birth story, guest post, motherhood, pregnancy

No “one way” to be a mom

August 27, 2015

Today I’m delighted to have the always effervescent and entertaining Ana Hahn of Time Flies When You’re Having Babies fame occupying this space while I continue to “recover” (HAHAHAHA) with my four little darlings. Who are being preeeeetty good today so I can’t complain, but I also can’t type “recovery” without employing sarcasm right now. 

Ana is the lovely wife of Mike and mom to 4 little people herself (actually, our numbers are almost perfectly aligned for arranged marriages, so I’ll just put that out there…) and hails from the land of the Irish and the eternal winters. Actually she hails further back from the Ohio River Valley where we did some college time together at good old FUS, though I missed my golden opportunity to personally befriend her then because I was too old and too grad student-y. C’est la vie. At least we have the internet to bind us together now.


When I was pregnant with my first I was unsure how to go about preparing for the labor and delivery part of birth. As one of 6 girls in a family of 8 children and the 4th to marry and have kids, I had a lot of other experiences to look at and learn from, and those other experiences served to both scare the heck out of me and help me to form my own opinions with regards to my own pending birth.

I say that they scared me because by the time I married my husband, I had already heard horror stories from both ends of the spectrum of birthing- from the heavily medicated birth and c-sections to the all natural, totally non-medicated birth experience. My sisters who had gotten epidurals had bad reactions to them which caused them to throw up during birth, which sounded awful, but then my sister who did all of her births naturally talked about the level of pain in childbirth in such a way that I was picturing war veterans getting their limbs blown off and it still wasn’t really rivaling her descriptions of the pain she felt.

So how would I do it? Both ways were coming up short in terms of giving me much peace. I ended up signing myself and my husband up for a Bradley birthing class and reading the book “Husband Coached Child Birth” and came out on the “all natural non-medicated” side of things.

I birthed my first born baby girl successfully without any medication and in a large birthing tub, it was pretty much as natural as it could get, except for the fact that it was in a hospital. I had a midwife who advocated for me to have no IV and to be left alone and not asked about receiving an epidural or any other medication. She stayed by my side for the entire 2 hours of pushing and helped in a huge way in order for things to go as smoothly as possible. The pain truly did exceed any of what I could have dreamed up and my screaming got so loud that nurses were coming in from down the hall and asking me to quiet down. Goodbye Dignity!

I felt pretty amazing after the natural birth, something akin to Xena the Warrior Princess, but while the recovery was a cinch, I definitely came out a little traumatized by the whole thing. Yes, I was very proud of myself for doing it non-medicated, but I could not imagine ever doing that again. However, I had been so thoroughly schooled in the all natural Bradley birthing method (and the evil that is medication in a birth setting) that this was pretty much the way I was resigned to doing it for the rest of our births for subsequent children, terrified or not. 

But then 18 months later our second baby had different plans for us. Daughter number 2 was as breech as breech could be and after weeks of trying every natural “way to flip a breech baby” and even after attempting an external cephalic version (when they try to flip the baby from the outside of your belly) it became clear that a c-section was inevitable.

Next to myself or my baby dying in child birth, the idea of a c-section was the most terrifying thing I could have thought of. I cried rivers of highly emotional, overly hormonal pregnant tears but eventually I had to accept it- it was the only way to ensure that this baby would come into the world as safely as possible. The doctors advising me were looking out for my baby’s health and my health first and foremost and this was the safest way to go about birthing this baby, even though it was not what I had in mind and certainly not what my “all-natural-or-nothing” mindset had anticipated. We went forward with the c-section and it all went off without a hitch. I had no abnormal side effects from the spinal block and other than the longer recovery from the surgery, it was fine and I had another healthy baby girl.

Cue pregnancy number 3 and I was finally completely indifferent to the way I would birth my next baby. All I really knew is that I preferred to birth this one naturally (meaning, no c-section) so as to not have to recover from another major abdominal surgery while caring for 3 kids 3 and under.

Whether the birth was medicated or natural did not matter one bit as long as the baby came out healthy and had a healthy, happy mama to care for them. I had so many drugs coursing through my veins for that second birth that all of my judgmental tendencies instilled in me in the Bradley class were out the window. I was able to be with a doctor who was very supportive of Vaginal Birth After Cesarian (VBAC) and very much fine with me having an epidural if I decided I wanted one. Whenever my mind went back to the first all natural birthing experience, my anxiety levels went through the roof, so I was veering more and more towards the epidural route.

Maybe it was the fact that I was chasing toddlers around until the end of the pregnancy, or maybe it was the 2 weeks of intense early labor that I went through with baby #3, but by the time my water broke I could not fathom pushing the baby out with no medication. She was very much “head-down” and we went forward with the vaginal delivery, but this time with an epidural, and everything went swimmingly. I think I pushed 3 whole times before little Lucy made her grand entrance and I felt nothing but some “pressure” through the whole thing. And the best part? Yet another healthy baby girl!

At the outset of preparing for labor and delivery, I never would have imagined that I would get to experience so many different ways of birthing babies, I figured that I would chose a way and that would be it. But the health and well being of the baby became priority number one in my newly maternal heart and I learned that there is no one-way to give birth, as long as you are focused on what is best for baby and mom, you’re doing just fine.


*I have since been blessed with a small male who made it safely into the world through another epidural birth, if God decides to bless us even more, who knows what I’ll chose!

breastfeeding, Family Life, Marriage, motherhood, Parenting, PPD, pregnancy

Bringing home bebe: Surviving week 1

August 21, 2015

I promise I’ve been percolating a birth story for you fine people, but mostly I’ve been breastfeeding. Which does not lend itself to much higher-level cognition or, actually, typing.

Let me preface this by saying that little Luke is a very, very “good” baby, as far as such a statement can be applied to a tiny unique human being. What I mean by good is that he nurses enthusiastically, sleeps a decent amount, and is almost supernaturally calm during his wakeful times. In sum: he’s the same baby he was in utero. Calm, placid movements, no insane periods of tumbling and kicking, and aside from the ferocious Dorito cravings (and subsequent heartburn) no major pregnancy pains. I mean, none that were his fault, per se.


When he was born he had a bit of a distressing final exit, but once arrived he blinked and calmly looked around the delivery room, checking out dad’s face and then settling on mine. The still slightly jumpy nurses watched him warily, wanting – but holding back, for which I am eternally grateful – to cut that cord and get him under the observation lights, but it became clear after about a minute that this baby was in no way distressed. He was just very, very chill. His 9/9 Apgar score underlined that for everyone, so we were mostly left alone for our first hour. And it was heaven.


I did make the rookie mistake of letting all the amassed visitors who had somehow seen the bat signal (I literally had told nobody but my sister and Dave’s mom that we were in labor) come tumbling into the delivery room with well wishes and tears less than 30 minutes after his arrival, so that delayed nursing for us until about the 1 hour mark. Once he got going though, he went to town, and I, tottering on the precipice of 40 hours without sleep, let him do pretty much whatever he wanted. Rookie mistake number 2.

By the next morning things were headed down to the dirty south in the nursing department because of my sleep-deprived inattention to form, and really, until yesterday, there was a lot of pain. A lot. The nurses were vigilant about checking Luke’s blood sugar every 90 minutes for the first 12 hours post delivery, because “big guys take a dip,” and sure enough, his did. So every 90 minutes he got a heel stick, I got punched in the stomach. And I basically nursed him in a zombie-like state of “oops did I drop him, nope, he’s magically back in the bassinet. Whew.”

Needless to say we checked out at the 24 hour mark on the dot. Much sleep. Such restful.

Once we got home I was able to deploy my arsenal of top 5 must haves for newborn survival mode, and thus we come to the long and rambling point of this post. Thanks for hanging on.

1. The rock n play. This thing is everything. We only started using it when a friend lent it to us for newborn Evie, and not coincidentally, it turns out, she was our very first baby with a sleep setting. We have the super simple model that does nothing but hold baby snugly at a 45 degree incline and it is amazing. 3-4 hour stretches of sleep amazing. And no spitting up. I can reach down from bed and rock him and I can drag it around the house and keep him from the roving paws of his adoring fans. 5 stars.

2. This pump. It’s technically my sister’s and maybe it’s become a literal sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pump situation as 3 of us have now employed it at one time or another, but we all have our own connective gear and whatever. I have a lesser-quality single side Medela of my own, but nothing beats the Pump n’ Style for efficiency and power. Which are, of course, what you look for in a diesel truck. Or a breast pump. We had to take a 8-hour pumping “vacation” this week while I healed and it was a life saver. As the baby gets older I’ll generally try to pump 1x a day to have some emergency milk in the freezer for when it’s 5 am and I’ve been up 5 times and daddy is relatively rested and ready with the bottle.

3. These swaddle blankets. I bought knock offs this time at TJMaxx and they’re just as awesome in terms of size and feel, but I can tell they’re not as sturdy and we’ll see how they hold up in the wash. Either way, you need a big, thin muslin swaddle blanket or three to wrap baby burritos, function as a floor changing table, and even a nursing cover. And a head scarf for those adventuresome forays to Trader Joe’s. Just kidding. Maybe.

4. These pacifiers. When Joey was a baby I remember crouching in his room in horror at 2 am sometime during week three, sobbing from sleep deprivation and the fear that if we retrieved the hospital-issued soothie from the trunk of the car, nipple confusion would set in immediately and he would never go to college. Well, we caved and he started sleeping a little more with the extra sucking satisfaction and we went on to nurse for 13 months. No word on college admissions yet, but he does know his colors.

5. All the domestic help you can get/afford + Progesterone injections. Super normal things to add to a baby registry, right? Well if you’ve ever danced with post partum depression (PPD) you know that it’s not an event you want to attend a second time. Ever. So far I’ve had it horrifically bad twice, and moderately bad once, and I’m crossing all my still-swollen fingers and toes that this 4th times the charm in terms of avoiding the big bad P. As soon as I get near delivery day, my wonderful doctor writes me a prescription for the progesterone to be filled as needed. This time that need surfaced on day 2, so Dave was able to hunt down a pharmacy that carried the goods and we were off on our every-other-day injection adventure. So far it’s helped to stabilize my moods and stave off the super crazy, (though, if I may be so bold as to offer some advice, if you struggle with depression or anxiety, do not take Percocet. Don’t ask me how I know. Gulp.) and in my doctor’s words: “it either helps or it doesn’t, but it can’t hurt. And if it’s going to help you, it will help you right away.”


I’ve also been shamelessly accepting any and all offers of help, babysitting, meal deliveries, etc. The big kids are a little sensitive about all the upheaval and the start of the new school year, but we’ve farmed them out for afternoons at the park or play dates a couple times this week, and we’ve had some helpers at the house too, in the form of my college-aged sisters, Dave’s wonderful little sis, and my trusty mother’s helper who is currently steam mopping the disgusting kitchen floor. I wasn’t sure it was worth it to have her come today since Dave’s still home, but it turns out it was. And he was able to be spelled for a morning of work and silent coffee consumption.

Oh, and if you can and if he can, if there’s any way at all that it can be done, have your husband home for the first week.

Dave doesn’t have paternity leave, but he had accrued PTO and a rough idea of when baby was coming, so he planned his work projects accordingly. For which I am eternally grateful.

7 full days of breastfeeding boot camp and netflix in bed and trying your very hardest to not care that the floors look like that and the laundry is piling up, because thank God daddy is home to wrangle big kids and cook mac n cheese and give you the incomparable gift of a week-long baby moon.

I’ve been reading this and repeating Blythe’s mantra of DO NOT CARE over and over again, because taking it easy does not come that way to be, and it’s almost a force of nature to resist the siren call of the vacuum. But I’m recovering a lot faster for all the resting, I can tell. And I’m making way more milk (tmi? Whatever, we’re in full mommy blog mode today) than I usually am at 7 days out, and I’m gonna chalk that up to all the resting and water-drinking I’ve been doing.


The normally stoic bebe is crying out for his 11vensies, so I must away. But thank you for all the prayers and well wishes on the Facebook page. And Luke says hi.


guest post

The Dark Truth Behind Polite Canada: Living the Faith in a Secular Culture

August 17, 2015

Today’s guest contributor is another house favorite. Or favourite, as it were. Christy Isinger resides in the wilds of Canada with her husband Paul and 5 kids, who live, if I am not mistaken, adjacent to an actual working cattle ranch. It’s all very Pioneer Woman, minus the film crew and the syndicated tv show. (Though she does co-host a wonderful podcast with fellow blogger Haley Stewart)

Christy is a well-read, well-styled mama with great taste in alcohol, books, and BBC television. She is also a personal hero because when she uses the word “winter” it means something entirely different and much, much more terrifying than when I use it. Much snow. Such dark.

She home schools her brood by necessity more than from an innate desire to craft natural wax candles and memorize latin poetry. (Though maybe she secretly enjoys those pursuits in her ample free time?) After reading her excellent essay below, you’ll understand why. And hopefully have a clearer picture about how terms like “secularism” and “separation of church and state” and “religious freedom” all carry much greater weight than many of us realize. 


You may think that the polite, easygoing, and unassuming persona of Canada applies to all aspects of Canadian culture, but as increasingly aggressive secular and relativistic philosophies have taken hold in Canadian society you’ll find upon closer inspection the tight grip of secularism closing in on living a true Catholic life. It may be a polite tyranny, but it is one that is growing in its insistence that voices of faith be silenced in the public square and increasingly, in homes.


I’m a proud Canadian who is also a faithful Catholic. Yes, we still exist. Even in a staunchly secular society from the federal government down to the people you meet at the post office or Tim Horton’s. Canadian society is politely, yet stringently, secular and we’ve been living with legal same-sex marriage for over a decade, and recently have entered the brave new world where euthanasia in the form of doctor-assisted suicide has become legal due to a supreme court ruling.


My husband and I are raising five young children in a society that has decriminalized abortion since 1969, legalized same-sex marriage, and now has declared a constitutional right to euthanasia. These are fundamental life issues that impact our society as a whole, but also all of us as individuals. We cannot shelter or children from this reality, nor will the harmful effects of such systemic immorality fail to touch us to some degree.


And yet we want our children to grow up with the fullness of faith, the entirely of Truth, and the graces of the Sacraments that only come from the Catholic Church. We want our children to know and love that faith for their entire lives. We want them to be able to live in Canada and to pursue their dreams while making the world a better place to live. And yet, my thoughts for their future involve more and more the thought that their ability to pursue professional and public life in Canada as faithful Catholics will become more and more hindered as people with faith are pushed farther and farther into the margins of society.


But let’s back it up a little to what a Catholic life looks like in Canada right now for me: the regular, at-home mom looking for what’s best for her children while trying to fulfill baptismal promises. Today we belong to a small town parish that offers one Mass per week which is usually attended on average by 30 people. We’re the only family with young children who attend every week. I had five kids in six years and our family was the only family on the baptismal register for the parish during that time. We are happy to be able to receive the sacraments in our closest community, but the threat looms large at how long this will remain a feasible parish for the diocese. Our last two parish priests have come from Nigeria and Vietnam – both countries where the Church faces mortal consequences for practicing the faith, yet here they are ministering to Canadians. My parish offers no ministries at all, let alone ministries for moms, ministries for kids, natural family planning, catechetical studies, or religious education.


Of course, this isn’t a complete picture of Canada as a whole. There are still large, active, parishes across the country, but increasingly these only exist in major urban centres. The mega-churches of suburbia are becoming the norm, while beautiful, individual, and unique parishes are becoming out of date and shut down. I mention this because of the increased discussion of the Benedict Option. While it makes sense to solidify the numbers of the Catholics we have, it does lead to having fewer parishes, and fewer Catholics in diverse geographic areas, and I think makes us an urbanized, centralized church. My husband and I already discuss the possibility of having to move in the future just so we can be near a town with a functioning parish. We discuss right now the impact of our parish on our small children and the lack of community, especially children their own age.


Then of course there is the issue of education for our children, an important issue all Catholic parents face. In Canada, Catholic schools are fully funded by the government. But while that means there are plenty of Catholic schools in name these schools are beholden to the government. They must teach provincially approved curriculum, and the amount of actual Catholic teaching that happens amounts to a scandal for our Church. Catholic schools in Canada are under more and more pressure to abdicate any standard of Catholic belief altogether as government-mandated sexual education, transgender propaganda, and gay marriage as a norm programs inundate all schools in addition to increased attempts to take away parents’ rights to choose to remove their children from such classes.


This leaves few choices for Catholic parents, most of which are very difficult. We choose to homeschool our children not only because of the lack of religious teaching available in Catholic schools, but because of the educational standards or lack thereof in both Catholic and public schools. Parents who choose decent public or Catholic schools face the wearying task of constantly demonstrating the true Catholic teaching when encroaching secularism seeps into their child’s learning on a daily basis. There are very little options in the way of private Catholic schools simply because of the fully funded option available, but the private schools that do exist again, exist in large urban centres or are that magic unicorn that exist very rarely.


I won’t go into the even fewer options available for college education in the country, there are great institutions that exist now, but the trend towards making all secondary education institutions toe the line when it comes to same-sex marriage is becoming increasingly irresistible. True Catholic education institutions will face more and more struggles to retain the right to teach the faith as the laws supporting gay marriage become deeper and deeper ingrained in our society and the inherent need to silence all opposition to it gains more and more legal ground.


Aside from these practical issues, my children will grow up knowing only a Canadian society that stands against much of Catholic teaching; we truly are a post-Christian country. I hope that as they grow we can teach them that although the government may recognize same-sex marriage as a legal reality it is not consistent to the reality of what marriage is and what marriage is meant for. We will have to teach our children that our lives, no matter what amount of suffering we may be given, are owed to God and that we do not have the power to take the lives of those who are unborn, those who are gravely ill, or even our own in times of great physical pain.


As the secular saturation grows and the voice of the faithful becomes quieter and quieter it is more and more difficult to live out a life of faith. There are headlines about how it is unacceptable for someone who holds Catholic or Christian views on gay marriage and abortion to be in political life at all. There are attacks on Christian pharmacists, doctors and nurses to eliminate their right to freedom of conscience when it comes to abortion and euthanasia. Increasingly, it is becoming the widely held opinion of the culture that those who have faith can have it, but that it can only be expressed at church on Sundays, and it is this view that not only hampers democracy and civil rights, but confines and suffocates living out our Catholic faith. We see this happening again and again with small bureaucratic and legal pressures but also in the stronghold the media has over popular opinion.


Not only do I want my children to grow up and embrace the truth of Church teaching and to know the why’s and how’s of what the Church still proclaims to be true, I want my children to know and love Christ. It’s the relationship with Christ that will sustain my children through their entire lives. I think that my children will have to have a courageous and solid faith, not just to preach the Gospel, but to live Catholic lives in Canada.


About Me, Family Life, motherhood

4th time’s a charm

August 15, 2015

Just popping in to introduce y’all to a little someone.

Actually, he’s not that little.

Clocking in just shy of 9 pounds and pulling some memorable shenanigans during 2+ weeks of prodromal labor plus 13 hours of the real thing, I’d like to introduce you to my newest little son.


3 boys!

Luke Maximilian Uebbing, born at 2:19 pm on August 14th, the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. 8 lbs 15.5 oz 21 inches and devastatingly handsome with the now-familiar blue eyed+blonde hair combo. He is a wonderful, wonderful baby who enjoys nursing, sleeping, and making occasional guinea pig noises. He has cried 4 times thus far in his life, each corresponding with actual drawing of his blood, so I think he’s either real chill or real tough. What a combo.


We’re both healthy and happy and can’t wait to get home to a real bed without overnight visitors and vital checks. So, ahem, turns out I still don’t like lingering at hotel hospital.

Though the ice is top quality. And we’ve had an endless string of amazing nurses, including a long-lost friend from high school who popped in as I was nearing completion and stuck around for the main event, because nothing says “let’s catch up” like a front row seat to childbirth.

You guys, I can’t wait to tell you the whole story, but I’m closing in on scary levels of sleep deprivation. Luke, on the other hand, is blissfully napping between nursing sessions and just generally being an amazing baby. Also, he has a faux hawk. That’s 4 for 4 on the heartburn-to-hollywood-mane ratio scale.


St. Luke, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and Mother Mary, pray for us!

About Me, Family Life, motherhood

(Mostly) happy at home

August 12, 2015

When I abruptly entered the world of the SAHM/WAHM mom on September 21st, 2009 with a pedicure and a distinct “pop,” some 3 weeks before Joey’s due date (NOT THAT IT’S A RACE, CURRENT RESIDENT. AHEM.), I thought I knew what was in store for me. Leisurely mornings napping on a sun-dappled bedspread with my precious baby curled up under my arm, effortless Skype meetings with co-workers (at the time I was working as a writer and admin for FOCUS), and trips to Starbucks “for a nice change of scenery” when I felt the itch to leave my little nest.

What I did not expect to face down day after day was the boredom, the strange inertia of being just a little out of step with the rest of the adult world, and more than anything, the lonely quiet of long, isolated days without any meaningful adult interaction between the hours of 9-5.

I hadn’t been in the workforce for all that long, but between college and grad school and a couple professional jobs, I had at least 10 years of semi-regular daytime routine programmed into my brain, so the abrupt end and the sudden rebirth as mommy plus one was … jolting.

And this with a super supportive husband and a beautiful city to call my own. I can’t imagine how much rougher a ride it might have been under less idyllic circumstances.

Though I’m now very much past the tedious hours of silence while my solitary bebe napped and I … I’m not sure what I did with all that extra time, I’m now immersed in a very different kind of home life. Now there are 3 little people with distinct patterns and personalities to fill up the space between our 4 walls, and while I do still occasionally (and unbelievably) suffer actual bouts of boredom because there are only so many times you rearrange your living room using the same materials before you start to feel psychic angst, most of what is challenging about this season of motherhood to many preschoolers is the exhaustive over-and-over again of our days. The snacks. The laundry (and I like laundry!). The bathroom crime scenes. The tantrums. The story times. The snuggles.


It’s a beautiful little life, but it’s exactly that: little. We do little things, over and over again, day in and day out, and I know that this is the stuff character is made of and that these are the sweet, fleeting years, but there are so many days that feel like a groundhog is writing the script. And when we do deviate from the norm, when I go into the office for my weekly meeting with my team and when the babysitter comes over for a couple hours, we actually all miss each other. Which is both gratifying and strange.


Don’t get me wrong, I love having breaks from the norm, but I’m way more able to handle the rigors of daily living with little people now that I’ve trained for a couple years. I think that’s what makes having your first baby so incredibly difficult compared to all that comes after. Maybe that’s not true for everyone, but it was for me.


I used to absolutely have to leave the house every day or else I’d feel like a caged animal. I still like to get out quite a bit, but some days that honestly entails nothing more than the park down the street, and I’m oddly fine with that. Other days I definitely still run the crew from Costco to the chiro to the grocery store to the insert-random-afternoon-burning-task-here, but my default setting is no longer “escape.”

And this might just be the giant end of pregnancy talking, but I don’t mind. I don’t mind that I’m a mom who stays at home and that most days we do, in fact, stay at home. We’re fine here. We’ve got snacks and plenty of books and a fenced backyard, and perhaps most key, a full complement of playmates should anyone get board with me. Which I think is the real best-kept secret to having more than a couple of kids. Yes, they’re more work, but only on a meta level. On a micro level there’s actually less work when they’re all 3 busily destroying some room in the house and I’m, oh, I don’t know, tapping away like right now. Or pretending to sleep.


Bioethics, Catholics Do What?, Culture of Death, Family Life, guest post, motherhood, Pro Life, Sex, Suffering

My Moral Dilemma As A Catholic SMA Mom

August 11, 2015

I know I say this every time, but the woman I’m featuring today really is one of my all-time favorites. I met Kelly at Edel last year and was 1. blown away by her height and model-esque features (the internet has me convinced everyone is as short as I am) and 2. stunned by her mic-dropping rap at karaoke on Saturday night. Girl got flow.

Kelly and her husband Tony have 5 gorgeous kids whom they’re homeschooling within driving diastance of the Jersey Shore, and her two youngest both have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. I don’t remember how long I was reading her blog This Ain’t the Lyceum before I figured that out, because she definitely isn’t a “medical needs” blogger, primarily. Fulton and Teddy’s stories are simply woven into their daily live, as are the stories of her other children. But this month is SMA awareness month, and Kelly has a powerful and unique perspective on navigating motherhood with medically fragile kids. 


Living life as a devout Catholic, one who feels that everything the Church teaches applies to your everyday life, is hard. At best, we are misunderstood, our decisions considered backward or misguided. At worst, the world can be unaccepting and hostile towards those who choose to make sacrifices and hard decisions based on matters of faith….all in the name of tolerance of course.

After receiving two special needs diagnosis, my faith was struggling, but what I’ve learned since overcoming my initial sadness, anger, depression and hopelessness was that being a mother of two children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and a faithful Catholic tests my beliefs in ways I never imagined and often leaves me feeling quite alone in the struggle of special needs parenthood.

First, on one hand, we’re so lucky that so much research is happening to cure or effectively treat SMA. Because we know what causes it, drugs and therapies can be accurately targeted to get to the root source.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cure SMA and many other smaller organizations gives tons of money for research grants and drug trials, and there are some really positive things in the pipeline.

But, I don’t know what, if any, research is done using fetal stem cell lines. The Church fully supports the use of adult stem cell lines, but not those from aborted babies. There’s really no way to know without calling up and questioning each and every researcher. There’s no telling terminology I can look for in the medical write ups, and believe me, I’ve asked. All the main SMA charities state that while they understand that some parents objections to using fetal stem lines, they will fund all research.

I want to raise money and help research, but it’s very hard to give in good conscience to organizations who either are already or are willing to support unethical research. And it’s a hard opinion to hold when every month or so I get a magazine with a special memorial section filled with messages about children lost to SMA.

Every SMA parent wants a cure yesterday.

When you are faced with a disease that kills children, how can you say, don’t consider every means necessary to find a cure? But, I do. I don’t think unborn children should be killed and picked apart in the name of science.

What would I do if a cure was found by using fetal stem cell lines?

I don’t know honestly. I don’t think I could deny my boys a cure, but I think I’d be forever haunted by the children who died in the name of research. I would worry about my eternal soul.

We think because we kill our unwanted babies in a sterile white room and use their parts for science that we’re somehow more civilized than the Spartans, who simply left their unwanted newborns to the elements. It was Christians who first introduced the idea of rights for children but I feel that our society is being re-paganized with even other “good Christians” turning a blind eye in the name of science or worse, compassion.

The Catholic idea of suffering is so foreign to this day and age, it’s not surprising that most Catholics themselves don’t understand it. I find bearing my sufferings patiently and offering them up for special intentions is always a struggle, but it is the understanding of the value of suffering, and in what constitutes real suffering, that has played a huge roll in my acceptance of the cross of special needs parenting.

In today’s world, we must avoid and eliminate all suffering. And unfortunately, just having SMA is perceived as a form of suffering. Therefore, there is a prenatal test to determine if your child has SMA. It is not routinely given, though there are many working to make it part of the routine screen, and parents with one SMA child are, I feel, expected to test any subsequent children.

Of course, this means unborn children with SMA are aborted because they have the disease, and we don’t want to bring them into this world to suffer. Yes, they may be one of the sickest children, who unfortunately dies within the first few years. I don’t want to downplay the horror of that reality for anyone. But no screening can accurately predict the life of any child.

Several of the people I featured on Friday require invasive methods to stay alive; feeding tubes, ventilators, etc. But it is presented as a real option to not offer these things to your child, to simply offer palliative care if the parent feels it’s in the child’s best interest, and as to not prolong suffering.

Can you imagine approaching your newborn with a hospice mindset? I cannot fathom the pain the parents of the most seriously afflicted children must go through, and maybe in some cases palliative is really the only way to go, but should it be presented as an option to all parents from the get go?

I understand the very real pain some parents want to save their children from; pressure sores, scary infections, mucus plugs which prevent a person from breathing…but can’t we make a child comfortable and able to enjoy life to the fullest while still minimizing the health hazards? Is shortening a child’s life even further the only way?

We are a society that wants sex, but no babies. Think of all the wonderful children not being born because we only want perfect babies at the perfect time. SMA parents are told to speak with a genetic counselor before planning any more babies so you can learn your “options”.

One of Fulton’s doctors was quite angry to see I’d gotten pregnant without notifying their geneticist and was not planning to test for SMA until after the child was born.

Our contracepting culture cannot handle people who have unplanned babies, especially less than perfect babies. In fact, even many cafeteria Catholics wonder why my husband or I are not yet fixed. “You’re not still using the rhythm method, are you?!”

It is irresponsible in their eyes, and the consensus from some people after Teddy’s diagnosis was “Well, you got what you asked for.”

On the flip side, I hear other Catholics telling me to keep having more children, like they got word from God that I don’t have grave circumstances and I should keep rolling the die because “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I can’t be expected to keep practicing NFP forever because that’s too hard on a marriage, just welcome the kids as they come!

People please. Don’t insult me and my situation with clichés or implications of my lack of faith.

The sin in the world’s eyes is having another child with SMA, but there are some in the Church who want to judge me for not having more. I can’t win.

As you can see, I’m often at odds with the very people, charities and support networks set up to help me. Sometimes, I can’t even see eye to eye with other Catholics. It’s the side to SMA parenthood I don’t talk about or share because, most of the time I can’t.

I don’t even know why I feel so compelled to share this post. Maybe so that if you’ve felt alone in your struggles to live your faith recently, you can know that you’re not.

I don’t look at my life and wish I wasn’t a Catholic so I wouldn’t be burdened with all these rules, I know that even when it’s hard, it’s right and my life is the better for it. You will have doubts and struggles but following the truth will never let you down in the long haul. Thanks for letting me vent.


The big kids

August 9, 2015

Now that Genevieve is fully mobile, I kind of can’t believe she was ever anything but moving 100 mph and getting into trouble. She’s my first runner, ironically, and run she does, cackling maniacally while I waddle after her, sometimes pushing harder and faster than a comfortable waddle, to snatch her before she dashes into the street or sprints from playground peripheries. She be crazy. She also be unaware that she isn’t 1. a little boy and 2. 3 or 4 years old. Did an older brother just drop trau and leap into the baby pool? Check. Oh, is somebody building with legos and would like not to be assisted by tiny pounding fists and screaming? Too bad. Choleric baby dictator will see you now.


She’s so fun.

I’m a little leery of how life with #4 is going to unfold for her, at least in the early days, because patience does not seem to be her strong suit. (And I cannot imagine where she gets that…) Also, she frequently physically assaults her long-suffering next in line, John Paul, which he bears manfully. If 3 year olds can participate in redemptive suffering, then the hours he’s logged in a Costco double rider next to her are worth more than gold.

Love him.

Speaking of John Paul, we’ve recently started a little journal with his quotable musings on life as an old man trapped in the body of a preschooler. His one-liners are ridiculous, and his tiny melancholic soul is gifted with a weirdly eternal memory for stuff that happened before I thought kids had memories. Some recent gems, almost always harvested at bedtime in the quiet dark of the boy’s bedroom (and often when I think he’s already asleep):

“Today a mosquito bit me and it messed up my nipples.”

“Mommy, (whispered in a dramatic sotto voce in the Adoration chapel, 34 seconds after we entered), WHY IS JESUS HOLDING A DOLPHIN?”


you get the picture. He’s a fabulous little weirdo.

And then we have master Joseph, the lord and leader of the pack. He’s super sanguine, pushy, determined, and has an endless appetite for human interaction. He’s the extrovert to my introvert, the perpetual motion to my couch inertia (at least lately). And he’s rarely been known to sleep later than 7, no matter how hard he partied the night before. I’m fairly sure he coined Anna’s famous “the sky is awake so I’m awake” line, but I won’t begrudge Disney for it. He enjoys legos, hitting things with sticks, pretending he knows how to read, anything with a screen, (literally anything. When we lived in Rome he used to try to play with ATMs. It was so sad and so funny to the locals) and being naked. I’m super hopeful a 3rd year of preschool will cure him of his propensity for public nudity, but I also have to hand it to him for being consistent. If it’s 60 degrees or warmer, at some point during the day I can be sure I’m going to see his little white cheeks flashing in the sun. Thankfully our backyard fence is adequately tall.


I’m so excited to see who this new little person is, because it seems that we have one of every temperament so far except phlegmatic. And given the fact that I’m still pregnant now into week 39, this could just be the laissez faire offspring I’ve been waiting for.



Abortion, About Me, coffee clicks, Evangelization, Pro Life

Coffee clicks {volume 7} Prodromal labor, Trumpsta porters, and Italian adventures

August 7, 2015

You better believe I’m up for little more than cultivating reading lists at this point in the week. But what a list it will be, I promise.

Please tell me y’all watched the GOP debate last night? It was, in sum, a sh%tshow featuring various near-bar fights and some cringe-worthy moments for even such an ego as the Donald’s. Speaking of the man with the hair, a family “Whats app” chat session during the debates last night (my family of origin is rabidly political) quickly devolved into hilarity when “trump supporter” was misread by Siri and reincarnated as “Trumpstaporter,” which was then turned into a meme involving the horrible family dog in short time. Moral of the story? Don’t be a Trumpstaporter.

ringo shame

1. But last night, overall? Great television. I’m tapping Rubio and Paul as the winners of the debate with Carson a close second. I really, really like Ben Carson. But I’m not sure he has the steely nerves and the big, bold personality necessary to stand against the Hillary machine and the media scrutiny. I also think he may just be too good for us, on the whole (and in a rare-ish move, I agree wholeheartedly with Matt Walsh). The average American voter may not be smart or moral enough to appreciate his strength of character or intellect. Or maybe I’m just a jaded Denverite who listens to too much NPR, and people are actually more decent than that.

We’ll see.

2. I really thought this baby was coming last night. Busted out the timing app and everything and for 4 hours they were getting stronger and harder and closer. And then I crawled back in bed “just to rest” a minute before calling Grandma for middle-of-the-night childcare backup, and…I fell asleep. Until 7 am. Womp womp. I blame this, which I’m now realizing may be the reason we’ve false-alarmed every single time so far. So maybe the fact that I didn’t go anywhere except to sleep last night was a huge advancement in my pregnancy skills level. Maybe. At any rate I am making great advancements on my Purgatory pay down plan.

3. I’ve never, ever read a compelling pro abortion argument. Until I read this one. Leave it to Jen Fulwiller to reconcile two adversarial world views. Her brain really is a national treasure (as is her amazing hair).

4. I really love St. John Vianney, maybe because I think Vianney would be an adorable (though not on our current list) girl’s name, or maybe because he spent 18 hours a day in the Confessional and signed a petition his parishioners were circulating to get him kicked out of his own parish, but his self sacrifice and humility and holiness under the most unlikely conditions have forever endeared him to me. One of my dearest friends wrote this piece in honor of his feast day earlier this week.

5. Do you read “Tales of Me and the Husband?” She and her family are on the first leg of a multi-month tour of Italy with kids, and I’m having rose-colored flashbacks and drooling over her beautiful photos. But when the envy gets too hot, I click open my accuweather app and check the temp in Rome and then, poof, I’m utterly charmed once again by American suburbia. (For now, at least. I may have my hopes pinned on an autumn sojourn to La città eterna c/o Dave’s work responsibilities and some frequent flier miles, so this wee bambino/a will be acquiring a passport bright and early upon exiting, just like the rest of our crew has.)

Happy weekend to you and yours, and remember to toss a Rosary heavenward tomorrow in honor of St. Dominic. Pray specifically, if you would, for some baby friends who need massive healing: little unborn Gabriel Thompson and baby Sebastian.


Abortion, Bioethics, Culture of Death, pregnancy, Pro Life

I finally felt it

August 4, 2015

“It” being the pain, the punch to the gut, the dissipation of oxygen in the room.

I was at a staff meeting this morning and heard our DC correspondent explain in precise language that to obtain an “intact specimen” an unborn baby would likely need to, in fact, become a born baby in order for his or her parts to be of any use to the medical specimen purchasing agents.

For some reason the thought of babies being forcibly delivered alive and then murdered was just gruesome enough to churn even my steely pregnant stomach, and I looked down at the conference table with bile rising in my throat, willing the just-gulped espresso to stay put.

You see, my unborn baby was moving vigorously, as he or she has been keen to do for hours on end these past few days, interspersing bursts of activity with increasingly uncomfortable (and disappointingly transient) contractions that amount to little more than late night cereal bowls and crocodile tears. But as I felt my baby move and I envisioned a smaller, younger baby than mine, delivered alive and then dispatched by syringe or shears, I felt nauseatingly aware on a visceral level that we were talking murder, and that, thank God, I was at long last having an appropriate emotional response to the annihilation of a child.

When I was in 5th grade a girl from my hometown, who played on the same softball league as I did, was kidnapped from her bedroom window during a slumber party, and she was murdered. I’ve never been able to think of Polly Klaas without feeling a sickening drop in my stomach, imagining her innocence and her security shattered in an instant by a monster at her bedroom window while her mom slept down the hall.

I imagine that the 20-week old baby in the video released today had a similar, if less self-aware, experience of shattered innocence and lost security. Dragged from the dark safety of his mother’s womb and dispatched by monsters, his humanity denied and his body violated and finally, destroyed.

Maybe it’s strange, but I’m glad I felt something. I’m glad I haven’t become so jaded by the constant, sickening stream of horror coming through the internet and across the airwaves that I could still hear something genuinely horrifying and feel the depth of depravity associated with it.

Part of why abortion continues to be socially-accepted is because of the hiddenness of it, the illusion of privacy afforded by the womb and a closed operating room. Aborted babies don’t make headlines. We don’t see their tragic faces on billboards or hear their weeping parents begging for their safe return. Their faces are hidden, known only to God save for perhaps a handful of human witnesses. And their parents weep in private, if they weep at all, their cries dismissed and largely unheard.

That’s what makes this investigation so powerful. That’s what makes these videos so damning. The illusion of privacy is shattered, blown apart by tiny limbs and heads and hearts. Abortion apologists and Planned Parenthood supporters must confront the reality of their business, tearing up little humans, and must offer to the general public some sort of explanation for how this can be right, how this can be, period.

Because the former standard response of “it’s not a baby” is no longer feasible, not in an age of digital film and globally-connected social media.

If it’s not a baby, where did the liver come from?

If it’s not a baby, why am I looking at a tiny hand connected to a tiny arm, bent perfectly at 90 degrees at the elbow, same as mine?

If it’s not a baby, why does my own heart clench and recoil at the sound of phrases like “another boy!” and “intact specimens?”

Polly Klaas was robbed of her innocence, her security, and her very life. And we had the decency to weep for her and to grieve as a community shattered by fear and anger.

Pray God that as a nation, as a world, we can confront these videos – and through them the reality of abortion – with hearts similarly open to and moved by injustice.

Polly’s death, too, was a holocaust to selfishness, her life robbed from her by a heinous choice. Let’s don’t let the rhetoric confuse us that there is some fundamental difference in value between her life and Emmett’s. We’ve been blind and deaf too long.

Unborn baby at 20 weeks.

Abortion, motherhood, pregnancy, Pro Life

Be still, and know

August 3, 2015

I am not a good waiter.

(I was, don’t get me wrong, an excellent food service professional back in the day. But that’s not the kind of waiting we’re talking about here.)

This past week or so of sleepless nights have been as much about my stubborn insistence that this baby was going to come out when I say so as about any actual physical discomforts of late pregnancy. Well, mostly, anyway.

When we originally calculated this bebe’s due date I stubbornly refused to divulge the actual date because “it’s just a number, and I always go early.” I thought that my 2 out of 3 past early deliveries have had as much to do with baby’s readiness as they have with my own efforts to dislodge my little womb mate at the time of my choosing. (Never mind the fact that my middle guy was riiiiight on time/4 days late. I conveniently left that outlier on the outskirts of my statistical reasonings.)

So while I’m just embarking on week 39 here, I feel as if I’ve gone over by a good month in terms of what I expected would happen and what has actually transpired.

And it is, by far, the hardest part of pregnancy for me. And right now? It feels like the hardest of all 4 pregnancies, even though I’m surrounded by supportive and helpful siblings and in-laws and basking in great summer weather and all the big kids are sleeping through the night. I’m so blessed. And yet, I grumble.

Over the past few days I’ve been trying to turn more to God not with accusations or demands but with an openness, asking Him for His timetable, His wisdom.

You know what He keeps telling me?

Be still and know that I am God.

THE. WORST. Amiright?

Anything else Lord. Like, maybe a “gird your loins for battle” or even “the Lord will surely deliver you from your time of anguish” because both those appeal to my warlike nature and desperate desire to do and to accomplish.

But nope. He’s all, nah, I want to see you patient. I want to see you surrender. I want you to be still. And to know that I’m the one calling the shots.

In other words, to behave in ways that are nearly antithetical to my choleric need to control, to dominate, and to conquer.

Every morning I wake up and I can’t fathom that those contractions I was pacing through the night before really did peter out, and that I really do have to face another day of this sweaty, enormous undertaking.

Be still.

Every afternoon around 3:45 pm the kids start their recurrent freak out cycle (the witching hour, some call it. I like to sub the “w” for a “b,” personally) and I can’t fathom that I’ll have the energy or the wits to get us all through till 6 pm. I usually think this from a prone position on the (much cooler) basement floor, where we’ve taken to “camping” while we wait for daddy to get home. Mostly they step on me and we read 3 pages from each of the 37 books that are systematically piled near my head. It sounds exactly as fun as it is, which is to say 100% more fun than real camping. And I lift mine weary eyes from the taupe carpet and make pitiful, soundless motions of supplication with my unkempt brows and occasionally tap into my inner Italian grandma with verbalizations of “Mother of God,” and “Lord, save us” and He’s like:

Know that I am God.

But I don’t want to be still, because it makes the contractions slow to a crawl and then dissipate entirely. And while I intellectually assent that of course Lord, you’re God, I’m still over here doing hourly shots of raspberry leaf tea and galloping across the backyard and sending obnoxious text messages to my support team because THIS IS GOING TO WORK, and this baby is coming out on my terms and in my time.


Motherhood has taught me nothing if not a real-world application of the oft-Pinned “We plan, God laughs.”

Want your daughter to walk? Be still and know that I am God.

Want to escape your husband’s foreign assignment and repatriate to the familiar surroundings of home and family? Be still and know that I am God.

Want to get through your 6-month-old’s surgery and recovery period? Be still and know that I am God.

Over and over again He has shown me, through these kids and through my task of mothering them, that I’m little more than a willing participant in His design.

Which should give me, noting my excellent track record for screwing things up on my own, tremendous encouragement that they are going to turn out okay in spite of my best efforts.

But I forget over and over again that I’m not “doing” motherhood, that I’m receiving and responding to a call, not inventing the flipping telephone.

Which is why, I presume, He called me to this particular vocation, where I regularly encounter derailed plans and foiled schedules and days void of any sort of perceptible “proof” of productivity at all. I have no final product at a week’s end to submit for the boss’ approval. I have no measurable achievements (unless I start tallying diapers and time outs) of how effectively implemented my managerial strategies have been for current month.

And right now? I have no newborn to cradle and erase the long, uncomfortable memories of pregnancy and delivery. Just a laundry list of first world complaints and physical aches and pains that should be screaming to me “you’re so blessed, you’re so lucky, you’ve been chosen for something with an eternal weight” and not “oh my God, deliver me from this eternal wait. (And the weight too, while You’re at it.)

So I’m trying. And it’s killing me. And that’s probably the point.

And I promise, at some point, I’m going to write about something else. It’s just that I’m trapped in the moment over here, and my entire universe has narrowed to a tiny point of light marked: “L&D, floor 4″ and I can’t, for the life of me, see anything else right now.

be still


(Also, and far more importantly, please, please, don’t forget to contact your legislators for today’s #defundPlannedParenthood vote. The momentum is there, but they are so well-covered by the current Administration that I truly believe it is going to take a miracle to accomplish their demise.)