Pondering the Little Way


Apparently it’s a lot more difficult to write about the nitty-gritty of following the Little Way than I originally anticipated.  It has taken two weeks of wallowing in the knowledge of my inadequacies and a 24 hour retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist to shove me back in the blogosphere.  But I coming bearing deep thoughts!

You know you need to go on retreat when you are pouting the entire three hour drive there, hypothetically speaking, of course.

In all seriousness, I think I hit another low at the end of November.  It all ties back to my childbearing struggles – and the grief process that ebbs and flows over time.  On the surface, I am generally fine.  But I’ve come to realize that certain distractions (TV for one) cause my underlying sadness to fester and eventually spill over, with bitterness threatening to overwhelm me.  I tell myself that God has handed me enough suffering – I shouldn’t have to delve deeper into my spiritual life, I shouldn’t have to give up the few remaining pleasures within my grasp.

It’s never satisfying though, to distract my cares away.

So I went on retreat, where I was constantly surrounded by all the things I yearn for and do not possess: esteem in the eyes of the (Catholic) world, an obvious talent, friendliness, thin body, pregnant belly, babies.  There was no private place I could go to hide and cry out my frustration and woes.  I had to sit before the Lord, acutely aware of my insignificance.

As the retreat drew to a close, I couldn’t pin-point any significant moments.  The talks were good, it was nice to go to mass alone, I tolerated my 4am holy hour.  But nothing seemed earth-shattering.  I didn’t even feel refreshed – mostly just tired and worn out from lack of sleep.  I was prepared to return home to my regularly scheduled life.

Then God informed me that I needed to speak about the Litany of Mary I received at the beginning of retreat (we all drew one at random), Mary Seat of Wisdom.  Totally fine, easy-peasy.  From the moment I read the litany I knew that it related back to a charismatic college retreat when I asked the Holy Spirit for the gift of wisdom.  It would take about 30 seconds to share my blurb, all nice and pithy.  Heck, I even looked up the church’s definition of wisdom – to order one’s life according to God’s will.  Done.

Uh, no, God pressed upon me.  You have got to delve a lot deeper than that today.

Crap.  The last thing I wanted to do was pour out my heart to 170 women about the real reason God asked me to ponder wisdom and the ordering of my life to His will.  I follow God in all the big ways – but it’s those little ways that I fail each day.  I don’t want to suffer more.  I don’t want to seek out further mortification.  I certainly don’t want to admit to all these women that despite the fact that I’ve had four miscarriages in less than two years, the real tragedy is how stingy and distracted I am in my daily life.  How much TV consumes my quiet moments.  It’s embarrassing to admit to struggling with such a dumb vice.

The good news is that I submitted to God’s request.  I choked on my tears in front of all those women.  I spoke of my children.  I admitted to the stupid ways I ignore God’s will.  And I opened myself up to those painful conversations that occur afterwards, when another woman shares her suffering with me.

A short while later it occurred to me that all feelings of anxiety and disappointment were gone.  In fact, a new kind of peace was quickly taking over the vulnerable parts of my heart.  I felt light and joyful – and I wanted to know more about the women I met on this retreat.  I knew that when I returned home my regularly scheduled life wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

So, here I am – pondering instead of vegging out.  My life hasn’t been miraculously scrubbed of all temptations and vices.  However, I think I am finally dipping my toe into the scary waters of following God’s promptings, even in the stupid little stuff.  Especially in those little ways – and isn’t that the point of this whole blog anyhow?


Where Has October Gone?

It’s true, I’ve been slacking in posting since late September.  But in my defense, it’s been a hectic month around here – and not in the typical Halloween-is-just-around-the-corner fashion.  It all started on the Feast of St. Therese…

I discovered I was pregnant, which was both a source of joy and concern for me.  My first pregnancy four years ago with Michael was uneventful (until labor, when he became breech and I had an unexpected c-section).  Since Michael’s birth, however, I haven’t had such good luck with subsequent pregnancies.  The last two years have been spent working with multiple doctors and going through the gauntlet of testing to address my health issues.  A part of me hoped that St. Therese would be linchpin, the “one thing” that would ensure the health of this pregnancy.

But I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder these deep thoughts, because our little family was traveling to Denver in two days.  Packing took precedence!  Ryan had a business conference in the Mile High City, so Michael and I were tagging along to visit friends who also lived in the area.  The week in Denver was wonderful and ended far too quickly.  I couldn’t help chastizing Ryan for failing to book us an extra day to visit after his conference ended.  Little did I realize that the timing was already perfect for our flight home.

Here’s where my story takes a turn and hindsight allows me to see God’s plan working throughout our Denver trip.  During the week, I had a lot of private emotional ups and downs regarding my pregnancy.  One moment I was full of hope for our tiny child, the next I was convinced that another miscarriage was in progress.  I knew her name was Maria Teresa, but I couldn’t tell you why.  I also felt tired and worn out, but wasn’t sure if I was experiencing normal pregnancy symptoms or something worse.  During this time, I felt like I couldn’t really talk about my pregnancy because so much was unknown.  I didn’t want to raise anyone’s hopes just to turn around and give them sad news a week later.

I also had a profound talk with my friend during our visit.  So much had changed since we last saw each other in June.  In August she went through an ectopic pregnancy, and she shared her experience with me.  She told me about catechizing the hospital surgeon to ensure Catholic ethics would be followed during her surgery.  She kept a scrapbook of mementos from her child’s short life.  The hospital even gave her a death certificate and the remains of her child to be buried.  I had no idea that she was laying out a plan for me in the days to come.

We flew out of Denver early Sunday morning.  Sleep did not come easily the night before and my body just didn’t feel right.  The next day, Oct 8th, I had an onset of severe abdominal pain.  Ryan rushed me to the hospital and ultrasound testing showed an ectopic pregnancy.  I was in total shock.  How likely is it that two friends experience the same rare pregnancy complication within weeks of each other?  What are the odds that those two friends, who live a thousand miles apart, will visit each other and discuss this very phenomenon days before it happens again?

The craziness was just beginning.  Once Ryan and I knew the situation, we sent out prayer requests to friends and family.  We anticipated a Catholic medical ethics chat with my doctor and surgery later that evening.  What we didn’t expect was the push-back from our families about me losing part of a fallopian tube.  I also began to wonder if this surgery could be expanded to include some diagnostic work for my other reproductive issues.  If I was going under the knife once, might as well make it worth my time!

My doctor was amazing.  He was willing to respect our Catholic views concerning the ectopic pregnancy, but he also wanted to make the most of my surgery.  We decided to postpone surgery until the following day when a full laproscopic team would be available.  He expected to find some other underlying issues and wanted to treat them, not just diagnose them.

During the night, things began to change again.  I realized that I was no longer in pain and didn’t need the heavy duty meds.  A second blood test confirmed that my hCG levels were decreasing and the baby was passing naturally.  This was  a blessing because it took away the necessity to remove my fallopian tube, and gave my family more peace about the surgery.  I also got the sense that Maria Teresa volunteered for the job – the child who presented a situation that would potentially fix my overall reproductive health.  The sad truth was, until that moment, I was not open to having diagnostic surgery.  I was in denial that my body really needed it.

Surgery lasted for over two hours on Tuesday night.  Ryan said that my doctor looked quite pleased with his work when he emerged from the operating room.  Diagnostic work showed that I had endometriosis covering about 30% of my uterus/abdomen and adhesions on my ovary and c-section scar.  Turns out that endometriosis causes ectopic pregnancies.  If I didn’t fix this problem, the likelihood of future ectopic pregnancies was high.

The next two weeks were spent healing from surgery, trying not to jump back into physical activity too quickly.  I woke up from the hazy world of prescription meds around Oct 15th and wondered where the month had gone!  I also discovered that Oct 15th was not only Teresa of Avila’s feast day (patron for our Maria Teresa), but also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  It felt like an extra blessing from God to have those special days align.

Unfortunately, the drama was not quite finished.  I had a second bout of abdominal pain and ER visiting a few days ago, Oct 28th.  Another ultrasound showed blood pooling in my abdomen.  Doctors aren’t sure if this is due to complications from surgery or my cycle trying to get back into the swing of things.  I’ve spent the last couple of days resting, sleeping, and being so thankful that my mother can take Michael for a few days when crazy health issues crop up.

When I ponder the last thirty days, it amazes me how many blessings have cushioned our hardships.  Friends and family have been a wonderful support – feeding us, caring for Michael, helping me maintain house and home.  Most significantly, I am at peace about the loss of Maria Teresa.  She came into our lives with a very clear purpose.  Her sacrifice will enable our family to grow, and one day our suffering will be turned into joy.  She brought us hope.

Mental Inbox

Is it any wonder that I can’t produce coherent thoughts tonight? There are plenty of topics to entice, but I can’t seem to gather them into a thoughtfully worded post. The temptation to veg out in front of a mind-numbing TV show is growing greater by the minute.

A spark is growing, however. Over the last couple of days I’ve found myself noticing life around me, wondering where I can discover fodder for my new blog. Little seeds are planting themselves in the back of my mind. If only I could clear out the mental cobwebs via the physical materials overflowing my inbox! Alas, the required energy eludes me.

On a silver-lining note – at least I created a legitimate reason to install Instagram on my phone.