Friday, May 5, 2023

Heart on the Cross

A long time ago I used to be able to take a pregnancy test, see that it was positive and be excited, waiting with great expectation the many wonderful- and sometimes difficult- symptoms of pregnancy to hit within a week or two. After our 5th was born something new began and it has continued for the last 5 years. On doctors charts it’s called “recurrent pregnancy loss”. What it looks like is this: I take a pregnancy test, it’s positive. Sometimes I take several and they get darker and darker- for day and even weeks. But within 2-3 weeks they start to get lighter, if I’m checking HcG levels they start to increase and then they stop and around 6 weeks the pregnancy is over and I begin to miscarry. 6 of my 8 pregnancy losses have played out this way. 

In 2019 we thought we discovered the cause - low progesterone. I successfully conceived and brought Anastasia and Scotty to term by taking progesterone immediately after ovulation and doubling it when I got a positive pregnancy test. However, in the last 6 months I’ve had 3 more losses in a row during which I took my progesterone as directed, the same way I did with Annie and Scotty, and still lost my little ones. I’m writing about it because as I navigate it all there are so few people that I can talk to- who have experienced it and who understand it- and if this can serve to help anyone woman who’s dealing with it feel less alone and isolated that would be great. Also I’m processing what has turned out to be the most excruciating experience of my life - a  cross that I never would have thought I’d be given and one that I’m struggling to carry well. I struggle with resentment towards friends who just find out they’re pregnant and stay pregnant, even resentment toward my past self who enjoyed that experience 5 times in a row and took it for granted. I even COMPLAINED about the onset of the hard pregnancy symptoms that I would give anything to experience now because that would mean things were actually progressing and not ending again

This most recent one has gone on much longer, with my HcG levels continuing to go up a little for almost a month, but still staying so low that we've known for at least 2 weeks that the pregnancy is not viable. The pain of technically "being pregnant" without being pregnant for weeks is unlike anything I've experienced. There have been ultrasounds and about a million blood draws to try to rule out ectopic and verify there is no heartbeat and I just narrowly avoided my first D&C, I finally began miscarrying naturally the day before I was supposed to go in for it. We are traveling to the Holy Land in one week and the time crunch nearly forced the D&C route. I know D&C is no biggy for so many but the risk of scar tissue (among others) which would further compromise my already difficult fertility situation made it a very not ideal option. 

As I sat waiting for my most recent ultrasound there was a couple who had just come out from theirs with their little ultrasound photos of their baby that looked about exactly how big my own little one would be, if he/she had continued to grow. 

It took my breath away. 

I stared at the ceiling trying to hold back tears. 

I have 7 kids! I’ve gotten to experience the joy of that first ultrasound so many times! How can I still be as sad as if it this were my first baby!? I can because I love each of these little ones as much as I loved my very first baby and every single moment with each child has brought me the same amount of joy as all the first moments with my first baby.

It is a difficult situation to navigate with so many people in the medical field, that is, being a mother with 7 beautiful children and coping with miscarriage. I have so many babies! Seven? Isn’t that enough? Why would we want more? Why are you trying for more? Why can’t you be content? These are questions I hear (sometimes out loud, sometimes implied) and I defensively attempt explanations to the various medical professionals asking too many questions while I grieve. As I experience the grief that is so raw and real with each loss, I’m so careful not to express even a hint of ingratitude for the kids I’ve been given. On the contrary, each time I’ve miscarried my gratitude for my living children increases exponentially. I cannot believe the Lord blessed me with these babies, even in my young and comparatively ungrateful state, when I thought of babies as my right and took my fertility for granted. 

I used to be worried about this blog turning into a blog about miscarriage but at this point I think that the only way it will continue to exist is as a place for me to write about just that, and I’m completely ok with it, though I think I’ll need to change the name of it. It’s strange and sad to think that I began it as a way to cope with the chaos of having so many babies close together and to find community with other mothers “drowning in babies”. Now here I am 13 years later writing to process the grief I have from the many babies I’ve lost and to find community in a whole new area of motherhood- with those who’ve grieved their lost children as well. 

I never would have chosen this as the my path to holiness but it’s ok. The cross is the cross and if it gets me to Our Lord I will continue to accept it, in the imperfect way that I do. 

We found out we were expecting on Easter Sunday and carried our little one through the feast of Saint Athanasius. We’ve name this little one Athanasius Paschal. Saint Athanasius and Saint Paschal, pray for us. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Written in Heaven

“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” 

I wasn’t going to tell them. After 5 miscarriages I knew better than to share too soon, but in order to get more of the progesterone that my body needs to maintain a pregnancy meant multiple doctors appointments in one week and so they just guessed it. 

My 2 oldest daughters cornered me and asked me point blank if I was pregnant. I wasn’t expecting it so I had no prepared response but only smiled and asked “why in the world they would ask me that” and so we told them. It was my 3rd daughter’s birthday, she was my first rainbow baby born on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We had known for almost a week that we were expecting and I was genuinely hopeful about this one, especially because I’d been taking progesterone that I’d saved from my previous pregnancy and things felt pretty normal. We gathered them together in my husband’s office and told them we had one more birthday gift but that it wouldn’t be arriving for about 9 more months. They were ecstatic. In the days that followed that is all they talked about. And there was an enormous amount of joy. I will be forever grateful for that joy- it can’t be taken away. 

The day after we told them I was sitting with my oldest son outside and we looked up and saw the craziest cloud in the sky, shaped like a six- I was so impressed I took a picture to show his brother Fred because Fred is 6. 

The day after I saw that 6 I took a another pregnancy test to make sure they were getting darker each day and the line on the stick really wasn’t much darker- that was the first day I started to worry, and it was the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, for whom we named our very first miscarried baby. 

In hindsight all of the things were pointing to God having a plan to bring this baby back to Himself, but He didn’t make me dwell on that at the time- I dwelt in the moment with our little one and he brought me immense joy. 

I got blood work done that afternoon which showed my HcG was low but within the “normal” early pregnancy range- my fears increased but I self talked non stop telling myself how often I’ve had low numbers and things have been ok- but my symptoms were abating. 2 days later they drew blood again and on my way home from that blood draw I had a sudden feeling that the 6 I had seen in the sky was Our Lord letting me know he had our 6 miscarried little souls with Him- they they were close to His Sacred Heart. Though I had to wait 24 hours to learn our baby had died, I took comfort in that concrete way the Lord let me know that He has ALL of my babies- that none of them are lost- and that He is pleased with our openness to the joy of children, though it is so often joy through many, many tears.

Even after 6 miscarriages this grief never gets easier to deal with. It feels like every lovely moment, every snuggle, every good conversation, every time I’ve held and worried over a sick one, every time I’ve hugged one while they’re sad or disappointed, every time I’ve tickled and joked with them, played board games and done puzzles, read aloud to them taught them to read- it feels like every single moment rolled into one and crushed. I will never have those moments with these little ones and my heart feels torn in two. I loved this little one fiercely from the very moment I knew he was growing. I love him fiercely still. 

I wrote this immediately after finding out we miscarried and then went back and looked that the unpublished post before it- the one with all my children holding new baby Scotty and it hit me: telling them about the existence of their new sibling was the closest they will get to holding and meeting him. They got to have so much joy over the knowledge that that little one was growing and though it was short it was good. I ended up posting that unfinished post because I never want to forget those beautiful moments of delight on their faces the first time they held Scotty and I’m posting this because I never want to forget their joy over this baby. 
A joy that cannot be taken away. 
Our baby’s name is Luke Isaac because we lost him around the feasts of Saints Luke and Isaac Jogues.
Saint Luke and Saint Isaac Jogues, pray for us!

Monday, October 24, 2022

2 months with Scotty

Long time no post! Little Scotty is 2 months old and I've found nary a snippet of time to document his awesomeness, so a long photo-packed post it will be. Let's start at the beginning with the meeting of his extremely excited siblings. We had a sweet friend take the kids for the morning for us so that Mike could come fetch me and Scotty from the hospital and to also give us some time at home to settle in before the kids descended and I would say it was the most peaceful meeting of the new baby we've had to date:

At 9 days old he was baptized and Mike did an insane amount of work planning a seriously awesome party with friends and family- at 9 days postpartum I can confidently say I did barely anyway all except nurse and eat. 

It was an absolutely beautiful day. 

This is all that was in the draft of this post  a year after writing it but it is such a beautiful record of things at that time that I’m posting. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Scotty’s Birth Novella

Let me introduce you to Michael Scott Hahn Jr., affectionately called “Scotty”, who we welcomed on July 8th. His birth was a speedy whirlwind but I have figured out how to make it my longest written birth story yet- so here you go!

Let's start on the day of my 38 week check up. According to the doctor's due date I was 38 weeks 2 days, but according to mine I was 38 weeks 4 days. This is significant because I birthed 4 of my 6 kids at 38 weeks 4 days and I was silently hoping that maybe, just maybe, this would be the day. The night before saw me up for hours with prodromal labor (contractions too strong to sleep through but not consistent enough to go to the hospital) and I was feeling even more done the day of my appointment than other days. So I went. The doctor checked me and let me know I was at 4 cm and did a little membrane sweeping while he was at it, which got my hopes up even more that this would be the day. 

But it wasn't (sad face emojis all around).

That evening I sent Mike out for some ultra spicy Thai food for me, which was successful in starting my labor with Naomi (foreshadowing!!)/ I got the highest level of spice, whoofed it down and was covered in sweat by the end. I slept pretty well that night (as well as any massive gestating whale can sleep) and woke up the next morning determined to keep working at getting actual labor going but also resigned to the fact that I would likely be at 4 cm until my 39 week check, at which point I would ask for the membrane sweep again. 

The Thai food seemed to be only successful at causing gastrointestinal discomfort the next morning, so I called that loss and I took the kids over to a little walking trail that morning and we walked around as many times as we could until it started to rain, during which contractions were coming fairly regularly, but nothing I couldn't walk through, and of course when we stopped walking, the contractions stopped too. We came home and I noticed some spotting and other, ahem, things that signal the eventual onset of labor, but even with those things it can still be days before anything happens. I laid down to nap that afternoon and nary a contraction to speak of, so I got up and decided to walk to all the places. I walked to dollar general, the post office, library and back home (we live in a wee little town). Again, constant contractions, but when I stopped walking, the contractions stopped too. 

I got home and found a bog of iris bulbs my neighbor gave me and grabbed a shovel to start digging and planting. While I was shoveling Mike came outside and let me know that he was mentally preparing for a hospital trip that evening. I scoffed and told him I was sure I would be making it to my next OB appointment (foreshadowing again!!).

I finished my planting, went inside and gave Annie a bath (I give so many baths leading up to giving birth because I never want to go into labor with super dirty kids at home. Very rational, I know). 

After bath time I commenced dinner prep, which was supposed to include a bunch of fresh chopped produce. I got out the produce-contraction- laid it on the counter-contraction- started chopping chicken-contraction… You get it- dinner prep time is when things got going, but! I even took a break from prep to sit and see if I could time contractions and I couldn’t! They would just fizzle. So back to dinner prep.

I was standing at the stove chopping that chicken when I felt a slight trickle. My water has broken twice before so I know what that feels like and this was not that, but still, a trickle. I went and sat down and immediately had a harder contraction and called to Mike to let him know my water might have broken a little bit but probably not and I was going back to dinner prep. He said I should call the doctor but naturally rational Ana insisted on not doing that but instead moved on to chopping potatoes (I did however find a shred of rationality in myself and put all the fresh veggies away and opted for frozen instead- a very providential move.)

Once I threw the dinner in the oven Joe came in and asked me to play a game of sorry with him. I had plans to attend a friends surprise birthday party that evening and needed to shower so I told him I’d play as soon as I showered and ran off to do just that. I showered and got dressed and went downstairs for my planned game of sorry with Joe. Then Fred insisted on joining the game which Joe would not hear of, so Joe stomped off and I opted for a very abbreviated game with Fred (also providential).

We wrapped up the game in less than 5 minutes and I was about to go get Joe to offer to play a separate game with him when- POP, GUSH- water was everywhere. THAT’S what it feels like when your water breaks, it was like Old Faithful. I yelled to Mike that my water broke and then pandemonium promptly broke out. Naomi yelled “IT’S TIME!!” And started going around telling all the kids that Scotty was coming and then they all started running around the house in utter excitement and celebration. It was all going on in the background of me trying to get ahold of the doctor and friends to ask if they could come help but thinking back on their excitement brings me so much joy, it was really priceless. 

So we popped a movie on for the kids, and many amazing friends took over from there tending to my painstakingly chopped dinner and feeding it to my kids for me while Mike and I rushed to the hospital- and we really did rush.

My water broke around 5:15, we were out the door for the hospital around 5:30 and at the hospital by 6. Everything moved fast as far as Mike and I were concerned but as soon as we got to the hospital everyone seemed to move entirely too slow for what my body needed if I wanted and epidural. AND I WANTED AN EPIDURAL!!!

They put me in a wheelchair and told us to wait for a labor and delivery nurse to come get us. So we waited and waited and waited. My contractions were getting harder and harder as they typically do when my water breaks. Eventually someone came and slowly wheeled us to our room. Major emphasis on slowly.

They eventually got me into a room and then casually let me know that their anesthesiologist was in a c-section and that if I wanted an epidural I could get one in an hour. I said “ok” and thought for sure I wouldn’t be that progressed in an hour and would still be able to get one. I asked if they could get the IV in and get the fluids started so we’d be all set for then epidural when the doctor was ready, and while the nurse said “yes” to this she did not actually get moving on it. I waited and waited and waited and the contractions got worse and worse and worse and still no IV!!! 

This is where things got a little bleak for me.

The nurse finally came in to do the IV and at this point I probably looked like someone having an exorcism performed on them on the hospital bed. Contractions were one on top of the other and SO so painful. Seriously I’ve seen people post some pretty beautiful pictures of themselves while having a natural birth but if I had any pictures taken of that time I think they would resemble the birth scene in Robin Hood Prince if Thieves. 

So the slow poke nurse finally came in to do the IV accompanied by another nurse who decided that now- while I’m in the throes of insanely intense labor- would be a good time to ask me their 101 triage questions. 

It went something like this:

The slow nurse tries to place my IV between contractions. Blows out my vein.

Insanely intense contraction begins. Annoying nurse decides now- in the middle of the contraction- is the time to ask her question. 

Slow nurse tries to place IV again in my other arm between contractions. Blows out another vein.

Contraction starts and annoying nurse decides again that now- in the middle of the contraction- is the time to ask another question.

After the second failed IV attempt they went out to find a nurse who is good at IVs and who also happened to be my savior because she walked in, saw me contracting, saw the annoying nurse asking me question after question and promptly sent the annoying nurse away telling her she could finish the questions later. Then she placed an IV in a minute flat with no problems. She was really my savior. While she was placing the IV I heard Mike ask her if there would even be enough time for the epidural, but I was in serious denial about the possibility of not getting it before I pushed the baby out and so I tried to ignore that question. I was writhing in pain during every contraction but I still kept trying to visualize how I would make myself sit still once the anesthesiologist got there. Ha! So rational, Ana. 

Soon after the IV was placed I saw the doctor come in and start getting all sorts of things out and looked ready for me to push and still was in denial about not getting an epidural before pushing. 

But then Scotty’s heart rate got really low. They kept trying to figure out if it was mine or his but as soon as they confirmed it was in fact his my head shot up and I asked if there was something wrong. The doctor looked at me and let me know that no, nothing was wrong, but that my baby was having a major decel because he was ready to come out and that we needed to get him out now. 

This was enough for me accept that I would be pushing this baby out sans my beloved epidural right then and there. They threw my legs in those stirrups and demanded that I “pull my legs back” and push. I remember wanting to scream so badly but opting for a very low growl during pushing which I’m sure did much to heighten the exorcism-ish effect. So natural. So beautiful. 

I did not push long at all before his head was out and then another push for the shoulders and then I had my baby on my chest. 

At 7:17, 1 hour and 17 minutes after our arrival  at the hospital and 2 hours flat after my water broke. I had completely sweat through my hospital gown and if I had to say what I felt like after it was that a truck had just run me over and then the driver handed me a baby. 

I was in utter shock that he was here, that labor just happened and was done. I was so thankful for the time in the hospital to just stare and soak him up and process all that had happened and in the end I was so thankful that it went so fast and was over! It was done! We are so so grateful that he is here. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Excuses, excuses...

Hi friends! Sorry it’s been so long! I started this on Tuesday and I cannot believe it is Friday already! I have many excuses for my absence, and I’ll link up with Kelly to give you all of them now:

Excuse #1) The Easter bunny gave us COVID. Or at least that’s Fred’s favorite way to say that: we all got COVID. And man! It was awful! It hit Lucy first and the poor thing had to miss out on all Easter fun since she was not feeling well, though we did not know yet that it was the dreaded COVID, consequently this is one of our only Easter photos:

Hanging with Lucy and Annie while the other kids have Easter fun.

Then it took Mike down and then... dun dun dun... it came for me. And boy did it come. After 2 weeks of fever, aches, chills, the worst cough of my life, stomach bug symptoms, loss of taste and smell and loads of shortness of breath leaving me thisclose to heading to the ER, I was finally given some steroid meds that got things under control (and also caused the worst and most painful mouth rash I’ve ever had but by that point I was basically in the pits of despair anyway so why not add another bad side effect?!). I had started to slide into the category of people who think COVID is really NBD for most people but you can bet you I’ve slid back to the camp of those who know that is absolutely just not the case. I’ll be hitting those shots hard next year- never again. 

Excuse #2: I’m still pregnant! 

And fairly certain I will be forever. Also did I mention that pregnancy and COVID are not a nice combination? 10 out of 10 do not recommend. I feel like I’m still coming out of all the lingering side effects. But! Baby is doing great,  I’ll be 30 weeks tomorrow and I’m so so thankful for this little guy. 

Excuse #3: These hooligans:

We finished up standardized testing last week and did one last week of wrap up work this week in our actual homeschool. The girls still have 2 weeks of co-op left but I AM DONE HERE FOR NOW (we always do some sort of summer school but that will not be happening for several weeks). Now I get to do all the things I’ve been dreading doing in the back of my mind while I frantically try to get an adequate amount of school in for these kids. These things include but are not limited to: the insane clothing organization of 2021 and the actual clothing swap, scrap book Annie’s baby book before this little one exits the womb, clean all the nasty crevices of this house, etc. It should be LOADS of fun. 

Excuse #4: I planted a garden! I spent way too much money on it! And I love it so so much!!!

Excuse #5: The ALMOST finished attic!!



Which is really not an excuse for taking up time for me personally since Mike and my dad have done all the work but it’s been one of those big looming projects and we are so so close! Eeek!!

Excuse #6: Annie 

She gets her very own take and is an exclusive excuse because she is crazy. Super super cute but also insanely clingy and at that high needs and high intensity 2-year-old stage where she does basically nothing entirely by herself and prefers me to every other human being. Which also does not jive super well with pregnancy. It’s a really good things she is so stinking cute. She had her 2nd birthday right at the tail end of COVID and I was so thankful that I was finally starting to feel better for the day:

Excuse #7: I can’t think of anything else but hopefully I'll be back sooner than later! Have a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Links, bellies, and curls quick takes!

And just like that it’s been a month since my last post- whoops! I’ll link with Kelly to try to remedy this situation!

1) Thanks time a million for all the comments from you wonderful readers letting me know your here and reading- I feel very humbled  and grateful to have so many online buddies to stay connected with even without social media (I feel like blogging is a much more meaningful way of staying connected- is it just me? Maybe I’m just telling myself that to try to keep myself from getting back on social media...) But seriously it feels more meaningful. Anyways I’m just glad your here!

2) I’m not sure there is anything I have missed more since giving up social media than Britt’s updates on how she and Agnes are doing. I was so so thrilled when I saw that she had posted this heartbreakingly beautiful post about her chemo process. It really helped to put my life with its very small-scale struggles into perspective. I highly recommend reading it. 

3) I’m not sure there’s much I loved more than reading this from Jenny this week. Mike used to say he was going to hunt the Canadian geese by our old apartment for meat when we were newlyweds and I was completely supportive because they were everywhere and we were very poor. Also Mike and I are rewatching the Office and so I naturally thought of one of my most favorite scenes of all time:

4) Not much to report with regards to pregnancy news. I’m 23.75 weeks (but who’s counting? Me. I’m always counting) I seriously cannot wait to hold this little buddy.
Belly pic for your enjoyment:

5) I cannot believe we are heading into Holy Week already- it feels like just yesterday we were rushing to the ER on Ash Wednesday with a little concussed Annie.
The day of the concussion event, to commemorate her plight.

My birthday falls this Holy Week so it’s sure to either be one of the most penitential birthdays ever or one of the least penitential Holy Weeks ever. Knowing me it will likely be the latter. I just reeeeeeally want cheesecake. 

6) It may be the stimulus money or the fact that this pregnancy has left me feeling like I just DESERVE ALL THE THINGS but after 6 babies I finally splurged and got myself a Blanqi. Things are just really feeling like they need some extra support and some serious extra smoothing out. I’m obsessively tracking the package because I’m just a tad excited. 

7) It’s gotten more humid here the last couple of days and it is doing fabulous things for Annie’s hair. I’m a tad obsessed with the curls.

Have a great weekend!!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Hot topic quick takes!

 Linking with Kelly for some quick takes about all the hottest topics, hit it.

1) SNOW. Well after my despair over NEEDING it to snow and wanted and praying for it to snow, it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. And snowed some more. I blogged a little less than 3 weeks ago and since then the snow has not left the ground and just keeps piling up. And the thing is, I know it’s all my fault- this is what happens when Ana prays for things. I apologize to you all, I will start praying for spring.

I think Fred’s feelings kind of capture how everyone is feeling about winter now. We’re done.

2) PREGNANCY. I know you’re all (all 2 of you reading) dying to know how this pregnancy is treating me so I will indulge you with some deats. It’s great. I mean terrible. I mean terrible and great. It is so great that this sweet boy is growing and healthy and I think I finally felt some legit kicks in the middle of the night last night (my absolute favorite thing ever!!!) but it turns out that being pregnant this many times is hard and my body seems to hate me for it. I tried to be “healthy “ recently and be consistent with some prenatal workouts and as a result I think I did some major pelvic floor damage. TMI? Sorry. But seriously, as a long-time blog-complainer over all things pregnancy related I can say that young 20-something Ana had absolutely nothing to complain about. Getting old is no fun. With that said,  since my belly is finally catching up with my body in growth I’ll go ahead and document the bump at 18 weeks:

3) LENT. Very fitting, very fitting indeed. Pregnancy during Lent, that is. I woke up this morning to this little reading in my prayer book and it was... timely. 

The daily cross. No day without a cross; not a single day in which we are not to carry the cross of the Lord, in which we are not to accept his yoke. Let this opportunity serve to remind us again that the joy of the resurrection is a consequence of the suffering of the cross.”

That Saint Josemaria is always good for a timely reminder. It’s from Christ is Passing By.  

4) MORE LENT. And we’re only 2 days in! I woke up Wednesday fully intending to kick lent off right with morning mass with the kids. I was attempting to have everyone fed early and dressed when all of the sudden, sweet Annie took a huge fall down our stairs resulting in a trip to the ER, a mild concussion and one extremely terrified and stressed out mother. Right after the fall she seemed like she might lose consciousness and it was one of the scariest moments of my life. So we did not get to mass after all but after reading that above quote I decided I was ok with that being the penitential way God wanted us all to start lent. And Annie is doing great! Or else maybe I wouldn’t have been fine with it...

5) BLOGGING. Getting back to blogging sans social media has been strange because I’m fairly certain 95% of the people who read my blog were reading it because I posted that I blogged on social media. The nice thing is that it totally takes all the pressure off of caring too much about what exactly I write and whether there are typos because I know those of you stopping by are here because you know me and want to be here. With that said though, I’d love to know who is reading and if those of you reading are also blogging so I can check in with you too, so let me know! And thanks for being here:)

6) MORE BLOGS. There are a few blogs I’ve been checking in with of other friends who are still blogging it old school (or who never stopped) and it’s been lovely. Laura, Colleen, Rosie, Jenny and of course Kelly, are my current frequent reads but I’d love to add yours to my brain feed, since I’m not using any actual feed online. 

7) Alright my Freddie Friday idea is kind of a flop since I stink at writing down the funny things he says and also mostly stink at taking good pictures but I’ll still feature at least one recent phone photo to give him his due on the blog. 

Happy Friday!!!