Sugarbeet's Arrival - Part 2

As with part 1 - here is a link to some cute elephants if you aren't up for or into a birth story post :). - Cute elephants click here.

So, once we returned from a week at the beach and I scrubbed my kitchen until it looked brand new, stocked my freezer with food, and had my car cleaned and then re-cleaned it until it looked new, I figured Sugarbeet would be arriving soon.

I never reached the point in pregnancy where I was just done and wanted baby to just be out. Probably because I went into labor at 34 weeks, 5 days and I had believed all I had read about first babies always coming late. I had seen my midwife 2 days prior and while things were definitely changing - period-type cramping, baby had dropped, I felt different, etc - I knew that it could still be weeks and wasn't getting my hopes up too much.

We had a birth plan, but the one thing I have picked up on in my not-reading-birth-stories-experience is that birth plans rarely go exactly as planned and so we had listed our preferences but were very aware that it could change. As I heard the other morning, the one missing variable in any birth plan is your actual labor. Our general plan was to labor at home as long as possible, to not have any medicines/pain killers, to have immediate skin-to-skin care, to nurse immediately, and to not be separated from baby at any point.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, around noon, I noticed some leaking and wondered if maybe my water had broken, but when the leaking seemed to stop I figured it was either a mucus plug breakdown or urine. As the day progressed these leaks came and went and finally after dinner I figured I'd better call the midwife before we settled in to watch a movie just to be sure, because I was GBS positive, and knew that my water breaking was one reason I'd have to go to the hospital earlier in labor rather than later.

So, midwife said come in and when she did the little ph-strip test, it turned blue immediately and she said 'you'll be staying.' Good thing R had insisted on taking our bags :).

I then had to have my first cervix check - which was awful. Short midwife with short fingers + tall patient who is not dilated at all = OUCH! Yea, I knew right away I did not want to have many more of those and fortunately being GBS+ with a broken water meant they wanted to minimize checks as well. Because I was GBS+, I was put on penicillin and received it through IV every 4 hours. And that was my second OUCH! That stuff stings hurts like heck hell (sorry, it's the truth) going in - thank goodness for ice packs!

We were given some options to get labor going because the ideal is to deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking and since I didn't know for sure and hemmed and hawed all day long, we were already about 10 hours behind schedule.

We opted for cervidil to ripen my cervix and the plan was to insert that and get some sleep. Because I was on the cervidil, instead of the periodic fetal heart-rate monitoring we wanted, it had to be monitored constantly. So, just as I settled in after getting my penicillin and monitors set (Sugarbeet wiggled a lot and kept moving away from the monitor), the lights were dim and we were both getting ready to sleep, the nurse came in and said I needed to move to my side immediately - Sugarbeet's heart rate had been slower than they like to see. That didn't work as they hoped and suddenly the lights were on, the room was full of people and before I even fully realized it, the cervidil was being taken out. It all happened so fast and seemed so out of my control, and even the midwife's control for a moment. The resident that came in to oversee, was kind, but I preferred my midwife. She asked some questions of the nurses, Sugarbeet's heart rate came back up and she expressed that she didn't think it was the cervidil and would check with the attending OB and be back.

About an hour later she came back, OB agreed they didn't think it was the cervidil at all that impacted the heartbeat, rather that baby had just been moved away from monitor and I was more on my back than usual. So, everyone was OK with trying the cervidil again. It was reinserted at 6:00am and could stay in for 12 hours. Our quiet night's sleep was no more and we were getting closer to the 24 hour mark.

Also in all of this, my blood pressure was creeping up. Bloodwork was all normal and the thought of a catheter to get a direct urine sample to check for protein (to rule out preeclampsia) was not something I was interested in having done, and so we opted for a wait and see approach.

At 7:00am on Thursday, Aug. 6, we had a midwife switch (the practice I go to has 9 midwives). The new midwife was a little more concerned about the 24-hour mark than the first one, but she was willing to wait and see a bit longer. As noon came and went, we talked about other options to get labor to progress more, none of which were at all something I wanted to do (um, foley-bulb, no thank you) and since my temperature was normal, baby's heartrate was good, and my blood pressure was high, but not too high, we decided to wait until the cervidil had to come out at 6pm.

At 3pm, things changed when the cervidil came out on its own. I consented to another check at this point to know if it was doing anything. I was 1cm dilated and 30% effaced. Nothing to get excited about, but enough to start pitocin and have it be able to work. I had been having some very mild contractions, but nothing that was worth getting excited about. We had taken all sorts of laps around the labor and delivery unit and were more than ready to get things moving (plus, we were hoping for a Transfiguration baby :).).

Just before the pitocin, it was time for penicillin again and my IV was really hurting, even with a saline flush. They determined it was infiltrated and we started to look for a second IV location. My nurse was wonderful and said she recommended in the inside of my forearm, but was honest and said she couldn't get it in there. So, we called the IV lady to do it. When she walked in, I breathed a sigh of relief because anyone who can wear white scrubs and start IVs all day without a drop of blood on her has got to be good, right? And she was - new IV in forearm went in without problems and felt better immediately.

So, finally, at about 4:30 or 5, the pitocin was started. I was nervous because I'd heard all the horror stories, and confirmed that we'd start with a very low dose. Soon after it started, the contractions began to intensify and for the next 6 hours, I had what seemed to be very productive contractions, getting stronger and closer together. The only way that I was comfortable during contractions was standing up, holding R's hands, and leaning into his chest. I'd then sit down between them. I tried the birthing ball, squating, leaning forward, sitting up higher, nothing that involved any pressure on my lower back during a contraction worked. And so I sat and stood for those hours. By 10pm, I was exhausted. My legs were shaking, and it was getting harder and harder to stand up for each contraction. I was feeling positive because the contractions had been so close together and intense for so long, that I agreed to another check. (Oh, and we were on midwife and nurse #3 because there was another shift change at 7pm.)

I was only 4 cm dilated and 50% effaced and suddenly I was the lady on the birthing class video who I swore I would not be and I was crying because I had not progressed as much as I'd expected. And my exhaustion became overwhelming. I knew I needed to rest somehow, I was over 24 hours in the hospital at this point and had barely slept on top of the standing-up laboring. While the contractions were painful, as long as I was standing and breathing through them, I was doing ok. But, the exhaustion was becoming more than I could take - mentally and physically.

We asked the midwife and nurse what our options for the exhaustion were, and we all agreed that we weren't ready to jump to an epidural, so a narcotic analgesic would be a good in-between step. It would be in my system about an hour, giving me an opportunity to rest, and hopefully my relaxed body would respond well and I'd progress a bit more too.

I got the stadol sometime between 11:00pm and midnight. For the first half-hour, I got the rest I so desperately needed, I could still feel the contractions and could tell they were intensifying, but didn't care much about them. Sometime at the mid-hour point things started to change, not only were the contractions getting much more intense and I was starting to care, but in between contractions I was having the most awful dreams about baby parts and the pla.nn.ed paren.t.hood videos that were being released in the days just before. So, no longer was I getting a mental break and the physical break was less and less as well.

As the hour came to an end, I was in a lot of pain with each contraction, was scared to death to be checked again because 1) it hurt and 2) it had only been an hour and I didn't want to be told that I was only 5 or 6 cm dilated. But, I also knew that I could no longer breath through these contractions. I couldn't really articulate it at the time, but they were different and it was just literally holding onto the sides of the bed to get through each one. A dear friend had once told me "childbirth is supposed to be painful, but it should not be suffering. If suffering starts, get an epidural." That simple distinction of pain vs suffering had really helped me to this point and now I was sure that breathing through these contractions meant suffering. And so, R and I started the conversation about an epidural. He knew it was not what I wanted to do, but also heard what I was saying about suffering, and so, with some disappointment from both of us, we told our wonderful nurse, G, that we wanted the epidural. Then, I said I needed to go to the bathroom, or something. It felt like I wanted to push or go to the bathroom - and I knew this was a sign of labor progressing, but didn't believe I could be actually ready to push. I remember feeling very confused, disappointed that I was getting an epidural, and a weird combination of being panicked and not caring at all that I was going to poo and pee all in the bed.

This description to G gave her all the information she needed and she gently said, why don't you let the midwife check you one more time before the epidural, just to see. And for whatever reason, I did.

As the midwife did the check, I admit to feeling a little defeated, exhausted, and scared about what was to come next. But, the check didn't hurt, not at all, not like before; and she look up and smiled and said "you are 10cm and fully effaced" and I immediately replied "so I can push then?". To which she replied, "Yes!".

And just like that, it was as if someone had flipped a switch and my defeated feeling of not being able to do it and needing the epidural to stop the suffering was immediately gone and I was determined and ready to push. Again, I couldn't have described it this way at the time, but I knew I couldn't just breathe through those contractions, that it was suffering to do so, but if I could do something productive with them, like push, well, then, let's do it!

And so, at 2:05 am I started to push. And I laughed internally because I remembered our birthing class and how lying in the bed on your back pushing is the worst position because you get no help from gravity, but there I was laying in the bed on my back, pushing. And I knew, instinctively somehow, that was where I needed to be - but, I did happen to bump the bed adjust button with my elbow during one push and it inclined the bed just enough that I could really tell a difference.

And for 2 hours I pushed, with Sugarbeet crowning for at least 2/3 of those 2 hours. I had no sense of time during those 2 hours - they could have been 20 minutes, 2 days, or the 2 hours they were - I didn't feel like they dragged on, and though it was hard work, I felt very productive throughout.

And finally, at 4:06 am, Sugarbeet was born. I got a little impatient with R asking if it was a boy or girl, but as he explained later, there's a lot going on there and he wanted to get it right! And finally (it was mere seconds) he told me Sugarbeet was a girl. I got to hold her for a few seconds and then she was taken to the warming area. The NICU pediatricians were standing by because I was GBS+ and my water had been broken for so long. We knew this would happen, and in those moments, while R stood with her and took photos, I prayed that she was OK and would be brought back to me instead of being whisked away. And she was. She was brought back and placed on my chest. R had been able to cut her cord, and she passed her apgars and was perfectly healthy.

We were moved upstairs to our recovery room and home for the next couple of days. She nursed without any problems right away and had even started to gain weight back before we were discharged - she was born at 6 lbs 15 oz, dropped to 6 lbs 8 oz, and was 6 lbs, 10 oz at discharge.

While we had a long list of preferences, the most important one was 'healthy baby, healthy mommy' and both of those were met. Each person we came in contact with respected us and we felt very much a part of the decision making. I tried so very hard to not have high expectations for the birthing day (or days), I wanted to focus on the end result and trust that those who were caring for us were only doing what they thought was best. It was so important to me to try to keep perspective and to not allow small changes or disappointments to cloud the whole experience. Somehow, I managed to do this and for that I am grateful.

Here is Sugarbeet less than 15 minutes old, just after they gave her back to me:

And here she is at 14 weeks, 4 days, with the nurse, G, who helped deliver her (we went to visit to say thank you - and please excuse the dazed look, she had been awake for about 30 seconds at this point):


Sugarbeet's Arrival - Part 1

If, like me, you do not necessarily love pregnancy and birth stories, here is a link to some cute elephants as an apology for even making you read this far ;). Cute elephants - click here. (Edited to correct the link.)

I have never really been one for reading pregnancy and birth stories - even before IF, it just wasn't something I spent a lot of time searching out or found a lot of interest in when others wrote them. I did figure it was a helpful thing to record and realized I was somewhat in the minority as friends (both IF and not) seemed to devour birth stories, and all the TLC shows about birth. I guess this is why even on my darkest IF days, I had the same reaction of 'meh' to pregnancy and birth stories as I did before, because they were not something I felt drawn to.

And yet, here I am, writing my own, now realizing that I was right and that there is something helpful about recording it, remembering it.

So, Sugarbeet's arrival. Let's start with pregnancy.

I guess it goes without saying that seeing that second line pop up on the stupid pregnancy test I was taking was beyond a shock. In fact, the positive test line showed up faster than the control line and in the nearly 2 minutes I waited for the control line, I was convinced I had a faulty test and was only re-affirmed in my usual position of "I do not POAS." There was a specific reason I was taking a test that day, but that is a story for another time.

When the control line finally did show up, all I could feel was gratitude. Gratitude because I knew, deep in the pit of my being that I did not deserve this. That for some reason God had allowed this gift in my life and that I did not deserve it. I'd spent the better part of four years wrapping my head and heart around life being a gift and the truth of that I couldn't earn it nor did I deserve it. Finding out I was pregnant, knowing it was not a pregnancy conceived in marriage, and I knew to the very core of my being, that I did not deserve it. And so I was grateful and spent the next half hour on my knees, in shock, feeling that gratitude. I can't even say it was an overjoyed gratitude, it was pure, nothing else at all, gratitude.

And thus began the first of many lessons of just how prideful I was. I didn't realize it at the time in the months before, but I can see now and could see in that moment in a way I can't fully describe, that despite trying to learn that life is a gift and not something we deserve, I was so. far. from. that. Had this pregnancy come within marriage, I would have definitely felt justified that I'd 'followed the rules' and 'done things right' and while I wouldn't have said those words exactly, I certainly would have alluded to it in a not-so-subtle way. I would have proudly proclaimed I was pregnant, finally publicly shared the years of heartache, and then proudly shared that I trusted in God and His timing and didn't use ART or anything like that. I would have allowed myself to believe that I 'deserved' a life entrusted to me. Oh, goodness, my pride is so so big.

Once I was able to function a bit more rationally, I called to have progesterone checked and an early ultrasound was ordered to check that baby was in the right place. My history of blocked tubes necessitated this check, to ensure the pregnancy was not ectopic.

All early blood draws and the ultrasound looked good and after my second ultrasound at 7 weeks, I was completely released to my local ob/gyn without any additional monitoring or concerns.

And thus began nearly 9 months of 'everything looks great' and 'totally  normal.'

It wasn't until nearly the 7 month that I realized, upon a reflection from R that I was quiet and stressed for days before every appointment, that 'everything looks great' and 'totally normal' were foreign words to me. That the last time I had heard 'normal' before this, I had sat in my car and sobbed for 15 minutes because I knew in my heart it wasn't normal and thus began my journey with NaPro and never hearing the word 'normal' again. And so, I couldn't quite believe it was all 'normal'. Once I finally realized this, named it, and chatted with Fr. D about it, I had a bit of a more relaxed time at appointments. I think when we spend years going to appointments and being told of all the things that were found and the new treatments, it is hard to shift to 'normal' and it was just so hard to believe, a sort of post-IF PTSD. Suddenly doctor appointments were something to look forward to and get good news instead of something to dread. It just never seemed quite real. In fact, when at my 34 week appointment my thyroid numbers had dropped, I felt oddly relieved. Like, finally, they found something. But a quick trip to the endocrinologist and a bump up on my Armour and all was better.

The biggest hurdle was an insurance change at about 30 weeks that meant a change in doctors, but fortunately, by moving to a bigger city, the options were good and I was able to transfer to a midwife practice at a large women's hospital. There was some stress around this, but it all worked out way better than I would ever have allowed myself to expect.

And some details about my pregnancy that only I probably care about, but I shall put here just in case:
  • I craved blueberries like nothing else. I could have eaten blueberries and nothing else all day, every day. Blueberries in the winter are not cheap. However, every grocery cart from about February on had at least 4 pints of blueberries in it - because frozen blueberries were not an option, only fresh.
  • From second trimester on, I had heartburn that I ended up having Tums for dessert after every meal and took Zantac twice a day. The day my midwife said Zantac was ok during pregnancy I nearly kissed her! I shall call "BS" on the old-wives tale that heartburn = baby with lots of hair ;).
  • At 35 weeks and 5 days I had a midwife appointment, and I really wanted to go to the beach the next week, but was being realistic about it in case I was told 'no'. Fortunately, everything looked good and I was given the all clear to go. The words "stay hydrated, have fun, and we'll see you when you get back" my now be my favorite sentence ever :). A week at the beach, doing a whole lot of nothing, at 36 weeks pregnant was as wonderful as you might imagine.
  • We did not find out if Sugarbeet was a boy or a girl until she was born. 9 of 12 old wives tales said 'girl' and if I had been pushed to say one way or the other, I'd have said girl, but I wasn't convinced and would've been not-shocked if she had been a 'he'.
  • I was super excited that my long-standing love of elephants has been the 'thing' for everything for baby, and R is super excited that we do not have a large home, because it has limited the elephants to some degree.
  • When considering birthing options and such, I believed most of the interweb that said these 2 things - 1) first babies are always late and 2) your water rarely breaks on it's own or at home/shopping/etc like in the movies, especially for a first baby.
And that leads us to labor and delivery, which I think I'll make into a separate post, as this seems a little long already.

And if you read this long, here is Sugarbeet on Saturday, turning 3 months old.


Permission for Joy

I once wrote a post in which Fr. D gave me permission to grieve. Grieve the motherhood I was letting go of, the dreams of a child and all that came with it. Not just pregnancy, but motherhood entirely. I shared some of the things I mourned here, and in my journal I wrote the rest. All of the things I hoped and dreamed of that I was accepting would no longer come true.

A lifetime unrealized.

A life unlived.

It was some of the hardest journaling I'd ever done because, you see, I never really let myself go there. Sure, I knew it was always about more than just a positive pregnancy test, but I never really let myself dream the dreams of childhood and growing up. It was a way to protect myself, a way to ensure my heart didn't completely shatter. And so, in writing those dreams down, I not only had to acknowledge they existed, but I had to let them go all at the same time.

And I did.

And then so much happened. (Understatement, I realize.)

And one day I found myself looking at that positive pregnancy test.
And having it confirmed with a blood test.
And seeing a tiny heartbeat in the right place (my history of blocked tubes puts me at high risk for ectopic pregnancy).
And hearing that progesterone was good, so good it didn't need monitored.
And seeing a squirming little person at 7 1/2 weeks.
And again (twice, due to said squirming) during the second trimester.
And kicks.
And heartburn.
And cankles.
And a growing belly.
And the realization that people no longer looked at my face, but at my belly.
And Braxton Hicks.
And a tiny foot in my side.

It all happened.

I cherished every minute of it, but I never really let myself dream. I fought hard to stay focused on the moment at hand and not either 1) wish it away too fast or 2) dare to dream of what would come next.

Infertility takes innocence away from us. I knew that none of this meant that I would hold a living child at the end.

And then my water broke.
And I was in labor.
And I delivered her.
And I heard her cry.
And I held her.
And I fed her.
And I brought her home.
And both my midwives and her pediatrician released us because we are doing so well.

And finally, on Day 9 of her life, it happened.

I dreamed again.

As I fed my daughter, I let myself imagine her growing up.
I pictured her playing. As a toddler, as a child, as a pre-teen.
I pictured her at prom (wha?!?!).

And I let myself dream.

And tears of joy and hope streamed down my face.

And for a moment, despite all that has been over the past 5 years, and specifically in this past year, I gave myself full permission to have joy over this beautiful, tiny, person in my arms.

She was born at 4:06 am on Aug. 7 after about 40 hours of labor that started with my water breaking at home, included cer.va.dil, pi.toc.in, st.ayd.ol, 9 doses of penicilin (thank you Group B Strep positive test :-(.), and 2 hours of pushing. 6lbs, 15 oz and 19 inches long.

Her name in this space will be "Sugarbeet" - given to her by my stepdad while in utero in response to one of the ridiculous weekly "your baby is the size of (insert fruit or vegetable)". Someday I will share the full story of her actual name.

She is amazing.

I am grateful.


Living Life

I'm not sure where to start, so I'll just start and apologize in advance if this is rambly. I promise it will be shorter than my last couple of posts.

First - sorry for going private without any indication or warning. You'll see I haven't blogged in between, I just needed a break. I wasn't sure I would blog again, for lots of reasons, but obviously I have decided to do so. I guess I still have something to say (and anyone who's ever met me in person just laughed because, duh!).

And so I move forward.

There will be some changes - comment moderation is turned on, and anonymous comments are turned off. I don't see that changing anytime soon. I also encourage you that if reading here is too difficult for you or causing you distress or pain (for any reason), to not do so. I have always said that we must guard and protect our own hearts first, and I stand by that still. Regardless, my prayers are with you.

I struggled with the number of anonymous comments, and I realized it was because I had no idea how to respond - I had no context for the relationship, no history to work from, no way of knowing if you were someone who'd never read a word I'd written before or had been here from the start. I realized just how important the relationships that exist around this blog were to me.

I have also really struggled with the fact that my post "Mercy and Grace" has received over 8000 page views. That is more than nearly all of my other posts combined. I know it was shared in FB groups and on other blogs, and quite honestly, I find that hard to swallow. No other post that I wrote was shared like that, with desperate cries and calls for prayers, and yet for years I shared some of the hardest days of my life here, desperate for prayers and needing the support of the Body of Christ. Yes, I know so many of you prayed, but to share the post that I admitted my sins and not the ones where I shared my heartbreak, I just didn't - and still don't - know how to wrap my head around that. For yes, we are called to admonish and pray for the sinner, I do not dispute that, but are we not also called to comfort the afflicted, to weep with those who mourn, to pray for those who hurt? Neither necessarily being more important than the other - except I will say this - had my blog been shared and hundreds of anonymous comments coming in expressing prayers and love for the years prior, I would certainly have been more open and willing to endure the admonishing that followed.

I know a lot of you have issues with my current state, I've said it before and I'll say it again - I do too. I do not endorse nor encourage sin, and I am willing to call my own sins what they are. My intention is not to cause scandal, and quite frankly it's why I've been so honest. However, there is still a journey here, one that I hope leads me to heaven some day, and if the only time we can support and be gracious to one another is when all of the rules are being followed, well then I missed something somewhere along the lines. If all you have to say to me is that I'm sinning and that I need to stop - I say thank you, truly and sincerely with a grateful heart. I know. I'm working on it daily. And now, I sincerely ask you to realize you've said it once (or twice or more) and to stop. There is a difference between admonishing the sinner and kicking the sinner. I'm tired of being kicked and I'm politely asking you to stop. After my last two posts I understood in such a profound way why people leave the Church. I sobbed at Mass on Palm Sunday as I faced the fact that had I dared to darken the doorstep of many of your parishes, rather than being welcomed and loved, I would have been glared at and shunned. It was the words of a dear friend who showed me what it truly means to "hate the sin and love the sinner" when she said "I do not approve of your current state. I will miss you at the Eucharistic table my dear sister in Christ, and I will save your seat for when you are able to join us again." I knew that had I walked into her parish, she would have greeted me with a hug, we'd have shared tears, and then we'd have sat side by side for the Sacrifice of the Mass. That, my friends, is what it means to "hate the sin and love the sinner" - that is what it means to express truth in love. And that is what gave me the courage to attend Mass on Palm Sunday, and nearly every day since.

If reading here is an occasion of sin for you, causes you to want to emulate what I've done, or brings too much distress to your life, then please stop. I understand. I understand in ways I cannot articulate how my sin has hurt and continues to hurt the Body of Christ, and for that, to each and every single one of you, I say I am sorry. You will never know how sorry.

For now, it's time for me to live my life. Live its joys and sorrows; its triumphs and failures. For me, that includes this blog and other aspects of social media, as it is 2015. If we are FB/Tw.i.tter/Ins.ta.gra.m friends and you need to unfollow/unfriend me or the blog, I understand. If we aren't and you'd like to be, I'd love to connect.

To those who have reached out, whether to offer prayers, ask how I am or just check in. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Not because you agreed with my choices or anything like that, but because you have shown me what it means to do the hard work of relationships in this fallen world. You've humbled me because I know I haven't always done it right, and you've brought much depth to my prayer life and conversations about what choices to make going forward.

To those who continue to walk along this road with me, thank you, I look forward to continuing to journey together. To those who need to send me on my way, thank you for the steps you have taken with me.


Why I Started with Mercy and Grace

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my last post. I started to reply to them all individually via email or in the comments, but realized I couldn't keep up. I also felt myself starting to want to react rather than reflect and respond on the comments and as I saw a pattern appearing, I also thought it might be better to just respond in a new post.

One post was never going to say all that could or needed to be said about all of this. I had to start somewhere and then move forward from there. I chose to start with mercy and grace because that is what is getting me through. Not because anything is resolved, but rather because they are what I cling to as I walk this road. Your comments helped me to know where I needed to go next, or rather what I needed to expand upon first before continuing. I also want to especially thank those of you who commented with your name and/or blog name. It helps me to read your comment in light of the relationship that we have built and I am grateful for that.

I also want to make one thing clear that I did not state in the last post - I am no longer working in marriage and family ministry. I resigned my position, as it is clear that I have not adhered to the teachings of the Catholic Church as they relate to marriage and family.

As I move forward I want to restate as clearly as possible that I do not uphold my actions as right or as an example to be followed. They have resulted in much pain for many people. If anything, I hope they serve as a catalyst for you to reach out if your marriage is struggling or if there are issues you aren't addressing. Please, learn from my mistakes. If just one person has an honest conversation with their spouse tonight about a long standing issue and the doors of communication are reopened, then sharing this has been worth it.

That said, I also realize that no answer or explanation I give will be enough for some of you. That is OK. I am also willing to answer specific questions - if it is a question I do not want to answer publicly, for the most part I am willing to do so in other ways. There are parts of this story that will not go on this blog, just as there are parts of each blogger's life that are not published.

Which leads me to the first 'theme', if you will, that I want to write more about is compassion or consideration for C in writing. I do not make any excuse for my wrong actions of infidelity, nor do I blame C for it. I take responsibility and admit it. I have voluntarily placed the red "A" on my chest. I do not say that in seeking compassion or as a talisman, rather to underscore that it is my sins that I have shared here and that I have called them what they are - sins. I will say that my infidelity did not happen in a vacuum of a happy marriage. Both C and I made a lot of wrong decisions over the course of our relationship (6 years dating, 10 married). Looking back (hindsight is a bittersweet gift), I can see clearly times and places where different roads should have been chosen, counseling should have been sought, and clear, distinct changes should have been made - on both of our parts. Those things didn't happen and led to a failure of our marriage. It wasn't just one thing. It wasn't just one thing recently. It was a lot of things, over a lot of years, dating back to our days of dating. Sharing my sins, admitting my failures is one thing - to share C's is another and is not something I will do in this space.

Which then leads me to the question of divorce and annulment. Part of my prayer and discernment these past few months was if there were grounds for an annulment. The answer I arrived at was 'yes' there are grounds. The process of filing for a decree of nullity is that one must first have a civil divorce decree. That part has been completed, and so now I will move on to the next part. I realize that there are no guarantees, nor do I presume to assume as such. I do think there are grounds, and quite honestly, coming to that conclusion was one that helped me to perhaps understand just why it was my marriage was failing. If the bond of matrimony was never there, then perhaps it gave some insight as to why. What these reasons are again, I will not share in this space. I will say that it has been a point of many conversations between myself and my spiritual director and is not something that was for a single moment considered lightly.

Next, I want to address the concerns that I spoke of grace and mercy while still in an ongoing, sinful situation. If grace and mercy were only available to us when we were perfectly free of sin, we would all be in a lot of trouble. I do not speak of these things piously or as if it is all roses and sunshine. It was never my intention to do so, and I apologize if it came across as such. This mercy and grace that I speak of, and that I have experienced these past months, has been gut-wrenching to experience and will be the topic of many more posts, unpacking what this experience has been and what it means to offer and receive grace and mercy.

Connecting to this is the topic of living in sin and not receiving Eucharist. For a lot of reasons, R and I have chosen to live together and are considering marrying civilly before the baby is born. Again, I do not hold this up as the morally right choice. It is because I know it is morally wrong, that I abstain from receiving Eucharist. Lots of reasons have gone into this decision, to some of you, I'm sure they would only sound like justification for sin. I do not justify it. I do not fully approve of it. That it separates me from the Eucharist brings much sorrow to my heart and soul. My prior actions and decisions have led me to a place where there is not a good decision to be made, and so I chose the one that is best for this child. To be raised by both of his/her parents. I am a child of divorce, I know what it's like to have 'mom's house' and 'dad's house' and, no matter how 'good' the situation, it is still not as good for the child as being raised by his or her parents in a loving home. And so, I choose to put my child's well being ahead of my own. I do not do this as an act of martyrdom or to gain accolades, I do it because it is what is best for this child - to be raised by both of his or her parents from day one.

Though, to say that I am cut off from all grace and all mercy because of this is, quite frankly, wrong. Yes, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith; yes, it is where heaven meets earth and gives us strength for this earthly life. I hold and believe all of that to be true. It is because of this belief and the sinful state surrounding me that I abstain from receiving. I still attend Confession, though absolution is not possible, I still confess and am sorrowful for my sins. The day that I am not sorrowful for the sin in my life is a day that scares me to death, because it is this sorrow that helps me to know that I have not turned away from God completely. It is when it is time for Communion at Daily Mass and I stay in my pew that I know without a doubt I am making the 100% right decision and that it is my opportunity daily to say to God "I love you. I know I have screwed up. I know there is sin in my life. I am sorry for that. I still love you. I am here. I have hope. Have mercy on me." That is my prayer. It is my only hope. I feel most close to the woman in Matthew 15:27-28:
She said "please Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
As I sit in my pew, I am begging Jesus, at his throne of grace, for the scraps of those who are worthy to receive. I cling to and place all of my hope in His mercy. That somehow, someway should I die while still in this state, I would have enough grace to turn towards Him; to choose the good. It is why I never for a single second want to become fully comfortable with this sin. I want to always be able to call it what it is and to feel the sorrow I feel over it. Yes, some may say I am obstinate or persistent in my sin. I am also persistent in my sorrow and long for the day that I am able to correct it. My prayer is that my faith in His mercy is great enough. To those of you who commented on this theme out of genuine concern for my soul. I thank you for that concern and am more grateful than I can say for any prayers said on behalf of my soul as I cling to the hope in His mercy. While sacramental grace is not available to me now, it does not mean that ordinary grace is withheld.

There were also quite a few comments surrounding the baby. Some of congratulations, some of acknowledging the good of a new life while withholding congratulations, some suggesting I was so desperate for a baby I did anything possible to have one, and some stating, essentially, that the sins of the parents would be passed on to this child. Regarding congratulations or not - I actually find myself in a place of tension regarding this. I want to acknowledge the life that is entrusted to me, the gift that it is and give thanks for it, but at the same time I do not want to in any way pretend that the circumstances surrounding his/her conception were not sinful. So, whether you are comfortable saying congratulations or not, I understand and I agree. I do not reject the congratulations, I thank you for them, as they are a reminder to me that in the midst of all of this is a new life to be loved and raise to know and love God. To those who do not offer congratulations, I also thank you, because they remind me to be sorrowful over the circumstances surrounding the conception of this child.

Regarding whether or not I was so desperate for a baby I went out and found another man. You may choose to believe or not, but I can tell you this was not a part of my thought process. Not at all. I can also tell you that no matter how it appears that I got what I wanted, I can assure you this is one of my biggest struggles - to not scream and yell when someone tries to say to me "it was God's will" or anything along these lines in order to explain why this baby was conceived when she or he was. Obviously it was permitted by God, but to say it was His active will for my life would mean that He willed mortal sin for my life. We know that not to be the case. While yes, I desired and prayed for motherhood, it was certainly not ever, not for a single second, in this manner. Some day I will have to look this child in the eyes and answer questions and explain why and that is a day I do not look forward to. I do not expect sympathy for this, only prayers that I find the right words when the time comes.

And finally, to suggest that the sins of R and myself are being passed on to this baby. Again, that is flat out wrong. In both the old and new testaments (Ezekiel 18:20 and John 9:3) we are assured that the sins of the parents are NOT passed on to the child. And, let's just say for a single second that it were even kind of true (which it is NOT), we also believe that baptism wipes away all sin and it is our full intention to have this child baptized before she or he is a month old. To those who will hold the child's manner of conception against him or her, well, the sin lies with that person, not this child. My sins are my own and my child is not punished in the eyes of God for it, therefore I submit she or he should not be punished in the eyes of man for it either.

Finally, the topics of justice, penance, pain, confusion and whether or not I was writing too soon (or should be writing at all) came up. If I were holding up my sin as a model, then yes I would agree, I should not be writing. And, if anything I say brings temptation to someone to follow in these choices, I strongly encourage you to seek out a good spiritual director and confessor. I am writing because this is my road, my journey. I have always written for this reason. I am grateful for those who choose to walk along with me - even those who do not always agree, as I said above, I'm grateful for the reminder to be uncomfortable in my own sin. I also chose to write this because I thought this could never happen to me. I thought because I said I wouldn't get divorced, I wouldn't and I wouldn't have to work at marriage. I thought that issues and difficulties could just be swept under the rug, because 'hey, I'm married, it's ok, that's enough.' And so, if one person reading this has a conversation they've been avoiding with their spouse and that couple is able to heal a wound before it becomes too big, then somehow God has turned my mess into something good and only He is able to do that.

Also, it would have been very easy to just walk away from the Church all together. To get comfortable in my sin and to just disappear from all circles of faith. From some of the comments on my last post, I understand why some people do that. Yet, it is my faith - both of my head and heart - that helps me to know better. To know that to walk away is not the answer. No matter how easy it would have been, to do so would have been to choose eternal death. I choose life and so I accept the consequences for my actions and I fling myself at His mercy.

Many of you expressed that I was confused. Yes, there were days I was very confused, it's why I kept seeking spiritual direction. I am not confused. I am in a place of great tension, and it is my Catholic faith that gives me some peace in this tension. There is sin and sorrow, yes. There is also joy and new life. It would be very easy to only talk of the sin and to beat myself up for the rest of my life. It would also be very easy to only talk of the joy and to ignore the sin. I will not succomb to either extreme, I will rest in the tension. This tension may seem like confusion, but I am clear on what my sins are and the consequences for them. I am also confident of my sorrow and have hope in mercy.

The topics of justice, penance, and pain are all topics that I will be writing about. I started with mercy and grace, not because I think I'm done or because it has all been resolved, but because that is what is carrying me through. I place all of my hope on His mercy.
"Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." ~Hebrews 4:16
Edited to add: Comments are off and hidden on this post. Please feel free to email me if you'd like.


Mercy and Grace

The story of the last few months is what I want to tell you all. Wait, let me start again.

The story of the last few months is one I don't want to tell anyone. No, that's not it either.

The story of the last few months is one I will tell, to bring glory to God and to hopefully remind one other person that she (or he) is not alone.

It is a story of sin. A story of brokenness. A story of failure. A story of pain. A story of pride.

It is also a story of mercy. A story of love. A story of the beginnings of healing. A story of strength. A story of humility. A story of grace.

Before I begin, I want to say a few things and to ask, if I may, a few things of you, who is reading this:

1 - For some of you, many of you, to read here will be painful over the next few posts, possibly forever. I understand. You owe me nothing. If you have ever read a word here, you are a gift to me and my prayers are with you forever. If you continue to read, to walk with me, you are giving me a gift that I know, beyond telling, that I do not deserve.

2 - Some of you will be hurt that you are reading such a story here, on the internet instead of in a personal email or a phone call. For that, I am sorry. If an explanation helps, the weight of what I will be writing is heavy. Each writing or speaking of it, I feel the weight and this is, in some sense, an easier way out. That said, I'm more than happy to email, text, or talk to anyone who would like to know more, please feel welcome to reach out.

3 - While most of the story will be put here, there are parts that won't be. This is not an attempt to lie or mislead, rather is an attempt to be respectful of the privacy of those involved. To not cause more damage than has already been caused.

4 - I will turn anonymous comments back on, so long as comments remain, as they have always been in this space, respectful. You don't have to agree with me. You don't have to like what you read. You are welcome to comment honestly. All I ask is that you remember that these words on this screen are the real experiences of real people, with real feelings, real faces, and all else that makes us human. (Just FYI: The anonymous comments were only off because of spam.)

5 - Some of this will seem very 'matter-of-fact' and cold. I do not intend it that way. The 'what' needs to be said so that the 'hows' and 'whys' and all the other processing can make sense.

6 - Fr. D., who has walked with me over the past 2 1/2 years, continues to walk with me. It is largely because of him that I have come to understand mercy and grace in such a new way. He has never once condoned sin and has without fail shown me unconditional love. He has shown me unconditional love and has stood in persona Christi before me in a way I know I do not deserve. He has never counseled me to act contrary to the Church's teachings, has admonished me appropriately when I have, and has loved me through it all.

And so, with shaking hands and tears on my cheeks, I will begin. I have no idea how many parts this catching up will be or if it will be one really long dump of information. I guess we'll see what happens.

mercy - compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm

grace - the free and unmerited favor of God

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:4-8 
Chronicled in this space has been my entire reversion experience to the Catholic faith, the faith in which I was raised and the faith on which I depend entirely. Also, here, is the story of the infertility of myself and The Man, C. Part of that story has included the struggles and trials that infertility placed on our marriage. There has also been much else that has gone on behind the scenes. Our marriage has struggled in ways not written here, and the details are not necessarily important, at least not to put publicly on a blog.

What is important is where things are now: In November, after a couple of intense months, C and I separated and earlier this month civilly divorced. I will be seeking a decree of nullity.

To even be writing those words, publicly admitting failure at marriage, when I have worked in marriage ministry for the better part of the last 4 years. A part of me wants to just delete all that I've written and let you all think I just skipped off into life without a blog. Oh pride. How prideful a human being I have been.

Prideful that because I decided I wouldn't get divorced, that meant I wouldn't need to work hard daily to prevent it. That because I preached marriage daily, I was immune to divorce. Pride that I ignored warning signs and those who tried to tell us differently and didn't question things over the years when my gut said to question them, allowing for hurt to both of us. Pride that I could walk a tightrope and not fall. So. much. pride.

I have never viewed the internet as the proper place in which to air the dirty laundry of a marriage. As above, we are real people with real feelings. I will not use this place to bash C, to air the dirty laundry of our marriage. I will say that it takes two people to make or break a marriage and that I claim my responsibility in this. I am not innocent. I am not a victim. There is no joy over the ending of our marriage, nor over the pain that I have caused.

Part of the pain I caused, in these recent months, has been being unfaithful to my marriage vows. At first emotionally and then physically. A man, R, entered my life about two years ago and we became fast friends. We have remained good friends and have supported one another in our ministries and in our vocations. A little more than a year ago, I realized I was starting to care for him much more than as a friend, but just tried to ignore it. Set on being a good friend to him and that was it. Unknown to me at the time was that he was having the same struggle. Add in the struggles in my own marriage (far beyond infertility, but it is included), and it was leading up to perfect storm that I didn't see coming. Looking back, oh hindsight, so beautiful, I see it coming clearly.

In late September of this year, R and I both realized that the feelings we were having for one another were reciprocated. To say that it surprised us both would be an understatement. So much that we both went straight to confession and I told C exactly what was going on. And in doing so, I pulled the string that ultimately unraveled our marriage. The problems of our marriage all came onto the table - not in a dragging up old stuff way, but in a we'd never really dealt with this all way. C and I both were reeling and fighting to hold on and we couldn't hear one another. We each thought we were telling the other exactly what was needed, and perhaps we were, but for one reason or another I was not able to give C what he needed and vice versa. That led to C asking me to move out of our home in late November after I would not give in to a request of his.

As I left that night, aware that I might never go back, my emotions were all over the place. I was relieved to finally have space I needed, scared of what would be coming, sorrowful over the hurt that had led to it and that was to come, and so aware that in no solution to this problem was there any way to spare myself, C, or R, whom I had come to love deeply, pain. We were all headed for immense pain, immense sorrow, and much struggle. No matter what.

That immense pain has come - in the form of broken vows, broken vocations, and physical pain. It has come in realizing that I must abstain from receiving Eucharist, In realizing that I have failed to live up to that which I believe in; that which I continue to believe in. And yet, somehow, in ways I will never fully know, the grace of God has continued. It has remained. The necklace I wear daily reminds me: by grace alone.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

And so, despite the sin. Despite all the bad. I find myself experiencing joy in a way that I had just started to accept was never going to happen, in motherhood. Yes, you read that correctly. I am pregnant. Somehow, there is life growing within me. An eternal soul has been placed in my care.

And my dear friends, I realize what reading those words is doing to some of you - the devastation, the anger, the rage, the hurt, the sorrow. I know what they would have been doing to me had I read them just 6 months ago. My thoughts would have been, and honestly in the last 4 years have things like this:

Really God? She has an affair and you let her get pregnant? I'm married, following your laws and I don't get a baby? Really?

How could anyone do such a thing? Don't you respect your own vows? Your husband?

God, do you not see me? Am I invisible here? Hello?!?!

She is such a hypocrite. Preaching marriage, pretending to believe it all, pretending to support those who are carrying the cross of infertility.

Wow, I trusted her! I thought we were friends. I don't know her at all. I can't believe this.

And more. So much more. Most of which would have been full of expletives and anger. So much anger. I don't blame you for a single one of those thoughts, have them, please. Email them to me if you want, put them in the comments. They are real. They are not things I've not said in my own head and have thought the same or worse about others.

It is in this I am realizing what mercy really looks like. What it really means to forgive and offer compassion, to suffer with. I would have been unmerciful to someone in my situation, and I know there are people in my life who have withheld telling me things like this because of how they knew I would react.

I cannot tell you the sorrow that brings to my heart. The sorrow I have over my pridefulness. The words of Mary's Magnificat, how they sting with truth:
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
And, at the same time, I find myself clinging to these words:
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
I am being cast down from my throne daily; shown daily how prideful I am and I am resting all of my hope in his mercy. I have realized how undeserving of His grace and His mercy I am, and I have come to realize that His suffering on the cross was directly a result of the sins I have committed. My sorrow goes beyond words. My understanding of my need for a Savior and of the cost has grown in ways I could never have imagined. I am humbled. I am broken. And I am ever aware that only He can fill me.

Somehow amid all of this darkness, there is life. If I was ever going to learn that life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, it is perhaps in this way. For years I tried to earn it, tried to make myself spiritual enough for it, tried desperately to find Him in my suffering so that He would make me a mother in reward. I coveted the attention that comes with motherhood, the right to brag and share just how cute a way I announced it, and to proudly proclaim, I followed God's will, the rules of His Church and I was rewarded (I wouldn't have used those words, but certainly that would have been the tone, the underlying message).

I am finally learning that life is a gift. Period. End of story.

We can not earn it. We do not deserve it.

Just as we do not deserve mercy. As I do not deserve mercy. Or compassion. Or grace.

And somehow, someway it is what I have been given, what lies before me.

I am scared to open myself to it.

I find myself having to remind myself I am pregnant, that there is life within me. That before the end of summer, there will hopefully be a child to hold.

I find myself having to remind myself that He loves me, unconditionally and that has never changed, not once in my entire life.

I remind myself daily that Judas' greatest sin wasn't the betrayal of Jesus, but rather His inability to ask for and accept forgiveness; that it was his pride and self-reliance that led him to take his own life, to death. And so, as I sit surrounded by my sinfulness. Surrounded by my failures. Most days in complete disbelief of the gifts He has given me, I am continually reminding myself that His grace is here. His mercy is here. All I can do is open myself up to it and allow the process of healing to happen.

I think that is where I will leave things for now. At the corner of mercy and grace, aware of my dependence upon God. I do not anticipate a long time between posts now, as there is much more to tell, as I continue on this road home.

As I continue to walk this road, I want to be clear that in sharing any of this I do not condone nor hold up as an example any of the sinful choices that I have made. This is my journey as a daughter of God who has sinned and is seeking His mercy and grace. It is my 'road home'.

For those of you who will click away and never return, I understand. I love you and my prayers remain with you.

For those of you who will continue to walk this road with me, I am grateful. I am aware I do not deserve your mercy and I love you. My prayers remain with you.

Edited to add: Comments are off and hidden on this post. Please feel free to email me if you'd like.