Saturday, January 31, 2015

Suffering is a Gift

Grief is a process full of ups and downs. The more I open myself to love in my life, the harder this process seems. When my brother died it was the absolute hardest time of my life. I was and still am full of so many regrets. The lyrics from an Avett Brothers song struck me so hard, "Every night after and every day since, I find myself crying when the memory hits. Sometimes it knocks me down, sometimes I can just put it away." This is so true. Sometimes I would cry and cry for days, then at times I could even forget myself for a time, and then I'd remember, he's dead. And it's like someone cut the cables to my heart and it would just speed down into a bottomless abyss, and my body melted and wasted away.

The memories would all come flooding back. The phone call. The screaming. The pleading with God. All the details of every word spoken, my sister calling me while she drove about a hundred miles an hour to his house, begging me to pray, the spot where I sat on the couch in our first apartment when my mother told me over the phone that I needed to sit down, Lenny's innocent body sleeping on our bed, his wispy blonde hairs nestled between the pillows, as we packed funeral clothes in our bags. Every minute was like a wave, the realization would crash against me leaving all my senses numb, and twist my insides into knots until they burst, and leave me lifeless on the sand, only to start it all again when the next crushing wave hit me.

Every time I would feel a bit of peace or acceptance in the months following Pietro's death, a new facet of the tragedy would manifest itself to me, as so many people lost a husband, a father, a brother, a best friend, a son, a cousin and nephew and godfather, a stronghold and a resting place. Lost was the chance to live and grow in love. Lost was the chance to forgive. And the greatest horror I felt was a soul being called away from this Earth with no warning. Was he scared? Did he think he might die? Or did he think he might not be hurt too badly? Did he even see it coming at all? I wonder what he thought of in that last moment, whether he turned to regrets and clung to his life on Earth, whether he feared the judgment of God, or whether he threw himself gladly into the loving arms of Jesus. Did time stand still as he fixed his mind and gaze onto the Holy Face, or did he suffer greatly thinking of his beautiful wife and child, of the great trials they would face, as a million thoughts raced through his head?

As time goes on I know I can only trust in the infinite love of Jesus. Saint Therese of Lisieux said, “to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to sweetness and consolations; it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter, because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love, the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering.” I think of her disposition in which she delighted to suffer and to undergo trials for the love of Christ. To surrender yourself to suffering you have to accept it, not wish it away. Still, I do wish this tragedy away. But I try to resign myself to it, knowing my deepest wishes won't change the past. The sacrifice Saint Therese speaks of involves very much the giving of our lives to God and allowing Him complete control. Whatever trials we face we must accept them gladly. Most importantly, we must endure even the small things with the same spirit knowing that it is of great value to the Lord who has given us the smallest burden to carry for the love of His Name, and thank Him for the gifts of suffering He gives us. Bearing the suffering of tragedy has great merit to the heart of Jesus, but it is the small sacrifices we make in all the little moments that collect like drops in an ocean and rise up like a great tide to purify our souls. 

All these questions and memories that haunt me, I try to give them back to Jesus and ask for His peace to fill me, to accept this cross with the greatest love I can. I ask Him to give me a love for the cross, to thank Him for the suffering in my life. All the sufferings and sadness of our lives, all the tiny deaths we die every day, stretch our hearts so much that we think they might break and we might die. But, our hearts don't break. We don't die of sadness. Our hearts stretch to their limits, and if we take that hurt and give it back to Jesus as an offering of love, he will fill us full of His love, and with each suffering that causes our hearts to stretch to the breaking point, we grow strong again from the healing balm of His love. Every trial causes your heart to stretch more than it ever has. It hurts and it seems pointless and cruel and unfair. But- the more your heart stretches the larger it grows and the greater the capacity for it to be filled. All the more thankful you should be then for every suffering that comes your way. Each one is a gift. Each hardship in your life is a gentle caress of Jesus who wants nothing more than to fill you with His love, and in His goodness He allows your heart to plunge into the lowest depths of sadness so that he might draw you up from your misery to the very heights of joy. 

As hard as it is, I thank you, Lord, for the many gifts you shower on me. The tragedies in my life. The countless times you allow me to be nothing before others, to show me how very little I really am. This world, in rejecting suffering, rejects You. Allow me then to suffer gladly so that I might never reject you. Suffering is a gift.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Time Well Wasted

These kids just crack me up! I just walked into the playroom where Carolina way playing with a puzzle. I said, do you have a horse? Apparently she hadn't realized I was in there because I scared her so bad she yelled out and jumped up like the horse was talking to her and not me. And in that same instant she looked up and saw it was me and she leaped over to me to save her from the puzzle and she laughed. Or course I was dying of laughter. 

Meanwhile Lenny is busy with his photographic endeavors, using my phone to take 100 blurry and poorly lit pictures of his toes, chin selfies, Carolina's hair bow, and several thousand up-close shots of the weave of my bed sheet. Because, "I like white." I wonder what he sees when he scrolls through the fruits of his experimentation. He takes a picture of his pillow pet, the back of it, mind you, not the face, and he says, "Oh, yeah. That's good." I'm so happy that he's creating art for his own sake and not for the approval of me or anyone else. 

Now I've been requested to take pictures of the farm animals poking through the holes of the tent, and I have to show them to Lenny for approval. He was none too happy at Carolina's little fingers trying to grab the goat and ruining the composition. 

And D.J. Mixmaster is walking around with her usual headphones around her neck, laying some sick beats by slamming toys on the table and adding in some vocals where she just repeats the words "Paw Patrol". A few high pitch screams complete the track. 

Now I'm off to make lunches and get a work out at the same time by wearing my leg weights- one slightly larger and about twelve pounds heavier than the other. Can't go into the kitchen without them tracking me down. Love them! One day they won't need to hang on me while I make lunch. One day they won't even want to. My heart. 

Sometimes when people talk about being  in the present, they act like you should forget the past and ignore the future. But you need that big picture to enjoy the now. To see your children as infants and not mourn the babies you'll never see again, but to enjoy the pleasures of your life together now as it wasn't back then. And to see your children as adults and not grieve for the childhood you'll never get back, but to be able to cherish it even more now. It's bittersweet to look at the past and future, but without it there is no present moment, and no understanding of just how precious each moment now truly is.  

It's easy to keep that big picture in mind when life with kids is cute and sweet and wonderful. Not so much when the kids make each other cry, or make me cry, or when I make them cry. But, I'm working on it. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

When I Wake Up Tomorrow... house will look like this. Yes, this, and so much more:

Admitting I have a problem is step one right?

Ok. I have a problem. But I don't think I will lose any sleep over it tonight. I pretty much NEVER EVER leave a mess like this but things happen. 

So, for all you fools who think I've got it all together.
Any old time you want to send a pre-paid maid service over here, that would be great. 

Why is it that when it comes to cleaning sometimes you get so much done and other times so little, yet the very next day you are in the same sitch as usual, namely, your place looks like a huge crap. I just went though a huge ordeal of cleaning all week trying to get ahead, organizing stuff I've been meaning to get to since forever, and feeling quite accomplished and then here comes the weekend and at the end of it the house is trashed.

Things I regret:
1. The general trashiness

Things I don't regret:
1. Spending all weekend enjoying my husband and kids

There you have it. 
Although, tomorrow morning I'm gonna be blown. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Work in Progress

The other day Lenny came up to me while Carolina was having her nap and said, "Mama, I want to pray the rosary." The cuteness of his face and voice and skinny little body was just too much. Of course I wanted to weep, seeing this as some great foretelling of my son's future saintliness. 

So of course he needed to get all set up like we do whenever we pray altogether as a family. We got the old wooden rosaries down off the hooks where we keep them and lit the candle and sat down with a bowl of frozen berries for Lenny. I suspect this was the main reason for his request since I usually give him a bit of a snack after each decade to keep him from kicking Chris's glasses off his head or knocking the candle over with his wiggly body. 

I just cannot take all the cuteness. But... Sometimes I just feel like I want to lay on top of him and just hold him down until all the craziness stops. He can get really rough and he loves to snap at me, which really stings because his little comebacks and nasty remarks are all learned from the master of snarky comments- mama. He is a little mirror and everything I do whether good or bad is reflected right back at me and it can be painful to see what ugly habits I am teaching him and even though I try my best to change it's clearly a work in progress. 

But every once in a while such goodness blooms in him that it surprises me. He loves to do little things to please Chris, Carolina, and me. Like for Christmas he wrapped up his own toys to give one to each of us. He was absolutely delighted with himself. His smile lights up the whole world and although he has his moments, (what three year old doesn't?) he is such a happy boy full of such love for life. 

I pray every day to rise to the occasion of mothering my children. They deserve a saint but I'm all they've got. I believe God has a reason for it. Thank you, God. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I Hate NFP And Why I Do It Anyway

About a year ago Chris and I took a huge leap of faith and decided God would be in charge of planning our family size and spacing. I wrote this post about our reasoning behind it. I was honestly kind of scared at first but it is a strange and wonderful kind of freedom to trust in God and believe that His plan is what's best for us. So when Carolina was 9 months old, I saw all the signs of my fertility coming back. We talked about it and decided that we didn't need to abstain any more and went for it. My peak day came and went. And three days later I got my period. I was pretty confused, considering the time between ovulating and the start of a new cycle is generally 2 weeks. So of course, I'm all, what thee H is this?!? Is it some kind of freakishly early implantation bleeding? It was very light and only lasted for a day and a half. So I considered it to be spotting and waited for my period or a positive pregnancy test. Of course I took several tests that all came out negative, because one can never be too paranoid. And then I started getting signs of ovulation again.

So, it was a period. Which means my luteal phase (time between ovulation and next period) was only three days. And after extensive rounds through the internet I learned some things. 1. A fertilized egg generally implants 7 to 9 days after the day of ovulation. 2. A luteal phase must be at least 10 days in order to achieve pregnancy. 3. A short luteal phase is commonly due to low progesterone. 4. The breastfeeding hormone prolactin directly decreases progesterone. 5. My progesterone would increase as I decreased the frequency of nursing. 6. If I became pregnant with a short luteal phase, I would get my period and miscarry before the egg had a change to implant.

First of all, I obviously had no desire to get pregnant cycle after cycle only to unwittingly miscarry God knows how many babies, just because my body started gearing up for the next cycle before the baby could make its home in my uterus. I also had no desire to wean Carolina, especially before one year, just so I could become pregnant. So, it became a waiting game. One where I had to chart. I got the fertility friend app and dutifully took my waking temperature every day and charted my fertility signs and month by month the numbers crept up. First it was 3 days. Then 6. Then 6 again, then 8, and 8, and 9... Every month I hated my stupid body for being so slow to get back to normal. I felt like I was cursed with this knowledge about my fertility and hated having to wait, and while the whole world thought we were being "responsible" and spacing our babies, I just desperately wanted another baby and even though I knew it wouldn't be too long before we could try again, it felt like the day would never come. Everyone around me with their stupid normal bodies and hyper fertility and cluelessness about the whole process of everything it takes to get pregnant was popping up pregnant left and right.

The truth is, I hate NFP. But I need it. Sometimes I question why God laid it on our hearts to trust Him in the baby making process only to show us that we need to wait. And not just to wait many months before we wind up pregnant again, but to have to physically abstain and be so careful because any slip up could mean pregnancy. And pregnancy with a short luteal phase is a certain death sentence for the baby.

Well, seven months after the return of my cycle, it happened. I hit the magic number- 10. So we knew that we could stop the waiting game and give it up to God and see what happens. I knew I was pregnant well before my period was due. I took exorbitant amounts of pregnancy tests even though I knew it was a waste of money. And each one came out with the word YES and we were so happy. I kept charting my temps every morning and I saw them go higher and higher, a sure sign that the progesterone produced in pregnancy was doing its job. I wept and laughed and thanked God and told my family and told my children and prayed for the baby and imagined life with a newborn and made the sign of the cross over my womb and cried and laughed some more. Lenny couldn't stop rubbing and kissing my stomach and saying "Baby!" and it was all too cute and perfect.

Except it wasn't. Apparently, ten was not the magic number. At four and a half weeks, my temps dropped. I didn't even stress about it because temperatures fluctuate and I knew in a day or two my temps would be high again. And then I started spotting. And panic and denial and desperate pleading became my life. And then I started bleeding. And it didn't stop for a whole week. I don't even know why I am sharing this because I just want to curl up in a hole and die and never talk to anyone ever again. Except that I hope this might bring me some healing, because I am completely broken and I need to get better. I'll never forget how I crawled into bed next to Chris in the morning, the moment I realized that the bleeding wasn't going to stop. I could barely whisper the words, "I have my period." There was nothing else I could say. And I'll never forget how my body was cracked in a million places and blood, sweat, and tears flowed out and I could barely keep myself together and Chris, trying to comfort me and himself through his breaking heart, said, "Maybe the baby will be OK" and it was like a hammer straight to my gut and all the pieces fell to the floor because that false hope hurt worse than even the realization that our baby was gone. It was like looking into a mirror, because that false hope was the ugliest part of me, and I couldn't bear to see it because I knew it was a lie.

Now when I look at my babies playing together its like I'm seeing their future and they are getting older and enjoying life but someone is missing. Their sibling belongs there with them and its kills me that there is a void there next to them that will never be filled. Even if we have other children, one unique and amazing person with immeasurable worth is gone and we will never see our child again until we die. I know our baby is in heaven and is praying for us and is so much happier than living on this Earth could ever make them feel but it still hurts so bad.

And now I look back over the months of waiting, carefully trying to avoid exactly what just happened. Why? We were so informed, so cautious, so careful. We didn't want this agony. But God gave it to us anyway. I know suffering is the path to heaven. I know this, and I don't care. I don't want this suffering. I want my baby, I want my life back, I want to be a happy puking exhausted mom to my two children and I want the fear and pain of going through labor and and I want to hold my baby in my arms and be a mother of three living, breathing, beautiful children.

I hate NFP. I did everything right. I learned everything there was to learn. I didn't want to do it, but I did. Because I needed it. And I still do, even though my body let me down, my stupid, ugly, non-functioning body that I feel so betrayed by. This is my cross and I have to learn to love it. It will take time and prayer and trust, but I know I will be able to accept this miscarriage and move on. And in the meantime I will have my baby praying for me before the throne.

I love you, sweet baby. Your daddy named you, just like he did for your older siblings. Maybe one of these days I'll get to pick a name. But when he told me the name he was thinking of for you, it broke my heart with love. We named you Wren, because you flew away from us too soon, and Karol, for Saint John Paul II. We miss you darling Wren, until we meet in eternal life. Pray for us.