Elizabeth Petrucelli

Author, Blogger, Educator

Bringing Baby Earthside & The Ridiculous Language Society Creates

I’m going to take a short break from the series of posts on the Latin Mass and turn towards my my popular post on this blog. I never in a million years would have suspected that blog post would bring so much traffic to my blog but it tells me so much about our world we live in. What Does it Mean to Bring a Baby “Earthside” and Why it’s Offensive is the most popular blog post having hundreds of thousands of visits since it was written in 2016.

I bet I would know so much more about why people are visiting that post if I turned on the comments but I turned commenting off after several months on that particular post because people just wanted to argue with me about why “earthside” is a fine term. It’s a “Mother Earth” term. I have news…there is no “thing” called Mother Earth. God created everything. Mother Earth is an idol. Ask any Pagan.

This is one of the most frustrating things about the English language besides how difficult it is to learn. I should know, I’m homeschooling my 2nd grader right now and all the “rules” he needs to learn but then don’t apply in “this” situation or “that” situation. This must be why Latin is easier to learn but also, it’s a dead language so there’s no adjusting it or changing the meaning of any of the words.

The English language not only manipulates the meaning of words but they add them…Google is a verb, not just a noun and that word didn’t exist when I was a child. It’s first known usage was in the year 2000. I actually thought it was more recent than 2000, considering I didn’t have a cell phone as I entered the new millennium.

I’ll be frank with you…LOL…that’s not a P.C. term to use so instead I will say I am going to be blunt and honest with you. I haven’t re-read my original post in order to write this one. The post is what it is and it’s still how I feel. Saying “bringing baby earthside” when announcing you’re in labor is offensive.

My two babies who died in my womb were earthside. My son is buried IN the ground so his physical body IS still earthside but his soul is not and I will meet him in eternity. Unfortunately, Ruby was destroyed with medical waste. She was likely burned up and tossed out but the physical form of her body likely touches this earth somewhere. “For dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” – Genesis 3:19 Douay-Rheims Version

As I write this, my spell check has red squiggly lines under earthside. Even the computer tells me this term doesn’t exist. Ah, but the “mother earthers” will continue to use it to describe some out of this world, celestial experience of bringing a baby from one’s earthly womb onto her earthly bosom. I suppose though, that her lack of faith in a supreme creator would manifest into paganism for we truly cannot reject that we have a creator be it God or some other pagan god. By the way, if we believe in pagan gods, you would also believe you are a slave to them since that would be the purpose of that god creating you.

Seriously though, you weren’t created by a pagan god. You, as well as my babies were created by God, in His image and likeness. All of us are created with a body and a soul. It’s not okay to deny this, although many do. Many also deny that Mother Earth is a pagan god. This is purely ignorant. It’s a lack of formation regarding your own personal dignity. I challenge you to become informed about where you come from.

I had to Google many things in order to write this post. Who is mother earth? I learned her name is Gaia. Who is the Supreme Creator? I learned that God is the Supreme Being. Who created humans? The first Google response told me that God created humans. Who created the Catholic Church? Google tells me that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church.

WOW! Google can tell me alot of things. I wonder how many people actually believe what Google says…oh wait…most everybody. So why do people have such little belief in their Creator, even when Google tells them so? I can’t answer that. Maybe one of you can?

I’m sure many of you Googled the term earthside and came upon my blog and oddly enough, Google says earthside means, “when on planet Earth.” So again, where are these babies if they are NOT earthside when they are in the womb? Is this about where their soul is? I took to Google and asked, “Where is the soul?”

Oddly, the first Google hit was from the National Institutes of Health which stated, “The soul or atman, credited with the ability to enliven the body, was located by ancient anatomists and philosophers in the lungs or heart, in the pineal gland (Descartes), and generally in the brain.” WOW! Fascinating. So if the soul is part of the human body, this would mean that even in the womb, the soul would be on earth. SHOCKING!

So why are people using the term, “I’m bringing my baby earthside” to describe going into labor and pushing the baby’s body out of their womb? Please, just call it what it is. Birth.

Birth = the start of life as a physically separate being.

Oxford dictionary

Blessed Mother

Finding a Church Home – Part Four

Prior to the pandemic, attending another church was easy. You just walked in but now many required sign-ups to go. Some super private as if you needed to be on an exclusive list. Even Easter Masses were not shared with the general public in order to push out the “C&E” Catholics (those that attend only on Christmas and Easter). How could the church do this? Why was the Archbishop allowing this? Church has always been for anyone and everyone. This was very divisive.

After feeling quite abandoned by our church, we decided to start attending the one that was close to our home. We had been driving 25 minutes to go to our parish for the last 15+ years but technically, it wasn’t our home parish. I checked the rules for the parish near our home and they had their sign up accessible online. It didn’t matter if you were registered there or if this was your first time. They were welcoming all!

Off we went. We walked in and they had holy water in their fonts and people could receive Holy Communion on the tongue. In fact, they had four kneelers present in the communion line to indicate who would receive on the tongue. The only ones who distributed Holy Communion were the priests and deacons. This felt reverent and seemed to have more of what we were looking for, except the progressive music.

We also had some friends that were on the “exclusive list” for the TLM and they were able to bring us. But before I asked for them to add us to the list, I needed to get past the prideful TLMers. I decided to reach out to a few friends who I knew had been attending TLM or had recently switched. One conversation did not go so well. The friendship almost ended. Part of that was on me and the feelings I had towards what she was sharing. That was something I needed to explore but I met with another friend who was loving and explained things really well. I felt confident I could at least go once and just see. Everyone explained I would have some “extraordinary” moment and I wouldn’t be able to go back to the Novus Ordo.

So I asked our friends to put us on the list and walk us through our first TLM as a family. I had been to a Latin Mass as a child but didn’t remember much of it so this was really a new experience for me as well. Our first TLM was on the first day of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year. How fitting!

I want to tell you so badly about the “extraordinary” moment I had at the first TLM but nothing happened. In my experience, I felt alone and isolated. I felt farther from God than I ever had when attending Mass. I was overwhelmed with not knowing anything or any of the norms and I was distracted by an unruly child in the pew in front of me. I felt sad.

I didn’t really want to go back if that was how I was going to feel. I had finally been participating in a way I had never done before, singing, reciting, kneeling more fervently, praying more reverently, etc. Friends would tell me that those who attend the NO were so unholy, “but you’re not.” They would point out abuses and tell me that I was “a good one.” This was offensive. And then I am attending “their Mass” and I find myself questioning why they like it. They don’t do anything. There is really no participation at all…at least not externally.

What I didn’t realize though, with all that was going through my head, was just how much my family was experiencing. My oldest finally felt at home. My youngest was in awe and shock that Jesus was in a “castle” and how deserving and fitting it was that the Lord was being worshipped. My daughter was enthralled and finally quiet in the pew, plus, she asked to wear her veil for the first time (because most of the women wore veils). This was the norm I wanted her to see and this is what I wanted my children to know but I was empty inside. My husband also was uplifted and he felt we were finally in the right place. Shocking considering he was a Protestant convert (although most great Catholics are converts).

I reached out to a friend who was also a priest and told him how I was feeling. His response…”Give it two months.” While he is an NO priest, he’s traditional, often encouraging us to find a TLM. In fact, he just brought TLM to his own parish!

Despite the advice, we decided to go back to the church by our home. We felt that it might be the in between we needed. So we signed up again. We got seated in the front row this time and felt a bit awkward since we were still new there but we made it work. The Mass was horrific. The Missal Book for the readings was missing. No one could find it. Mass was stopped. There were several little issues but this one was huge. Right before Communion my husband leaned in and said, “I have been praying and asking if this is the right church for us and for a sign that we needed to be here and this is a sign telling us otherwise.”

He was right. Now where do we go?

I succumbed to the TLM.

What Church Do I Belong To? – Part Three

Our Traditional Latin Mass journey began in Part One with the heavy grief we were carrying from our parish. We had to officially close the doors to our parish when I emailed the religious education teacher telling her we were removing our son from his sacramental preparation classes there. He was mid-year already and he would be starting over at the new parish but this felt right.

I really wanted to leave quietly. I didn’t want to leave at all actually but if I had to, I wanted it to be quietly. Once that email was sent, it triggered a chain of events and I had to come clean. Many emails and calls began once they heard we were leaving.

We weren’t attending that church anymore.

Saying it hurts my heart. I stuck with our church through some really tough changes. Friends begged me to leave because they felt I was missing something. I felt called to stay. I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament off and on for years asking if it was time to leave, all the while, the message was the same…STAY.

Until the message changed…

I received a call from the Religious Education Director, whom I adore and love. It hurt to tell her that our son would receive the Sacrament of Penance at another church. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the new community we have at our new parish but that doesn’t overshadow the very real grief I have in leaving the church that put me on a journey to really learning my faith.

I grew so much in the 16 years we were there. I went from being a mediocre Catholic that attended Mass when I felt like it to veiling and kneeling to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. I went from being scared of priests to inviting them into my home for breakfasts and dinners. I went from not participating in ministries to revamping one completely and helping to create a ministry that didn’t exist there. And then I met a very special person who planted the seed to start a women’s conference in Denver and the Catholic Women’s Conference of Denver was born.

I really grew at the parish even as things changed and I wanted to stand by it but as progressive music and guitars came in, I felt lost. Then Advent and Lent came and went with no Latin. It was the only time of the year I ever got to hear it and I missed that ancient piece in the liturgy and didn’t even realize how much I was truly missing. None of the liturgy was sung after COVID hit either which further contributed to feeling lost.

My very dear friend who helped me start the women’s conference had already left our parish for the Latin Rite. She spoke of it often and encouraged me to try it but I rejected the notion. I was a “lifer” at this church and I would die going here. I had heard of Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and knew of one other person that was going there.

But most of those who attended TLM seemed talked poorly of those who didn’t. It was confusing and I struggled. Talks on Catholic Radio even discussed how Novus Ordo (NO) was a bad word and you are “not Catholic” if you attended the NO. It was sad to hear I wasn’t considered Catholic if I didn’t attend the Latin Mass. I certainly didn’t want to experience the isolation and shunning this priest describes.

I couldn’t understand how anyone could look down on someone who attends NO and believe TLM is the only way to go. It seemed prideful and I knew that was a sin so I didn’t want to be a part of that. I didn’t want to be sucked into what I felt was a “cult.” Soon my social media feed was full of people speaking poorly of those who attend NO.

TLM was a turn off and even though many friends were trying to tell me all that I was missing, in reality they were pushing me away. I know their comments were well meaning but they didn’t lead me to leave the NO. I knew that something wasn’t right where I was going but I didn’t know what I needed or how to fix it. Talking with my priest fell on deaf ears. I was still questioning the validity of the Mass and this wasn’t about NO or TLM. It seemed much smaller than that.

As the president of the Catholic Women’s Conference of Denver, I had many choices to make in terms of the annual conference. Many friends help me and I don’t like to say I am the president because the women who help me with the conference are just as important (if not more), than measly old me. But this was also an area where I saw some issues. Even within our own group, we had push back about being traditional.

Our spiritual director had been trying to guide us into a more traditional form of Mass and feedback received from attendees was negative towards the traditional parts he brought the conference. But I was also feeling that certain things weren’t traditional. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and Altar Girls were areas I was struggling with for years.

My oldest son walked away from being an Altar Server because of the girls. He grew up seeing them serve. He didn’t know there was any other way. He didn’t know the tradition either but he himself felt like altar serving was a role reserved for boys only. My son explained that he felt the girls he served with were domineering. He didn’t like that so he stepped down. It was sad.

I didn’t have a daughter until three years ago. I was looking for preschools for her to attend when she turned two. Many of the schools were protestant churches. One in particular, we had to turn away from. There was a female “minister there.” I could not allow my daughter to witness this. I did not want her to think that this was something she could aspire to.

Regardless of your feelings about women pastors/ministers, respect mine please. I don’t think we (women) should be filling that role. You probably think they should. If women want to serve in a religious role, there is an opportunity for them. Unfortunately, we don’t see Sisters often enough but many opened our first schools and hospitals so you can thank a Sister (and the Catholic Church) for that.

Several hundred women attend our women’s conference annually. We always get feedback that the women want a Sister to speak or for them to be present. When we do have them at the conference, it’s truly amazing but this just shows how much women want to see Religious Sisters. We are moved when we do.

But I’ll return back to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion because I was struggling with having a lay person do this. It’s actually an abuse to have them do this and that is what I found to be true in my research. A priest and deacon should be the ones to distribute Holy Communion. We don’t need, nor should we have lay people to do this. What we need is patience. So what if Mass is 5-10 min longer? What’s your rush?

If I knelt down to receive the Blessed Sacrament, some would role their eyes. If I received on the tongue, some struggled to distribute it that way and of course, when COVID hit, many priests refused to distribute the Eucharist on anyone’s tongue. If you firmly believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ…are you actually worthy to be touching Him? I wouldn’t be. I’m sure we can question whether or not some of our priests or deacons are worthy but that’s not the discussion of today.

There would be no way I could convince my pastor to stop having Altar Girls and he definitely wouldn’t stop Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. He wanted drums and guitars in the church and said as much when I challenged him on this. It’s okay. I will be obedient. He’s the pastor.

So it wasn’t just these things that pushed me away. Something was burning in my heart. I wanted to know more. I wanted to find out what the Early Christians thought and did. I wanted to know the roots of the Mass. I needed to know and understand. Biblical School really helped with that because I could see the Mass between the pages of the Bible. Book after book, the Mass was there.

Then, I found The Apologies of Justin Martyr.

What’s Wrong With My Catholic Church? – Part Two

Novus Ordo, TLM, SSPX, FSSP, Sedevacantist – What do all these mean? These are Catholic terms and terms I had not heard until my 40’s despite being born and raised Catholic. Aren’t all Catholic’s the same? Isn’t it the Universal Church? Isn’t Catholicism the progression of Judaism? Catholicism is an ancient religion that has been around for more than 2000 years? But it’s been corrupted and reformed. Yes, it’s been reformed despite so many of you thinking it’s outdated.

The Augustinian Church in Wurzburg Germany

Look how this church in Germany has been “reformed.” It’s basically been destroyed. This is not what a Catholic church should look like. I wonder what the Mass is like here?

I heard the term SSPX in 2016. I served a Catholic family who sadly lost their baby. In talking with the family, SSPX was identified as part of their faith. Most specifically, when I discussed babies going to heaven and becoming saints that pray for them, I was informed they did not believe that and they believed their baby to be in limbo (it’s a 3 part series by the way). I am familiar with limbo and this certainly brought me to books and study but for me, limbo was no source of comfort for the babies I had lost.

But this term pushed me to study more about my faith and I learned about “sects” of Catholicism: SSPX and FSSP to be exact. There are more but I’m going to talk about these two. What I learned about SSPX immediately pushed me away. I could not get on board with priests and a bishop that would not follow Rome. I knew about the Baltimore Catechism. I knew there was something big that happened with Vatican II (do you even know what it was) but I was unaware of the complexities. I would be drawn farther into learning more.

FSSP was in line with Rome but I knew little about it. At the time, SSPX had a website that had their own documents on it, their own Bible, etc. It was like a cult. I vowed to stay away from them. Then I opened up the Baltimore Catechism and read about limbo. It did not bring peace. Then I watched videos on limbo and while it opened my eyes to a broader understanding, it did not bring relief about my dead, unbaptized children.

I did not pursue any information on FSSP but this is about the time I began praying to be able to attend Biblical School. I was soon expecting a baby and I figured I would not be able to go to Biblical School as a new mother of three and the expense was also an issue. I knew though, that if God wanted this for me, He would provide the way and of course, if I prayed specifically for it, I would be granted the ability to go.

A year after my baby was born, God granted me the ability to go to Biblical School and on day one, my eyes were opened. Here is what I shared with my Year One instructor as I drove home from the first day of Biblical School.

Thank you for your class today. It was fantastic. You probably get messages often about how CBS changes people so I am sure what I am about to say isn’t new but I want to share it anyway. I have been a Catholic since birth. I attended CCD my entire childhood. I completed the sacraments but left the Church after high school. I was called back when I met my husband in the Marines, a non-Catholic who believes he met me because God was calling him home to the Church. He converted in 2003. We have only grown in our faith over the last 20 years but more recently in the last 8 years. 

I manage the Catholic Women’s Conference of Denver and I am nearly ashamed to say it because I am strong in my faith and am not a good apologetic (although I am learning). I *should* know more and I have been told that I shouldn’t manage the organization (not by our group but outsiders) because I am not “Catholic enough.” Most recently, I heard that same phrase from a priest friend of mine and that was a catalyst to signing up for CBS a few weeks ago. 

I knew I would learn about the Bible and I was excited and anxious to actually study the Bible but I did NOT expect to have such an experience on my first day. My brain is full right now processing all you shared today and I just want to know more but as I drove out of the parking lot, a profound sadness came over me. I cried. 

I cried because I didn’t realize how much of a gift the Bible was. I cried because I have never actually read the Bible because I was always trying to read it like a novel. I cried because I felt like I failed God in something so simple, reading the Truth. I know he loves me and I swear I heard him in the car say, “It’s okay child, you know now.”

The Ah-Ha moment was talked about on prayer day but I don’t even consider this an Ah-Ha moment. This was different. This was God SHOWING me the home, not calling me there. I have been living in the house but not really understanding what is in the house. The house is full of His love but not in the sense that we humans feel it or believe it to be. 

Thank you for today. Thank you so much for this opportunity! I can’t wait to read and learn more!”

I could not believe that the Bible contained so much about Catholicism!! How is it that I did not know?! I felt sad and ashamed. I felt like so much had been taken from me. I should have known and I didn’t. I would learn so much over the next three years. It’s a four year program and year three is just about over but I know so much more now. In fact, my heart hurts for so many of you. The truth is out there and so many do not know how to interpret it. If you only knew your Jewish roots, you’d be Catholic, not Protestant.

What more would I find out on this journey of grief? What was wrong at my parish? I never thought or considered I would find something wrong…

Grief over the Catholic Church – Part One

For the past year, I have been deep in grief over the Catholic church. Many people think it’s due to the abuse scandals but it’s not. Of course, those scandals hurt and cause persecution against me but my grief is much deeper. I have also seen conspiracy after conspiracy regarding priests and bishops and this causes some grief as well but what really brought grief was when churches shut down as if the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were optional. Never in the history of the Church, has the Church shut down. Think about that, even during some of the most horrible viruses and diseases, Mass didn’t stop. Are our priests and bishops becoming too worldly that they are scared and do not understand their mission? Have they too decided that Mass is optional?

Heck, now I see priests and bishops holding the Sacraments hostage! You can’t go to Mass or Confession without receiving the COVID vaccine in some places! Even parishioners are being kicked out for not wearing masks! It’s parishioner against parishioner! Brother against Brother…sound biblical??

COVID-19 certainly pushed me over the edge. I never doubted the virus. I never believed it was a hoax and when I caught it, I was basically given a death sentence but I was already standing on the edge of “is this Mass valid?” The answer is yes, but why would I question the validity of the Mass? When the Catholic Church closed it’s doors because of the pandemic, I began to wonder. The Church had never closed doors, not ever in my lifetime. Not even through H1N1. I have read that even in times of pandemics and plagues, the doors were never closed. Overnight, literally, we were shut off from God’s Word and the Sacraments. Things that were ingrained into me that could never be taken away and that I must partake, plus, they were needed for Salvation (because I am a sinner). It’s sad to know I took the Sacraments for granted. I didn’t realize there was a possibility they could be taken away.

Good and holy priests were being threatened for offering Sacraments and all I wanted was our priest to stand up to the tyranny as well. Why weren’t all priests willing to die for their flock? It didn’t make sense to me at all and I think that’s where the feelings of abandonment came in. I had been feeling unheard and unsupported but when the doors to our parish closed so much went with it.

Before COVID-19 hit, our parish began going through a bunch of priests in a very short period of time. I questioned why our thriving parish was experiencing such turmoil and I wanted to see it through; however, priests filling in when the doors had reopened were saying odd things. I began to notice some major differences in the liturgy. One priest in particular, caused me great confusion. He would say, “Jesus, the Christ” right before the Great Amen in the Doxology. That same priest was idolizing a COVID vaccine, telling parishioners that life would never be normal without it and the way he presented it was that his faith was in humans creating a vaccine rather than our Creator!

I’m not extremely holy. I sin on a daily basis (we all do by the way, you just don’t recognize it). I’m not saying any of this because I want you to feel bad or want you to feel like you need to take the measures we did. I am being raw and open to you. Don’t put me on a pedestal as a Christian, I’m just like you. I sin.

I’m a third year student in Catholic Biblical School but the school doesn’t specifically teach anything about the new Mass or the “old.” Instead, your eyes are opened to what the Bible actually says and you see the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass jump out from the pages in both the Old Testament and the New. From there, I must have received graces from God to want to learn more about the Mass because I began to study it. Why was our visiting priest saying, “Jesus, the Christ,” when no other priest placed “the” in that prayer. For those who don’t think changing one word makes a difference, it does. One word change can nullify a Sacrament. “I” baptize thee is valid. “We” baptize thee is not. So was the Mass this priest was celebrating valid?

I would find myself on a journey to find out. I began researching and the research would take me on a journey that would lead me away from the parish I loved. It would lead me away from the only parish my children knew and received their sacraments in. It would lead me away from the parish school which helped my oldest son fall in love with his Catholic faith and strive to serve God. This would not be an easy journey and it’s not over yet.

I know this series won’t be about miscarriage or stillbirth but I encourage you to follow me on my journey. It’s one of hope!

IVF and Infertility – One Catholic’s Thoughts

Most people don’t know my procreative history. Many just assume we contracepted after having our first and then as our marriage progressed, pulled the pill or condom (figuratively speaking) and decided to have more children later in life. First, it’s really know one’s business but I do get the random looks and “judgment,” when I mention the spacing of my children. In fact, my husband even had someone assume his first child was from a separate marriage and the two youngest were from his current marriage. This made my physically sick to my stomach.

If you have followed my blog; you would know about my fertility history so if you are reading for the first time, welcome. I am pretty complex and my blog spans many years so you will see growth and changes in me especially in regards to my Catholic faith. What I am about to share is not judgment; although my statements will upset many. The truth is sometimes very hard to hear sometimes. These messages come from a place of love though. I want you to be in God’s grace. To be anywhere else is to not live.

I am a Catholic and I do not believe in IVF. I also suffered through 22 years of infertility (onset of menses through age 37). I procreate, I do not reproduce. Let me explain. Humans procreate, only animals reproduce.

I do not judge a person who uses IVF, that’s up to God but a person who uses IVF, regardless of why they are using it, is participating in an intrinsically evil act. I know at this point, many people are boiling over with anger against what I have written. I just said that IVF is intrinsically evil.

Creating new life is not usually associated with evil but it can be; if we do not surrender to God’s Will for us. IVF kills multiple embryos (babies) in order to get just a few “good” babies. IVF contributes to other evils such as “perfect babies” by utilizing techniques you are told will help increase your chances of having a non-disabled, good DNA, smart child. These techniques are also cooperation in evil under the guise of good. It’s part of the Great Reset (which is no longer a conspiracy theory because it’s out in the open now). So many who use IVF are tricked into utilizing these techniques. Why do we have such a lack of faith? Why do we think we can create a more perfect person than our Creator? It’s the fruit in the garden and the Devil has led you there.

IVF is one of many evils and God allows evil. This is one of the major confusions about faith in God. We are on Earth and we reject God because bad things happen but we must remember, this isn’t Heaven. Bad things happen here but if we are graced with Heaven, no bad things will happen.

Ultimately, the people who choose IVF will have to face God’s judgment over their lack of trust. Do you know what happened to people in the Old Testament for their lack of trust in God? Well, Moses got angry and hit a rock instead of speaking to it and God punished him by never allowing him into the promised land. All he did was hit a rock! Moses did some very amazing things yet despite all he endured for God, he lacked trust and was exiled from the promised land.

Look what happened to Abram and Sarai! God told Abram that he would have descendants. Many of them “descendants as the dust of earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted.” (Gen 13:16) And Abram complained that he was childless so God made a covenant with him. “Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” (Gen 15:5) Did you know it was daylight when Abram was told to “number the stars?”

And then what happens? We’re not sure how much time had passed (maybe decades) but still childless, Abram loses his trust and faith that God will provide and takes matters into his own hands when Sarai suggests Hagar is the solution to their childlessness. Hagar represents IVF here (my words, not anothers). Hagar represents the lack of trust and a child is conceived without ever asking God if this is the path they should take to have a child. God allowed it, despite the evils of adultery. Four years after this sin, God establishes a new covenant (circumcision).

I know it hurts to hear that a person who chooses IVF lacks trust in God. It hurts me when I am told I lack trust in God because I had genetic testing during my pregnancy. There are many things that hurt but ultimately, the hurt is coming from within me because it’s true. Because I DO need to have a deeper faith and trust in God.

I didn’t choose for my children to be 10 and 14 years apart. God chose that for me. I wanted my first baby at age 23 but that’s not what God wanted for me. I endured intense suffering personally, professionally, and within my marriage. I told my husband numerous times during our infertility journey to divorce me and go find a wife that could give him the children he deserves and desires. I almost lost my job because I was so extremely hormonal, filled with medicines to force my body to ovulate and obsessed (1 step closer to possession by the devil) to have a baby. I demanded it! I was “good” and God better give me the child I deserve!

I sought fertility treatments from family practice doctors, Obstetricians, Infertility Specialists, Reproductive Endocrinologists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists, Mayan Abdominal Massage practitioners, naturopaths, Chinese Herbalists, and other non-traditional/Eastern medicine practitioners.

Oddly enough, what you don’t see in that list and most people wouldn’t even notice, is I did not seek God. I did not seek an anointing of the sick. I didn’t even go to my priest for prayers or guidance. Sure, I prayed, “God please bless us with a baby,” but I didn’t say any specific prayers, seek intercession from the many saints who could have helped me endure the suffering, or even spend time in adoration/strict prayer for my healing.

Instead, I sought help from the secular world. So, I had little “faith” in God.

Sure, my faith wasn’t as strong as it is now. My knowledge of my faith was not even close to what it is now. I wasn’t practicing my faith either with as much zeal as I do now. I can say that I was “Catholic” only by name but not really Catholic. I wasn’t living (nor trying) to live my faith. I was a Catholic hypocrite.

It takes an immense amount of trust to live as God has asked us to but oh … the rewards that come from it.

Elizabeth Petrucelli

Suffering is NOT easy. We went through three and a half years of trying to have a baby before we conceived our first. Yes, we sinned. Some priests wrongly told us we did not sin but we did. We used IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) in order to conceive. We do not know if it was the IUI that actually brought us to conception or the “baby dancing” but we know that on our 5th try with the IUI, we conceived.

You see, with IUI, you still have sex. So we were still trying despite being “inseminated.” Where was the sin? We removed my husbands semen through illicit means, placed it in a tube, washed it, and then injected it through my cervix into the uterus to give the sperm a better chance of survival. Yes, a priest actually said it wasn’t a sin to masturbate into a cup and inseminate me. Sorry to be so blunt but this priest was wrong. It WAS a sin even though the “act” still occurred and conception occurred within my body versus outside the body like IVF.

Infertility hurts though. It’s suffering and no one likes to suffer. We do everything we can these days to prevent any sort of suffering. We have dumbed down our population because we are doing everything we can to stop the suffering. Even the minor suffering. It’s like no one has the skills anymore to hold off on eating for a few hours because they might “suffer” or rather, allow ourselves to be uncomfortable for a short time.

FYI: It’s okay to be uncomfortable and it’s okay to suffer, even if it’s hard. Yes, it’s sucks. We have all experienced some form of suffering. Through suffering, great good can come. It affords others the opportunity to help as well. Did I enjoy the three and a half years of the trials I went through in order to have my first? Absolutely not! Did I think, “this suffering will lead to others helping and provide me with graces later?” Absolutely not!

After we had our first, we spent six years trying for another. We went heavy into every alternative therapy there was. With our first, we only went to an OB, an infertility specialist, and then finally a reproductive endocrinologist. All the alternative stuff was done during the next six years in addition to the regular treatments.

It would have been easy to choose IVF. We could have started a “Go Fund Me” or participated in contests to “win” an IVF treatment but we didn’t. I seemed to have tried everything on my own, again, not turning to my faith or my priests. I prayed but not deeply. I didn’t turn to God. I suffered without the Saints. I tried longer than most do before putting it into human hands and forcing a baby.

I know, that’s a hurtful statement. But we aren’t guaranteed a child. We cannot demand God give us one.

After six years, we stopped treatments. I was tired and we accepted that God gave us one blessing. I moved on to something else in my life and just as I had truly accepted our only child and all the judgment that had come with him (how can you be pro-life/Catholic and only have one child?), I peed on a stick and it was positive. I was pregnant!

If you read my book All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage, you would know that story. You would know that I was pissed off that I was pregnant. I was angry. This child that I should have been so grateful for was a source of anger in my life. While it was short-lived, it was still there and I was certainly shameful for having those feelings.

Ruby died.

That was her name. She didn’t survive and her loss changed my life forever. I became an advocate for pregnancy loss. Losses in the first trimester meant nothing to society but the grief is real and is now much more accepted.

That was in 2010 and it was a catalyst to try to have another baby. It would take two more years to conceive. I gave myself a “drop-dead” date for stopping. December 31st, 2012. If we weren’t pregnant by then, we would stop all treatments and again, accept that we would only have one living child.

My last ditch effort was a laparoscopy. Again, still not turning to my faith; which is inherently fruitful, I asked my reproductive endocrinologist to take a look inside, to make sure that we hadn’t missed something. By now, my husbands sperm count was lower than it ever had been. Again, seeking information through illicit means. See, I am a sinner. But we didn’t have the knowledge to know there were licit ways to gather the same information. We knew it was wrong but we did it anyway (mortal sin) because we didn’t know there was another way.

I digress.

My insides were fine. The medication I was using would allow me to ovulate so after I recovered from the surgery, I could move forward. To our surprise, I ovulated on my own on our first child’s ninth birthday, just two weeks post surgery and we conceived.

Born nearly 10 years apart, we would have a second living child. If we wanted another before my 40th birthday, we would need to conceive pretty quickly. How silly to put a date on it, as if having a baby in my 40’s was awful. My grandparents did it. But the secular world had a hold on me. The doctors would say I was old, friends and family would say, “aren’t you worried you will have a child with Down Syndrome or some other ‘problem’,” and friends our age were sending their kids off to college not bringing new kids into their home.

It was a struggle to shake those thoughts and feelings and place my faith in God but we did. We turned to prayer and pastoral support. We began to volunteer in the Church, put our son in catholic school, never missed Mass (even on Holy Days), prayed more rosaries, and prepared couples for marriage. I was ready to dive into treatments but I began to ovulate regularly six months after our second living was born. That was odd and a blessing but I was also deep in postpartum depression. So we waited.

After months of therapy, all was good and I was ready to try again and we conceived easily. Augustus Jude died though and after his death, we were “done.” I say that as if I was in control. I wasn’t. Nor are you. God is.

I began to have regular cycles again and NFP had become a struggle. We had never had to avoid pregnancy in our entire married life. I know I blogged about this numerous times. So here we were, in our 40’s learning how to control our “urges, something that should have been mastered in our “mature” age.

I know I blogged about what came next, or rather who came next so I won’t bore you with the repeat story but another baby was on the way. God’s design, God’s plan. Not mine. In fact, I had just contemplated abortion should I become pregnant this late in life; another societal/secular influence on me based on me wanting to be in control, not God.

But God loved me anyway and he softened my heart. Would I have done it? I don’t know. I am ashamed to admit that I considered it. I am ashamed to admit that I wished her (Baby Girl) away. But that’s as far as it goes because this girl is the greatest blessing of my life. Sure, all my kids are blessings but she was my fiat. I HAD to submit to His will.

Let me tell you something, I am no saint. I am a sinner. I fail all the time at trusting God. Sharing this with you is NOT casting judgment. I will be judged for not placing my faith and trust in him. I will be judged for “demanding” a child.

I don’t have an answer to your suffering. You may never look back after you have demanded a child and regret it or wonder what would have happened if you had just waited. Waiting is hard. It is not easy to give in to the suffering and acceptance. People do it though. It’s possible.

We are all sinners. God knows that. But have you asked for forgiveness for your faithlessness, for your lack of trust in Him? I don’t know if you have sat in that confessional and said, “Lord, I beg your forgiveness for taking your power of creation into my hands and not trusting in your plans for me by using treatments that go against your design.” It’s hard to say that.

I remember going into the confessional and saying, “Lord, forgive me for not being open to life by using a condom and resisting your plans for us.” Sounds silly, but it was HARD! I sin, just like you. I will be judged, just like you. I will have to suffer the reparations, just like you. Where do we make reparations? In purgatory.

I am not better than you for not choosing IVF. I know your suffering on an intimate level. I didn’t choose IVF because we knew it wasn’t for us . On a deep level, we knew it was wrong. That’s why so many who use it get defensive. They too, know it was wrong. Sure, a beautiful and amazing child came from it. God allowed that child but the means to bring that child here was wrong. The means we used to conceive our first was wrong. I have confessed it but I still feel some shame even though God has forgiven me.

And imagine for a moment what that child will grow up to believe. A child bought and paid for, exploited from conception. “I feel that donor conception is a trade in human beings and very few people consider the effects it has on a child.” – From a child

There are so many biblical women who struggled with infertility and so many couples who took their childlessness into their own hands and forced a child anyway (through a concubine or maidservant). That never went well for them nor the child. Curses abound. Bad things happened but we don’t equate those bad things to the sin, at least I didn’t until I began to study scripture. God doesn’t punish like that anymore. His mercy endures forever and we should be focused on his mercy.

Jesus died on the cross for you so that you could find eternal life in him through reconciliation. He wants us to say sorry for the wrong, not “oh well, everyone else is doing it,” or “I have been good so I deserve a baby.”

And by the way, it’s a sin to lead others to sin. If you’ve had IVF and you say, “well, I did it,” that’s scandal. Others will see it and think, “well, she’s Catholic and did it so I guess it’s okay.” Scandal. Sin.

Sin leads to death.

We must try not to sin and lead others into sin.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The Flu Vaccine and Miscarriage

1 in 4 miscarriage

Newly pregnant mothers want to know, is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy? The flu vaccine is recommended for all pregnant women and women are told there is little to no risk in receiving the vaccination during their pregnancy. Yet many vaccinations haven’t been tested in pregnant women. 

So let’s talk about it. This published study by the CDC shows an increased risk of miscarriage after receiving the influenza vaccination containing pH1N1. The 2017-2018 influenza vaccination looks to have this virus in it. Here are the three viruses for this season:

  • an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
  • an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus

The risk of miscarriage was only looked at for the 1 – 28 days following the vaccine and the woman had to have received a prior influenza vaccine which contained pH1N1 as well. The 2016-2017 influenza vaccine contained A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (I am only listing H1N1).  While the study authors stated that it cannot establish a causal relationship, the association of receiving the flu vaccine during pregnancy and having a miscarriage (SAB) was significant.

What we do know is that pregnant women ARE at a higher risk of contracting illnesses during pregnancy and the flu is one of those illnesses. I used to receive the flu vaccine but as I have aged, I have become allergic to the ingredients in many vaccines. Even if I weren’t allergic, I personally would not receive the flu vaccination, or any vaccination for that matter, during pregnancy. I was pregnant this year and in February, I contracted Influenza B. Not a single person in my family was sick or became sick. I was miserable and I did what I could to protect my baby.

I am not certain where I contracted Influenza B but I do work in a hospital so maybe that’s where I picked it up. My symptoms did not present normally. I did not have a fever at all but I felt very sick, headache, muscle aches, heart palpitations, and I felt like I was struggling to breathe. I put off visiting the ER, mostly because my husband did not want to take me in the middle of the night. In addition, we knew the visit would be costly and that is always a consideration.

It was not easy waiting through the night not to be seen. I couldn’t sleep and honestly, I wanted to be put out of my misery.  Instead of going to the ER, I asked for a walk-in appointment the following morning. When I arrived at the clinic, the doctor was upset I was there and not in the ER. While my oxygenation was fine, I was clearly struggling to breathe. Their concern was that I had been breathing rapidly (over 33 respiration’s per minute) for more than 12 hours and my body would give out and I would “crash.” That was their nice way of saying, die.

I felt absolutely awful but I wanted to avoid the ER so I asked for any testing or procedures they could do in the office. They said they couldn’t test for the flu in their clinic and I would have to go to the ER for that, but they would give me a nebulizer treatment and see if that helped. I did not want to take any medication during my pregnancy but I needed some relief. I was convinced to take the treatment in hopes that it would help and I would avoid the ER.

It did nothing, so we were sent to the ER. I again received an ineffective breathing treatment and was sent home. I was told my blood labs were normal and that my influenza test hadn’t come back but they would call if it was positive. They had no explanation for my illness, other than I must have a bad cold (even though I wasn’t congested at all) and because I was “old” and pregnant, I was responding harshly to the virus. I later learned that my labs were not “normal” but the doctors didn’t believe my labs were indicative of anything.

During the 15 minute drive home, the doctor called my husband to confirm that I had Influenza B. I was surprised they didn’t admit me as my respirations were still horrible but they sent me home with Tamiflu. I hesitated to take the medication. There are no studies of the use of this drug in pregnant women but I needed relief. In addition, I had been symptomatic beyond the 48 hour window for the effectiveness of this drug.

I conducted a little research before consuming the drug. I had immense anxiety over this. I was well into my second trimester and  was passed the gestation where the defects could occur. There were three babies whose mothers had taken the drug who had defects (although some babies were aborted but according to the study, this was not statistically significant). 24 hours after taking Tamiflu, I began to feel relief. By 72 hours after Tamiflu, I was feeling well although exhausted.

I worried throughout my pregnancy that I somehow hurt my baby from the Tamiflu. Only time would tell and a future ultrasound did not show any defects with her heart. Once she was born “normal” I felt okay about taking Tamiflu although it’s still possible she could have been affected but we won’t know until later in her life. So far, all is well with her.

Despite the CDC study, women are still urged to get the flu shot in pregnancy. Why? The reasons cited are to reduce hospitalizations due to complications from the flu, morbidity and mortality, and to pass on antibodies to the unborn baby. This study shows that the influenza vaccine in pregnancy is 91.5% effective in preventing hospitalization of the infant in the first six months of their life (this does not say the infant does not contract influenza). I am sure my daughter has antibodies for Influenza B since I had it.

So what should a pregnant woman do? There is clearly a relationship between miscarriage and having received the influenza vaccination so it would be up to the woman to assume the risk. Do the research, make the decision. I don’t ever recommend just listening to a doctor. I want to be very clear in what I am saying; the doctors recommendation IS important; however, it should not be the only deciding factor. If a woman receives the vaccination and then miscarries, how would she feel knowing that ?

I know I would never forgive myself so I choose not to receive vaccinations during pregnancy and most especially during the first trimester. Only you can decide if it’s right for you. As someone who has experienced miscarriage twice, I worry so much during subsequent pregnancies about losing the baby and anything I can do to reduce that anxiety is helpful. Once the baby is born, I know there are many things I can do to help keep the baby healthy and I follow all those precautions and recommendations during such a fragile time.

Making the decision to receive or not receive the flu vaccine is difficult. There seems to be good research out there to help make an informed decision, although much of it is irrelevant if the baby does not make it to term if the flu vaccine causes miscarriage.

The Death of Suffering

WARNING: This is deep and is about abortion. It is not a popular opinion.

“I chose to deliver Embree on April 25, 2016 via c-section. I chose late-term abortion. I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive. It was the only way I could encounter her soul until we are together again in heaven. This is why I am PRO-CHOICE.” – Haylie Grammer

At face value, you might think that this woman had an abortion near-term but that’s not the case. She was 25 weeks. You also may have already seen this story as Haylie aborted her baby 4.5 years ago. Her situation is tragic, I don’t deny it. I do however, want to talk about it.

Her post is really about politics (which she admits) and it’s to garner your vote for the pro-choice legislators. Heck, it might even be about the Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett since the concern is she will help overturn Roe v. Wade but most likely this is about the presidential election. It’s quite suspect that this circulated during the last presidential election year.

Haylie tells her tragic story about how Texas forced her to have an abortion because the law would not allow an early induction. According to Texas law, there is no restriction on abortion if the baby has a severe fetal anomaly and/or the mother’s life is at risk. The ACLU for Texas confirms this. Nothing stated the need to wait until 27 week, although she could be referring to private insurance restrictions. This is most likely one of the determining factors for her choosing the abortion route.

Even in Catholic circles, there is disagreement on if what Haylie endured was abortion and those are the details I will focus on in this post because I am not so much interested in the terminology than what was on Haylie’s heart (in her own words).

The quote is above. She chose to have her baby early so that she could hold her baby while she was alive. She chose.

If you’re Christian, then you should understand that God has given you free will to “choose.” There are also laws or rather Commandments, that God has told us not to break. His command doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless you are suffering.” It certainly doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless the person will die anyway.” And most obvious, His command doesn’t say, “thou shalt not…unless the person isn’t perfect.”

All of us (whether you believe in God or not), were created by God in His image and likeness. Even the unborn were created in His image and likeness. We know that God knows the unborn because it was revealed in scripture. Psalm 139: 13-14 is one of the more popular verses in Sacred Scripture that shows us that God knows us before we are born.

I realize there is much debate on when “life begins.” Science says life begins at conception but medicine says otherwise, “at implantation.” I am not going to debate these statements. Here’s why, as Catholic Christians, we believe in science. Medicine can be manipulated, just as it was in this particular story.

There is also no question if Embree were a living person because her mother believed her to be and wanted to meet her soul on this earth. So the argument then turns to the fatal condition and mirror syndrome. She was told Embree was going to die. Embree would likely die in the womb. Haylie did NOT choose to end Embree’s life in the typical abortion fashion where the baby’s heart is injected with digoxin and then a dead baby is delivered, she chose early induction or rather, early c-section.

This is extremely tragic. As someone who has experienced the death of a baby in the womb and someone who assists families through such deaths as well as fatal diagnoses, I have a perspective many do not have. Not many people choose to get this close to families enduring such suffering.

The death of a baby in the womb is life-changing. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how early or late this occurs. Women have experienced extreme suffering whether the baby dies at an early gestation or full-term. We humans though, believe that the farther along in pregnancy a woman is, means the more love she has to lose and therefore, she will endure more suffering than someone who is in an early gestation (less time to love) but this is not the case at all.

Unfortunately, this is quite damaging to the families who lose children to miscarriage and stillbirth. With this logic, a young woman who loses her fiancé should grieve less than a woman who loses her husband after 40 years of marriage. It is nonsensical and would be damaging to the young woman.

I can tell you that ending the pregnancy early, will not lower the amount of suffering someone will have. They love the child already. We don’t love our children more and more each day they are with us, we just love them and it would break our hearts to lose them no matter what age they are. So instead of bringing in this human logic and trying to reduce a perceived amount of suffering, why aren’t we offering support to women and families enduring such a diagnosis?

I mentioned this to some friends recently and their response to this situation was “let the decision be made between the person, their doctors, without fear of persecution or stigma.” Well, that sounds good on paper but unfortunately, doctors don’t give all the options. Doctors are human too. Doctors have their own biases and opinions too. Doctors can also manipulate things without much repercussion.

Even though my maternal fetal medicine specialist knew I was pro-life, I was still encouraged to abort my 20+ week baby girl because there was a 2% chance the test I had was wrong and my daughter could have Down Syndrome. The whole reason I had the test was so I could advocate for my daughter, who could potentially have Down Syndrome or some other trisomy (even Triploidy since I already had a child with Triploidy). I wanted the specialists necessary for my child, not a judge who believed my baby should die because they weren’t perfect.

I know a family who suffered the loss of their son because a doctor purposefully allowed him to bleed to death following a routine surgery because the child “wasn’t perfect.” He was 8! It was a “medical error,” but believe me, this family knew the judgment against them for bringing forth an “imperfect” child who consumed medical services and did not live in the “normal” way nor would be a “productive member of society.” This is a horrible culture our society has created and supports.

But suffering is the big concern on everyone’s mind. Suffering MUST BE reduced or eliminated at all costs. Why have we become a society that doesn’t accept suffering? As Christians, it seems we have no understanding of the purpose of suffering and somehow believe that God should not allow us to suffer regardless of what we are doing here on earth. There is no suffering in Heaven. Are we living in Heaven?

Through suffering comes grace. We all must suffer and we all WILL suffer through the sins of our brothers and sisters (as well as our own). So I always giggle when I hear someone say, “their life and choices has no effect on mine.” On the contrary, the sins of this world affect us all. This is pretty deep and theological and most people will not take the time to learn anything about this.

So, would prayers have worked to save Baby Embree? Unfortunately, no one will know because the choice was taken away. God’s ability to provide grace on this mother and child, His ability to perform a miracle, the community’s ability to intercede in deep prayer for this child, was taken away.

Haylie used her God-given free will and took this matter to human hands. Of course, she says her in her own words that she hoped modern medicine and prayers would heal her daughter. As an outsider looking in, it would seem she carries a religious belief.

Embree could have received a miracle or should would have died. Death, as much as it hurts for those who love, isn’t the worse thing that could actually happen to us. That’s a physical death. The worst thing that could happen would be spiritual death (eternal separation from God). How does one experience spiritual death?

Rejection of God, aka breaking the Commandments.

Thou shalt not kill.

“But Embree was going to die anyway,” they say. Maybe, we’ll never know.

“But Embree wasn’t killed through abortion,” they say. Well, how do we know that her early delivery wasn’t responsible for her death? She was only 25 weeks. Many 25 week babies do not survive. Some doctors even refuse to provide any life saving care at this gestational age. The error isn’t that life saving care needed to be provided. It didn’t, but a delivery this early could have been responsible for her early death and of course removed any chance that further prayer would have resulted in a miracle.

“But the mother’s life was at risk,” they say. This is debatable. Swelling in the feet is hardly life-threatening. She says she was the size of someone who was 36 weeks pregnant so swelling in the feet at 36 weeks is normal. Haylie doesn’t disclose any other life-threatening issues except the statement about mirror syndrome. An extremely rare condition and while she fits the gestational age in pregnancy for this to occur, it’s unlikely she was experiencing mirror syndrome based on what she revealed. It seems the doctor was finding an excuse to allow this woman a c-section due to some law.

I was unable to find that information in the law. I don’t see anything about 27 weeks in the law at all. In fact, Texas law grants abortion for fatal conditions in the baby and/or threat to the life of the mother after 20 weeks. As stated at the beginning, it seems it might be a private insurance reason over Texas law. It was obvious a c-section was needed due to the tumor the baby had. A vaginal delivery would not be an option.

Someone failed this family.

Now for my Catholics who have argued that this was not abortion because the mother’s life was at risk and a procedure to save the mother is permissible during pregnancy even if the result is the death of the baby. You are correct. Fetal anomalies are not reasons for early induction though and I would argue again that this mother’s life was hardly at risk (based on the information given). It’s likely the doctor manipulated the swelling to justify an indication for such delivery. But, we must look to this mother’s heart.

I did so because it was the only way I could hold my baby girl while she was still alive.”

This mother did not want to deliver a dead baby. The only way to deliver her alive was to have an early c-section while she was still alive. Believe me, no one wants to deliver a dead baby. No one wants to carry a dead baby in their womb. It might be the journey God has asked of you.

I know this is heart-wrenching. I know that deep down many people know that this was wrong. I also know that many people believe this was an act of mercy. There is no such thing as “mercy killing” for humans though. We must always allow for God’s grace even in the toughest situations. God forbid someone end my life early because I have dementia and they believe it’s merciful to kill me (by refusing food, water, or worse, providing euthanasia).

Redemptive Suffering. Look it up. Someone doing this might have removed not only my redemptive suffering but their own! Suffering sucks. I’ve been there! I don’t want to suffer any more than you do. I’ve lost two children to miscarriage. I have experienced mental illness. I nearly died twice in 2017 and one occurrence came with a month of in-patient care for nearly complete organ failure. We’ve all endured suffering in some way or another.

That’s not what this is about though. We are in this world, but not of it. There is more to us than this little blip of time on earth. Life on this earth includes suffering. We cannot get rid of it and the more we try through these false acts of “mercy,” the more we will suffer…until the end. Only God can provide the mercy you are looking for.

We must offer up these sufferings to God. We must allow others to help us through that suffering. By allowing others to help us, we are allowing God’s grace into their lives and are allowing God’s grace to flow in ours. We are all connected.

To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. (SD 23)” – Pope Saint John Paul II (Salvifici Doloris)

How to Support Miscarriage or Stillbirth – A Doula’s Guide

Were you just told your client’s baby has died?

I get calls from doulas often telling me they just learned their clients baby died and they are heading in to support them. This makes me so happy because in the past, doulas have abandoned these clients for many reasons. Here is a quick guide on how to support your client.

The good thing is, supporting a family through the labor of miscarriage or stillbirth is not that different then supporting them through a live birth. The physical process is relatively the same so many of the skills you have will cross over. Use that knowledge. Below are some key points to focus on when supporting pregnancy loss.

  • Be compassionate
    • Do not bring your bias into this space. What is hard for you to see or hear does not mean the family doesn’t want to see or hold their baby.
  • Refer if you can’t do this
  • Create a sacred space
    • Bring out the mama bear in you. Protect them from hurt (having a separate room so they don’t hear the heartrate monitor in the next room or babies crying).
  • Separate the act of saying goodbye from saying hello
    • Many times staff are focused on the sadness of saying goodbye but there is also a hello. They are about to see the baby they have been longing for. Help them say hello. Focus on fingers or toes if other parts are hard to view.
  • Encourage
    • Skin to skin
    • Holding and photographs
    • Footprints and hand moulds
    • Bathing, diapering, and dressing
    • Reading a book to baby or dancing with baby (daddy/daughter dance)
  • It’s okay to cry
    • Crying is fine but do not cry hard. The family will stop grieving to support you. Do not take away from their grief.
  • Be there at discharge
    • Bring a teddy bear for them to hold. Empty arms hurt. Sometimes taking them a back way is more helpful. Check the hall for cheerful families and new babies. Try not to go by the nursery.
  • Help them say goodbye
    • Encourage a memorial service or funeral. A water ceremony might also be an option for them. Know their religious preferences and be knowledgeable about burial rites.
  • Follow-up
    • A postpartum visit is important. Bring food when you visit. They are going through the postpartum period (even if this was a miscarriage). Check on their physical changes as well as mental changes. Do not confuse grief with postpartum depression. Review their support system and encourage meals to be brought and tasks to be completed by others.
  • Remember their baby
    • Mark your calendar for one year from the date of loss with the baby’s name (if they had one) and send them a card. We are sometimes scared to make them think about their deceased child but they are already thinking about them. The first anniversary is very important. You are not hurting them by remembering.
  • Don’t forget self-care
    • Many doulas leave on a high, even though you are supporting a pregnancy loss. You will likely crash. The next 3 days tend to be the most difficult. Rest and lost of self-care during this time to renew yourself and be the best person you can be for your family. Let them know you will be going through some tough moments.

This isn’t an all encompassing list. It’s a start. You can do this. I know you are questioning yourself but you have so much in you that you can bring to this space. You know how to do this even though you don’t think you are the right person. This family needs you. Go…be there for them. You got this!

Letting Go

Exclusively Pumping Milk

It’s that odd place for me again. The time where I want to be done but it hurts to be done. It’s time to wean. It should come easily right? I mean, she’s almost two. In fact, she will be two in just a few weeks and here I am, crying over the fact that I am weaning.

Here’s the non-typical part. I didn’t get to breastfeed her. Sure, we started out breastfeeding well but then I was hospitalized for postpartum preeclampsia and she was on a bottle with breastmilk for days. I could have tried to get her to latch on again. She was only a week old but she already preferred feeding from the bottle by that point and pumping milk had been so easy for me, we didn’t push it.

Baby Girl would latch on occasionally. I have some pictures and video of her doing so. She wouldn’t completely stop until she was about four months old and I cherished those moments. They were blissful.

I had no idea the challenges we were going to face in regards to her eating solid foods. In reality, I probably would have stopped providing breastmilk for her months ago, perhaps even a year ago, if she hadn’t struggled for so long to eat solid food. She still isn’t eating solid foods well but we are finally at a place where we can wean her from breastmilk to see how she does.

Last fall, I was desperate to stop pumping. I was struggling with PMDD and wanted to try medications and supplements but I couldn’t. Well, I could, but I didn’t want to expose her to any of those medications or supplements. I know that many women take antidepressants and for some it works but there was nothing that proved they would work for me and I did not want to risk exposing her brain to the chemical changes from the medications. She will have enough challenges as it is.

So I suffered. My family suffered. I struggled in ways I won’t share here but they were not good ways. I was angry at people and short-tempered. I remember a time in Biblical School where my table-mate was opening a wrapper so she could have a snack and I just wanted to jump up and start screaming at her. Instead, I quickly left the room but it was infuriating and the sound of the wrapper was like fingers running down a chalkboard (silly that kids these days don’t know what that sounds like).

There was a particular day in December where I had a panic attack and had no one to reach out to. I tried. BELIEVE ME! I had never felt that way before and I was not in a good place at all. I called my therapist but she wasn’t available. She had left town for the holidays. Since I had only seen her once, I didn’t have much of a relationship with her. They couldn’t refer me to another therapist because they don’t manage “crises” and they don’t prescribe medication; which I felt I needed.

They told me to call her personal phone number but I couldn’t find it. I was in panic mode and I couldn’t even remember if she had given it to me. I reached out to a friend but even she couldn’t help me get the therapists number. She was on vacation herself. I even called my doctor.

They couldn’t help. This was a doctor that I was seeing privately for PMDD but alas, they needed me to come in to the clinic, which was an hour away, at 3:30pm and I needed to get my kids from school. It was impossible to ensure I made it before they closed for the holiday. And of course, they said they can’t treat over the phone and there was no one that would talk with me. If I felt it was an emergency, I should go to the hospital.

I didn’t. It was awful and in those moments, I saw exactly the mental health crisis that exists and why people kill themselves AND how easy it is for them to fall through the cracks. No one knows how to manage someone in a mental health crisis.

After some time away, I felt better and as my hormones have begun to regulate postpartum, my PMDD seems to be getting better and more manageable and I am looking forward to trying supplements to keep it at bay; which is why I was looking forward to weaning…until now.

I am ready. At least I feel like I am. Every time I hook myself up to the pump, I dread it and I hate those 15 minutes or so. I am tired of the bottles, the constant clean up, the entire counter space dedicated to cleaning and drying the pump parts and bottles, and replacing the pump parts. I especially can’t stand the noise of the pump, dragging it places with me, and the way it hurts during different times of my cycle.

But, here I am, crying because I am ready, yet not ready. I am not ready to stop giving my daughter something only I can. I am not ready to stop giving her that nourishment, the only nourishment she craves and truly enjoys. The nourishment that has sustained her. I have been that person. I grew her in my womb; nourishing her there and protecting her, and then nourishing her outside the womb through my milk. Sometimes, that was the only thing she could consume.

It’s been a slow process. Last week, I started shortening the length of pumping time and today, well…I haven’t pumped yet. And I feel it. I can feel the aching in my breasts. Breasts that long to have the milk expelled yet won’t find that relief. Breasts that will no longer nourish another child. Not only will I no longer nourish my child with my milk, I won’t be donating the excess to another baby. This is it. This is the last. This is the end.

Maybe that’s what is making this hard? I thought Timmy was last. I pumped for him for 27 months. I don’t remember what weaning was like. I think there was more joy in it then this time. 23 months is enough. I know it is and I am ready to move out of this pumping phase but it’s hard to let go.

Where do I find joy in this? I am having a hard time finding the joy in it today.

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