Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Let the dead bury their dead"

Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But Jesus answered him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead." (Mt 8:21-22)

The notes in my bible say that Jesus' command to the disciple "overrides what both the Jewish and Hellenistic world regarded as the filial obligation of the highest importance."

Clearly, I'm thinking about detachment. On the day after I learned that another blogger's dear little boy has died, I am thinking about the Lord and His Purposes. Somehow, though I've never met her, or even so much as commented on her blog, I am heartbroken. My heart thinks of RG, and longs for him in my womb, while her heart must long for this little boy so very much. Rocking little A to sleep last night, I just cried and sputtered a prayer to Jesus, that He would be with her and her family. 

And, I thought about detachment. I had been to bible study earlier in the day, and we had been studying God's call to Abram to leave all that he knew and to travel into the land that the lord would show him. We used the passage above to parallel Abram's obedience, and to expand our ideas of detachment--at least, I did. In the past five months I have learned that detachment is meant to be from the things I love the most. THE MOST. And so, when RG came out of me, I thought of Abraham and Isaac. (Amazing how God gave me that image right then.) 

Abram's detachment worked in stages, I suppose. First he detached from his family and kin, then from his things, and finally, God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, his long awaited and beloved son. At RG's death, I had thought, "God, I am faithful! I have trusted in You. Don't. Please don't take my Isaac away." And I was so hurt that He would take my Isaac, and not spare the life of my son, as He had Abram's. 

But now, I realize, through my suffering, God is working two miracles. One, that my son, MY SON, could be a saint. What blessed few mothers can know that? (Carla can, that I am sure.) And two, that I would be given the opportunity to say, "Fiat!" by realizing that my willingness to die to my attachment to RG is for my salvation. For even my own children are not mine. They are His. If I am to follow the Lord, then I must let my son be buried by Him. I must throw off my filial obligation--for he is already buried, and with the Lord--and follow Christ. I cannot be so attached to RG that I neglect the Lord, or do not follow Him in fullness. Freely, Totally, Faithfully, and Fruitfully. 


Lord, I pray that you help me to know that detachment from RG only means closeness to You. That RG does not need me, and that I need You. Help me to know that I am not being a neglectful mother by detaching from him, but that he is loved, and loved so much that he could only be Yours. I offer up my sufferings for all those babies, killed in the womb, who have no one to love them so, no one to mourn them so. I offer them up for baby Henry's mother and family. And I offer them for all mothers whose children You have loved into Your Holy Presence. Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Expectations

I can totally relate to this post by Danya at HE Adopted Me First.

I keep asking myself: from where did these expectations come? Are they mere social constructions, pounded into my head through Disney movies and fairytales? Can't be. Most of the Disney princesses never have children. Are they an image of my biblical heroes? Can't be. Mary only had one child. God never promised me a life with many many children.

Fr. G told me in confession a few weeks back that I have a beautiful mother's heart. Can such a mother's heart be so if she has but one child? Does a mother's heart always long for more and more children? Does a mother's heart lament for the children that may never come? Perhaps I am only mourning R.G.

Maybe a mother's heart, in her longing, is really only longing for Our Lord, and not necessarily for more children. Maybe I long to hold Jesus when I find myself longing for an infant in my arms. What is an infant, if not pure love, sent from the Lover? As a mother, maybe I long for Jesus. I can think of no better balm for this wound.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 Questions for God

I shouldn't let myself ask this question because seeking an answer to this question is so...selfish. It is seeking what can't be known, and it is akin to Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But I want to know: why. Actually. I want to know: how. But I feel like WHY will get me to HOW for some reason. Why did RG have to die? If I know why he died, maybe I could better prevent another baby from dying. Or maybe I could be at peace, knowing it wasn't anything I had any control over.

I know. I know. "You didn't cause this. There wasn't anything you could do. This is just 'nature's way' of 'taking care of' a pregnancy that wasn't viable." At least that is what the doctors and everyone else tells you. But I call BULLSHIT.

Excuse my language. There is some reason this happened. Even if it is a reason no doctor can know. And telling me this is just a way to placate my feelings of guilt and horror. It is a way to escape having to deal with my grief over the fact that my baby died, and died for a reason. If it was "nature's way" of "dealing with" a pregnancy that wasn't viable, then I am still left with the question as to why the pregnancy wasn't viable.

Maybe RG died because my hormones are messed up, or because I'm overweight and being overweight makes my hormones messed up. Or maybe he had trisomy 18 or some other "defect." Maybe he died because God just wanted him back. And if that is the reason, then ok. I can be ok with that. Honestly, I only want what God wants--even if it's the early death of my baby.

But what I can't deal with is not knowing. I can't live with not knowing because it prevents me from moving forward. What if I never get pregnant again, because RG died and I don't know why? What if I do get pregnant again, and all of my babies die? If I don't know why RG died, then I can't do everything in my power to prevent my other babies from dying.

The thought has occurred to me that maybe God doesn't want me to know why, and that this mystery is part of the cross. And who am I to question God's reasoning? I want to be faithful. I want to have learned from Job. I don't need to know why. But I do need to know "how." I need to know what to do. How to move forward. How to heal, and how to trust. I need to know how to let go. How to stop being afraid. How to love myself after this.

If God doesn't want me to know why, and if He wants me to trust, instead of ask "why," then I still need help moving forward. And probably every step I take to move forward must be made in trust. I step forward into this cycle in trust. I step forward into potty training in trust (why potty training? Because, whether or not she has a little brother or sister, A's life must go on too, and I must facilitate that. This, by the way, is a realization that breaks my  heart). I step forward into the life of, perhaps, raising a single child in trust. I must keep telling myself that this was good enough for Mary. It was good enough for God. Moving forward, even if I don't know how to do it, requires my fiat. That is the only thing of which I am absolutely sure.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part II

Part II of this Contemplative Study is from section one of Searching for and Maintaining Peace: "Interior Peace: The Road to Saintliness," part two "Interior Peace and Apostolic Fruitfulness."

We've probably all heard of that cliche which goes, "you must love yourself first in order to love someone else." And I always understood the basic premise of that, but I also always kind of rejected it. And I think I rejected it because it sounded selfish; however, I think I can understand the nuance more than I could before. I think part of the problem is that the English word, Love, is so convoluted and multivalent. It means a lot of things it shouldn't be used for, in my opinion.

By loving oneself before loving others, we do not mean that one should be in love with oneself. Rather, we mean that one must understand his or her own dignity in the sight of the Lord; he or she must be able to be able to make a gift of oneself freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. In short, one must understand Agape (the love of God) and know it, before being it for someone else.

It is along these lines that Fr. Philippe discusses the necessity of interior peace as a means of fruitful apostolic works. I must push myself to understand fruitfulness more broadly; for, in this time, fruitfulness means to have children. But I know the Lord requires other fruits of us--and the fruit we bear must be the good fruit, the wheat, and not the chaff.

"the peace of which we speak is that of the Gospels; it has nothing to do with any type of impassivity, extinction of sensitivity, cold indifference or being wrapped up in oneself...rather it is the necessary corollary of love, of a true sensitivity to the sufferings of others and of authentic compassion."

While, intellectually, I can understand this argument, and agree with it, I do wonder about cases such as Mother Teresa's and my own, in which--in the midst of great suffering and perceived distance from God--we must still minister to others and make faithful action, despite the darkness we feel. Mother Teresa felt, so often, and for such long periods, a great sense of the "dark night of the soul." And it is exactly that to which I liken my own experience (our next contemplative study will, in fact, be on St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul). I have to admit that this darkness is anything but peaceful. The distance is utterly frightening. The absence is infuriating. And yet, I must go on. I must pursue good works as acts of faith. By pushing on through my grief, I make an act of faith. By continuing to receive the sacraments, and by refusing to stop going to Mass, by going to confession, and by forcing my tongue to say the chaplet or the rosary, I am making acts of faith. Because those things are difficult. Those small actions are sometimes all I can bear in my pain. Bigger things, like holding a friend's baby while she uses the restroom, buying gifts for my expecting friends, these are acts of faith. And, while I'm not at peace--no where near peace interiorly--I must do these things to prove to myself, and perhaps even God--though He knows all things--that I remain faithful to Him.

And so, what does this passage mean to me? Must I be at peace within my own heart in order to serve the Lord fruitfully? I'm not sure. I do know there is nothing more that I want right now, than to be at peace and to be confident in God's love for me. Maybe, in my conviction and stubborn love for God, in my refusal to be unfaithful to Him, even in the trenches of this suffering, maybe I am more at peace than I know.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Contemplative Study: Part I

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, by Fr. Jacques Philippe

Part one of this study covers the first small section of Part One (Interior Peace, The Road to Saintliness): Without Me, You Can Do Nothing.

Complete surrender to God. OY. Why is it so difficult to face complete surrender? Probably because I believe, at least partly--and partly is enough--the first lie of the devil. That first lie, which says, "God does not love you." I can say, all I want, that I trust the Lord, that I know He loves me--that He wants the best for me, and does not plan suffering for me maliciously. But if I am wholly honest, I know my heart does not fully believe it. I think, even before RG I still did not fully believe this. But especially now, now that RG is dead, and I have lived through the trauma that was his life, birth, and death all at once, that lie echoes in my heart. How easily I have allowed Satan to infiltrate my heart! For it was he, not my Lord, who introduced death into this existence. It was he that first spoke that lie, who first believed it himself. And I have allowed him to tell me that lie every single day since RG died. 

St. Michael the Archangel, come to my side! Defend me from this onslaught! Help me to cast Satan out!

Fr. Jacques suggests all the ways available to Christians to grow closer to God, including "prayer (specifically meditation, which [as Father also said] is so fundamental in this regard), of the sacraments, of the purification of our hearts, of docility to the Holy Spirit." But essential to all of these, and therefore, as a necessary prelude, is peace of heart: "it is of the greatest importance that we strive to acquire and maintain an interior peace, the peace of our hearts" (emphasis his). Oh, my peace has been disturbed. Not like a pebble thrown into a still lake, but like a catastrophic tsunami. And in order to bear fruit again (both literally and figuratively) I must return to this peace. And it is not something I can do alone. Fr. Jacques writes that the realization that "apart from God, you can do nothing" (NOTHING) is a necessary prerequisite to "all the great things that God will do in us by the power of His Grace." 

This task is daunting. It is overwhelming. It feels like too much. Thank you, Lord for giving me this desire to be close to You, even though I am anxious about the path to You. Please, Lord, send your angels to defend me in this task. Console me; I beg You to give me Your consolation, that I might know where next to step. Do not abandon me. Please remind me everyday that You alone can achieve this peace in my heart, if only I would soften my heart to You. Remind me that even though my children (and hopeful future children) are an objective good, they are not You who are my "only good." Help my heart to detach from RG enough to properly order him next to You, oh Lord, my superior good. For I know that You hold RG in your arms at every second, and that he is in no pain, nor danger. You said that anyone who loves his spouse or his children more than You is not worthy of you. Though I understand that intellectually, it is difficult for me to accept. Please soften my heart to you, and grant that I will recognize how You love me. Fiat.

A Contemplative Study: Prelude

In confession two weeks ago, I confessed how difficult it has been for me to pray. How it used to come so easily, and now I sometimes have absolutely no words to say to God. How I don't feel like I'm getting anything back from Him. How faith used to come to me so easily. All during my confession I was thinking of how the Lord had allowed this extremely painful suffering to be mine, and how, as a result, my faith had become so difficult. I did not know the path back to Him.

Father suggested that God was pulling me out of the faith of my childhood in order to steer me toward a different level of closeness to Him--perhaps one I would need later in life. He even said this was common. He suggested that my prayer be less scripted, and more than that, that I say less. He must know me well. He suggested a more contemplative prayer life, and he gave me Psalm 16 to pray:

"Keep me safe, O God;
in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord:
     you are my Lord.
     you are my only good."

God knew I needed those words in my mouth when I had none.

Then, by virtue of a friend on mine, Meg of Team Stout, I found a series of blogs written by women who seemed to understand my struggle. As a result of a series of related events, I came across Magnify the Lord with Me, written by Lauren. Lauren's joy is radiant. She seems to trust the Lord with some sense of desperation and abandon--a sense toward which I am working and working. I read a number of her posts in an afternoon, and one of them highly recommended a book of spiritual guidance, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. I ordered it on the spot.

And as a way to get started with implementing contemplation in my life, as Father suggested, I'm going to do a study of this short treatise. Father said that contemplative prayer can really be challenging, especially initially, so I'm thinking maybe studying a meditation such as this would be a  good way to stay focused.

I have decided, even though I won't be doing this contemplative study in a group, I will still need to actively think about what I'm reading. Thus, I'm going to use this space to "discuss" the book in a series of posts. Look for posts entitled "A Contemplative Study."

Lord, I beg you to accept and bless this study as my effort to be more at peace with Your Will. I am trying to be actively receptive. I beg you to make this study fruitful and pleasing to your Sacred Heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Vision of Life

There is one thing I know. It is that my problems with fertility did not begin when RG died. It would be easy to conclude that they did because we have been actively trying to have a child for six months, and when we did conceive, our baby died. My God, that is depressing.

But this was not RG's fault, and it didn't start with him. And this is how I realize, slowly, just how much of a miracle our toddler is. A was totally "unplanned," though I DETEST that concept. She was planned; it's just that she was planned by God and not by us. We have always been open to His plan for life, and she came at a time when most people would dread a baby. I was in my first semester of graduate school, and she came two weeks before finals. But PRAISE GOD she did. Praise the LORD, oh my soul. And she truly is a miracle, because my symptoms of PCOS were present when I was a teenager.

It's just that I didn't learn that I had some variant of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) until after RG died. And it was only after he died that I really understood how much A was a complete act of God in our lives.
And, as much as I appreciate that intervention, and praise God for it, it makes me sad. It makes me sad to realize that I have absolutely no control over whether or when I have my children. That is one of the mini-crosses of infertility.

You might say, "well, you don't have to be such a control freak." I realize that. I mean, I think that is one of the overall lessons I need to internalize from this situation. That particular control is not something I ought to expect. Life is God's alone, and He lends it to us so graciously. But, he lends it to most women with a lot more freedom. At least that is how it feels to me. They get to choose how to space their babies, they get to choose when to start and stop having children, they get to choose how many they will have. (Secondary to this point is the fact that a majority of Western women completely abuse this freedom and this gift, but that is not the point of this post--I'll rant on that another day, I'm sure.) However, I do not. The Lord has seen fit that I do not get this freedom.

I call it freedom because I truly believe, with the Church, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever I want; it is the free ability to choose the Good, and to reject evil. It is not to be a slave to sin. Therefore, I have not been allowed the freedom to choose the Good of children. Of course, realizing this hurts me. It makes me question "why" and "why me?" Why me, when I try to be so faithful. So open to You, Lord. You allow other mothers to have that freedom and then they kill their babies in the womb. But for me, You have other plans. Part of what pierces my soul is that I cannot imagine, Lord, what these other plans are, if they are not to have children to raise up to You on earth. This is not at all the way I envisioned my life. This is not the way I thought You would envision my life. But. My life is not about me.


There is another woman I know whose life turned out to be something far different than I am sure she imagined it would be. She was young when she had her first child, and she never had another child after that. And, while her son didn't die in the womb, he died a horrible death as a young man; and she had to watch it happen. God saw fit for her to only bear one child, and He was Jesus, THE word, THE source of life itself.

Please note that I am not meaning to compare myself to Our Lady's holiness, nor my children to the Lord Jesus. I am merely trying to say that if God envisioned Mary's life to only include one child, one who would die before her, and whose life, in its course, would pierce her heart seven times, then that kind of suffering is good enough for me, too. Mary suffered so much. So so much. And yet, God loved her infinitely. I know that He must love me if he allows me such suffering.

Lord, my God, I offer up this pain, this sorrow, this ache for motherhood, for all those babies whose mothers abandon them, whose mothers reject them, whose mothers kill them through abortion. I offer it up for the sorrows of Mary, and for all those mothers who don't even get to have one child, a blessing which I have been so greatly given. I give You the version of my life I had thought was Your Will. I beg you to exchange it for the one You intend for me. I beg you to make me ready for it, and worthy of it. Fiat. Fiat. Fiat!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Controlling the Pain

When we found out the baby was no longer alive, I pleaded with God to let me know if he was a boy or a girl. I desperately wanted to name him, and, I suppose, "claim" him as my own. I wanted to make him as real as possible to me.

The night after our appointment, I dreamed that he was born, healthy and alive, and he was a boy. It was so clear, I couldn't ignore it, especially after I had asked the Lord to reveal this to me.
We named him after his father, Romeo, and after the patron saint of expecting mothers, Gerard.


I recently started seeing a counselor because I have put my poor husband through enough. I need someone else to vent to. And I need some strategies to cope with my grief, my fear, my stress, and my anxiety.

I told her that I need positive feedback when I'm doing a project or learning something new. Or even criticism. Both help me know what to do next. If I'm doing it wrong, at least I can change it. Or if I'm doing it right, then I know I'm on the right track. Proceed as usual.

But with God's plan, I often feel I don't get the feedback I need to know what to do next. And that is the part that is so devastating and frustrating. All I want is to do His Will. And I mean that wholeheartedly. I know, intellectually, that His Will is the only thing with which I'll be happy. And I thought I was doing it, until Romeo Gerard died. Until my heart was broken.

My counselor suggested that perhaps my need for feedback was a way for me to control the pain. And I do need to control it. For the sake of my daughter, and for the sake of my husband. But probably most of all for the sake of my sanity. Because, right now, I feel a little nuts.

I wake up thinking about what I would do if A (my two year old) were to die. Or, that if I ever get pregnant again, that baby will surely die as well. I have flashbacks of RG's birthday: the blood, the feeling of him being born, the smell of apricot bathroom soap,  the sight of his body. They are like dreams, but I'm awake. And I can't make them leave my mind.

I think of how God answered some of my prayers about RG, and how he said "no" to others. I think of how I prayed that if it was God's will that my baby was really dead, that he would grant me the grace to handle it. And how, he did not answer my trusting prayers that He could do all things, including miraculously let my baby really be alive. Lord, I know that I do not understand your ways. I know my heart and mind are feeble. But I do not understand your plan. Have mercy on me.
Psalm 13.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

CD 1. Anyone who has had a miscarriage or who struggles with infertility understands CD 1. This day. This cycle, CD 1 came on the anniversary of our loss. I refer to that day, July 7, 2012, as our baby's birthday. I refuse to refer to it as the day he died, or the day of horror. When putting that cytotec into my body was the worst thing I have ever ever done. The most counterintuitive thing I have ever done. The most horrifying thing I have ever done. The memory of that day is nothing but blood and tears. For CD 1 to come on the anniversary of that day has got to be some kind of cruel joke.

I implore the Lord: how long? How long, O LORD, will my days be darkened? How long must I feel distant from You? How long will I wait to understand Your Will, Your Plan? Show me that something fruitful will come of this. With trepidation I approach you, and I give my fiat.

In the midst of crisis

Sometimes you find something you really love, and you're not sure why you love it, but you just do. In my sophomore year of college I was taking a course on 17th Century English literature, and I happened upon the following poem in my "textbook" by George Herbert (written in 1633).
It was instantly my favorite poem. I didn't know exactly why. I had been in crisis situations before--situations that should have tested everything in my faith and in my being--and had felt that which is expressed in this poem. Yet, when the moment came in my life that I really felt what is in these words, I knew I had never really felt them before. Never. Never before in this way. For I had never had an affliction this great, never a heart so broken. 

Four months ago, I was pregnant. And then I wasn't. The nightmare of my life began.
And I knew, sitting in the doctor's office, hearing him tell me there wasn't a heartbeat, that my life was over as I had known it. When my baby died, my old self died too--which was, perhaps, a part of why God allowed this affliction--and I would have a long, dark road before me. 

Over four months I have felt so many things. Things of which I am very proud, and things of which I am not. But over them all, I am yet convinced that the Lord is Jesu.