Monday, March 29, 2010

Important Correction!

A fellow blogger has made me aware that I have inaccurately portrayed some of the Church's teachings on IUI in my recent Fertility Q&A post and I definitely want to give you all the correct info! 

As far as IUI goes, here is what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website states:

Reproductive Technologies under Discussion (neither "approved" nor "disapproved"):
1. Gamete intra‐fallopian transfer (GIFT).
(The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has not yet pronounced on the
2. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) of "licitly obtained" (normal intercourse) but
technologically prepared semen sample (washed, etc.).

I had stated that IUI was not approved by the Catholic Church, and as of this posting it is neither approved or disapproved when the guidelines (as mentioned in #2 above) are followed. 

I apologize for misstating this and am very thankful to the blogger who pointed this out!

The following is also a very good article from the USCCB regarding Catholic views of reproductive technology if you are interested in further reading: 

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Miraculous Medal Novena.

Yesterday I started a novena in honor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal asking Mary to intercede for my family for the special intention of "conceiving a healthy baby that we can raise here on earth for God's glory."  I always use this specific phrase as my special intention, because after my ectopic pregnancy, I used to pray to conceive "a baby in the right place" (ie., not an ectopic pregnancy) and my prayer was answered...I have not since had an ectopic pregnancy, yet I have gone on to have 3 other babies not make it for us to "raise here on earth".  After Mary Grace, I know now to be even more specific in this prayer request.

But let's get back to an explanation of my novena.  What is a novena??  It is 9 consecutive days of prayer, usually asking for a special grace, imploring a special favor, or to make a special petition.  To whom are we praying??  God, of course!  Always God!  Sometimes people get confused and think that Catholics pray to Mary, or pray to other saints....Catholics do ask for the intercession of Mary and the saints; that is we ask that they pray to obtain our request for us, knowing that God can use whomever He wants to distribute His grace...but the grace, the answered prayer, the glory, are all God's! 

The practice of saying a novena comes from Sacred Scripture!  After Jesus' Ascension into heaven, He commanded His disciples to come together in the upper room to devote themselves to constant prayer (Acts 1:14). They prayed for nine days before receiving the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Novena comes from the Latin "novem" meaning nine.

What is the miraculous medal?  Well it is originally called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, although later, due to the great graces and miracles God performed through it, people began to refer to it as the Miraculous Medal.

Designed by Mary, the mother of God, she instructed (now Saint) Catherine Laboure (in 1830)  to strike a medal upon the design she gave her, and to distribute the medals that "those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck."  Again, these graces do not come from Mary, they come from God, from whom all blessings flow.

Go here to read more about the Miraculous Medal and it's meaning.  The link is especially helpful in understanding what is on the front and back of the medal, and why.

Today, St. Catherine Laboure's body remains incorrupt beneath an altar at 140 Rue de Bac, Paris, where Mary appeared to her.  Even though she died in 1876!  How do we know this?  Because her body was exhumed nearly 57 years later, as fresh as if she was sleeping....she was then transferred to a glass case beneath the altar on Rue de Bac.  Aren't the graces God has bestowed upon the saints amazing??

I have worn a miraculous medal alongside a cross on my necklace for many years, in fact it has been so long that I don't quite remember when I started...perhaps in high school.

Why, you ask?  Certainly not because it is an amulet for my protection or some magic superstitious good-luck charm, by no means!  A blessed medal is simply an object that reminds me of my calling, of God's love for me, and it helps in this way, as a reminder of the graces God bestows when the wearer has faith and tries to live a life of virtue.

And "Catherine" is my confirmation name :)

Around the medal are the words, "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

Wait a minute, you say...."For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  What is this business about Mary "being conceived without sin"? 

Catholics believe that Mary needed a savior just like the rest of us!  But we also believe that God applied Jesus' redemptive work to His own mother, before He was even born....that is, that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the very moment of her conception (that is in fact, what the term "Immaculate Conception" means).  She was most definitely redeemed by the precious Blood of her Son!

Here's an example I've heard's two scenarios.
Scenario one:  A man falls into a hole and someone comes along and pulls him from the hole.  The second man saves the first, as he rescues him from the hole.  (Kinda like how Jesus saves us from our sins; we're already in the sin, so to speak!).

Second scenario:  A man is walking toward, and about to fall into a hole when a second man pushes him out of the way at the last second.  The first man never falls into the hole, but regardless, we would say that the second man saved him from falling into it.  (This is like how God preserved Mary from falling into sin...yet He still was the one to save her.)

Pope Pius IX  proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854:  
The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (Ineffabilis Deus 1854, cited in C 491).

Though proclaimed as official church teaching in 1854, this had been taught by theologians as early as the 4th century!   

So Mary being without sin is not exactly stated explicitly in the Bible.  True!  And for some Christians the Truth is only in the Bible and nowhere else.  For Catholics the Truth is most definitely in the Bible, and we also have Tradition (with a capital "T", that is the teachings handed down from Jesus through the apostles by word of mouth  "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us" 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ).  None of Tradition can be in contradiction to the Bible, otherwise it would be false.  (So let this suffice for the moment for reasons of space and time- I'd love to come back to the Bible and Tradition another time though)! 
The Bible gives us some really interesting things to consider though, about Mary being and remaining without sin.  And I discovered the following in Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie.  The Greek meaning of the angel Gabriel addressing Mary as "full of grace" in Luke 1:28, is translated "The One Most Full of God's Gracious Gift of His Life in All Time"....woah....that is heavy!  And as Currie writes, "being full of God's grace, means an absence of sin."   Just an interesting thought to ponder. 

Whew!  There's more I could say, but I know ya'll don't read my blog to learn about Catholic theology ;)  So I'll end here!  But I'd love if you could lift up my special intention request (for a healthy baby we can raise here on earth for God's glory) over the next 8 days (I started yesterday, remember) with me as I continue my novena! 

Thanks friends and have a blessed week!

***Edited to add the  link to the novena I am making. ***

Friday, March 19, 2010

While we're waiting....update!

It's good news!  Rob's bloodwork was normal too! 

So, two normal people who can't seem to have another baby....not sure what to make of it.  But I will take the fact that everything came back normal as good news!

Thanks for all the prayers! :)  And thank you St. Joseph (on your feast day)! 

Just wanted to send an update and will post again soon.  Have a beautiful weekend!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

While we're waiting...

Back in December I went to my OB to request a recurrent miscarriage bloodwork panel.  Rob and I both had to have blood drawn, although we did it separately (within about 3 weeks of each other actually!) and in early January I got the news that my results had come back completely normal.  There were no chromosomal issues on my side or blood clotting issues, etc. 

Well I kind of assumed that they would call me back when Rob's results came in.  And they never did! 

Yes, it is now mid-March!  I had been putting off calling, and then forgetting to call them to see what was going on, but today I remembered!

It turns out that my OB never got Rob's bloodwork results because of a hospital lab error.  Luckily the lab still had the results, so Rob thankfully did not have to have blood re-drawn!

Today they finally got the results faxed over to my doctor, but he was already out of the office for the day, and you know that the nurses won't decipher anything without the doctor's approval. 

So we wait....and maybe tomorrow will bring us some new news....or maybe the blood results will be normal. 

As Saint Pio is famous for having said, "Pray, hope and don't worry...Worry is useless.  God is merciful and will hear your prayer."  And isn't that so true?  Alot of times we only praise God when things are going our way....instead we worry and have anxiety over things, or we think that God has not heard our prayer, but God is so merciful and can use even the negative things in our life to open our hearts to Him.

Praise You, God, every moment of every day, and even in our most difficult moments; that we might turn to You and bless your holy name!

And in great thanksgiving for the birth of our friends' baby boy yesterday, and that mother and baby are healthy!  And for all newly expectant mothers that their pregnancy and babies would be healthy and blessed!  Lord hear our prayer!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fertility Q&A

I've had alot of friends and family (oh and strangers too!) ask me about my fertility (or infertility I should say!) and different issues surrounding trying to have another baby, so I thought it might be beneficial to put this all into a Question and Answer format, and fill you all in!

How long have you been trying to have your "second" (live) child?

Since November 2007.  So as of today, this is our 29th month of trying to get pregnant with a child we will be able to raise on earth.  That's 2 years and 5 months.

Was it easy to get pregnant with your first daughter?

Yes!  Very easy, and my pregnancy with Isabel was textbook perfect.

How many pregnancies have you had during these 29 months?

Four.  An ectopic pregnancy we lost in January 2008.  A miscarriage at 9 1/2 weeks in June 2008.  Mary Grace was lost in February 2009, and a very early miscarriage in November 2009.

Have you had any "help" trying to conceive during the last 29 months?

Yes!  There were 2 months in 2009 when we used Clomid (a fertility enhancing oral drug) to help me have a stronger ovulation, but both of those cycles were unsuccessful and I had terrible mood swings on Clomid.

After my early miscarriage in November 2009, my OBGYN prescribed an oral progesterone supplement (to take after I ovulate, to help support a potential pregnancy), and a daily baby aspirin.  We are also currently on our 4th cycle of Femara (a different fertility enhancing oral drug) that does not give me the awful mood swings like Clomid.

Wait.  Does the Catholic church agree with the use of fertility enhancing drugs like clomid and femara?

Yes!  The church "approves of artificial measures that assist the spouses in achieving pregnancy as a direct result of an act of marital intercourse" (Life Issues, Medical Choices, Smith & Kaczor, p.60).  Drugs like clomid and femara help to restore a woman's fertility.

But you and Rob can't do In-vitro fertilization (IVF) or intra-uterine insemination (IUI) because the Catholic church disagrees with those procedures?  

Correct.  Both IVF and IUI are procedures where pregnancy may occur, but not as a direct result of an act of marital intercourse.  Rob and I will never do IVF or IUI because we agree with the Catholic church's teaching that those procedures violate the dignity of the human child and violate the purpose or meaning of marriage.

As painful as it is, (not being able to have a baby to hold in our arms right now), Rob and I know that having a child is not a right.  Having a baby is a gift...a gift from God, at that!  And we have to choose moral ways to have a baby.  So some procedures are simply "off-limits" to us.

How can you consider IVF or IUI immoral and how does it violate the dignity of the child?

These techniques "dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act.  The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that 'entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.  Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children.' " (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2377

I think the following quote really says it best:

"Although a child who is conceived through artificial technologies has dignity equal to every other human being, that child has been treated like a product in his or her conception and thus not shown proper respect" (Life Issues, Medical Choices, Smith & Kaczor, p. 63).

Will you ever "give up" trying to get pregnant?  How long will you keep trying?

Great question! ;)  Our pastor today had a homily about the prodigal son, and why parents are so eager to welcome their wayward children and hope.  We have great love for our family and God and we have hope that God will again bless us with new life.  Since we agree when the Church teaches, "that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life" (CCC 2366), I believe we will just keep on trying and hoping.

Would you ever consider adopting a child?

Quite honestly, when I was growing up I always admired parents who adopted a child, but I never thought I would have "what it takes" to do it.  Now I'm not sure if I really thought about "what it would take" too much, but my heart has been opening slowly to the idea that that might be the way the Lord directs us to go one day.

Kind of like with homeschooling...I never thought I would want to (or be able to) homeschool my child, but we are certainly headed in that direction with Isabel (and God has changed my heart so that I am joyfully anticipating it)!  Doesn't He work wonders in us?

So to answer that question, Rob and I are open to considering adoption one day if it is God's will for us.  But we are not headed down that path right now.

Why do you think God has permitted the suffering of losing 4 babies, and the suffering of your infertility?

The short answer?  To draw me closer to Him.  I believe that my suffering, united to the Cross of Jesus has great benefit to others, and has brought me much closer in my walk with Him.  We are just passing through here on earth on our journey to heaven, and no one ever said it would be without pain.  So I unite every day to Jesus and offer it to God, whether it be joyful, sorrowful or mundane.  He can do great things with all of my actions.

"I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church." Colossians 1:24

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How we spent the anniversary.

Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and prayers on Mary Grace's anniversary!  We are so touched and blessed by your remembrances.

I thought I'd share with you some of our moments at the cemetery from her anniversary.  February 28th was a Sunday, so after Mass we bought some fresh flowers.  Isabel was excited to be the one to lay them at the gravestone.

She also scattered rose petals from the 18 roses Rob got me for Valentine's Day.

We tried to sprinkle them all around the edge of Mary Grace's gravestone.

Isabel did a great job decorating with the petals.  She was really proud of herself.

I think Mary Grace would have liked it.

We sat and talked for a little bit while Isabel continued decorating with anything she could find, especially pine branches and needles.  In fact by the time we left, the grave was really quite the collage!  

It was a very chilly and blustery day.  The wind reminded us of how gusty it was the day we buried her.  

After her nap I promised Isabel that we would do a "Mary Grace craft" because Isabel has been very interested in making crafts lately.  So I came up with the idea to make a picture frame to hang in her room.  She really has nothing of her own by which to remember her baby sister.  While she never got to meet her, Isabel certainly includes Mary Grace in her prayers and still speaks of her, so I thought it would be a good idea to have something tangible to look at (and probably long overdue!).  I gave her a choice of two pictures; she chose the one of Mommy and Daddy holding Mary Grace.

We glued some popsicle sticks around the photo.

She decorated the edges with some stick-on flowers.

And the sweetly decorated picture frame hangs in her bedroom.
A gentle reminder of the friend, sister, daughter we have in heaven.