Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Fertility Story [NFP Awareness Week]

If you've been following me long enough in this little corner of the web, you know a few personal things about me in the "ladies-only" department.

I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

I've had major surgery for it.

I've had a miscarriage.

I've had some fertility struggles.

I had a medically rough pregnancy for my daughter.

But what you may not know, and what I'd really like to share, is how deeply grateful I am for the part NFP has played in my story. It's NFP Awareness Week, so it's a perfect time to open my heart and these chapters of my life to you.

Ten years ago I was on a hormonal birth control pill to treat a few symptoms I was having in my early twenties. I was somewhat ignorant and accepted the prescription my nurse practitioner gave me, even though she did no testing of my hormones, etc, but simply made a guess and gave me one of the most popular "women's health" prescriptions out there-- hormonal birth control. Why we heap mega doses of synthetic estrogen into women's systems without even testing their estrogen levels and call it healthcare, I'll never know. But I was swept into the current and took my pills faithfully for six months.

Until someone mentioned the Creighton model of NFP and Naprotechnology-- a medical branch of Natural Family Planning based on science but also very faith-friendly. This person suggested that maybe the birth control pills were simply covering up my symptoms without getting to the root of my problem. 

I made an appointment with a Naprotechnology doctor, learned the method of charting, and was thoroughly evaluated with labwork, testing, and in-depth evaluation of my chart. As a nurse, I was SO impressed. As a female patient, I felt empowered and dignified with learning more about my unique body's cycle-- and it's abnormalities.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with PCOS, had major surgery for it by a Naprotechnology surgeon, and continued to use Creighton and Napro through the years for my health. Though the surgery greatly improved my health and fertility, nothing quite cures PCOS so we knew there might be some residual effects.

When I got married, we conceived quickly but miscarried our precious child just as quickly. Off to the Napro doctor we went, and he was SO compassionate and competent with my care. The 'regular' OB world doesn't test you for anything until you've had 2-3 miscarriages consecutively. If you've ever had a miscarriage, you know that this would be pure torture to simply 'allow' 1 or 2 more to happen before getting tested. Our Napro doctor acknowledged that we had lost a child and that he would test us right away because who wants to lose more children if you can prevent it??

I was then found to have low progesterone and a funky genetic issue called MTHFR-- both put you highly at risk for miscarriage but are actually easily treatable once you know. With our sweet G, I was on medications for both even before we conceived her to give her the best chance of sticking around this side of heaven. :) I was also on progesterone throughout my pregnancy and monitored frequently. While it was challenging, it was all SO worth it to carry and deliver our healthy baby girl.

Honestly, I don't think I would have her if it would not for God's grace guiding us to Naprotechnology and the Creighton model of NFP.

We continue to use NFP each month, discerning whether God is calling us to postpone or avoid a pregnancy or to be open to it. It's beautiful. And it's hard. Yes, it would be easier to take birth control have a greater sense of control over my body. But did you know  hormonal birth control can actually cause an early abortion? Sure, it might be simpler to use a condom rather than "risk" a pregnancy when we don't feel ready for it, or to have to avoid sex that day if we truly aren't in a good place for a pregnancy.

But we took vows on our wedding day to give ourselves to each other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. And that includes in sex. Freely without reserve. Totally without stamping out our body's natural signs and abilities to be fertile. Faithfully and according to the Catholic Church's teaching. And fruitfully, knowing that to bear fruit of our love is a beautiful thing even when it's hard.

I'm always very open about our journey-- both with fertility struggles and with the reality of using NFP as a married couple. If you have questions or thoughts, feel free to email me!

Happy NFP week!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Life Lately

I'm guessing this post is going to take more than one sitting to write it...because my 'sittings' are rather short these days. ;)

-We have finally transitioned G to her crib and pack and play instead of cosleeping. To be honest, as she approaches one year we're realizing that she's just simply a very difficult sleeper no matter where she is. She was waking up 6-10 times a night in our bed to nurse (which at least I didn't have to get up and we both fell back to sleep quickly) and now in the crib or PNP she's waking up 4-6 times a night and I'm only nursing her two of those times. The whole nighttime thing is just grueling and takes me to the end of my rope mentally and physically and emotionally at times, but I try to step back, look at the big picture, and either tell myself to offer it up and give it to God or to remember it won't last forever and I *might* even miss those midnight snuggles someday. ;)

-Man, I'm tired just thinking about it all right now and I'm having trouble thinking of what else to write...because that seems like our life right now, ha.

-But there's Poldark. So one of the perks of no longer cosleeping is that my husband and I get back some quality time together in the evening! We were big Downton Abbey fans and were sad to see the series end, but we've recently picked up the PBS Masterpiece series Poldark, based on the books. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? We were unsure the first few episodes and the characters are pretty flawed at times...but we're getting hooked just like I did with DA. Episode 4 was sooo good and we both had teary eyes at the end! Would love to hear your favorite period dramas or series in the comments!

-We bought our very first grill this past weekend! So exciting! We had a hand-me-down charcoal grill from my brother-in-law and it worked well and made delish food but we finally splurged on a gas grill that has much more surface area as well. I'm so looking forward to trying new things on it as well as the classics-- I really want to try grilling pizzas!!

Funny story about our purchase...we couldn't find anyone with a truck to borrow so we ended up renting the Home Depot truck (did you know they have that service? Pretty inexpensive, too!). I drove home with the baby while P drove home with the grill (his baby??). I helped him unload it and then I went to take the baby upstairs for her nap and he left to drop off the truck...

And then he called me when he got there because he realized he would need me to come pick him up and bring him back home!! We're so sleep deprived we didn't even think about that part!! hahaha!!

-Inspired by Humorous Homemaking, I have begun a weekly Kitchen Day, where I spend a large chunk of my time in the kitchen making 'non-dinner' items like muffins or granola or boiling eggs or prepping produce for the week. I am loving it!! I also designated a Laundry Day, Cleaning Day, and Grocery Day for the week. Beforehand, I had been doing those things as needed whenever they came up (throw in a load of laundry here and there, sweep the kitchen when I saw too many crumbs, etc.) but I am really liking to focus on one thing each day and to do it well-- and then to forget about it until the following week, haha! What are your favorite ways to do chores? Are you a routines and schedules person or a procrastinating person or somewhere in between?

-We've done a lot of traveling this month for family gatherings, holidays, and weddings but it has gone fairly well. It's been so much fun to see G interacting more with cousins and friends. Her first birthday party is coming up and we're so excited to host our family and friends here. I've gotten a few ideas on Pinterest without going overboard and decided to do an ice cream theme (even though we're dairy free, lololol....yeah, not really.) Supposedly, she is supposed to outgrow the dairy sensitivity by age one...but we're almost there and she's still getting nasty diaper rashes anytime I have milk products. Let me tell you, it's getting verrrrrry old in the summertime when I just want to eat all the ice cream, all the cheese, and all the yogurt and cream cheese, and did I mention ice cream? But it's a small thing in the big picture, and we're so grateful she doesn't have any true, chronic diseases.

-Naptime's almost over, so that's all for now, friends. Give me some comment love and tell me all about your summer. :)

Yes, I will do just about anything for some free Chick-fil-a food...
Cow Appreciation Day 2017. So fun. ;)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the Bookshelf: Fiction and Nonfiction



This is the first time that I've read a book by Beverly Lewis. I am a huge fan of Amish fiction, but I've always preferred the style of author Carrie Bender (an Amish woman herself), who writes lovely stories in journal/diary form about Amish women and their day to day lives. I had always viewed Beverly Lewis as more of a 'drama' Amish fiction writer, because the titles or summaries always seemed to denote a crisis of sorts in the Amish rather than peaceful living-- I mean, hey, one of her most popular books was called The Shunning. Maybe I'm ideological, but I'd rather read about the joys of Amish life than the struggles? That being said, I was really pleasantly surprised with The Ebb Tide!! It was a great book and was neither Pollyanna style nor gloom and doom, but an enjoyable read of an Amish girl who nannies for an non-Amish family on the East Coast for a summer. She did struggle with her Amish faith and her future (I won't spoil the ending!) but it wasn't negative about the Amish lifestyle, more of a true searching for this particular young woman's desires and God's will for her. It was thought-provoking and interesting. There were a few times I found myself thinking that the story was drawn-out, but overall it was a good book and now I find myself curious about the author's other books on this subject. Perhaps I misjudged them simply by The Shunning. ;) I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for my complimentary copy of the book. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]



This book was a page turner!! Despite my limited time to read books with an active almost-one-year-old (how can that be??!!), I finished this book within two days! What a great summer read! High as the Heavens, by Kate Breslin, was set during World War I in Belgium. The heroine is a nurse in a military hospital by day-- and an underground spy by night! The first chapter starts off with a bang as she goes to meet her underground contact, who is injured in a plane crash, only to discover it's her husband-- who had been declared dead three years earlier in the war!! The suspense continues as she must keep both their covers and figure out a way to protect him as he recovers from the crash. It's hard to know who to trust! Loved this one. 5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for my complimentary copy of the book. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]



Despite my fiction kick this summer, my husband and I continue to read this devotional on the weekends (missing a few here and there-- keeping it real!). This devotional is based on the book Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. I read that a couple years ago and it was a great book. The subtitle says so much: "What if marriage isn't about making you happy...but making you holy?" While I do believe God desires us to be happy, including in marriage, it's so important to remember that this journey of marriage is about refining us into the people God wants us to be-- and that involves smoothing some rough edges, which doesn't always feel happy. ;) If holiness is our goal and purpose, the hard and 'unhappy' times are easier to bear because we can lift those up to God, trusting that He is working on us and in us and through us to help our marriages bear fruit-- including true joy and peace. This devotional draws from Sacred Marriage's wisdom and is made up of 52 short chapters. They are not dated, so you can use whenever and however you like. We like doing one a week because it's been a great way to focus our weekends and have a little dose of 'marriage therapy' when we're together more for the weekend. I can't think of a chapter so far that we haven't both nodded our heads or said, "ooh, that was a good one." It makes both of us think and reflect and see where God might be asking us to grow in our marriage. This would make a great gift for a bridal shower or wedding. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Afraid to Love

(Originally written March 2016)

What's the greatest thing that holds you back from experiencing true love?

A deep, dark sin? 

A busy schedule?

A spell from a poisonous apple given to you by a Disney movie witch?

Though it could be (almost) any of those, I'm going to guess none of those are actually the greatest stumbling block to love for you and for me. 

You know what is, though?

Fear. 

Throughout my life, I've seen fear hold me back time and again from loving fully, loving freely, and loving...well...fearlessly. 

My husband and I were privileged to hear Matt Hammitt (former lead singer of Sanctus Real) speak at my workplace fundraiser this past week. We were both powerfully impacted by the story of his son Bowen, who was diagnosed with a rare heart defect at 20 weeks in the womb. Matt and his wife, though advised to abort little Bowen and end his life, chose life and continued with their pregnancy. Little Bowen had open heart surgery at just 4 days after birth and the recovery included an episode when Bowen's tiny heart stopped beating-- a doctor did compressions on his bare heart in his open chest while Matt and his wife cried and prayed and held on to the blue toes of their beloved son. 

But God has plans for Bowen. And we saw the adorable five-year-old this past week as he helped his dad sing a song on stage that was written around the time of Bowen's birth. 

Matt shared with us that he struggled to become attached to Bowen after that tragic prenatal diagnosis. The pregnancy became a time of fear and uncertainty and even detachment. As his song states, Matt was "afraid to love something that could break." Yet God continued to move in his heart and mind and showed him that he could love Bowen in the way God loves us-- with all that was in him. Without reserve. Without condition. Without fear. Yes, there might be sadness or struggle or even loss, but freely and fearlessly loving-- being all in-- was worth it. He learned to "trade the fear of all that I could lose for every moment I share with you." ("All of Me," Matt Hammitt)

My husband and I had tears as we listened to his powerful testimony and our little one kicked inside my own belly. Though our baby had a healthy heart at 20 weeks, this pregnancy has been rocky with bad blood level results and our own fears due to our previous miscarriage. We have struggled with detachment at times and being afraid to love this precious child too much in case we lose this one, too. 

But God continues to work in our hearts and we, too, are learning what it looks like to love freely, fully, and fearlessly. Despite lab results or increased medications, we are learning to rejoice in every moment we spend with this incredible gift from God growing inside me. 

Fear creeps in to every relationship and circumstances because the devil is always trying to keep us from experiencing the rich love of the Father and the love He desires us to have with each other. Where might fear be holding you back?

Are you sharing your deepest self with your spouse--physically, emotionally, mentally-- or are you holding back because you're afraid of feeling inadequate or unloved?

Are you diving deeper into your relationships with family and friends, or are you afraid of losing them to distance, disagreements, or even death?

Are you tithing, giving, and sharing with others or are you afraid of financial insecurity?

Are you sharing God's truths with other or do you fear misunderstanding or being made fun of?

And here's the biggest one: is fear holding you back from throwing yourself into your Heavenly Father's arms? Whether you're afraid of your mistakes and sins or you just feel ashamed for not living up to your potential, know that He will never reject you and is always ready with open arms, abundant mercy, and the grace to start fresh. He loves you with all that He is, and wants to teach you to do the same. 

Let's experience that freeing love together this week. God is an expert at breaking the chains of fear. All we need do is ask. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quick Takes Friday // Let's Catch Up

1. I'm crouching on the floor in our bedroom so that G doesn't see the light of my laptop. We are working on crib napping this week and though it's mentally and emotionally exhausting but we're slowly getting somewhere-- she's currently sleeping in the crib right now. And probably only will for 25 minutes, but hey, one step at a time.

2. It's Memorial Day Weekend! What are your plans?? I pretty much just planned to go grocery shopping and wedding gift shopping for a friend until I realized it's a holiday weekend and we need some fun plans! haha! We are talking about having some friends over for brunch or dinner on Sunday. And of course I'll pull out all the red/white/blue for outfits...G has the cutest little patriotic dress for Mass. (shallow, I know. Don't worry, I also deeply appreciate the significance of Memorial Day and all those men and women who have defended the freedom of our country. I just can't resist celebrating patriotic days with food and colors and clothes, too...)

3. We also bought dirt and manure (my city boy husband could NOT believe that you can actually BUY manure in a bag at a store, it was hilarious) to make a little herb garden for me along the side our shed. I'd love to get that finished this weekend-- or at least the digging and dirt. I'll probably buy the herbs from a farmers market. What are your favorite herbs to grow? I'm thinking rosemary, basil, lavender, and mint.

4. Ever since our book club / Bible study last year, I tend to pay more attention when "God speaks twice" to me through recurring themes, verses, etc. in my prayers and devotions. Lately I've been reading/seeing a lot on friendship and really investing in a small circle of people and going deep with them rather than just having many acquaintances or, shall we say, Facebook-friends. ;) I'm not sure what God is nudging me towards, but it has definitely made me reflect on the relationships in my life and how I'm cultivating them, as well as a handful of women I'd like to go deeper with.

5. I got six inches cut off my hair last night. It's quite a bit shorter, but with the warmer/humid weather lately, it just wasn't holding curls and felt heavy and dull. I'm always somewhat sad to part with locks, but I feel much lighter with this shoulder-length style! I'm also in a wedding in a few weeks and I know it will be easier to do an updo without all that length! If I was on top of my selfie game, I'd share a picture, but alas...

6. I'm reading this book and this book on parenting and they're fascinating. A lot of interesting psychology on how children need time, space, and calm to grow and develop-- pretty much the opposite of our culture's busy, full, fast-paced lives. The Popcaks' book is full of excellent advice on growing in your personal relationship with God as well as fostering that with your kids so that you not only hand down the 'external' faith of Catholicism but also the deep-knit relationship with God that Catholicism is meant to draw us into. Good stuff. Good stuff.

7. And last but not least, some baby goodness...



Happy weekend, friends! Linking up with Kelly, who had some great ideas for celebrating Memorial Day as a Catholic!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Bucket List



It's almost June!! We have some friends who are due with their baby in June and last night as we were chatting with them, I kept thinking how she'll have her baby in a couple months...and then realized it will be June in one week!!! Even though summer doesn't officially start for several weeks, I tend to think of June as the beginning of summer, so I've been having fun compiling a bucket list for one of my favorite seasons! (My other favorites are fall, spring, and winter. haha.) You can check out my spring bucket list here. We were able to cross off most of the items, but some of them got pushed to the summer list. What are some of your plans or hopes for the summer? Here's to sunny weather and great memories!!

-Go to the zoo
-Plant an herb garden (and cook with them?)
-Pick local berries
-Go to a farmer's market
-Baby G's first swim
-Go on a mini vacation
-Buy a gas grill
-Go out for ice cream
-See a hummingbird
-Create a rotating summer menu
-Make popsicles
-Host an ice cream social
-Make lemonade from scratch
-Celebrate the 4th with patriotic food and decor
-Grill kabobs (with that new grill, of course!)
-Have neighbors over for dinner
-Go on a hike at local state parks
-Play volleyball
-Neighborhood garage-saling (oh how I love thee!)
-Sit around a campfire

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What I've Learned About Motherhood

The bad news: You are not in control.

The good news: God is in control, and He loves your children even more than you do-- and He loves you, too.

The end.

Haha! I was going to make this a long post and as I sat down to write, I felt like these two 'news pieces' just summed it all up! ;)

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas-- including the spiritual ones, the grieving ones, the yet-to-be ones, the lonely ones, the perfect ones. Oh wait, not the last one. There's no such thing. ;)

Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift of motherhood, for my child in heaven and my daughter on earth. May I become more and more like you through it and lead my children to you.