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!