My Lent 2019 Book List Plans

Is this the year you really want to dive into Lent? Do you want to come out of this Lenten Season and truly feel that you've had a small share of living in the desert with Christ for 40 days? I know that I do. Maybe it's an upcoming birthday that's making me have more of a now-or-never type of attitude towards Lent. Or maybe I just acutely feel the necessity of truly modeling this for my children, and living it with my husband. Whatever it is, these are the books and resources I'm going to use this Lent to really LIVE the season from Ash Wednesday all the way through to Easter Vigil. Look them over. If something looks helpful to you, use it. If it inspires you, go with it. I hope all of these bless and encourage you.

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Touched by Grace

Two years ago tomorrow, my 6th child, Raphael, was stillborn. This is his story.

When we found out that I was expecting my 6th child, my other kids were thrilled. Gabe, who was then 7, threw his arms around me and kissed my stomach. The other kids were equally as excited. I'd read about kids in other families being mad or angry about a new baby about to come. That was not my experience. My three year old daughter kept saying she had a baby in her tummy too. It was very cute and I felt very content. Things went along pretty uneventfully.

I do remember once thinking about how lucky I was at my age to have been able to conceive 6 children so easily, effortlessly, and that other than some rough deliveries, my pregnancies had always been textbook easy. I remember walking into my room and wondering to myself why I had never experienced a miscarriage. Now I don't know what I think about voices and stuff like that, but I remember asking in my mind if I would carry that baby to term, and I got a two part answer in my mind, it said, "This one won't."

Uh... OK. So I just kind of cautiously watched for any signs of bleeding or cramping and nothing happened. The pregnancy went along as per usual and when I made it into my second trimester I sort of brushed off the voice and chalked up to my overactive imagination and too much spiritual reading.

In my fourth month I finally went to see the nurse midwife. I remember while she was doing my internal exam she had her fingers inside of me and her other hand on to of my stomach and she said, "between here and here - that's all your baby!" Well I was thrilled! It was starting to feel very real to me! She listened for a heartbeat and had a little difficulty, but after laying me down she found it and it was loud and clear. She said she wanted an ultrasound soon to, "make sure the baby is healthy." Now that seems like an innocent enough comment, but I wondered about it. Why wouldn't the baby be healthy? I know medical providers are always looking for something wrong... maybe she was too. Who knows. I went home.

Now this is about the time when most moms start to feel their baby move and kick. I am a very big worry wart about this. In the past I had had babies who kicked and danced all the times, and others who were more sedate. This one seemed like he was going to be more laid back and sedate. He rarely seemed to move, and when he did it was so gentle.

At around the end of my 4th month, my mother-in-law died. She had been sick for a long time and we were expecting it. My husband took it well although while he was talking to his sister he felt suddenly nauseous and had to sit down. She sort of talked him through it so I'm glad he was on the phone with her when it happened. She also shared with him that she too was expecting a baby at age 46, and that her baby would be born a few weeks after ours! I thought that was so perfect! Here my sister-in-law had diligently cared for her mother, visited with her, picked out her clothes and even had her transferred to a nursing home right across the street from her own home! And her new baby seemed to me like a reward for her diligence as a daughter. A true blessing. It also seemed that although God was taking away a very special person and part of our family, he was generously giving us two special little babies to hold and love and fill the pain. I could see God's hand and his perfect timing.

We traveled to the funeral. It honestly was a very good time to have all the family together to plan the mass, rehearse the music, and spend time together with good food, friends and each other. It was great for the kids to be with their cousins too. A few things stand out in my mind about that time. My sister-in-law who was barely even showing talked a lot about how much her baby was moving. I was so jealous. I felt like my baby hardly ever moved, certainly not like that, and I started to wonder if maybe something was wrong or maybe I just shouldn't compare children.

The other thing is that my sister-in-law had picked out a piece of music called the Celtic Farewell. It's to the tune of Danny Boy but it has the usual Catholic words about "May the Angels lead you into paradise." It's lovely and it captured my mother-in-law's Irish roots and her Catholic Culture. As a family we cried and mourned, remembered and laughed together. My mother-in-law's funeral will always be a very special memory I think for my husband and I and the kids who are old enough to remember.

Two weeks later, my friend and flute teacher of many many years, Anita, died. She was the same age as my mother-in-law at 82. Now this was more of a personal loss to me because I had been studying with Anita for years and we had become more than teacher and student- we were friends. She did things with our family, we went to concerts together, Mr. Pete did little jobs around her apartment for her. It was just a very sad big loss in my life that will always be there. How do you replace a mentor? So two weeks later my kids and Pete and I are at Anita's funeral. I was wiped out.

They say these things come in threes - it sure did for us!

One morning I was typing at my computer and the baby moved... a lot! Frantically, frenetically - I had never felt anything like it before. I stood up and started walking around with my arms over my stomach trying to calm this little one down. Was it a bad dream? Had I just been sitting wrong and it bothered him? I didn't know. At least I knew the baby could move and I found some peace in that.

At that point I become amazed at my mind's ability to protect me from the truth. I went to see my midwife for a homebirth meeting the next week and I told her about how my baby had really moved around one day last week, so I wasn't worried about it any more. Why wasn't I worried that it hadn't moved since, or that it only moved if I pressed my stomach? I tried to get her to listen for fetal heart tones, but she had a cold and didn't think she could hear anything. She didn't have a Doptone. I had a vague unexplainable sense that something wasn't right.

One night I started to drift off to sleep and I realized I hadn't even thought about the baby that day and I jumped - it's like there was a mental connection that was supposed to be there that wasn't there any more and I was just starting to miss it. But a mental connection isn't exactly a medical diagnosis so I wrote that off again to my overactive imagination and probably a need to over spiritualize pregnancy. What a dummy!

About a week later, I went to the bathroom one morning and found brown mucus on wiping. I had never ever had that before in any other pregnancy and it scared me. I called my midwife's office and they said brown meant old blood, so I should probably just take it easy and they would see me at 4:00 the next afternoon. I tried not to worry. Every time I pressed my stomach I could feel the baby moving and I had an image in my mind of a baby reluctantly rousing from sleep and stretching against the intrusion. It never occurred to me that my baby had died but in retrospect, all the signs were there. The brown discharge got red and eventually started to turn red, but I wasn't in any pain and there was no cramping.

It seemed an eternity before 4:00 p.m. the next afternoon. I had never seen this midwife before. I guess there are about 20 of them in this practice with about a gazillion doctors in offices all over the county. It's a HUGE practice, practically a monopoly in the city. She was very kind. First she measured me and said I was a tad small for dates. I measured 21 weeks. I was in my 23rd week. Then she tried to find the heart tones and once again there was some difficulty. I mentioned to her that the other midwife had the same problems and had to lay me down to find them. So I lay completely flat and she tried for what seemed an eternity to try and pick up something, anything, with no luck. Mr. Pete, the eternal optimist, was still not worried, or so he said. He thought there was probably something wrong with the Doptone, or the midwife wasn't skilled. He thought the ultrasound would clear everything up.

It did. We went into this little room and they had managed to find a doctor who was still there willing to run the ultrasound. As soon as I saw my son I knew he was gone. There was no movement, no heartbeat. My eyes finally confirmed what I had been feeling but not allowing myself to accept- Yes the baby was there, and yes I could feel it bump against the side of my abdomen, but there was no spontaneous movement, there was no life.

Now, the interesting thing is, I got all of that in the first two seconds of the scan. The doctor started to explain the anatomy of what we were seeing.

"OK, now this is your uterus. Here is the baby's head. Here's the backbone."

It's what he wasn't saying.

Finally I said it. "My baby's dead right?"

The doctor and the midwife looked startled. Pained. It's like they didn't want to say it but were glad that I did. Yes, they confirmed. The baby was dead.

To be continued...

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