Thank you for all who have read the series on miscarriage, so far. I hope that it is helping you to see that you are not alone. I have received a couple of emails from women who have shared their stories with me. I am deeply humbled and appreciative of those emails. Tomorrow I will continue on with a post about miscarriage and the Catholic Church. Today is a busy day and I want to be able to give my full attention to my next post. I will talk about my own experiences in the Church, what she teaches, and some things that we can do when touched by miscarriage. Have a blessed day!
Blessed are they who mourn; for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:5
Grief is one of the most difficult aspects of life. We are guaranteed that it will come our way. Most of the time it blindsides us. Grief in miscarriage can be lonely, deeply painful, infuriating, and cathartic all in the same day. The grief sets in when we are told that our child is dead or it may set in once the bleeding starts or stops, or it may take years for the grief to overtake us. Miscarriage is something that our society, and I hate to say it, the Church largely ignores. This is probably for a number of reasons. I would say some of it has to do with the abortion culture, some of it is privacy, and a lot of it is fear. Fear on the part of the family who has lost a child. They are afraid to share their pain and experiences with others, even their own priest, or their own spouse. This can also be mixed with embarrassment thanks to a culture that does not acknowledge the brief motherhood and parenthood of the family involved in the loss.
Today was my final blood draw that was the end of a month of bloodwork to figure out why I keep having miscarriages, post-partum depression/anxiety, and severe PMS. It was the miscarriages that really led to me finding, or rather she found me, a doctor who was interested in figuring out if I have a hormone issue. In my next post I want to focus on that experience and the breakthroughs going on in NAPRO. I am writing about miscarriage because it is a deeply painful experience for families. It is a pain that most people suffer in silence and there are limited resources to help those dealing with the grief. This is further complicated by a society that has deluded itself into thinking that an unborn child is not a human baby. This first part is just going through my own miscarriage experiences at the physical level. I will then write posts on grief, the spiritual component and Catholic response, and also about resources that are available especially through NAPRO doctors. So here is the beginning of my story.
In November of 2010, just three months after I got married to my husband, we found out that I was pregnant with our first child. We were shocked, as most new parents are, but overjoyed. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had some bleeding and called an OB/GYN I had seen advertised on the back of the parish bulletin. He saw me the next day and told me that we had to wait another week to see if the baby was healthy or not. After a week of fear, we were overjoyed to learn that our now daughter, Michaela, was perfectly healthy. However, I was not prepared to learn that she had a twin who had died. I was stunned and confused by the news.
Miscarriage was never on my radar, after all my mother never lost any children. What did it mean to lose Michaela’s twin? My doctor told me that mentally it would be harder than physically, because my body would re-absorb the lost baby rather than have a full miscarriage. My first pregnancy was a mix of joy and grief. I mourned privately. This loss was difficult for people to understand. They all wanted to me to focus on the child who was still alive and I was, but I also grieved the loss of her twin. I was also violently ill with “morning sickness” for almost all 9 months. It was a humbling experience that taught me a lot about sacrifice and marriage.
Once I had our beautiful daughter, I would wonder what it would have been like to have twins. I would see twins and my heart would break or I would cry. I was so thankful to God for our daughter, but it still hurt. The grief lessoned as I began my duties as a new mom. The grief never fully goes away, but time does dull it.
Five months after Michaela was born I discovered that I was pregnant. We had always planned to be open to children and rarely used the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP we had been taught. I was in real shock at first. I had just had a baby a few months ago along with an unplanned c-section. After the shock wore off and the happiness started, I began to think about names. I had always thought Michaela’s twin was a girl, but with this pregnancy I started to think about boy’s names seriously. I had started getting the pregnancy glow and I was not nearly as sick as I was the first time around. That should have been a clue.
I woke up one morning and just did not feel pregnant anymore. It was a strange feeling. I ran to the store to get a pregnancy test and the pink line was very faded. I knew in my gut something was wrong. Sure enough, in the middle of the night I started to bleed and by 6am I knew that our baby was gone. It just happened to be the day that our first ultrasound was scheduled, so we went in, and after seeing the images, my doctor sympathetically told me what I already suspected. We were scheduled to leave for DC that day, so we packed up the car and headed out of town. We stopped at our church and asked our priest to pray with us and then proceeded onto DC. The next few days I bled out my child and grieved. My heart broke in new and profound ways. I have never known the kind of grief I felt knowing that I was flushing my dead child down the toilet. All of my miscarriages have been first trimester.
I cried off an on for months. I was scared to get pregnant again. My heart hurt too much. I read the only book I could find for Catholic women on miscarriage. The resources are scarce. I talked it over with friends of mine who had lost babies. I talked to our priest. And finally I asked our priest to do a Mass in November for families who have lost children, no matter how old. It was a healing moment. We never got funerals, so this was good-bye along with prayers for the dead. I started to feel ready to try again. We had been open, but I had not gotten pregnant. I don’t think I was ready.
In early January of this year, I discovered that I was pregnant for the third time. I was so happy. Michaela and I made a picture to take to Phil to announce that she was going to be a sister. But this pregnancy was different. It was awful. I was throwing up three days a week and then spent four days feeling like I had debilitating post-partum depression. I could barely function. I was wondering what was different and then my early ultrasound came. Oh how I hate those ultrasounds! There was a sac but no baby. The doctor tried to tell me that I could just be early or ovulated late, but I knew better. I pay attention to my body. A week later my doctor confirmed that the baby had died very early, but my body still thought I was pregnant. He told me my options were to see if it happened naturally or get a D & E. For a woman like myself who works to stop abortion and help women in crisis pregnancy, the thought of the same procedure as an abortion did not sit well with me, even if it was for medical reasons and the child was dead. I said I would try naturally. After all, I had already been through this.
The next week was horrible. The bleeding was slow and I felt physically drained. Then on Sunday night, February 17, I started to bleed heavily. At first I was relieved that it hard started, but very quickly I knew that something was wrong. When you miscarry, the blood is not supposed to flow freely out of you. You are only suppose to fill a pad every 30 minutes to an hour at the heaviest part. I was filling pads within minutes and then seconds. I was sent to the ER where they treated my like an actual emergency. It is actually scarier when the ER responds to you like it is supposed to. No waiting and a lot of running. I just remember them trying to get two IVs in and then being rolled into surgery. I was doped up on morphine at this point. Having an emergency D&E is a surreal experience. You go into the hospital bleeding to death and a couple of hours later you walk out barely bleeding. Thankfully, I had friends who had been through this and I called them right away. I knew it was dangerous, so I got to the hospital before I needed a blood transfusion. Ladies, if you are bleeding this much, do not wait. Go to the ER. Even if they send you away, it is worth it. I have had multiple friends who waited too long and needed transfusions and in-patient hospital stays. You can black out and bleed to death. It is not something to mess with. My first miscarriage was a lot like the heaviest days of my period, not like this miscarriage that got to a point in which I would fill a pad by just standing up.
This miscarriage has been the hardest on me. I still have not recovered physically, mentally, or spiritually from it. I already had grief to deal with and then had to go through the trauma of a life-threatening miscarriage. Thank God I live in this time of modern medicine! My body still has not reset to its normal cycle.
I wrote this post to give you a little background on my own personal experiences. I hope it does not re-traumatize anyone. I hope it makes you realize that you are not alone. Feel free to share any of your own stories here. Tomorrow I will write about my experiences with grief. If you need a good saint to ask for prayers from I find St. Gianna Molla to be a good one and, of course, Our Heavenly Mother is always willing to listen and pray for you. I always ask her to care for my babies. God bless.
I was thinking of you today,
while I ate a bowl of noodles.
Strange how so small a thing can bring you back.
Something as simple as a 19 cent pack of Ramen.
Ramen and rice.
Was all you seemed to live on.
During that time you were my second father.
Joy and pain mix in the bottom of the bowl.
For you are no longer here.
Not on this side of eternity.
It is a surreal feeling for so large a figure in my mind.
So now you know the answers.
While the rest of us must continue on.
I sit here wading through memories as the noodles wrap around my fork.
Enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. + St. John Chrysostom +
Have you ever experienced the undeniable presence of Christ in Confession? He is always there, of course. It is not the priest who forgives our sins, but Our Lord and Savior in the Sacrament. I go to Confession regularly. Why? Because I am sick and need the Divine Physician. I quickly become burdened and weighed down by my sins. It reminds me of St. Paul, “I not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rm. 7:15). I get frustrated with myself because I am doing the same things over and over again. I know there are things that I am addicted to. I am not talking about just enjoying, I am addicted to them. I know that these things are not good for me or my family, and yet I still do them. In large part I do them because I feel empty and need a void filled. A void that can only be filled by God. This is how I walked into Confession this past Saturday: heavy and frustrated.
In the first place, I had to take my toddler with me because my husband was helping the Knights out with a fundraiser. My toddler ran around the Sanctuary while I prepared for Confession. I have to pick my battles. I can either hold her down while she screams bloody murder, or I can let her explore a little bit. When it came to be my turn, I took her in with me. I laid my soul bare and confessed my sins. My daughter climbed all over me, but for once, I was too focused to notice or even get frustrated. The only time I got slightly annoyed was when I could not hear the priest, who I already had to focus on because he has a Nigerian accent. What happened in that Confession left me awe-struck and thankful.
I felt so weighed down by my addictions that I felt incapable of holiness when I entered that confessional. Instead, Christ (through the priest for any non-Catholic readers) first asked me why I came to Confession. And I said in all honesty, “Because I am tired of hating myself.” Much to my surprise that was the right answer. We then discussed a couple of my biggest addictions: pride, anger, coffee, and Facebook. I was reminded that I am one with my husband and that pride and anger work against that unity. Something a lot of us forget as we live out our married life. I need a reminder often.
We then talked about my outward addictions: coffee and Facebook. Now don’t get me wrong. Facebook and coffee are gifts that are meant to be enjoyed. God gives us things to enjoy. It is when we become dependent or make them gods that the problems arise. During Confession Father asked me why I think that I need coffee? I said to take care of my daughter because she has more energy than me. He then told me that I don’t need coffee to take care of my daughter. I know this to be true because I worked horrible hours on shift for 3 years while I was in the Navy and never drank coffee. He then asked me how coffee makes me feel. And I said it gave me energy for a while but then I crash hard around 3pm and “need” another cup. So he then asked me what I should be drinking and I said water. He said we have a tendency to take things that we enjoy and turn them into needs and then they become sinful addictions. There is nothing in this life that I should “need” besides food and water to survive. I should not feel like I cannot function without a cup of coffee and more importantly, I should not be willing to sacrifice my principles to get a cup of coffee, which I have been doing. It is pumpkin spice latte season, which means that I have broken my boycott with Starbuck’s to get a lot of pumpkin spice. I knew that I was in trouble when my own principles were easily discarded.
I also mention these sins because they directly impact my family. When I spend too much time on Facebook, it hurts my daughter and my husband. I focus more on people I used to know than on the people God has given me right now. It is a strange phenomenon of our age that we can focus so much energy on a virtual world and ignore the flesh and blood right next to us. In that way I think that the Devil has taken the good that is technology and warped it into something dangerous. My husband does not enjoy Facebook. He does not like a lot of what his “friends” post and he knows that it sucks people in for hours on end. He is absolutely right. I get lonely sometimes being alone with a two year old and I allow myself to get sucked into the world of “adult” conversation on Facebook.
Coffee is also an issue because it impacts our pocketbook and my well-being. I am an anxious and neurotic person by nature. Drinking high amounts of caffeine is not good for my body or my mind. But, I truly enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the morning. The problem is that it is no longer a cup in the morning and it is not usually at home where it is much cheaper. I get into phases where I get a coffee out every single day. Within 10 days I can spend over $50 on coffee. When I was single and working full-time that was doable. Nowadays with a family, mortgage, vehicles dying (my husband’s truck is done), etc. it is not feasible. No matter what, it is not good for finances, my waistline, or my health. I said a lot of this during my Confession. I really needed to be brutally honest with Christ and myself. These are socially acceptable addictions and without even realizing it we can help enable each other in these addictions.
Then the moment when I knew it was Christ, not the priest, who was talking to me came. He said, “You can do this. You can overcome these addictions.” Given how I felt going into the Confession that day, my ability to overcome my sins was not something I felt capable of in that moment. And I have only written about a few of the sins I struggle with daily. The 7 deadly sins and I are well acquainted. However, once it was said, I felt like Christ had picked me up off of the floor, dusted me off, and said you can do this, keep going. I will be here to help you. I started crying tears of joy. The gratitude I felt was overwhelming.
Confession is not truly for God. Yes, we must seek forgiveness for our sins, but Confession is about our healing. Sin hurts us. Sin can kill our very souls. This disconnects us from Christ. We run in shame and fear. We get frustrated and despair. The Divine Physician knew that we need somewhere to unburden and unload our sins, to be set free from them, and strengthened by His grace for the journey. Sin keeps us from being who God created us to be. Sins are not a laundry list of things that keep us from enjoying life. They are a list of things to avoid in order to become the person Christ created us to be. Sin enslaves us. I know this to be the case. I went into Confession feeling like a slave. I felt chained and it was only Christ who could break my bonds. I left Confession set free.
Does that mean that temptation departed from me? Absolutely not. This is a spiritual battle that lasts a lifetime. I still feel the tug to do this or that, but by God’s grace I am saying “no” more often. And that is the point. Sainthood does not come overnight. Most of us do not have dramatic conversions. Instead it takes us our entire lives to overcome sin. Christ died for our sins, but it is our job to work to overcome the sins we committ in our lifetime. He will forgive us no matter how many times we have to come back and seek that forgiveness. As Pope Francis said recently, “Never forget this: The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”
A few more things to be thankful for today:
–All the new words my daughter is learning
–My husband working hard for us today and helping out the Knights after a long day of work
–My friend Ann watching Michaela for a couple of hours so I can attend a talk at church
–Second to last hormone blood draw is finished
–Pumpkin spice bread
I decided to move over to WordPress. It is a move that I have been contemplating for a while. A lot of my friends who blog use WordPress and I like the look of their blogs. I have also been debating what I really want my blog to be about. More than anything it is about me writing. I really enjoy writing and I have a wide variety of interests. I decided that I no longer want to be pigeon-holed into writing about one topic. For instance, my last blog attempt had to do with craft projects I do around the house. Well, that is a part of my vocation. So my blog is about everything and anything related to my vocation and journey in this life. I like the Holiness in Motherhood blog title because that is what I am striving for each day. I fall short, but holiness is the meaning of life.
On this blog you can expect me to write about my family, theology, the Church, crafts, poetry, photography, cooking, teaching my daughter, current issues of the day, etc. Pretty much anything that I decide to write about. I have had multiple blogs in the past and I always have felt limited by them. No more! I will transfer over some of my old posts before I shut down my Blogger account.
First, for those of you who do not know me personally, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Constance. I am a stay-at-home mom to one beautiful 2 year old girl. I have been married for just over 3 years to a wonderful man who works hard for us and who is teaching me the art of selflessness. I am a Navy Veteran and I have a BA in Psychology that I never plan to use. I intend to homeschool our daughter and any other children, should The Lord bless us with more. We are devout Roman Catholics. My husband and I really enjoy being involved in our Church. I like to stay up with current happenings in the Church and in the world, but I have to take a step back a lot of the time because I become too empathetic to my own detriment. I like to garden, cook, take pictures, walk and run (when I force myself), read, and play with my toddler. I am in the process of discerning becoming a Lay Dominican. That’s a quick about me.
My husband’s name is Phil, but these days he mainly goes by Daddy. We met online 4 years ago on the dating site Catholic Match. We both were looking to marry committed Catholics, but he lived in the mountains of North Carolina and I lived in East Tennessee, which meant that there were not a lot of young Catholics in our area. After all we both lived in Baptist country. And while Baptists are lovely people, neither of us would ever convert. My husband is a very talented woodturner and I am sure I will be posting pictures of his work on the blog. He is the Director of Training for a building science training center. He is a 3rd Degree in the Knights of Columbus and is deeply committed to our family. There have been numerous times that I have been awed by God’s choice of Phil for my husband.
Our beautiful daughter’s name is Michaela. She is named for St. Michael the Archangel and my father. We knew that given the state of the world, any children we have would need strong patron and patronesses. Her middle name, Elizabeth, is for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, a great saint for homeschoolers. Michaela is 2 years old and she is pretty much insane. She has so much energy and can barely sit still for 5 minutes at a time. She is a climber, explorer, strong willed, extremely affectionate, and she is the most amazing person that I have met. There have been numerous times throughout the past couple of years that I have looked at her and thought, “God, what were you thinking giving this amazing person to me, of all people?”, as well as, “Thank you God, she is the most incredible gift I have ever received.” My daughter inspires me, frustrates me, loves me, stuns me, and humbles me on a daily basis. While it can be a struggle for me to stay home at times because it can get lonely, I would not have it any other way. I am sure you will hear plenty about her on this blog.
This is my family. We do have 3 lovely babies in Heaven (Victoria, Caleb, and Marie). I am sure that I will write about miscarriage from time-to-time because I know that there are other women who are grieving out there just like me.
I greatly appreciate you stopping by the blog and I pray that Our Lord blesses you by my words. There are so many writers out there who bless me with their writing. Have a blessed day!