezer...
 And I will be linking up super late to last week's link up of One Hot Mess hosted by Blythe of The Fike Life:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

This Season in Girls: Spring is Here!

The nice Spring days we are having on occasion make me want to move somewhere where the weather is always nice. But we in the North like to think we would not appreciate such beautiful weather as much if we were not confined to the indoors with our small children for six months of the year. Am I right?

Anyway, I realize that I am really bad at doing the monthly update of the kiddos, so I am going to do a Spring one. The girls have been so sweet and my consolation these past few weeks. I am pretty sure I am never going to get over all of their big brown eyes and gorgeous eye lashes. I married M for these eyes, and they just make your heart melt on the face of a little girl.

So, here we go:

G on a walk in the woods two years ago.
G, my big helper and five year old:

You are so inquisitive these days, wondering about everything: "What kind of bird is that that bobs its neck back and forth when it walks?" You correct L whenever she is not precise; maybe our future philosopher? You are also fascinated by anything medical, and were devastated when you did not get your shots a couple of weeks ago. And did not even cry when you finally got them. Maybe a doctor? Or maybe you will "just be" a mom, like you always pretend with your dolls. You have figured out how to match clothes, and dress yourself pretty cutely most days. I also realize how you want to imitate my daily cardigan wearing, which will hopefully stop happening since Summer is coming. You are learning to pump on the new swing set, and have been so patient for your promised "big girl" bicycle. While you forget that mom is tired these days, you are willing to help when you remember. You have been trying to dress F in her pjs, but think that she is "not like a doll because she is so squirmy." You really dislike being alone ("I want to be with a parent!" "If I go outside without L, I will be lonely!"), but are a good sport most days about taking your quiet time. You are still allergic to bananas as we found out the other night, but seem to be like me in your suffering, cheerful and making jokes half the time. You know how to write all of your letters and numbers, and are getting so good at sounding out words, even though we have taken a hiatus in our reading lessons. You even sounded out verbally C-H-I-P the other day! You are a sweet, wonderful, and capable big girl, and I am so thankful that I have you in my life.

L, my affectionate three year old:

You are the sweetest, cutest middle child there ever was. You were created to be a middle child. You love to play with your big sister, imitating her, laughing with her, imagining with her. You also get frustrated with her, but that is part of being a sister. You are a wonderful big sister as well. Whenever, F, gets her you stop what you are doing, come to her, and give her one of your sweet juicy kisses and say, "Are you okay?" You play so nicely with F, and whenever you two play together, I smile at the continual giggling. You come over to me, give me hugs, and tell me that you are my "comfort." You impulsively will hug and kiss me and say, "I love you, Mommy!" and did the same thing for your Grandma D when she was visiting last week. At nighttime prayer you always remember to pray for our sick neighbor, Mr. E, and the other night you prayed that we would have another new baby soon. You are not always very good at falling asleep at nap and bedtime, but when you finally do, you sleep like a rock. I can sneak into my room (where you nap) and get things I need. You need time to wake up, sometimes sobbing before you realize that you just want to rest longer. You love to look at books, like both of your sisters, and are working on writing your capital letters. You are still as dramatic as ever; sometimes when you cry I think you must have broken a bone, only to discover that someone took a toy from you. You are so full of emotion, but it is mostly affection, and the affection of a sweet girl is so important in a family.

F, my one and a half year old sponge:

You are absorbing everything these days, and so perceptive. Everyday you are saying new words, learning new things, trying to be so big. I can hardly believe you are halfway between one and two. I am pretty sure you were just born, but here we are one and a half years later. You are on track to be my longest nurser, just a month away from passing your sister. But you night weaned so beautifully and easily, that you are actually sleeping through the night for reals. You are currently really into looking at books, especially your collection of board books (well, the ones we have been collecting for five years). You love pictures and toy ducks, though I am not sure you would know a real one if you saw it, having spent the last six months of your life mostly in doors. (That is actually really sad: for 12 months of your 18 month life it has been Winter.) Now that you can, you are so eager to go outside. You get your socks, shoes, and jacket together and stand by the door saying, "Side! Side! Side!" I cannot always take you out, but when I do, you say, "Slide! Weeeeee! Swing! Weeeee!" and clap your little hands. You really like to clap your hands actually. You clap when people do something for you, or when Mommy or Daddy throw your laundry down the shoot. You clapped for the doctor during your well visit. Every kiss you give is followed by a "Date doo." (Thank you.) And you know what a dinosaur is; you call them, "Saur!" I am savoring your baby-ness, but enjoying your independence. Don't grow up too fast!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Feeling a Little Better Today

I have not decided how much better I have to feel since passing our 6 week old unborn baby two weeks ago in order for me to go work on those lunch dishes. I have been slacking on housework due to feeling wiped out and physically unwell. I had a good weekend with my mother-in-law and the girls while M was away at his conference. Sometime between Saturday and Sunday, I hit that point of postpartum when you feel like a normal person again. M came home yesterday morning, exhausted from a late night and an early flight. He picked out a really nice food processor for me for Christmas/Mother's Day/my birthday in June, and it is a lovely machine.
The kids asked me to use it to cut up strawberries for with lunch, or as F calls them, "Swah!" The manual has a lovely picture of neatly stacked sliced strawberries on it, and well the strawberries did slice, just not as prettily as on the manual. So, that needs to be cleaned... maybe I could just start the dishwasher...

So, my sister called, after I wrote the above, and I got up and ran the dishwasher. That was nice for M when he did dishes tonight (as he always does). It feels good to be helpful again. I even managed to get the Easter baskets put away; we still have candy in a smaller bowl on the counter where the candy crazy toddler cannot find it. We did preschool this morning, a reading lesson this afternoon, and I put away the washed and dried towels and bedding from my mother in laws visit. Then we went to the library and got a new stack of books, which we have not done for six weeks. G actually enjoyed her quiet time since she had so many new books to peruse.

We are burying the baby tomorrow. I am sure it will be emotional for us all. I have not been to a burial since my grandmother died nine years ago. This one will certainly be different than a funeral, but we will have our pastor there with us and the girls are going to bring some flowers from the garden. I guess this will be the final physical goodbye.

Thank you again for all of your prayers. Our time of loss has been so grace filled.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 9

1. Blogger's Log (Stardate: today!): So, apparently I have to write quick takes every Friday, because my sister and brother so look forward to them. My sister, S, likes them as much as she likes my brother's fun Star Trek like updates about studying:

I am not sure if they read anything else on my blog, or if anyone else likes my quick takes, but my sister and brother do, so these are for you two! (I bet my mom likes them, also.)

2. Let's see... I guess we have hit storm season around here. How are things going down in St. Louis? We had sirens go off the other night at midnight for a thunderstorm warning, which was not really cool, because I don't need sirens to tell me it is raining at night. G is pretty terrified of tornadoes, and any loud noise from outside or any clouds moving visibly in the sky are immediately under scrutiny. A few weeks ago on a clear, lovely morning, a white fluffy cloud moved through the sky in our direction. She flipped out and ran to the house yelling about it being a tornado. So, I was casually discussing this with our doctor yesterday morning (we have been going there a lot lately; this time it was a well visit), and she informed me that there was a tornado that touched about a mile from our current house. G stood there listening wide-eyed to the whole discussion. Now she is upping her prayers for safety from storms.

3. We have been so abundantly blessed by all our friends in the Twin Cities since our miscarriage. We have been showered in food, prayers, and friendship. While I do still do not feel fully recovered, it is nice to know that I don't have to worry about several meals a week. Actually, most dinners this week have been covered by people bringing them over or the leftovers. Plus, we have a crazy amount of baked goods to consume. I just want to say thank you to all of my friends for all of your love and support. And to people who might be suffering in the same way we are, do not be afraid to share your sorrows with family and friends. Their love and support can help you through the difficult time.

4. M is off to Michigan for a conference this weekend. In fact, he is there now. I hope he enjoys his 48 hours in his home state. I was originally going to try to "go it alone" with the kids this weekend, but after last week, I feel pretty post-partum still and I am really grateful to my mother-in-law for flying in from Michigan to help me with the kids. She just did all the lunch dishes! What a great lady! M is home again Sunday morning, so he is not getting out of the Mother's Day festivities...whatever we end up doing... Mass and food will definitely be involved.

5. We went to our last home school gym co-op of the year today. For some reason, I always find it exhausting. G is thrilled to be playing with other kids and doing her art class, but the L and F are just shy and clingy the whole time. I might be shy and clingy if I were them, also. We are in a huge gym full of scooters and mats and balls and really nice home schooled kids of all ages. When everyone is bigger than you, you just can't handle things. Maybe we just need to do things with the home school crowd more than once a month to get the kids used to it. I don't know, maybe it is just hard to be younger than school aged with a whole bunch of big kids. Plus, I am much more comfortable at home, and am not a huge fan of taking the kids places alone. Okay, I suppose I need to get over it and just take them places.

Blogger Susanna Spencer sporting
the no make up look.
6. I saw this article yesterday, saying that the "no-make up look is a new beauty standard". My favorite part is the caption on the picture of a lady that says "Others who use the no make up look include blogger so and so." I wrote about the morality of wearing make-up a couple of years ago, presenting a few arguments as to when using it could be immoral. What I finally concluded for me was that since my husband really does not like me in make up, I should honor him by not worrying about it. However, I do take the time to do things like groom my eyebrows and I use a nice face lotion to take care of my skin. Within the last year, M found another moral statement talking about using make up as okay when it is the "social custom." Now, this NY times article says the movement is one inspired by feminism, which when I was first discussing make up with people who had real jobs, it seemed like a huge issue that women had to wear make up in the work force. I am not sure the feminists would agree with not wearing make up because my husband does not like it, plus I have never been a regular make up wearer.

7. I have 26 pages left of Something Other Than God, and it has been a book that I really enjoy reading. So much so, that when I was supposed to be napping on the couch after being up half the night with a sick child (allergic reaction to banana... woops), I could not stop reading. I have realized that as a cradle Catholic, my life will never be as cool as hip converts who have roof-top parties. But that is what it is...

Linking up with Jen and her Seven Quick Takes!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Natural Family Planning Needs a New Name

Family by Chris Sigmon. Used under Creative Commons.Family by Chris Sigmon. Used under Creative Commons.

I was sitting in my pro-life, NFP promoting doctor’s waiting room, leafing through a secular magazine. Ever since I started having children, I have always detested these magazines, but early pregnancy often leaves my brain in a fog and I could not read the book that I had brought. I was pulled out of the fog by a two-page advertisement for a new form of birth control.

Normally I just flip past those in disgust, but this one made a statement that embodied everything that is wrong with mainstream society’s view of the family. The image in the ad was a father and mother laying in their king size bed, looking seriously up at the camera. Between them were three small children, probably aged 1-6, laughing and oblivious of their parents’ intention to have no more children. “Your family is complete,” it stated in bold white letters under the family.

Then it gave the medical details of this irreversible birth control, including a list of dangerous side effects. But the details of it did not shake me; it was the belief that we can decide when our family is complete. That it is socially acceptable to see the gift of children as something so easily dismissed or controlled is one of the things that is wrong with the world. And this is the prominent mainstream mentality. Just do an internet search of “family is complete” and dozens of links to blogs and message boards come up where people evaluate how they “know.”

This idea is completely foreign to Church teaching, and to the way I was raised as a Catholic. Even after the birth of my parents’ fourth and last child, I always got the sense from them that they would welcome another child if that is what they discerned as right for our family. As a married adult, my parents’ understanding of openness to God’s will and use of charting still strikes me as a truly Catholic approach to having a family.

Last September I wrote about this same issue, criticizing the idea of being able to “plan” our families. This idea of a complete family is a consequence of the family planning mentality. The title of “Natural Family Planning” is not working. It is time to think of a new way to talk about charting cycles and using periodic abstinence when one has grave reasons to do so. It is too much like the mainstream mentality toward children. I am not sure what title would be the best, but recognizing the problem is the first step to solving it. The Creighton Model, calls it a “Fertility Care System.” Billings is the “Ovulation Method.” The Marquette Method and the Couple to Couple Leagues Sympto-Thermal Method both claim to be methods of NFP. Another part of the problem is that they are all often promoted as a form of “birth control.” We, as Catholics, need to stop using the language of “planning” and of “birth control.” Something like “Fertility Awareness” seems like appropriate language, though it leaves out the rational aspect of discerning God’s will.

In the Creighton Model (which I have been charting with for seven years), the pregnancy follow-up includes several questions about the couple’s intentions regarding the pregnancy. One of the questions is, “Was this baby planned?” It always strikes me as weird that I am being asked this question. Every time we have conceived a child, I realize the great gift of a new life coming into existence inside me. While we can hope each month for a new child, it is never something that we have planned. We can do everything we can to make it possible for a human to come into existence, but we can never plan this child into our family. We can look at the calendar and have an expected due date, but we cannot entirely plan or control when the baby will come out.

Most recently, we had a baby leave us much sooner than we had hoped. I lost a baby at 6 weeks pregnant, and I realized even more how our children are gifts to us, whom we can never plan or think we deserve. Before we were married, we talked about wanting ten children, looking at our ages, how much space we might have between children and at what age I would stop being fertile. We never planned on having ten, nor do we now, but we hope for one child at a time. There is nothing we plan until the child is conceived, and then we plan for the months after the child’s birth. Before a baby is on the way, we cannot plan at all. Even then, our plans are always tentative, since there are so many uncertainties when it comes to pregnancy.

But, from the language you hear in the parenting world, most people think otherwise. A friend told me about one of her Catholic friends questioning her about at what age does she want to stop have children. The questioner had the age of 32 in mind. My friend thought this idea was so strange, being 30 herself and having just a one year old to care for. We chatted about how we always imagined having children into our early 40s. But then, maybe one should be open to even later, if it is possible. It is anti-cultural, but it is not anti-life.

God calls married couples to have children, and each individual couples He calls to follow His plan for them, not their own plan. I do not know what God has in mind for my family, our little unborn baby who passed away was not something we had hoped for, but we are trusting in God’s plan for our family. And if you have not yet read, Bridget Green’s article about how Catholics maybe should think seriously about having large families, then read it. If you have read it, read it again.  I responded to her piece, talking about it is important to use reason in our decisions about being open to children, but I want to emphasize now, how we are called to generous when choosing when to hope for children. I wonder more and more if what society really needs is a whole lot of Catholics trusting in God’s plan and giving up the concept of “family planning.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our Hoped for Baby and My Trip to the ER

Last week I shared our very present grief over our unborn baby who had passed away inside me. Today I need to write about my experience of the baby passing on Tuesday.
I think the story starts on the Tuesday of Holy Week. I had a pregnancy evaluation with my Creighton instructor. I have been charting with her for 7 years, so it feel funny to always call her that. She is an incredible lady, who always answers my questions and phone calls. In fact we might not have even known of this baby if it had not been for her recommending I get on progesterone post peak so a baby would have a chance to implant. Anyway, so when you do a Creighton eval, there are a whole bunch of questions that they ask and you have to give a multiple choice answer. It is for their data or something. One of the questions was, "Was this baby planned?" I have a strong aversion to the word "planned" when it comes to having children. I think it is the root of a lot of problems society has in its view of children. So, I told her so. I said that I didn't really like that question, but I did not really want to say that the baby was "unplanned". I talked it out, thinking that the baby had been hoped for and that we had wanted to have another baby and hopefully that cycle. So, sure, our hoped for baby was "planned". We knew what we were doing when we hoped for another baby.
An early ultrasound of F.
Then three days later, we found out that this baby was not growing. This baby was gone. I looked back at the dates, and discovered that the baby probably stopped growing on the feast of St. Gemma Galgani, who is my Confirmation saint. And if you know about the immense amount of suffering she experienced in her life, I realized that praying to her about this baby, was really just asking her to help me suffer gracefully, to offer my sufferings. This quotation of hers helped me through my labor with L, and now with the loss of this baby:
--> "It is true Jesus, if I think of what I have gone through as a child, and now as a grown up girl, I see that I have always had crosses to bear; But oh! how wrong are those who say that suffering is a misfortune!" 
"It is true Jesus, if I think of what I have gone through as a child, and now as a grown up girl, I see that I have always had crosses to bear; But oh! how wrong are those who say that suffering is a misfortune!" - See more at:
"It is true Jesus, if I think of what I have gone through as a child, and now as a grown up girl, I see that I have always had crosses to bear; But oh! how wrong are those who say that suffering is a misfortune!" - See more at:
Further, we found out about our loss on Good Friday. We prayed the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena on our way to Good Friday liturgy, and my doctor called me just before 3pm to leave a message, just before she went into her liturgy. So, we contemplated Jesus' death for us, and knew that our suffering at the loss of our baby was for something greater than ourselves.

Friday night we discussed whether or not our baby would have increased intellectual abilities after being separated from his or her tiny body. The body limits the intellect, but if our baby was even in a place of natural happiness, he would be able to know God, and if our baby was attaining the beatific vision, then maybe our baby would know about us and his family on earth. And that was something we could hope for as we entrusted our baby to the mercy of God.

Easter week we waited for the baby to pass, knowing that it might be awhile. I was on extra progesterone until Monday morning, and my levels would have to drop for the baby to come out. We prayed our novena, shared our distress with our friends, and felt the great grace of everyone's prayers. The wonderful Moms group at St. Agnes offered meals, and we almost refused. I did not think I would need the help of meals, but I am glad we accepted knowing now the exhaustion of passing the baby. I sit here now, so thankful for the dinner a friend is bringing today. I also went to a lovely birthday party with some lady friends, and spent an evening laughing.

Easter Friday, I was really thinking and praying about a name for the baby. It was hard to decide or to even think of options. We have agreed on many names for our hoped for children, but I never considered what to call one who was miscarried. Then I thought about the canonizations to take place on Divine Mercy/Low Sunday. M and I both grew up with Pope Saint John Paul II as the only pope we knew. We were already in college when he passed away, and had loved him dearly during his life. While in Europe for a semester in college we saw his birth place, home parish, and went to the Divine Mercy Shrine in Poland. I realized that we should name the baby John Paul. I suggested it to M and he wanted to think about it.

Divine Mercy Sunday at Mass, I started to have symptoms of the baby passing: cramping and bleeding. We decided that the baby would be called John Paul in honor of the first pope that we knew. It took a few more days for things to progress.

Warning: Things are a little birth storyish from here on...blood and things...

We finally made it to a morning Mass on Tuesday for the Feast of St. Catherine of Sienna. We had been finding it difficult to get up early enough to go at 7:30am. I had stronger cramping during Mass and was pretty exhausted. M went to campus, and I tried to do housework. The girls were playing nicely, so I decided to not worry about home school. I cleaned the bathroom walls. I know, kind of a weird chore. I really wanted to deep clean; maybe it was some weird hormonal nesting thing. I finished cleaning the walls and realized that something was passing. I ran to the downstairs bathroom (to be away from the kids) and realized it was happening. It was physically easiest delivery experience of my life, but emotionally the hardest. I needed M home. He was not teaching his class yet, so I called him, told him I was pretty sure I had passed the baby and the placenta, started to cry, and asked him to come home. Then I found the baby, cleaned up, and tried to go back up to the girls.

F was screaming for me, so I gave her food I knew she would eat, safe in her high chair. I gave the big girls play dough, which always keeps them happy, and then realized there was more coming. The bleeding was not slowing, but rapidly increasing. I watched the clock for M to come home. I realized I probably would need to go to the hospital if things did not slow. I tried to go into denial, not wanting to make a big deal, but ended up calling my doctor. I told them how much I was bleeding and they were like, "Go to the ER, NOW!"

M arranged childcare at a nearby friends house. I called my sister who had gone through the whole bleeding way to much during miscarriage scenario to mentally prepare myself for the ER experience. (I am mostly melancholic; mental preparation is everything.) I tried to figure out what would hold all the blood on the way to the hospital, and went with a size 5 baby diaper.

We dropped off the kids, and our friends looked really worried. We had never gone to that hospital from this part of town, so we had a little trouble finding the right exit, but we got there. After signing in and talking to the triage nurse, we were sent to the waiting room. I wondered if they minded blood getting on their chairs, unsure of how long the diaper would hold up. We sat chatting for a few minutes, thankful that we had had a week and a half to emotionally accept the loss of our baby, and I suddenly felt light headed and nauseated. I told M and he ran to tell the desk. They brought out a wheelchair and told me it would be 10-15 minutes before my room would be ready. All I could think about was how awful I felt, how I really did not want to vomit, and did not think I could possibly last 10-15 minutes. Then I was dreaming. I did not feel sick at all. M saw me pass out and panicked, but the nurse was walking up behind me as it happened. The nurse convinced M that he needed to pull it together. M later told me that he thought that I might have died there sitting in the chair; the way my eyes rolled back into my head and I limped over really frightened him. I do not recollect it at all, but M was holding my face when I woke up. Upon waking up, I felt so much better than I had before passing out. The recollection of where I was and what was going on hit me pretty quickly as the nurse told me that I had passed out and to rest my head in his hand. I followed his instructions.

They wheeled me in a hurry to a room as I became more conscious. They told us that the best way to get to a room quickly is to pass out. I guess we got ahead of the sweet looking old couple who was sitting in the waiting room. So, I ended up in a hospital gown, on an IV, with a doctor giving me an exam. M was still really worried. They decided to call my doctor, to see what they would recommend. We had brought the iPad and M posted a status asking for prayers, which a friend said this about: "M[...] scared me with his cryptic FB post! I've been praying for you throughout the day."

The OB on staff at our awesome, Catholic clinic, showed up pretty quickly. He said we could wait to see if the bleeding slowed or go ahead and do a surgical D&C. I asked to wait, and M agreed. So, they gave me something to help the uterus clamp down, and M went home to give the kids a nap.

I am a huge fan of emergency prayers from friends and family, and love that social networking is a way to pass on the need for prayer. I continued to check Facebook, called my mom and sister, and dozed for two hours. While dozing I tried to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for healing. The bleeding slowed, and by the time M came back, they said I could go home. I was so relieved, and so thankful for the prayers.

We got home, and I felt like I do after delivering a baby. I was exhausted and cramping, but had no baby to hold. I did have a very clingly toddler, who decided nursing was just what she needed. They had told me to take it easy and rest for a few days. I am still feeling the wear of losing the blood. It is pretty incredible to me that while I was only 8 weeks along, the passing of the the baby and the recovery feels so similar to a full term labor. Thank you for all of your prayers for my health and for little John Paul.

We are going to bury him in a local cemetery sometime in the next couple of weeks, and I am sure I will need to write about it again then.

Friday, May 2, 2014

8 Ways to Make Sure Your Mother Really Appreciates Afternoon Naptime

Do these things in this order starting at 10 AM:

1) Wet yourself in the backyard in your pants and on your boots. Make sure you don't even ask to go to the bathroom before doing so.

2) Stick your nose in front of the baby swing and get blood all over your mother's jacket. Make sure you were not listening to her repeated warnings to watch out for the swing.

3) Scream like a girl every time your mother tells you "no" all morning.

4) Wet yourself right outside the bathroom all over the floor while your mother is taking a rare bathroom break. Make sure you did not even ask to go to the bathroom before doing so.

5) When you wet yourself, make sure the 18 month old is running towards the bathroom and slips on the wet floor, getting all "wet".

6) If you are 18 months old, and your mother strips you down to clean you up, and has you wait in the bathtub so she can clean the huge puddle off the floor, take off that poopy diaper. Stick your hands in it. Rub it on your belly. Yeah, like that...

7) Run around in the hallway laughing while your mom is putting the 18 month old down for a nap.

8) Stay in your room all of nap/quiet time, fearing her wrath. Please?

And because I just saw this new link up, I am pretty sure this qualifies for it:

Linking up...

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 2

1. I spent most of Monday in a little panic about silverfish bugs in our basement. I found a couple in our basement school cupboard, and then discovered that they nest in and eat paper and cardboard. I imagined a whole colony of them just destroying everything in the cupboard and moving onto the rest of the basement. I really do not like bugs in my house. I really don't. Especially creepy looking ones that destroy things. So, I called M and asked him to spray the whole basement for bugs, because who knows what else might have come out since it stopped being freezing cold in the world. Do they have brown recluse spiders in Minnesota? They have them in Missouri and I always was afraid of being bit by one of those. I also discovered that bugs don't like the smell of cedar. We have a large cedar closet that came with the house in the basement, which I am super thankful for since I am storing things in there like my wedding dress.

2. The kids have their new swing set. M and our friend, T, built it all last Saturday, just in time for it to rain from Saturday night through Wednesday afternoon. I managed to get a picture of it finally this morning. The big girls have been going out and playing in the cold between rain showers. F has been begging to go outside all week, but I really did not feel up for going outside and standing in the cold while helping F slide down the slide. Maybe it will be sunny this weekend. We could all go for that around here.

3. F (18 months) is thinking about potty training already. The other day, G (5) announced that she had to use the bathroom. Whenever she does this, L (3) screams, "No, I have to go potty!" They then race to the bathroom. F, observing them, pulled up her shirt saying, "I po-yee. Pee." And then waddles after them. Maybe we will go for it this summer. No pants in the backyard. Why not?

4. We decided to night wean F last week. It was a breeze. This kid is so chill most of the time. I kind of wish all babies could be just like her. I still nurse her before bed, but if she wakes up M goes to her with water and tells her to go back to sleep. The first night, he did this three times. The second night once, and now, for now, she is sleeping all night without waking. That is much better that her sisters who wake up multiple times to go to the bathroom, get a drink, fuss about whatever, monsters... How do you parent night wean 5 and 3 year olds?

5. I ended up making the thickest Greek yogurt the other day. You see, I did it overnight in the crockpot on Monday night. (8 cups whole milk for 2.5 hours on low, cool for 3 hours, add 6 oz plain yogurt starter and wrap in blankets overnight). I usually "strain" the yogurt by putting a bunch of paper towels on top to soak the excess liquid off for about an hour. Well, Tuesday, when we were hurrying to get me to the ER for my miscarriage "complications" I stuck it in the fridge with paper towels on top. Wednesday morning I remembered it and, voila, yogurt as thick as you could want!

6. I am guessing that wondering minds want to know about Tuesday. I would like to write a longer post devoted to my experience of miscarriage, but a few initial thoughts are that passing a 6 week old baby at 8 weeks is like a less strenuous labor. But I feel a lot now like I did after having each of the other babies. I lost a lot of blood, and wears one out. What makes it a little easier, but also sad, is that I can sleep all night, without infant care. It is not what I expected. And the baby had a sense of liturgical time, since he/she stopped growing on the Feast of St. Gemma (my confirmation saint), we found out about the death on Good Friday, I started bleeding on Divine Mercy Sunday, and the baby passed on the (new) Feast of St. Catherine of Sienna (who we have started a devotion to since F was born...her biography by Sigrid Undset is amazing).

7. And, I was not going to buy Jen's new book, since I do not normally randomly buy books (a certain husband of mine would buy a new book everyday if he could).
I was thinking library. But as a treat, to help with recovery, I ordered it on Wednesday, plus a new Von Balthasar for M. It is scheduled to arrive next Tuesday. I previewed the first chapters on Amazon, which let me since I purchased the hardcover. I am eager to read the rest. Jen has a beautiful and interesting way of explaining her childhood in the first couple of chapters. Who knows, maybe I will have time to enter a contest.

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary!

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