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.

Call Me Catholic

Confirmation with Raymond Cardinal Burke

Yesterday five of our seven children had the great privilege of receiving the Rite of the Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form by Raymond Cardinal Burke.

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Here we are afterwards, meeting His Eminence.  Just about to kneel for his blessing.

The whole day was one marked by great beauty.  We were surrounded by our family and friends.  The weather, albeit a bit hot and sticky, was clear of thunderstorms.  And we were able to pray in the magnificent Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI.

The Traditional Rite of Confirmation began with the priests and Cardinal Burke chanting the Veni Creator Spiritus and then moved on to an Exhortation.

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Cardinal Burke, seated on the faldstool, about to give his Exhortation.  Fr. Altman is seated to the right.

At one point, during his Exhortation, Cardinal Burke said, “Do not give way to cowardly fear, for you will face opposition and persecution.”  This being one of the reasons why one needs the Sacrament of Confirmation, as it increases sanctifying grace and gives us the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.  (It also leaves an indelible mark upon one’s soul.)

He also repeatedly encouraged all the confirmandi to, “Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your particular vocation, as your vocation is the way to happiness in this life and in the life to come.”  And again, with strength, “Pray to know your vocation and respond to it with your whole heart.”

Following his brief words, Cardinal Burke outstretched his hands in prayer over the confirmandi, invoking the Holy Spirit.  Then the Cardinal confirmed them individually as he or she knelt before him with the sponsor standing behind.  This was the Second Laying on of Hands and the Anointing.  The confirmandi then received the acclaimed “Slap.”

The Slap, intended to be a reminder that one must be ready at all times to suffer for the faith, was our children’s favorite part.  It’s more like a “tap” and was given with the words, “Pax tecum.”  Or, “Peace be with you.”  One of my son’s remarked with a twinkle in his eye, “I was hoping for good whack.  He didn’t smack me hard enough!”

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Here we are again.

In the end, we feel very blessed and are so very thankful for Cardinal Burke’s willingness to administer this most holy Sacrament, for it was just that–holy.

As an aside…one my my girls remarked, “Mom, he’s got a pretty hat.”  Yes, he does!*

 

*It’s called a mitre.
Call Me Catholic

My Big, Fat, Shove Tuesday

Today is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which in years past was known as Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove comes from “shrive,” which means to rid oneself of one’s sins and seek penance.

In other words, have you gone to confession lately?  No?  Now’s the time!

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Go to Confession!

Nowadays we think of the day before Ash Wednesday as Fat Tuesday, wherein one eats all foods that used to be verboten during Lent: butter, eggs, fat…candy, desserts, all things richly decadent, etc., etc.

This morning, after a breakfast of toast and strudel, we drove over to Caribou and ordered Turtle Mochas for all the children and a Mint Condition for me.  It was delicious.

Tomorrow, however, we can kiss those sweets goodbye for a time.

Are you ready for Lent?

And Just For Fun:

Here are few photos from the last week or so.

Photo #1:  The New Triple Bunkbed

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The boys have been sleeping on the floor ever since we moved here because their bed hadn’t come yet.  We had ordered this Fun Thing from Wayfair, but it took a few weeks to get here.  The little girls are ragingly jealous of it.  They want one too.

Photo #2:  Kids Skipping Along With Their Cousins

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The kids’ cousins came to visit.  Of course we took them to see the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Photo #3:  My Sister

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My sister drove all the way here and surprised me with a visit.  It was fun.

Photo #4:  My Sister Without Coffee  😉

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We had such a great time together with my brother.  I love you both.  Even without your coffee in the morning!  And even if you wear SDSU gear in Wisconsin…goodness.  One could get beat up around here for that.

Photo #4:  Grandma, Grandpa, and Another Aunt

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My husband’s family came to visit too.  Guess where we took them?*

We also went hiking at Great River Bluffs State Park.  I can’t wait to do that again.  It’s very lovely.

Photo #5:  Some of the Children Enjoying Fat Tuesday

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They were singing songs and dancing.

See you in Lent!

 

 

 

*Naturally we took them to the Shrine.  Have you been there yet?

 

Call Me Catholic

Cardinal Burke Holds Nothing Back

Last weekend my husband and I flew out to La Crosse to buy a house.  His Eminence the Most Reverend Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke just happened to be there too.  He was celebrating a Pontifical Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  As neither of us had ever attended a Solemn Pontifical Mass, we hiked up that hill with glee and anticipation.

We were not disappointed.

Thankfully we were about an hour and half early, as it was a packed house.  There were men in suits, women in veils, babies in slings, and young people everywhere.  The Choir from St. Mary’s Oratory in Wausau was practicing Anton Bruckner’s Ave Maria, and I was overcome with emotion.  By the time the men sang the third Jesu, I had goosebumps from my head to my foot.  After being starved for liturgical beauty nearly all my life, I could no longer check my tears.  Here, here was the way one ought to experience the Mass!

Dear Readers, if you ever have an opportunity to attend such a Mass, jump at it!

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Here is Cardinal Burke as he processed in, giving blessings.  (Sorry about the bad photo.)

In any case, Cardinal Burke didn’t hold anything back in his homily either.  He used such terms as “Brood of Vipers” and “Accursed” to describe those in the Church who are allowing such evils to happen as pachamama worship and widespread doctrinal confusion.  He was quiet, solemn, and clear.  And I wanted to stand up and cheer.

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Here he is, formally vesting for Mass.  Look to the left for the red hat.

May God bless Cardinal Burke!

And just for fun…

Here are the children, busy at work two days ago.  They built the biggest snow fort I’ve ever been in.  Gotta love Christmas break.

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Call Me Catholic

Our Trip and a Few Advent Ideas

We are finally back from our tri-state tour.  It began with some medical appointments in Rochester, MN.  Although Paul is experiencing daily headaches, these are very minor, compared to what he went through earlier this year.  He is, in fact, doing well.  His doctors are pleased, and so are we.

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Paul, during an EEG, wherein doctors look for potential seizure activity.  (They found none.)

After Paul’s medical appointments, we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe again.  (See HERE for our first trip.)  Our family has a particular devotion to her.  Her feast day, by the way, is coming up on December 12th.

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Here are the children outside the main church.

And here’s the interior:

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The lovely thing about the Shrine is that they celebrate the TLM every Sunday.

This time we were able to explore the outdoor Way of the Cross and the Rosary Walk.  These are paved trails dotted with reflections and benches.

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This is the entrance to the Way of the Cross.

And because she’s so cute, here’s Child #6 up close:

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Her shoes are on the wrong feet.  It’s amazing how that always happens.  (And doesn’t seem to bother her.)

After the Shrine, we checked out St. James the Less Catholic Church, also in La Crosse.

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This is a stunning church.  And hey!  Look, no table altar.

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Now that is how one builds an altar.

This parish offers both the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass.  Both are obviously celebrated Ad Orientem, as again, there’s no table altar.

Here’s a look at the ambo.

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That is a statue of St. Michael the Archangel next to it.

I could only dream of worshiping at a church like this.  I hope the parishioners of St. James know what a treasure they have!

After Wisconsin, we traveled to South Dakota and celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended family.  We had about 51 people gathered together at my sister’s house.  My aunt, Karen, led us in prayer, we sang America the Beautiful, and we ate and visited and laughed.  I am so thankful for my family!

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Here we all are, Thanksgiving Day morning

Anyone Need Advent Ideas?

And lastly, if anyone is in need of Advent ideas, I strongly recommend Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Advent video, which is mostly directly towards men and fathers of families.  In this short, 15-minute video, he offers 5 challenges for Advent:

  1. Attend the TLM 4 times during Advent.
  2. Read all of 2 Maccabees.
  3. Pray the rosary every day.
  4. Fast 2 days of the week.
  5. And celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as you would Thanksgiving.

Click HERE for it.  Seriously, he’s right.  These are great ideas for Advent and worthwhile trying to do, if you don’t already do them.  Our family has never done #5, and we’re going to try to step it up this year.

And if that isn’t enough, watch his video on Advent traditions that he does with his family.  This video is interesting because his wife, Joy, joins him.  Click HERE for that video and enjoy!

 

Life is Worth Living

Update From Rochester

I want to begin by soberly thanking every one of you who has offered a prayer or a sacrifice for Paul and our family.  Again we are deeply thankful for all the kind words, meals, money, and most especially, the prayers and sacrifices.  God works in mysterious ways, and please know that we feel His love through you all.

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Unfortunately after another shunt revision surgery last Friday, Paul is still hurting.  His head is aching, in an ebb and flow manner, and he isn’t eating well.

Because we were able to secure a house within walking distance of the hospital, however, Paul was allowed to join us.  This has been a great blessing for our family.  It cheers him to be around all his brothers and sisters.

Yesterday we took the whole family and attended a Latin Mass at the shrine in La Crosse, WI, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  During his brief homily the priest paused and said quietly, “One of two things happen, when one begins to pray the rosary every day.  He either quits sinning, or he quits praying the rosary.”

Put so starkly, those words gave me great hope.

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Interior of the Church

Incidentally, we were able to make this pilgrimage to the Shrine through the generosity of some friends.  But also, on a practical level, we were able to take Paul because the Shrine offers rides on a golf cart to those individuals who are unable to make the ten minute hike up the wooded hill to the church.  Our Lady was surely interceding for us!

We prayed for Paul, but also for a friend of ours suffering from cancer and for the Amazon Synod.  We lit a candle in this small chapel on the hillside:

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It was a beautiful day, even if our hearts were aching for our son.

Tomorrow Paul has more appointments, to determine what should or should not be done.  Every day we live in uncertainty as to whether he’ll get better or not.  It is agonizing.  But we continue to trust in God.  We want to be loyal to His will, no matter the cost.

Tomorrow is also Paul’s 11th birthday, which he of course shares with his twin brother, Michael.  (I wrote about their birth HERE.)

But today…today we thank God for his most lovely and fair mother.  Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us!