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March 29, 2013

Four Weeks

4 weeks. As much as I tell myself not to keep track, I can't help it.

Fridays are so weird for me right now.  My weeks of pregnancy turned over on Fridays, and then...I delivered Gregory on a Friday, four weeks ago.  And now, it's Good Friday.

I used to love Friday.  It was my favorite day of the week.  Even when it was Holy Week and it was Good Friday.  But now...now, Friday means something different for me.  Now, I am sad on Fridays.  Now, it's a marker of time gone by since something so painful happened.

I try to make it through Friday without thinking about the fact that it's Friday.  But then I realize that it is ridiculous to try to do that.

I keep wondering at what point Friday won't feel like this to me anymore?  When it's been 6 months of Fridays?  When the due date (which was a Friday) passes?

Today, I thought about the fact that Christ gave so much more for me -- for us -- and for our sins, that it almost feels selfish to mourn the loss of my baby boy.  But then I realize that is kind of silly, that of course I would and should mourn the loss -- the loss of being able to mother my son, being able to love him and teach him and pray with him. Instead, I must try to understand and learn how to pray and ask for his intercession (I haven't quite figured this out).  I mean, sure, in theory, it makes sense to me -- but in practice, I just haven't gotten a handle on it.  Maybe it's still too close, too fresh.

I look toward Easter Sunday and look forward to feeling happy again. I've smiled and laughed with my family over these past few weeks, at times. But genuine happiness -- the kind the fills my heart -- has still not yet returned.  I'm not sure this Easter Sunday will bring that, but I will be hoping to feel it on some level.

May the Risen Christ bless you on this Easter Sunday.  God bless.


March 26, 2013

The Way Time Passes

I returned to the therapist I had seen for quite a few years through Catholic Charities last night. I know that I am the kind of person that needs to talk things out with someone...or write them out here...or something like that. I hadn't seen her since early in 2012, so we spent the time mostly catching up and going through the events in my life that had happened since she last saw me.

10 months passed so quickly. I had been promoted at work, gone through a very busy and important time at work, coached Sarah's team in volleyball, gotten Dani started in swim team, gotten Helen going in Ballet.  I now have a middle-school child, a 3rd grader and a 1st grader.  Dominic is 4 now, Vincent barreling down to age 2.  It was crazy the things I caught her up on -- quite a bit has happened in my life in the last year.

But, of course, it was the experience of conceiving, carrying, delivering and burying Gregory that made the passage of time stand out so clearly. As I relayed last fall and all the happenings, I mentioned a meeting I had with a woman I consider kind of like a spiritual mother figure for me as I struggled with what aging does to my sexual relationship with my husband and also pondered with some assistance how age impacts the discernment process with regard to being open to life in our marriage. I marveled as I relayed how my mindset had evolved over the course of 4-6 weeks, and how we had -- in an unguarded moment -- opened our marriage up to another baby, and how we discovered that God granted that request. I discussed my feelings as I adjusted to being a mother of six instead of five, my pondering on how it might affect me at work, at home, with the children I already had.  I laughed as I relayed Sarah's reaction when we told the kids -- she was really quite cute, but since she knows what had to have happened for a baby to result, I could just see the typical teenage-meanderings on that with regard to her parents working through her facial expressions.

We had a fairly uneventful Christmas season so I just kind of fast-forwarded through all of that, discussing the first prenatal visit for Gregory, the treatment of my low progesterone, the second prenatal visit in February with the kids, the faint heartbeat, and then finally arrived at the day we found out Gregory had passed.  As I told her about that and the things that happened afterwards, she marveled at how quickly everything happened.  I had only just recently started to think about that myself.  I mean, we discovered that Gregory was dead around 12:15-12:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and by 6:09 a.m. the next morning, I had labored through the night and delivered him.  And we were checked out of the hospital early that afternoon.  

That's a whirlwind 24 hours.  But, it felt like a lifetime to me.  I didn't think the time was passing slowly at the time, but perhaps it is because I remember every little detail that it seems like two or three days instead of one. Only 24 hours after we left the hospital, we were sitting in the rectory planning Mass and burial with Father. Less than 24 hours after that, we were in the Funeral Home making those arrangements. And 24 hours after that, we were finalizing the plot at the cemetery. Finally, the next day about 30 hours later, we were in Church partaking in the Mass we'd planned.  Forget whirlwind 24 hours -- talk about whirlwind 5 days.

Yet, as whirlwind as it sounds as I describe it, it felt like a lifetime. The tears, the searing pain in my heart, the "punches to the gut", the overarching sadness of everything...made it seem like time stood still.  As I think about it, it is very much like when we bring a newborn home -- time marches on, we're caught up in diaper changes, and bottle feedings, and sleeping in the recliner with a baby on our chest, and checking temperatures, weight...we measure time in hours and while it passes the way it always has, it feels very, very slow.

I wonder why it is that it seems that way. I'm sure it has something to do with our human nature, the way we process what we are doing -- the stress and the magnitude of the joy or suffering, whichever it might be.

Either way, I'll wrap this up because I'm starting to ramble.  I do wonder when time will speed back up for me.  I know it will -- it's the nature of it -- but I haven't noticed it yet. I was giving compensation information to my team the other day and reminding them that we'd already had our performance reviews.  I kept saying, "It feels like so long ago, but it has only been four weeks..."

On Monday, it will be one month since I delivered Gregory. In some ways, I want the date to get here so that I can get through it all. In others, I just want to stay five days away from it. 

On that note, I thought I would share with you all a picture of my Mother's Ring.  Craig bought this ring when our family had only been blessed with Sarah and Dani.  I remember looking at him and feeling so grateful for it, but questioning why he would get it right at that point. And he answered my unasked question with, "It's a ring that is easy to add on if/when we have more children." And so it has been.

Due to the timing of Gregory's birth/death, I still do not have a duplicate birth stone. My November birthstone is in the middle and I have July, August, February, January, June and now March. I didn't tell them where to put the Aquamarine stone, but when I received it back and saw that it was positioned at the top, it seemed perfect. 

No worries, my little Gregory, I don't need the ring to always remember you -- for you are forever in my heart -- but I have a way of sharing you with the world this way.

March 25, 2013

I Hold His Hand While Jesus Holds My Heart

I didn't make it through Mass this weekend without crying. Again.

I asked Craig when we pulled into the driveway as we arrived home, "Will I ever make it through Mass without crying, ever again?" 

And he said, "Yes."

Being Catholic is such a beautiful thing. I have told people in the past that sometimes, as a "Cradle Catholic" I tend to think I may have taken for granted all the blessings there are in our Faith. Now, as I experience the beauty of our Sacraments with a gaping wound in my heart, I feel more sure I must have taken some of the blessings for granted. Because if I hadn't, I'd probably never have made it through Mass without crying.

Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, since losing Gregory, has been the most heart-wrenching yet comforting experience in my life. The Eucharistic prayers, the Sanctus, the Our Father and the sign of peace, the Agnus Dei have all touched me in some way over the past three weeks in such a way that I am overcome. I keep thinking it is grief that I am overcome with, but as I reflect on it, I'm not so sure. Yes, in the main, I am grieving a tremendous loss. But what I'm noticing is more of an awareness of the prayers I say and the fact that Jesus is fully present -- Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity -- to me at that moment. I am keenly aware that this is my one and only chance to be with our Lord and it's as close as I'm gonna get until the day, God willing, I can look upon His face.

The awareness is also connected to Gregory. I'd be a fool to think otherwise, since I never had this keen awareness until I experienced the loss of my son. I didn't have words to comprehend the awareness and what it meant with regard to Gregory until a woman who brought us a meal in the week following Gregory's death said this: "I bet you feel really close to him (Gregory) at Mass." And the tears came because my first thought was that I seem to feel separated from Gregory at Mass. The awareness that I am able to be one with our Lord in the Eucharist seems to illuminate this great chasm between heaven and earth for me right now. Because Gregory is in heaven and I can't be there with him, it feels incredibly far away. But her words made me think of it differently. Instead of feeling the space between heaven and earth, perhaps it fills that space and provides an avenue for me to be closer to Gregory, closer to Jesus. That makes sense because Jesus instituted the Sacraments to provide a way to be closer to Him. 

The oh-so-close-yet-so-far-away effect creates the tears. It is almost as though I could touch my sweet boy, but...I can't.

Going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist have been an important, non-negotiable part of my weekend much of my life. It seems, however, that only now that I've lost something precious, do I even approach some sort of understanding. It's not that I didn't care before, it's more like I thought I DID understand it. It seems to me that I now have a very different level of understanding -- one with pain, suffering, loss, and tears. 

My desire for the Eucharist was strong before. 

My desire for the Eucharist is now urgent, or perhaps a bit more fervent.

It is almost like it's my lifeline -- even with the sadness it evokes and the tears that come that I cannot control. 

The Eucharist is the way I feel connected to Gregory. It's the small way I get to be with Jesus -- just a little bit, just like Gregory is with Jesus.  It's a time where I feel like I can hold his hand while Jesus holds my heart.

Tenth Avenue North

March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes - 45

--- 1 ---

It is March Madness time.  Do you have your brackets ready?  So, this is the first time in many many moons that I just filled one out (and not 50).  And here it is:

For the record, I am a KU alum so I always pick KU to win.  Only twice in the last 25 years have I been right.  But that is not gonna stop me from picking my Jayhawks to win it all.  So much fun, and right now, the tournament is a nice distraction from reality.

--- 2 ---

Yes, we're going to Disney with the older four kids.  Kind of crazy I know.  This trip was planned in January.  The only change I've contemplated was going ahead and bringing Vincent, but Craig talked me out of that with the reminder of all the things we'd have to stop for a baby and such.  But, I think it will be nice to "get out of Dodge" for a bit and regroup, recoup, recharge, whatever so that life can move forward.  Not that it hasn't been (it does whether I am ready or not) but my heart hasn't been in it.

--- 3 ---

Weight Watchers update: my first week went well.  I dropped 9.9 pounds.  I wanted to be happy about it, but my heart wasn't really in that either.  I know coming off pregnancy, hormones stabilizing, losing some water all played a part.  Oh, okay and the fact that I stopped drinking beer and eating pizza probably helped, too.
--- 4 ---

We have one more Stations of the Cross event for Lent tonight at our parish.  I think they are doing live re-enactment because Sarah volunteered to be a part of it.  I wonder if I will get through without the tears tonight?  Hmm, we shall see.  There's a fish fry following, YUM.  Our Knights of Columbus put on one of the best Fish Fry's around, I think -- baked fish, boiled shrimp -- very good and they have cheese pizza for the kids, which my younger ones enjoy.

--- 5 ---

Sometimes I wonder why I had to have Gregory on a Friday.  Fridays were always my favorite day of the week.  I guess they still are, but there is sadness on Friday for me right now.  Today it's been 3 weeks. 

--- 6 ---

Two weeks off work start at 4:30 this afternoon (if I can manage to get out of the office by then!)  I've never taken a two-week vacation before.  I've had many-week leaves of absence and such, but never had two weeks scheduled out where I plan to do all sorts of fun stuff.  I am excited -- in my own little subdued way.

--- 7---

Thank you notes -- tell me what you think.  So, I wrote down a list of every name of people who did things for us while we were going through Gregory's death, funeral and burial.  We had friends keep children, we received home-cooked meals, flowers, plants, tons of cards, people scheduled Masses for Gregory -- we have been blessed!  I have started writing thank-you's but didn't know if there was etiquette for thanking someone for stuff at a time like this.  I guess my question is, what about the cards...do I acknowledge cards with formal thank-you's? or just when I see those people, let them know I received their card and thank them?  Just something I never thought I'd have to worry about that I don't know the answer.

Thank you to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary for hosting 7 Quick Takes today.


March 21, 2013

Breast is Best...Until It Isn't (A Guest Post)

I'm a bit pleased that I can interrupt this grief-fest with a reprieve from sorrowful meditations to present to you a post on motherhood, Mommy Wars, Breastfeeding, Formula feeding, whatever label you'd like to put on it.  I have some thoughts swirling for a post on grieving during Lent, some more reflection on the Sacraments through loss, and a painful realization that losing my baby may have been the very thing -- perhaps the only thing -- that was going to lead me to Heaven.  But, those are quite a bit heavy for this Thursday and I was surprised that I embraced the opportunity to write this post at this time.

Today, I would like to direct you to my dear friend, Sarah's blog, Fumbling Toward Grace, where I have written a guest post!  Sarah is running a series on Mommy Wars.  I have been so pleased thus far with the contributions she has had and am honored to be a part of it, too.  Communication in this area of the so-called Mommy Wars is sorely needed, unfortunately, because many times we get sucked into our judgments before we even know we have them! And then, we perpetuate them out of a misguided sense of pride.  I congratulate Sarah and all the other women contributing to an end of the Mommy Wars.  Being a Mommy is hard enough without all the extra baggage we heap on each other!!


As I prepared for the birth of my first child, everyone asked me if I was going to nurse. “Of course,” I would say.

Along with completing the hospital’s birth preparation classes, I signed up for the breastfeeding class, too. From what I remember of that breastfeeding preparation class, I received a few booklets, they discussed different position holds for nursing, and told us all, “And don’t even let formula into your house – it gives you an out.” I left the class thinking, “Yeah, I got this.” Because the class told all of us that breastfeeding was NATURAL, it was the HEALTHY way, our babies would be getting the BEST START! The judgments started there, now that I look back on it.

Fast forward to my first three weeks with my first-born child, and I was a wreck. Breastfeeding felt anything but natural, and healthy or best start be damned, my child was starving and fussy and the only way she was getting anything was from a bottle anyway. The first night at home, my baby girl didn’t get anything to eat. My breasts were engorged and she sometimes seemed to latch on, but my let-down was slow and she was impatient. I couldn’t relax because I was sleep-deprived and had no idea what it meant to have a slow let-down. I was pumping all day and we were giving her breast milk via a bottle. Supply wasn’t my issue this time around, thank goodness, but my emotional state could not handle this continued pumping-only breastfeeding relationship. And it killed me, emotionally speaking, that my baby wouldn’t nurse at the breast. What was the point of this nursing thing, if not to get the bonding that they all said was so important?

As we transitioned to formula...READ MORE


March 18, 2013

Dull Focus

How is it possible to love you so much
When I never saw you smile, or heard your sweet cry?
I never even felt you move,
Or felt your hand wrapped around my finger.

There are so many things I miss about you already...
I miss the snuggles I'll never get from your face on my chest.
I miss the cries that won't wake me in the middle of the night.
I miss saying, "Bless the baby!" because I'll never hear your baby sneezes.
I miss the giggles and the laughter you'd surely share with your brothers and sisters.

Sometimes the tears just well up in my eyes.
And I don't want to stop them.
Not that I could.

Sometimes I just sigh...for no reason...take a huge breath and...
Let it out.

Sometimes I am irritated by everyone because I can't just sit still and miss you.

Most of the time, I am sad.  Just so very sad.

The books I read tell me someday the sadness will lessen.  
But right now, I don't know how that can be.  
I put on a smile and I face each day.

I put one foot in front of the other.
It's been my mantra for so many years now,

And only now, since I lost you, my son,
Does my heart understand how truly difficult that can be.


March 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes - 44 (First-Times-Edition)

--- 1 ---

It's the first time we've had a Pope named Francis.  I am really excited about our new Pope.  I would be excited about any Pope, I know, but I think it's so very awesome that he took the name of Francis.  I am floored that we haven't had a Francis before.  It seems like a perfect name for a Pope.  But maybe we haven't had one before because it's the perfect name for THIS Pope.  It was emotional to learn of his election and then wait to meet him on T.V. Wednesday.  Oh, who am I kidding...everything is emotional for me these days.  It brought me a feeling of peace to learn the name he chose.

--- 2 ---

Wednesday was my first day back to work.  I walked in.  My chest got heavy, I needed deep breaths and I wanted to walk right back out.  I didn't know how to prepare myself to go to work, and so...it hurt my heart to be there, not pregnant, seeing everyone and everything I had seen for the last time not knowing that Gregory had died.  I entered my office and put my things down and just walked out around the perimeter of my floor, breathing deeply, tearing up a little, telling myself, "I have to go back to work sometime.  It's never going to be easy.  Just get through today."  I fought back the tears at that point.  I grabbed my rosary and wrapped it around my wrist and held onto the Crucifix for dear life.
About an hour later, I was reading e-mails, catching up, and I came to two that had February 28th and 12:17 and 12:35 on them.  My ultrasound started on February 28th, scheduled for 12:15 and it was over by 12:35 and my heart was broken.  So, I got up and started walking.  I wasn't sure where I was going, but I needed to find some place where I could cry.  I walked up the two flights of stairs to a spot where there are chairs where people sometimes go to take personal phone calls.  I sat there for awhile, letting some tears out, but mostly trying to contain them.  After that I asked if it was all right if I left early and my boss was so understanding and said "Absolutely", so, I made it through the rest of the day (stopping to go and watch our Holy Father's first blessing).

--- 3 ---

I went to Confession for the first time since Gregory died on Wednesday.  It was weird and I hope to write more clearly about it.  But, I hadn't been since December 4 and it is Lent so I knew I needed to go.  While I hadn't spent much time in the past two weeks sinning, I had stuff I just knew I needed to confess from before that time.  But, when life changes so dramatically, so quickly and so traumatically, it's hard to remember.  I think that is why I had always gone to confession right before going in for inductions with my other children.  It just seemed right to labor and deliver with a clear conscience and a pure soul.  Confessing wasn't really on my mind before we went into the hospital to deliver Gregory, though. 
--- 4 ---

I actually made it through a Rosary for the first time since Gregory died on Wednesday.  When I packed before we went to the hospital to deliver him, I packed my Bible, my Shorter Christian Prayer book and my Rosary.  I tried a few times to pray, and even though I know all the words to all the prayers of the Rosary, they just wouldn't come.  On Wednesday, when I left work, I went straight to Church and pulled out my Rosary.  I cried heavily, but made it through the Glorious mysteries.  I even made it through a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, too.  In hindsight, I think I really really needed that prayer and the fact that I prayed it is probably what helped me get to confession a little bit later. 

--- 5 ---

Tuesday was the first time I ever read Wisdom, Chapter 4.  On recommendation of my doctor (yes, I know that's so cool :) ) I picked up my Bible and turned to the Book of Wisdom and found Chapter 4.  The first part was a bit difficult to read, but then, the heading of "On Early Death" appeared right before verse 7.  Here are verses 7-15:

"But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported--- Snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul; For the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind.  Having become perfect in a short while, he reached the fullness of a long career; for his soul was pleasing to the LORD, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness. But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account."

The parts that look like this are the parts that continue to repeat in my brain.

--- 6 ---

I wrote my first thank you note. Well, it is really a letter.  It turned into four pages. It's to my doctor. You know, I always think I should write and thank him for everything after I've had a baby, but that's about all I've ever done...think about it.  Yesterday, I sat down with my pen and my paper and I wrote him every bit of thanks that I thought I owed him. I felt the need to thank him for sharing in our sorrow as well as our joy in our lives. I can't imagine going through pregnancy, birth and...now (sadly), a loss of a child without him.

--- 7---

This is my first time writing Quick Takes since we lost Gregory.  I'm trying to get back into some semblance of a routine.  About the only thing that is routine so far is that every time I do something for the first time since we lost Gregory -- doesn't matter how mundane or how big time it is -- it is hard. So. Incredibly. Hard.  As much as my life changed the minute my children have been born, my life changed that much, and then some, the day we lost Gregory.

I am linking up with Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary today.


March 12, 2013

And Then It Was Nothing

The ultrasound was uneventful, in more ways than one.

First of all, as I drove there, I remembered how difficult it was to go see my Doctor last Friday and how I suddenly was overcome and began crying while I was checking in and then cried more as I was walked back to a room to wait.  So, I gave myself a pep talk, of sorts.  I was going back to the same place where I had been when I found out Gregory had passed away.  I told myself, "It's okay.  It's just an ultrasound and it's just a building.  Try to keep it together."  Rebecca texted me just before I was going in that she was praying for me, and I'm so glad she was.

I went through registration and then, the technician came out to get me...and...it was the same guy who had verified for the girl doing my ultrasound that she was not seeing heart movement.  I just took a deep breath when I saw him and reminded myself that this procedure will be quick, no need to worry about it too much, no tears...

So, it was uneventful initially in the fact that I was able to get out of there with no tears.  I decided I won on that front.

When my doctor called with the results, it was pretty much inconclusive.  There was something they saw that couldn't be ruled out as a piece of placenta.  But they noted that, "It could be a fibroid."  Well.  Okay then.  So, based on his confidence that I had indeed passed the placenta very quickly after delivering Gregory, he thought everything was probably fine and the bleeding I experienced was probably within the "normal" range.  He consulted with another doctor and advised that I should take an antibiotic as a precautionary measure and told me that I should expect spontaneous bleeding episodes like the one I had Sunday over the next 10-14 days.  

And I got a return to work date of tomorrow.

Finally, before getting off the phone, he offered me some spiritual healing by recommending that I read Chapter 4 of the Book of Wisdom.  I haven't done that yet.  But I will.  I had school board meeting last night and then was getting kids in bed, etc.  But I will grab my Bible sometime today and read that.

It's interesting.  When I packed for the hospital, I took along my Bible and my "Shorter Christian Prayer" book.  Here's the thing about not being an avid Bible reader, or someone who knows passages by heart, etc:  I may have had my Bible, but I would never have known where to look in the Bible for anything that could help me.  

In that vein, how grateful I am to my doctor!  I haven't even read it yet, but I know it will help me.  Just the fact that he shares my Catholic faith and seems to have a strong faith life himself has made me feel better.  Truly...another blessing for which I am so very grateful.

I plan to run a few errands today and get myself in the right frame of mind to return to work tomorrow.  I plan to pick up some stationery and a few particular Thank-You cards.  I have many people to thank for their love, kindness, generosity, support and compassion over the past two weeks.

I had a pretty good day emotionally  yesterday even with everything going on.  My children continue to be a source of immense joy for me that help me process and understand Gregory's role in our family.  My husband continues to be a huge source of strength for me as I wade through this grief.  There are more days coming that will be hard, I know.  One will happen in the next week, when the cemetery sends us information on ordering a marker for Gregory's grave.  There will be another week anniversary to ponder in just a couple of days.  At some point, I know I will mark the time in months, and then finally in years.  It's strange, I've noticed that sometimes women focus on the due date of their baby as a sort of milestone or marker.  Perhaps I will, too.  I'm not sure.  Right now, March 1st is the day I will always remember my precious Gregory, I think.  But, who knows?  The due date hasn't approached yet, so I don't know how I'll feel then.

Vincent started wanting me again.  A few months back he kind of got a "Daddy Crush" and would only want Craig to hold him or to play with him or comfort him.  In the last week, he has reverted to wanting me more, and that has been very helpful.  Although, as we walked into the daycare today, he insisted I put him down and he walk himself up to the door.  He's been taking his pants off and putting his socks on.  And, he's been showing signs of potty-training readiness.  And, it hits me -- that he is growing and maturing and will no longer be a "baby" with diapers and such in a fairly short time.  I'm not sure how that is going to hit me.  It's been so long since we have lived without a baby in the house or on the way.  

Thank you all for the kind words you have sent me through comments, or facebook messages, or texts, or e-mail.  I do want you to know how helpful it has been.  Our family has been lifted up in prayer to heights I have never been aware of before, and I know that is why we are where we are emotionally and physically.  So, thank you for all of your caring and your compassion.  It has helped to bring grace and peace to our lives at a time when those two things have been so necessary.


March 11, 2013

Rambl-ey Update Post

I was planning to go back to work today. I guess that wasn't acceptable to Someone because some physical things happened in the last 24 hours to prevent that.

And so, here I am, still at home, trying to rest a bit, maybe get the kitchen cleaned up.  When I had planned to be back at work today.  I have an ultrasound scheduled for 1:30 p.m.  The ultrasound was ordered to ensure I did not retain placenta.  My doctor was fairly certain all was good in this arena.  But some continued large clots are causing some worry in that department.  So, the ultrasound will help us figure out where the clots are coming from.

I remembered this morning as I drove Vincent to the babysitter that I have had Fibroid tumors in the past that have caused excessive bleeding.  So, this could be part of that.  Fibroids grow quickly with increased hormone levels...so the one I already knew about could be bigger now, or there just could be more of them in my uterus.  Obviously, the ultrasound will help us figure that out.

I've filed a short term disability claim through the insurance company so that I don't deplete all my paid time off with all this stuff.  And that makes me feel a little less anxious as well.  I know that my doctor will approve and give me an appropriate "return to work" date once we get everything figured out. 

It is weird.  I don't cry all the time now.  And for that I am grateful.  I have even been able to smile and laugh with my family.  My children are so good at helping with that.  But, there is still sadness that I can feel almost constantly.  The level is usually determined by how much I allow myself to think about it in a given moment.  And while it's not all the time, when the urge hits, it is often without warning.  I find myself lost as I begin processing emotions and realize that I'm in the company of my children or somewhere else I'd rather not be while I'm crying and grieving.

Attending Mass yesterday was still painful.  The Psalm got to me this time.  "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" was difficult.  I mean, I know the Lord is good, but right now it's painful.  "I will bless the LORD at all time; his praise shall be ever in my mouth" was the part that did it.  And I do bless the Lord, still, but I just wish it weren't so darn painful.  I am not angry at God.  I understand that Gregory had his place and it just happens to be with God for a much longer time that he was with me.  But even though I'm not really angry, I am still sad and I miss my baby.  And I think that is why I cry.  

Receiving Communion is still painful.  The separation rears its head nice and ugly right as I pray, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof..."  Because, I am sad that I am not worthy to be with our Lord and with Gregory right now.  I'm so pleased that Gregory is worthy to be in the presence of our Lord.  But I'm so sad that I can't be with Gregory.  I'm still here on Earth, working out salvation in fear and trembling, and it's painful.  I do hope that someday soon, I can receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist without tears of sadness and separation running down my face.  But for now, it's just a very apparent separation.  And what is even odder, is that while I am sad at the separation, I am also comforted in knowing Gregory is where I hope to be at the end of my earthly life.

Something I stumbled upon while looking for some online support...
Our lives continue...
Sarah got back into her volleyball practice routine with a practice Thursday and then yesterday.  Dani was back at her guitar lessons and Helen back at ballet.  Dominic has 2 birthday parties to attend in the next few days and Helen has one this weekend, too.  Vincent has maintained a schedule so much better than I thought he would, and he's talking more and more and his little personality is really working itself into the fabric of our family right now (I just love 1-year-olds anyway, for that reason).  

Yesterday, I went shopping to purchase some clothes that would fit me these next few weeks while I go to work.  With previous pregnancies, I had 6-8 or 10-12 weeks to work off some of the pregnancy weight I'd gained.  Having only a week -- and a week in which I wasn't really focusing on making healthy eating choices at that -- was not helpful for getting back into some work clothes.  I did go back to Weight Watchers on Saturday to get a starting point and begin the process -- before anyone chides me a bit about it, I just knew if I didn't go back to a meeting, I would eat myself into another 10 pounds to lose and I just can't let myself do that.

Craig's has been back to work since Wednesday.  I think I will encourage him to get a run in or a workout of some sort soon.  I think he would enjoy it, and I would like to see him do that.  It just feels like I'm going through the motions of getting everyone back to where we were before February 28 at about 12:15.  And I know it's only been 12 days, so I'm not expecting it to all be okay right now.  But I just kind of do the routines so that we have something to do.  Some kind of normal is better than no kind of normal, from what I have been able to discern.

So, there's a rambl-ey update post for you.  We're putting one foot in front of the other -- like we always have.  I have a post brewing to discuss just how awesome the support has been for us -- from our parish, our families, our friends, the online/blogosphere and the twitter -- it will be an overwhelming post I think, so I'm thinking it through.  I can't imagine going through something like that with anything less than what we've had.  But I know it must happen all the time, and that makes me so very sad.

Okay, it's Monday.  I need to get myself cleaned up to go to this ultrasound appointment.  I am praying it's "just" (haha) the Fibroids and nothing worse than that.  

March 10, 2013

On Pain and What Ifs

The pain...sneaks up. It's like it's a stealthy little varmint that picks the time I can least defend myself. Tonight, I was driving the kids home from an activity...and my thoughts turned to my conversation with my doctor yesterday...

I asked him, "Have you ruled out progesterone deficiency as a cause?  I mean, did we stop the injections too soon?" And so he gave me an "introductory" answer, first, in which he assured me how outside the mainstream he is for treating progesterone deficiency during pregnancy at all.

I assured him, "Well, I'm fairly certain if you didn't treat me for progesterone deficiency all these years and monitored it so closely, I would have miscarried one of my other children." And, the doctor agreed with me and mentioned going over my records and agreeing with the treatments in the past as well as with the first trimester treatment this time.  And he reiterated that some association of OB/GYN had declared it not necessary and he was considered "fringe"  -- kind of "out there" for being willing to treat it at all. And he also mentioned that there are few studies -- like there hardly exists any evidence he can use -- to point to the fact that it truly helps.  And there's nothing out there that says it wouldn't cause birth defects with continued use.  And my doctor is nothing, if not cautious and focused on treating and caring for both mom and baby throughout pregnancy.

But...then...then, he said all I probably needed to hear on the topic:  

"In the future, if I have an older patient -- perhaps someone approaching 40 or in the forties -- who has had trouble, I would probably double-check myself before stopping the treatment, or in the very least monitor it closely while stopping the treatments." (Paraphrasing from my memory)

And it was those words that rang through my ears as I began to cry tonight.  It is those words that are causing the tears to resurface.  Right now, the thought that we might have stopped treating my progesterone deficiency prematurely, which may have caused me to lose Gregory is breaking my heart all over again.

I'm not naive.  We could have continued to treat my progesterone and I may still have lost Gregory.  I know that. But right now, knowing how hard we worked to get through the first trimester...God...I would have taken injections for as long as they were needed.  I would have.  Sure, I complained a bit and honestly, I suffered some skin irritation around the injections sites that made me happy to set the injections aside.  But my number had increased -- not to the level it increased to when we stopped injections with Vincent...but we thought we should be good in the 2nd trimester.  

But...we weren't, possibly.

I don't understand why something that has been so helpful to me (progesterone supplementation) is not embraced by the medical community that is supposed to help women save their babies.  I find that I dislike it very much that my doctor thinks that he's a "fringe" doctor simply because he does what he has learned helps to save babies and save mothers from pain like I am experiencing.  I know not all miscarriages are due to progesterone deficiency.   But I also know many doctors won't even consider treating progesterone deficiency in pregnancy unless a woman has had a miscarriage before.

There are still many tests out that my doctor hasn't received the results to yet.  He mentioned a couple of genetic blood clotting disorders that he's awaiting results on.  But I pressed him:  "But nothing points to me ever having a clot, does it?" and he admitted that was true.  With no evidence of a clot, it really doesn't matter if I have genetic tendencies for clots or not in this case.

So, I'm left with my "advanced maternal age" and my progesterone deficiency.  My damn body that won't make enough of a hormone required to maintain and nourish pregnancy.  And now I miss my baby.  Now, I start crying on the way home with absolutely no apparent prompt whatsoever.

I'd be angry if I weren't so freaking sad.

March 7, 2013

1 Week Ago

1 Week ago, this morning...

...I was busy.  Hustling about to get the children ready for school.
...I attended Mass -- the all-school Mass
...I smiled at many people -- all familiar faces that smiled back
...I went to breakfast with my husband and with my son, Dominic
...I looked forward to my ultrasound and finding out for sure the gender of the baby I carried
...I cared for my husband who seemed to be coming down with a cold and told him to rest at home instead of come with me

1 Week ago, this afternoon...

...I endured an eerie check-in as I prepared to go in for my ultrasound
...I sat in a quiet waiting room, thinking how weird that check-in was
...I followed a beautiful girl back to the ultrasound room, verifying for her I wanted to know the gender
...I waited for the news that never came -- the heart rate, the blessed heart rate that I had been so blessed to hear at 5 previous mid-pregnancy ultrasounds
...I watched as the technician's face turned more serious
...I asked, "Is that the head?" and "is that an arm or a leg?" to break the silence and get some kind of feedback so I didn't have to interpret her facial expressions
...I heard her say, "I need to get another person to come and verify what I am seeing -- I am not seeing any heart movement."
...I had a pause and then, the tears and the sobs began before she left the room yet.  Nothing had been verified, but I already knew.

1 Week ago, this evening...

...I had made arrangements for our children and we made the drive to the hospital
...I had endured hours of crying and sobbing, only to wonder where the tears could be coming from at this point?
...I drifted to sleep not knowing if it would take half a day or 2 days to deliver my precious boy
...I drifted to sleep praying to my Nana (who had suffered a stillbirth with her first baby) asking her to pray for me that this would not take too long -- I couldn't bear it.

1 Week ago, my concerns and worries completely flip-flopped in one moment.

1 Week ago, my heart broke in a way I hadn't ever understood was possible.


March 5, 2013

A Prayer Today My Angel

My Lord, the baby is dead! 
Why, my Lord, dare I ask why? 
(He) will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of (his) parents’ face. 
(He) will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. 
 Why, my Lord? 

“Why, My child, do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why. 

You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty, he sees My face. 
He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. 
He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. 
He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. 

My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. 
He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. 
I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.” 

I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. 
I speak as a fool, forgive me. 
I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. 
I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity. 

--Mother Angelica

March 4, 2013

The Weekend and The Kids Came Home!

Saturday following my letter to my baby boy, I cried for a long time. Craig woke up and came downstairs and saw it printed and laying on the desk and asked to read it. And of course, I said yes. I read it again while he read it. It touched me but also pained me to hear him sob as he read my words to our precious baby boy. It pained me for obvious reasons -- my sweetheart, my mate, he hurts, too. It was his baby boy that went on to heaven, too.  It touched me because the words I wrote were probably words he could write.  And his tears mingled with my own.  We hugged and held each other for a bit.  

The children were out in various places over the weekend.  On Friday night as Craig and I ate pizza, drank a couple of beers and watched rented movies, I was feeling a bit guilty that my other children were not there with us.  But then...

Then, we went to bed.  I was overcome in the dark and the silence with grief.  The sobs were uncontrollable and I couldn't stifle them, even if I had wanted to. 

And I was no longer feeling guilty, but feeling so very grateful to our friends who had offered to take them for the weekend.  

Craig and I both lay in bed crying.  Crying for our sweet baby boy that we desired so much to be here with us still.  And yes, for the first time ever, I was so grateful...even elated...that my older children were not in our home with us at that time.

So, on Saturday, after writing, after reading over and over my own words, and after holding my husband and crying some more, I lay down on the couch, pulled up a blanket and lay with my eyes closed -- an attempt to stop the horrid pounding in my head that seems to accompany my tears right now.  I finally drifted into a sleep.  I awoke and looked at the clock and saw it was 12:15!  I had slept for probably 2 hours, and it was almost time for the KU game and getting on to the time we would go to meet with Father Rogers to begin making arrangements for Gregory's Mass.

Saturday was another day of Craig and me.  Together.  Just the two of us.  We watched KU.  We went to get our hair cut.  We scheduled the Mass for Gregory.  We ate sub sandwiches and popcorn purchased from the movie theater while we watched rented movies again.  And drank a couple beers.  We just hung out.  Together.  We needed it so badly.  When I went to bed Saturday, I worried if I would be overcome again.  But this time, I was able to go to bed and fall asleep with minimal tears.  I thanked God for that.

Then on Sunday, we knew the kids were coming home.  I got my shower in, I did my hair and I put on makeup.  I put on nice clothes for church.  I kind of felt a little bit like I was okay.  The processional hymn was "Be Not Afraid."  As soon as I saw it, I shut the hymnal and grabbed my tissues and said to Craig, "I can't do this today." and I regretted putting make up on.  Of course, I fell apart.  I pulled it together by the Gospel reading.  And then, they prayed for us in the petitions and I began to fall apart again.  And then, I went to receive the Holy Eucharist and could not stop the tears.  There is a very real feeling of separation for me right now because receiving the Holy Eucharist is the only way I get to be with Jesus...and Gregory is already fully with Jesus, all the time.  And my heart breaks because of my two desires:  I desire to be with our Lord and with Gregory so very badly.  I also desire to be here with my husband and my other children because being separated from them would hurt so badly at this time...and, well, I'm still living in the world.  And so this crazy split personality completely blooms right as I approach our Lord in the Eucharist.  I want to say so badly, "Lord, I want to be with You, and Gregory, now and forever and always, but yet -- here I am on EArth and I can't be with You and Gregory right now and it's a real and a physical pain in my heart."

I know our Lord must understand.  But my human brain cannot wrap itself around the idea and the pain is enough to bring the tears.

After Mass, we got to take Helen home.  I hugged her forever and I kissed her so many times.  I told her how much I missed her and that I loved her so.  We went to the Funeral Home to take care of things there.  Then we went home and waited for all of our precious children to make their way back.

The hospital had sent a soft, quilted bag of sorts that had momentos and pictures the hospital photographer had taken of Gregory.  I hadn't opened it.  But I thought that I should look at it before the kids were there so I could offer for them to look at the things if they wanted to.  So, I took the items out...the tiny teddy bear that weighed about as much as Gregory had, the tiny rattle, the little block with the letter G, the blue, crocheted baby blanket and hat.  Finally, I picked up the envelope with the pictures, I took a deep breath and I took them out and looked at them.  The tears came, though not violently, as I flipped through them one by one.  My precious baby boy, so tiny, so beautiful.

Finally, all the girls were back and we told them that the baby was a little brother (we hadn't known that from the ultrasound) and his name was Gregory.  When the girls looked through the photos, oh, how they "ooh'd" and they "ahh'd" and they said, "Aw, look how cute he is!" and they said, "He's so tiny!" and "He's so beautiful!"  I cannot tell you how much that right there made me feel so good.  My heart swelled for my children.  Of course, I knew they would love their little brother, but to hear them verbally affirm him so positively took days off my grieving time, I am sure.  It make my heart so happy to hear them all loving on their baby brother.

Later in the evening, Dominic started talking about his "baby sister" and I said, "No, Dominic, the baby was a boy, remember? And we named him Gregory. And he has gone on to be with Jesus."  The tears started coming and he put his head on my chest and said, I miss my baby sister.  And I just let him say it that time.  Then I remembered he hadn't seen the pictures yet and I asked him if he wants to see some pictures of his baby brother.  He said yes and so we went to get everything out again.  I showed him the tiny teddy bear.  As I showed him the pictures, I was explaining about Gregory's skin and Dominic asked me, "So, he is red?" and I said, "yes, that is how he looks because his skin wasn't like ours yet" and Dominic very matter-of-factly said, "My baby brother has red skin."  And he cried a little bit more and told me that he misses his baby brother.  And I tearfully told him that I did, too.  There were other moments, but basically, my children have been my lifeline out of some of the deep grief I feel right now.

My children seem to understand that the baby is not coming home.  They seem to have appropriate levels of sadness to that and they seem to have a strong understanding that Heaven was God's place for Gregory right now, even though we miss him so.

I know this is only one day.  There are more days coming and it might not be so clear to us all on those days.  But for now, I'm just clinging onto this day, loving all of my children and my husband, and praying to get on to the next day.


March 2, 2013

Gregory Hughes - 3/1/2013

***I wrote this out in my Drafts.  I thought a long time about publishing.  This is my space and I've never had to write anything so painful.  Part of me is screaming to leave it in Drafts.  The other part of me is pushing to publish it so that...I don't know...that it is healing for me to make it public among my readers.  But I am hurting so much right now, that I think it's cathartic, just to get it out...to purge my soul of these words so that I can write new words.  I don't know if I can or if I will write new words.  But part of me feels like I have to get these words out so new words can come in.  So, that is why I publish.  If you're not in a place where you can read about a woman whose heart has broken, no shattered, at this moment, you may want to just pass***

My baby boy, Gregory, was born and died at 6:09 a.m. March 1, 2013.  This is my letter to him on the day after.

My dearest Gregory. My sweet baby boy. I miss you so much. I love you so much.

When I  found out you were conceived, I was shocked and happy, too.  It can be that way you know.  I actually have quite a level of surprise with each of your siblings when we found out they were on the way.  Always surprise that God would bless us with this supreme gift.  And we've been blessed 6 times.  That's a lot really.  And it's more than we could have ever expected or deserved.

You were even more special, you know.  #6!  You make our family larger than the ones your dad and I grew up in.  We sometimes felt a little out of our comfort zone thinking about it.  Thoughts of larger vehicles, new sleeping arrangements, special day care arrangements floated constantly in and out of my mind.  I had a hunch you were a boy from the minute I heard your heart beat. You might be the kid to even the house out (4 males and 4 females).  Your strong heart beat at 135 bpm when I was 13 weeks pregnant with you. 

When I heard that heartbeat you were only about 4 weeks away from moving on to be with our Heavenly Father.  I am glad I didn't know that then.

I struggled physically through this pregnancy because I never felt good.  People asked often "how are you feeling?" and I never had a good answer because I didn't want to tell people that I felt "blah" and I wanted to be joyful at your presence in our lives.  So I never knew what to say because I really didn't feel anything better than "blah" or "kinda yucky" or anything like that.  I was overly fatigued.  I passed all of this off thinking-- well, that's life for a mom of 5, growing a 6th, with a full-time job and a full plate of activities for the other children -- I'm supposed to be tired.  But knowing what I know now...it makes sense...you were struggling to come along.  And my body was trying to bring you along, but it wasn't gonna happen this time.

My precious baby -- I never got to see you alive, moving around in my womb.  I am starting to realize I may have only felt you move a couple of times, and those might have been flukes.  I started to get concerned around 18 weeks when, if I poked my abdomen, I didn't get a poke back from you.  With your sisters and brothers...even if I didn't feel regular movement yet (and they were all pretty late with that except one) I could poke and get a poke back.  But you never poked me back.

I did not get an early ultrasound.  I was sure of your conception date, so Dr. H. didn't order an ultrasound to date the pregnancy.  Perhaps that is a blessing.  Perhaps we would have found out what would ultimately take you Home to Jesus and lived this pregnancy in fear of the day you would leave us.  And instead, we simply loved you and anticipated you up to that moment when they couldn't find your heart beating at that ultrasound when you were supposed to be 18w 6d along.  

You measured 17w 2d.  That means you most likely passed away in the following hours or the day following my last prenatal appointment.  Your heart was soft, but the doctor said he could hear it and it beat at 115 bpm.  I wanted to ask him to do it again so I can hear it better, but I had your older sisters and Dominic with me, and I didn't want to cause a scene with them there.  So, I accepted it.  I marveled because the lowest heartbeat rating for Dominic was 120 bpm in utero.  

The pain that seared through my heart in the seconds after the technician said she couldn't find heart movement is completely indescribable.  My sobs were of the primal, uncontrolled sort.  And I couldn't stop crying.  I had to call Craig.  I didn't want to.  But I had to.  We cried on the phone for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only about 5 minutes.  I was lost.  What do I do now?  The technicians were calling Dr. H.  I was still lost.  The fog set in.  I literally could not stop sobbing and it felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  Over and over.  Every time I had to tell someone on the phone what happened, I couldn't stop the sobs as I said, "My baby died."

We arrived at the hospital around 7:00 p.m. February 28.  During the registration process, I felt like I needed to request a room out of the way in Labor and Delivery.  The registration lady assured me she thought it was a room out of the way, but if I was not comfortable when I saw it to have them move me.  I began crying in her office.  The crying turned to sobbing as I walked with my husband to the elevators.  The sobbing turned inconsolable as we walked into Labor and Delivery and past the nurse station.  When I saw the room, I knew it was perfect.  It was halfway down the back hallway.  No one would hear me sob as I delivered you and I wouldn't hear other women having their babies...their full-term babies.  

They began cytotec around 8 p.m. and Craig and I visited with our brother-in-law who stopped by.  Then we tried to sleep.  I awoke at 2:15 and they put in the next dose.  The nurse stayed and told me what to expect when I saw you for the first time. She asked if I wanted to hold you.  I hadn't even thought of that as an option, though I understand why they ask now.  The nurse told me about how your skin would be so thin...kind of like the membrane under an egg shell that helps hold the egg together.  I would be able to see the blood flowing in your skin.  But I would see your eyes, nose, mouth, hands, feet...everything.  I would just need to be careful and understand that you weren't old enough for your skin to be creamy or flesh colored.  I'm glad she prepared me.  She also prepared me for what it would feel like when it was time to have you.  Dr. H returned to the floor just in time to tend to you and to me.  He broke your water and you were born within minutes after that.  They told me you were a boy...and I knew it already.  They put you on a blanket and I held you.  So gently...I held you and looked at you.  You were perfect.  Your eyes were closed and your nose was so perfect.  Your mouth looked like your Daddy's mouth.  And your tiny hands...the pad of your entire hand could fit comfortably on the fingerprint pad of my index finger.  But you had five perfect fingers on each hand and you kept them close to you in your fetal position.

I cried because you were so beautiful.  You were tiny.  You were as beautiful as all of my babies have been. I cried because I love you so much and now I don't get to take you home, and feed you a bottle and burp you.  I don't get to change your diapers.  I don't get to help you learn to crawl and then walk.  I don't get to watch your sisters fuss over holding you.  I don't get to watch you play cars with your brothers. 

I continue to cry. At Mass this morning, I cried as I received the Holy Eucharist because I miss you and because you are already in full Communion with our Lord and I desire so badly to be there with you. I cry because I know you'll never serve Mass with your brothers.  I cry because...  I cry because...I love you and miss you and want you here with me.  I cry because I know you're where you are supposed to be, but it hurts so bad that you're not here with me. I want you to be here with me. 

So, it's time to call Father Rogers and get some arrangements made for a Mass and burial.  I love you so much.  I miss you so much.  I am trying so hard to understand why I needed this, but I know God has a plan in all this, however painful it is.  I have to continue to believe this.

Gregory.  My sweet baby boy.  I love you so.  I miss you so. 

I love you.  Please pray for your momma.  Please pray for me, Gregory.  I love you.