Postpartum Catch Up
God is crazy good, as usual. Our family has been enjoying a deluge of blessings this spring, and I'm finally catching my breath to share!
And since all this basically went down in May, be prepared for the onslaught of Blessed Mother Blue! I am definitely wearing my "May dress" super frequently in all of them not only because of the color, but because it makes nursing SO EASY!!!
First of all, thanks for all the prayers and well-wishes surrounding Luca. He's home, he's healthy, and he's WONDERFUL! His big brothers have welcomed him into the fold as though he's always been along for the ride. My heart is full.
I spent the first month basically strapped to the couch thanks to the various surgical procedures I'd had done pre- and post-partum. I won't bother to regale anyone with those details; I'm just glad it's behind me. Luca was well worth every moment of pain.
Easter rolled around soon after Luca's arrival. We had a whole slew of reasons to celebrate this year, chief among them Chris' full initiation into the Church!
A few nights before the Vigil, he received his first Penance, and then at the Vigil, he was confirmed and received Christ in the Eucharist! His mother was on hand to witness it, as was our friend, Brett, who stood as sponsor. Again, my heart is full! God is so good!
Easter, itself, was a joy. We spent it up at my brother's house, and it's always so wonderful to have all the kids together. Vince enjoys helping hide the eggs for the kids to find, and he's taken to video taping the younger ones scramble for them. He even edits the videos he takes into shorts. Chris and I have been encouraging him to pursue video editing as it seems to keep his interest. I showed him how to use DaVinci Resolve and got him a beefy computer system to run it for Christmas. It's nice to see him getting excited about things like that!
Anyhow, the kids enjoyed playing with their cousins, finding eggs, and candy. So much candy.
And as if all this wasn't glorious enough, we still had more to enjoy! In addition to Nate's 1st Penance, he received his 1st Holy Communion just a couple weeks after Chris! The whole family came out to celebrate and he got his own little party at The Pop Shop in Collingswood. He was thrilled, especially because his bestie, Frankie, came, too!
And because we still had more to celebrate, the following week, Luca got gussied up for HIS reception into the Church via Baptism! He's wearing the same blue and white outfit Nico had for his, but because Luca's a good deal chunkier than Nico was, I had to size up the onesie!
WHEW! And we're still not done yet!!! Nico turned 2 the same week Luca was baptized, and Nate, because he's amazing, was recognized as Student of the Month at school! We celebrated with lunch at Nate's favorite place and a trip to the park with the birthday boy to feed the ducks and explore a brand new jungle gym he'd never seen before!
And still, there's more, because God can never, ever, ever be outdone in love...
Chris got to go to Italy for the first time for a work trip, and while it was really hard on him due to not only the logistics, but being away from the boys and I, the trip spurred him onto a path that really has him jazzed. It's been wonderful to see him excited for what's to come.
I've somehow found time to piece together some projects that have, until now, been pipe dreams. A few more are in the works, but several have actually been completed. Thanks to Chris' support and willingness to be a real partner in parenting, I was able to complete and publish two books on Amazon with two more on the horizon.
I'm excited to report that one of my books, a self-help journal for trauma victims, is being reviewed by a local hospital for inclusion in their take-home information for survivors of assault. Shoot a prayer or two up for that intention, because I'd love to see this book placed into the hands of those who need it most WHEN they need it most.
Whew! And still... that's not all. I became Godmother to a beautiful little miracle and got to see another the same day as her sister made her 1st Holy Communion! That brings my total godchildren to 7!
I have two rather big pieces of celebratory news to share, but those will have to remain mum for now. May it suffice for me to say that God is incredible beyond any of my most wild dreams, and He delights in surprising us with grander and more beautiful ways to show us how much He loves us. In all things, God is good, people. Trust in His goodness.
I still owe you guys a postpartum doula entry and apparently one on Pentecost (sorry, Jen!), and eventually, I'll get around to them, but for now, I need to get myself to bed. Tomorrow is a Mass our incredible Pastor is offering in thanksgiving for Luca's baptism (I can't with that man... he is seriously the best and I love him to pieces). Here he is with Luca after his baptism, and just... look at his face... I can't!
Alright, my lovelies, I'm going to bed. My heart is full, and God is good. <3
Originally posted 4/2/2012 (in the Archive), but since it's been a top search on my page the last couple weeks, I thought I'd make it easier for folks to find. Enjoy!
Busted Halo did a wonderful video that's been going viral along the Christian blogosphere. I found it through Michelle at Liturgical Time. You, too, can see it if you follow her link.
Anyway, for as much as I enjoyed the video (and I did - especially the music!), I was bummed they left out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I mean, I understand they're not considered "as important" as the other days of Holy Week, but they're still part of Holy Week and deserve at least an honorable mention, right?
Trying to view Holy Week as only Palm Sunday and the Triduum is like viewing a puzzle with several missing pieces. Sure, you can probably make out what the picture's supposed to be, but you miss details and information that make the image clearer and more beautiful.
Monday was the cleansing of the Temple - it's what put the Sanhedrin on high alert since the Romans (now present in higher numbers in the city to keep the peace during Passover) saw Christ not only messing with the Jewish folks, but all the Gentiles who gathered in the court of the Temple to exchange goods / services.
Tuesday was full of parables and prophecy. Tuesday was, in my opinion, the day that the Pharisees finally decided that Jesus MUST be dealt with before the week's end (due to the Render Unto Caesar response). This was when they finally realized they'd never get the best of Him, and had to find a way to kill Him.
Wednesday was the day we remember Judas' actual betrayal. It's also when Christ's death / burial was predicted through the actions of the woman with the perfume.
Each day does, after all, bring us one step closer to the Foot of the Cross. Monday reminds us that we must focus on spirituality and a proper last minute cleansing of our own temples (bodies) so we are ready to accept the Sacrifice of Christ. Tuesday, cautions us to always be ready for the return of Jesus lest we be caught unprepared. Wednesday... it's like our last moment during Lent to anoint Jesus with our humble offerings - the charitable acts, fasting, and mortifications completed throughout Lent.
Those three days are of such importance. I wish Broken Halo had mentioned something about them. But ah well... there's only so much you can do in 2 minutes, and they certainly picked the highlights!
I hired a postpartum doula for this past pregnancy, and boy am I glad I did.
Janelle of Foi en la Femme stopped by today and made some amazing Moroccan Rfissa Soup, completed a “bone closing ceremony,” that helps realign and heal bones/joints that have been displaced thru pregnancy, prepared some of the most amazing tea Chris and I have ever had, and taught me how to do a traditional Bengkung bind using a special cloth made by Willow Wisteria (@willow.wisteria) of Art of Natural Wellness.
In addition to all that (and plenty more), she provided a whole plethora of info prior to Luca’s arrival that was informative and empowering- even for this highly assertive, seasoned momma of four!
I’ll be sharing a full breakdown of our time together eventually, but for now, here’s a fun sneak peak from today’s postpartum visit!
I highly encourage anyone looking to have a baby to “like” and follow her page. I cannot recommend her enough!
Happy Birthday, Luca!
Luca is my fourth son, so I have some experience when it comes to labor and delivery. I've learned to trust my body and lean into the evolution that has ensured a woman's body is perfected to bring forth life.
Can there be complications? Absolutely. This pregnancy was full of them. However, there is something visceral connecting women who have endured the right of passage that is motherhood, and I've learned to listen to the whispers of those who have gone before me.
In prior deliveries, I didn't know what I didn't know. I trusted medical professionals to inform me of best practices and how to navigate the trauma of birth. For as much as I loved my original OB, I was woefully unprepared for labor and delivery. After the absolute nightmare of Nico's delivery, I vowed to do things my way henceforward, and I'm so glad I did.
I changed practices from a traditional OB-GYN to a midwifery group, and I was immediately treated to tools and methods that had never been mentioned by my prior practice. I was interviewed and listened to, and my midwives really got to know me, my preferences, and my hopes for a calm and safe delivery.
When it came time to finally birth Luca, midwife Kamil was on-call, and I'm so glad she was. She and I had bonded over our sons (both special needs) and I'm pretty sure I saw her more than I'd seen anyone else during my pregnancy. She held me through a particularly rough contraction and I said, "I'm so glad you were on-call tonight." She whispered "Thank you for choosing me to be here tonight, Luca."
My heart just melted... even with the contractions.
Anyway, I'm most comfortable riding contractions on my knees with my hands propping me up almost at a 90 degree angle on the bed. Rather than crying out or talking myself through the pain, I'd focus on "breathing Luca out." I'd simply take several deep breaths and "push" on each exhale, feeling him move through my body. It was incredible, as I'd never gotten to experience that with my others.
I was calm, composed, and totally in control the entire time.
That said, there was a moment I was a bit panicked because of the two surgeries I'd had just a couple days prior to delivery. Both surgeons said that in order to give birth naturally, I *MUST* have an epidural. Given the circumstances, I agreed even though I had really wanted to go without an epidural as I'd done with Nico. The problem is, the first nurse in the room didn't want to do an epidural right away because procedure calls for two IV bags to drain before attempting one. This is to help prevent the new mom's heartrate from dropping. I explained to her what the surgeons had both said and why I wasn't a textbook delivery; exceptions can always be made. She was frustrated by my pushback which set Chris off his rocker.
Normally a very patient, even-tempered man, he demanded a doctor. He said he wasn't going to allow "procedures" to hold up pain management given the severity of my prior surgeries and the fact that my deliveries tended to be too short to wait for those "procedures." If I said I was going to be delivering Luca within the hour, then they'd better get ready to catch him within the hour because I know my body better than they do so get the damned doctor in.
I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty much the gist of it.
She was annoyed, but sure enough, she went out and called for the anesthesiologist who came in and tried to explain why the two bags were standard. Again, Chris pushed back and advocated while I labored through several more contractions. As a result, the anesthesiologist relented and said, "Ok, we can put a pump on the IV to get at least one bag into her. That should take about 15 minutes and then we'll do the epidural." That was acceptable to both of us.
At this point, my midwife, Kamil, had returned (having just delivered another baby) and simply sat back and let me do my thing. She didn't try to coach me or anything because she knew I trusted myself to do what was best. So between contractions, which were coming every 3-5 minutes, we'd enjoy some ridiculous conversation between her, myself and Chris. The original nurse left (I'm pretty sure because she felt slighted by Chris whom she called "too spicy") and was replaced by a nurse named Michelle who was the sweetest thing ever. Just like Kamil, Michelle let me labor exactly how I wanted to and didn't try to intervene or shift my methods.
Chris stayed by my side the whole time, cheering me on and rubbing my back through each contraction.
Soon, anesthesiology came back in and set me up with an epidural. They laid me back so that the meds would have a chance to move into place before pushing. Alas, just as I had anticipated, it was too late.
I felt Luca move into "push position." I turned to Kamil and I said, "I'm pretty sure it's time to push." She laughed and said, "I thought we'd have another hour or so!" She checked me, though, because she trusted that I knew what I was talking about. Sure enough, it was time to push. Not only was I fully dilated, he was less than a knuckle away from crowning.
With Michelle to the left of me and Chris to the right, Kamil got ready to catch as she said, "Alright, on the next contraction, let's push!"
And so I did, and I immediately felt him crown. I pushed again and I heard Kamil quietly say to Michelle "There's meconium." Chris didn't understand what that meant, but I did and I immediately felt the fires of motivation churn to a fever pitch as I pushed again. Luca had to get out, and he had to get out NOW, so with one final push, Luca (weighing in at 9lbs even!) slipped into Kamil's waiting arms and was taken straight away to the waiting NICU team. They had already been on hand due to the surgeries I'd had prior to delivery, but the focus was more on clearing his airway of meconium than checking for anything else.
Chris was still not sure why I was suddenly panicked, so I briefly explained what meconium was and why it's dangerous at delivery. Sure enough, Luca had breathed in enough to send him up to the NICU for treatment and observation.
However, God is good and both Chris and I were able to hold him before that happened. Luca, yet another miracle from God... this one more than 10 years in the making. I still can't believe it which is probably why I keep marveling at it. God truly is faithful and so unfathomably generous.
Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet Luca. Rest up and get better soon so we can finally introduce you to your big brothers!
Luca's Birth: A Prologue
Our beautiful baby boy, Luca Benjamin, a miracle more than 10 years in the making, was welcomed into our arms earlier this week by the grace and ever-faithful love of our unfathomably merciful God.
In my prior post, I had mentioned needing emergency surgery that snatched away our hopes for a calm and natural birth. That surgery was a temporary band-aid meant to help us get through the final weeks of pregnancy, but God had other plans.
On Super Bowl Sunday, still reeling from excruciating pain, I found myself back in the ER. Again I was told I needed emergency surgery- this one much more extensive and significantly more invasive. It was a truly terrifying prospect, especially given how close to labor and delivery I was. I asked if there was any possibility of postponing surgery until after delivery, but the surgeon said I'd be putting myself at even greater risk as parts of my body had already begun necrotizing. The band-aid had failed; it was either surgically remove the dying tissue now or risk my life and the life of Luca.
Chris and I are of the same mindset- the best way around a hard situation is to dive in and head straight on through. Knowing how overwhelming this news was, he asked the surgeon to give us a few minutes. He knows that I process overwhelming news like this in two steps:
I've always been this way, and Chris immediately recognized that I was rapidly moving into Freak Out Phase as the surgeon explained what was happening. He asked the doctor to step out of the room so that I had the space and privacy to let out the tsunami. He sat next to me on the bed and let me unleash it all. He pulled me into himself, letting me rage and cry and spill out every fear he knew I had. He knew each and every one because they matched his own. He understood what this sort of surgery meant and how dangerous it was so close to Luca's delivery. But he also understood that there was no other option, and so he repeated what he said to me just a few days prior, and he forced me to look him square in the eyes as he said it. And he repeated it, several times, because he wanted me to not only understand, but to believe him.
But oh... the pain in his voice. The thing is that I 100% believed him. Even now, I know he meant every word. But such a truth... such a generous, selfless capital "T" Truth... it comes at great cost, and I could hear the depths of that sacrifice aching alongside my own broken heart. I touched his face and he pulled me into his arms again. We allowed ourselves to crash against the rocks as the tempest of our grief and fears tossed us mercilessly forward.
We only consent to be victims of our feelings for the briefest of times, though. Once we poured ourselves out, we got to work planning the logistics of moving forward. We didn't have much time, because the surgeon had already made clear that he was heading to the Operating Room to begin prepping his team. That left Chris and I about 20 minutes to sort out next steps, and we had to do so while nurses came in to do blood draws, COVID test swabs, and explain consent forms.
Since we knew I'd be at the hospital for several days post-op, he got to work figuring out care for the kids. Luckily, our older boys were set, but Nico was a different story. He mobilized key members of our support network so they knew what was happening and could chip in to help with Nico. He also alerted his bosses that his work schedule would be shifting to accommodate daycare pick up/drop off. He also started updating family members on where I was in terms of health and recovery. As for me, when not having blood drawn or signing consent forms, I was updating my midwifery group and doula on complications they'd now need to be ready for and connecting them to the new surgical team that would be taking over my life for the next few weeks.
It was a whirlwind of texting, emails and phone calls, but somehow, we got it taken care of just as transport came to wheel me down to the operating room. Chris followed me as far as he could, kissed me, and said he'd be waiting for me when I got into Recovery. He also slipped me my rosary so that I'd have it through the procedure.
The surgical team was fantastic. They understood my anxiety was through the roof and they all understood what was at stake. One doctor in particular, Susan, held me as they began the sedation process and acknowledged- with what felt like sacred reverence- the impossible situation I'd found myself in. As she held me, she put her head against mine and said that she was so sorry this had to be done. Even now, a week later, her empathy overwhelms me with gratitude.
Chris made it to Recovery before I did and was there when they wheeled me in. Still enjoying the benefits of sedation, we got in about an hour of pain-free time together before it was time for him to head home to take care of Nico. The surgeon had warned us both that the next several weeks would be hell, and the man wasn't kidding.
I was in the hospital from Sunday morning through Tuesday afternoon, and in that time, I was on a rotating cocktail of Morphine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, and Percocet. As someone who refuses to take even Tylenol for kidney stones, being on such a strong menu of opioids/narcotics- ESPECIALLY whilst pregnant- scared the crap out of me. My doctors and nurses all swore it was necessary, and given the incredible pain I was in, I partially relented. I agreed to the pain meds on a reduced schedule. Rather than taking them every two hours, I stretched myself to 6 hours. The pain was unlike anything I've ever experienced and would never wish it on anyone. But I persisted, because that is what mothers do.
Finally, it was time for discharge Tuesday afternoon (Valentine's Day). Chris came for me, and after a brief scare regarding contractions, we were able to go home. The pain was still impossibly intense, and I called my friend, Sam, to help as I labored through some of the involuntary post-operative spasms that felt an awful lot like giving birth. Even she said that had she not known I'd had surgery days prior, she would've been calling 9-1-1 expecting me to deliver Luca in the bathtub.
Eventually, the involuntary spasms subsided and I was able to redress (though the process repeated several more times that night). I told Sam (and my brother who had stopped by to help) to go home but that I'd call with any updates. I was still refusing to take the cocktail of pain medications because I refused to put Luca into harm's way, so I'd take the bare minimum and try to sleep it off.
Alas, I only made it one day before recognizing the tell-tale signs of real labor.
Wednesday, February 15th at about 10PM, I made the call to get to the hospital. Luca was coming and for as much as we had wanted to give my body a chance to heal from the prior two surgeries, it was not meant to be. We packed Nico into the car, dropped him off to our friends, Sam and Brett, and immediately headed for the hospital where my midwife was already waiting.
Part II: Happy Birthday, Luca!
More on Chris Being Perfect
It's been a really emotional week for me. I have been struggling hard with some end of pregnancy health problems that culminated in me needing emergency surgery on Friday. Luca, thank God, is totally fine, but the hopes we had for a calm, natural birth have gone straight out the window. We'll now have a team on stand-by the moment I call and say it's "Go Time."
And that's okay. I've always rolled my eyes at the idea of doing a birth plan because there is simply no way to account for the myriad ways things can change last minute. I'm very much a believer that we can (and do) make God laugh when we tell Him our plans for things.
Anyway, in addition to being in a ton of pain from the surgery, itself, I was struggling with guilt over not being home with the kids. Everything (EVERYTHING) fell to Chris. And when I left for the hospital, it wasn't pretty. Vince and Nate both could plainly see the terrible state I was in, and it was scary for them. Vince had trouble sleeping, Nate cried, and that's to say nothing of how poor Nico was processing Mommy leaving. Chris was left to pick up those pieces by himself, and of course, he did it as he does so many other things- perfectly.
He made sure Nate had guidance on processing those big emotions. He redirected Vince away from coping through a cell phone to still recognizing his responsibilities for school and as "big brother." He was sympathetic towards their anxiety, but didn't let them use it as an excuse to stop doing things that were necessary for their health and well-being. I was so grateful, as I always am, that I can trust him to not only take care of the boys, but use even hard situations as opportunities for growth as men.
And then there was his support of me while I was in the hospital (Thursday through Friday afternoon). The level of pain was excruciating, and any semblance of dignity went straight out the window. Never once did I feel embarrassed or ashamed, and it's because I trust him so completely. He helped me to the bathroom, helped me maneuver in the bed (because any sort of movement, no matter how small, was next to impossible), and he helped me answer questions from the staff when I was too blinded by pain to respond appropriately. He was always close enough to keep his hand on me or let me reach out for him because he knows how important touch is for me. God, I love this man.
The biggest thing, though, was how he handled some heartbreaking news we received while there. We still haven't processed it fully, but suffice to say it took my breath away. Somehow, he IMMEDIATELY knew what to say to redirect my psyche away from depression. And the crazy thing is that the news was likely harder for him to hear than it was for me. Regardless, he set his own feelings aside and comforted me. If I'm being honest, that just made me cry harder because I understood what he was doing and recognized the level of love it takes to do that. Lord, I cannot thank You enough for the gift of him. He truly is remarkable and I pray to always love him as fully (moreso, even) than he loves me.
Fast forward to today when I was finally released from the hospital. I'm obviously still in a ton of pain, but it was Nate's 1st Confession and obviously I wasn't gonna miss that for anything other than the birth of Luca. Ha ha!
So tonight, we all got ready to celebrate as a family. Since I'm still incapable of moving around much, Chris handled 99.9% of everything. I snapped a few photos of him dressing Nate and it was all I could do not to cry from appreciation. Nate was dressed in the same suit I'd gotten for Vince when he received. Chris helped him "suit up" and noted he'd need a tie clip/pin, something I didn't have and wouldn't have even thought of. So Chris went to his stash and pulled out a few options. In the end, he chose to let Nate borrow his grandfather's diamond tie pin. He showed Nate how it was used and explained it would help keep his tie in place. Again, it was such a sweet father/son moment and my breath caught in prayer as I once more thanked God that my boys have him to look up to and learn from.
And when we got home, he was adamant about me taking my meds and going to bed. Normally I try to fit in some sort of cleaning/organizing, but he wouldn't allow it. It was strictly "get in the bathtub, relax, take your meds and go to bed." Yes, I'm an adult, but as he points out, I'm a super stubborn one, and he tends to be the only one I allow to out-stubborn me.
I really do love this man, and I appreciate the many, MANY ways he has made our family so wonderful. God is good in all the ways, friends. Always do your best to acknowledge them and give thanks for His goodness.
I love my husband, people. It sometimes feels outright insane to me how much I love him because it's just not something I've ever really witnessed or experienced growing up.
Growing up, I'd heard the saying "I love you more every day" and always thought that was such a silly phrase. Something impossible or only really obtained when you are like 80. In my mind (and experience), "love" was a fleeting feeling that couldn't be relied on. It was useful to set the stage for practicalities like marriage and family, but something reliable? Something to lean into and grow with and be changed by?
Nah. That's fairytale nonsense.
Until Chris. And I can't figure out if it's because my friendship with Chris set the stage for our relationship or if it's just that we're so well-paired. Regardless, I adore this man, and I can honestly say that I somehow manage to love him more each and every day.
I was talking to some friends of mine today. We're on a group chat- just the three of us. We check in on each other once a week. We used to work together, but over the last couple months, major changes set us each on different paths. One of us is still at the office, one of us is on maternity leave (that'd be me), and one of us left altogether and is now a stay at home mom to her new baby girl.
They were teasing me about still being pregnant with Luca and how this should be the last time I'd ever "have to be pregnant" again. Truth be told, I despise (DESPISE) being pregnant. I know some women are all hearts and flowers during this stage, but I abhor just about every part of it. God forgive me, because I know plenty of women who would kill to be in this position (I used to be one of them!), but truth is true. I hate pregnancy in all its stages.
That said, I love children. I always said if I could skip the pregnancy part, I'd have like 10 kids by now, especially knowing that Chris is on-board. He has always been upfront about his desire for a large family, and it's something that's always endeared him to me.
Chris and I have had this conversation several times, even throughout this pregnancy. He's still on board for trying again, but also recognizes the physical/psychological/emotional toll pregnancy takes on me. He swears that if I decided to stop at Luca, he'd be content with our family as is. However, if I were to entertain the notion of trying again, he'd be just as happy.
I said that trying to make a call like that while in the midst of a particularly rough pregnancy probably wasn't the best time to do so. I suggested we revisit after I've had a few months to recoup.
The truth, though, is that I already know what my answer is going to be. It's the same answer I've always had to situations like this: leave it up to God. Because I love this man, I know I'd be willing to do this all over again to bring forth another child. I'd endure the sleepless nights, the chronic pain, the inability to breathe, the exhaustive appointments, the non-stop peeing, and all the other irritating and physically demanding parts of creating and growing life. I'd do it all to give him (and my boys) the gift of another heart to love and be loved by. While my boys don't recognize the gift that subsequent siblings are, eventually, they will.
And this is what I mean when I say that love will legitimately make us do insane things. I'm almost 40. I always said I wanted to be done having kids by 40, and Luca's arriving under the wire. Being open to life and the Will of God means being open to things that I hadn't foreseen or hadn't thought I wanted for myself. And for Chris, I know that I will absolutely be willing to try again, but in leaving it to God, He'll have the final say. So when I get pressure from others about Luca being my last, I always just roll my eyes.
Their fears around parenthood/pregnancy/etc are their baggage, not mine, and I'm grateful to have a husband I love enough (and who loves me enough) to trust that God'll work out the details that are best for our family.
I still receive messages through this page from time to time. Traffic is nowhere near where it used to be, but apparently it's enough to warrant me checking my inbox more frequently than I had been. Sorry!!! :D
Anyway, I still receive questions about my marriage to my ex-husband, and I think that's because a good many of you found me by searching for advice about your own mixed-faith relationships. Some of the most frequent questions I get are "How did you make it work?" or "What were the warning signs?"
I always, always, always caution folks not to use me or my relationships as a barometer for their own. Doesn't seem to stop anyone, though. Ha ha.
Anywho, the most recent question I got was "Why did you marry him if you knew he wasn't Catholic?"
I believe I've written about this elsewhere, but when John and I were dating, I made it very clear what my stance was on children, marriage and the role of Faith within that marriage. Being a product of my own parents who were mixed-faith (Mom is Catholic and my dad is agnostic), I didn't see any issue marrying someone who wasn't Catholic. As long as he did not object to me practicing my faith and raising the children in that faith, I didn't really care. His faith journey is his own, and I was content with that. I never attempted to push him to attend Mass with me, I never asked him to pray a rosary with me, and I certainly never tried to convert him. I've always believed that faith journeys are super personal, so me attempting to force something someone isn't ready for is counterproductive.
Thus, so long as John left me to my own devices in the same way I left him to his, it made no difference to me.
However, that changed on a trip to Cape May. We were engaged at that point, and decided to vacation over a long weekend. I got ready to go to Mass and he began lamenting that I would "always choose God over him."
I was super confused because it felt like it came out of left field. I always went to Mass, so I wasn't sure why he thought being in Cape May would suddenly change that. He said, "But we're on vacation."
I remember laughing and saying, "So?" It was ludicrous to me that he actually thought being on vacation would stop me from wanting to go to Mass... as though I would just "take a break" from being Catholic. I STILL laugh at that because it genuinely showcases how little he actually understood anything. But I digress...
I said, "I'm Catholic. You know I'm Catholic. That doesn't just stop because I'm on vacation."
He then whined, "But what am I supposed to do while you're gone?"
I was dumbfounded, then, because I have never relied on other people to keep me entertained, especially if they had responsibilities to attend to.
I said, "I don't know, but I'm sure you'll figure it out."
I continued getting ready and headed out to Mass. By the time I got back, he was drunk, in the hot tub with a bottle of wine, and crying (actually crying) because I would "always choose God over him."
As someone who has never been tipsy let alone drunk in my life, I wasn't sure what to do with him, especially because he was getting loud and belligerent. We were in a bed and breakfast, and I was worried we'd be kicked out given his actions, so I called his friend, Chris (yup... current husband, Chris), because I knew he'd know what to do with John. Chris, who was living in North Carolina at the time, told me to get him dressed and fed w/ greasy carbs, so that's what I did.
Somewhat sobered up and back at the bed and breakfast, I told John that if he was seriously THIS upset that I would take an hour out of a long weekend to go to Mass, we needed to rethink marriage. He then said that he had been thinking about things and decided he didn't want kids and definitely didn't want to raise any that we did have as Catholics.
It hurt to hear, obviously, but I said, "Well, I'm really glad you're being honest with me. I'd rather find that out now than in 10 years." In that moment, it was clear to me that we were broken up. It wasn't fun, and of course I was heartbroken, but I also knew it was the right decision because you cannot compromise on something like that. We drove home the next day in silence.
I remember walking in the door and immediately going upstairs to pour myself out in my diary. My mom could tell I was upset and asked why. I said, "I called off the wedding."
Now my mom, who LOATHED the idea of us getting married, was probably giddy over the prospect, but God bless her, she held it together because she knew how upset I was. She calmly asked, "Why?"
I said, "He doesn't want kids and even if we did have kids, he doesn't want to raise them Catholic. So I called it off."
She was quiet for a moment and said, "That was probably very hard to do, but I'm very proud of you. It's better to call it off now than find this out later when you're stuck."
I just nodded and went back to my room to continue journaling. Doing the right thing is rarely easy, but it's easier than trying to clean up the fallout of doing the wrong thing later on. I've *ALWAYS* believed that, and this was no different.
So to answer this reader's question, when it became clear to me that our differences in faith were a problem, I immediately broke things off. It wasn't a problem until it became a problem, ya know? And prior to this conversation, John swore it wasn't a problem.
Why, then, did we end up married? Good question, and one I beat myself up over all the time.
A few weeks after the Cape May incident, John wrote me a letter apologizing for everything. He swore that it was the alcohol talking and that he'd been dealing with some depression on account of work/family. He promised that if I took him back, he'd be open to children and would, of course, allow me to raise them Catholic. I still have that letter tucked away somewhere, because I know, one day, my kids are going to ask me the same thing.
So because I was significantly more naive as a 20-something optimist, I believed him. Wedding was back on, and the rest is history. Unfortunately, as I came to find out later, he was just telling me what I wanted to hear in order to get what he wanted- me.
And as expected, cleaning up that mess has absolutely been harder than kicking him to the curb would have been. I console myself with the fact that I have two incredible boys as a result of buying into his lies, but I can't help but lament that they're growing up in a broken household. At least I was able to afford them a good, strong father in Chris, so they no longer lack a proper father, but there will always be natural hurt in them as a result of growing up bouncing between two households with two vastly different sets of morals and expectations.
Thus, long story short, I never would have married him had I believed our differences in Faith would be an issue. However, I was lied to- repeatedly- by someone I naively trusted. It was a hard lesson to learn, but such is the way of life.
So once again, folks, please don't use me as some sort of litmus test or ideal when it comes to interfaith relationships. You should never compare your relationship to anyone else's... it's just foolish.
I've seen this meme pop up all over the place before New Year's. So many people allowed themselves to get caught up in pandemic nonsense, fear, and media coverage that they legitimately missed several years of living; they simply existed.
I know of several people who did exactly this... at least a handful who STILL act like the world is ending.
It just makes me so sad, because the last few years have been some of the most amazing for my family and I. They could've been amazing years for these other folks, too, but they allowed fear to drive them whereas I'm content to pass that responsibility off to God.
Chris and I are both essential workers and never fell into the routine of hiding away in our home. We are both very goal oriented, and we set our sights on moving him home, getting married, and starting a family.
We did all of that and so much more. We're currently expecting our 4th son (due in just a few weeks), we both began new jobs that bumped us into a new tax bracket, we visited friends from all over the country, we took a road trip with the boys and introduced them to some amazing museums and fun along the east coast, and we never once allowed the nonsense of COVID to slow us down.
We spent time with family, we made time for friends, and we built relationships within our community while making plans for the future and working towards making those plans a reality. So many other people felt and STILL feel stuck, watching the world move on without them and feeling angry that they, too, haven't been able to walk forward.
It's a shame... it really is a shame. This is the cost of fear. People like this legitimately handed over YEARS of their lives and countless hours of anxiety/worry for the guise of "safety" and the mirage of "compassion."
Meanwhile, people like myself, my husband, and countless other "essential workers" soldiered on. We went into the office, we did our jobs, and we ensured others were taken care of. And since we were doing that in our professional lives, we saw no reason that our personal lives should be any different.
More than a few people were irritated with us for this mindset. They accused us of being selfish- of "killing grandma" or not caring about the immunocompromised. I would always roll my eyes at such accusations, because such sweeping allegations were wholly void of reality.
My nephew is immunocompromised. My mother, too. My very job depends on my natural predilection for generosity and compassion shown to others. I, much more than those who beat their chest for bravely hiding in their houses while minorities and vulnerable communities did the heavy lifting of keeping society afloat, actually grappled with the very real damage pandemic restrictions/stupidity placed onto others.
While they could schedule telehealth appointments from their smart phones, the population I worked with couldn't actually afford a phone to begin with. How could they see doctors?
While they kept in touch with friends and family through technology, the population I worked with had no access to any sort of computers/tablets due to even the libraries shutting down.
While they ordered take out and delivery, the population I worked with was stuck eating PB&J on the regular because they did not have the money nor the ability to break out of the food desert they lived in.
While they placed order after order on Amazon to pass the time, my population, again, had no money with which to place those orders nor the technology with which to do so.
And while my population WANTED, very badly, to work, they could not because every opportunity was shut to them.
This is the sort of thing that made me so angry during the height of the pandemic and why I went out of my way to attend rallies against mandates that continuously overstepped the bounds of both legislation and logic. I was blessed to have a steady paycheck because of my status as "essential." I was DOUBLY blessed to have a husband who was ALSO considered essential, so our income was never hurt. Being in that cushy spot would've made it VERY easy for me to just bow out and let those bearing the brunt of things handle that fight, but that's not how justice works. That fight NEEDED to be fought by every available voice because the government and those in power were WAY out of hand (still are if I'm being honest).
But I digress. I'm so glad that we never waited for permission to live our lives and to ensure our boys were able to live theirs. My favorite memory of us, as a family, bucking the idiotic mandates in place was each of us tearing down the caution tape surrounding an outdoor playground. We had gone on a family walk around the neighborhood and were hoping the powers that be had finally reopened the park. When we got there, the caution tape was still up and they had let fallen branches and weeds crawl all over everything. Chris and I just looked at each other and went "Forget this" and we gave the boys the go-ahead to start pulling everything down. Chris and Vince pulled the giant branches off the jungle gym while Nate cleared away the weeds and tape. I was super pregnant at that point, so I videotaped it for posterity. It was a good lesson for the kids that "an unjust law is no law at all." As Thomas Jefferson said, "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."
Anyway, after the boys had cleared the playground, families from the high-rise apartment complex across the street saw what we were doing and came down to play. It was AMAZING. Everyone kept asking why it hadn't been done sooner.
The reason is because no one was brave enough to step forward to be the first. Chris and I want to teach our boys to always be brave enough to step forward, and we lead by example.
That was from back in 2020. All those families who lived DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET allowed fear to hold them back from enjoying their own neighborhood park. How much longer would they have allowed fear to hold them back had we not stepped forward to say "Enough!"?
And this is just one of a million different instances. I know of two couples who pushed off weddings because of COVID. My own family tried to pressure me for the same (you'd think they'd know better by now... ha ha). But I wasn't going to give up all that goes with marriage (kids, building our lives together, etc) just because I was told I was supposed to be scared.
Incubus had it right in "Drive." We gotta continually ask ourselves how much we'll "let the fear take the wheel and steer."
The answer should be "as little as possible."
And this is why I appreciate my Faith so much. I truly believe that God provides and has a plan for everything. Thus, why on earth would I worry about anything but living the life He so richly blessed me with?
God is good, folks. In all things, God is good. Trust Him to steer you right.
In prior years, I've posted about my slightly insane collection of nativities. Some people collect books, some people collect coins, and still others collect Funko Pops (no judgements, Pat). Me? I collect nativities.
Now when I say "Nativity," I'm not just talking about the full stable, shepherds and wisemen. I also include those pieces that are Joseph and Mary cradling baby Jesus. Basically any statue, painting, toy or puzzle that celebrates the birth of Jesus is a nativity in my book.
An abbreviated (VERY abbreviated) selection of my nativities. Not pictured are my two ultra large creches that could easily take up two dining room tables (which is why they're not pictured... there's just no where to put them!):
Anywho, this year, I made it a point not to accumulate still another nativity that I won't have room to display. I have more than a few still in my basement because there's just no place to put them at Christmas. So I buckled down and fought every instinct within me to buy another one (or three) to appease the nativity gnomes in my heart.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened up the last present from my husband - the man who once jokingly asked me if "Nativities Anonymous" was a thing amongst Catholics. I was confused at first, because it was just a little pewter piece w/ a Christmas star at the top. It took me less than a second to realize what I was looking at and a giant smile broke out over my face. I hurriedly opened the second package and the matching pieces tumbled out! I was instantly in love!
Pure magic! I was so surprised and so appreciative that my husband had thoughtfully picked out such a sweet gift. I was doubly excited that God rewarded my self-control after all. Ha ha!
But seriously - I love me some nativities. But more than nativities, I love how incredibly wonderful my husband is. Whereas my ex used to get genuinely (and irrationally) angry at my love of nativity art, Chris not only understands my maternal appreciation of this intimate Christmas moment, but indulges me because he enjoys how much happiness it brings me.
God is good, folks. Always and in all things. Happy Birthday, Jesus!
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