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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.

chocolate, family, medicinal swearing and other life lessons learned by 36

16 Mar

1. Enjoy Life Chocolate chips will always save the day.

2. Email is from the devil and apparently I am really good at unintentionally offending people through it. I now panic every time I have to hit the send button after composing an email.

3. James gives the best hugs.

4.  It is a major problem in America when it costs just a few hundred dollars for a woman to have an abortion, but over $20,000 to adopt a baby. That reality will likely keep our family from growing through adoption.

5. Some things are worth investing in—such as a good undergarments and shoes.

6. My adult version of “down time” consists of falling asleep with a book next to me that never had a chance of being opened.

7. My heart still aches at the thought of not having more babies.

8. God is patient. Very, very, very patient. I am grateful for this truth.

9. Stress paralyzed is a real thing. Just ask my husband. He may have a few stories of me sitting in the car hiding from everyone.

10. Dogs really are man’s best friend. Our puppy is pretty awesome.

11. Homeschooling is a full time gig. I was insane to think that a job in ministry could co-exist with the demands of homeschooling.

12. Ear plugs were invented by a wife who has a husband who snores. I’m sure of this.

13. Having faithful friends and family to lift me up in prayer during the trials that are inevitable in life is one of the surest signs that God cares deeply about me.

14. Annie’s zeal for learning drives me to be a better homeschooling mom every single day.

15. The Lord has been calling me for years to have better balance in my life. I am finally responding to this invitation. And, my o my, is it a freeing experience.

16. I could do without fall, winter, and spring. Shorts and flip flops is what it’s all about.

17. Classical education is a God-send. I’m so grateful that the Lord opened my eyes to this form of education. It is literally changing our family’s life.

18. Carmel apple tea with a spoonful of honey is from the Lord. He told me it was so.

19. Some things just aren’t meant to be figured out—like Jonah’s immunodeficiency or why my hair is so gray at 36 or why chin hair is really necessary on a woman.

20. A good stylist is imperative.

21. Jason’s guitar playing skills are some of my favorite things about him.

22. I like skinny jeans and tall boots. There, I admit it.

23. The Lord desires holiness from me and by golly, He provides so many opportunities to grow every day.

24. I have a minor obsession with Facebook. I didn’t even try to give it up for Lent.

25. A journey towards something is also a journey away from something. I’m living this.

26. Jonah sleeps like a pretzel. That’s about as athletic as we get around here.

27. Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic are God’s gift to women in modest and fashionable clothes.

28. It’s a fantastic gift when you can call your family your friends.

29. I’m pretty sure that my body is comprised of Meijer veggie chips and Pace mild salsa.

30. My holy hour every week is my absolute favorite time.

31. Quality time spent talking to my husband is my next favorite thing.

32. If I could spend the day reading book after book with my kids, my life would be pretty awesome. Good thing my kids agree. My life is awesome.

33. “This too shall pass…” has become my mantra for both the good and the bad.

34. Thus, soak up the good and take up medicinal swearing during the bad—or, I mean spend that time on your knees, begging the Lord to sustain you. He always does (even through the swearing).

35.  The older I get, the more introverted and socially awkward I become. 

36. I’m so grateful that 35 is in the books. It was a year of intense purgation. With a joy-filled heart, I am ready for this next chapter of our lives.

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.”

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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. 

34 for 34

8 Mar

This morning, on the day of my 34th birthday, I woke up with a heart filled with gratitude.  While I was on my morning walk, my mind became flooded with a litany of things for which I am grateful—some small and seemingly insignificant, and some foundational in my life.  In an attempt to savor these thoughts, I scribbled them on a torn up piece of paper and decided to put them to the screen.  In no particular order, my gratitude list:

1.  That God has called our family to homeschooling.  At the moment, I cannot envision it any other way. 

2.  My blue mug filled with a steaming cup of herbal tea (preferably Lemon Zinger or Peach Passion).

3.  Warm, fresh out of the oven, chocolate chip almond cookies (coupled with the abovementioned tea and I’m one content girl).

4.  Sunshine.

5.  Waves crashing along the beach in Hilton Head Island, our family’s yearly vacation spot.

6.  Fruit smoothies—top on my list right now would be grapefruit, mango, and banana.

7.  My husband—ever last thing about him.  Enough said. 

8.  That I have kids who love to read, and read, and read some more.

9.  The Sacraments.

10.  My Roman Catholic faith—so deep, so rich, and so necessary.

11.  The cgs program and how it has shaped our way of raising up our own saints.

12.  The sound of my kids playing piano.

13.  warm blankets and snuggling children (together, a perfect recipe for content hearts)

14.  a comfortable bed

15.  dates, as in the food

16.  dates, as in with my husband

17.  Praise and Worship music

18.  Holy Hour on Sunday evenings with dear friends

19.  movies

20.  that I am blessed with a mom who after working full time (plus), has given up countless hours to get trained in cgs and now leads an atrium session every week.

21.  that I have a dad who loves me fiercely.

22.  that I have a best friend who knows me, gets me, and still loves me. 

23.  that I am blessed to be part of an awesome Church community, filled with families devoted to loving and serving God.

24.  5 god children

25.  Chaco flip flops and Ugg boots

26.  that my days are spent living out the vocation that God has called me to—being a wife and mother.

27.  Forgiveness

28.  My three beautiful children here on Earth who help me to grow in holiness and are a tiny glimpse of God’s love for me.  My heart overflows with love for them.

29.  My two children in Heaven who have taught me to trust in God’s plan more than my own.

30.  books of all kinds

31.  the internet, social media, and blogging

32.  My husbands’ warm feet

33.  soup, especially chicken noodle

34.  that God created me and that the Good Shepherd knows me by name, came to give me life to the fullest, and laid down his life for me.