“Momnipotent”

The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean

I started reading this book last night. I have to thank my Aunt Veronica for giving it to me when I was pregnant with the twins. I never cracked it open. During my firestorm to organize as much as possible yesterday (which, by the way, I am paying for it today), I came across this book again. Something prompted me to open it last night and start reading. Can we just acknowledge that when God’s timing is perfect, it’s so perfect?

image

I’m not going to lie, my spirit has been wrecked these last few weeks. I don’t mean I’ve had doubts in my beliefs (although that’s totally fine if I have) but I mean, just life has been hard. Last week’s news ignited some serious anxiety issues that I have struggled with for a good chunk of my life. You know when you find something for YOU or plan something for YOU and look forward to that – it’s an amazing feeling. Now take it away – totally sucks. Anyway, I won’t get into it all again – you can check out my previous post if you need a refresher or didn’t catch it last week.

But I’m struggling and I’m overwhelmed. Life has overwhelmed me lately. In ONE week from tomorrow, my due date is THREE MONTHS away and I couldn’t feel more UNREADY. (Is that a word?)

Stress 1: I feel like all the junk has to go. I know it’s not COMPLETELY necessary or even reasonable but have you ever fought with a pregnant woman when she’s made her mind up about something? I don’t suggest it.

Stress 2: Once the junk goes, I’ll feel better about getting ready to bring another human into this world and maybe even start her nursery. Again, I know she won’t live in there for at least 3 months after she’s here because of the stairs we have in our house but argue with a pregnant woman? I think not.

Stress 3: I feel like I don’t have enough time with my boys. They are so fun and so exhausting but I just can’t help but be sad that my first-born children will not be JUST THEM anymore. I’m not worried about loving this girl or having enough room in my heart – I know she belongs there. My heart isn’t complete without her and the future siblings here (2 more to go!). However, it’s sort of funny because I’ve had 2 at one time so you would think adding 1 more isn’t a big deal but it’s HUGE for me. I don’t want this part to end and frankly gets me teary eyed thinking about it. We’ve been through so much together starting from before they were born so it’s a bittersweet change to our story.

Stress 4: The pregnancy itself is a stress. Again, I won’t go into it because I pretty much unloaded last week. And frankly, I’m too tired to unearth those emotions again.

So these are the 4 main stresses I have and then I started reading this book. I haven’t read a ton of it yet but something struck me last night. Spiritual motherhood is something that we, women, are all called to be.

“In makes sense…that while some women are called to biological mothers, every woman is called to spiritual motherhood because motherhood is knit into the very structure of a woman’s being. Women are created with the gift of interior readiness to receive others into their lives, and in doing so, to nurture their emotional, moral, cultural and spiritual well-being. This is an exciting and creative challenge because women can be spiritual mothers anywhere: in the office, at home, with their grandchildren, in the neighborhood, even sick in bed” (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

I found great comfort in this quote last night. I’m not sure why I did but I did.

Maybe it’s because I struggled with infertility so I recognize the want for a biological child.

Maybe it’s because I know people who have adopted or in the process of adopting a child.

Maybe it’s because I have spiritual mothers in my life that have no biological lines to me but have impacted me so much.

Maybe it’s because, as a teacher, I feel like I have been a spiritual mother to some of my students I have watched grow into amazing young men and women.

Maybe it’s because I have seen spiritual motherhood IN ACTION from a multitude of women my entire life – some with children and some without.

Spiritual motherhood. I think I found comfort in it because it’s bigger than me and what I am feeling. This whole earthly motherhood gig is T-O-U-G-H! But somehow, to know that I have something inside of me, that we all do, that feeds our children and the people we connect with around us, that’s bigger and stronger than how I feel right now covers me in comfort and the grace I desperately seek.

Honestly, right now I just feel like I am barely surviving. You know just doggie paddling in the waters of life. My kids probably watch too much TV, get away with too many things, and eat way too many chicken nuggets. I mean, they don’t mind but the inadequacy of how I feel in raising them is suffocating. But right there, in the middle of me suffocating, the Lord says “It’s okay.” The Lord has blessed me, and all women, with this spiritual motherhood because even know I’m totally judging myself (and openly sharing that judgement on my post right now), it doesn’t matter. As long as I am here, present with my boys, they get SOMETHING from me that I didn’t know really existed until last night. I don’t even know if I quite understand what I give to them. But I have been blessed with “an exciting and creative challenge” that I wouldn’t change for the world (Katrina J. Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Women’s Journey, 41).

Here’s to spiritual motherhood,

 

Rachel

The sacrifices we make

and sometimes it really sucks…

Well this week was my BIG check up. So many questions…. Did the hematoma start dissolving? How’s my placenta? Is the baby growing okay? Can I go on my trip to Usborne’s convention? Can I go to Gulf Shores for a week with my family? To be honest, I wasn’t completely convinced I would even get a small bit of good news. I know, I know. So pessimistic. But seriously, my last two appointments haven’t been so great.

image

Here’s us leaving that regular urine sample and about to start my gestational diabetes test. Goodness I am nervous about the results! So stay tuned for that.

So let’s get to it….

The hematoma: still there. What does that mean? I’m still at risk for bleeding. So continued restrictions. Strike one.

The cord issue: well it’s permanent but the baby is growing fantastic! So currently the cord isn’t causing any issues. Ball one.

The placenta: IT MOVED! So it’s no longer considered an issue. Whoop! Ball two.

Can I travel to convention for Usborne Books & More June 7th-11th? Hesitation. Strike two.

Can I travel to Gulf Shores with my family June 17-24th? Hesitation. Strike three.

I’m out.

Although I couldn’t be happier for a healthy baby at this point, I’m pretty sad, disappointed, angry and frustrated. Let me explain why the hesitation.

I’m high risk. Well, that alone pretty much seals the deal. Once you’re labeled high risk, it’s pretty much over. Because ANYTHING can happen at ANY time. I was labeled high risk with the twins but it was ONLY because I was carrying twins. I, thankfully, didn’t have any complications with them and never carried them long enough to experience them. Can I go back in time and tell my former self to enjoy my previous pregnancy more? **regrets**

I’ve continued to have Braxton Hicks contractions. I’ve had contractions since about 16 weeks. Some stronger and longer than others. Some have put me out all day. The stress of traveling can prompt them along with dehydration. So my continued contractions could serve as an irritant to the hematoma and resume bleeding. Bleeding on a plane or somewhere not near my hospital is something that can potentially be problematic. Something that worries me.

I’m swelling. I started swelling with the twins pretty much around the same time. Seems like this time it’s a bit accelerated. Funny how the body remembers. 😫 When I was pregnant with the twins, I flew to Ohio (no hesitation from the doctor then) at 25 weeks. On the plane ride back, the pressure of being on the plane literally made my legs feel like they were going to explode. IT WAS AWFUL! Like so bad, we went from the plane to the hospital. So the doctor is worried a plane ride would enhance my issues.

Okay so drive, right? Wrong. When you are pregnant you are more at risk for clotting by sitting down for too long. So driving to Tulsa or to Gulf Shores would require a stop every 1-2 hours for bathroom and walking. In my case, I HAVE to drink a significant amount of water to keep the contractions at bay. If I don’t, I’m destined to have them. And my bladder is a trampoline to the little lady so forget holding anything. Did you know holding your urine too long while your pregnant can cause contractions? Yes and I’ve definitely found this true.

So what’s my point besides a large bitch session here on my blog? Well, I’ll be the first to admit I have control issues. Overtime I’ve learned, especially with the twins, to let things go. But I felt so out of control when I was pregnant with the twins. From being pregnant for the first time to personal issues making it challenging, I felt absolutely 100% out of control of pretty much anything. So, with this one, I thought, just maybe I would have some control. Or at least be too busy to really wallow in not having any.

I sincerely thank the Lord for being so busy with the twins but this is my time to wallow. To be sad. To be angry. Why? Well, that trip to convention was FOR ME. It’s something I have been planning on for a YEAR. It’s something I know I needed for myself and my business. It completely and utterly sucks I can’t go. I’ve spent money on travel, accommodations and registration. 😭 And that trip with the family, well, who wouldn’t want to spend a week in Gulf Shores? Maybe I would look like a beached whale but the memories I wanted to make with my kids there is something I won’t get, not right now anyway. Sucks!

I know and realize when you are pregnant you become an incubator and subject to the wants and needs to this tiny human you’re making. I get it. I don’t like it but I get it. And I’m mad.

I am mad for feeling like this again, for being terrible at giving life to another human being, for being, yet again, not blessed to be a woman who can do all things during pregnancy like workout, eat clean, play all day with their kids, etc. 

I literally give up everything I wanted this summer for you little girl. I know you will be worth it in the end. I know it’s not just a cliché but it sucks so bad right now. I’m sad right now. I’m wishing things were different right now. I wish pregnancy for me didn’t require giving up EVERYTHING to keep you safe. But it’s what I have to do.  It’s not what I want to do and quite frankly I haven’t stopped crying about it today.

But it’s the sacrifices we make as mothers even before you enter this world that help us become better mothers.image

Precious one, I don’t know who you will turn out to be but I know I’ll be better for this moment. It’s these moments God changes us for His will. I just wish it didn’t hurt so bad going through it.

 

Here’s to the sacrifices we make,

Rachel

Juggling

Being ENOUGH is a four letter word….

Do you ever feel like you are juggling a million things at once? This was definitely my life last week. Sometimes I feel like pregnancy alone is enough to juggle but then add in the twins, the dog, my husband and anything else I happen to be doing and life can quickly seem out of control. Life can be overwhelming and instead of enjoying life we are trying to survive life. Then everything you usually do with ease and grace now seems like it’s mediocre. I feel like between everything I had going last week I barely saw the kids. I mean they were there – but SEEING them is a whole different thing. Insert mommy guilt. 

But thank goodness for Mondays! A brand new start to the week. A brand new week to make better than the last. But I’m still juggling. Aren’t we all? I’ve already started the day off getting the kids up and ready for school, visited a friend who just had a baby, popped in a frozen pizza, checked in on my book lady business, did some book lady leader duties, talked a little skin care with my mom, sister and sponsor, had a couple of phone calls and now sitting to write the blog post. Is the pizza ready yet? See all that juggling! It’s really incredible when I write it out all on the screen. Yet, somehow we, moms and caregivers of anyone, tend to not give ourselves enough credit for what we do on a daily basis. In fact, we largely feel like we didn’t do enough or worse, that we aren’t enough. 

That reminds me of this video I saw on Facebook this weekend about how we, moms, don’t feel like we are enough. I wish I had saved it to post in here. The video was moving for me because lately that’s how I have been feeling. Not enough. Are you feeling this way? That’s the Devil y’all. Telling us we can’t do something. Or we shouldn’t do something for ourselves.

I would take a guess that this is a DAILY struggle for many people – not just moms. But how debilitating. That thought of not being enough can literally freeze you in time. Isn’t that what the Devil wants from us? Not to be everything that God intended for us to be. Not reaching our full potential. Even when we are reaching our potential, sometimes we have guilt for even doing that! It’s a vicious web we weave ourselves in! 

Well, I’m here to say YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When you feed the kids chicken nuggets for the 3rd time this week instead of a home cooked meal – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When you haven’t taken a shower in 2 days and the house is a mess – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When you pour that glass of wine just a tad before 5pm because it’s just been one of those days – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When all you want to do is go to a hotel to sleep because you’re one more fight between your kids away from a mental breakdown – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When you have one of the best days with the kids and get everything on your to-do list done – YOU ARE ENOUGH. 

When you spend way too much money on something that makes you incredibly happy – YOU ARE ENOUGH. 

When you stay up late watching movies with your husband and know you’ll pay for it the next day – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

When you spend anytime making sure YOU are taken care of – YOU ARE ENOUGH. 

 

YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH. 

 

Here’s to being enough today and every day,

Rachel

Decisions

The road to IVF

The decisions Nick and I had to make after learning of our failed plan were not easy. You see, I was raised in the Catholic Church and very much still practiced my faith. As a Catholic, in-vitro-fertilization (also known as IVF), among other fertility treatments, are not accepted. In fact, they are considered morally wrong to engage in. I knew this, hence the reason we wanted to avoid it at all costs. And actually, at the time, I was completely against it. However, unless you’ve ever been faced with being told you have a less than 5% chance of conceiving naturally and your body is essentially working against you to have a biological child, please reserve your judgment. I’m not looking for a fight or an argument about “my sin” but merely just sharing how we got to that point.

In the next weeks (we really didn’t have time to make a choice as my condition was worsening by the second), we talked to a lot of people – Catholics, Protestants, priests, and people who went through the fertility process. My wonderful husband was willing to go to the ends of the Earth to make this happen for us and what was important to him was that we “gave it our all”; essentially “tried everything we could” to have a baby. If we still ended up with no baby, then we tried. We would look into other options, like adoption, if that was the path we were meant to be on. While what he said made sense and I just wanted to fall completely into that idea and not look back, I wanted to make sure my heart was in the right place. I wanted to make sure I would have no regrets. This was also an expensive decision and I was feeling super guilty I was the one that brought us to this place. I know it was out of my control, but the guilt was real.

While everyone was super great in listening to our concerns and helping us through this decision (as best as anyone could), we were directed to this great Catholic couple and via email she helped me more than anyone. She said TWO things to me that have stuck with me through these years:

1. Her and her husband made a decision BEFORE the IVF process started that however many children they were blessed with in the process, they vowed to transfer them all in their lifetime.

2. That no matter what they did as a couple, if God’s plans were for them NOT to have children, it won’t happen. Science is great but if science REALLY could circumvent God’s will, then everyone who went through IVF or fertility, in general, would have children.

Let me talk about the impact these two points made on us. The first one was right in line with how I felt about helping create these embryos. THESE EMBRYOS were going to be OUR CHILDREN and I couldn’t bear to not try to conceive them. I won’t go into every detail of the fertility process but many embryos are put up for adoption, abandoned, or given to science for testing. Neither one of these options were the paths that Nick and I wanted to go down so vowing to have however many children God will bless us with was something we felt we could commit to BEFORE we started. Let me tell you, we could have ended up with no children or eleven children, we had no idea! And even now, there are still no guarantees. 

The second point really hit home. We had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into and my naivety about the process led me to just believe we would have children. I mean we were going through all this and paying for it, why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, it’s about a 65% chance of conceiving when you transfer one embryo which is much better than what we were looking at naturally, but still not great. With the twins, we were looking at a slightly higher percentage of having one baby and a 25% chance of having twins. The process of taking all the medications and going through the procedures essentially had to be perfect to even get to the transfer of an embryo. What I am trying to say is that throughout the entire process, ANYTHING could have gone wrong. We could have faced financial hardship and not being able to afford the treatment which is in the tens of thousands of dollars range. My body could have failed to respond to the medications. The procedure to retrieve the eggs could have been unsuccessful. The combining of the sperm and egg could have failed and then the embryos themselves could have failed to multiply and grow correctly. Every single part had to work. Science is a wonderful gift but it’s not fool-proof. 

Nick and I confidently decided to go forth with IVF. The IVF journey is a beast and not one I will tackle in this post. However, we were blessed with 5 embryos. 5 children. Our children. Our family of 7. But this family of 7 has to wait a little bit.

Many people…..most people, go through this life not knowing how many children they will have but we do. We know. At that moment, when we got the call of how many embryos survived, we knew we had 5 beautiful children awaiting their lives with us. That knowledge right there was absolutely the hardest part for me to emotionally handle. You see, I knew I had 5 children but I could only transfer 2 of them the first time around. I was lucky enough that both the embryos took. But during that pregnancy (it was tough so I had a lot of down time), all I could think of were my other babies. I had a lot of guilt for not being able to have them at that moment. I know in my mind I couldn’t but it still hurt. I am their mommy and needed to protect them and I couldn’t. Now, I am sitting here feeling my little wiggle worm rolling around in my stomach – my 3rd baby. My baby girl. I couldn’t be more excited to have her with us now. But my heart is not yet complete. It hurts a little less this time around then when I was carrying the boys but it still hurts. It’s so unexpected how the pain of infertility continues to creep into my heart and mind. I have no regrets whatsoever.

Although, I am so excited to have the life I have with the twins and soon to be with little miss, there is not a single day that goes by I don’t think about my two children waiting for us. I always say to myself when I start thinking of them: “Daddy and I will come and get you one day. We will. We promise. You won’t be alone anymore. We love you so much.” In a way, it’s comforting because I feel like they are close but in another way it breaks me. And although it’s a pain I cannot even begin to describe and tears roll down my face, I know we will bring them home one day. That day, will be the best day of our lives because our family will finally be complete. 

 

Here’s to the loves of my life in waiting,

Rachel

Fantasy vs. Reality

Accepting change

Over the last 3 or so years, I have been seeing a counselor. Sometimes consistently and sometimes not. Usually when I am not seeing her consistently is when I really should be – funny how that works. In actuality, it’s really not funny. It’s actually pretty stressful for me when I take breaks for extended periods of time. Anyway, my counselor has been key in helping me sort through many of my life changes. I don’t know if it’s HER or if it’s just the fact that I have someone outside of my life to talk to; an objective person helps so much. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

Fantasy vs. Reality is a hot topic in our sessions. Fantasy – what you think or dream up to be in a given situation. Reality – the actual situation at hand. Some people can just roll with whatever happens in the reality even if it’s different from what they thought; whereas, others (**cough, me, cough**) have a harder time coping with the change. I’ve generally had a harder time adjusting to given changes in my life ever since I can remember. As I have gotten older, I’ve coped with some changes and have had harder time with others. I mainly struggle with the ones that have drastically changed from what *I thought* would be how life would work out.

For example, one thing that I thought would be easy would be having children. Isn’t this what we all think? At least, what we all think when we don’t have any perceived medical diagnosis, anyway? You get married, buy a house and have children. After all, it’s the “usual way” people do things. Now, I realize not everyone does this in that order and that’s totally fine. But this is what I thought it would be for me and my husband.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. Actually it was the exact opposite. About 3 years into our marriage and 2 years of no baby, I became suspicious of a possible issue. Nick and I were open to having kids but it wasn’t an intentional act of trying and tracking; however, I felt something wasn’t right. In the summer of 2014, after finally convincing my husband of doing some tests, we found ourselves at the Houston Fertility Institute at their Sugar Land, Texas location. We were told in our initial consultation that couples have a 25% chance of conceiving in their first year of trying (that’s WITHOUT any perceived issues) and then after that the numbers drop significantly: down to 5% per year and it lowers every year after that. Talk about a punch in the gut! We were in our second year of being open to children and BOOM, a scientific kick in the pants.

We went on to do some testing. I was having feminine issues with my cycle anyway and during “that time of the month” having a lot of pain. Anyway, the results from my tests weren’t good. I had stage 3 to stage 4 endometriosis. According to Mayo Clinic, endometriosis “is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond pelvic organs” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/home/ovc-20236421).

I don’t think I could have been more devastated. This is not what I dreamed up, remember? This is not how it was supposed to be for us. This made our chances of having a baby even less. Unfortunately, if we wanted to do any fertility treatments it could and would make the disease worse as it feeds off estrogen in your body; so, if we did do anything, we would be taking the risk of making this worse for us. We just weren’t ready to take that risk. In fact, we were actually trying to avoid it as much as possible. I was 25 years old – this shouldn’t be happening. 

Nick and I opted for me to undergo surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as possible so we could possibly try to conceive on our own. Here’s the deal: endometriosis grows microscopically so anything they could see and remove, they would but it didn’t mean I was necessarily in the clear. It’s constantly growing. So following the procedure, I would have monthly injections that would essentially put me into menopause to try to reduce the legions as much as possible. I wasn’t too excited about it. Surgery, in general, is usually pretty rough for me – I’ve had a few in my life to know the general gist of what would happen post-op. My body takes forever to get rid of the anesthesia.

The laparoscopic procedure was slated for 90 minutes. The doctor would blow my stomach up with air so they could see the organs and be able to manipulate them to burn off the legions – hopefully without damaging any other organs. The worse part of it was that my ovaries had huge cysts on them. Taking those out wouldn’t be easy and in fact, it would be so important for the doctor to be precise as to not damage my ovaries further. Every time they take a cyst out, they would be taking part of my ovary (not enough to cause permanent infertility but that was definitely a risk). Then, there’s the whole we “really don’t know what it will be like until we are in there” uncertainty and you always hope it’s better than the doctors expect. 

Little did I know this 90-minute-you’ll-be-back-on-your-feet-in-3-days procedure, turned into blowing my stomach up a second time and a 3 hour procedure. Of course, I didn’t know any of this until I woke up from the surgery. The whole 3 days back on your feet was a LOAD OF CRAP. It took me well over a month to feel “normal” again. You know that fantasy vs. reality thing I was talking about before – yep, I was not happy. In fact, I was angry. Well, let me take a step back – I was very glad the doctor took her time – I had such a bad cyst on my fallopian tube that had she not taken her time, I could have lost it or woken up with a cut open abdomen. So, I am very thankful that. But I was still mad. I was so uncomfortable for weeks! Have you ever had gas pumped in your stomach for any procedure, IT IS AWFUL! Again, this is not what I was expecting. And I had a very hard time accepting that.

Honestly, this whole time I had a hard time dealing with the reality of what was happening and how this was my fault. My body’s fault. Nick, in no way, made me feel this way – this was something I was personally dealing with. In fact, he was amazing during this process. I think if you are the one with the diagnosis in the relationship, it’s normal to have these feelings. But it still sucks, to say the least.

By September 2014, I was on those menopause shots. Okay, again – totally not fun. Talk about a wild roller coaster of emotions, literally. But this, again, was our best chance to combat the endometriosis from growing back quickly and to potentially start trying when all this was over. A medically induced menopause at 25 years old – that was really hard to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t supposed to have a cycle while on this medicine…..until I did. THAT WAS AWFUL. If you’re a girl, you know an unexpected period isn’t fun at all. Nope. Not at all.

After 3 months on the shots, I had an ultrasound in December 2014 and I was devastated. The cysts had grown back. Not as big but they were there which meant the shots really didn’t help. Maybe they did a little bit but the cysts were there. THE CYSTS WERE THERE! SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL! I was screaming inside on that table. I felt like I had put my body and my mental health through absolute torture the last 6 months! For what!?!

Nick and I ended up right where we didn’t want to be…..

Facing the biggest personal and financial decision of our lives…..

Here’s to everything in between (including the crap),

Rachel