Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet Azelia Josephine

I'm finally coming up for air.

If you don't want to see baby pictures, or if you're not in a place to be receptive to baby-talk, I totally get it. Just skip this post. It took me a long time to get there myself. But some of you have been on this journey with me, and it has been a long time coming, so I will share her with you. My greatest hope is that she will be a sign of God's faithfulness and that she will be the face of His love and kindness.

We named her Azelia after Blessed Marie Azelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I have felt a connection to this beautiful (almost!) saint for a long time, and have asked for her intercession often. Not only did she lose children (five out of nine!) to death--some while infants, some in early childhood, she also died from breast cancer, a scourge with which my own mother has been afflicted twice. I have a feeling I'll never run out of opportunities to run to this saint with my prayers, and she, having raised such holy children, will hopefully never tire of my pleas. I highly recommend this book about her, written by one of her daughters.

We gave her the middle name of Josephine, because it is the origin of my own middle name, and because it follows a family tradition.

She was born on Tuesday, September 17th at 1:50 in the morning, after 9 hours of fruitful labor (many Divine Mercy Chaplets were said for you all!). She was 8lbs, 10 oz, and 21 inches long. It is no wonder my belly was quite literally "out to here." (I would show you a picture, but my hubs decided all the pictures of me before she arrived would be from the shoulders up...ahem.)

I give you our beautiful rainbow. The sign of God's hope to us and the image of His faithfulness:
She's about 1 hour old here





At about 12 hours old (and quite a sassy expression too!)


Really proud daddy.
We let Little A come to the hospital to see her at 2am.
Because we're great parents like that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What He's Really Saying is...

..."Let Me make this work for you. Trust Me to make it work."

When we were discerning how late into the year we would keep trying and being open to life, we decided that if we were really to trust that God could take care of us, we couldn't worry about a baby being born right when my program started, or any time of the year. We decided that if we stopped being open to life, for fear of that intersection, we'd be showing a lack of trust in what the Lord could do and in the fact that His will is perfect. And, obviously, after the death of our baby, how could we act like we had control over the gift of life? We decided to give God the power, and out of all the times we tried, all the failed cycles, all the times I was supposed to have ovulated--and didn't--the Lord blessed us with this little girl, just in time for my program to start.

And now, He's saying to me, "Yes, she's going to be a week late. You're not in charge, I am. Remind yourself of My sovereignty. Remember My faithfulness. I will not abandon you."

And what I need to say is, simply, "FIAT."

If He doesn't will her to come before then, I'm scheduled to be induced on Monday afternoon (9/16). That means she will likely be born on Tuesday. And that means I'll be showing up to orientation with books and laptop on my back, and less-than-one-week-old-baby on my front. And you know what?

I can think of worse things.

You know what the strangest thing is? Our God asks us to do hard things. He asks us to look like fools to our fellow men. He asks us to exhaust ourselves for His sake. He asks us to witness at all costs. And I'm feeling a new positivity and peace in that. It's not just the relief of "letting go, and letting God." It's the peace that passes understanding. It's the peace of fiat.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Courage and Trust

Today is my due date. I wish I could report that baby girl has arrived or will arrive today, but I'm afraid it isn't going to happen.

I'm feeling so discouraged. My body just doesn't do what it is supposed to do. I've been having false labor for two weeks. TWO WEEKS of thinking "today might be the day!" or "This really has to be it" or "I had better call my husband and have him come home." All for nothing. I've had all the signs that labor is coming, and nothing is coming. And I feel guilty even writing this because I know I should be thankful for every second that I'm pregnant, because it may never happen again, and because for some it doesn't happen at all.

I know I've only arrived at my due date just today, and many women go overdue. But I'm worried. I'm worried that my body won't do this on its own, because it doesn't do anything right when it comes to reproduction, and I will have to be induced again.

It's not that induction is the worst thing ever; in fact there would be a few really good things about being induced (my mom could be here in time, our new insurance would kick in and we'd be better off financially). It's just that induction means we wait another whole week for her birth. That has me the most anxious.

My teaching orientation begins on Sept. 23rd, and school starts the next week. I have two weeks from today. Every day that goes by without her here is one less day I have with her before I'm working. I feel incredibly guilty about that. I am afraid I'm going to show up at work and be a hormonal and emotional wreck. I doubt and doubt and doubt what I was so sure the Lord was asking me to do. I feel like a bad mother. I fear the difficulty and the stress. I fear the ramifications of not having/taking the proper time to heal, physically and emotionally.

Satan is whispering in my ear, encouraging me to fear. If there's one thing he hates, it's a holy birth. And all my prayers and offerings are getting on his nerves. I really feel Satan attacking me sometimes. When I lay down at night, he is putting terrifying thoughts in my head about stillbirth and my own death. He is saying everything he can to get me to doubt and to fear: "You should have just given up going to school when you found out you were pregnant. You shouldn't have trusted God. You shouldn't have gotten pregnant. You should have gotten rid of that baby so you could go to school without worrying about it. This exhaustion is too much for you. You're going to be a bad mother if you go through with this. You're going to fail at school. You're taking on too much. This isn't what God wanted of you after all."

I don't believe all these things. But some of them haunt me more than others. I do not have the fortification of courage I had the last time we did this, and part of it is because I was naive then. I didn't know how hard it would be, and I didn't care. I didn't know anything about losing a child, and I couldn't have imagined how that would forever change me. It was good that I was naive then; I needed that courage. But most of it is that evil wants me to fail before I even try. Lord, how I need that courage now, too!

I look back over the past year and think, what did I learn about God through this? How do I assuage these fears based on what I learned? Sometimes I find myself forgetting the trust and dependence upon God that I needed to cultivate over the past 15 months in order to survive RG's death.

But today, I must remember that apart from God, I can do nothing. Nothing. I can do nothing without Him. And it follows that if I am doing His Will, and if I depend on Him for everything, I can do this.

With God, I can do one more week of pregnancy and exhaustion. I can maintain the energy I will need to keep my hormones in check when I arrive at work. I can be a good mother, even if I go to work one week after she is born. I can be successful in school/work and in motherhood at the same time. If I give all of these fears to God, He will transform them.

Let her come when and how she will, in the Lord's timing. It is He who made this possible in the first place, and He will sustain me through the mission. I have to know that. I have to know it every day.

St. Gerard, pray for me. St. Gianna Molla, Pray for me. Blessed Marie Azelie Martin, pray for me. Mary, my mother, speak to Jesus for me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Send Up a Quick Prayer for my Friend if You Can

Gals,

I just learned this morning that a dear friend of mine and her husband just lost their first baby last Saturday. If you have one minute today, please send up a quick prayer for their healing. My heart is absolutely broken for her, and I know you girls have powerful prayers and so much love in your hearts.
St. Gerard, pray for us. St. Gianna, pray for us. Blessed Marie Azelie Martin, pray for us.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Prayer Intentions

It's time.

Today marks thirty-six weeks of this blessed journey. With four weeks to go, I'm processing so many emotions and trying to be "ready" by preparing in every way I can. But even now, God is showing me that I won't be "ready;" I will have to let go of the perfection I seek and the superficial peace that comes with feeling prepared. Saying goodbye to Romeo Gerard taught me that. Waiting and trying to get pregnant taught me that. Fearing complete infertility, and still dealing with subfertility, has taught me that. And pregnancy has taught it too.

This pregnancy has felt so surreal throughout; I'm not sure how it is supposed to feel to be pregnant after loss, but what I do feel is disbelief mixed with a routine-ness that is unsettling. It almost makes me feel like I've taken this for granted, though I know that is so not true.

Even with my belly out to here, I often don't feel like this is real. There are moments, of course, when I allow myself to really feel the joy of being pregnant, the expectation of a newborn. Moments like when I unpacked all her tiny clothes into drawers, when I packed my hospital bag, when I set up her bassinet. But more often than those moments, I feel an uncomfortable numbness and a feeling of being unsettled.

Everything around me reflects that unsettled feeling; I don't have a parish to call home, and my spiritual life is not what I want it to be right now. I think of all the things that are unsettled, this is the one aspect that really moves everything askew. I could be an absolute mess, but if I had a parish I loved I would feel just fine.

Really, my intellect knows that Christ is in every parish I visit, in everyone I consider in this discernment process. And I know it will take time to find a place to call home. And it is in this chaotic feeling that Christ is calling me, once more, to look up. Look at Him. All that seems unsettled floats calmly to the ground in His Light. As when the sun comes through an open window and makes visible those tiny particles which float in the air, Christ illuminates all that I worry about, and makes it seem so infinitesimal.

So it is with this hope of Christ's peace that I reach out to you, and ask for your personal intentions, that I might make those the focus of these last few precious weeks, and of the labor I will soon face. Please, make me aware of them, whether by leaving them in the comments or by emailing me your intentions at kantnerk (at) gmail (dot) com. I will add them to my list of intentions and take them with me.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Please pray with me...

...in praise of God for His Glory. His Mercy. His Love.

When this girl is downtrodden, the Lord sends His Grace through many means, and I just want to praise Him for His faithfulness. Specifically, I am praying praise for:

*all you who read, commented, and/or prayed after my last post. You really don't know how much your support boosted me in spirit. You gals are the friends I long to have.

*for the healing He provided for my back, which happened much faster than expected.

*for M at Joy Beyond the Cross, who has done a great kindness for my family. I know she wouldn't want to be recognized for it, out of her own humility (so I won't give details), but I want to pray for her nonetheless.

*for M at Team Stout, a friend of mine from my old parish whose kindness and generosity toward me have always been without reservation.

*for the cooler weather coming this week, which helps me get through a day so much easier. I am so grateful for this small comfort!

*for the new priest whose homily was so loving toward women and their sacrifices, and who reminded me that the Lord knows it all.

Please pray for each other with me.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just Need to Vent

Feel free to skip out on this post if you're not in the mood to hear it. But dang, I've just got to vent a wee bit.

I know I "asked" for all these things in some way or another, and that in the long term I will get over it, but right now is hard. I trust in the Lord's provision and in what He has put in front of us. I still believe that He wants us to be here, and He wants me to be doing this. It's just that right now is really hard. I'm putting it on the blog because I don't want to make a long distance call just to unload all of this on a friend, and because I need your prayers.

Having no friends or support system is way tougher than I had ever imagined. We are actually going to have to hire a stranger to come watch little A when I go into labor. It just feels really wrong. And we really can't afford it. We can't afford much these days.

This move cost us so much money--it's hard to think about. I don't even want to type the number "out loud" even though I know how much it cost us in my head. My husband's company's insurance is the worst health insurance I've ever seen. It is costing us at least double what it cost us to have little A. I'm not sure if he just chose the wrong plan (such as a catastrophic plan) or what--since I wasn't here to discuss it with him when he was signing up--but it is so expensive. You don't even want to know what our deductible or out-of-pocket is. And I won't get my first paycheck until mid September, so everything is reeeeeally tight right now.

It seems like every week something is a little more than minorly stressful, and it's getting to me. Last week was the TDaP situation. Before that my mom was here to visit and we got into a rough argument--one I finally was able to apologize for my part in just last night. Before that it was my husband's parents visit, and that always stresses me out.

And they are coming again this weekend (they invited themselves over for my husband's birthday which means I'm cooking and entertaining for everyone, not just our little family. This only adds to my stress about money and about them visiting in general. They also decided when we are going to celebrate his birthday--not on the actual day--and what we will be doing to celebrate.)

Then, yesterday, I took little A to daily Mass; we've been going probably 3-4 times a week since we arrived here, as it is my only solace for the loneliness of my current friendless situation. (I've realized that in order to truly be happy in my life, I really need some good friends nearby.) Not to mention that I love going to daily Mass in general. Normally, little A has been so well behaved when we go to Mass that I have received numerous compliments on her behavior. Well, I suppose I had it coming.

When we arrived at Mass, I could tell it was going to be one of our rougher days, but I had no way to predict the kind of behavior she displayed. It was like nothing I'd ever seen her do. She was kicking me, pulling my hair, pulling all the cushions off the pew and throwing them, yelling, flopping down in the center aisle, running away from our pew. It was a nightmare. I took her to time out, which usually works really well, but it was like she didn't give a rip how many times we went to time out. Then, I noticed she was pulling the cushion off the pew again, and I turned around really quickly to set her straight, and threw out my back. I had to sit immediately, and I could barely move for the rest of Mass. I was about to just leave Mass right before that point--something I NEVER do--because her behavior was just that bad. But now my back was hurt and I couldn't carry her out. I couldn't even stand up. I had to just sit there and breathe through the pain while little A pulled my hair and yelled at me ("I don't want to see Jesus!") until Mass was over. I could just hear Satan laughing in my face. By the time Mass was over, I was crying from embarrassment, lack of ability to do anything about her behavior, and from pain that the other Mass-goers could not see. Finally, I stood up really slowly, grabbed A's hand, and hobbled out to the car in tears.

Yesterday morning, before Mass, I could feel baby dropping into my pelvis; it was a weird and very distinct feeling. I could visibly see the difference between the day before and yesterday after she began the descent. The shift in weight is probably what caused my back to be really vulnerable.

Thing is, I can't afford a massage or a trip to the chiropractor. I'm 34 weeks pregnant and alone with a near-three-year-old all day while hubby is at work. I don't know anyone to call to come and watch her for a little while, so I can get some rest for my back.

Girls, I'm just overwhelmed and I need some friends. The one real comfort I have is that I can offer up my emotional and physical suffering for you all, and make it worth something. I know we'll get through this, and I am so thankful for the perspective God has given me through this past year. I know that without it, I would probably feel like this was all the end of the world or something equally dramatic.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him
and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6



Thursday, July 25, 2013

TDaP To-Do

I'm not sure if you have ever had the TDaP vaccine before, but I have and it went just fine. That is, until two days ago.

I had one about three years ago when I was pregnant with little A. No problem.

But on Monday, I received the vaccine again, because apparently they want you to have one with every pregnancy even though the recommended booster is supposed to be every ten years. I've got nothing against vaccines, and I have everything against the chance of giving my little one whooping cough, so I complied.

I expected the soreness in my arm. I even expected to feel a little under the weather, even though I hadn't had this reaction with the last one.

What I did not expect was to wake up the next morning feeling like I had the flu and unable to get out of bed. My whole body hurt horribly, and that's saying kind of a lot when you're 33 weeks pregnant. I was shivering with chills, but sweating, and feverish. I had an upset stomach and a headache. It was awful.

Oh yeah, and my hubs was out of town on business, at least four hours away. I have no family or even any friends here, except for my downstairs neighbor, who happens to be out of town as well. So I had no one to call for help with little A.

I prayed for God to get me through the day; poor little A had no idea why I was being so terrible. I was in so much pain all day--and unable to get up--that I was crying off and on. Half from pain and half from guilt because I could barely get up to turn on a movie for little A, let alone play with her or take her to the park like we usually do.

I called the triage nurse-line at my doctor's office, and she said all my symptoms were normal, so I should just take some tyl.enol. Great.

But then, by the Grace of God, my hubby arrived home, hours earlier than expected. He took my temperature, and despite the ty.lenol, my fever had gone up. And suddenly I was having chest pains and tightness in my lungs and upper back. I called the nurse-line again and was directed to go straight to the hospital.

By the time we got to the hospital I was seriously anxious, as the pain in my back and chest had spiked and I was having to breathe through it. They took me up to labor and delivery and started monitoring. My fever went back down, but now I was having contractions every four minutes along with the chest pains. The doctor checked my cervix (it was closed) and baby's heartbeat (it was perfect), so they figured I was contracting due to dehydration. All of my symptoms were a reaction to the vaccine, they confirmed.

So they made me drink a huge jug of water while they kept monitoring and then they sent me home. They never found out why I was having chest pains, but after I was cooled down and hydrated, they did go away.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, since we couldn't leave little A with anyone, my husband was having to entertain her while I was being monitored. She had a little accident in the hallway and had to retrieve some new underwear and pants from the pediatric unit.

Things like this make me realize what a blessing family and friends are. I felt pretty lonely, having no one to call.

Today I'm feeling a lot better, except that my back is really sore from the tightness I was experiencing. I praise the Lord that my hubby was able to come home early. I don't know what I would have done if I'd had to get little A in and out of the car by myself and take her to the hospital with me. I suppose God would have given me the strength to do that too. I offered up my pain and anxiety for you gals--it certainly wasn't the worst of complications, but why miss a chance to pray for you? :)


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

For You, Tiny One

Language fails to allow an explanation as to how treasured you are. Pure gift. Someone of immeasurable value, given freely to your daddy and me (and to your siblings) by a God who loves so much. I know He delights in you. We do too.

I admit that I'm anxious about your birth, about the adjustment to our family. I'm nervous because with your sister, we were in similar circumstances--I was in school--and it was difficult. It was joyous and indescribably beautiful, but it was hard. It took a lot out of me, though the Lord provided all that I needed. I admit that I've allowed fear of difficulty to make me apprehensive about your birth.

But I know that the Lord will again provide. He will be sure that I have the right care for you in time for school. That those around me will also love you. He will ensure that the fear will disappear from my heart.

If you find this blog someday, you will find me at a time when my heart was broken. When it was grappling. When it was healing. When it was worried, wandering, and apprehensive about much. But there is one thing you should know that I was and am always sure of: my love for you and your siblings is steadfast. And particularly for you, tiny one, even while you are still in my womb, I am so sure.

You have a particular potential for burden, tiny one. And I am so sorry for that. I don't ever want you to feel that. I want you to know about your brother, to ask his intercession, to know how much he means to me. Because the thing is that what he means to me, what you can see of my love for him through my writing here, is what you and your sister mean to me too. I don't want you to feel like you are supposed to be what he was to me or any such thing. God gave me two babies in the amount of time that most women might only have one. You are unique in your person-hood and irreplaceable.

And I love you. Since I had the inkling that you might exist, I have loved you.

Your daddy and I longed for you in our lives, though we miss(ed) your brother. We longed, not for him, but for you to come to us. And the Lord answered our prayers according to His will, because He loves you too.

It is important to me that you know how uniquely I love you, my sweet one. Come to us safely, darling. Though I have already met you--our hearts beat together there; your soul lies even within me--we cannot wait to see your face.

Love, mom.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One Year

It has been one year. One whole year since Romeo Gerard passed away and entered into the arms of Jesus and His Blessed Mother. Oh my son, how I miss you. How I cherish you. Perhaps, having heaven's eyes, you can see how singularly I love you.

I'm not spending today mourning. Yesterday we had angel food cake to celebrate his day, and we went to Holy Mass to honor him. Today, I'm going to have lunch with a friend and spend some time alone.

To think what the last year has done to my soul. To think that one year ago today my faith was so shallow, and then broken. And the thing is, I would have told you then that my faith was strong.

In a way, it was unshakable. I questioned, I feared, I wallowed. Some nights I would cry so hard my husband had to physically get me out of bed and take me outside to get some air and calm down. One night he had to call my mother--he'd never seen me so upset in eight years of knowing me, and he was very worried. Most nights I would look up at our crucifix through my tears and just beg the Lord to help me. Yet, even through that pain, I did not curse Him, I did not turn from Him. And I thank the Holy Spirit for keeping me from such sin, from despair. What a grace He provided!

Still, my faith has grown ever stronger over this past year. And feeling this baby rolling and kicking reminds me of how vulnerable I've had to be, how trusting I've had to be, how much I've needed simply to rely on Our Lord. He has provided all the Grace I've needed. All of it.

My blog's subtitle says it all: "And I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation."

I still wish, as I wrote in The Story of Romeo Gerard, to be a source of love and hope to other women who have endured this grief. I pray for all of you who have felt this pain. I pray for all my readers, all you beautiful women whose lives are the Lord's, that His will shall reign in your hearts, and His blessings will be upon you "like the dew-fall."

Monday, July 1, 2013

This still, small week

It's still because last year, at this exact time, I was waiting for the day when Romeo Gerard would pass. And time stood still for at least a week.

It's small because, though time was still, it was short. Suddenly it was happening, and it was awful. Nothing could have prepared me for his passing, and that made the time all the shorter.

One week from Sunday is the first anniversary of Romeo Gerard. One year later, I remember everything as if it were yesterday, but more than any other detail I remember the way my heart broke. I remember when I started the process of the cytotec, and my husband didn't wake up to help me. My heart broke.

I remember realizing that I was the only one who could go through with this and even had he been awake, he couldn't really help me. My heart broke.

But, damn. I felt so alone. It was more than my husband sleeping while I had to use that medication by myself, knowing that it would cause my baby--albeit already dead--to come out of the place he belonged. It was more than the feeling that this couldn't really be happening. It was the feeling that God wasn't there, my husband wasn't there, my baby wasn't there anymore, and I felt truly alone. And my heart broke.

One year later, I feel that my heart is like a piece of notebook paper, crumpled into a ball, and then re-opened. My heart is whole; it has been repaired by the love and grace of Jesus. But all the creases and crinkles remain, evidence that I will never be the same. The scars are still laid bare, betraying a year's worth of struggle, rawness, vulnerability, pain, prayer, and healing.

***

I'm in my new state now, so I cannot visit his grave on Sunday. We will honor him in some other way. I'm not ready to make the day a time of celebration, though that has been the advice I've received. I do think we'll have cake, but to be honest, it will be more because I'll need comfort food than as a celebration of his short life. I think, probably, the best thing I could do to honor him is to go to Mass. I've been so busy moving and settling that I hadn't even thought to call ahead of time and ask that a Mass be said in his honor. I don't even have a parish here yet, so that would probably have to wait anyway.

Oh, Romeo Gerard. In this still small week, I remember you. I love you. I long to see your face in Heaven. Pray for us, sweet boy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Finally Back Online!

Well, my few days' hiatus turned into nearly a month!

Little A and I have arrived in our new state, and lived in our apartment for about a week. And we finally have internet. Thank goodness.

Now, while I get into the swing of things here, I've been praying for you gals. I haven't been keeping up on your blogs, but I'm thinking of you and I promise to catch up as soon as Little A gets into her nap-groove.

Speaking of which, I'm a humble beggar for your prayers as well, because I've got a confession to make:
I am one of those moms who let her child have a binky until she is almost three years old. I'm that mom you see in Tar.get with a three year old who has managed to talk me into taking her binky into the store. And trust me, I'm embarrassed! Let me tell you now, I will NEVER again allow a child of mine to keep a binky for so long. NEVER AGAIN.

So yesterday I decided enough was enough. We are going through major transition right now anyway, so why not almost kill myself by getting rid of the binky too? Well, that's just what we did. We took her binky with us to daily Mass, and offered it to Jesus. We asked Him to take it to the babies in Heaven who really need it, and we left it right there in front of the statue of the Madonna and Child. She was totally on board with the plan. She loved the idea actually. But since then we are living in H. E. DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS. Imagine a near-three year old going through withdrawals from some kind of injectible drug. That is what this is like. I wish I was kidding.

We need some serious prayers to St. Michael up in here. And any others you've got. So please, ladies, while this request is paltry compared to the necessities of the world, I would appreciate your prayers so so much.

In the mean time, I'm praying for you every day and can't wait 'till I'm back in the swing of things.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hiatus

Just a quick note to say I'm going to be on hiatus for a few days while I help my hubby pack up the uhaul and enjoy his company.

After six weeks without him, I am soooooooo appreciating him. It's amazing the energy you save when your husband can carry the toddler up three flights of stairs, no problem. What's more amazing is how nicely things run when the family is in order. God's ways are the best ways.

I'll be back after he leaves at the end of the week. My prayers and love to you all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heaven

I don't usually permit myself to envision heaven. I don't allow myself to think about what it will be like, or who will be there, or what my experience might be in heaven.

It's partly because the concept of heaven, though I believe it is as real as real can be, is too vast for me to grasp in my mind. It's partly because I don't want to presume something so beautiful, so True, so perfect, can be pictured in the human mind. And it's mostly because I am completely okay with the fact that heaven is a mystery, and I don't need to know what it is like while I'm still at work here on earth.

But sometimes I suddenly have an image in my mind that is heaven. Sometimes it's a sound. And I'm not talking about going to the symphony, and hearing heavenly music, or seeing a beautiful piece of art, and feeling as if "oh, that is heaven!"

These insights are completely unexpected, unprovoked, and unusual. And it usually has nothing to do with any of man's accomplishments (works of art, music, etc.) Rather, these glimpses, when they have happened, have come to me in the middle of the night and they are intensely personal. That is, I don't see heaven on a broad scale, I only see the Lord in some way that is specifically applicable to me.

Now, I'm not claiming to be able to see heaven, or that the Lord has granted me any special visions or anything. I just mean that sometimes I think the Lord allows glimpses of eternity as a sign of His Glory. And I think that, particularly for people who are actively carrying a cross--those trying to carry it in unity with Him--these visions of His glory are such graces, such consolations in the midst of darkness.

The night before our viability ultrasound for this baby, when we were 7 weeks and 3 days along, I was in such agony thinking about the possibility that this baby would also be dead, that I would lose another child. My anxiety was through the roof. I couldn't sleep. I was tossing and turning, trying not to wake my husband, trying to make myself calm down and go to sleep. I prayed and prayed for peace, out of trust in the Lord, knowing that whatever happened the next morning, He would carry me through it. But I was exhausted with worry.

And then, I heard--not imagined, not thought in my head, I heard, "I love you mamma." And suddenly it was like I wasn't experiencing the next minute with my senses. I didn't hear, feel, or see anything. All I felt was Peace. I had heard Romeo Gerard tell me that he loved me, and in so hearing, I knew that he knew how much I love him, how much I miss him, how much I felt like I failed him, that I had done everything I could, that I could never forget him, that he knew he was my son.

Then, as suddenly as it had happened, I came back to my senses, and burst into tears. Was I crazy? Had I imagined the whole thing? Was I being superstitious? Does this kind of thing happen to ordinary people like me?

The thing is, I know it was real. I can't deny it. I might sound completely nutso, but I know the Lord granted me that consolation out of mercy, out of kindness, and most of all for His Glory. Because He knows how much I need to trust in Him, how I need to know how close He is to my heart. And He knows that it is to His Glory that such a consolation is a testament.

Nevertheless, He is so wise. Let it not go unnoticed that He didn't grant me such consolations when I was in the thick of desolation--when I was crying out to Him for a miracle, when I was begging Him to console me in my grief, when I was desperate to know He was there. No, this consolation came after volta. It came when I had already decided to trust in Him, even though it was painful. It came when I had already given my fiat, really and truly.

To be clear, I am not saying that I earned this consolation in any way, by trusting Him or otherwise. What I am saying is that He knew not to grant me such a consolation when I was close to despairing, because it was crucial that I trust in Him in the midst of darkness, when I could see no light, no comfort on the horizon. It was critical that I die to myself, even in the worst pain of my life, to learn to love Him while I was mourning such a loss, to learn (in my small human way) that agape that He, Himself demonstrated on the cross.

If He had granted me such consolation in the midst of my little via dolorosa, I may have never fully given myself to Him in my sorrow. I may have stopped short of the spiritual growth that He was making available to me through this loss. And what's more, I likely wouldn't have appreciated such a consolation for what it was--a true vision of heaven--because I'd still be in the midst of my grief and self-focus.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting Pretty Excited About Switching Doctors

So today was my last OB appointment here in my current town. My next appointment will be in our new state, and let me tell ya, after today I'm really looking forward to it.

It wasn't horrible, but it left me really thinking how wonderful it would be to have a doctor who could really care about how I feel about pregnancy and children. A Catholic doctor is an invaluable doctor.

I explained to my doc that I am moving, and that I'll be starting my doctoral work in September. She says, "But your baby is due in September! That's really close timing!"

I said, "Yes, it will be a little stressful, but we've done this before. Last time it was finals week." I tried to laugh it off, hoping the conversation wouldn't go where I knew it was bound.

She says, "Well, do we need to have a little talk about planning? Ha ha!"

You should have seen my face. Straight up GRIMACE. I couldn't even help it.

All the implications of that little question: It implied that I wasn't on or didn't use birth control correctly (I wasn't on birth control thankyouverymuch, and I'd like to keep it that way). It completely disregarded that we did try to have a baby with plenty of time before my program started (but darn it all, that baby died). It also completely overlooks what I think is so obvious here: I trust God with planning my babies, more than you will ever know, lady. We don't get to plan, and losing my second baby really kinda makes that super-evident.

I know I can't expect people to think like I do. To cherish life like I do. To know where I'm coming from and how I feel about this baby. But oh, how I wish I could.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Letter to Myself Before Motherhood

Self,

Yes. I'm doing this. I'm writing a letter you will never read until it's too late. And it's cliche now, I know. To write a letter to your past self. But I'm writing it for others too--those who might be in your position, that in which you are hopeful, still skinny (even though you don't think so), just married, trying to control everything, and in which you do not yet have children. And I'm writing it for your future, because you think you've been through a lot right now--and you have--but you still don't know what's coming, and you need a reminder that this is all His, not yours, so trust in Him. For your own sanity. Please.

Should I tell you everything that's going to happen to you? Make prophecy, like Simeon made to Mary, and scare the living crap out of you? Should I tell you that a sword shall pierce your own heart, and you will give up much of what you thought your life might be?

Should I tell you of the joy, the wonder, the hope you will experience? Should I spoil it all for you now, in the name of the "planning" you so enjoy?

Should I tell you what emotions and thoughts to expect when you hold her, or when you lose him? When you fall to your knees in thanksgiving for the one you now carry? Should I tell you what a miracle feels like?

You, who likes to plan everything and loves only good surprises, you must give that up. You must learn that His plans are unexpected. His surprises are pure Joy. And He will ask you to do hard things. He will require much of your heart. And you will give it to him, by grace, because you love Him. You do. And He knows it. But oh, how He loves you! How He provides for you! Shall I tell you all of that, too?

Sometimes you are irritated because no one really told you what to expect. You think to yourself, "why didn't anyone tell me I would feel this way? Why didn't anyone prepare me?" You are annoyed at this, and you vow to tell other mothers-to-be what they really want to know.

But, you see, no one--not even your own mom--could have told you these things. And there's a reason why:  no one could know what our good and gracious Lord has planned for you. And no one could know how He formed your heart to receive His plans, those joyous, and those sorrowful. The reason you are annoyed is because these things aren't under your control, and darling, you have to let go of that. Trust in Him.

So I won't tell you everything either, because if I do, it will take away the opportunities God gives you to put your trust solely in Him, especially when you can't see. Those opportunities are a gift, a wonderful gift. And humbling your sense of control enough to trust is a great grace. Resist the temptation to throw it away for the sake of your perceived sense of control.

Remember, this is all His. He does everything out of love for you. When you are blind, when you feel inadequate, when you are barren, when you are fruitful, when you are fearful, when you are surprised by evil, remember that the Lord has already cured all these things. He is the one true Good within and without this world, and it is Him you seek over all.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: I need your advice!

Last week's takes were a bit on the depressing side, so I'm going for a little lighter feel this morning. I'm also asking for a lot of advice, so feel free to give it where you can! And as always, thanks to Jen, for hosting!


Not my actual hand, but looks close to my situation.
1. My fingers are swelling kinda fast. I really need to get my rings off before they have to be cut off. Anyone have any ideas/advice for this? I've tried the string/floss thing, and let's just say this wasn't a good plan for me.

2. I want to get a ring (in a bigger size) to wear in the interim, while we're waiting for baby to come, and I'm looking for one that is cheap, but at least somewhat classy. But, since this is temporary, I'd like to jump outside my usual boring-style box, and go for something fun. What do you think about this one? I think it also kinda symbolizes the reason I'm wearing this ring...what do ya think? Is that really cheese-tastic?

3. Praise the Lord! The weather has been so perfect here for the past three days. I am not taking it for
About six miles from my apartment.
granted. Little A and I have spent the last few days at the park as much as possible.

4. Since my hubby's been gone, little A has been acting out a little bit, mostly by being really clingy to me (which is fine). However, her behavior also manifests itself in her interactions with her grandma and aunties. When she sees them (a few times a week), her way of greeting them is to yell, "NOOOO!" and either run away or make a motion like she is going to hit the person she is addressing. How do I deal with this? It's strange because she only acts like that with people she knows really well, not with strangers, and as far as I know, not with her preschool teachers.

I've tried explaining alternative behaviors and explaining that she is hurting their feelings, but it doesn't seem to be working. I'm not sure this is a discipline issue, because I think she seeks the attention, but she is trying to get it the negative way--maybe trying to control the situation or something. Any ideas for next steps I can take?

5. Can anyone help me choose a DSLR camera? I am not necessarily an aspiring photog, and I know next to nothing about cameras. I am also on a budget. BUT, I am in need of a good camera. Not just a little pocket-sized point-and-shoot. I need something that takes great pictures, something that works well consistently, and something somewhat user friendly. I guess I need a camera that I can grow into, you know what I mean? Someone suggested that I get the Nikon D3100. Does anyone second that?

6. Seven more work days until I am done and ready to move on! So so excited to close this chapter.

7. Ok, I need one last piece of advice: I want to get started learning at least one of my foreign languages over the summer with a do-it-yourself style course. I'll be learning Italian and Latin. Anyone have experience with a "Latin for dummies" type thing? Or other suggestions?

Once you've shared your advice, head on over to Jen's! :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Women and Agape

This afternoon, as I left work on my way to pick up little A, this song came on the radio:


I belong with you; you belong with me. You're my sweetheart.

Days like this, I miss my husband. A lot.

I associate this song with one of the first times I actually felt happy after we lost Romeo Gerard. My husband told me we were going to dinner; he had booked reservations at a hip and fancy restaurant in town, so we dropped off little A and had dinner to ourselves. He had just purchased the Lumineers album, and we sang along to this song all the way home from dinner.

Naturally, when the song came on the radio this afternoon, I became emotional, really feeling the loss of RG and missing my husband. It's not been so easy having him gone over the last few weeks, with four more weeks to go. (Of course, we've done this before, but I wasn't trying to parent a two year old that time.) I teared up a bit in the car, and I wanted to let myself feel that emotion for a little while.

But suddenly I was at little A's preschool, and I was going to have to go in to sign her out, and help her get her coat, and ask her 45 times to try to go potty, and wipe her nose--all the things we do every afternoon when I pick her up. I wouldn't be able to continue feeling what I needed to feel right then, because I needed to be emotionally available to little A.

She had made me a mother's day card (the irony of which broke my heart, since I was thinking so much of RG in the moments before) and needed me to let her know how much I appreciated it. She needed me to be positive and encouraging as she tried to go potty by herself. She needed me to listen to her about her day, and how she made a macaroni necklace, and lost her hair tie on the playground, and hear her sing her ABC's three times in a row, joyfully praising her every time. In other words, she needed me to be her mother, a duty I welcome gratefully because I know how fragile it is.

This situation has presented itself a lot over the past few weeks especially; it feels heavier, now that I don't have my husband to accommodate her needs if I am feeling emotionally unable. When we're together, we can tag team--emotionally and physically--to manage little A's needs while one of us takes a break as necessary. Yet without him, I am her only "responder,"  so my emotional needs are (rightfully and necessarily) set aside for her sake.

I didn't realize how true that really was until today, when I was quickly wiping tears off my cheeks, checking my mascara in the rear view mirror, and consciously changing emotional gears as I got out of the car and headed into little A's preschool.

It is a privilege that I get to pick her up, that I get to be her mother. It is a grace that I am able to swallow hard and change my attitude so quickly for her sake. It is a good and necessary sacrifice to put my own need to feel what I feel aside in order to be what she needs. And, I'm realizing, it is one of the sacrifices of motherhood. One of many. And one of many pearls in the crown of a woman. 

Because it isn't only mothers who make this kind of emotional sacrifice; and it is that very sacrifice which unites women who are physical mothers and who are spiritual mothers. It is, in a specific way, the feminine genius, and a quality that can be manifest in all women in various ways. Still, no matter the method, this sacrifice is agape. It's dying to self for the sake of another. It's love. Christ-love. And it is, very particularly, the love women are really good at giving--even when it hurts.

As the Lumineers sing so heartily at the end of Ho Hey, "Love. We need it now. Let's hope for some. So we're bleeding now." It is necessary to hope for this kind of Love in our world. In our lives. In the hardest of times. And Love causes us to bleed. But it is the best of sacrifices.


Monday, May 6, 2013

I Feel It Every Day

Now that I am visibly pregnant, the questions have started:

Do you know what you're having? When are you due? How do you feel? How far along are you?

I don't mind questions. I think it's a positive sign that people are interested in pregnancy. But there is one question I really really detest.

Is this your first?

It's such an innocent question. I used to love answering this question. I think I would have always liked to proudly answer this question no matter how many children I had. But now, it's so complicated.

When someone asks me this question, I am immediately in a state of questioning myself: How well do I know this person? Do I want to bring up the whole discussion about losing RG? Will this person say something inappropriate or hurtful? Don't I want to be a witness to RG's life, and all life at any stage? Shouldn't I be honest about the number of children I have, even though one isn't here with me on earth? Do I want to go through this in my mind again? Will I regret whatever answer I give in this moment?

And in a millisecond, I have to decide the answer to these questions and give it.

None of these situations is exactly like the last time. I don't feel like I can have a standard answer. I feel awkward. And I can't help but be reminded--even if I don't regret my answer--of RG, and the ever-present void in my heart.

And for me, that void never goes away, even though others forget it.

In my 20 week ultrasound, the tech asked me how many pregnancies I have had, and I said "This is my third." My mother responded loudly, in surprise, "third!?" And I just looked at her thinking, "are you serious?" I suppose she confused the word "pregnancy" with "baby," but even then, her response was wrong.

If I've had three pregnancies, then I've had three babies.  It's just that one of them has died.


Friday, May 3, 2013

7QT: Evil and Hope

Ok. I like to be all about the hopeful here on FTFF. You guys know I talk about hope a whole lot. But I'm taking a page from Mama Needs Coffee's 7 Quick Takes this morning, and I'm going to call out the evil where I see it.

You know the great thing about naming evil and rebuking it? You always end up with Hope.

1. I know my comments are late on this one, but here we go anyway: three out of seven charges were dropped for Gosnell, because it couldn't be proven that those three babies were alive when they were born as a result of failed abortions. Here is my question to you, you despicable judge:

If the babies weren't alive when they were born, WHY WOULD YOU HAVE TO STAB THEM WITH SCISSORS AND INTERNALLY DECAPITATE THEM? For serious. I'm asking you to logically answer that question.

2. But you know what? If he is convicted (honestly, we can only HOPE he's convicted, and that there are people in the jury who have even a slight sense of moral conviction), I really HOPE he isn't given the death penalty. Why?

3. Giving him the death penalty is opposed to life. It's an eye for an eye. The Catechism does not fully reject the death penalty, but I don't think that the death penalty is the "only possible way" to keep Gosnell from continuing his practice of murdering babies, and so I don't think the death penalty is appropriate here:
From the Catechism:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. (2306)

4. Giving Gosnell the death penalty will completely discredit pro-lifers in the minds abortion proponents.

5. I really, truly (despite my personal ire at Gosnell and the entire abortion industry), HOPE he will repent before he dies. What a joy in heaven that would be, to see this sinner, this evil, turn back to God and repent of the sins he has committed against life. If we condemn him to death, we deprive him of that chance, and that's not very human of us, is it?

So He told them this parable, saying, 4“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15: 3-7

6. Now THIS, this is evil. Almost every single thing he says in this video is a LIE. And as my mother once told me, "Liars sleep with the devil." Now I'm gonna get a little ranty here. 

I could go on and on and on, and dissect this speech which is rife with lies, but you get my point. If you listen to it, you will be able to pick them out easily all by yourself. 

I just want to point out a couple of things, besides the lies, that struck me. When Obama points to the laws for life made in FORTY TWO different states, he labels them as backwards, and absurd. But, Mr. Obama, doesn't it tell you that you're a wee bit out of touch with what Americans want if FORTY TWO states have made these laws?

Secondly, he outright admits that his healthcare reform is a result of his belief that women have a right to choose. So much for all the work you've done couching Obamacare in terms of "something all Americans need."

But you wanna know what else is evil about this? The blasphemy. Asking God to bless Planned Parenthood is blasphemy. This image is blasphemy: -------->

EDITED to say: I don't think President Obama is an evil person. I think some of the things he does and says are, and I would hope the same fate for him as I do for Kermit Gosnell (see number 5). It's just getting more and more difficult to give him the respect due a president, when I see him consistently making choices that defy the Good, and doing things that defy all reason--secular or sacred.


The only One who can give Hope to this world, in the face of all this evil is Christ. 

So finally, after the longest quick takes ever, I give you number 7.  For lighter reading, you can escape over to Jen's where you'll find the rest of the 7QT crew.




Thursday, May 2, 2013

So Here's Something Weird...

...and I don't mean weird in a negative way, but just weird.

A few weeks ago we went to Marybeth's clinic, had a 3D ultrasound, and found out we were having a boy! The picture looked very clear. So we put our minds to work coming up with boy's names, even asked for your input (thanks Kat!), and started using "he" to describe little L Baby.

Well, today I went in for my 20-ish week ultrasound at my regular doctor (I'm 21w3d today), and the tech said, rather confidently, that we are having a girl! So.....weird.

I know this has happened to people before, and obviously I'd be ecstatic to be having either a boy or a girl. I'm just happy to be this far along and praising God for every minute of this. But I don't know what to think now, as both pictures looked really convincing.

I suppose we'll just have to be surprised when this baby comes along in September. And I s'pose I'll have to go back and tell people that we don't really know which gender we're expecting...which is only slightly embarrassing.

All in all, praise God (!!!) we are having what looks like a healthy babe, who, whether boy or girl, will glorify God (we pray) here on earth.

Incidentally, little L baby was clearly not as surprised/entertained as I was during this whole thing, because he or she kept yawning during the appointment.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part Three

This is part three of my series on Contraceptive Culture. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.

***

Before diving into the topic of today's post, I'd like to clarify what I mean by "Contraceptive Culture," and discuss its similarities to the term "Contraceptive Mentality." For the purposes of this series, I've been discussing contraceptive culture as a mode in which our society operates, its language and ideology produced by a contraceptive mentality. It is a mentality that fundamentally separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, such that babies are no longer "natural" or necessary to the marital act. This mentality, has become so ubiquitous and pervasive since the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control (and even prior to it) that it has become a cultural way of thinking, and therefore has created a contraceptive culture. It has bled into every aspect of what are considered "cultural norms," even so that people who are staunchly against artificial birth control nevertheless have adopted the contraceptive mentality. The topics I've been discussing in this series are manifestations of the contraceptive mentality and its resulting culture in our society.

And now, on to our post for today. This one is especially interesting to me because it speaks to just how much we, as a Catholic culture, have allowed the contraceptive mentality to seep into our ways of thinking, even while we are consciously and deliberately opposing contraception.


Now that I have a girl, and will be having a boy, I've already received comments such as, "Oh good, now you can be done!" or "Oh, perfect. The perfect family!" or "Since you're not having another girl, can I have your baby girl clothes?" (seriously, someone asked me that.) As if I don't hope and pray that with PCOS and  a devastating loss in my past, I can still accept as many children as God will give me. And as if the "perfect family" has only to do with the number and gender of the children I have.

Yet comments like these betray the contraceptive mentality and the expectations it puts on our culture so poignantly. And even when we purposely oppose this mentality, we can still be made to feel as if we've failed at it.


Please read Dwija's post, "NFP doesn't work. You have so many kids!" if you haven't already. **Please note that I am aware that some parts of this post, and some of the comments, will strike those struggling with infertility and subfertility. I don't suggest this reading without being fully aware of that. I will say right up front, I obviously cannot relate to the problem of having what society deems as "too many children."  And those dealing with childlessness are dealing with the converse and simultaneously mixed message of a society that is telling them, "Um, you know how to have kids, right? You just stop using birth control/relax/pray harder/try IVF/all-the-other-asinine-advice-you've-ever-been-given-about-conceiving."

And this woman, struggling with infertility, must face other, more particular and scary demons in this contraceptive culture. And how twisted is that? The devil can twist the truth to points completely illogical and confounding. However, for the sake of discussion on the topic of contraceptive culture, I think reading it is really important.

Have you read it yet? Well, go read it. Then come back here for a quick follow up.

Dwija's post could easily stand alone, I think, without me having to repost it. Still, I think it is worth highlighting that the entire reason that Dwija had to write such a post (and a really good one in my opinion) is because the contraceptive mentality has invaded even our own thinking about having children. It is such that the inability or unwillingness to actively prevent and limit children in marriage with NFP is a social FAILURE. The contraceptive culture says, "Hello? Don't you know you can prevent having more than two children? You should really get a handle on that. Stop using NFP and use birth control instead. NFP doesn't work."

And, as Dwija says, what we should be saying to these people is, among other things, "Hello? NFP isn't meant to be a child prevention technique. It's a method that creates fertility awareness, and I'm not stupid. My goal isn't necessarily to prevent children."

But we don't. Instead, we tell ourselves and the world, "Oh, I have more than two children. I am a failure at child prevention." This is how penetrating the contraceptive mentality really is.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Happy Friday everyone! I'm really praising the Lord this morning for a Friday. I am ready for a weekend, ready to get moving. Also, so so glad Jen is back in the game. Praised be Jesus!

How to Quit Your Job
While I probably don't hate my job as much as this guy,
I am SUPER happy to be moving on with my life.
1. I'm giving my notice to my current job next week. I'm trying to give them three weeks or more, but even so, I feel nervous about the conversation I'll have to have with my boss. I'm just really hoping it is a positive end to the year I've spent there.


2. I am getting more and more excited about moving to our new state. This is going to be one CRAZY adventure--thank the Lord for his provision, because with out it, I'd be so much more anxious. Also, Hubby has promised to take me to the beach this summer! What's not to love about that?

3. I have so much to do in the next few weeks. I'm hoping I don't forget anything serious. I need to make lists, and actually check things off of them.

4. Last night little A says to me, "Mommy? The big bad wolf can't ride in my big pink truck (she is imagining the pink truck), but the Lord Jesus can. And He's gonna Loooooooove it!"

5. I need ideas for how to decorate our new apartment--where all the walls are white, and I am not allowed to paint. I am extremely bad at interior decoration, and have practically no patience for it. Pinterest overwhelms me. Anyone have any ideas??

6. Have you ever seen the movie Moonstruck, with Cher and Nicolas Cage? It's the best B movie evah! I once forced Hubby to watch it with me, and he teased me for months about the cheesiness of it. If you have seen it, you know about Cosmo's moon. (It's one of my favorite parts of the film.) Well, the moon has been full these past couple of days, and here in my area, it shines sooooo brightly.

Hubby called me last night from our new state, where he sleeps on an air mattress (which also serves as his only piece of furniture) and said to me, "Honey, I miss you. Are you looking at Cosmo's moon? I am. It makes me miss you."

7. Little A also noticed the moon last night. Except it was a painting of the moon, done by my sister for little A, when I was pregnant with her. When little A said, "Mommy! Do you see the moon??" I explained that the moon was a sign of Maria Luna, who reflects the Sun (Son--Jesus). She said, "Maria Loooooooona? Lord Jesus must be sooooo happy!"

I think it's the joy of my life that my little one knows the name of Jesus.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part Two

This is part two on a series on our Contraceptive Culture. You can find part one here. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to write a guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.

***

The Catholic blogs were alive with debate earlier this week on the topic of "screaming" babies at Mass. From what I can tell, the conversation began on Deacon Greg's blog, continued at Barefoot and Pregnant, was elaborated upon at Dr. Greg's blog, and then Leila chimed in too. Clearly, we all have strong opinions about this topic. Well. I can't help myself. I'm making today's installment on the Contraceptive Culture series my own commentary on this issue.

There were lots of good points shared on both sides of this debate, but I'm going to have to mostly agree with Calah (Barefoot and Pregnant). We have many many young children in our parish, and a lot of mothers who bring their children alone because husbands are doing something extremely sacrificial for their families and cannot attend (they are deployed, or like my husband, on a mission to secure a job and housing for his family before a move). If I didn't take my toddler, I wouldn't go to Mass. It's that simple.

The thing I'd like to add to this conversation is the notion that it's a contraceptive culture that encourages our desire to cut off people who are parents from the things parents do (such as bring young children to Mass and train them up in the faith). It's a contraceptive culture that tells us that humans do not have to be connected to what is good and natural for humans to do, such as train children--from their baptisms as infants into adulthood--to love, serve, and worship God in the Mass. It's a contraceptive culture that says children under a certain age are not to be brought into the house of God. My apologies for being blunt, but can't people see that arbitrarily separating a baptized Christian from Jesus in the Mass is an arbitrary separation of a human from what that human naturally does and is commanded by God to do? To me, it is essentially the same as separating the unitive and procreative elements of the marital act. And the same as separating the pregnant mother from the act of carrying out her pregnancy to term via abortion.

My analogies here may sound extreme, but the principle is the same between all of them. And the mentality put forth by our contraceptive culture regarding abortion and contraception has vast effects on the way we think about even the smallest things.

My two year old is not a perfect angel at Mass. She's just not. But, because I bring her to Mass, she knows the words "crucifix" and "monstrance," and the songs "O Salutaris" and "Immaculate Mary." She knows what she is supposed to do at Mass (whisper, sit nicely, read her books, make the sign of the Cross, cross her arms over her chest in the Communion line, genuflect, and pray). She knows that if she misbehaves, we go in timeout and then immediately back into Mass. If I didn't bring her to Mass until some arbitrary age when she was "ready," she wouldn't know any of these things, and we'd have to start training her at age five or whatever age I chose.

I can truly understand the desire for people to focus at Mass, and have some silence. I cantor at our parish regularly, and it is sometimes very difficult to do my job, and worship God, all while the various distractions are working to keep me from glorifying God in His Mass through leading the congregation in worship. And as a parent, I am extremely sensitive to my child's own behavior and how it could be distracting others. Yet, no matter how much I want to focus at Mass, I simply cannot justify requesting that young children not be there for the simple fact that the request would betray a contraceptive mentality.

For me it is simple: we are a pro-life people of Christ. It doesn't just mean that we protest the horror of abortion, or oppose hormonal contraceptives and sterilizations. It doesn't just mean that we remain open to life in our marriages.

It also means that when life happens around us, when we witness difficulty in the lives of others (including small children and their parents at Mass), or are displeased by events in the lives of others, or when the lives of others inconvenience us or even cause us physical pain, we forgive, we pray, we show compassion, and we love one another. We may not understand the lives of others, but we praise God that there is life to be witnessed. 

It is a contraceptive culture that says otherwise.

**See also: Haley's post: How My Kids Didn't Ruin Mass

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Contraceptive Culture Isn't Just About the Pill: Part One

This is part one of a forthcoming series on our Contraceptive Culture. I've decided to write on a few topics that are of major concern to me. If you would like to write a guest post, please comment, and we can get in touch.

***

Yesterday a friend of mine, who is currently nursing her three month old, was called to jury duty. She called to ask about whether she could be excused to pump during the trial days. They declined to allow her the time to pump. Instead of letting her know that they just couldn't accommodate nursing mothers during trials, they told her to simply fill out an "undue hardship" form, and dismissed her from duty.

This says something about our confused society, and its contraceptive culture. I understand why it would be difficult to excuse a juror to allow her to pump during a trial, but the language we, as a society, use to describe her reason for dismissal--undue hardship--is telling. It indicates that a mother, a woman, who is doing something completely natural to her essence (nursing a baby) is experiencing an undue hardship in general, not to mention one which prevents her from fulfilling her civic duty. The language is discriminatory, and inaccurate. I'm not asking the judicial system to allow breaks every three hours in a trial just so that women can nurse. I'm asking them to change the language they use for exceptions such as these.

Why am I so upset about language? Aren't I being a little fastidious? Am I just overly concerned with semantics?

I would argue that the way we speak, the language we use, shapes our thoughts and attitudes. Language is meant to express thoughts and attitudes, but because language is a limited expression, it also limits the way we think about things. This is why we, in the pro-life movement balk at being called "anti-choice" or "anti-women's rights." These terms are not only inaccurate (they don't describe what we actually stand for), they are offensive (they describe us, as a people, in negative terms).

Thus, when we describe nursing mothers as having an undue hardship, we introduce a multitude of complications into the matter of women and civic duty, women and motherhood, babies and children. The problem, for me, is that  the description for undue hardship, at least in my state, includes nursing mothers among other things that are actually undue hardships such as mental or physical incompetence. I just don't see why they couldn't have an exemption for nursing mothers, and just call it that. As it stands, designating nursing mothers with the term "hardship" indicates that nursing a child is "something that causes or entails suffering or privation" (Webster's). And this is where we come down to contraceptive culture.

A woman nursing a child does not actually entail a hardship. (Now, I know that for some women, nursing is difficult or impossible, and I do not mean to start the debate about nursing or formula feeding here. This isn't that discussion.) A nursing mother, one such as my friend, is not experiencing suffering or privation by nursing her baby; this makes the term "hardship" inaccurate.

Moreover, I argue that this term is also offensive, because it puts a negative connotation on nursing, and devalues the nursing mother's place in civic society. The use of "hardship" to describe the reason for excluding a nursing mother from her civic duty borders on discrimination, because it puts a value judgement on the act of nursing. It says, "nursing a baby is too hard on women" and by extension, "being a mother, doing something completely natural to (though not required of) a woman's essence, is a cause of suffering." (Of course being a mother does cause suffering and sacrifice, but as Catholics, we see these sufferings as redemptive. On the other hand, society views them as unnecessary, and therefore invalid.)

I understand the system must walk a fine line here. I know it is balancing the its inability (maybe even a justifiable inability) to accommodate nursing mothers, with their desire to accommodate women. Yet here is the cultural disconnect: Mothers are women. You cannot claim to accommodate women, and at the same time deem it a hardship to do what mothers do, such that they are excluded from the activity. Women who are mothers cannot be amputated from the actions of motherhood, or from their children, though our contraceptive culture would prefer it that way. 

You can legitimately disallow infants to enter a jury box. You can even legitimately say, "We cannot allow nursing jurors a 15 minute break every three hours (to pump) due to the nature of the trial proceedings."

Yet this system, and our culture, constantly engages in this game of separating the human person from what is good and natural for human beings, and then walking the fence-line of discrimination and value judgments based on these false premises. We wallow in mixed messages.

By all means, have sex, but don't have a baby! (That's what contraception and abortion are for!)

You can get married, but it doesn't matter if you're two men, two women, or one woman and one man!

We are feminists, but you can't call yourself a feminist unless you support free contraceptives and abortion on demand. 

You can be a mother, but don't do things that mothers do in public, such as nurse your baby or insist that your unborn child is actually a human.

You can be a woman and be pregnant, but don't ask for maternity leave, and especially don't ask for leave with pay!

We want women's rights, but not baby's rights.

We want women's rights in the workplace, but not pregnant women (they are disabled!), and not nursing mothers (they are under undue hardship!)

Instead of all of this confusion, why not use language that actually says what we mean? Why co-opt words to mean things that they don't (feminism, marriage, and "choice" are some of these)? Why not avoid the inaccurate and offensive connotations of words that aren't necessary to describe a situation, such as "hardship," and use language that makes sense for the situation?

You may still wonder why I am so upset about words. The practice of using inappropriate or inaccurate language for situations like this is a big deal because it betrays societal attitudes regarding mothers, motherhood, babies, and humans in general. They are attitudes that are not favorable, or even logical and accurate, regarding women and motherhood, babies and humanity. That is why I'm so worked up about words.

In part two, I'll discuss the contraceptive culture betrayed by people's attitudes toward "screaming babies" at Mass.

Friday, April 19, 2013

7QT: Ridiculously Random, but then that's the nature of Quick Takes

These belated quick takes brought to you by Grace over at Camp Patton, while Jen and the little one (and family) get settled at home.

1. Remember last week when I said things were going really fast regarding our move? Well within a week's time, my hubby has established a domicile (that is, I reluctantly gave up control of this task, and signed a lease agreement without even seeing the place first). Hubby is convinced it is the right place, so I must trust. It has all the necessities on my list, and a pool to boot. I'm sure we'll be blessed with his choice.

2. You know how you go through stages in life where you have less friends than you used to have? Maybe it's just me, but I'm there right now, and it is lonely. Most of my dearest friends I left in Seattle years ago, and a few others are scattered around the country. I've begun to really pray that the Lord will send me a best friend once I get to our new state. I mean the kind of best friend who knows me and loves me inside and out. I really need a friend like that right now. The older I get, the harder it seems to be to find that kind of friendship.

3. Right now, really loving this song. It seems to fit right into my emotions regarding this last year (May 2012 to May 2013. (The lead singer of this band was a coworker of mine at Seattle University. Small world!) It's been a year of attachment and detachment, of looking forward, and letting go. Of much joy and excitement, and much pain and sorrow.


4. I'm spending most of today cleaning because my landlord will be showing our place to potential renters tomorrow. Cleaning is not fun, but I'm liking having things be thoroughly cleaned. I even busted out the magic eraser and buffed the crayon off the walls.

5. I haven't been able to speak of all the horrible things coming to light over the past week, what with the Gosnell trial, the Boston bombings (and ensuing craziness), and the explosions in West, TX. It's been a very bad week for America, and it's been difficult not to be so horrified that I just want to crawl into a hole. However, it is still Easter, and we are still called to Hope.

6. This little one (to the left) gives me hope on a daily basis, even though parenting her by myself right now takes a lot of energy that I don't always have. Children are such a testament to the Cross, by the great sacrifice they sometimes require, and by the great Love to which they witness. Having lost RG, I know I am so so blessed. Praised be God, the Almighty.

7. Does anyone know some good recipes/websites regarding cooking for just yourself? With hubby gone, I'm suddenly having a really hard time being motivated to make healthy meals just for myself. I mean, Little A will eat some of whatever I make, but I'm really not going to make a big meal just for myself and her. I need some inspiration!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Linking up with Jen over at Conversion Diary today for 7QT. Please pray for Jen and her newest addition as they all recover! Hopefully they will both be sent home soon in good condition!
**Edited: The link up is over at Camp Patton.

1. Loving this song right now. Also, check out the artist's shoes.


2. Mr. L left for our new state on Wednesday. It's already been an interesting couple of days running solo with Little A and and little peanut inside. I realize now how important it can be to be able to bend over! (I'm 18.5 weeks along now, and it's getting more difficult all of a sudden!)

3. Regarding moving, things are going so so fast. And the Lord is seriously putting everything into place for us. In the last ten days, Mr. L was offered a job, bought a truck (for said job), and moved out. I had a birthday, said a temporary--but heart wrenching goodbye to my hubby, arranged walk-throughs of potential housing situations, attended a conference, and started looking into the daycare/nanny situation in our new city. The whirlwind has only just started, though, so I'm praying for the Lord's providence here. It's all under His control.

4. Little A was confused about the whole birthday thing. She wished herself a happy birthday yesterday morning, and then she wished her daddy one. Finally, by process of elimination, she got to me. Still, it was so sweet hearing "Happy Birdday, Momma!" come from her.

5. I don't think I formally announced it, though I've referred to it in passing here on the blog, but we are having a boy! I'd be so excited no matter what, considering this baby is thus far living and healthy, but we are very excited nonetheless.

6. With regard to No. 4, we're taking suggestions on names. We have some we like, but we need some variety in the mix to make sure we're making the right choice. Of course, we do like saint's names and otherwise traditional names.

7. I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with Christ's peace and joy in this Easter season.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It Never Goes Away

A few nights ago, little A, Mr. L, and I went to my mom and dad's house for our Sunday family dinner. We go to their house every Sunday for a family dinner, and this was no exception. When we pulled into the driveway, and got out of the car, it was freezing outside. The sky was spitting a rain and snow mixture, and the wind was gusting fiercely.

***

When I was a kid, growing up in that same house, we were never allowed to use the front door. We were to go through the garage, leaving the front door and its clean appearance for guests. Now that we are the guests, we get to use the front door. And so, ever since we started Sunday family dinner, we always make our way up the walk to the front door and let ourselves in. It's not very guest-ish to let yourself in, but I suppose we're hybrids that way. Guests and family.

And every time we walk up the walk to the front door, we walk past the place where Romeo Gerard is buried, and where a stone cross marks his grave. Every time, I look over at his resting place and think of him, briefly, but I rarely stop there. His burial place is not really where I am truly with him, and to tell you the truth, I can barely look at it without getting upset. So usually I glance over, and think of him, and walk past quite quickly.

***

On this cold, dreary afternoon, we walked up the walk, passed RG's grave, and I glanced at it as usual. But this time, I was literally struck by the rain and wind as I glanced over at his grave, such that I felt my breath escape me and couldn't breathe for a few seconds while I thought of him. I thought, "How cold, how freezing cold you must be, my sweet boy!" and I imagined, over the course of two or three seconds, how different things would be if I could have him wrapped in a blanket and snuggled to my chest, only three months old.

I know, intellectually, that his body has no need for warmth, and that the love of Christ is what keeps him out of the cold now, but I couldn't control this thought as the rain flew at my face, the wind causing each drop to sting.

***

The thing is, it never goes away. The love I have for him. The knowledge that he is real. The sadness over the fact that he is gone. The regret that I couldn't have saved him from dying. The realization that my life will never be as it was. That I will never have another day pass without thinking of my dead son. The reality that I must trust the Lord with this, forever.

Most days I do not cry. Most days, now, I can feel our new son kicking. Most days I rejoice in the blessings the Lord has given, including the absolute compulsion to trust Him which I could have only gained through losing RG. Most days I am happy.

But it will never really go away. Realizing that is hard.