Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh 2009! I did not know what you had in store for me.

What an amazing year 2009 has been. 

We found out we were having our second baby girl on the same day that we found out she was likely to soon die.

We loved and fought for her with a passion and strength that I didn't know we could have for a little one we had not yet met.

We prayed that God's will be done in her life and in ours.

We grieved when the doctor told us she had gone.

We carried her coffin down the aisle for her funeral and buried her on a gusty March day.

We began to live life "after Mary Grace died", although for a long time it was a blurry mess of tears and pain.

We began to heal.

I stopped counting the time since she died in hours, days and weeks.

We opened our hearts to new life and struggled with God's timing.

We relinquished our desires for another baby to God's will and gave up fighting for control.

We began to experience joy that comes from knowing our suffering unites us to Christ in an intimate way.

We suffered an early pregnancy loss in November.

I have gone from being agitated by seeing pregnant women to being envious, to being happy for them, to longing to be them.

I have grown deeply in my relationship with Jesus through my suffering and have an ever-increasing desire to do His will.

Oh Lord, what a special job my two "2009 babies" had if it was to bring me closer to you.  If by losing them I was forced to look at my life, my desires, my intentions and conform them to Your will then that is the greatest gift they could give me.  With prayers from friends, family and strangers we have persevered this year.

In this way God has deeply blessed our family this year.  Thank you God!

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance.... in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Mary Grace.

Merry Christmas, Mary Grace!  I thought for sure as I carried you in my womb last December that this Christmas you would be in my arms as a sweet little 5 month old.  Oh we just do not know what is in store for us when we think ahead to the coming days.  I would have never guessed that you would not be with us.  But my heart is full of joy this Christmas as I think of you celebrating our Savior's birth right there in heaven!  I feel like I catch a glimpse of the awe and majesty of what that must be like when we attend Mass on Christmas Eve night.  There is a sense of wonder, awe and anticipation of the glory of Jesus!  How true it is that while we anticipate His birth each year, we also anticipate His ultimate return in glory! 

Mary Grace, my Christmas prayer is that I and all my friends and family may have a pure heart where Christ might be born every day.  Please pray for us.  I love you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saying "yes" in the small things.

I have always loved to take a hot shower.  And when I say "hot", I mean usually my water heater cannot handle the temperature at which I would like my water.  Yes, it goes against dermatologists' recommendations (especially in the dry winter time!) but I don't care.  Yes, my husband thinks that the temperature of my shower is something extreme, but I LOVE it. 

In fact, my hot shower is one of the few moments in the day which I get all to myself. 

So yesterday morning I got into my hot shower and immediately I had this interior feeling that Jesus was asking me, "Would you turn your hot water down for Me?" 

I paused and thought, I must be crazy.  Why am I thinking this and why would Jesus even care about the temperature of my shower water?  But the question then came to me in a different way:  "Would you make a small act of self-sacrifice for me right now in this moment?"

I thought, Oh Lord!  This is my SHOWER you are talking about...but okay.  I'll try it.  I turned the faucet a fraction towards cold and shivered. 

So much for my long, hot shower, I thought.  And then after a minute had passed, I realized that my body had adjusted to this new temperature in a short amount of time.  I was shocked, but thought, I can turn the water down a little more.  My initial resistance to offering up something I really enjoyed eventually turned into a lukewarm-bordering-on-cool shower!  (I'm not going to pretend that I wound up taking a completely cold shower....but lukewarm is pretty much "cold" for me!)  And by the end I was feeling really good that I had practiced a little self-sacrifice.   And I felt good because I had said "yes" to God when He asked me. 

Sometimes we feel the Lord gently asking us if we would give up something for Him.  Sometimes the request might seem a little silly (like my hot shower) but the point is:

Do we hear Him asking us?

How will we respond?

I look at it as a little exercise for the soul.  When I practice saying "yes" to God with love and obedience in the little things, my spiritual "muscles" will be stronger to say "yes" to the bigger ones.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Walk by the Spirit.

In my bible study lesson this week a quote jumped out at me and I thought I would share it with you.  It is a perfect summary of what I've been feeling lately.

"Those who live 'by the flesh' experience God's law as a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom.  On the other hand, those who are impelled by love and 'walk by the Spirit' (Gal 5:16), and who desire to serve others, find in God's law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practice love as something freely chosen and freely lived out.  Indeed, they feel an interior urge- a genuine 'necessity' and no longer a form of coercion- not to stop at the minimum demands of the Law, but to live them in their 'fullness'.  This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as 'sons in the Son'."

                                                                                      Pope John Paul II
                                                                                      Veritatis Splendor, par. 18

Our journey of faith is life-long.  It is not a one-time deal.  We have to continue to choose Christ in the way that we live and love our neighbor.  Sometimes our walk begins to distance us from Christ, but always He is there, calling us back to Him. 

One Christmas I spent a significant amount of time searching for a very specific took alot of time because I was trying to get a more expensive item at a "sales price" I had to do quite a bit of shopping.  Finally I found just the right one and was so excited that the person receiving this gift would be getting "more" than what I could really afford to get them since I found the item at such a deal.  I gave the gift with such excitement and joy, and then was told by the person that I could take the gift back to the store because they had already purchased that item and didn't need my gift.

It was like someone had punched me in the gut.  All the love, time and effort I had spent in choosing the perfect gift and it was rejected. My feelings were really hurt that they rejected the gift I worked hard to give.  It occurred to me yesterday that in a much bigger way, that is how God must feel when we reject the gift of His Son.  He offers us Jesus, his own Son crucified for our sins but we are too busy watching tv, spending too much time on the internet, partying, moving our way up the corporate ladder, or being overly concerned with money and material things to notice.  Perhaps we accepted His Son for awhile, but then our heart grew cool and we gave that gift back. 

While I thought about how God must feel with so many people rejecting Him, I felt overwhelmed with sorrow at how it must feel to God, as a Father to have your child, your only Son rejected.  I thought about how it must feel to Jesus who suffered tremendously on the Cross for our sins so that we might receive the gift He offers.  But so many don't even want the gift.  Being a mother, I thought of Mary.  How would it feel as a mother to watch your Son and Savior be crucified, and after what your own child went through to see Him still repeatedly rejected by the very people He has died for?

Oh Jesus, have mercy on us today and bring so many hearts to You this Advent season.  Open our own hearts so that You may truly make our heart Your home, Your resting place.  Cleanse us from our sin and bring us to a holier life with You!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Treasures in heaven.

Oh dear little one in heaven, today I took down the memory card from your funeral that has been attached to the top left corner of the refrigerator for the last 9 months.  I can hardly believe it has been that long since you left us.  I can hardly believe that you have another sibling with you now in heaven.  I often think of what you and your 3 other siblings must be doing in heaven...

Are you infants and older people are holding you?  Perhaps a young woman who never got a chance to have any children of her own is taking care of you.  Perhaps my own relatives are tending to your needs.  Do you even have "needs" once you are in heaven other than a need to praise God? 

Are you young children?  Do you play?  When I meet you in heaven, will I know you?  Will you know me? 

Mary Grace, you and your siblings are truly the only treasures I can store up in heaven. 

My heart and mind have been full in the last few days of an urgency to draw our earthly family closer to the Lord.  Yes, we are Catholic Christians.  Yes, we go every Sunday to Mass (unless we are ill!).  We go frequently to confession to draw on the graces we receive there to turn away from sin.  I am spending more time with my bible study and daily meditation on scripture.  Yet I still feel like my conscience is tugging at me to do love my neighbor spend time in deep prayer more often, perhaps in nearly constant prayer.  I have started making more time during this busy, busy Advent season to slow down so that I can better prepare my heart for Jesus' birth. 

Maybe my treaures in heaven are praying very hard to put this urgency on my heart right now. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Baby Number Five.

Is it possible to be in love with a baby from the moment you see a positive pregnancy test?  I'm sure it is, but I wasn't.  I was overwhelmingly grateful, but immediately nervous.  I hesitated to tell anyone, even Rob.  I thought, "if something goes wrong early on, at least I can spare him the pain."  Of course, I realized by the end of that first day, that I couldn't not tell him.  And for some reason I was surprised when he embraced the reality with a contagious and overwhelming joy! And within three days I was completely in love...already holding my new baby in my arms... at least in my heart and head.

And that's as close as I would get to Baby Number Five.

One week after learning we were expecting I started bleeding and cramping.  I knew when my pregnancy test at 16 days past ovulation was nearly the same color as my test line from 11 days past ovulation, that things were not going well.

I had imagined keeping this pregnancy quiet from friends and family until I had assurance that we were "in the clear" regarding an ectopic pregnancy, early miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities...but we didn't get that far.  A very early pregnancy loss is something I had never experienced.  But God has allowed me to experience this now as well.

And my mind has certainly wandered through this loss.

*Does God want me to experience ALL aspects of pregnancy loss??

*Maybe my suffering has particular importance in the salvation of souls or ministering to others?...that God continues to allow suffering again and again in this area of my life?

*God has taken four babies from me.  Right now, I only have one more "baby" and that is my dear daughter, Isabel.  If you know me, then you know that Isabel suffers from Failure to Thrive issues, and now back-to-back illnesses since starting preschool (I understand, not uncommon in preschool age, yet...) part of me thinks...does God wish to take my last and ONLY LIVE "baby" from me?

These thoughts are extreme, I know!  Because I am having them!  They are unbearable at times!  Yet they are my thoughts and ponderings during this time.  I can only be honest in my writing.  And perhaps someone out there can relate.

For now I know that I can only trust in Jesus.  Saint Faustina Kowalska and the message of Divine Mercy, "Jesus I Trust in You!" have been strong in my mind over the past week and I have been saying this repeatedly throughout the week.  I don't have all or even any of the answers other than what I receive through prayer and some recent revelations from scripture which I hope to post about soon.

Sometimes I think maybe I am not as close to the Lord as I think and He is sending my babies to heaven as a very personal "communion of saints" to pray that I draw ever closer to His Sacred Heart.  Maybe I am so far from the Lord that He has sent four of my very own to pray for me...

Lord, I never knew the pain of losing a baby at a mere 4 weeks and 3 days could be as painful as losing a baby at 7 weeks and 1 day, 9 weeks and 5 days or 21 weeks...but it is.  I was already daydreaming of my baby in my arms and that "new baby smell".

Who would have ever imagined that Mary Grace would be a "big sister" in heaven?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I survived!

I survived attending the first baby shower since Mary Grace died!  I know, what did I think was going to happen?  That I would just evaporate or something?  I knew I would survive, but if it had been a test, I passed with flying colors! 

I had fun.
I enjoyed being there.
I felt HAPPY for my friend who was pregnant!
I "oooo'ed and awww'ed" over all the tiny, pink little girl outfits....and meant it!

Yes, I did have a moment when one of the other ladies said, "Oh I want a little girl!" (She has all boys).  And I thought to myself, "I want another little girl too..."  Which brought just a brief moment of self-pity, but then it dissolved and I was able to go back to being joyful for the mother-to-be!

What a great thing!  This was the third baby shower that I've been invited to since Mary Grace died.  The first being just a week after burying Mary Grace, and of course I could not attend.  The second being a baby shower on my would-be due date, which I also could not attend for emotional reasons.  But with this one, the timing was just perfect and I think I have vaulted the baby shower hurdle! 

It does feel like a milestone! And I could not have done it without the Lord's help!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grateful surrender.

I have been spiraling out of control.  Not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense.  I have been so wrapped up in trying to conceive another baby that I didn't know how to stop.  I would pray month after month after month that God would bless us with another baby and obsessively look at my fertility chart several times each day, and use about five pregnancy tests a day towards the end of my cycle, and wind up crushed each month when my period would show up.  If obsessing over trying to get pregnant was an addiction, I was addicted and peesticks (home pregnancy tests) were my drug.

"You need to stop trying so hard," was the most common suggestion I heard.

But I didn't know how to "stop".  I couldn't wrap my mind around what that looked like.  Do I stop charting my temperature every day?  Do I give up on trying to have a baby altogether?  Do I stop hoping to be pregnant?  What does "stop trying so hard" mean?  And how do I stop?

This Sunday I went to Mass.  The homily started out by acknowledging the importance and goodness of perservering in your prayers.  The priest spoke about how sometimes though, we pray month after month for something that is just not happening and it leaves us with great disappointment.  In those situations we have to look at that for which we are praying.  Are we praying for God's will to be done or are we praying for something that we want that is not necessarily God's will?  He said that when we put a time limit on a prayer (as I was doing each month) we are tying Jesus' hands to answer that prayer.  The way that we know that what we are praying for is in line with God's will, is that we will be content and at peace with what does or does not happen each day, since in submitting to His will, whatever happens is done in line with His purpose.  If we are praying for our own will to be done (a want or need filled) and it doesn't happen and we are left discouraged, it is probably not in line with God's will. 

For me, this was a profound experience to hear a homily like this.  But you do not know yet why it was profound.  Rewind to the first three minutes before Mass started.  I sat in my pew and prayed that God would give me a very specific, definitive answer to two questions during this Mass:

     1.  Should I keep praying for another baby?

     2.  How can I know what Your will is for me, Lord?

I asked God for the answers to these two questions and He answered me in the most direct, profoundly obvious way that I have ever experienced within minutes of my asking. 

The answer is that I am to pray each day that God's will be done for my life that specific day!  If that includes getting pregnant again, then it will happen.  From that direct intervention by God through our priest's homily Sunday, I have had a new understanding of my purpose.  By praying that God's will would be done each day in my life, I am cooperating with the Lord's plan and partaking in the life of the Trinity!  And I no longer have to be burdened by an obsession over having another child.  I don't have to be disappointed at the end of each cycle.  I can rejoice in the new freedom I have that comes from cooperating with God's will and surrendering my life to His divine providence. 

It is a surrender.  I always knew it was.  I just didn't know what it looked like in this area of my life.  And it is as simple as praying for and accepting God's will.  But no one was able to tell me that in a way in which I could really apply it to my life until my epiphany at church on Sunday when God spoke so clearly to my heart. 

Today is 8 months since we lost Mary Grace.  Today I am feeling utterly joyous that God has brought to fruition the seed that He has been planting in my heart from our very first loss.  God never wanted to "break" me through all the suffering we have seen.  He wanted to bring about growth and maturation of character and love, perserverance in faith and the hope and freedom that come from a willful surrender to His plan for my life. 

Here I am Lord.  You have called me and I am Yours.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A little overwhelmed with feelings.

I'm feeling quite overwhelmed today. 

One of my best friends gave birth yesterday to a beautiful and healthy 9lb, 10oz baby boy!  And I am so excited for her family.  She gets to experience the joy of becoming a mother for the very first time!  The anticipation of meeting your little one after 9 long months (and sometimes a bit longer if you are overdue!) is quite high by the end, and then there they are...they just pop out and you get to fall in love all over again.

However today is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  So today in a special way I am remembering Mary Grace and my other 2 babies who did not make it into this life, and yet I'm celebrating with my friend over her son's joyful entry into this world.  So it's been a little overwhelming.

Coupled with the fact that I have taken about 14 pregnancy tests over the last 5 days and they have all come up big, fat negative, my emotions are all over the place.

Furthermore, yesterday someone gave me the book Don't Sing Songs To A Heavy Heart:  How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering.... well now why on earth would I need that??  I know, I know...this is not a very christian attitude...I need to be thankful someone was sort-of thinking of me.  But in all honesty, that is a book for THEM to read, not me!  I am the one suffering.  I don't need a book to relate to others who are suffering. 

But as I thought about it....maybe I do.  Maybe I'm so caught up in feeling sorry for myself that I'm not pregnant, feeling sad about losing Mary Grace, feeling overwhelmed that life goes on now matter what stage I'm in....maybe I'm missing opportunities to relate to other people who are suffering.  Maybe I am simply not noticing when another person is suffering. 

I had assumed that the suffering I went through would make me more aware, more open, more understanding of others who were suffering, but maybe that isn't the case.  It won't be the case if I don't allow it.  It won't be the case if I am too self-absorbed to notice.  So maybe this book will be good for me to read.  Maybe I will try not to be so defensive and just accept the "gift" book for what it is. 

Jeremiah 31:13b says, "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."  Imagine the anticipation turned to jubilation we will experience when Robert and I get to meet our three babies in heaven...I think that will rival a 9 month wait any day of the week.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two posts in one day.

Well, I normally don't do this, but I am so excited about something that I just found from someone on my message board that I had to share it with you!

October 15th Raleigh is a special event in Raleigh in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which is (as aptly named) October 15th! 

I had no idea there was such a day designated, but I am so very grateful and touched that there is a special person who has organized this for our area! 

While I don't want to infringe on copyrighted information from the October 15th Official website, I do want to point you to a link worth reading which explains the origin of October 15th and the background behind Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month from the official website.

It is so sad to read the stories of other mothers, and especially other mothers in my area who have suffered the loss of their baby.  Please send up a special prayer for these women and their families during this month and especially on October 15th! 

Rob and I will most definitely be attending the candlelight memorial on the South Lawn of the N.C. State Capitol on Thursday, October 15th.  I am joyful that Mary Grace will be remembered in a special way that evening!

Thanks, friends!

The forgotten anniversary.

September 28th marked 7 months since our daughter died.  And the most horrible part of that, is that on September 28th I forgot that it was an anniversary. 

Not to say that I didn't think about Mary Grace this past Monday.  I find myself thinking of her here and there, briefly, every day.  She has been on my mind a lot as of late, but somehow it didn't connect on Monday that it was an anniversary.

That makes me feel like an awful mother.  I mean, not overall...but in that instance.  Who forgets their daughter's death anniversary at just the 7th month? 

I know.  We are only human.  I would not beat myself up like this if I had forgotten a friend's birthday, or my parents' wedding anniversary....but it wasn't any of those things.  It was my own daughter's anniversary. 

I only remembered while I was lying in bed last night.  And then, of course, I had a terrible time falling asleep, because what kind of person would forget such a thing?  Am I awful?  Am I that self-focused that it just "slips my mind"?

The longer someone is gone, the harder the memories are to hold onto.  They become unfocused, fuzzy,... maybe that is how it is becoming with Mary Grace for me.  I have photos and momentos to remind me.  But the actual memories are already greatly faded.  I guess it is natural.  I just didn't expect for it to happen so soon.  I didn't expect to forget an anniversary so soon.  I knew that there would be at least one month that I would forget....eventually.  But not yet. 

I wonder if women who get to have their babies for a longer time remember for a longer period of time.  Are the memories crisper if your baby died a few days after birth?   Would they be more vivid if I had had a few more hours holding her in the hospital?   If I had had more time?  If she had grown for another month in my belly? 

Am I just a horrible person for not being able to see these things clearly in my head? 

No, actually, I don't need you to answer that. 

I think in the end, we all want more time with our loved ones.  It feels like more time would mean less pain and more memories to keep in your heart. 

But I feel rotten about the forgotten anniversary...if your own mother forgets, who will remember? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Forty Days for Life.

There is a campaign that begins tomorrow, Wednesday, September 23rd through November 1st, and it is the largest, coordinated pro-life event ever!  Jesus says, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am." How amazing to be a part of 40 Days For Life that will pray for an end to the murder of innocent human lives.

You can participate by praying and fasting for an end to abortion over the next 40 days.  Here is a link to a page of daily devotionals for the next 40 days. 

This issue has come close to my heart in all that we went through with Mary Grace.  Knowing that there are many women whose babies are given a fatal diagnosis in utero, I feel especially called to participate in the 40 Days For Life campaign this year because every moment you have with your child is special, in and out of the womb.  Let's all pray that all mothers will choose life for their children. 

I thought about ending this post with the last paragraph, but sometimes we read these "please help" campaigns and think, "Oh that'd be nice to do..." and then forget about it, or think it is too much work.  So let's look at it in another way.  Let's pretend we can rewind the clock and that I am still pregnant with Mary Grace.  In fact, it is the day that I have just gotten the news from the amnio results that Mary Grace's condition is fatal...she will die in utero or once she is born.  Let's pretend I am not pro-life.  In this scenario, I am debating whether or not to abort Mary Grace.

Does that leave you with shudders?  I shuddered as I wrote it.

And out there in the world is another mother in my same shoes.  Another mother who is told her baby will die, so why not go ahead and "finish it"?

Maybe you agree that women should be allowed to choose to end their child's life if it is already going to die.  I don't agree with that, but you might.  So then pray for the healthy babies that mothers are aborting.  I'm not here to debate with you.  I'm just here to beg you to pray for the killing to stop.

Can you say one prayer for 40 days?  Do you have 15 seconds to say one Our Father a day to help end abortion? 

Can you give up one thing that is keeping you from spending time with God?  Give up one television program, or 30 minutes of internet time? 

Thanks for reading this.  Let's spend the next 40 days making a difference for tiny little innocents like her.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The joys of parenthood.

This morning I just happened to be watching the news when they interviewed a woman, Corinne Maier, who wrote a book about 40 reasons not to have children (No kids: 40 good reasons not to have children).

I was at first disgusted that anyone would write such a book and then to my surprise and horror they stated that the author is a mother of two!  That was when my disgust changed to heartache for her and especially for her two children.  I wondered about the emotional state of two children whose own mother's ideas about raising children included:

"your kid will always disappoint you"
"kids are the death of desire"
"motherhood or success: pick one"
"motherhood is a trap for all women"

Unbelieveable and appalling.

That made me want to make my own list of good reasons for having children. 

Here are a few:

Oh, as if this pic weren't good reason enough?? 

Increased love.
The joy of watching your child grow.
The wonder of discovery.
Loving pride of watching your child take his or her first steps.
How your heart melts when they say, "Mommy, I love you!"
Knowing your child has made you a better person.
Self-centeredness turns to selflessness.
Innocent questions.
Newborn baby smell!
Baby smiles and coos.
Cuddling a little one in your arms.
Knowing Mommy's hugs have meaning.
Children are a blessing from the Lord.
The desire for more children.
The laughter of your child.
The smile it puts on your face when you hear those giggles.
Sponataneous kisses and hugs.
Little hands reaching for yours.
Squeals of delight.
Knowing that you are your child's role model and biggest influence.
Becoming a family.
Sharing your child with his or her grandparents (don't they just delight in them?).
Knowing you worked together in the creation of a new life with God.

These are just some of the reasons that I came up with within a matter of minutes, and I was interested to know what your reasons are/were for having a child.  I'm not about to say that having a child is not hard work, it is!  But the joy, love and delight that come from having a child far outweigh the negatives in my mind.  Hopefully in your mind too!  Please feel free to add your joys of parenthood in the comments section!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Listening for God.

When I was in kindergarten, the teacher would always tell us, "If you're not looking, you're not...?" And then the class would answer with a resounding, "Listening!"

If you're not looking, you're not listening.

Remember that? That phrase has definitely stuck with me since I was five, although I'm not always the best at applying it. But it made me think about a person's relationship with God. It has at least been the case in my life, that when I am looking at God, when I am focused on Him in my daily life (talking to Him throughout my day, making an effort to live His teachings, offering my actions to Him throughout the day), I am more open to hearing the Lord when He wants to say something to me.

So last week during some personal prayer time, I tried to de-clutter my mind and let God speak to me.

What do you want to say to me, Lord? I want to be still and listen to what You have to say.

I asked Him to give me a word that I could focus on. And the word that came to my mind was


Peace. Okay. So I tried to think about that for the rest of my prayer time, and of course it led me to think about my life....the bigger events of my life were where my thoughts first traveled. My marriage, my daughter, my relationship with God, whether or not we would have more children, and of course, losing my babies.

And as I pondered these things I realized, I do have peace with what God has allowed to happen in my life. I do have peace that I have three babies in heaven. I have peace that God has blessed me with an adorable and irresistibly lovable daughter here on earth. I have peace that our family is a family of 3 on earth and 3 in heaven.

And although we are still trying for a baby, I have found a new peace in my heart over the possibility that it may just be the three of us.

And that word kept popping into my head throughout the week...randomly. It's like the Holy Spirit was just sending me a little nudge every now and then, reminding me, "Peace".

So when Isabel got a fever the evening before her first FULL day of preschool, I didn't stress...I felt peace.

When I realized that because she would not be able to attend school, I would likewise miss my first bible study class, I heard in my head, "Peace".

And to round out the week, when our Engaged Encounter volunteers discerned Robert and I to be the next Local Coordinators for the diocese of Charlotte, (a prospect over which I had previously been trembling in my boots felt reluctant) I had peace.

It's been such a freeing feeling to relax in the peace that the Lord brings. And He invites all of us to turn our worries, stresses, problems, grief and all burdens and shortcomings over to Him. He can do mighty things with you!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." Ephesians 6:10

I do feel stronger, having listened to and applied what the Lord was telling me this week. Have peace and cast your worries on Him!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Passing the six month mark.

We've made it through the six month anniversary of our baby's death. We were on a much needed vacation with friends of ours, which was a blessing. We didn't really have time to reflect on this anniversary while we were away. Which was actually nice. It was nice to be so busy with joyful things that I didn't have time to think about what we were missing. Here is a picture of our family having fun on a boat ride during our vacation. I promise Isabel had fun too, although you wouldn't think so from her stoic picture taking face.

I think I've moved beyond the "I'm sad on every anniversary" phase. Now grief surprises me less frequently and when I'm not expecting it, but definitely less frequently. But when it does surprise me, I feel the way Isabel looks in that picture. My thoughts drift back to all the events of February.

I had time to contemplate things once we were back home and unpacked. I studied pictures of Mary Grace that we had taken. I went through some of her things that I keep in her memory box. I tried to not let my heart linger there too long. Just enough to "remember" for a few moments.

I still have Mary Grace's funeral remembrance card on our refrigerator. It's in the top left corner. Sometimes I'll look at it and think about taking it down, and one day I did take it out from under the angel magnet that keeps it stuck to the door...but I quickly put it back.

I have not been to her grave in quite some time and I do feel quite guilty over this. I know there is not a rule about how often you should go to visit your loved ones at a graveyard, but I guess when you start feeling guilty it's probably time to go, right?

It's just that it's been so gorgeous here the last week. We are getting the slightly cooler, almost-autumn temps with gentle breezes and it is just glorious! I have been praising God for the beauty of these days and it feels like a contradiction to sit at her grave on a glorious day.

There have been many things to keep me busy this month, that is for sure. Isabel starts preschool tomorrow and I am thrilled and a little heartbroken that the house will be so quiet for three hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. I know I am only looking at 6 hours a week of "Isabel-free" time, but I'm sure it will seem more quiet when you are wishing for a houseful of little voices.

When I filled out Isabel's preschool registration forms in January, there was a space for "siblings" and I remember noting "New sibling for Isabel due July 2009" with a smiley face at the end and exclamation points. Yesterday I turned in paperwork with the same "siblings" section and noted, "Baby sister, Mary Grace due July 11th, 2009, was stillborn in February. Isabel knows that her sister is in heaven and will speak of her frequently."

Time does not stop for grief and we are here, in the present, six months down the road. It is true what they say, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." He has certainly guided us through the last six months and will continue to do so if we let Him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A jump start.

Wow, August 20th! We have almost reached the six month mark since we lost Mary Grace. Sometimes it's hard to believe that this has been my life, losing three babies. At times the pain was so real and so harsh, and now the pain is there if I think too long about things; reliving how it all played out in my head, but it is a tender pain, if you will. It is painful, and yet I feel joyful that I will get to meet our little girl again.

Overall, I feel like I am doing much better.

My "jump start" to getting back on the right road was going to confession recently. Yes, confession. Catholic confession! It was just wonderful to feel God's grace poured out over me and not just knowing, but feeling that my sins were forgiven and that I was back in a state of grace! I don't think there is another feeling that is as refreshing to the soul.

I've been trying to turn over "control" of trying to conceive to God this month. Although I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like. How do you turn over control to God? I mean, in all estimations, He IS in control. Does that mean I'm supposed to give up charting my fertility? No more temperature taking, no more cross-checking when ovulation occurred each cycle? I don't think so. I mean, I think we have those tools to benefit our chances of conception each month.

No more obsessively taking pregnancy tests at the end of my cycle...every month? Well, that may be a good way to give up my "control". Although I really can't control whether or not there will be a second pink line on the test.

I don't mind admitting to you that my penance at confession was to say an "Our Father" with a special emphasis on "Thy will be done"...ahem. So I've been working on that...daily.

It was so joyous to be able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion on Sunday after having been to confession the day before! Knowing that I was receiving Jesus physically, into my body just gives a person so much strength! And certainly I could not have remained on this journey with every obstacle that we have been through without the strength of Jesus. It was no coincidence that the gospel was the following passage from John:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Jn 6:51-58

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seeing through the thorns.

Someone posed this question to me the other day, "Why would God let this happen?" in regards to a specific situation they had encountered. And it's been on my mind ever since.

"This" could be alot of things.

It could be a family who's house is in foreclosure because the father lost his job.

It could be the little baby who was born with a heart condition undetected 'til birth.

It could be the tragic death of a friend who died doing what she loved and died way too young.

It could be the loss of three babies in 13 months...

Why would God let this happen?

All of these situations involve suffering. Sometimes our suffering is at the hands of another person. We hurt because someone spoke in anger to us, or another person rear-ended our car. In those situations it is almost easier to handle because there is a responsible party, and someone to forgive.

But when a baby is born ill...or not born at all...I think it is fair for some to ask why God would let this happen.

The truth is that we live in a fallen world. There is sin and there is death, even for the very smallest. If you are a Christian, you know that this world is not your home. It is not your destiny. It is passing. Our soul was created to rest in the Lord, and it will truly rest in a place where there is no sin and no death; in heaven, our eternal home.

I think God allows us to experience suffering to refine our soul. We re-evaluate what is important (that of the world, or that of heaven) and we take steps to draw closer to our goal. Some people turn away from God after this suffering (as I felt myself slipping from my walk with Him these last two months). From my experience, it came from an anger towards God. Anger from having had to suffer the loss of my baby, the loss of my future, and anger over not being in control of all these aspects of my life. And the bottom line is that God is in control of our life whether we want to acknowledge that or not. If He stopped thinking of us for but a second our life would cease to exist. He sustains our very breath until He determines our end.

And because He is all-knowing and His plans are perfect, when He chooses to close a chapter in our life, it is the perfect ending simply because it is how He meant it to be. This is hard to write because it means that I am saying that when God chose to take Mary Grace, it was a perfect choice. That sounds completely wrong, but when you try to see it through eyes aimed toward heaven, it begins to make some sense. Sometimes you have to look through the thorns to find the beauty in God's plan.

God doesn't make mistakes, ever.
God has a plan and it is perfect.
God's plan is perfect because He is all-knowing and all-powerful.
God's plan involves offering us the opportunity to accept Jesus as our Savior, so that we might join Him in a place where we will one day understand.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Looking to the bright side of things.

So for the last two-ish months, I've been feeling a bit down about things (which is probably quite evident from some of my blog posts)....Rob would say that I qualified as being called a "Debbie Downer".

I've noticed myself being more pessimistic about life. Feeling like we would never get pregnant again. Feeling sorry for myself over our three losses. Being disappointed with the way that God is carrying out His plans for my life. I guess feeling some of the anger about our situation that I hadn't really felt or let myself feel for the first couple of months after Mary Grace died.

At first it felt "nice" to succomb to those feelings. To indulge my sorrowful, frustrated attitude. I felt like I deserved to have those feelings. And surely having some of those feelings is just natural. But indulging those thoughts for an extended period of time has been nothing short of miserable. It has left me feeling more down, it has left me at times resenting friends for the situation that they are in, and worst of all, I have distanced myself from God.

And then I read this post by my blogger friend, Tracey, and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I never question my faith in God. I absolutely know for certain that my God is who He says He is, and that the things which He promises are 100% true. But sometimes my walk with Him falters. I veer from the path which we are walking together to one which I think I can handle alone. And the truth is, that no one can handle this life without God. We may think we've got it under control, but life without God does not give us joy in our soul. And that is what I've been missing these last two months.

So I picked up God Love You by Fulton Sheen, an old book (1955) and read this, "One of the greatest mistakes is to think that contentment comes from something outside us rather than from a quality of the soul (p 7)." Well I have certainly been of the thought that getting pregnant again will make me content.

He goes on to note three aspects to being content: having faith, having a good conscience, and limiting our delights/desires. "What we over-love, we over-grieve (p8)." I have absolutely been "over-loving" the idea of getting pregnant again and "over-grieving" each month that it doesn't happen...which has been making me miserable.

And finally one more quote and then I'll stop, I promise! "All evils become lighter if we endure them patiently, but the greatest benefits can be poisoned by discontent (p 8)." Wow! How true is that for me. I can't share in being joyful when someone else gets pregnant because I'm discontent in my soul. And clearly that comes from my choice to pull away from my walk with God.

So in short I don't like my attitude and it's time for a brighter one. I'm a very practical, type A personality, so I like to take concrete steps to make things happen and that starts with identifying the problem and then making a list of ways to fix it ;)

So here's where I'll start:

1. Achieving a more disciplined prayer life.
2. Attending Mass more than "just on Sundays".
3. Going to confession more frequently.
4. Opening my bible on a daily basis!
5. Asking for your prayers to help me get back to a closer relationship with God.

Thank you friends for your prayers and for sticking with me even through these last couple of months when my attitude has been less than content. I am excited about looking to the bright side of things.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Feeling a little defeated.

Do you ever have days where you feel defeated? In this whole trying to conceive journey I never really felt "defeated". Some days a little bummed, some days strangely optimistic despite all of the negative circumstances.

But today I feel defeated. Maybe it's because everyone else is popping out babies like there's nothing to it. I have found out that no fewer than 5, yes FIVE people are pregnant this week.

And the sad part is while I'm happy for them, I'm more sad for me.

Boy, that sounds self-centered, doesn't it?

But that sadness is really overwhelming the feelings of happiness I have for them. Which is, in itself, sad. Because I want to be elated for my friends and family. I want to be jumping for joy that a new life has been created for the people I love. I want to be ecstatic that their families are about to expand with an abundance of love for a new little person.

But I'm not feeling it. I'm not feeling much of anything today except for numb, disappointed self-doubt about whether we will ever have those feelings in our own family again.

I'm typing this in Rob's office and I just looked over at his calendar and what do I see?

"Know for certain that God holds you in every place." Proverbs 5:21

That's pretty powerful right there. Because not only do I need God to be holding me through my grief in other's joy, but I know for certain that He holds me even when I am feeling this low.

I don't know if people who have not struggled with trying to add to their family can really understand or fully grasp where I am coming from. Alot of people reading this would probably wonder "Why can't you just be happy for other people who are pregnant?" And the best way to describe it is that I do know that the joy is inside me for them...but right now it is pushed really far down inside me. And it feels like my grief over not being pregnant/losing babies/trying month after month is smothering my feelings of happiness for them. It's like the grief is a blanket that has covered up my feelings of happiness for others.

And I have to say that some days are better than others in this regard. Some days I look at my neighbors' one year olds (three neighbors, three one year olds) and just delight in my heart that God has blessed them with these beautiful little babies. And then other days that joy is overshadowed..."blanketed" by my own desires for a baby, and my own feelings of "I should have a one year old by now, too" (had our first try for a second child not been an ectopic pregnancy.)

So it's hard. It's hard because I want to be able to give my family and friends the love and support that they should have during their joyful time, and yet it's simply hard.

Please pray that I would have a "complete and abundant joy" in my heart for all these pregnant friends and their families! And most definitely join me in prayer that all of these babies and moms will remain healthy!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 11th, 2009 Due date, Anniversary date.

Well the bittersweet day has arrived. Robert suggested we have a picnic at Mary Grace's grave today, so we did that. I liked the idea immediately. It was nice to be able to share something as commonplace as a family meal at her grave. I realize that sounds quite strange, to go and have a picnic at a cemetery.

And it is a little.

But it also made me feel like she was still part of our she was there with us in made me feel good to share something else with her other than just my company. Partaking in a meal near her seemed a little more intimate than just staring at her grave.

As we were pulling into the cemetery, Isabel announced our arrival, "We're here to the cemetery to see Mary Grace!" And then after a brief pause, "Is Mary Grace here?" she asked.
"Well, Mary Grace is in heaven, sweetie," I replied.
"Here? Is this heaven?" she questioned.
"No sweetie, this isn't heaven." (I inwardly chuckled at her innocent question and thought with delight if only we could go and visit our dead loved ones in heaven whenever we wanted, just like going to visit them at the cemetery). "This is the cemetery where we go to remember people who have died." 'Are we really having this conversation?' I thought.
"Oh. Look at all the flowers, Mommy! Those are for all the babies." (Oh the innocence of children...she thought the entire cemetery was for babies who had died).
"Well some of them are babies and some of them are older too, like grandparents." I told her.
*Another pause*
"What did Mary Grace look like, Mommy?"
"She looked like a little baby, Isabel. She looked like a tiny little baby."

Later, while we were eating she picked up the conversation again...
"Mommy, when will we see Mary Grace?"
"We'll see Mary Grace when we go to heaven. One day we will all be together in heaven. She just went first." At this point I found that I could no longer finish my lunch. It was just too hard trying to keep my emotions in check and eat as well.

She just went first.

Isn't that the reality of it? The joyful reality? We are all wanting and waiting to get to heaven. That is our ultimate goal, the purpose of our lives; to live out His will for our lives and be with Him in heaven.

She just went there first.

She is the lucky one. She didn't have to go through the sadness or trials, or pain or ugliness of this world. She went straight to heaven. She got to skip the hard work and go straight to the reward! Straight to glory and joy, and power and the light of awesome. And how lucky she is.

So while today is sad in some ways, it can be a day to celebrate and have some sense of joy. I don't have to worry about her on earth. I know she is in good hands in heaven.

And now I can focus on the joys of being married to the love of my life for 6 beautiful years. We have loved hard and cried hard over these six years, and I could not have done it all without my husband. He is the rock of our family and my best friend. Thank you, Rob for all that you are to me! Happy Anniversary!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The day before.

Well I've felt progressively sadder as the day has worn on. If things had gone according to MY PLANS, I would be 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant with Mary Grace today...hopefully going into labor soon. I imagined all this week how big my belly should have been and remembered how big I was with Isabel.

I love being pregnant. I love the joy it brings, knowing there is a new life growing inside of you. Feeling the movements, anticipating what your baby will look like and who they will become. What's not to love?

And clearly, I wish that I was still pregnant with Mary Grace. About to meet her, about to smell her sweet baby skin, about to introduce her to her sister and our family...

Part of me is really anticipating that tomorrow, my due date, will not be as bad as I am imagining. We have alot going on tomorrow, and I'm hoping that keeping busy will keep my mind off the sadness growing in my heart.

I realized today that I needed to read something uplifting as my spirit was starting to sink. So I picked up The Prayer of Jabez Devotional by Bruce Wilkinson; a book I haven't looked at in well over a year. And what bookmark would I find inside?

O Great Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of thy meek and humble Saviour, and devoted Child of the Mother of God: enkindle within my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity which glowed in thine and made thee a seraph of love.
O glorious Saint Gerard, because when falsely accused of crime, thou didst bear, like thy Divine Master, without murmur or complaint, the calumnies of wicked men, thou hast been raised up by God as the Patron and Protector of expectant mothers. Preserve me from danger and the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child which I now carry, that it may see the light of day and receive the lustral waters of baptism, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Really? God wanted me to find the "prayer for safe delivery" the day before I was supposed to deliver? Why? Is this a cruel game? Does God find my pain humorous? At first I wondered if it was some big joke that the Creator of the universe was playing on me. I imagined Him sitting back on His throne having a mighty laugh.

And then I slowly began to let it sink in that maybe He was not laughing at me, rather smiling as I began to read the pages that were held by that bookmark.

"Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" Jeremiah 32:27

Of course not, I thought. And as I read the reflection for that day, I analyzed my fears about not ever getting pregnant again, and my suspicions that maybe God only wanted to bless me a little bit, or that maybe His plans for me weren't really that important...I really took a hard look at these things.

And then came the moment that I think God was smiling about: The moment that I realized that I had indeed been putting my God in a box. My God is "a God of power- available, essential, and unlimited" (p. 68, The Prayer of Jabez). Have I really understood and appreciated that? Nothing is too hard for my God. And I feel like today He was giving me a sign that I would be an expectant mother again one day soon; I just need to allow Him to remain with me, and to be the God He really is... not limited by my fears, anxieties and suspicions that He won't see me through everything...but unlimited in His ability to change circumstances, do the unimaginable, and blow our mind with His power and grace!

Lord only You can sustain me through the trials and dark moments in my life. Help me to keep You out of the "box" I put You in with my worries and fears about the future. Give me an unshakeable confidence and trust in You!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ugh...July is here.

So July is here. I've been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) dreading July's arrival. My wedding anniversary and my would-have-been due date for Mary Grace both fall on July 11th. A mere week and two days away.

Quite frankly I'm having trouble reconciling my feelings about that date. Robert will want me to be happy and celebrate, as we should because it is a great celebration of our marriage. A day to rejoice in our great love for each other and remember the commitment we have made to one another for life. And yet it is the day which our little Mary Grace should have been arriving. We should have been celebrating doubly that day!

I can sit back and still remember the joy and excitement that I had thinking about the fact that our second daughter shared a due date with the most important event in mine and Robert's lives- our own union in marriage! There couldn't be a happier celebration, I thought.

And now it is so bittersweet. And I haven't figured out what to do on that day. Or how to bring both parts of the day, the joy of our anniversary and the grief of not being able to welcome a live Mary Grace into our family; how to bring both of those parts together. Maybe the days leading up to the due date will be the worst. Sometimes it is the anticipation of, rather than the actual day that seems to be harder.

I was also hoping to be pregnant again right now. I thought that would help lessen the blow of July 11th. But I guess mine and God's plans haven't been quite matching up in the baby department. I'll have to work on that.

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Four Months.

Wow...four months already? Four months so soon? It's hard to believe that it's been four months since I had her. Sometimes it seems like an eternity and yet sometimes it seems like just yesterday.

One of our priests at church has been transferred out of our parish to help at a retirement center for priests. Today was his last day. He was the priest who celebrated Mary Grace's funeral. It was sad. It's been four months and she's gone and now he's gone. Of course it didn't help that they played Eye Has Not Seen in church today. Here are the lyrics that touched me:

Our lives are but a single breath.
We flower and we fade.
Yet all our days are in Your hands
so we return in love what love has made.

What a beautiful verse, and yet such a poignant reminder of what we've been through. I like to think of us having returned Mary Grace in love to the Father.

Meanwhile I'm still waiting for new life around here... I don't feel like our family is anywhere near complete... but what if God's plan is that it is? What if it's just supposed to be me, Robert and Isabel? That's really difficult for me to accept. In fact, right now, I'm sure I don't accept that. And by that I mean, I will simply keep trying. It is discouraging to feel like a failure when I don't get pregnant month after month, and discouraging to keep losing babies when I do get pregnant...especially when they have all been random losses. I know we all want what we can't have, but is wanting more children to bless our family something that I can't have? Maybe. And maybe one day I will have to accept that it will just be the three of us here on earth.

And maybe God isn't done with my suffering yet. Because it is a type of suffering that women who have been trying to conceive for months go through. But I can keep my eye on the prize, and I can remind myself not to whine about not getting pregnant and not to despair over the losses that we've had...I can remind myself that my suffering has redemptive purposes when Christ uses it to help others.

So thank you Mary Grace on your four month anniversary, and my other little ones in heaven, for what you are helping Christ accomplish through me. And please ask Jesus to send us some baby dust to help us conceive a new little blessing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Letter to Mary Grace

Robert and I decided to enclose some special items in her coffin when we buried Mary Grace. We wrote letters to her and sealed them in an envelope which we put in her coffin, along with a little white lamb named "Winky". Isabel went with us to choose a little lamb in the week after Mary Grace's delivery, and we purchased one for her as well which she sleeps with. Both sisters sleep with the same little white lamb.

The following is my letter to Mary Grace. It is brutally honest and I am sharing it so that you can feel the honest and deep love which I have for my daughter.

letter to Mary Grace

My dear Mary Grace,

Oh how your Mommy and Daddy loved you, even before we felt your first kick. You were so anticipated and so greatly desired! Your big sister Isabel never got to hold you, but she talks about you all the time and we prayed so hard together for your "complete healing". Well now you are completely healed and with Jesus. I'm sure heaven must be more beautiful than we can even imagine. Mommy is going to spend the rest of my life as close to Jesus as I can be so that I can join you one day and hold you when I get to heaven. I know you are not in any pain. You will never have to shed a tear or hurt here on earth; I know our Blessed Mother is taking good care of you and cradling you in her arms. You will get to take walks with Jesus and your two other siblings are there to love you.

As hard as it is to accept that not being with your Mommy, Daddy and big sister Isabel is the best thing for you, I believe that God's plan must be so beautiful and so big and I'm so blessed that He was able to use your life for His purpose. You were the tiniest tool which the Master used to craft some giant plans.

I want you to know that I was a little scared to see you when you were delivered. I didn't know what a little 21 week baby would look like; I didn't know if I'd be strong enough to accept what I'd see: to accept that I was holding my tiny baby's body whose soul had already gone to Jesus. But you have to know that when the doctor brought you over and set you in my lap, you were absolutely beyond beautiful, and you were so perfect to me and Daddy. We were in utter awe of how perfectly you had been crafted by God. You were the most gorgeous and amazing thing I have ever seen and I was overwhelmed by God's work when He made you.
I love you so much I think my heart is breaking.

Mary Grace, now that you are in heaven and you are right there in the very grace of God, I need you to pray for us. Pray for Mommy and Daddy and Isabel that God will give us extra strength to move through our grief. Pray that God will bring Mommy and Daddy closer and closer together and strengthen our marriage through this. Pray that God will give us the right words when we are talking to Isabel about you. Pray that we will move our lives so very close, to the very heart of Jesus' heart and that we may remain there, bathed in His loving care. Pray that Jesus will bless us with more children; that Isabel will have siblings here on earth. Pray for our family and friends that they are brought closer to God by the example you were for others. Please tell God "thank you" for allowing us to take care of you for those 21 weeks you were growing inside of me.

I love you, Mary Grace. You will always and forever be my daughter and a special part of our family. I loved every moment that I carried you and I will forever love being your Mommy.

I love you my sweet, tiny baby.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Life goes on without her.

Today was a rotten day.

It's been three months since we buried Mary Grace and I'm just getting reminders left and right that I don't have my baby and that life goes on without her.

People plan birthday parties and baby showers and anniversary dinners...and I am still aching from the loss of Mary Grace. I'm supposed to be well over it all by now according to most people.

But today the pain is very real that I don't have my baby and that life goes on without her.

I found out today that our neighbor is pregnant...due in August. Oh that's nice, we could have had babies a month apart...except that I don't have my baby and life still goes on without her.

I went to the dentist last week and my hygienist was 39 weeks pregnant. Lovely. I should've been nearly that pregnant now...

I don't want to put on a happy face and go smile and chat at parties. I want to curl up in my bed and cry. Isn't that part of the grief cycle?

Sorry there are no cheery words today or inspirational thoughts.

Just a sad Mommy who misses her little girl. Life goes on without her whether I want it to or not...but I think it's at least my right to take a day here and there to grieve that fact.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

3 months. Blessings and answered prayers.

Thursday marked another month passed since Mary Grace was delivered. It also marked a day of God's blessings and answered prayers.

The first blessing was the discovery of this blooming rose. It is from one of the two rose bushes we received in honor of Mary Grace after her death from our friends at Catholic Engaged Encounter.

When we received these two bushes they were in full bloom. Since those initial blooms died and fell off, we've been waiting for a new bud to open...

and it finally did, on Thursday.

The second gift came in the form of an answered prayer. We have been struggling with our insurance company who did not want to pay for Mary Grace's delivery and a few specialty procedures because they had not been pre-approved. So for the last three months we have received multiple bills from my OBGYN office, REX Hospital and UNC Women's Specialty Clinic for these services...and Rob has spent much time on the phone with BCBS to get an application in for an appeal and we have been waiting to see if the appeal would be approved or denied. It's been very stressful to receive bills stamped "past due" even after speaking with these offices multiple times over the phone to explain we were in an "appeals process". But yesterday, the appeal was approved which means that our insurance will indeed cover the portion of these bills which we originally expected them to. What a financial and emotional weight lifted! Thank you God! Mary Grace must be praying extra hard for us up in heaven.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On being pro-life.

Some people may wonder why a mother might choose to continue to carry a child who is given a fatal diagnosis in utero. When the doctors tell you that your baby will die as a result of her condition, and that you have the "choice" to terminate the pregnancy, why would you allow the pregnancy to continue?

I would begin by saying that it has to do with valuing life from the moment of conception to natural death. That is, respecting a person, valuing the life he or she is given (even if it is brief), hoping for a miracle cure in some cases, and in all of this, following God's law and will. It requires an openness to life (even in the face of death), trust in God, and living out God's Truth.

As I sit back and think about carrying Mary Grace until her natural death, all the while I was hoping that God would provide us with a miracle cure and that we would bring our baby home safe and healthy...alive. And thinking about how it all played out, I don't have my baby here; things didn't turn out how I had hoped. But I know that we made the right decision in continuing to carry her. Aborting our baby was never an option in our mind. Even aborting a baby who we knew would not make it. We take great peace and joy in knowing for a fact that the decision we made to carry her was the right one. Not the right one "for me", but the right moral decision. Period.

There are so many uncertainties in life. How do I know what is God's will? Even praying and delving into God's word sometimes leaves you unsure about what God's plan is for your life (in a day to day sort of way; surely God's plan is for you to love and know Him and join Him in heaven one day). But I have two decisions that I have made which I am 100% certain are God's will.

The first was choosing life for Mary Grace and carrying her until God chose to take her to heaven.

The second is mine and Robert's decision to use Natural Family Planning. Natural Family Planning is an effective, natural and moral way of spacing your children. It works both to postpone pregnancy and when trying to achieve pregnancy. It is morally acceptable, not in it's naturalness, but because it allows God to participate in every marital act and because it respects the dignity of your spouse.

When you get married, you are committing yourself to the highest level of intimacy with your spouse. And in the marital union, you are giving all of your self; your whole person to your spouse. Contraception is morally wrong in that it excludes God and His plan for fruitfulness from the marital act. When a person is contracepting, they are telling their spouse, "I want to give you all that I am...except for my fertility...except for the possibility of creating new life with you. And I want to have all of you, except for that which God has made us as his creation to do- help create new life." The marital union is for bonding as well as for creation...and we are co-creators with God in that act. Contraception intentionally thwarts God's part in our martial union, as well as treats our spouse with less respect in not receiving the whole person. With Natural Family Planning, every marital act is open both physically and emotionally to the possibility of creating new life. Talk about being pro-life!

Once I began to understand that God has a design for sex...not just that sex should be within the context of marriage...but that His design was even bigger than that, I was convicted that this was clearly God's truth as revealed by scripture and the teaching of my church since the first century.

And what has come from Rob and I using Natural Family Planning in our marriage? Are there "fruits" to trusting God with being open to life? Surely we have a deeper respect and acceptance of each other. I respect Robert even more for wanting to live out God's plan for us, for respecting me by appreciating my fertility, for accepting all of me by accepting my fertility. For the times we are trying to avoid pregnancy, I respect both of us when we have to abstain from marital relations. It has given us a new respect for life. For our daughter Isabel's life, and for our precious Mary Grace's short life...respect and appreciation for each pregnancy and joy in anticipating the next! And somehow it has opened us to the possibility of having more than our "quota" (as in the number we initially had "planned" to have) of children. Because NFP has opened our hearts to a deeper realization of what a blessing a new life is, and what it means to co-create a life with The Creator.

I'm stepping out of my "comfort box" a little with this post, but I have been feeling very strongly for the last month that I needed to write about why we use NFP and what it means to us. God's plan for marriage is truly masterful and when you participate in it, you come to realize the truth and joy in His design. When we first got married and began using NFP, I thought I would be fearful to trust God with this part of our life, but instead it became freeing. It makes me ever grateful that I have an almighty and loving Father in heaven who is looking out for His children here on earth with such a beautiful plan for the most intimate part of our life.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A big thank you!

I just wanted to write a quick post to say thank you to all of the people who have told me they are going to donate or have already donated their wedding dress to Mary Madeline Project.

You may think it is only my two faithful commentors :) who are interested in donating or have donated, but in fact I have received many emails and have had personal conversations with people who are going to donate their wedding dress!

I'm sure Mary Madeline Project appreciates your generous contribution and I am very touched and thankful for each and every one of you who are considering helping this organization! They surely blessed us with Mary Grace's dress and I am thrilled to hear of so many people wanting to help! Thank you for helping me help them! :)

Switching topics, I have to share a really neat story (well I think it's neat because in hindsight I can see how God was laying out the pieces before He helped me put it together)... While we were awaiting Mary Grace's diagnosis back in February, a friend sent me the link to the story of a beautiful little girl who died from Trisomy 18. I never opened the link. I just couldn't do it at that time. Fast forward to about a week after Mary Grace's death, and Extreme Makeover Home Edition airs on tv. Friends of my mom watched the show and wouldn't you know a mom spoke about her little girl, Mary Grace who survived for 7 hours after birth and then died from Trisomy 18. Now fast forward to about 2 weeks ago and I finally go to "clean up" my email box and found all these Mary Grace emails that I hadn't I finally opened up that website from back in February...and guess what? The Mary Grace from the website was the same Mary Grace from Extreme Makeover Home Edition! And it took me just over 2 months to put it all together!....Or for God to help me put it together. I felt really blessed to be able to read her story. My heart still breaks every time I go to one of these websites though. It's so hard to read of the pain so many families go through. But on many, as you continue reading you experience not only the heartbreak, but joy, hope, and such great love for these tiny babies.

I don't think I could have appreciated all of those feelings 2 months ago, when we knew our Mary Grace was going to die. Maybe that is why God delayed my "discovery" of this other sweet little Mary Grace. In any case, I feel a special connection to her story, particularly since our babies share the same precious name. And her mom is just so inspirational and filled with God's love. Kim, I hope you don't mind me sharing your little Mary Grace's story: What a blessing these little babies were and continue to be to our life even if we only held them for but a moment.

Thank you friends for your continued prayers for our family!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two months since we said, "Goodbye".

Today marks two months since I delivered Mary Grace.

We went out to her grave this morning and there are now two babies buried next to her. The first is Connor W. His grave had a temporary marker, courtesy of the cemetery. I wasn't sure what that meant. Maybe that his parents are ordering a marker that will take a longer time to come in than did Mary Grace's. And another baby had been buried; there was no marker for that grave yet, but fresh white roses had been placed in a plastic vase...11 roses in that vase and one had been placed in Connor's vase. It was really sweet. And sad. Sad that our babies have died. Sad that we have to bring flowers to their graves in their memory instead of receiving flowers in celebration of their birth.

And yet, that's exactly what I did...brought out new (fake) summery pink and purple flowers to place at her headstone. They are pretty for fake flowers. Rob cleaned off the clay and dirt buildup from the marker, and Isabel picked grass to feed to Mary Grace's sheep. And then we all sat on the grass (because they have now removed the bench) and stared at her grave.

It was very peaceful. The sun enveloped us in it's warmth and a gentle breeze blew just enough so that it wasn't too hot. I told Robert that I could fall asleep right there if it wasn't just completely taboo to do so.

After awhile though I felt weak and queasy. I'm not sure if it was the sun or just being at the grave or what, but we left. Maybe it was thinking about it only being two months since we said, "Goodbye" to our little baby. Maybe it was from wondering what happened to the two other little babies who were buried next to Mary Grace.

It's hard to believe that it's only been two months. It actually feels like much, much longer than that.

Dear Mary Grace,

I miss you sweet baby. I miss you every day and even though my heart is healing, I will always love you, want you, and miss you.
You are in a unique position now, to be able to pray for those of us who are still down here on earth, by going right to the throne of God in heaven.
Mary Grace, please pray for our friends and family, especially those who are ill or suffering. Please pray that we have peace in our lives and in our homes; that we will open our hearts to the Lord to receive that peace. Pray for all families who have lost a baby, that their hearts might be healed.

Please thank God for the gift He gave us in you.
We will always love you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Healing a wounded heart.

Last week was a really good week for me. It's like a light just switched inside of me and I've been very at peace with Mary Grace's death. Last Wednesday night (April 15th) before I went to sleep I was thinking about how my heart was wounded. I envisioned my heart was cut down the middle and opened up into two perfect halves. And then I thought about Jesus laying His hands, palms down, on each half of my dissected heart. He is the only one who can heal my heart.

That made me think of Thomas who told the other disciples that he would never believe that Jesus had appeared unless he was able to place his fingers inside the nailmarks and his hand into Jesus' side.

Thomas wanted to put his hands in Christ's wounds because he doubted.

Jesus wants to put His hands in my wounds so He can heal.

Jesus asks if He can place His hands in our wounds to heal our brokenness. And I think last week I felt like I could say, "Okay". Because over the last week I have been without despair, without depressed feelings and even without crying! I have felt hopeful about the future, yes even about "trying again". I still think very often of Mary Grace. Everytime I look at the calendar I am reminded of how many weeks pregnant I would be (I marked each week on the calendar when I was first pregnant all the way up to my due date)...and I would be 28 weeks pregnant by the way. I still think about how my belly should be growing, I think of the spring maternity clothes I should be wearing now, I think of how I would have decorated her nursery. But this week I can look at all those things in an almost fond's tricky to explain. But it almost seems like these beautiful dreams of what could have been...but I'm feeling them in a much different way than two weeks ago when I was weeping for what could have been.

I'm not at all considering that this may be the end of my grief journey. I'm just trying to document a little of what this week has been like "riding the grief waves".

So back to Jesus placing His hands on my heart and Thomas doubting that Christ had risen! Guess what the Gospel reading was on Divine Mercy Sunday (2 days ago for you non-Catholics) and the Sunday AFTER I had this revelation?? You guessed it! Doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31)! I love when God affirms the little revelations He's given me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I did it! My wedding dress is gone!

It is done! I have finally shipped off my wedding dress to Mary Madeline Project so that it can be made into precious little gowns for other babies who have died. I feel so thankful that I am able to give back to this wonderful organization that helped us have something small enough and something so special and beautiful in which to bury Mary Grace.

I can't think of a better thing to do with my wedding gown. *Sigh*... My wedding gown! The gown you dream about, thumb through bridal magazines for, and spend countless hours trying on and tailoring until your dress is perfect! The dress you wear for less than one day in your entire life! But one of your most cherished possessions because it holds the most dreamy memories of love and joy in marrying your spouse and the hope and promise of your new life together.

I LOVED my wedding dress. I loved wearing it, I loved getting married in it nearly six short years ago. I definitely hesitated for a second when I thought of giving it away. After all, doesn't every mother have some tiny dream of her own daughter wearing her gown? Or at least we wonder if she will want to wear it when she grows up? The practical side of me was thinking "can I give something away that cost so much??" Yes, you can. You can when you understand how much it means to a family that has lost their baby. You can when you think about the parents who worry about burying their child in a doll's dress because there is nothing else that is small enough. I can say that I will be proud to tell Isabel that my wedding dress went to help the families of little babies who died like her sister, Mary Grace, and that when someone helps you, you can show love and appreciation by doing good for others.

We have had so many people offer their generosity in so many different and deep ways, that giving away my wedding gown is just a very small way that I can give back and help another family in need.

I did want to share some pictures of Robert and I on our wedding day, July 11th, 2003 (for those of you who weren't there or who don't really know us!) It was a joyous day; we are so blessed to be living out our lives as a married couple! And as you remember, July 11th is not only our wedding day, but it was Mary Grace's due date as well, so I think donating the dress in her memory will prove especially significant.

If you would like to donate your wedding gown to Mary Madeline Project, please visit: