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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.

New book announcement

I have been contemplating for quite sometime, turning my bereavement ministry over to my faith. At last year’s October 15th Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance Event, I really felt a draw to make Dragonflies For Ruby a Catholic ministry. I have supported people of many different faiths and spirituality and I would never turn anyone away regardless of their faith but I have a desire to really focus on the Catholic side of supporting Catholic women and families through miscarriage, stillbirth, and child loss.

Catholics are pro-life. I am pro-life yet there is a problem in the Church. Women experiencing miscarriage and stillbirth are given very little support from their priests, pastors, and bishops as they navigate their loss. I was very fortunate to have a priest educate me on the importance of my baby’s life (no matter how short) and celebrating that life. His name is Father John Paul Leyba (formerly the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Parish and now Pastor at St. Frances Cabrini in Littleton).

I wrote about him in my book, All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage, even placing my personal conversations and letter to him in the book. Father John Paul encouraged me to pray about the sex of my baby, name my baby, and celebrate. When we lost Gus, my Pastor, Monsignor Ed Buelt at Our Lady of Loreto, encouraged us to have a commendation ceremony. It was so beautiful and healing to have this and I want more Catholic’s to know about this option.

But even more so, I would like to share these resources with many Catholic women and help them navigate their miscarriage, knowing the teachings of the Church so I have started a fourth book! It is tentatively titled, The Catholic’s Guide to Miscarriage. The book will contain scripture verses and information from the Catechism as well information that’s out there on how to handle miscarriage according to the Catholic faith. Of course it will have the medical aspects of miscarriage in it but it’s a guide and hopefully will serve as a wonderful resource for Catholics and clergy.

So stay tuned! I am hoping to release the book before the end of the year but I will be seeking endorsement from the Archbishop of Denver so it may take longer. Prayers that the book comes along easily and receives Catholic endorsement and prayers for Dragonflies For Ruby as we make the transition to a Catholic faith-based organization!

Grieving Your Last Child

I thought I was done having children. I really did. After Gus died in 2015, we had decided that he would be our last. He was supposed to be our last anyway. He was supposed to be the child that brought three children to our kitchen table. I grieved his death but I grieved so much more. I had been down this path of grief once before but this wasn’t grief due to the death of a baby. It was the loss of not having any more children.

After our first was born in 2003, we tried for years to become pregnant again. We wanted to add another child to our family and I struggled immensely with the inability to become pregnant. After five years of trying (tests, acupuncture, chiropractic care, Mayan abdominal massage, supplements, teas, fertility enhancing drugs, and thousands of dollars spent), I gave up hope and began to grieve that I would no longer have anymore children.

This was such a different kind of grief. I literally had to change my focus in life from wanting to become pregnant and have a baby to raising the child I had as a single child and working on my career. Just as I had, I became pregnant. Just as I was about to begin my police career, I found myself expecting a child. Switching gears again was so difficult and I wasn’t happy about the pregnancy at first. I share this in depth story in my book All That is Seen and Unseen; A Journey Through a First Trimester Miscarriage.

Somehow after we lost Ruby, my body became fertile and I now had a hole new journey on my hands. Practicing NFP according to the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to space my children and/or prevent further children. Let me take a moment here to explain that NFP is not another form of birth control. To properly use NFP, a couple must discern each and every cycle whether or not to give in to desires and potentially create life. Sex is designed by God to be both unitive and procreative (there are a few other reasons such as purity as well). A couple must give everything to each other and that includes their fertility. To remove either of those pieces, is to sin.

But this post isn’t about NFP or the Catholic teaching. It’s about grief specific to no longer being procreative. It’s about all I feel like I am losing out on and things I will miss. It’s about learning to let go of future children, even though right now, my family feels complete.

The pregnancy with my last baby was difficult. Wrought with nausea, exhaustion, anger and irritability (first trimester only), tests, more exhaustion, physical pain, and when the baby was born, I developed a fatal condition (postpartum pre-eclampsia) which I survived, obviously. In addition, postpartum depression was/is alive and well. My age is also a very big concern and was the driving factor in some of the conditions above. Another baby should not be considered. I am not sure I will survive.

So I find myself grieving once again. I don’t want to grieve this. I already had but let’s put it out there.

Here are some of the things I grieve:

Never having sex again during the God-designed, most desirable and pleasurable time of my cycle.
Never again experiencing the excitement and joy from a positive pregnancy test.
Knowing that we created a new life.
Sharing the news that we created a new life.
Feeling the “superpower” of creating new life.
Seeing the new life on an ultrasound (oh, that beating heart!).
Watching my belly expand and nourish a new life.
Reveling in the joy my husband and children have when we are growing new life.
Anticipating the new life’s arrival.
Looking down in the shower to see the massive belly, feeling it, rubbing it, etc.
Loving my body, feeling like a true woman, the essence of femininity.
Feeling the first flutters and then kicks.
Hiccups!
Birth, yes birth. I feel like I finally have this down and the last birth was just fantastic.
Making milk – being the only person providing the nourishment.
Raising the baby

There are things I won’t miss:

Progesterone supplementation (shots or pills)
Test, after test, after test
Anxiety that this baby will die too
The baby jumping on my cervix
The pelvic pain
Not being able to roll over in bed
Doctors appointments
Recovering from birth
Night sweats
Baby Blues
Postpartum Depression

But mostly, it’s really about the fact that I will no longer create life. I am old. I shouldn’t. We shouldn’t. It’s not mentally or physically healthy for us or the family. So I grieve. I grieve for my empty womb. A womb that is just beginning to fill with cobwebs and it will remain that way, for the next 40 years or so of my life. My womb will never hold new life again.

I am not sure if my husband grieves. He might, but I don’t imagine him grieving the fact that he will no longer produce more children. Well…at least we *think* we won’t. Neither of us have done anything like birth control or sterilization in an attempt to prevent creating new life. At this point, we rely on abstinence and THAT SUCKS!

I will process through this grief just like I always have, but the grief resurfaces. There are triggers. The biggest being my bathroom. Anytime I see myself naked in the mirror and long for the big, round belly or anytime I am in the shower and look down to see flab instead of round. That big, round belly means so much. As I said before, it’s the epitome of femininity. Maybe that’s what I will miss the most?

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