Thursday, October 31, 2013

The End of "Capturing Your Grief" (my catch-up attempt)

I stopped doing this project for awhile.  I have enough trouble sleeping as it is, generally blogging at night. I often spend my day exhausted, arriving at a second wind just when the house is so temptingly quiet and the computer is waiting for me, with no distractions, finally.  This happens, oh, around 10 PM or so.  This ain't good.

Also, it wasn't always helping blogging about grief topics right before bed.  So I stopped for  a bit.

But meanwhile, Facebook closed down the event due to a complaint that some people were posting pictures of dead babies.  Uh guys, that's kind of the point of the project: it's where people grieve about dead babies, in a specific place where bereaved parents didn't have to feel like freaks for having inadvertently experienced a loss.  Well, I'm going to finish anyway.  Here's a picture of my baby, hand by her face.  Man, I wish it was 3D.  Man, I wish I could hold her now:

And here are the topics:
18. Release: What do you want to let go of on this journey of grief? Is it fear? Guilt? Worry? Deep sadness? Regrets?

Fear.  I don't want to be afraid of this happening again.  I'd like to release that, most of all.
19. Support: Share about what has been the best support for you since the loss of your baby. Maybe it is a special friend or family member? A pet? An organization? What have they done for you? Where would you be without them?

You guys.  :)  Having this blog, and people who read it, has been a huge help in my grieving process.   People who have the courage to mention Pepper, or simply ask how I'm doing with the sadness of the event.  Oh, and grief counseling helps a lot too; gotta love sound psychology in a world full of "Don't think about it, don't talk about it, just get over it, right now." :) Without such things, this process would take a lot longer, and be more painful.
20. Hope: Do you have hope for the future? What do you hope for those who will join this club in the future.

Remember that strange story about how Solomon demonstrated his wisdom?  How two women each had a baby, one baby died, and the bereaved mom claimed the live baby as her own... Solomon sussed out the true mom by suggesting that the baby be literally divided between the two, causing the real mom to insist the baby live apart from her, as long as he could live.

I used to think, "What a bizarrely wicked lady this character was."  But today I think, "Poor, crazed, bereaved mom.  Unable to cope with the reminder of what she had lost."

I talked about a "cocoon" awhile back: that once out of the pre-loss cocoon, you can't get back in.  If we live long enough ourselves, all of us will experience some kind of loss.  That's just the reality of being mortal.

So to those who are still happily able to stay cocooned: I hope that your hatching happens gradually and in the fullness of time, like a beloved grandparent passing on at the end of a long life, peacefully surrendering her soul while surrounded by family.  That's how I'd wish for you to become acquainted with grief.

But if you ever happen to see a colorful creature with torn wings who did not have a peaceful hatching: Don't turn away.  Don't change the topic to the weather.  Don't urge them to focus on the positive.  Know their condition will improve, but the grief never goes away.  That they may weep at the mention of what was lost, but still deeply appreciate your acknowledgment of a life so loved.

(And this is what happens when you blog late at night: you compare yourself to a wounded insect.  Moving boldly along...:)
21. Honour: Is there anything that you have done to honour your baby since they died?

I once heard a woman who'd miscarried three times say that the loss of a child is like a flood, which changes the landscape of your life forever.  At the time, I simply felt awful for her and thought that was a rather dark perspective.  But now, I just see it's true.  Baby loss changes who you are on a fundamental level.  And odd as it sounds, though it feels catastrophic, I'm finding that the change isn't a bad one.

The main thing I've done so far in honor of Pepper is to join the OB Council at the hospital, working towards changes that will ensure other mothers who have losses will have a more caring experience.  I'm also getting trained as a grief counselor starting in January, and am working towards getting a better camera with the aim of becoming a photographer for "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep."  Unlike what I went through at the hospital, I would love to give others more beautiful memories, honoring the lives of these little ones that are so precious.  Plus, I live right down the street, and there are very few of such photographers.  Praying about it...
22. Words: Share your favourite quote, poem, song lyrics, scripture that you have found.

Jeremiah 29:11
23. Tattoos/Jewellery: Do you have a piece of jewellery in memory of your baby?

I've shown this one before.  Made in honor of Gabriel and Pepper, from a very dear fellow loss mom friend of mine:

24. Artwork: Have you created a piece of artwork in the wake of your baby’s death? Or maybe someone has given you some artwork to honour your baby? Please feel welcome to share links to your own website or to other artists.

Also as mentioned before, I was honored to be selected to have a calendar page designed by Franchesca Cox for my quote.

I've also ordered some of the fantastic prints by Carly Marie, such as:

25. #SayItOutLoud: Say It Out Loud is The STILL Project’s famous hashtag. STILL is a feature-length documentary film project aimed at breaking the cycle of silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss. If you could say anything out loud about your journey with grief with the death or your baby, what would it be? What do you want the world to know? Is there a cause that touches your heart that you want to raise awareness for?

I was completely pro-life before all this; I think my loss experience just really highlighted this for me, again.  I feel that society's stoic ignorance of the frequency of stillbirth and miscarriage is coupled with a general disrespect for the lives of these little ones.  Any work I do to help moms who have or will have losses I feel is truly "pro-life" work, and I'm honored to be a part of it.  
26. Community: What does this community mean to you?

The people who surround you wherever you are.  In my case, the people who've had the courage to surround me with love and support during something as supremely uncomfortable as the loss of a baby. And this does take courage, because for most of us, acknowledging such things can happen is to face one's own greatest fear.  
27. Signs: If you believe in life after death do you believe your child has ways of contacting you? Have you had any signs?

Yes to the millionth power!  :) I've shared some of this before with you, from avoiding close calls in car accidents right after her loss, to finding my necklace reappear, even the fact that suddenly I keep winning raffles and contests now, seeming to indicate that I'm getting extra behind the scenes assistance.  :)

Mostly, and strangely: the more I miss her, the more I'm convinced that she's right there, with me, trying to comfort me.  Not like a baby, but like a 16 year old version of herself: capable, smart, sensitive, and completely loving.  
28. Special Place: This could be your baby’s place of rest.

And it is.  Still have to get a headstone though.  I also find the upstairs of my house is special, because we renovated it for her.  My older girls use it as their bedroom, and in the straightforward sensibility of children, have used some memorial cards of Pepper's for decor in spots.  They also sleep near a large picture of a sunset that they drew for her, and missing the right word ("dedicated") by a wee bit, it reads, "Donated to Perpetua Dancause."  Makes me smile.

My four year old knows we go to visit a garden-like place once a month, and we talk about a girl named "Pepper" when we do.  Last time we had guests over, Cecilia asked, "Mom, can't Pepper come over to play too?  Please?"  Made me cry.  Which confused my earnest preschooler.

Oh, if only, babe.  If only.

I have trouble with what would have been.

I'm so lucky to already have beautiful kids.  I'm so sad that these beautiful kids are missing an important playmate now.

29. Healing: What has had the most healing impact on your life through this journey of grief?

Seeing how much people care.  Overall, it's called out the best in everyone around me, which has been humbling and wonderful to witness.
30. Growth: Do you believe you have grown or are growing as a person since the loss of your precious baby? How? How do you see other people now? How do you see the world? Do you believe you have a higher purpose? Do you believe your baby had a higher purpose?

Yes to all.  Having had a taste of this kind of suffering, I just appreciate all the good so much more, and want to make things better for those around me.  And Pepper and Gabriel help me, I swear they do.  It's cool having my own personal saints up their, who are the patron saint of, well, me.  
31. Sunset: "To close this project and this month of Baby Loss Awareness I thought that we could all photograph the sunset from wherever we are in the world. If there is no sunset where you are, you can still take a photo of the early evening sky. You just need to be able to get to a window. Remember to caption what State/Country you are from and the time."

Tomorrow is Halloween.  At sunset, I will likely be sitting at my grandfather's, very much inside, with my costumed doctor, Native American, panda, and Cleopatra.  (No, we don't--apparently--do "themes.")  So I'll post my favorite sunset picture of the month here--featuring my oldest daughter--to end this grieving exercise.  Thanks for your patience with my process.  I don't expect to do anything formal on the blog regarding my loss anytime soon, but I'm sure the issue will pop up now and again on my blog as it comes to my mind.  And given this is a mom blog, and I'm the mom of two angels too, that's all kinds of a good thing.  Love to you all, thanks for sticking around, and have lots and lots of fun with kids tomorrow.  I know I thoroughly intend to. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Leave People Alone

(I write you with one arm pinned under a sleeping toddler, stationed with sullen grace in front of the World Series.  Between you and me, I want to be watching "Once."  But I'm not.  However, my husband has generously gotten me his bathrobe and brewed me a huge mug of peppermint tea. Not sure how long I can last with such treatment. :)

Note bene: I use the second person ("you") in this post.  I do this because using the third person ("one") sounds dumb.  But I don't mean "you" like YOU... I mean YOU are probably just pausing in the middle of pumpkin gutting, up to your wrists in goop, tapping your tablet with your elbow in your commitment to reading my bloggage.  And I love you for it, glorious YOU.  ;)  Thanks for reading, sharing, and emoting along with me here....)

10.  They are likely doing the best they know how.  You know, the people we want to criticize. They just might even be doing what God wants them to do.

I once heard the expression, "Everyone does the best they can with what they have."  In my experience with other people, it rings true.  Right along with "Be kinder than necessary: everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

What got me on this topic?  One word.  Homeschooling.  And two more words.  Public schooling. And me. I do both.

Oh yeah, and like every blog comment war I ever read.  Seriously.  RIDICULOUS.

Particularly sad when it's in-fighting.  I mean, I love a good, lively debate.  But the judgmental stuff...We're all trying to live good lives and get to heaven, so why the hell are we beating on each other along the way?

I mean, not here.  You guys are nice.  Or you're not nice, and trying to say something mean, but you are too lazy or confused by this blog to be my own true troll.  ;)

9.  Jumping to conclusions is a dangerous occupation.   It's something all we humans all do naturally, and well.

Part of it's survival.  "That's a bear.  That bear looks mad.  I'm gonna leave before that bear decides to disembowel me."

Part of it's common sense.  "This child's bottom is wet.  She has obviously sat in a puddle of water. Please God, let it be a puddle of water."

And part of it's just plain stupid.  "You have been married ten years, and have one kid.  Where are the other nine?  You must be self-centered."

There's this beautiful, under-used phrase.  "Benefit of the doubt."  (BOTD :)  What a tremendous gift that is.

8.  You probably don't know what it's like to be that person.  No.  You don't.  There is likely something very crucial about this person that you do not know.

Take my kids for instance, and the well-meaning guilt trips I've been dosed with when people find out that I'm over-sheltering one child in an anti-social environment, while abandoning the other to the completely godless world of government-controlled classrooms.

Here's the thing: I respect my kids' privacy.  I'm not going to gab about their shortcomings and divulge their needs anymore than I want them gabbing about and divulging mine.  Suffice it to say: I have one wonderful, intelligent daughter who is being homeschooled this year.  I have another wonderful, intelligent daughter in public school this year.  Both are learning, thriving, and where--I believe--they are supposed to be.

Obviously, I'm counter-cultural enough to dare keep an 11 year old home to learn all year. Obviously, I'm not completely anti-public school.

Obviously (to some) I'm doing something wrong.

7.  You probably don't have a degree in whatever is ailing this person.  In the case of my education choices for my children: you are not their mother.  (Ahem)

And as The Momma, I'm doing what works for my family, at this present moment in time.  To put it another way, I believe I'm doing what God wants me to do, right now, for my kids.  Like I like to sing to them while dancing around them and pinching their cheeks:

Okay, I just sing the mother knows best part.  Not the other stuff.  Geesh, what kind of mom do you think I am, anyway... ;)

But seriously, why do some people feel the insatiable need to judge my sanity, love, or knowledge of my kids?  It seems it's because they think they know better than me what is best for my kids.  Which is, on the one hand, insulting, and on the other, really silly.  What is up with the one size fits all obsession?  Ehhh...

6.  You probably aren't in a position of authority over this person.  I mean, if you are this person's parent or personal guru, start thinking about what to say, quick.  Otherwise, silence can seriously be golden.  Like to those of you who hate how I'm raising my children: thank you for your silence.  Especially in grocery store cash-out lines when I break open an about-to-be-paid-for box of goldfish to keep down the chaos.  If you had perfect kids who are now in their 70's, or if you never had kids, you really shouldn't be talking.  Or you risk spending your purgatory in a long grocery line of scowling faces while you handle shrieking kids trying to gum wrapped candy bars while wailing to visit the RedBox.   (Yes, that's theologically baseless.  Also baseless are my occasional phantasms of men being nine months pregnant in purgatory.  But I digress...)

5.  Criticism rarely leads to positive change.  Think of the last time a person voiced a dislike for something as simple as an article of your clothing.  Did you go home thinking, "I feel so loved and cared for by the news that this dress 'does nothing for me.'"  No, it didn't really help.  Nor does bludgeoning people over the head with truth, common sense, or whatever you'd like to call the club you are currently brandishing at them in the name of justice and right.

4.  The negative thing you have to say is probably not fraternal correction.  Let's piece that phrase out.
     a. Are you like a brother or sister to this person?  To put it a different way: Does this person know you love them like family?  No?  Then that's where to start: by loving them.
     b.  Do you stand a chance of actually "correcting" this issue?  Is it perhaps best to pray, to wait to glean more information about what's actually going on?  (Probably.)

3.  The world, souls, and/or humpback whales will likely not be saved by what you have to say.  I mean, if you are truly operating under the influence of the Holy Spirit, one little word could go a long way.  But if you are feeling really, really smug about it...  eh, probably not.

2.  Using the Golden Rule, criticism should be extremely rare, and extremely well-worded.

1.  You are not divine, omniscient, or omnipotent.  Me neither. :)

I am told if the ball bounced against the wall, instead of going into the stands, two runs would have scored instead of one.  Unable to contain my excitement, I now will bid you adieu.

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. 
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. 
Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37

Friday, October 25, 2013

Love, Respect, Duct Tape and Self Control

1.  "God, grant me the courage to put down this stupid Pirate Booty!" was my most recent prayer.  But things went downhill from there.  Steeling myself to lock them in the cupboard, I found chocolate chips.  Beside the peanut butter.

So I will type during my snack break here.  Dinner is boiling--I'm Irish; I boil things--it's hissing as it overflows a bit.  Have to get that.  From upstairs the sounds of a escalating disagreement can be heard, primarily the phrase "not fair."  My poor children have been sentenced to tidy up their room, and seem to invent arguments so that interventions delay the process.  Today, I'm not biting the bait.  But this snack on the other hand...

The peanut butter is basically empty.  Would you tell anyone if I told you I just dumped a half cup of chocolate chips in there, and am eating it from the jar with a spoon?  No, I'm sure you wouldn't... thanks. ;)

2.  I'm a wee bit stressed, you see.  Not just because it's the witching hour(s): everyone's tired, but dinner's not quite ready, hubby's not quite home, the house is not quite (ever) clean, and my mind is not quite "all there."  We just got back from a farm where we pet animals 

AND had a hayride 

AND did a corn maze 

AND picked pumpkins

AND did a craft while eating apples, throwing the cores to the cows. 

I get a Mommy "A" for all that, I'm sure.  But now, I'm tired.

3.  And tonight is date night!  I can't count the number of times I've been all "Yayyyy date night!  Actual adult talk time!" and charged through the day, then rushed to feed and dress the kids, and clean for the sitter (well, as much as possible), returning this phone call and that email, and then finally find myself driving away with the Dancause and absolutely, totally falling asleep.  Communicating in lifeless grunts, not able to think of a single interesting thing to say in my exhaustion.  Sliding into the (very real) version of myself who with sublime intentions buys the perfect occasion card well in advance... but then forgets the birthday all together, or remembers but then finds it utterly impossible to successfully unite pen, envelope, stamp, address, and mail box.

Marriage is challenging.  Marriage as parents is even more so.  So...

4.  Through a miraculous alignment of Orion and the Washing Machine (read further for explanation), I found three sets of sitters so that spouse and I could go on a day-long "Marriage Renewal" day last weekend, featuring the (very good) book "Love and Respect."  The basic premise of the work is that men need respect like women need love.  In spots, it's quite brilliant.

Since college days, Dan and I have had a habit of doodling notes to each other in the middle of class.  Glancing over, I noticed he'd marked down "My use of duct tape" under respect.  Instantly remembering a particularly broken window repair, I loudly guffawed and...

You know when you think someone's telling a joke, and you rofl, and then you lol as you realize they aren't smiling quite as much as you thought they would and then, j/k, wasn't laughing because they were serious... wth?.. oops.

Turned into a good conversation.  Found out I could offer "unconditional respect" on the creativity displayed in my man's use of duct tape (shower repair, house plant support, etc.) while not necessarily liking the end result of the work.  I could do both.  I can at least try. Also ended up talking about

5.  Sports.  Like stuff that ends in "ball."  Yeahhhh.... I have issues with those things.  Even when "my" home team is in the World Series, I'd pretty much still rather watch paint dry than sit through a game.  I'm envious of the excitement evident on play-by-play Facebook stati.... I'm just missing the gene I guess.   Or maybe just experiencing the effects of being raised "anti-sport," as in "sports are a secular religion and thou shalt not care." If only that were more of an exaggeration...

But back to respect... while realizing I will likely never share this male interest in what happens with balls, I can avoid "contempt of sports."  Which probably defines my attitude: if I'm not playing it, and no one I know is either, why am I watching this?  Well, again, I can try.  Room for improvement.  And hubby will cultivate an interest in flower arrangement in return.  :D

6.  Similar room for improvement can be found in my attitude towards NFP I've been realizing this week, especially after reading Simcha's book.   I won't give away the punch lines here, but it sure helps refocus one's stance.

Cuz in general... I'd kinda been looking at NFP like a rope bridge I have to cross once a month.  It works really effectively if you know what you're doing, but it can be frightening as Hades while getting there and adjusting to the gaps and sways of it all.  Particularly when you're learning some new cycle trick and trying to maneuver the blasted thing while trying to avoid both pregnancy and mortal sin.  At times, this means you can only have sex while really scared or stressed over whether you've charted right or not.  Which stinks.  Especially when, say, you are taking some weird med and really (really) can't get preggo right now.  Terrifying.  Much more so when you look down.  So you learn to look Up as much as possible.  Which reminds me...

7.  I apparently lied about the moon, enthusiastically, on my Facebook page.  At least according to the jocular message left on my machine a couple days back.  No, I didn't: I was merely duped by a bigger blogger, so blame her.  Just because it was so slight that you could barely detect any shadow at all, an eclipse is an eclipse, no matter how... faint?  In any case, it was GORGEOUS!  Here, my I-Phone will attempt to show you:

So much better in person!  I tried.  I even lay prostrate before the Temple of Music (with a van of screaming kids parked beside me) to try to capture the glowing orb better... still ended up only looking like a small disc.... Just take my word for it, it rocked.  God is awesome.  Love how it says, "He tells the number of the stars; He calls all of them by name." Ps. 147:4

So I get all excited about celestial events, despite that fact that I'm not well-versed in astronomy. Heck, I didn't know what a constellation was until I was in 7th grade, on my home-schooled substitute to a father-daughter dance: dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  Happened to see three stars in a perfect row, and so learned about Orion's Belt.  Just thought star pictures and meteor showers were sooo cool from then on...

Also thought this guy in college I met was sooo cool because he wanted to show me the "Washing Machine" constellation.  Took me out in a field and spent quite a while trying to get me to see it.  Never did.  Did end up marrying him though.  

Currently, I really respect that he's taking me out to a TV-free section of a TV-laden restaurant, to talk about "us" instead of watching the World Series game.  Thanks hon.  I confidently assert you've chosen the better part.

Judging from the Facebook comments, they lost anyway.  Having never felt such sorrows myself, I don't know what to say to Red Sox Nation... hopefully a simple "I'm sorry" will suffice.  And I am sorry... the general mood of the neighborhood just sunk considerably.  Goooo get 'em Sox!!!   Better luck on Saturday!  (This is me, trying.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Read "Sinner's Guide to NFP"

10.  Because you hate NFP, and think no one should be on such an arduous system because it doesn't work.  

8.  Because you hate NFP from years of charting the progress of being miserable, personally and as a couple.

7.  Because you love NFP, and can't comprehend why everyone doesn't love it as much as you do.

6.  Because you want to love (or at least unhate) NFP, and want to notice a temperature spike on any kind of happiness in a system full of charts, thermometers, and--er--"goop."

5.  Because you think non-Catholics have sooo much more fun than we plodding prudes.  Or you don't personally know any non-Catholics, and thus couldn't say one way or the other...

4.  Because you need inspiration and further understanding of what God requires of us.

3.  Because your marriage is imperfect and could use ideas for improvement (or because your marriage is perfect, and you just want to gloat.)

2.  Because you just need a good laugh.  Or because you need a good cry.

1. To know you are NOT alone.

This is the book I've been waiting for and wanting all my married life.  And 12 years into that blessed vocation, I finally got it!  "Sinner's Guide" was a book that absolutely had to be written.  I was worried it might have to be me... and I'm not mellow enough to tackle something this controversial in book form yet.  Three cheers for Simcha!  :)

Managing somehow to be absolutely inspiring while remaining plainly hilarious, employing the most refreshing honesty coupled with the most charitable fairness, Mrs. Fisher addressed all of the major issues of the "joys" of NFP that, prior to this book, I'd only heard whispered late at mom's nights out with cocktails.  

I ordered this book on a Saturday, and immediately drove to a "new" playground so my four kids would be distracted as my husband and I read it together.  As they wearied of that playground, we drove to another.  Three in total.  

I haven't smiled this much about NFP... ever.

It's not even that any of the info was new to us.  Both hubby and I have majors in theology (from an orthodox Catholic university to boot).  It's simply that now there's a book publicly stating the collective private worries, fears, and misgivings of a couple generations of well-meaning, practicing Catholics.  Married folks who want to be holy and "do the right thing," but found that "doing the right thing" sometimes made them feel anything but holy.  A pair of disgruntled malcontents perhaps, but not holy.  

Good Catholic gal that I've always been, I had written papers on the glories of NFP since high school.  Upon getting engaged (and not a moment before), I dutifully signed up for the local NFP class. Unbeknownst to me, I was taught a variation of the rhythm method instead.  And six months of considerable carefulness into marriage, while studying for the degrees we planned to use to earn a living, I had a positive pregnancy test.  

"Betrayed" doesn't begin to describe how I felt.  I had done everything "right," and suddenly I was a mom at 23, when I'd hoped to first work on marriage and saving money (we had nothing) and curing some health issues. While I never regretted our beautiful baby, I very much resented the timing, as our carefullly laid plans of getting a home and jobs were thrown to the wind.  We hurridly finished off half our masters' degrees, and a month later had our baby at 32 weeks gestation.  I took another NFP course.  But I was nursing, and the teacher we had was from the same organization I learned from before.  18 months later, again while carefully charting as best I knew how, we were pregnant again.

So we had a crash course in parenthood, and our financial situation has remained challenging to this day...for instance, just this morning I fielded a phone call from our student loan company.  Yep, still from what we owe from my attempts at finishing grad school when I became a mom instead in 2002.

I never did get back to work like I'd planned.  But as Simcha illustrates in this book: by being obedient to God's will, we have been blessed in ways I would never have chosen, but would now never want to be without.

I finally found a teacher who knew the system, and had six years of "just" two kids before we expanded our family by two more.  And just for good measure, I took the course one more time, and love Creighton style best of all.  

But I still struggled, and at best have only come to a resigned disgust with the system.  The well-meaning "encouragement" of other women of how "NFP really brings you together as a couple.  Really!" did not help at all. (Particularly when such pep-talks were coming from those beyond child-bearing years, who only remembered having kids as "the best time of their lives.")  Very few were willing to admit the simple truth: that NFP can be very difficult to learn, very difficult to practice, and only through God's grace and significant trial and error will a couple begin to see the elusive benefits promised at pre-Cana class.  

Simcha does a spectacular job of describing how all these NFP benefits (improved communication!  increased understanding!  deeper appreciation!) can be true, but they don't come automatically, and can be very far from the truth in the learning stages of the game.  Especially when most of us are given  bright pink glasses beforehand, and only in practice find out the incredible amounts of sacrifice required to practice NFP and maintain sanity.

While I still hope further studies in fertility will someday make this system less arduous, thanks to this guide for sinners, I am again inspired to look at NFP more positively, even as the system is today.

I absolutely loved the non-judgmental nature of this book, the demonstration of the fact that you just (really!) never know someone else's situation, and so should never attempt to decide for someone else whether they should have more or less kids, that they should be "providentialist" or "NFPers."  That such decisions really involve a personal, daily, (and yes, monthly) discernment of God's will.

Thank you, Simcha.  Thank you for saying, out loud that NFP can absolutely stink sometimes.  That was utterly refreshing to hear publicly... after years of being silenced and shamed into thinking "I should be so happy with this," it was great to have someone call a luteal phase a luteal phase. On a scale of 2 to 10, I give you a 10S! :) And thank you, even more, for highlighting the heart of the whole matter: the creature's submission to the Creator's plan. 

I will never forget your depiction of God's conditional will for us, as a Father who says, "Okay, let's see what we can do with the choice you've made" in a way that makes the best of it.  I can't wait to see what He does with your work.  Keep it up.  :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Seven quick takes on Good Reads and Heavenly Kids

1.  For me, the biggest obstacle to blogging is having a computer that isn't working.  For real.  And few things are more frustrating than knowing what to write, having nine minutes to write it in, and a laptop that does not desire to load, connect, behave, whathaveyou.  But since technology is being favorable to me at the moment, I'm gonna ketchup...

2.  I want to get caught up on my October photography project: Capture Your Grief, hosted by Carly Marie in commemoration of Baby Loss and Remembrance month. Yes, I know: this does not sound particularly uplifting. And prior to my loss in March, I would have questioned both the necessity and the sanity of such a project.

But now... I get it.  Greater awareness leads to greater compassion, more acknowledgement of the grieving hearts of so many moms around us, and hopefully further research to help make stillbirths and miscarriages less painfully frequent.  Pretending that these tragedies don't happen does no one any favors in the end.

3.  One of the first articles which opened my eyes to the prevalence of stillbirth was from the Motherlode. Besides demonstrating to me that stillbirth was not nearly as rare as we all would hope it to be, it addressed how to answer the question, "How many children do I have?"

And my answer to that is, "I have six children, four living."  Here's one of my favorite pictures of that idea: four kids, two spots of light.

As the article relates, this sort of answer used to be a common one, as child mortality was quite high before today's vaccines and penicillin; (whatever your current opinion of these are, they have in fact saved countless lives.  Walking around a cemetery, you can find a decreasing number of children's graves starting around the 1950's for this very reason.  Personally, I vaccinate with caution, spacing them out, skipping some in favor of others, and I'm mighty grateful I live in a time and place to have such options.)  But I digress...

4. My main point is that it used to be easier to talk about death.  Villages would celebrate births and deaths with song.  When a child died on the prairie, the women would gather to quilt the final blanket.  It was never easy I'm sure, but it used to be more widely acknowledged that we are mortal, and that sad things can happen to otherwise happy people.

But somewhere along the line, it became "inappropriate" to talk about, say, miscarriage. Part of it might be due to the American dislike of discomfort, or a lowered respect for the value of human life, or simply WWII coping mechanisms being passed down for generations.  That somehow, if you don't say anything, if you force yourself not to think about what you lost, you get better, faster.

My grandfather spent years fighting in a tin can submerged in the ocean: a submarine.  Few jobs at sea were more risky or more unpleasant; he deliberately chose this position for the high risk pay to support his widowed mom and orphaned sister.

I'm told the military's advice at the time was to block out unpleasantness, to try to forget tragedies.  And never talk about them again.

5.  When it comes to my daughter Perpetua, I don't find this tactic desirable or even possible.  Isaiah 49:15 comes to mind: "Can a woman forget her infant, or have no compassion on the child of her womb?"  And, what do you know, I can't forget her.  Furthermore, however painful it sometimes is to acknowledge what happened, I don't want to ignore it.  I will talk about her when it seems appropriate to do so, and be proud of my little one in heaven.  I am hopeful that those who listen can try to understand why pretending she never existed will not change her existence for me, with all the sadness and stunning graces left behind.

I've so appreciated the support of being able to grieve along with "the loss community."  It's been so helpful for me to read books like "Still" by Stephanie Paige Cole (who graciously sent me a copy of her book when I shared my loss with her), and the blog of people like Lori Dente, whose book "With Just One Push" will be coming out soon.  I read her blog before I knew I'd become a "loss mom" myself.  The strength of other women in these circumstances continues to inspire me.

It's odd but necessary to have a mommy group for those with children in heaven.  Such children still make us parents.  If we believe life begins at conception, and believe life continues eternally after death... why on earth shouldn't these little ones be a part of who we are, affect how we live our lives, and at times come up in conversation?  It just makes sense.

6.  As I've mentioned previously, I've had a hard time facing the oncoming cold and darkness.

Yes, I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder... but it's much more than that this year.  I'm re-entering the season I held "Pepper" here on earth for the first time since her loss in March.  And while fall is usually my favorite season, I'm dragging my heels like never before.

I feel like begging the leaves not to die, not to fall, for everything to stay warm and sunny, alive and full of light. Please. Please.  I don't want to relive this fall and winter season without her.

I think she knows that.

How do I know that?  Well... I can't prove the connection, but I've had an interesting few months of certain things just "working out."  And I don't just mean the Cajun spice set and Kindle childproof cover (never mind, I'll get the actual Kindle sometime I'm sure) I won from the last blogathon contest, or the fact that my blog crush Simcha Fisher (gee thanks, blush) shared my last post...

You see, as I've mourned the loss of summer and dreaded the coming of winter, I've also gotten nervous about the holidays.  I like the emotional recovery I've achieved, and don't want to go back "there"; and holidays are rather infamous for providing an emotional dip for those experiencing a loss.

I'd been hemming and hawing over how to make this Christmas somehow different, a bit more distracting perhaps.  So after going back and forth as to whether to try it or not, completely on a whim, I decided to have my kids audition for the Christmas Carol this year.

Now... I do this every year.  And every year, we aren't cast.  We kinda do it for the fun and experience of it all.

My kids were fantastic, if I do say so myself.  They sang very well.  Their lines were down pat.  Annemarie did a mystical impression of the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Claire did an absolutely hilarious monologue from Scrooge himself (her choice.)  Picture in your mind's eye a young girl of nine, earnestly telling the audience that her "life before her is her own to make amends in," wildly praising "heaven and the Christmas time" while shouting promises of conversion to Jacob Marley, and then dancing about with heel clicks declaring, "I'm as happy as an angel!  I'm as giddy as a drunken man!"

Silently, I had snuck into the last few minutes of her audition, and then collected her to go.

"We're still doing adult auditions, by the way.  We love your girls, and they said you can sing?"

I hadn't prepared one thing, my friends.  Not one.  I was chewing gum.  My makeup had worn off.  I had a sweatshirt on, which on close inspection appeared to be garnished with what looked like... chocolate.

I'd never been less prepared for the stage. I grinned. "Sure!  What do I read?" I got to act out a cockney version of Mrs. Cratchit.  I sang.  I went home dizzy and giggling, saying, "What did I just do?" to the kids, who were squealing with glee.

A week later, I got the email.  All of us were cast.  And for no less than ten performances at Park Theatre, I am Mrs. Crachit.  After years of on and off drama attempts, it's the biggest role I've landed since college, and at the least likely time.

It feels very weird.  It feels very perfect.  It feels very like someone is looking out for her family, and knows they need something a little different to get them through this Christmas.

I've gotta say it: it's so cool having your own personal little saint.

7.  I celebrated her, and my earlier miscarried little one, on the 15th, which is the official Baby Loss Remembrance Day.  I remembered my only niece or nephew too, who was also miscarried that same day a couple years back.  I thought of all the babies gone before us as I gave my presentation to the hospital council; it was strange to be dry-eyed in my focus while watching doctors and nurses reaching for tissues.

I came home just before 8, when the hour of candle lighting for my time zone would end.  Taking the candle my kids had recently made at a Yankee Candle Factory trip, of which I have some evidence:

I lit it, leaving it in the kitchen to fill the room with the scent of "True Blue."

Just before I put it out, I took my candle out the back porch into the night, silent except for the sounds of crickets.  (Click here for the real sound of crickets... woah!!:)  The almost full moon was extremely bright, but currently under a slow moving cloud cover.  Right above me, in an almost bird-shaped pocket hole in the clouds, shone one bright star, set in a perfect piece of deep blue sky.

I looked at the single star, peeking through the immense cloud bank.  I looked at the single flame in my hands.

Light to light.  Love from love.  Earth and heaven.

"Where is my camera???" was my first thought.  It was really too cool a moment to adequately describe with mere English.  But rather than risk losing the moment to search for my most inadequate photography equipment--and risk more kids finding me--I just looked into the perfect night.

Alone.  And not alone.

"I mean... this candle is pretty and all, but yeah.  I know, baby girl.  You win.  You've got a star."

"The world is more than we know."  --Ben Hur

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Eat Chocolate... Now

10.  Because it's there.  Duh... :D

9.  So you're kids won't.  Because the last thing they need is more energy.  Though it IS a very impressive first word to teach your toddler: before the age of 2, Cecilia asked for "Choka?" while Felicity requested "Cachick?" which sounded oddly Russian...

8.  So your spouse won't.  Because this kind isn't their favorite, anyway.  I'm just noting that fact...

7.  For medicinal reasons!

6.  Because you are in the car, and it will melt otherwise.  Wonderfully, you can still drive after consuming it! You can have a big piece at 4 PM, or even 4 AM, daily, and you won't be labeled a "lush."  Fantastic.

5.  To celebrate the release of "The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning."  (Please don't miss the book description below it; it's to die for...)  Honestly, I feared I'd have to write a book like this, because someone had to; I couldn't be happier that it was done through the wit and wisdom of Simcha Fisher!!  Delighted that Catholics now have a realistic, common sense approach to the blessing and cross of honoring God's gift of fertility.  Fantastic.  Can't wait to get a paper copy...

4.  To cope with news like this:  UGH.  A church leader with a $20,000 bathtub.  May God smite him with common sense.

3.  To muse over posts like this, by a blogger I typically agree with.  Because yes, the food stamp system is abused. But no, the principle of subsidiary does not, unfortunately, always work, and some sort of system to help the (truly) unfortunate is needed.  Because humans act like humans and fail like humans sometimes: the "haves" are afraid to give enough, and the "have nots" are afraid and can take too much.  I tend to have a heart for the "have-nots," because I feel it is so easy to be judgmental of a lady in front of you in the grocery line, embarrassed to be using WIC and texting on an I-Phone. Because that lady has been me, and my sister-in-law gave me that phone.  You never know another's circumstances, so let your judgments proceed with gentleness. (Luke 6:37,38)

2.  To celebrate my first calendar appearance!  Yes, in the form of a sad quote, but still!  Today we celebrate both Babyloss Remembrance Day (light a candle with us at 7 PM and wish me luck: I will be giving a presentation to the OB Council at Women and Infants Hospital at that same time!) and the feast of St. Teresa of Avila.  Yep, both on the same day.  Because the Lord is cool like that.  And here's her supremely cool quote:

1.  Because chocolate is one of God's myriad ways of telling us He loves us, and one of millions of proofs that He desires our happiness.  ;)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day Eleven: Emotional Triggers

Thankfully, I'm better at this than I once was.  When I first lost my baby, anywhere I had been before--when she was still alive--was hard to go back to.  Anywhere or anything that connected the happy before with the much sadder "now."  Now that I pretty much have been everywhere and seen everyone that I had while I carried her, the constant before/after triggers seem thankfully behind me. 

I'm nervous about going through my first round of holidays without her.  And I'm dreading the cold weather for the first time.  I carried her from the fall through the long winter last year; she left me when the first whispers of spring were rustling the buds, just before it got warm.  I'm so sorry she never got to feel the sun.  I find myself disliking what was once my favorite season, the fall that leads to my first winter since she went away.  Here's big sis loving the leaves; I thank God every day for their contagious joy. :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Days Nine and Ten: Music and Beliefs

Well... music isn't the happiest topic for me regarding my recent loss.  The song that most reminds me of Pepper was the song that was stuck in my head the night I found out she was gone, and had the D&E scheduled in the morning.  It was such an awful and strange night, finding out at 5 PM that she was dead, and knowing I would be "unpregnant" by 11 AM the next day, with no symptoms of miscarriage and yet no hope of a live baby.

Feeling like a tomb, the only thing I could think to do was to take some pictures of my belly while we were still physically together.  Such a sad and surreal night.  I didn't sleep much; I couldn't stop crying and holding my tummy where she was at rest.  

And this is the song that kept replaying in my head.

For your comic relief: there is somehow a Simpsons picture in this clip, and the lyrics are hilariously wrong in places.  Even I stopped getting weepy when I saw this pathetic clip.  Ha!

BUT (Day Ten), happily--and so gratefully--I do have faith in the "afterlife" of heaven.  I don't know how I would have survived without this belief.  I know I will see my lost little ones, get to hold them and get to know them when I die and join them there, as I hope with great confidence to do.

Faith is really a gift.  It's not something anyone could have foisted on me at the time of my loss I don't think. So I have zero judgment for those who don't have this gift... my heart very much goes out to them in the extremity of the loss they must feel.  I would just encourage those who don't have this gift of faith at this time to hope.  To hope for the best possible solution to this earthly sorrow.  To hope beyond your wildest expectations that there is a perfect plan where justice, fairness, and love prevails.  If you can do this, you won't be disappointed.  

We are not living the only life there is.  We have an eternal "second chance" at happiness that is lost here, where every disappointment will be addressed, every hurt will be healed, and regrets can be redeemed. 

That's what I believe.  Thank God.

I know my little ones are alive; I just can't see them.  But I can certainly feel their influence.  I strongly sense my angel babies want me to be happy, that they are here with me even as I mourn them, that they pray to God on my behalf.  I have seen so many blessings happen in my life that I believe had to do with my little ones putting in a good word for me. ;)  Certain things are just working out that weren't before... I don't know.  It's more of a sense then something I can put into words.  I know I am loved beyond words by my children in heaven, and by the God that made us all and holds myself and my children together always in His heart.  

This loss has been the worst thing I ever experienced.  But I know God has great things in store for me and all my children.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD,
 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day Eight: Colour

Definitely pink comes to mind for Perpetua... it was such a surprise to find out we were having another girl... she would have been our fifth of that gender, if not the sixth... :)  For my earlier loss, usually I think of green, since the gender was unknown.  Green for new life in God.

Also, purple for Perpetua: A dear "loss friend" of mine made me this blanket for "Pepper": it's a lovely soft white and purple.  The colors of royalty for a daughter of the King.  I have it up in a quiet place on my bookshelf, and I like to close my eyes and give it a pat once in a while.  Feels just like I imagine her silky baby hair would have now...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day Seven: Me, Now

I miss my cocoon. I miss the safer world where babies only rarely died, and if you did all the right things, it (really) wouldn't happen to you.  

That's where I am now.

As I lay in bed after giving birth to each of my four girls here, I remember my extreme impatience with the medical management I was receiving.  Hand me the baby already.  I wanted the most natural possible experience--straight into my arms--and I found nurses and doctors to be mostly in the way. 

With every labor I had, there was always some reason for them to make a fuss.  Particularly with my first two. Never mind that my second child had inhaled too much fluid on the way out....  I was visibly annoyed at the set faces hovering over her as they suctioned her nose and mouth intently, working around the strange croaking noises she made till they succeeded.  Never mind that my first born was 32 weeks.  I was miffed when they whisked her to intensive care so quickly.

I was too naive to be afraid.  I just didn't get it.  I really did think, "Why all the fuss?  She'll be fine." 

I really, truly believed that.  Fortunately, in those instances, I was right.

My latest and most medically-managed birth experience: Felicity, now 2 :)
But since my loss... I will never feel that innocent bravado again.  I've experienced things going all wrong, for no predictable reason.  I've learned too much about why medics "fuss" and tend to manage all things baby with excessive caution.

To grieve is, in part, to fear recurrence.  And oh, I do.  PTSD is a real phenomenon, wouldn't you know?  You can actually wake up from a troubled sleep and feel, see, hear, and relive horrible moments from the past.  As though you were "there," again.  

My cocoon was smashed when an utterly boring, routine doctor's visit became an obituary, during the "safe" second trimester.

I now live in a world where bad things do actually happen, to people as unsuspecting and unqualified as me.  I was not braver, or stronger, or more special, or more into risk-taking than anyone else.  But it happened to me anyway.

Not that I won't be okay.  Not that I won't continue to heal from the pain of this experience.  Not that God doesn't have a greater plan that all of this is part of, and not that He hasn't upheld me through it all.  But right now... I've aged.  For months I took several pictures of myself, convinced that I really must look significantly different than I had before... turns out, the change was mostly interior.  I feel damaged.  And I'm afraid.

A positive side to this is that I now understand more of life after the cocoon.  I'm more aware of and more grateful for my blessings.  I take less for granted.  I treasure my blessings more.

I don't feel as safe as I once did.  But I have survived my greatest fear.

Now I can learn to fly.

"The Lord found him in a desert land, in a barren and howling waste.  
He shielded him and cared for him; He guarded him as the apple of His eye.  
as the eagle entices her young to fly and hovering over them, 
spreads its wings to catch them 
and carries them aloft."  
Deuteronomy 32:11

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Couple memories and some prayers

Catching up with Catholic Carnival here... my favorite sacramental memories are, of course, the sacraments themselves.  :) Other than that... I remember my daughter Cecilia sneaking up to the pumpkins by the altar during her little sister's baptism.  Wish I had a picture of that...

I do, however, have a picture of this.

That's the after pic.  Here's the better "before":

Having been through quite a few sacramental receptions, we decided to make the latest one more exciting by forcing the guests to write poetry: a random topic was started and the paper was passed around, everyone adding too lines.  The end results were very humorous...  if I can dig them out of hiding I might add a few lines.  :)

As for today's question: yes, I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours regularly through high school and college.  I loved reading the different scripture passages morning, noon, and night, with special selections and prayers for each liturgical season.  It was the only the distraction of motherhood that made me stop.  I hope to start again someday... meanwhile, I squeeze prayers between errands and picking up toys. 

O God, come to my assistance!  
O Lord, make haste to help me!

Day Six: Ritual

I lost "Pepper" in March, so I don't have many rituals yet to honor her... we do go to visit her gravesite at least once a month.  We go on the first Sunday, which reminds me of the resurrection.  I plan on framing the picture I bought from CarlyMarie for her. I love what it says; it's so very true.