Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Today would have been my child’s tenth birthday.

I had a miscarriage ten years ago, in April 1999. I was 28 years old and had one son, 6 months old, when I found out I was expecting again. I was so excited, and announced to our families right away! Some thought it was too early to announce “in case something happens”, but I said it’s never too early – how can you pray for him or her unless you know?

Well, something did happen. I started bleeding when I was 6 weeks pregnant. I was scared to death. I called the doctor, who said it was a miscarriage. I forget what he said after that. The bleeding got heavier. I remember getting up in the night to go to the bathroom, and the bleeding was so heavy I was afraid to get up. I got a pillow for my head, and sat there all night, crying, alone (my husband couldn’t hear me since the bathroom was downstairs.) At one point I felt myself pass something; when I checked, there was a large jelly-like ball filled with fluid on the toilet paper. I was so stunned that I dropped it into the toilet, but I knew instantly that my baby was probably in there. I was so scared, and I didn’t know how to retrieve it…

See, no one told me what to expect. Even my mother, who had two miscarriages herself, didn’t prepare me for what I would go through. The doctor didn’t advise me what to do; later he did, and said if I could gather anything to bring it in to be analyzed, but he didn’t tell me what to look for or how to collect it.

For the most part, everyone was silent, as if it just wasn’t something you talk about. So we mostly suffered alone, my husband and me. Certainly no one I knew ever thought to have a funeral or memorial service for the baby. I wanted to name it, but was advised not to, in case I wanted to use that name for a future child (like it would be wasting a perfectly good name?) I was told by one nurse that it probably wasn’t really a baby after all, just a fluke; I was told by others to accept it as God’s will; I was told that it was a good sign, that I could get pregnant and would probably have more children. I wasn’t told I was allowed cry it all out, and grieve as much as I needed to. I wasn’t told it was ok to be upset with God and ask him why it happened (I later decided it was ok – that God gave us a whole range of emotions and could handle whatever we hit him with.)

About a year later in March 2000, we were house-hunting. I had just discovered I was pregnant again, and called my family that very day to ask for prayers again. I told our real estate agent we’d have to find a house for our growing family. Everything was great! Then four days later, I had been house-hunting with the agent and my father-in-law. We stopped for lunch; I went to the bathroom, and to my horror, I saw blood. I didn’t say anything to my father-in-law over lunch, since we were having such a nice time, but it was all I could do to get through.

That precious new life was only known to us for four days. It was probably only 2 weeks old when it died. Had I not taken a pregnancy test when I did, I might never have known I was pregnant. I started thinking of all the times in the past I might have been pregnant and not known I miscarried because it was so early.

But it was just as devastating. Again others warned me I shouldn’t have announced so early, because now I had to go back and tell everyone I lost the baby. Again another tried to say I probably wasn’t even pregnant – but my doctor said no, you can’t have a false positive; if the test said positive, you were pregnant. (He is very pro-life, so I know that by saying this he was encouraging me to acknowledge that yes, this was a baby.)

I didn’t have much time to grieve. We found our house, were busy with moving in, and the next month, May, found I was pregnant again. This pregnancy however lasted, and in January I brought home a beautiful baby girl. I was immediately pregnant again, and the next January brought home another beautiful baby girl.

From there life went into hyperdrive, and I was so busy, my hands full with four young children (in 2005 a worrisome pregnancy resulted in a beautiful baby boy), that I didn’t think too much about my miscarriages. Part of it also was that I didn’t let myself think about them – there was a void, a hole in my heart, that I didn’t know how to face because I didn’t know what it was.

I realize now that I have been living with guilt over how I lost the first baby in the toilet – what a horrible burial my child had, and I’ve always been upset with myself that I let it get away like I did. I want to say it’s not my fault, I didn’t know what to do at the time. But it’s hard to forgive myself for how it happened. And then I’ve had guilt over never naming the babies, like my heart had told me to do. But at the time I had only known two people who’d had miscarriages, and they didn’t name theirs, so I wondered if I was being over dramatic. But in my heart, it’s what I wanted to do. Eventually, I continued to avoid thinking about it because so much time had gone by, and I was ashamed to admit I still had this void. It just seemed to snowball with the passage of time.

A couple I know now have started a ministry to families who suffer miscarriages, providing burial caskets for miscarried babies, (Heaven's Gain). I’ve met more and more mothers who have suffered as I did, and I know now I am not alone. Learning how they mourned the loss and now celebrate the life of their children, has given me courage to finally face and fill the void. I realize now there’s nothing I can do about how I lost the first miscarriage, so I have to let go of that guilt. But what I can do is name these children, and acknowledge them as part of our family – as much a part as the four I have with me here on earth. Because our goal is to get our children to Heaven, as a friend reminded me, I can rejoice that two of them are already there.

So I prayed, and asked their forgiveness for all these years being unknown, and I asked the Father to help me name these children, so that, not knowing if they were boys or girls, I may call them what He calls them. I remembered that I had thought of the name Benjamin, but after the first miscarriage, had not considered that name again in other pregnancies. I took it that in my heart, I had already named him Benjamin. So he is now known to me as Benjamin Gerard, after my patron saint, St. Gerard Majella., and joins my other sons, Jacob Raymond and Samuel Thomas. The second baby was lost before I had gotten a chance to think of any names. So I decided to pick a girl’s name. I thought of my grandma who was known her whole life as Flora, but whose given name was actually Charlotte. So Charlotte Anna joins my other daughters, Emma Grace and Martha Jane. I found a beautiful image of Jesus holding a baby in his lap, so I am printing that with each child’s name and birth date onto 5x7 cards, which I will frame and hang on the wall with the others’ portraits.

After that I’m not sure what else to do. But from now on I will honor them every day. I am so thankful for the healing my friends’ ministry has brought to me – even though I do not need to order the caskets, the support and information that they have on their website has helped so much. I am also thankful for another good friend, who related to me the stories of her six miscarriages, and her kind words and support to me as I try to come to terms with my own ten years later.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tim Hawkins on homeschooling

And so...

It's been a while since I posted on here. I haven't had any interesting insights lately; just busy trying to keep all my plates spinning! Unfortunately I think we are in a funk...

I finally got around to doing the thing that I should have been doing in our homeschooling this whole time: I made a schedule! I'm schooling three of the kids -- the youngest calls himself, "Half Grade". He's been so good this whole time - -he usually sits at his desk, working on workbooks or writing "reports" (like an earlier post of mine); but lately he's feeling bored. "I have nobody to play with," he moans in his most pathetic voice. So I finally sat down, looked at everyone's subjects, and worked out a schedule for every half hour, so that while two are working (one with me, one independently) the other can spend time with the youngest. He also has computer time and quiet desk time.

Well, it worked beautifully the first three days we tried it. Everyone was actually done by 2:00pm! (That NEVER happens!) But now -- well, I just can't seem to wake up on time, so we get started too late. And now the boredom and the opposition have set back in, and we're having difficulty sticking to the times I set out. We're having other problems too, with motivation. The girls are generally happy to do their work; but my oldest (11 year old boy) just wants to 'get it done' -- read, answer questions... gone!! I can't seem to get him interested in any projects or anything to add to what we are talking about.

Last week we broke things up, and went to a pumpkin patch with friends of ours on Wednesday. That was definitely fun. But doing that puts our school work back a day (we usually do book work Monday - Thursday, with a gym class and field trip afternoon on Friday). But gosh, I just could not do stuff on Friday...

I think we are all suffering from a little burnout, maybe? So I've declared next week to be a "book-break." Monday we are doing the work we should have done on Friday; but the rest of the week will be spent getting caught up on projects, doing a good cleaning of the house (woeful is all I can say), and preparing Halloween costumes. Otherwise none of those things will get done. Maybe we'll try to get up to the art Museum or history museum again, if things are going well.

I hope things straighten out soon. Otherwise it's going to be a long winter...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

St. Gerard Majella

I know I am late with this, but yesterday was a very busy day. We did however remember to honor a great saint on his feast yesterday, October 16, the Feast of St. Gerard Majella, the mother's saint.

As a young wife, my mother started out with two miscarriages, and the doctors told her she may never be able to have children. She prayed to St. Gerard to ask his intercession, and promised that if he would help her, she would name her child in his honor. In 1958 she had my eldest brother. She went on to have six more children, and gave us all middle names in his honor as promised: my brothers are both Gerards, three sisters are named Geralyn, one sister is Gerise, and the other Majella.

St. Gerard was the topic of a recent discussion between a bunch of the moms in my homeschool group. All my life I never knew anyone else who heard of St. Gerard, much less was named for him. Another mom was middle-named Gerarda, one was named Gerette. Their stories were similar to mine -- their mothers had prayed to St. Gerard for his intercession during difficult pregnancies or situations.

St. Gerard is known as the patron saint of expectant mothers, for miracles brought by his intercession, during his life and after. So if you or someone you know would like to know more about him, please share this site with them

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Land Ho!

Finally everyone is healthy again! Over the past two weeks, it occurred to me that the more children you have, the more you increase your chances of not being able to go to things because some one is going to come down sick! I'm sure that's one of the laws of probability or something...

Anyway, now that we are well, I can take some time to share some more photos! We did make it to the Nina and Pinta replicas. They were so neat, but it was VERY chilly that day. It would have been a lot more fun if we were not freezing our anchors off!
This was our tour guide. He's been living on the Nina for the past two months. Did I mention that these are working ships, that the crew lives on the ship and sails them from port to port? Very cool. When he asked if anyone had questions, I raised my hand and said, "Yes, uh, shouldn't your sweatshirt say '1492' instead of '1892'?"
I wish we could have seen the sails out, but as windy as it was, the boat would have left (which could have been fun too!)
You can find out more about the ships here Check the schedule to see if they are coming to a port near you!

Afterwards (once we warmed up!) we took some baby clothes over to a mission run by the Franciscan Daughters of Mary. My daughters have never seen "real sisters" before -- these wore the full Franciscan habit, complete with veil and wimple. Sr. Mary Joseph was so wonderful, and took us on the tour of the mission. The kids want to volunteer there, so I will call back to see when we can (again, now that we are healthy!)

Then we went up to the Art Museum, to see objects from Ancient Sumer and Egypt.

Of course, you know what happened after I taught the kids about Ancient Egypt? The girls mummified one of their Barbies. They couldn't find a box long enough to make a sarcophagus, but I did find her buried in a pyramid of pillows. I was going to take photos, but their younger brother raided the tomb before I got there...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sick Days

We haven't had much going on the past few days. Just 'going around'. Yes, it is cold season, and we've all come down with it.

We were supposed to go on a field trip yesterday! I was going to take the kids to the oldest Catholic church (not parish, just oldest original building) in our city, which was built in 1840, for the 12:10pm daily Mass. Then we were going to go to the Art Museum to see items from Ancient Sumeria and Egypt, to go with my son's study in history.

Then the oldest came down with a fever and aches.

I'll admit it: sometimes it makes me cranky. I know, I know, it's not his fault. It's when I have myself (see that term, "myself"?) all geared up with plans for the day, and for whatever reason, they get canceled, well I just have a hard time letting it go and going on with the day. And maybe there was a very good reason we didn't get to go. Afterall, the weather around here has been nasty -- foggy, rainy. Had we gone out, maybe we would have had an accident or something? I don't know.

It's remembering that God is control of the day, not me.

So we stayed home(and eventually I did let it go!) And since all the schoolwork had been done early, in order to be ready on time to go, there was really nothing left to do for the day.

Then I got sick too.

Oh well. Next week we are supposed to tour a replica of Columbus' ship, the Nina (how do you get that little ~ over the 'n' anyway?) with our homeschool group. Hopefully everyone will be well enough to go! And then maybe we can hit the Art Museum after...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do the Circulation!

Today we studied the circulatory system. To make it fun, I drew a diagram of the heart and lungs with chalk on the driveway. The kids were the blood cells, carrying oxygen from the lungs through the heart and out to the body and so on. I made a video of it for you to enjoy!