Monday, November 12, 2018

Grieving Together: A Wonderful New Resource on Miscarriage

There's something about the fall that makes me turn inward and reflect. Perhaps it's the falling leaves, the closing of the year, that makes us think more of eternity and the closing of this life, this world, someday. Perhaps it's the closing of the Church year, the feast days like All Saints and All Souls, that make us think of our loved ones on the other side.

Regardless, this can be a painful time of year for those who have lost a loved one, even if it's been years since the loss. While a lifetime of memories with someone still doesn't feel like enough after they're gone...there's a unique suffering of the loss of someone who didn't get to live any "years" at all-- the loss of child in miscarriage or stillbirth. Even now as I keep up with a busy toddler and crawling infant, my heart still achingly remembers my first little one that I held for such a short time. Once you have a child in heaven, it changes your family on earth forever.

Laura Kelly Fanucci is one of my favorite writers on this topic, although I'm sure she never wished to be an experienced writer of it. She and her husband have experienced infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss of their twin daughters. She writes beautiful, powerful reflections on her blog and I loved her book Everyday Sacrament on the daily graces and struggles of motherhood. When I heard she and her husband Franco were co-authoring a new book on miscarriage for couples, I knew it would be an incredible resource.

Grieving Together: A Couple's Journey Through Miscarriage fills such a great need in parishes and families when it comes to miscarriage. Men and women, and even just different personalities in general, grieve and heal so differently. It's a gift to have a 'manual' of sorts for a couple to journey through their grieving together yet individually. They can read the stories of others who have gone before them, seeing that they're not alone and affirming their grief in a society that cares so little for the unborn and too often ignores the reality of miscarriage.

Because they've been through it, this book is so thorough and contains so many gems that grieving parents will find helpful such as dealing with well-meaning but hurtful comments, the Church's teaching on miscarriage and babies' souls, saints and prayers for miscarriage, ways to remember and honor your child. There are even Appendices with many practical resources, websites, books, and Catholic rites.

Through reading this book, it has not only been helpful for me as a parent of a miscarried child, but it has also inspired me to discuss with my parish about beginning a Miscarriage Ministry, even if it be as small as a care package for families who have miscarried with a handwritten note of condolence and this book. Because my husband is the director for pro-life ministry in our diocese, I'm also going to discuss with him how we can incorporate this book into our diocesan ministry for miscarriage.

If you yourself have experienced a loss or if you know a couple who has (and believe me, you do), the book is available starting today! You can get it from Our Sunday Visitor (free shipping), Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Some additional freebies (!) you might be interested in are:

-A free e-book from Our Sunday visitor with excerpts from the Fanuccis How to Support Parents Who Have Lost a Child

-A free webinar with the Fanuccis that tells more about the book, their story, and how we can all support grieving parents.

I'm so grateful that in the past several years there's been more discussion on miscarriage and more resources for those grieving and for those who wish to comfort them. Many more women are sharing their experiences, several organizations are offering support and memory gifts., and now this wonderful book is giving parents a friend and mentor relationship with Franco and Laura as they walk (and sometimes wade) through the grief together. I truly believe this book will be a blessing to so many people. Please share it with your friends and family and parishes!

Friday, November 9, 2018

What's Saving My Life Right Now (SQT)

It's Seven Quick Takes time. We've had a rough month or two but rather than dwell on that I'm going to share seven things I'm thankful for lately! (Kind of like mixing the "what's saving my life" and the "seven quick takes" link-ups together. ;)

1. Jesus, of COURSE, is saving my life right now. ;) But honestly, hard times push us to prayer and there's a lot of grace in that. In particular, I'm loving this devotional/Scripture study from Take Up and Read:

2. Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. This has been my favorite for almost ten years but I rarely treat myself to it because it's not exactly in the SAHM/ministry-wife budget. But I split a bulk pack of it with my sister and it was heavenly. (Was. Yes, it's gone already, ha.)

3. Online shopping. This is embarrassing. But it's so great! It is so not fun to take two littles in and out of stores when it's cold, rainy, and one of them hates his carseat. I am doing my best to keep the spending down and mostly on 'necessary' items (see SAHM budget quip above) but I have possibly splurged on a new planner and a couple snazzy Catholic kids Christmas gifts recently. Um, and online groceries and grocery pick-up, can we talk about how amazing that is?? Actually, let's not...I'm feeling lazy realizing all that I shop for online.

4. Real food. I like junk food as much as the next person but I really run better on home-cooked food. I've tried to simplify our meals during my husband's busy month in October but mama is so much happier with hearty casseroles than frozen chicken nuggets...and of course with homemade cookies and muffins. So I'm finding the time to make it all and it's been worth prioritizing.

5. Redecorating our home...mostly in my mind but sometimes in real life! With a few gift cards we had been blessed with, I got these pictures from Hobby Lobby and a coat hook board (is that what you call it? ha!). I've been wanting to do something to the big wall in our laundry room that by the garage door. I love that the coat hooks are reachable for little hands, and the Scripture verse on the pictures can remind them that God has a plan for them within our home and as they come and go.

6. Crocheting and crafts. Can you tell I'm stuck indoors a lot lately? All this cooking and decorating and crafting...usually done with a baby sleeping on me, of course. But I'm working on an infinity scarf, an earwarmer, a market bag, and stamped drink coasters-- hopefully for Christmas gifts.

7. K-Love radio. I know some people think Christian radio is cheesy, but I am so grateful for it! The other day I was telling Mother Mary I desperately needed some help and I immediately thought of Christian radio...I think it was her whispering, knowing how much it would encourage and uplift me. I decided to listen to it at least an hour every day for a week and challenged my sister to do the same. I am LOVING all the encouragement and fellowship and the Christ-centered lyrics staying in my head all day.

Happy weekend! Joining up with Kelly and the other Quick Takers!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

That Time I Gave Birth Six Months Ago {Little Man's Birth Story}

I've been wanting to write our little guy's birth story for awhile now partly just for posterity but I think you all know it's been a rocky six months with his reflux and sleep deprivation and learning to manage two kids (although honestly, so many joys too...this mom life is so hard but so wonderful). So without fanfare or flourish, here comes a word dump!!

Though I'm incredibly grateful for my son and would do it all over again, this pregnancy wasn't super fun. I felt worse than I had with G, maybe had a couple weeks in the second trimester where I felt "normal" the whole time, plus was keeping up with a toddler. I had been in the hospital in January with premature contractions. I had gotten the stomach flu twice in the 30 weeks time frame. So I was ready for this boy to come early!

I woke up just after 38 weeks one morning with horrible period-like cramps. I called the hospital and talked with a nurse for a bit. I also had a low-grade fever, some chills and hot flashes. They thought it was more likely a bug than labor and suggested I drink some ice water and take a hot shower (this was really early in the morning). I dragged myself out of bed and followed the instructions, laid back down in bed, and then realized I had to throw up. It was awful! I called them again a few hours later to update and they again just said I probably had a bug. I didn't throw up anymore but continued to have just a touch of fever off and on and the cramps throughout the day.

My mother-in-law was coming that day and bringing our homeless friend (who was not yet homeless but living with a friend for a bit) to visit for a couple days to help him create a resume and look for jobs. We had discussed the visit and figured I most likely wouldn't have the baby for another week or two and the timing would be fine (our daughter didn't know him and I didn't feel comfortable if P and I went to the hospital leaving him with my MIL and daughter overnight...). Ha. ha. ha. Best laid plans.

The next morning after they arrived I had a big contraction in the 7am hour that woke me up-- same type and hour as I had with my daughter on her birth day! I got up and continued to have the irregular but painful cramping with an occasional contraction. I really had no idea what was going on because of the random symptoms the previous couple days, the fever, the cramps and chills. But I just felt unsettled and nervous. I went to the bathroom that morning and had a very obvious bloody show. Hallelujah! I wasn't crazy. Something was going on and it wasn't just a bug. I was sure of it...yet still having doubts at the same time. We talked it over, called a nurse, and decided to go to the hospital even though I wasn't having any regular contractions.

I finished packing my hospital bag, got ready, prepared some instructions and such for my MIL in case they kept me, and we found some young adult friends for J to stay with so that little G wouldn't be scared with a new person as well as no mommy or daddy around (again, if they kept me at the hospital).

It was all a little weird because I was only 38 weeks and not having any obvious labor contractions, but I just felt like something was wrong and I'd feel better getting checked out. We arrived at the hospital within about 10 minutes-- our local hospital since our OB had moved there from the city a half hour away (where we had little G). It's a lovely, friendly rural hospital. We had needed NICU with G so I was a little concerned about the smaller hospital but they were AMAZING. I cannot believe the difference and how much I loved the small hospital. Each OB nurse only has one patient if she's in labor-- she's available for you anytime, no other patients to check on.

Anyway, we went in and I felt a little sheepish and wondered if I'd get sent home. I filled out the paperwork and up we went to the floor. They put me in a triage-type room to check me and do all the preliminary stuff. We were all calm, everyone was slow and chill because I think we all thought it was possibly not labor-- or very early at the least. But they still treated me well and listened a little more closely when I described my previous short labor. They checked me and I was barely dilated...pretty much the same as at the doctor's office. But they hooked me up and saw the crampy-like, irregular "contractions" and said it looked like my uterus was irritable. My blood pressure was also high and the baby's heart rate was high. They turned the lights off and had me rest for awhile while they monitored me.

Looking back, I think I was having some anxiety over leaving little G overnight for the first time, the stress of feeling awful the past few days, and wondering if/when the baby was coming. However, I strongly believe my body was telling me something and that a lot of the restlessness and anxiety was due to the fact that not only was I in labor, but something wasn't right with it. (More on that later).

The darkness, some gentle massage from my wonderful hubby, and some deep breathing brought my numbers all back down after awhile. The nurse came in a said she'd called my OB to get some orders and to put a bug in her ear that I might be in labor. My OB is pretty much the most amazing woman in the world (If you're Catholic, she's a modern-day St. Gianna type woman...strong, compassionate, faithful...). Because we followed her to her new practice, she flagged my chart to let the nurses know she'd come in special to deliver my baby rather than having an on-call partner do it. I knew she had a few out of town nights scheduled and I thought this was one of them, but it turns out she simply had an "in-town" event that evening so she was happy to deliver if I was in labor. She told the nurse she doubted I was in labor but to monitor me for a few hours.

Well, the baby must have heard that because a kick or two later, I felt a gush of fluid. Yessir, despite a lack of regular contractions my water had broken! P said this was the funniest moment of the whole time because I sat up, pumped my fist, and said, "YES!! My water just broke!!" I was so, so happy because I knew they'd have to admit me now and I just didn't want to go home with the uneasiness I felt about everything.

The nurse came in after we pushed the call button and confirmed it. Unfortunately it was also meconium-stained. What is it with my EARLY babies that have meconium?? It does not make sense to my nurse mind...although early babies can have it if there's fetal distress so there's that comforting thought. ;) They quickly moved me to my room and got everything prepared. The contractions were still coming but not anything to write home about. After a couple hours my OB checked me and I wasn't progressing much. I also had a fever (I thought it was just hot in the room!) and they were concerned my uterus might be infected with my history of symptoms the past couple days (the cramps, fever, chills) as well as the meconium. They started pumping me full of antibiotics to protect me and the baby and I think they gave me something for the fever. My OB also said she was going to start me on Pitocin because if it truly was a uterine infection, the uterus might be working poorly (thus the cramping rather than strong of contractions) and we needed to get the baby out sooner rather than later due to possible infection.

I was a little nervous at this point because I really didn't care to experience Pitocin induction ON TOP OF my own oxytocin already being produced but I have to say it didn't feel that much different than with my first labor. And it did get things moving! It still took me about five hours to dilate from 1-6. (I know, that's still pretty short, but for me it felt long!) When a couple hours went by and I had only progressed one or two centimeters I asked for Nubain. It did not work as well as I remembered. I thought it helped with the pain, but it only relaxes you between contractions and these suckers were coming one on top of the other sometimes. (Turns out that's because my baby was a posterior, sunnyside up baby!)

Despite all the craziness and scary events of the fever, cramping, meconium, possible was a beautiful and grace-filled labor. I had printed out Scripture cards from Better Than Eden to pray through birth (these were a game-changer and so favorite verse was Tobit 7:18 "Be brave, my child; the Lord of heaven and earth grant you joy in place of this sorrow of yours. Be brave, my daughter." Seriously, still makes me cry...) We also had a list of prayer intentions. We were so much more intentional with prayer this time than we had been with little G. I think we were a little more prepared for what to expect and we could focus on praying through everything. It was just really awesome and beautiful and even peaceful at times. We did not have a doula this time and though we dearly loved her with our first, there was something so sweet about just me and my husband praying together and 'laboring' together. He's an incredible partner for birth and so selfless. He was by my side the whole time, often initiating prayer (like a spiritual communion at one point! What a neat idea!). He also did a lot of physical assistance, holding me or hip/back counter-pressure techniques. I'm so proud of him and grateful for him. The nurses commented on how great he was. We both agreed that this birth was very spiritual for us and I'm so grateful for that.

After a couple more hours, I had only progressed about one more centimeter and I felt discouraged by that. I was at a 5 or 6 and I knew it would be my last chance for Nubain. Since I thought I had a ways to go, I asked for another dose. Little did I know we were about to repeat the same scenario as baby G (about six hours to dilate halfway, then about 30 minutes to dilate the rest of it! haha!). My doctor came in and chatted and said she was going to head over to the pro-life banquet a couple blocks away for dinner since I was only halfway. I was so thankful she was doing all this on a day off for me that I said to go and have fun! I'd see her later on!

A new nurse came on her shift and took over for my previous one. She gave me the Nubain and watched my contractions. She noticed all the double contractions and recognized that this baby was probably posterior (she was definitely a veteran OB nurse with tons of experience). She asked me to change positions from sitting on the bed with dangling legs to kneeling on the bed bending over the elevated head of it just a bit. It was a bit awkward and REALLY PAINFUL. She must have known it would be because she asked if I would do it for just twenty minutes. It seriously felt like the baby was moving downward every contraction. I don't think I had that kind of pain with my first labor. The shocking thing was that when I said I wasn't sure I could do it any longer, she checked me and quickly had me lay down flat. I was at a 10!

In about a half hour, I had gone from 6-10! Woohoo! Except that my doctor was at the banquet! The nurse called for backup and all of a sudden more help was coming in. They were paging my doctor and even paging the on-call doctor in case my doctor couldn't make it in time. I had torn second-degree with my first, so they wanted it to be a slow and gentle pushing. They had me put my legs together and not push at all while we waited for the doctor. I must have been a little woozy from the Nubain or the pain because I felt a little confused about everything. I had been a little concerned about *ahem* going to the bathroom on the table and now really felt like I had to go (it turns out that's because the baby was posterior and so near my back area, lol). I kept telling them I had to go #2 and they just kept telling me not to push, haha. It must be so funny to be an OB nurse sometimes. My husband said he could see the baby's head when they looked. I wanted to push so badly and I'm still not quite sure why they wouldn't just catch the baby themselves (maybe liability without the doctor? Danger from meconium?) but one nurse looked me in the eye and coached me by saying, "Remember you don't want to tear this time (I had said that was my goal). DO NOT PUSH. Blow the candles out. Pretend to blow out birthday candles." So I just kept blowing.

Finally, the on-call doctor rushed in and looked frantic. She started getting filled in by one of the nurses and pulled on some gloves. P and I both wanted our OB instead but I wasn't thinking about it too much in that moment. However, God be praised, my OB walked into the room not even a minute after the other doctor. She smiled lovingly and said, "let's have that baby now." She has both a calm and commanding presence (for both my crazy births!!) and she got everyone calmed down and in place.

They rolled me over and said time to push. After being told so many times not to push, I said, "Are you sure?!" They said yes and I gave one wild woman push and accompanying "oooooohhh" with it and out he came. Peter said it was so incredible. This is going to sound funny, but he said it was like I was dying in that moment yet life was coming out of me. The miracle of birth. Of suffering and redemption. Of giving your whole self for another.

I remember my doctor holding our baby and smiling. You can just tell she loves babies and birth and sees God in it all. She lovingly handed me our son and asked his name. I held him and my husband cut his cord and named him. It was over and he was here in our arms. Our son. Our gift. Another miracle sent from heaven.