by Melanie Bettinelli on October 25, 2012
To celebrate the launch of her new book,A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, Sarah Reinhard invites all of us to spend her blog book tour praying the rosary together. Today, she shares this reflection on the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth:
Time and three babies have softened me and continue to work on me. So does my relationship with Mary. I’m glad for this, and it’s made me realize that yes, people can—and do—change. Thank God!
Now, mind you, I don’t hear Mary talking to me any more than I hear God in anything other than a thought that comes out of nowhere. The voices in my head are, sadly, all me. But over the years that I’ve been Catholic, I have been drawn, over and over, to Mary. I’ve read about her and have prayed quite a few Rosaries.
As I feel myself growing closer to her, I find that Mary’s coronation makes more sense. Jesus loved his mom so much that he gave her a crown. In my house of princesses and sparkly accessories, this is almost intuitive. A crown is almost a permanent bouquet to some people, though I think Mary likes her flowers fresh as much as the next mom.
My children do many things to show their love for me, and bringing me treasures is one of the most popular. These treasures might be drawings, favorite toys, or freshly picked dandelions. As I smile at them and enjoy their delight in sharing with me, I have an image of Jesus presenting his mother with a glorious crown, and I can imagine her pleasure. I think she accepts our little offerings with equal delight: we each bring her what we can with where we are in life. Her job is to help us grow closer to her son, who can equip us to give her even greater honor.
As we pray this decade of the rosary, let’s hold all those brave women who have said yes to difficult and challenging motherhood in our intentions in a special way. Don’t forget, too, that we are praying for an increase in all respect life intentions as part of our rosary together this month. (If you’re not familiar with how to pray the rosary, you can find great resources at Rosary Army.)
Our Father . . .
10 - Hail Mary . . .
Glory Be . . .
O My Jesus . . .
You can find a complete listing of the tour stops over at Ave Maria Press.
I wrote a review of Sarah’s beautiful book last week. I wanted to share a couple of excerpts that didn’t make it into my review. These are the passages that when I read them confirmed for me that this was a book I had to read cover to cover.
This is from Chapter Five: Fetal Age 7 Weeks.
Those little hands, flexed inside your uterus, are more than a mere developmental milestone for you and your baby. They are a reminder of the adventure about to begin. These very hands will beg for your embrace and resist your attempts to keep them clean. Those same little fingers will find their way into every mess imaginable one day. Her palms will bear the markings of finger paints as she creates your most treasured work of art. At some point, she will pick up a pencil and write you a letter or a poem. She may even help you clean the house or do the dishes with these hands that are fully formed inside of you.
God willing, you will some day see these fingers laced together in prayer to Jesus. And before you know it, these same hands that are currently smaller than a nickel will be turning the keys in the gnition of a car and leading you to places beyond your reach. Ultimately, the development of your baby’s hands is the perfect reminder to turn your gaze heavenward as you reflect on what’s happening inside of you because these are the same hands that will hold the strings of your heart.
This reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation is from Chapter 8: Fetal Age 10 Weeks:
Right now nothing is between you and your baby. This is the only time you will have this intimacy with your little one, and someday, she may run far away from you. Imagine reaching after her as she runs away from you, pursuing her own interests and getting herself hurt and bruised in the process. Wouldn’t you do anything to take away the pain, the sorrow, and the hurt?
God pursues you in the same way. You are his beloved child, and ou exist for him as though you are the only person in the world. In a world where we’re told that “nothing is personal,” here’s something that so personal that it’s made just for you.
God made you, and he longs to hold you close. Accept his hand this week and take advantage of the gift of the sacraments he’s left for you. Don’t waste a minute; do it now, before you can talk yourself out of it.
Finally, I wanted to add that one of the things I most longed for in my first pregnancy was some sort of advice on how to prepare spiritually to face the ordeal of labor. I wanted to know how to pray during labor. Were there any special prayers that women said? I wanted my labor to be a spiritual as well as a physical exercise. (As it turned out, my ordeal of a c-section was different though no less difficult than labor and it was an occasion of great grace.) One of the things I love most about this book is the section about preparing for labor and the suggestions of spiritual strategies for birth. The book also does have a short section, written by Dorian Speed, about the birth that doesn’t go as expected. I am so glad to have a book to recommend to mothers who are scared about the upcoming birth of their child that addresses these concerns so beautifully.
One last thing. I have an extra copy of A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy that I would love to put in the hands of one of my blog readers. If you are interested in winning a copy of the book, leave a comment below by next Thursday, Nov 1, and I will draw a name on Friday Nov 2.
Book Review: A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 16, 2012
Next week I’ll be hosting a stop on Sarah’s blog tour for the book; but I have so much to say about this book and I couldn’t wait until next week to post my initial review of Sarah Reinhard’s A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism
Now in the sixth month of my sixth pregnancy, I’ve long since stopped looking at pregnancy books. I began leafing through my advance copy of my friend’s book as much from a sense of duty and less because I expected to find anything new and helpful. I should have known better. After a few dips here and there, I began to read the entire book cover to cover, not wanting to miss a thing.
Pregnancy is a uniquely challenging experience, not only physically, but also spiritually. Yet it is precisely this spiritual dimension that is so often neglected in books on the subject. Even the few Catholic books I’ve found, however, fail to fully address my spiritual hunger. Sarah Reinhard’s Catholic Companion to Pregnancy is the book I wanted and never found when I was throwing up daily with my first pregnancy, when I lost Francis, my second, to miscarriage, when my third pregnancy found me too tired to chase after my active toddler. It’s the book I kept hunting for with every positive test. The book I’d given up on ever finding.
The reflections on the mysteries of the rosary are themselves worth the cover price. Sarah, who I think of as Mary’s biggest fan girl, had the brilliant insight that if you pray two full rosaries (the traditional, joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries as well as the new luminous mysteries) the number of mysteries equals the 40 weeks of an average pregnancy. Beneath the “What to Expect” structure stands a second scaffolding of walking with Jesus through Mary. Additional treasures are the practical exhortations on living the Christian life, drawing on the vast wealth of traditional Catholic devotions. “Faith Focus” sections are sprinkled with quotes from the Catechism and Church documents, suggesting litanies, prayers, devotions to saints, and other pious customs. These are wonderful introductions to the depth and breadth of the Catholic tradition and help to guide the reader through the spiritual journey of pregnancy. They strike a nice balance: perfect for a convert or seeker who knows nothing about the Catholic Church, yet meaty enough for a woman deeply rooted in her faith. They extend an invitation to go deeper no matter where you are.
Also included are special focus sections on eating disorders, unexpected pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, and many more. The book concludes with sections on labor—with wonderful, concrete spiritual tips for that unique spiritual and physical challenge (Oh I wanted those as I was preparing for Bella’s birth!)—and on baptism, bringing the journey of pregnancy and childbirth to the fullest conclusion as the newborn child formally enters the Church community.
The short chapters could be read at a single sitting or you could also read a section a day and stretch a chapter over the course of the week. As I’ve found, even if you begin this book later in your pregnancy, there are not-to-be-missed gems in every chapter. If you’re like me, you won’t want to skip ahead to your current week but will happily linger on every page. This is now the book I will suggest for all expecting moms, whether on their first pregnancy or their tenth., whether deeply religious or tentatively searching.
Please check back next week for more, more, more about A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy, including excerpts from the book, exciting giveaways, and a special reflection by Sarah on the fifth glorious mystery, the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Also, be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour. The featured reflections are a perfect way to pray the rosary for the October, the Month of the Rosary and Respect Life Month.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 14, 2012
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.
from Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot
Reading Betty Duffy’s latest piece over at Patheos, “Things are . . . O.K.,” but I’m Ready to Care, Again, I definitely recognized myself. I all too often struggle with acedia, that not-caring feeling. I spend too much time clicking on the computer, too little time doing the boring tasks that must be done. And yet here’s my current struggle: I know from experience of four previous pregnancies that during the first trimester I feel wretched pretty much most of the time. I’m exhausted and queasy and find it hard to function normally. So I have learned that it is necessary to give myself permission to be less than the best. But there’s the danger: I give myself permission not to care too much and somehow I start to lose the ability to care at all.
It’s a terrible tightrope act, trying to achieve some semblance of balance. How do I tell the difference between acedia and real pregnancy-induced exhaustion? Am I spending the afternoon on the couch because I am genuinely tired or have I just given in, given up? I do need to recognize my limitations and accept them, accept this season of life when I move more slowly than I like and accomplish in a day only a fraction of what I would like to accomplish. I do need to accept the mess of an untidy house and gritty floors and eating off a table messy with yesterday’s crumbs and kids who eat only plain pasta for dinner because yet again I failed at planning a nutritious, balanced meal with something that everyone will like to eat. And yet I also need to strive each day to do my best, to discern motivations, to be honest about whether I am being lazy or really am tired. Except, that discernment seems like a lot of work right now. I’m not sure I care why I’m on the couch, I don’t want to get up and move. I just want to sit here and click the afternoon away, hoping the nausea and exhaustion will pass and dinner will miraculously appear. And maybe I also need to accept that that’s a part of this season too? That sometimes I’m going to err on the side of lazy? Maybe I need to stop reading blogs that tell me about the virtues of caring and of clean baseboards and of doing creative projects with my kids? Maybe I need to focus on my children, my house, my situation and keep my eye on my own work?
For everything there is a season? Is there a season for giving up, giving in, accepting less than what I think is the least I can do? Is there a season for letting go of the goal of spiritual improvement and just accepting spiritual sloth (or what closely resembles it) as a byproduct of producing a new life? For not worrying too much about how long it’s been since my last confession and how shabby and pitiful my prayer life is? Where does this voice keep coming from that tells me I need to care more? Is it guilt or God? At some point I stop caring, pick up a novel and skip Evening Prayer, skip Compline. I ease into the less uncomfortable world of literary escape and put off the business of caring to another day, knowing that God cherishes me even in the midst of my muddle, that either way the sticks fall I will have another chance and another and another.
And I turn finally, to my beloved Eliot, to poetry where I find echoes of my soul and it’s struggles, where I find the courage to stop struggling, to accept the quiet life of the dry bone:
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
[. . .]
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
[. . .]
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
[. . .]
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 12, 2012
Things have been sadly quiet round here. I know you all know why. I have been feeling the effects of the first trimester: the “morning” sickness that has me gagging all day at the least provocation (Seriously, the air conditioner blowing on me? Why is that a nausea trigger?) But mainly the crushing exhaustion, which has been exacerbated by my morning lark, Anthony, who regularly crawls out of his bed between 4 and 5:30 and crawls into mine where he usually is not content to go back to sleep but instead bothers and badgers me out of my sleep. Even on the rare days when he does sleep in, he’s got my nervous system trained so that I wake up at 4 or 5 anyway and lie in bed unable to get back to sleep, waiting for the shoe to drop.
Dom has heroically been getting up with the little beggar; but usually only after I’m well and thoroughly awake and then I struggle to get back to sleep and to stay asleep with all the morning noises of the children around me. Couple this with Ben, my night owl, who regularly is still up at 9pm and with my own introvert soul, which grabs onto the quiet time after the kids are in bed and demands “just a little more time” to read and write and think before giving into the exhaustion and going to bed. All of these things mean that I have been regularly getting about 6 or 7 hours of sleep at night and very often only a 10 minute nap sitting up in the rocking chair. I am seriously sleep deprived.
And with that has come anxiety and a bad temper. A snappish tongue that lashes out at the children for being children, especially poor Anthony, who is into everything. He doesn’t try to make mischief; but he’s fifteen months old and insatiably curious and testing boundaries like mad.
My house is a messy messy mess and it’s driving me crazy. I don’t mean this to be a complaining post but I do value keeping it real and the fact is that my reality right now is rather messy. While I know for some early pregnancy is a time of joyful hope, for me it has always been a way of the cross as I lay down my own will and follow Christ in carrying a burden that some days feels like too much.
Still, even on the way of the cross there are moments of grace, there are encounters with Simon and with the various women who ease the burden. Dom has been my pillar of strength. It is hard to surrender and admit I can’t do it all, to let (or beg) him to step in and cover some of those tasks. Then there was the day when Anthony took a long nap in the morning before we went out and then fell asleep again on the way home and then woke just as I got Ben down for his nap. I was exhausted and cranky and simply could not see the way to survive until dinner. I was desperate for sleep and yet Anthony had already had his two naps for the day. I threw up my hands and begged God for the grace to get through it somehow. And wouldn’t you know it but Anthony went down for an unheard of third nap! I crept away to the office and fell asleep myself and the girls entertained themselves. And when Ben and Anthony did wake up they entertained them as well. It was nothing short of miraculous.
On one hand this pregnancy has brought about a great deal of surrender as I laid down burdens I wasn’t able to admit I couldn’t carry. On the other hand I still have a very long way to go in daily accepting that my weakness and inability to do all I think I should do are somehow God’s will for me. I have been reading He Leadeth Me by Walter Ciszek, SJ and that has been the perfect book for me right now. Yes, maybe it is a bit melodramatic to compare my experience with the first trimester to the experience of a priest in the work camps of Siberia; but I think the lessons about finding God’s will in the present moment are extremely apt.
I have so much I want to write about. So many stories and photos I long to share. But I’m too tired. They’ll have to wait.
by Melanie Bettinelli on May 11, 2012
Dom often tweaks me about my lack of a sense of humor. Often when he tells a joke I seem to miss the point entirely and respond not to the joke but the factual error that the joke relies on in order to be funny. Oh, I get that it’s a joke; but I get too stuck on the literal and respond to that rather than to the funny twist. Too stuck on the literal meaning. It’s kind of a funny failing for one who chose Literature as her avocation. It’s certainly not that I don’t get metaphor and imagery. I’m actually quite good at it. I think in metaphor and symbol. But for some reason there are some areas where I have a hard time getting past the literal. Or maybe it’s just that I think that all good poetry must begin with the literal before it can jump to the figurative. So I stop there to ponder the literal, to really think about what it means. And only when I’ve come to grips with the literal can I allow myself to delve deeper into the realm of symbol.
And maybe that weird hangup about the literal is at the root why I have always had such a hard time understanding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mind you, I haven’t spent any time at all really reading up on the devotion. It’s always seemed a little strange, alien. Something that other people do. All I do know is what you absorb by osmosis just by growing up Catholic. I know the image. I have heard some of the prayers. Something about it just misses me. I’ve often wonder if it isn’t because most of the popular devotionals I’ve seen are very much on the sentimental side and I’m just not a very sentimental gal. But I’ve been drawn to St. Claude de la Colombiere and through him drawn to wonder what I’ve been missing. I feel like I’m supposed to keep probing at this devotion until I do get it. And so I keep thinking about it and the more I ponder I wonder if it isn’t my literalism tripping me up.
I have this weird hangup about the heart as a symbol. I don’t know at what point it started to bug me because when I was younger I was like most girls and loved to draw hearts on everything. But at some point in my life I began to wonder why the heart is the symbol of love. Maybe it was when I read that other cultures have seen the liver as the seat of passion. The heart shape isn’t literally the shape of a human heart, only a vague approximation. Likewise, we don’t literally feel love with our hearts. All emotions must really be centered in the brain, if you are going to connect them to any organ. And so at some point the heart as metaphor for love began to seem odd and arbitrary to me. I somehow dissociated myself from it. And if the heart is an arbitrary symbol for love, then isn’t it arbitrary to have a devotion to Jesus’ heart?
To me the only way I can begin to approach the Sacred Heart of Jesus is through another symbol: the Sacred Blood. I have no problem grasping a devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus. That one isn’t too weird for me at all. I receive it every time I receive Communion. If Jesus’ Blood is so sacred, so precious, then surely the heart that pumped that blood though his body is also sacred. And that Body… I receive that Body too. Somehow hidden in the form of bread I receive the fullness of that Body. And somehow, mystically, by virtue of my baptism, I am a member of that Body. A member of the Body of Christ. And that Body is not just a metaphor. It is a real body. It began as a small cell dividing and dividing and dividing in the womb of Mary. It had a heart that pumped blood. On the day he died that heart stopped bleeding. That heart was pierced by the soldier’s spear. And when he rose from the dead… did that heart begin to beat again? And now that that body is in heaven does that heart still beat?
He is the Vine and I am a very small branch on that vine. If I am to have life I must be connected to the Vine. If I am to have life, I must receive his Blood. If I am to have life that Sacred Heart must pump that Blood to me. Perhaps instead of a branch, I am a very small capillary? If I am a vessel, connected to that Vine, receiving that Blood, then I must be beating in time with the beating of that Heart.
Every time my heart pumps my entire body throbs. That rhythm of my beating heart is the first sound my little baby will know. Can I think of myself as being a small child, nourished by the Blood pumped from that Heart? Nestled secure in the dark listening to the beating of that heart… Oh to be that secure, to have that rhythm be the one that governs my every moment!
Now I think I may begin to understand a love for the Heart of Jesus which is the organ that will deliver to my hungry self the blood I so desperately need. But I still don’t find myself moved by the pictures. The images of the stylized heart. Oh no, I want to imagine the dark, hidden pulsing of it, the constant pumping life of it. Those images don’t convey that to me.
What about you? Do you have a devotion to the Sacred Heart? How did you come to it? What images speak to you the most? What prayers do you pray? How does this devotion help you to draw closer to Christ? I’m struggling to understand, to learn.
Maybe I just need to pray this over and over again until I get it.
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Christ, hear us
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us*
God, the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, One God,
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father,
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother,
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God,
Heart of Jesus, of Infinite Majesty,
Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God,
Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High,
Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven,
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity,
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love,
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love,
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues,
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise,
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts,
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge,
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity,
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased,
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received,
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills,
Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful,
Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke Thee,
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness,
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins,
Heart of Jesus, loaded down with opprobrium,
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses,
Heart of Jesus, obedient to death,
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance,
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation,
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection,
Heart of Jesus, our peace and our reconciliation,
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in Thee,
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee,
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the Saints,
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; spare us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord
Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy on us
V. Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
R. Make our hearts like to yours
Let us pray;
Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers You in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Your mercy, in Your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, You Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.
by Melanie Bettinelli on February 05, 2012
Karen Edmisten’s new book is shipping early! I got my copy
yesterday on Tuesday (but then on Wednesday Anthony spiked a fever and I’ve been holding him almost non-stop while battling his ear infection ever since and so I was unable to finish this post.) I am honored that Karen chose to include a short poem I wrote. Although I didn’t write it directly about my own miscarriage, that experience obviously informs the piece. I wrote it when I was asked to pray for a mother who had recently lost a child to SIDS. But at the time I felt funny about publishing it. It seemed too raw as a response to a stranger’s grief. Then I remembered it almost a year later when a dear friend had a miscarriage. I went back and re-read it and found that it was good. And true. So I published it. I have been told by many women that my little poem has brought them comfort. Now, nestled inside Karen’s gem of a book, I have hopes that it will reach many more than it could tucked away here in my blog’s archives.
But oh I was going to write about Karen’s book. Did I mention what a treasure it is? I thought I was done grieving our baby Francis but as I’ve perused these pages I have found my tears flowing again. In just three weeks the anniversary is coming—five years since that terrible day. And yet that date, February 25, lies just between two wonderful anniversaries that have since joined our family’s calendar of celebrations: February 20, Anthony’s birthday, and March 4, Sophie’s birthday. I think God knew what he was doing when Sophie was due almost a year to the day from the day I lost Baby Francis. This is the way the world is, death and life so intertwined you can’t pull them apart. Had Francis not died, I’d not have my Sophie. It is a grief and a joy both. And now Anthony. It is a miracle when you consider that after the miscarriage I was told I had cancer and was going to have a hysterectomy. I went through such a dark week, thinking Bella would be the only baby I’d get to hold. And then there was Sophie… and Ben… and Anthony.
Life after miscarriage. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong in that sisterhood of grieving mothers because mine has been such an easy cross when I know so many mothers who struggle so under such a heavy weight. But I do know that whenever I hear of a mother—or father, let’s not forget the fathers—who has lost a baby, I know my heart now reaches out in a way I don’t think it could have before.
And then there were these words, that Colleen penned recently after losing yet another of her babies:
But I hold in my heart the greatest of all consolations, the hope of heaven. For I realize, that even when my body is well past the age of bearing babies, even if I should live until I am 100, always, I will be an expectant mother, until the day I hold my babies for eternity.
I love that. I will always be an expectant mother. There is still that eagerly awaited little one, the one my arms ache to hold and that hope of a longed for meeting in heaven.
I hope that After Miscarriage finds its way into many hands, many homes, many hearts. The stories, poems, prayers and memories Karen shares are a beautiful balm for grieving parents because they are full of the healing love of Christ.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 13, 2007
I woke up at five this morning from a very restless sleep and an anxiety dream about waking up more than an hour after the time we were supposed to be at the hospital. Tossed and turned until the alarm went off at 5:30.
Dom went and woke up Bella—we really hated waking up a sleeping baby!!! Wouldn’t it figure this was one of the rare mornings she didn’t wake up howling at five-five-thirty?!? I nursed her for a half hour or so while Dom took his shower and dressed.
Then we left Bella with my mom while we went to the hospital. She cried for a bit, of course, but was then fine until right before Dom came home. (I told him there was no sense in him sitting in the hospital waiting room while I was in the OR. We live not five minutes from the hospital.) Bad enough for Bella to have a morning without mommy. No daddy, I figured, would be really hard for a little girl.
As for my part, it went very smoothly. Thanks in large, I’m sure, to all those prayers everyone’s been saying. They didn’t use a general anesthesia, just a sedative and a local. I thus expected to be awake and aware during the procedure as I was during my c-section, a thought which actually distressed me a bit, even though I knew the sedative should keep me calm.
But I recall going into the OR and chatting with the nurses and anesthesiologist as they put warm blankets around me and set up the “Cadillac” stirrups, as one of the nurses called them. Then, the next thing I knew I was waking up from a very peaceful dreamy sleep and they were telling me the procedure was done and they were moving me to the recovery room. Once there, I was tucked in under warm blankets again, had a very welcome glass of ice water, and then fell back to sleep. Then I woke up and had some juice and hot buttered toast and drifted back to sleep. When I woke again, I had more water and then began praying the psalms and canticles I know by heart. Then, I said a rosary, the sorrowful mysteries, on my fingers. I was very calm, relaxed and prayerful.
Finally, I woke up all the way and read my book (Eifelheim) for a while. I was so glad the nurse had agreed to carry it into the OR for me so I could have it with me when I woke. I hate staring at the wall with nothing to read. Eventually I was ready to go home. Dom came up and chatted with me, then went back to the waiting room to be with Bella and my mom as I got dressed and was discharged.
When I got to the waiting room, I saw Bella in my mom’s lap with her back to me. I called her name and she looked about, joyfully, and finally spotted me. I sat down and they put her in my lap and she just clung to me, a very sleepy, very happy baby. (She wasn’t able to go down for her morning nap without me to nurse her to sleep. As I knew she wouldn’t.) Bella fell sound asleep just as soon as the car had pulled out of the parking lot. Poor tired little girl.
We stopped by McDonald’s to get some food. Dom hadn’t eaten yet today both because he was too busy and too anxious to think about eating and, he said, because he knew I’d not been able to eat and he felt so helpless with nothing to do. It was the least he could do to feel some solidarity with me. So sweet. We wanted to eke out Bella’s nap as long as possible so we drove to my favorite little park in neighboring Marblehead and sat in the car looking out over the Atlantic as we ate our burgers and fries. Bella finally woke as we pulled up to the house, about a half hour after we left the hospital.
She had lunch, played for a while and then had her regular afternoon nap. (I slept too.) So she seems back on schedule.
My doctor called Dom when I got out of OR, while I was still in recovery. He said everything went well and looked fine. Of course, we won’t get the pathology report until next week, probably Wednesday or Thursday; but it’s good preliminary news, at least.
I’m taking it easy this afternoon; but I feel fine. Minimal cramping. Much less than I expected. More like the biopsy than the miscarriage and easier than most of my menstrual cramps.
Thanks again to everyone who has been praying for me. I’ve really felt all those prayers sustaining me and am sure that today went so smoothly because of your prayers and support. (I’ve been praying for all of you as well.) Just a little longer and this will hopefully all be behind us and we can get on with our lives.
Though in some ways, I’ll never be the same. This experience has changed the way I look at so many things, especially intercessory prayer. I will never look at a prayer request in my inbox or on a blog in the same way again. I have been so blessed, I know I am called to pray that others will receive some of the same blessings and consolations that have been given to me.
by Melanie Bettinelli on March 28, 2007
This post at Testosterhome made me remember something I meant to write last week.
As Lent began I was so tired and I felt so lazy. I knew that a lot of it was the first trimester sleepies. I’m not being lazy, I told myself. It’s the baby. (And the fact that Isabella was still not sleeping through the night.)
And then the miscarriage. And about a week later suddenly I found myself bounding down the basement steps to throw in a quick load of laundry before breakfast. Well, not literally bounding, that would be foolish and land me with a broken neck; but I was bounding on the inside. And I realized I had my energy back. Suddenly those steps didn’t seem like an insurmountable obstacle, to work my way up to, maybe after a full breakfast and then a little rest.
I knew pregnancy was taking a lot out of me, but I didn’t realize how much. After all, after Bella was born there wasn’t this sudden surge of energy. I was recovering from surgery at first and then dealing with being a first time mom with a baby who never slept more than half an hour at a time.
Of course, now I don’t have any excuses. If I don’t get up off the couch to do the laundry, it really is laziness.
by Melanie Bettinelli on March 07, 2007
I keep waiting for the curtain to fall, for the storm to break, for the crush of grief, the uncontrollable sobs, the weight, the anguish, the pain. And yet I spend much more time laughing with Isabella than crying. My eyes are dry, my heart is light. I’d probably be sleeping well at night if it weren’t for Bella’s crying and Dom’s snoring.
I don’t think it’s numbness. I’m a pretty reflective person. Very self-aware, sometimes agonizingly so. I don’t think I’m in denial, repressing emotions, avoiding the truth. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the bogeyman of devastation is waiting in the shadows to ambush me when I least expect it.
And I kind of feel like a traitor. So many people have reached out, extended their condolences, shared their stories and their grief. And I’ve stumbled across more stories, like Jill’s story of losing her father to cancer right after her seventh miscarriage. I feel like I don’t belong in that company of sorrowing women, me sailing along under sunny skies with me heart full of laughter. I don’t know how to respond to the kind words and grim half smiles of sympathy, the squeezed shoulder and the condolences of friends.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m trivializing other women’s suffering or failing to empathize with those losses. I understand that their experiences are not mine, that their pain is deeper, their path much harder than mine. I’ve cried as I’ve read their stories. I understand their pain as much as anyone who hasn’t felt it can, which is admittedly not much. I just don’t understand why I’m not feeling the same things.
For other women miscarriage has been a cross, a burden. I have had my own crosses and I am certain I will not escape my share of suffering. But this is evidently not my season to grieve. This loss is not a heavy cross for me to bear. I don’t know why. I don’t understand. It’s a mystery how God has eased my pain and lightened my load.
I know not everyone grieves the same way. And I know each loss is unique. One person may respond quite differently to two different losses. I know that if I had lost Bella, if that first pregnancy had ended in miscarriage, my reaction would be very different.
So in my bewilderment and confusion, I turn to prayer. I pray for all parents who have lost children, that they may be consoled and their load lightened. I pray for God’s mercy and compassion for all those suffering pain and loss. And I pray that I might accept this season for what it is.
That’s what I wrote two nights ago in a blog entry I never finished, never posted.
Now the other shoe has dropped, the storm has hit, like a tornado out of a blue sky. And I’m reeling. And suddenly I understand why God’s grace has protected me (us really, because though I write in the first person, Dom is my companion in everything) from feeling that pain. He had other plans. Another, different, cross for me to bear.
My doctor called yesterday afternoon and asked me to come in for a biopsy. He originally wanted me to go in last night after dinner, but then had to cancel because he had two patients in active labor at the hospital.
So I went in this morning. And before he performed the procedure he explained why he wanted to do it. The tissue from the miscarriage they routinely send to the pathologist. Mine came back with bad results: I have uterine cancer. Early stages, it seems and in the mildest form.
But because my age and my recent pregnancies make such a diagnosis unlikely, he wanted to do a biopsy to confirm those findings. The results will be back on Monday. Until then we wait and pray.
If the results confirm that I do have cancer, the usual treatment is a hysterectomy.
Please pray for us.
Dom reminds me that “openness to life” means accepting God’s will. Whether that be for many children or few or none. And I know that. But saying it and living it are, of course, two different things. When your heart yearns for children, you don’t want to hear a no.
Dear God, please, please, please let this cup pass away from me. But at the same time: “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word.” Give me the strength to carry whatever cross I must carry. And let me continue to thank you for all the blessings I have been given and praise your name.
“Oh that I had wings like a dove
to fly away and be at rest.
So I would escape far away
and take refuge in the desert.
I would hasten to find a shelter from the raging wind,
from the destructive storm, O Lord…
Entrust your cares to the Lord
and he will support you.
He will never allow
the just man to stumble….
O Lord, I will trust in you.”
I was torn about whether to write anything more than my generic request for prayers. At least until Monday when we hear for certain. But then I sat down to write, saw the unposted blog entry and felt a need to finish it. I think writing helps me deal with the tempest raging inside. And I also am hoping that my posts are doing some good. That they are more than just venting my spleen.
by Melanie Bettinelli on February 26, 2007
I had a miscarriage yesterday.
If you don’t want to read about it, then don’t. But I need to write about it.
Spotting began Saturday night. I noticed it right before we left to go out to dinner for my sister-in-law’s birthday. I didn’t mention it to the family at dinner because it might be nothing and because I didn’t want to disturb the happy occasion.
Spotting and cramping after dinner and I called my OB’s office. She said as long as the spotting was light, I could probably hold off and go into the office on Monday for an ultrasound. But if it got worse, to go to the ER. Cramps got worse overnight and by morning we decided to go to the ER after mass. But as we were getting ready to leave I changed my mind and so instead of going to church, we went straight to the hospital.
And a good thing too because after they had checked me in, while I was still in the waiting room, waiting for them to find a place for me, I guess, I started bleeding very heavily. Scared, I sent Dom to try to get them to hurry up. They weren’t fast enough, though. A very heavy gush of blood scared me. I panicked and started screaming. Mostly because I was scared, though also a bit because I knew it would get me the attention I needed. It sure did. The admitting nurse was on the radio telling some guy that she didn’t care, she needed to bring me back NOW. I feel bad for the people in the waiting room. It was pretty scary. I left a pool of blood behind in the chair and on the floor.
But once I was actually in the ER the nurses were great. They told Dom and Bella to come on back with me. He did, leaving our coats in the waiting room as he pushed the stroller. They started to put me in a curtained area in a larger room with three other beds, but then a nurse found an empty room where I could have more privacy. It wasn’t an exam room at all, but they made do.
Time passes funny in a hospital. You wait, wait, wait, wait wait. Sometimes it drags and sometimes it flies. The longest wait was for the ultrasound. There was a backup there. Usual, I was told. But they had waited until my bladder was full to even begin the process. So I had to wait with a full bladder. And wait and wait.
The hardest thing was not being able to take care of my poor distressed Bella. I did nurse her briefly during one of the long waits in the morning. Then fortunately Dom’s mother and sister came and helped out with her. They took her home to get her lunch and changer her diaper, the snacks and diapers in the diaper bag having run out. Then Dom came back to the hospital in time to take me home, around 3:00. I was so glad I didn’t have to stay overnight. As it was, when we got home, poor Bella had cried herself to sleep in her auntie’s arms. She was so glad to wake up to find herself in my lap instead. It was so hard to know my little girl needed me and I couldn’t be there for her.
Now I’m home. Taking it easy today. Tomorrow a follow-up doctor visit in the office. So glad Dom is here, taking care of us.
Like I said, all the staff at the hospital were wonderful. But there was one nurse, a motherly woman named Mary. I guess she’s actually grandmotherly. My mom’s age. She took care of me the whole time and was very comforting, friendly and reassuring. Very solicitous of my feelings, telling me it was ok to cry, to grieve. I hope she’s there for all women in such situations. Our society just doesn’t know how to deal with death, especially the deaths of babies. So it is very good that she was there and knew what to say and how to say it.
Anyway, I don’t want to write about the emotions now. I can’t. Maybe later. Or maybe not.
I’ll just say this: God has a funny way of preparing us. Thanks especially to Karen E., whose been writing about her own miscarriages recently on her blog. And then there was last Monday, at the Carmelite bookstore in the mall. Dom and I browsing through the children’s books and he picked up one for children about a child dealing with the baby being in heaven instead of having a younger brother or sister to play with. I shed a tear or two as we leafed through the pages. Little did I know, I’d be crying more just a week later.
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