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tough conversations

7 Nov

A few days ago, James snuggled into my lap and fell asleep.  I truly cannot remember the last time that happened.  He cuddled and slept for over an hour.  It was awesome and sweet and amazing confirmation that I really, really miss having wee little ones to snuggle and to cuddle.

Apparently the kids do, too, because every. single. day. they make a point to tell me or Jason or God during our petitions that they wish that I could have another baby.

“Momma, I wish you could have another baby in your belly, only I want it to live so we can meet it now.  I don’t want it to die like the other ones did in your belly.  I don’t want to have to wait until we get to Heaven some day to meet it; I want to be with it here on Earth right now,” Jonah lovingly told me during our morning time.

My heart longs for the same thing, Jonah.  You have no idea how many hours I’ve spent before the Blessed Sacrament talking to God about this very thing.

Annie’s used-to-be daily declaration of “Mommy, do you have any idea how much I wish I had a little sister?”  is slowly becoming less frequent. 

I think she is starting to accept God might just have other plans.  “I don’t understand why so many of our friend’s families have so many babies, but we only have the three of us.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  You and daddy would love to have more babies.  Why won’t God give you more?”

I know, sweet Annie.  God’s will is holy, perfect, and completely beyond my understanding. 

“Momma, I wish you could have more babies.  I know then I wouldn’t be the baby, but that would be OK, because I love babies.”

Yes, James, you are almost five and you are still our baby even if you are willing to give up the title. 

You guys, seriously, daily conversations like this with the kids are just hard.  I remember talking to my spiritual director about this a few years ago when we got the news that more biological children was probably not in the cards for us.  At that time, it was just Annie asking when God was going to send us another baby.  Father suggested gently telling her that God had other plans.

In theory, that sounds reasonable.  Except kids, well, they just don’t always except reality.  I’ve told them countless times that momma’s body, it just doesn’t do this pregnancy thing well.  But, the kids, well, they hold on to the hope. 

I think I do, too, sometimes.

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just walk away

22 Jan

Last Spring I got up the nerve to talk to my team of doctors about my crappy fertility and what it meant in regards to having more kids.

The answer was clear from my extremely pro-life doctors.

I wrote about it.  A few times.

And you’d think almost a year later I would be in a better place with it all.  But, you know what?  I’m not sure that I am.

Recently, I had some blood work done to see what the heck was going on because of a myriad of symptoms I’ve been having.  And while it’s not necessary to go into the details, suffice is to say, the results are crappy.   Pretty much my body screams, “Your body sucks at doing anything remotely OK in regards to your fertility.”

You guys, this?  Grrrr.  It is annoying.  The reality of it can slap me in the face, knock me off my feet and leave me gasping to find my breath.  I don’t want this to be my reality and it hits me at the craziest moments.

The little man is outgrowing his clothes, and I need to pack them away.  Thoughts of, “I should just donate all of these” fill my head.  But, I  don’t want to.  I’d like another little man to wear them.  So I shove them in a bin, along with my feelings on the matter and I walk away.

Or, the dear friends with the adorable babies—gosh, they are lovely.  And in that moment of ohhing and ahhhing over them, I can always put on a smile because I am happy as heck for them.  And those babies are so stinking precious.  Praise God!  Truly, what a blessing. But gosh, my heart simultaneously rejoices for them and aches for us and I just have to mentally walk away sometimes.

And, man, when that endearing “good Christian” (whether it be a religious or lay person) makes the thoughtless comments about those good families having all those babies…phew.  Those get me.  (Actually, those just piss me off.)  Because seriously, family size does not equate to holiness.  I know some pretty messed up big families.  Am I right?  Dumb, dumb, dumb comments.  But, in that moment, I still feel so painfully judged.  And so I walk away.

Yes, yes, I know that the Lord has a plan.  Yes, I need to take this to prayer.  I have over and over again.  But, today?  I’m frustrated.  I wish things were different. And I’m leaving it to my guardian angel to finish the words in prayer that I cannot utter.

And, of course, I realize intellectually that there is a choice in all of this.  I do my best to offer it up for the conversion of all those mommas who don’t understand the sanctity of all human life.  I pray that my cross will help a desperate momma to choose life and to recognize that there are couples like us who would welcome those babies into our home with open and loving hearts.

Because I know God always brings so much good out of suffering—when we let him.  Most days, I let him.

But today?  I just…don’t have the words or the will.  And, I know that He is OK with that.  It’s OK to walk away.  As long as I walk back to Him.  And I will.

a peace-filled year

2 Jan

endless snuggles in bed,

piles and piles of books that have been devoured together,

smiles, joy, laughter,

words of encouragement,

hugs and kisses and tickle-fests,

inside jokes and goofy grins,

working hard, achieving goals,

stretching ourselves,

and abandoning our will (over and over again) to our Lord.

These are the highlights that I hope my family remembers about 2014.  These day to day occurrences have been the fibers that have woven together to make a really, really good year.

For the first time since we began homeschooling, I can look back upon the entire year with a contented sigh, and the affirmation that God has our family right where He wants us.  The discernment process that got us here took months of 2014 and racked up hundreds of hours in prayer before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  But, we got here.  And, it is a glorious place to be.

Of course, the discernment of 2014 didn’t just include homeschooling, but much bigger decisions, as well.  The topic of family and children is one that I have been open and honest about from the get go.  In fact, it was why I started this blog back in my Creighton Model Practitioner days—I wanted to be a voice for those couples struggling through miscarriages, infertility and so on.  And so I’ve written about our losses (and here), our struggles, and God’s final answer regarding a big (biological) family.  I wish I could say that my heart is in the same place with this topic as it is with homeschooling, but it simply is not yet.  I know that I need to continue to take this to the Lord in prayer.  Some days, it is still too heavy of a cross to even want to pray about.  Thankfully the Lord is patient.

But, I recognize that God is asking me to be a mother to other children as well, and I know that He is doing that through my job in the Church with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program.  Every day, not only do I have the opportunity to bring my children closer to our Lord through this program, but also many, many others at our parish.  And while taking on the job in an official role this past Fall has been difficult at times to balance, the Lord continues to pour His mercy and love, guiding me in finding peace with a very full plate.  The Multiplication of the Fishes and Loaves has been my mantra this year.  I give what I can, and trust the Lord to multiply my efforts and time where He sees fit.

So, as 2014 is officially over and the unknown prospects of another year lie before me, my prayer is that my soul continues to remain at peace as I love the heck out of my family, while homeschooling the kiddos to the best of my ability, and serving the Lord in whatever ministries He calls me to.

Peace to you, dear friends, in this New Year.

End of the road

29 Mar

I think I’m finally getting to the point where I can begin to let go of those baby bins full of infant and toddler clothes, cloth diapers, and baby toys That reality, it’s a big deal for me.

Ever since I was pregnant with James and things got really crazy, I knew intellectually that my pregnancy with him would probably be my last. And for a good two years after he was born, I wasn’t ready to even engage in a discussion about whether this was the end of the road for us. But this last year has left my heart stirring, with a deep, deep, maternal desire to have that large family of which I have always dreamed. I’ve taken these stirrings to prayer and Jason and I have talked and talked about God’s plan in all of this. We’ve sought spiritual direction from solid priests that we trust. And then, I finally got up the courage to not only make, but keep an appointment (yes, I’ve cancelled the last 4) to ask my OB one last time, “Is it prudent for us to have another baby?” I’ve been putting off asking the question because I needed time to prepare both my head, which already knew the answer, and my heart for his response…

From a medical perspective, my OB did not recommend additional pregnancies. He struggled to say, “No,” knowing that by making this recommendation, the weight of the cross from our journey with crappy fertility just got a bit heavier.

It’s the end of the road for us.

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At age 35, while most of my friends are still making babies left and right, God is asking us to be done.

And, so the stirring for more babies in my heart is being asked to…what? I don’t know. Stop? I was talking about all of this to my spiritual director this morning, and telling him that while I don’t know if it is a good thing, my prayer as of late is for God to take away my desire to have more children.

His response left me awfully teary…

“I wouldn’t suggest you ask for those feelings to be taken away. They are you. You are a mother and that desire is good. In asking them to be taken away, you are asking God to take away a very good part of how he created you. ”

Yes, it’d be easier if these feelings were just taken away. But, in experiencing them, I understand, I’m being given an opportunity to unite my suffering with Christ. I’m being asked to carry His cross, too. And that is a beautiful thing.

As he understood, too, that is a completely heartbreaking reality.

Yes. I am heartbroken.

Family 009

And I find myself toiling over those darn baby bins a lot. Through hot tears and lots of snotty Kleenexes, I tried to explain to Jason what those baby bins represent to me. All I could get out was, “They hold a piece of my heart and I feel like I’m giving that away in giving away the stuff.” Jason, seeing how upset I was, responded, “We can keep them.” Through heavy sobs, I explained, “That is what I’m trying to say, they represent a piece of my heart that I think I’m ready to give away because in doing so, they will help our friends who need those things. Or other families I don’t know who are in need. It would help them and make them happy and I want them to have that.”

James1

Those silly bins, they represent so much to my sentimental heart—first snuggles, night time feedings, first baths, transitions from itty bitty babies to mobile infants, to rough and tumble toddlers. They are proof of what made me a mother. They aren’t just onesies and sleepers, they are tangible items that encompass a season of my life, a chapter in our story…one that is now closed.

I told Jason that I wish I could reach out to my friends who I’m going to offer these items to and write them a little love letter, telling them how much I love them and how I hope that these items, though seemingly insignificant, will allow them to experience the same joy of being a mother as I have been blessed to experience.

Analise 042

And I am blessed and so very grateful for my three kiddos here and 2 angel babies. Each day I am blessed to be able to hug and kiss and tell them how much I love them. They are my heart and while it is a bit broken right now, they provide the glue that keeps it together when all is said and done.

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Those baby bins…it is time to begin the next chapter, to pick up this cross, once again, and walk with Christ.

It’s still my story

14 Feb

So, I did something.  You know, one of those things that you know you are totally out of your league for and every part of you is saying, “Why in the hell are you doing that?”  But, yet, there is this little twinge of, “What the heck—why not? I don’t have anything to loose.”  Yes, it was one of those things that caused a lot of inner dialogue over the last few weeks.

Last Saturday, (just 2 days post major oral surgery and man, was I in a world of hurt) I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother.

Years ago, I discovered the LTYM show and just loved (most) of what I saw—a group of writers coming together to share their story about motherhood.  I realize full well that I am not a writer.  My blog is as neglected as my gray roots that are in dire need of a touch up.  But, in the spirit of trying things that push me out of my comfort zone, I decided to give it a go.  That inner dialogue finally settled on, “Why not!?”

So, I spent a few hours here and there trying to tap out a piece.  It was hard.  How do you convey just how deeply these events in my life have impacted my journey of motherhood.  It probably didn’t help that I was sick in bed one weekend and watched show after show and was plagued by the reality of “holy crap, these people are really freakin’ good.”  I remember telling Jason, I should probably just not waste what little time I have writing something that won’t get chosen.   Yet, he encouraged me.  And so I wrote.  And I auditioned.

Today?  I got the “thanks, but no thanks.”

Awe, shucks.

In reality, I had been waiting for the email all week.  I left the audition totally peaceful that whatever would be, I was totally fine with.  And I am sincerely good with it.

The only strange part for me is that in writing the piece, I basically laid my heart on the table.  I mean it is personal.  And so a rejection kind of feels like a “hey, your story wasn’t good enough.”  But, it’s cool.  I still am a strong believer that we all have a story to tell—perfectly written and delivered or not, it is our story.  And that is a lovely thing.

So here’s mine:

(Now, imagine me speaking this all cool and collected despite having a stitched up, bruised mouth that was a tad numb from being hopped up on large amounts of Motrin—brillance?  Yes!)

Letting Go

When my husband and I got married, we offered a toast to one another at our reception and both of us remarked that we were so excited to see how many kids God was going to bless us with. We are Catholic and, well… that’s probably all I need to say. Catholics and babies tend to go hand in hand. So naturally it didn’t take long for my husband and I to begin trying to “make a baby.” We figured it’d happen quickly; I mean, both my grandma and mom had children without even trying. Yeah, there were a few “oopses” in our family.

Within a year or so of trying and failing to get pregnant, though, I decided it was time to talk with my lady doctor about our situation. He referred me to a specialist who recommended surgery that ended up revealing an aggressive case of endometriosis. This? This was the culprit of our infertility. The surgeon basically declared World War 3 on my insides in order to remove the diseased areas. He assured us that this surgery would lead to a pregnancy.

And believe it or not, within about 4 months of the surgery, we did conceive. So, of course, we made the big announcement by calling all of our friends and family and telling all of our colleagues. My imagination began to run wild as I saw this as the first step in filling an entire pew with children at Mass.

Then, just a few weeks later, we had to call everyone back and recant our excitement. I had begun bleeding and a series of ultrasounds confirmed our worst fears—we had lost the baby, a precious little girl. We named her Elizabeth Anne. Yes, we were heartbroken, but I still held onto to the hope of having a big family.

So, again, we went for it. And went for it. And went for it. Our life turned into living in the 2 week to 2 week increments. Is it making baby time? Yes! Let’s do this! And then we would wait and pray. And that damn period would start, again.

After about six months of this, I remember chatting with my best friends about the fertility rollercoaster we were on. In her wisdom, she said to me, “God honors the desires of your heart.” I remember thinking, “Whatever! The deepest desire of my heart is to have a child. I don’t want a lot of money, or a big house, or fancy cars… I just want to have a baby.”

It’s a lot of emotions to work through, you know? So, I started walking and praying the rosary every morning. I was desperate to find some sort of peace amidst all of this. During my first walk, the conversation that I had with my friend came to mind and I could hear her words echoing—“God honors the desires of your heart.” I began to meditate on that—I simmered on it, chewed over it and then very reluctantly, I uttered the prayer, “Lord, help me to want YOUR will more than my own. Help me to let go.”

 

Those words were not easy ones to speak at first. In fact, it was much easier to tell God how annoyed I was than to let go of my wants, my plans, and my dreams. But after months of taking my sorrow and disappointment to prayer, I finally got to the place where I allowed the pain in my heart to be replaced by a peaceful acceptance that God had me right where He wanted me: childless, but I was at peace.

And wouldn’t you know it, it was at this time that we found out we were pregnant again. And this time, the pregnancy went full term and we were blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Our Analise Grace blessed our life after 2 ½ years of infertility. Finally, we could begin to fill those pews at Mass.

A little over a year after Annie’s birth, we very unexpectedly found out we were pregnant again. This was crazy to us because we hadn’t even been trying. Finally, we were the Catholics breeding like rabbits. Except for when we weren’t. The reality that struck forced us to shed another layer of letting go when we lost Annie’s brother, our Gabriel Michael, in yet another miscarriage.

Call us crazy, but the love we felt towards Annie and the two babies who we had lost in the miscarriages was intoxicating and we still longed to have more children. And so, we didn’t give up.

Eventually our Jonah, oh our gentle, sweet Jonah came into this world and our hearts expanded with such love…such love…. despite the litany of health complications he was born with. I remember one of his specialist, a neurologist asking us, “You are not going to have any more are you?” as if to imply Jonah’s issues would scare us away from more children. Clearly this doctor didn’t understand that our love was not confined to a perfect story because truly ours has been anything but.

A few years later, when we became pregnant with another son, I found myself on bedrest for 2 1/2 months. Our James ended up being born 6 weeks early and had to spend his earliest days in the NICU. My body’s ability to maintain pregnancies was declining with each baby. Our doctor, who has nine kids of his own, has gently suggested that we do not have any more children.

That reality has been one that I have continued to try to embrace over the last few years because that pew at Mass—it’s not full yet. I’m still hanging on to the bassinette, and baby swing, and the bins full of baby clothes.  I just can’t seem to let them go.

But, I do think that my friend was right, God does honor the desires of our hearts. For me, it started when I was blessed with the children who now call me Mommy. But, even more than that, the desire of my heart is to be at peace with where I am right here and right now. I’m still learning and praying through how to do that. I know I’ll get there, yes, I will. And, I know full well, that it will only happen when I can finally let go for good.

mommy+baby=not me

6 Nov

Babies.  I love them. 

My body, though?  Not so much.  In fact, it does a rather crappy job making them, keeping them in my belly, and breastfeeding them (if they are lucky enough to make it that far).

This dissention, or as my faith teaches, this cross, folks?  It’s a mighty hefty one. 

When Jason and I got married, not only did the best man and maid of honor, as well as my dad and brother (we have a touchy feely family that way) give a speech, but so did Jason and I.  In both of ours, we commented about how we couldn’t wait to see how many kids God was going to bless us with.  We had every intention of living out our faith, trusting God to make the ultimate decision in how many kids our family would have.

And here we are today. 

We have gone through infertility, miscarriages, two major surgeries to remove an aggressive case of endometriosis,  secondary infertility, bed rest,  babies born, 2, 4, 6 weeks early.  I have had countless blood draws, hormone supplements, and nutrition supplements.  My bottom has literally taken a beating from injection after injection of hormones.

And then there is breastfeeding—oh my gosh—hate it with every ounce of me mainly because my experiences have been wretched.  After seeing three different lactation consultant with James and a breast center specialist, it was determined that the 8,634 cases of mastitis have left terrible scarring.  These girls, they just don’t like it.

And then there is the aftermath of all of the being pumped full of hormones for three pregnancies thing.  I still have liver and gall bladder issues three years post partum from James.  And what’s worse is that I’m confident my endometriosis is back. 

But you know what?  It’s OK. 

I’m going to say that, again…it is OK!

OK, well, maybe it’s not always OK. 

I mean, I have my moments.  Of course, I’d love more kids.  I’m joyfully and orthodixically (that’s a word, right?) Catholic.  My friends, well, most of them “multiply like bunnies.”  It is hard to be the “small family” among the masses when every amount of you thought you’d be among the ranks to fill an entire pew at Mass. 

For us, every pregnancy is a very calculated, prayerful, and a difficult thought process.  It’ not about, “can we afford another baby?” or “do we have room for another baby?” 

Instead, it is weighing, can we handle another loss.  If we make it far enough along, how will we manage bed rest with three other children at home?  We know that my prognosis is dim.  Bed rest, a NICU baby, sickening hormone supplements, they are all guarantees.  As my pro-life, nine kids at home OB said, “I’d be good with you taking a long time to pray before considering another pregnancy.  In fact, I’d be OK if you never got pregnant again.”’

Ouch.

So if you are reading this and you have walked a similar journey, my heart, oh my heart–it understands.  I’m sorry.  The pain and saddness can be overwhelming at time.  I do believe that God has a beautiful, yet mysterious plan in all of this.  But, I know it is a difficult journey to walk.  The cross can feel awfully heavy some days. 

And, if you are on the other side of this, please extend grace to those on this side of the camp.  Don’t assume that because you see a small family it is because the couple is not open to life.  Be gentle to these families.  Offer the benefit of the doubt.  And more than anything, pray for them. 

Everyone, every last one of us has a story.   Some of ours are just a bit more complicated than others. 

life

12 Apr

Dear Analise, Jonah, and James,

You are precious, you are honored, you are so very loved.  From the moment your daddy and I found out we were pregnant with you, our hearts were full of love for you.  We immediately began envisioning our lives with you.  We wondered about the type of person you would become.  We dreamed about what you would look like and what your sweet voice would sound like.  We knew you were a gift entrusted to us by God.  And we were so very thankful.

My heart is heavy as of late—so very heavy.  The culture in which we live places such little value on your life.  It looks at you as a “choice.”  Mothers are told that the gift which they have been given (no matter the circumstance) is one that they can choose to keep or one that they can ret rid of…and by that, my dear children, I mean kill. 

It is sickening. 

When story after story (such as this one and this or this and even this one just a short drive from our home) receive essentially no coverage from our media, I am reminded of how the respect and dignity of life is fading quickly in this country. 

There are those who are trying to bring to light these issues to light.   

Watch this.  It will make you weep for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who were lost to these heinous crimes.  And then turn to the Lord and plead for his mercy to radiate into the hearts of these troubled people.

And I cannot forget the powerhouse that is Planned Parenthood who is forever pushing their “choice” and “women’s rights” agenda.  We now have lobbyist trying to pass their evil plans to allow post-birth abortions (a sweeter way to say…murder).  As one of Planned Parenthood lobbyist skirted around the answer (watch below), her non-answer was proof enough—if an abortion “fails,” go ahead and kill the baby on the table.  Snip her spin.  Call it good.  She is dead. The end.

They tell us it’s not murder.  It is choice.  The choice of the woman.  The choice of the doctor.  But certainly not the choice of the child…because that baby?  She had no choice.

Yet, we all know that if a woman delivered her baby in a hospital or at home and minutes after having the baby, decided that she no longer wanted her child and “snipped its spin,” thus killing the baby, she would be considered a murderer and sent to prison.

Where the hell is the logic in that?

A life is a LIFE! 

Geography does not determine life.  God does.  And no matter how you slice it, that life was taken by a dreadful act against the most vulnerable of human beings.   

And so many dear, precious children, some day when you look back over your momma’s letters to you, I want you to know just how precious and loved and honored you are to us.  You are a gift and it is your daddy and I’s prayer that all women will come to understand the gift of life.  We pray with expectant and hope-filled hearts for a change in the culture of death that is strangling America.  We have hope for a change because we place our trust in the Resurrected Lord who defeated death itself. 

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15: 54-57

With all the love that a mother can have for her children,

Momma