five years

“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”   John 13:7

5 years 1

Ryan and I purposefully chose Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet as the Gospel reading at our wedding for many of reasons. Obviously, it shows the other-before-self-ness inherent in marriage: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:14-15).

However, we actually chose it primarily because of an earlier line: “what I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” We saw it as the theme of both of our single years, that is, those winding and confusing roads that led to each other. We didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but it all made perfect sense when the Lord brought our two paths into one.

5 years 2

That said, little did we know our first five years of marriage would be marked by an even more dramatic lack of understanding. Sometimes we joke that it feels like we’ve lived a lifetime in this short time: becoming parents, buying a home, miscarriage, returning to school, secondary infertility, writing a textbook, hospitalizations, becoming foster parents.

And yet, we have absolutely clung to this verse over and over again. Even though we do not see the full picture in the moment, we know God is at work creating something beautiful with our marriage.

Happy 5th Anniversary to my favorite person. There’s no one else I’d prefer to have accompanying me through all my days.

[So, I wrote this post yesterday, and this morning I woke up to a very sick child…like, the messy-everywhere kind of sick. Thus, I will be washing plenty of feet, both literally and metaphorically today. Cheers.]

5 years 3

P.S. Ryan and I made a super lovey-dovey mix CD for all of our wedding guests who stayed in the hotel. I’d thought I’d memorialize that moment in our story with the Spotify playlist below, minus a couple songs that weren’t available on Spotify…I’m looking at you, Radiohead’s “All I Need.”

I’m having some trouble embeding the playlist, but here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/user/124554819/playlist/6nWGGeifdZmZZmHONfXmQA

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past, present, future

“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” John 13:7

This morning I woke up at 5:15 to do some work. [I know! On a Saturday no less.] About an hour later, I heard Philomena crying through the monitor. This was definitely too early for her to be up. Then I heard Ryan going to her and comforting her only to be met with a screeching, “Moooooommmmmy! Moooooommmmmy! Moooooommmmmy!” I considered just ignoring it and letting him deal with her [and he gladly would have], but it was Ryan’s first morning to sleep past 6:00 in months, and I felt a twinge of wifely guilt. So, I closed the computer and went upstairs.

When I picked her up, Mena immediately quieted, and I decided to bring her to our bed to cuddle. Quickly she fell back asleep in my arms. Since I was wide awake, I definitely contemplated sneaking away to get some more work done, but then I decided this was one of those soak-up-the-moment-because-your-baby-is-getting-so-big times. And so, I just held my sleeping toddler and prayed in the early morning light.

I will admit I’ve been having a lot more of these moments lately. And it goes deeper than the cliche “oh, they grow up so fast!” kind of mentalities. Since Ryan and I have been dealing with secondary infertility [we’ve actively been trying to have a baby since our miscarriage almost a year ago], there is a very distinct possibility she may be our only child. I don’t mean this in a pessimistic or pity-seeking way; it is just the reality of the situation.

Lately, I’ve made comments to Ryan like, “sometimes I wish I would have known in that first year she might be our only baby. Maybe I would have been more present. Maybe I would have approached those months differently.”

However, the more I think and pray about it, it is probably good that the Lord shielded us from that knowledge. An example that comes to mind was when I was studying abroad in Europe for a semester in college. Every weekend I went to a different country for a new adventure. I remember someone giving me the advice, “you should go to each new city with the mentality that you will be coming back someday.” At first, I thought that notion was ludicrous. I figured I should be doing the opposite. I should be going to each city as if I would never be back, so as to do and see everything that I could. However, I quickly learned that there is a lot to take in when traveling in a new place. And the times I tried to do and see “everything,” I wouldn’t be having a good time, and I just ended up stressed out.

I think the same would have happened if I knew Philomena may be our only child. I was already pretty emotional about milestones and having her “grow up.” If I would have known this may be the only time I experienced it, I think I would have been almost paralyzed with stress and anxiety about “experiencing” it perfectly.

And if I look deep inside myself, I really don’t have any major regrets regarding those early months. Indeed, I did soak up her newborn-ness, just gazing at her for hours and hours on end. I did appreciate those hundreds [thousands?] hours of nursing. And we took an absolutely ridiculous amount of pictures and videos. I am sure we were distracted at times, but overall we were present, probably more so than we had ever been in our former lives. If I would have known she may be our “only,” I would have been accompanied by a constant fear of “missing this moment.”

Yes, it is true that she may be our only child. Or maybe God will, indeed, grant us another baby. Or perhaps He will open the door to adoption. And maybe that door will be for an older child, not a newborn. Or maybe it will be for a baby. Your prediction is as good as mine at this point.

Regardless, this post is not really about the “what if” of our future. Rather, I am starting to realize that we need to find that balance in embracing the present moment, because there never will be another one just like “the now.” On the other hand, if I live my life with the fear of each of these moments leaving, then I am never truly “in” them. Christ said, “do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34). This is true, of course, but I also think it applies to yesterday: He has already taken care of the past too, so we need to learn to let go.

“My past, O Lord, to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your providence.” St. Padre Pio

soaking up her newborn-ness

soaking up her newborn-ness

Gerard

[Note: I have been very indecisive about whether to actually press the publish button or not. If you’re reading this, I guess I chose vulnerability.]

This post is going to stray quite far from my usual superficial-on-the-blog self. It gets personal and even a little controversial [I know, I know…]. You’ve been warned.

Last week Ryan and I were blessed to find out we were expecting a baby. Words cannot begin to do justice to our excitement and gratitude! Due to nursing, my cycles had just returned, so we were humbled and thrilled that we conceived so quickly. We didn’t tell anyone, but we were going about our days with giddy grins and dreams of the future. We scoured the internet for the perfect “Big Sister” tshirt for Philomena, plotted how we were going to announce to our families, made our first appointment with our nurse-midwife. I even began a Word document of potential names [all very Catholic and obscure, of course.]

We just kept thanking the Lord and St. Gerard (who we had been asking to intercede on our behalf) over and over again. Tempering our joy was the reality of a few couples very close to our hearts, who have had difficulty conceiving and maintaining pregnancy. We started praying even more fervently for them, because it is the only thing we can do, and even more, we believe it is the most important thing to do.

Tuesday, January 22 was the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Every year this day is particularly solemn for me, as I spend it thinking about and praying for the 50 million babies who have lost their lives due to abortion. My heart aches for every single mother and father who made this decision- for their healing, for the difficulties that led them to this act. This year was especially poignant and moving, in that I had this innocent life growing inside me, and although I had only known about him for a few days, I would still give anything to keep him safe. This little baby was only the size of a poppyseed, yet he had a soul, and a mommy and daddy who were madly in love with him.

That evening as I prepared dinner, I listened to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The first guest was a woman journalist, who had an abortion last year in her 20th week of pregnancy. She was quite obviously very intelligent, well-spoken, and well-informed on the issue. Her words struck me deeply for a few reasons. First, she didn’t even attempt to use any euphemisms for the life she chose to end. She plainly called the being in her uterus a baby, and even used the pronoun “him,” for in fact, she was far enough along to know the gender. She had two chosen sonograms, in which she was able to see clearly all the baby’s human parts and features.

Also, she wasn’t having an abortion because she was poor, the victim of rape, or even very young. She was married with a child, and indeed, she and her husband desired another baby. She kept saying over and over again that this was a “wanted baby.” The reality, however, is that she wanted baby, just not this baby. For you see, this particular baby had a serious neurological condition. She didn’t give the details or name of the disease, but the baby’s chances of making it to full-term were questionable, and if he did survive he would have a painful struggle with the condition.

She repeatedly explained that it was her parental “instinct” that led her to end the pregnancy: “And so to us, it was actually – it was a terrible choice; it was a heart-wrenching one. But it was also a simple one because as his parents, we chose what we believed was best for him, to prevent him from knowing a life of pain. And that was, in fact, quite a quick choice we were able to make as well, within minutes of my doctor giving us the terrible news. It was also almost an instinctive response about the choice that we would make.”

When I heard these words, I started crying. The depths of my soul ached for this little boy, his life ended, because his parents thought (instantly!) his death was better than a life with possible pain. And I was filled with anger at our world, our society that has built such a stronghold into this worldview, in that these well-intentioned, honest parents had the “instinct” that it is better NOT to live than to live a life that is less than ideal, a life that is marked by suffering. And I hurt very much for this woman, who was so reviled by the thought of suffering that she chose to kill her own son. And it seemed opposite from my experience, in that every parent I know would give their own lives in a heartbeat to save the life of their child.

Of course it is a mother’s instinct to shield her child from pain [the mere thought of Philomena enduring even trivial hurt is enough to send me into a panic], but to choose the death of the child to avoid the possibility of pain? What if this boy was diagnosed with the disease when he was 10 years old? Or 5? Or a few months old? Would her instinct have been the same? If it had been, she’d be in prison right now.

The purpose of this rambling is not to point fingers at this woman, because, as I said earlier, she is merely a reflection of our society that claims to prefer death over a life that does not meet some arbitrary ideal that is devoid of suffering.

But really, are any of us immune to suffering in some form or another? I know a lot of people who have extraordinary pain and suffering- even very young children- and they have just as much dignity as I do. And quite frankly, they teach me quite a bit about what it truly means to live, not just muddle through our days.

Ryan and I discussed the interview at length throughout the evening. I kept tearing up and saying, “don’t people know? Don’t they know that every. single. life. has immense beauty! Even with the suffering. Often because of the suffering.”

I remember in prayer that night literally holding my stomach and telling our little poppyseed just how wanted, how loved he was, no matter the difficulties he would face.

The next morning I woke up to miscarrying the little baby, confirmed by a subsequent visit to the doctor. Blessedly, Ryan left work immediately, and we spent the day praying and mourning the loss of our little life, who though we didn’t know the gender, we aptly named Gerard. Some people might find it strange that we named our miscarried baby. However, even though he was only in our lives a few weeks, he has an immortal soul and is just as much a person as 13-month-old Philomena.

After my rant the night before about beauty and suffering, the Lord allowed us to experience both the next day (albeit in a small way). Without doubt, Gerard is beautiful. God allowed us to be co-creators with Him, and He knit this tiny being in the secret of my womb (Psalm 139:13). We were blessed with a few short weeks with him here on earth, but Gerard will live forever: I pray fervently some day we will meet him in the heavenly Kingdom. And our slight taste of mourning is nothing compared to what many others have endured, but it was a reminder of the presence of Christ, the One who gives meaning to all of our suffering. Without Him, even our greatest acts, like the creation of life, are nothing.

I didn’t write this post to incite pity. Honestly, we’re okay. We’ve had a tough few days, but we also have been celebrating the gift of our little Gerard. There are couples who have had multiple miscarriages, or who have had them much later in the pregnancy, which no doubt brings immensely more pain, both physical and emotional. I would never want to take away from their significant trials.

I honestly don’t know why I wrote all this. It would have sufficed to say:

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

mena with baby