Motherhood & Parenting

Finding a Twin and St. Teresa of Avila

Wherein We Discover We Miscarried Twins

Shortly after posting the last note about our miscarriage, we discovered that our baby had a twin.

How did I not discover the second baby immediately?

You may remember that my husband was not at home when I miscarried–he and the children were in South Dakota–so I chose to wait before opening the baby’s sac. When I did open it, however, I found two precious babies.

Ah, my heart!

They were tiny, in their little, kidney bean-like shapes. It appeared that one had died perhaps around week 5 or 6 and the other a week later. I had the information and the pictures sent to my doctor, who in turn had a pathologist look at them. Both doctors unofficially concluded what I observed–the twin babies had died very early.

And how does one react to such a bittersweet discovery?

With praise and thanksgiving to our Lord who saw fit to give me two sets of twins. (My 12-year-old boys are twins.)

But then, I could hardly be human if I didn’t admit with a choking cry the ache that such a loss causes. For the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

I am currently reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Book of Her Life and The Way of Perfection. Both books are pertinent reminders of the fleetingness of life and of the great importance to remain close to our Lord in prayer. Truly all of our sufferings can bring us closer to Him, if we only seek Him.

If you’ve never picked up St. Teresa of Avila, I strongly encourage you to do so. Don’t be intimidated by her lofty, contemplative prayer life. One need not be very advanced at all in one’s prayer life–thankfully!–to gather much of what she’s saying, for she has a very clear way of writing and can be quite funny at times, especially in The Way of Perfection, which she wrote for her sisters as a summation of her first autobiographical book, The Book of Her Life.

Motherhood & Parenting

Raphael Marie: Story of a Miscarriage

Dear Readers, I realize that this subject matter might be either too heavy or uninteresting to some of you, for I intend on writing about the actual miscarriage of our baby. I am also posting a picture below, which some of you may find unsettling. If this is not for you, I understand, and I’ll see you next time.

For the rest of you…

Four Weeks of Waiting

As I mentioned earlier on my blog, I learned about four weeks ago that our little baby had died in my womb. I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time when we weren’t able to detect a heartbeat, and I chose to wait and let the miscarriage happen naturally, rather than seek a D&C or take medication to speed the process up. My doctor was comfortable with this, but she gave me a 4 week window for my body to figure it out. (Apparently after 4 weeks the risk of complications increases dramatically.)

In any case, I waited and waited in a silent agony for the miscarriage to happen. It was a queer sensation to knowingly carry a precious, but dead baby in my womb for so long. How could I be ok during this time? And yet, how could I not go on? I had a family to care for; life would go on. And I will be perfectly honest, it was tremendously difficult on many levels.

Perhaps one of the most burdensome things to endure was my body’s inability to recognize it’s situation. For you see, I kept producing normal levels of HCG, which is a hormone that maintains a pregnancy. In other words, I still felt all the symptoms of being pregnant–especially persistent nausea and sheer exhaustion–all up until a few days ago.

Let me break the numbers down for you. Here are my exact HCG levels taken at three different times:

My Particular HCG Levels:
5 Weeks Pregnant: 4,068 mIU/mL
6 Weeks Pregnant: 8,010 mIU/mL
10 Weeks Pregnant: 30,204 mIU/mL

Here are the standard HCG levels for these same weeks. You’ll notice there is a wide range of what is considered normal. This is because each woman is unique.

Standard Chart of HCL Levels:
5 Weeks Pregnant: 18-7,340 mIU/mL
6 Weeks Pregnant: 1,080-56,500 mIU/mL
10 Weeks Pregnant: 25,700-288,000 mIU/mL

As I said, during each week, I fell within what was considered “normal.” The interesting thing is, however, that I had two ultrasounds that indicated that my baby had died somewhere around 7 and 1/2 weeks. That would be the point where one would expect HCG levels to drop dramatically. But mine didn’t. Why? I’ll likely never know.

Bleeding Begins

A few days ago, at about 12 weeks “pregnant,” I began bleeding. It was the day before our family was to travel to South Dakota to visit family. The children were wild with excitement to see Grandma and Grandpa and all their cousins. They had their bags packed days ago and could speak of nothing but drinking Mountain Dew with Uncle Rodney in the combine, eating candy bars with Grandpa in the semi-truck, and cooking in the kitchen with Grandma. What were we to do? For surely I would be miscarrying any moment.

In the end, my husband took the children and went to South Dakota, and I stayed home.

After packing their lunches and seeing them off, I decided to drive to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and spend an hour with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t bleeding very much, after all, and I thought it was worth the risk.

While I was praying my rosary, however, I noticed a dull aching-feeling spread across my abdomen, and I sensed that I had better finish up and drive home. Now, if any of you have been to Our Lady’s shrine in Wisconsin, you know that one has a ten minute walk through the woods to get there. As I started walking down the hill, a thunderstorm, complete with pea-sized hail, broke loose and poured forth from the heavens. It was majestic and strangely beautiful. Thankfully I had an umbrella.

Once I reached my car, though, I sat down and started having contractions. I drove as quickly as I could to my home, while experiencing these contractions almost continually. I pulled into the garage, turned the engine off, and stood up. As I did so, I felt a gush of blood and ran into the house, stripping off boots and coat along the way. I made for the bathtub, leaving a trail of blood behind me.

Then I carefully held my little baby in my hands and wept.

Now this may sound cold or flippant, which is certainly not my intent, but I was tremendously relieved. And thankful. For you see, my little baby was easily identifiable in his perfect little sac, which I’ll post below.

It may be hard to see, but here is Raphael Marie. I placed him in a bowl for this picture.

I marveled that he could have been dead for at least four weeks, but was still obviously there. For I had worried and worried that after so much time, he would perhaps have disintegrated or gone away somehow. I felt extraordinarily blessed that he did not. (In my first miscarriage, I did not have a recognizable baby, which was a cause of deep suffering for me at the time.)

And so my story comes to an end. We are contacting the Shrine to see what should be done with our baby’s tiny body. He will be laid to rest there in the Memorial to the Unborn.

And now, I hope to begin to heal.

Incidentally, today is the traditional feast day of St. Raphael the archangel, patron of healing and marriages.

St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.

P.S. Some of you may be curious about the name we chose, for after all, it’s a masculine name, even though we aren’t certain of the baby’s sex. In the end, we figured God could sort it out. If little Raphael is really Raphaella, He’ll take care of it, and we’ll be glad either way.

Life is Worth Living

Our Lady of the Rosary and a Personal Update

A Personal Update: My Miscarriage

I want to sincerely thank everyone for their prayers and kind words, as we continue to struggle with the loss of our baby. It is truly agonizing to wait for this miscarriage to happen. As it is right now, I’m still waiting and going on ten weeks “pregnant.”

I worry about rescuing the baby’s tiny body. Will I be able to identify anything? I’ve heard that as time slips by, one’s body can sometimes slowly absorb the baby.

I worry about something else going wrong. There’s the risk of hemorrhaging. There’s the risk that the little baby will become toxic to my body, and I dread a D&C.

I battle with thoughts of guilt. Perhaps I ought to have been more vigilant with taking progesterone?

Then there’s the heartbreaking questions from my four-year-old, “Mommy, why did the baby have to die?”

“Jesus must have wanted him in Heaven, Honey.”

Pause.

“But, why did the baby have to die, Mommy?”

I looked down at her innocent eyes, held her hand, and said, “I don’t know.”

I suppose in the end–the only thing one can do–is place little Raphael Marie in God’s hands. He’s a good Father, after all, and knows best.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

Our Lady of the Rosary

On a lighter note…Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.  This feast has a rich history.  (Click HERE for it at New Advent.)

Many of you may know that this day was originally named Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the naval victory of the Christian fleet over the Turkish fleet in the Gulf of Lepanto in the Adriatic Sea in 1571.

800px-Battle_of_Lepanto_1571.jpg
The Battle of Lepanto.  Artist unknown.  It sits in London now.  Can you see the different flags?

Every October 7th our family reads G. K. Chesterton’s famous poem, Lepanto.  If you’ve never read it before, give it shot.  Chesterton covers this historic battle very well, and it reads like a marching army.  We love it.

And which publication of Chesterton’s Lepanto to we prefer?

Lepanto by [Ahlquist, Dale]

Dale Ahlquist’s book appropriately titled Lepanto, consists of Chesterton’s poem along with a few essays detailing the historical background for October 7th, 1571.  It’s excellent.

Motherhood & Parenting

Missed Miscarriage: The Agony of Waiting

“How many pregnancies have you had?” asked the ultrasound technician, as she guided the transvaginal wand and clicked away. I couldn’t see the screen.

“Including this one? Eight. But I miscarried one of those babies a year and a half ago, and one pregnancy was twins, ” I offered, wanting to see this baby on the hidden screen, but not daring to ask.

“Hmm…do you have an appointment with your doctor today?”

“No, my doctor only needed a lab to verify progesterone levels and an ultrasound to verify a heartbeat.” My heart raced. A heartbeat. Is there a heartbeat? There should be at 8 weeks. But I couldn’t ask.

The tech finished up and said, “Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll set that appointment up for you right now. I’ll be right back.”

The door shut. I changed and sat still. Either this was bad news, that I must see my doctor, or it was wildly good news. Perhaps the tech found twins, and she wasn’t able to say so? But if that was the case, surely she would have shown me the screen. No, this was bad news.

I was then directed to another room. My doctor came in and quietly sat down and said, “I’m afraid the ultrasound indicates that your baby died. I’m awfully sorry.”

I nodded, feeling suddenly hot.

She continued, “You may quit taking the progesterone now. You’ll likely start bleeding and cramping in a few days, or maybe not for a few weeks. This is sometimes called a Missed Miscarriage…”

She went on, but I couldn’t register it. A silent sob choked in my throat. It’s happening again? Oh, my dear baby. I am so sorry.

I blinked back my tears and forced myself to listen, as my doctor kindly went on with other instructions.

And then, numb and dazed, I walked out to my van and sat down. I thought of everything I still had to do that afternoon. Drive home. Switch out the laundry. Make supper. Help the children with their homework. Fold laundry. Eat dinner…

And my little one died. Oh, Jesus! Not again. How can I do this a second time? And a flood of tears overtook me as I sobbed and sobbed. But I submit myself to your holy will, O Lord. Only hold me and my little one, for I cannot do this without You.

And what could I do? After a time, I had to pull myself together and drive home.

That was Monday.

Now it’s been a few days, and I still haven’t miscarried the baby’s tiny body yet, for my body still thinks it’s pregnant, as I continue to be exhausted and nauseous. These days have been full of a Silent Agony, as I wait for my body to figure it out and for the baby to completely pass away from me.

And then, we must somehow tell the children–the children who speak of nothing but the tiny baby growing in mommy’s tummy and all the wonderful plans they have for him.

Plans that will never happen.

I am sick, as I hold this silent sorrow in my heart and in my womb. And I wait. Wait.

Most Popular Posts, Motherhood & Parenting

2nd Most Popular Post of 2019: A Miscarriage

Dear Readers, this wasn’t an easy post, and considering the high traffic it got, I suspect that many of you can relate to the hurt of a miscarriage.

What hidden suffering dwells in the heart of a mother or a father who has miscarried a precious, little baby?  The Lord knows, and may all these little souls give glory to Him.

The following is my story from earlier this year.  It’s almost unbelievable to me.

A Mother’s Heart During a Miscarriage

I just recently miscarried our 8th child.  I had only been pregnant 5 weeks, which is to say, that I had only known I was pregnant for about a week before the baby died.

Backing Up a Bit

Now let me back up a bit.  In case you’re new here, you may not know that our family has had one wild year, with the most stressful thing being the health of Paul.  In particular, we have spent the last few weeks making multiple trips to Mayo in Rochester, resulting in two surgeries.

In the midst of this, I became pregnant.  Now I know some of you will think this is irresponsible.  Some of you will shrug your shoulders and scoff at the effectiveness of NFP.  Some of you will think we’re just downright crazy.

And so we are.  For we knew what we were doing.  It was not a reckless choice; rather, it was a decision of love.

Because I do chart according to the Creighton Model, I knew I was pregnant before I took the test.  And truthfully, in spite of it all, I was struggling with feelings of doubt, of stress, and of, well, craziness.

In fact, I spent an hour with Jesus in Adoration, discussing these very things.  After I poured my heart out to Him, I opened my Bible to read my passage for the day, which happened to be Isaiah 61.  Knowing my passage was coming from Isaiah, I fully expected to read something about fire and brimstone and years of exile.  Instead, I got this:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called the oaks of righteousness…”

A Year of the Lord’s Favor

I read and reread that passage.  A year of the Lord’s favor…garlands, oils, mantles of praise…  I let it wash over me, and I left Adoration feeling light and full of hope.  This was going to be a year of the Lord’s favor.  I mean, that’s awesome!  Who know what’s in store for me?  Whatever it is, it’ll be great.

A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions.  I’d be lying, however, if I said that I was all jumping jacks and high fives.  No, I was worried.  My pregnancies are never easy after all, and how was I going to handle this?

Then I thought of all the things I’d have to say “no” to.  No to a silent retreat.  (I’d be too sick.)  No to running and biking and even walking later on.  No to fitting into my clothes again.  No to wine and lemon martinis.  No to sleeping ever again.  No, no…no.

Thankfully, however, I have great friends who reminded me of my silliness and then, I also remembered Isaiah  61–a year of the Lord’s favor.  After I hyperventilated for one more minute, I stopped and laughed out loud.  A year of favor from the Lord!

Yes, suffering and pregnancies and children are great blessings from the Lord.  All one needs to do is read Psalms 127 and 128 to know that.  In fact the Bible is replete with passages about children being a blessing.

As a couple of days went by, my husband and I began to be excited.  8 kids!  Under the age of 13!  Wow, we’re so blessed!

St. John Marie Vianney’s Heart

During this time, the heart of St. John Marie Vianney happened to be at the Cathedral for two days of public veneration, so I loaded the children up and braced myself for long lines.

IMG_1351.jpg
This is the holy card that they handed out at the door of the Cathedral.

When we walked into the church, however, almost nobody was there.  I held the baby, grabbed the hand of the 3-year-old, and led the children straight to the kneelers, which were placed directly in front of St. Vianney’s heart.  We knelt and prayed.  We touched our scapulars to the glass of the reliquary.  Then I handed the baby off to The Eldest and prayed some more.

I prayed that my guardian angel would somehow take the heart of St. Vianney and touch my heart with it.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my cousin, who suffers from alcoholism.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of a certain priest I know.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my husband, my children, and lastly, the little baby growing inside of me.

My heart swelled with emotion, as I knelt there with all 8 of my children surrounding me.  God is so good, so good.

Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s house, and I mentioned my pregnancy and the Isaiah passage about a “year of favor from the Lord.”  She said, “You know, that reminds me of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with, ‘Hail, Favored One.'”

How beautiful!  To connect a year of “favor” and pregnancy to Mary, Full of Grace, and certainly favored.  My heart was full.

My Heart Breaks

Two hours later I began bleeding.  At first I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the baby would still be ok?  I called my doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him until the next day.

And that night the baby died, as I bled and bled.

In the morning, my husband and I stood before the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my soul cried, My little baby!  I will never hold you in this life!  Did I tell you how much I love you?

My husband held me.  We prayed Morning Prayer and knew that the baby needed a name.  As I had mentioned Isaiah 61 and the Annunciation to him earlier, we named the baby Gabriel Marie.  We thanked God for his life, and we commended him to Jesus and Mary.

We told the children too, as they joined us for Morning Prayer, and we answered their innocent, concerned questions as best as we could.

Then my husband had to go to work, and I had to take care of the children.  It was an emotional day.

My Heart Grows

Life must go on.

A few days later I was in Adoration again, and I was overcome with a spirit of doubt–doubt about my feelings, doubt about naming the baby, doubt about the existence of the baby himself.  Maybe I was just being ridiculous?  Overreacting?

I soon realized, however, that these agitating thoughts were not from Jesus, and I cast them aside.  But still, in a place of fear, I begged Jesus, Please will you give me a sign about little Gabriel?  Jesus, I am weak.  If my Gabriel was real, let me come across someone named Gabriel today.  But not my will, only Your will be done.

I left Adoration feeling a little down and drove to the grocery store.  As I pushed the cart around, I forgot all about my prayer and moved to a checkout lane.  I zipped by an empty one, because I was looking for a particular clerk that I always go to.  But she wasn’t there, so I backed up and entered the empty lane and began unloading my groceries.

When I glanced up, I noticed a new clerk, someone I had never seen before.  His name was Gabriel.

I was stunned.  Could this be a coincidence?  No, for there is no such thing for those who believe in God.  Oh, how my heart swelled again!  How weak and fickle I am, but Jesus is so good to his little ones.  I felt His love in that moment and knew that my Gabriel would be ok.

I continued unloading my groceries, and I smiled at Gabriel the clerk.

When I got home, these greeted me:

IMG_1349.jpg

While I was away, someone had anonymously sent me these beautiful flowers with a quotation from the Bible which reads,

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”

Motherhood & Parenting

A Mother’s Heart During a Miscarriage

I just recently miscarried our 8th child.  I had only been pregnant 5 weeks, which is to say, that I had only known I was pregnant for about a week before the baby died.

Backing Up a Bit

Now let me back up a bit.  In case you’re new here, you may not know that our family has had one wild year, with the most stressful thing being the health of Paul.  In particular, we have spent the last few weeks making multiple trips to Mayo in Rochester, resulting in two surgeries.

In the midst of this, I became pregnant.  Now I know some of you will think this is irresponsible.  Some of you will shrug your shoulders and scoff at the effectiveness of NFP.  Some of you will think we’re just downright crazy.

And so we are.  For we knew what we were doing.  It was not a reckless choice; rather, it was a decision of love.

Because I do chart according to the Creighton Model, I knew I was pregnant before I took the test.  And truthfully, in spite of it all, I was struggling with feelings of doubt, of stress, and of, well, craziness.

In fact, I spent an hour with Jesus in Adoration, discussing these very things.  After I poured my heart out to Him, I opened my Bible to read my passage for the day, which happened to be Isaiah 61.  Knowing my passage was coming from Isaiah, I fully expected to read something about fire and brimstone and years of exile.  Instead, I got this:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called the oaks of righteousness…”

A Year of the Lord’s Favor

I read and reread that passage.  A year of the Lord’s favor…garlands, oils, mantles of praise…  I let it wash over me, and I left Adoration feeling light and full of hope.  This was going to be a year of the Lord’s favor.  I mean, that’s awesome!  Who know what’s in store for me?  Whatever it is, it’ll be great.

A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions.  I’d be lying, however, if I said that I was all jumping jacks and high fives.  No, I was worried.  My pregnancies are never easy after all, and how was I going to handle this?

Then I thought of all the things I’d have to say “no” to.  No to a silent retreat.  (I’d be too sick.)  No to running and biking and even walking later on.  No to fitting into my clothes again.  No to wine and lemon martinis.  No to sleeping ever again.  No, no…no.

Thankfully, however, I have great friends who reminded me of my silliness and then, I also remembered Isaiah  61–a year of the Lord’s favor.  After I hyperventilated for one more minute, I stopped and laughed out loud.  A year of favor from the Lord!

Yes, suffering and pregnancies and children are great blessings from the Lord.  All one needs to do is read Psalms 127 and 128 to know that.  In fact the Bible is replete with passages about children being a blessing.

As a couple of days went by, my husband and I began to be excited.  8 kids!  Under the age of 13!  Wow, we’re so blessed!

St. John Marie Vianney’s Heart

During this time, the heart of St. John Marie Vianney happened to be at the Cathedral for two days of public veneration, so I loaded the children up and braced myself for long lines.

IMG_1351.jpg
This is the holy card that they handed out at the door of the Cathedral.

When we walked into the church, however, almost nobody was there.  I held the baby, grabbed the hand of the 3-year-old, and led the children straight to the kneelers, which were placed directly in front of St. Vianney’s heart.  We knelt and prayed.  We touched our scapulars to the glass of the reliquary.  Then I handed the baby off to The Eldest and prayed some more.

I prayed that my guardian angel would somehow take the heart of St. Vianney and touch my heart with it.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my cousin, who suffers from alcoholism.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of a certain priest I know.  I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my husband, my children, and lastly, the little baby growing inside of me.

My heart swelled with emotion, as I knelt there with all 8 of my children surrounding me.  God is so good, so good.

Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s house, and I mentioned my pregnancy and the Isaiah passage about a “year of favor from the Lord.”  She said, “You know, that reminds me of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with, ‘Hail, Favored One.'”

How beautiful!  To connect a year of “favor” and pregnancy to Mary, Full of Grace, and certainly favored.  My heart was full.

My Heart Breaks

Two hours later I began bleeding.  At first I couldn’t believe it.  Maybe the baby would still be ok?  I called my doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him until the next day.

And that night the baby died, as I bled and bled.

In the morning, my husband and I stood before the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my soul cried, My little baby!  I will never hold you in this life!  Did I tell you how much I love you?

My husband held me.  We prayed Morning Prayer and knew that the baby needed a name.  As I had mentioned Isaiah 61 and the Annunciation to him earlier, we named the baby Gabriel Marie.  We thanked God for his life, and we commended him to Jesus and Mary.

We told the children too, as they joined us for Morning Prayer, and we answered their innocent, concerned questions as best as we could.

Then my husband had to go to work, and I had to take care of the children.  It was an emotional day.

My Heart Grows

Life must go on.

A few days later I was in Adoration again, and I was overcome with a spirit of doubt–doubt about my feelings, doubt about naming the baby, doubt about the existence of the baby himself.  Maybe I was just being ridiculous?  Overreacting?

I soon realized, however, that these agitating thoughts were not from Jesus, and I cast them aside.  But still, in a place of fear, I begged Jesus, Please will you give me a sign about little Gabriel?  Jesus, I am weak.  If my Gabriel was real, let me come across someone named Gabriel today.  But not my will, only Your will be done.

I left Adoration feeling a little down and drove to the grocery store.  As I pushed the cart around, I forgot all about my prayer and moved to a checkout lane.  I zipped by an empty one, because I was looking for a particular clerk that I always go to.  But she wasn’t there, so I backed up and entered the empty lane and began unloading my groceries.

When I glanced up, I noticed a new clerk, someone I had never seen before.  His name was Gabriel.

I was stunned.  Could this be a coincidence?  No, for there is no such thing for those who believe in God.  Oh, how my heart swelled again!  How weak and fickle I am, but Jesus is so good to his little ones.  I felt His love in that moment and knew that my Gabriel would be ok.

I continued unloading my groceries, and I smiled at Gabriel the clerk.

When I got home, these greeted me:

IMG_1349.jpg

While I was away, someone had anonymously sent me these beautiful flowers with a quotation from the Bible which reads,

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”