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A Heavenly Lesson from St. Gertie

On Sunday, November 2, we confirmed our suspicion of being pregnant. Ah, seven kiddos. Downsizing just before number six was born, I started to doubt the size of our home. Six pregnancies and six live births, something in the back of my mind immediately jumped to “this one isn’t yours.” I’m not sure why I thought that. It might have been the rarity of having so many children without complication or loss, or just the urge to feel panicky, but there it was. I couldn’t shake it. Determined not to let it cloud my happiness, I started to size up the very real challenges of our current state of life. Our oldest, now a high school graduate from Seton Home Study School and working, our two-year-old son who would make the path of destruction of the Tazmanian Devil look like child’s play, and all the kids in between, I braced myself for the impending “mack truck” phase of pregnancy. How would I deal with the sheer exhaustion between weeks 9-16 and trying to scrape together something that gave the appearance of homeschooling, domestic chores, managing a blog, working with our parish Jesus Is Lord program?

EXCUSE ME, HAVE YOU SEEN MY BRAIN?

This was my third AMA {advanced maternal age} pregnancy and it showed right off the bat. I started to make dinner one evening and needed to run to the store for something. I mentioned it to the oldest that I needed to get something and would be right back. I never said what that item was. Sure enough, I arrive at the grocery store, put the car into park and promptly forget why I was there. Great, I think to myself. I text my daughter who informs me that I did not tell her what I was getting. Something for dinner? she suggests to me. No, I write her back. I mentally run through all the aisles at H-E-B and cannot remember that dadgum item. Convinced I will remember it if I drive home, I start to leave the store – and sure enough when I get to the light, I REMEMBER!! Safety pins. Y’all, I went to the store for safety pins. So I could make a creative pregnancy announcement. #pregnancybrain #gettinold #youdecide

I won’t bore you with details that the store was out of safety pins or that I spent an HOUR at Hobby Lobby looking for just the right safety pin sizes and doodads and whatnots for the picture I casually posted as my cover photo on Facebook. Nope. I won’t bore you with all that.

TieBreaker

Not ones to waste time, we announced baby safety pin within a few days of finding out ourselves, telling the children, and telling family. A friend once said she told people early on so others would be praying for them. We announce early for this same reason. This bebe was to be our tie breaker. We don’t just have three girls and three boys – we also have a ridiculous pattern of GBGBGB going on.

NOVEMBER 17

The Monday everything changed. Spotting. No cramping. Early texting with my husband, Neil. Called a friend who is a doula. I’m 6W5D at this point. I decide to lay low and step back from all my obligations for the week, including stepping back from working out. I ask for prayers on my Facebook wall. I e-mail my priests for prayers, the local Dominican Sisters, and even texted friends in Rome and begged that they please leave my intentions at the altars in Vatican City. No change. In-laws arrive that Friday. The following Monday is our son’s birthday – our car birth baby. He turned seven. The next day, I can’t take it anymore. Emotionally raw from no changes, I decide instead of going to the birthing center like we have for the past three children, we will see a friend who is our local NaPro doctor. By this point, it has been nine days – November 25. I have had plenty of time to pray about things and feel like I am ready to accept the outcome. I reason that it would be best to be surrounded by friends for this particular appointment should we find out we lost the baby. We are seen at 6 p.m.

I DIDN’T THINK I WOULD CRY

I’m not generally someone who is easily overcome or owned by emotions. Yes, I am Mexican American and, yes, I am pretty comfortable with being loud or angry, but sadness not so much. I didn’t even cry during Steel Magnolias or The Notebook! When Dr. K delivered the news, I had somewhat made my peace ahead of time. Remember the friend who is a doula? She works at the same practice and was working that day. She and the doc were in the room with me and my husband. Stricken with grief from the news, Neil excused himself from the room to get some air. Christine looked at me with tears in her eyes – likely recalling her own losses and sorrow – and said I’m so sorry for your loss. I really thought I could hold it together better than that. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m not fine, I’m really not fine. HERE COME THE WATERWORKS! 

THE DRIVE HOME

7:30 p.m. Silence. 25 minutes of silence broken up only by stifled crying, staring out the window, dropping off my prescription at the grocery store, wondering how we would break the news to the children, how we would cope with the grief; personally, as a couple, and as a family. So much to consider and think about. The details of how to move forward were too overwhelming. Sleep sounded good. Better than having to tell the children. Better than having to see their expressions go from ones of hope to crushed from the loss. It was one thing to be mentally prepared for the news myself. What I wasn’t prepared for was the children’s reactions. The child we thought would handle it best turned out to be the one who was the most devastated. We gathered everyone in our bedroom. Neil handled it with such grace. Obviously very emotional himself from the news, he went on to tell them we had lost the baby. We both shared that it was ok to be angry, sad, feel fine one moment and then cry the next. We wanted the kids to know it was all normal and that we were going to be there for one another and to be kind to each other. We tried our best to let them know that despite our sadness, we should be glad because we had our very own saint to pray for us – and that it was important for us to name the baby so we could make that personal connection.

SHE HAS A NAME!

Mary Josephine

our sweet Josie

Not long after we broke the news to the kiddos, we all pretty much concluded that she was a girl. After all…birth order, right? The question was what is your name, sweet girl? I had the most amazing dream that evening {for days after I wished I could fall asleep and go back to where I left off} in which I was running in this golden field with this little girl. She looked a lot like our daughter, Josie – only blonder and more curls than our sweet Josie. She was wearing this beautiful emerald green dress and kept telling me her name was Gertie. I was so enamored with this beautiful child. I woke up and told my husband her name is Gertie! Her name is GERTIE! That means her name is…Gertrude. Oooooh, that is so not a name I would have chosen.

Neil looked at me and said he had a name come to him in the car ride home – Felicity. Neither of those names we would have chosen. But, without question, we knew that was the name she was to be given. Confirmation #1.

HEAVEN AND EARTH MEET

Thanksgiving Day we went to Mass, as has become the tradition for our family in recent years. It’s a bilingual Mass and it’s the only Mass of the day, so all friends who attend other Mass times and are in town come to this Mass. It’s beautiful. Before Mass, it’s not uncommon for someone to lead a rosary. It’s also not uncommon for the closing prayer to include a set of prayers for our Holy Father’s intentions. What is uncommon is for the lady leading the rosary {someone I am acquainted with, by the way} to finish the Holy Father’s intentions and then go on to say she would like to say a prayer to St. Gertrude, blah blah blah. I say blah blah blah only because I literally heard nothing after she said that. I began punching Neil’s leg DID YOU HEAR WHAT SHE SAID? The only other thing going on as irreverent as me punching Neil is my daughter, who was sitting on the other side of my husband who is whisper screaming MOM, DID YOU HEAR WHAT SHE SAID?  Confirmation #2.

To say I was a puddle throughout Mass would have been an understatement. Pretty sure I broke out the ugly cry, friends. The next trigger was the realization that our entire family was together – because heaven and earth meet when Mass is celebrated. So much to be grateful for. So much to be grateful for.

PROCESSING GRIEF AS AN INTROVERT

Online, it’s easy to appear as an extrovert. It’s even easier to fool people who share common interests because you have so much to say. My reality included asking for prayers, but not really looking for a conversation. I’ve never found myself go so deeply inward before. I spent a considerable amount of time processing the events, the details that still needed to be sorted through – burial, Texas law and where to bury, what on earth do you buy for a miscarried child?, the local cemetery or our own backyard – I had so many of my own thoughts that, between that and meeting the needs of my husband and children, I felt absolutely tapped out beyond that. Normally I like to stay and chat with friends after Mass while the children run around the trees, but not so soon after the loss. I couldn’t be trusted with my emotions. I communicated the best way I knew how to –  phone, e-mail, texting, Facebook messages – places where I could maintain my composure better.

CONFIRMATION #3

I look for things in threes and it was the evening of Thanksgiving when the third confirmation would reveal itself. Remembering that the woman who led the rosary wanted to pray to St. Gertrude, I decided to look her up. St. Gertrude’s feast day was the day before everything turned sour with the pregnancy, November 16. It was enough for me. It was enough for my husband. Her name would be Felicity Gertrude Kreitzer. Now, if you know the names of our other children, you would know without a doubt this was God’s chosen name for her.

BURIAL BRINGS CLOSURE

unnamed-16

The casket

Three weeks after the process of miscarriage started and on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception, we were finally able to say goodbye to our little one. Due to a series of conflicts of schedules, we were finally able to figure out a date that was compatible with both our family and our priest. Had it been any sooner than that, we would not have buried the baby. The baby passed the day before. As awkward as it was, I asked the kids if they wanted to see the baby’s home. Some of them were rightfully squeamish at the thought, but I posed the question think about how you might feel after the burial and you passed up the opportunity to have a look…will you regret not looking? And I left it at that. I wanted it to be their choice. All six children chose to look and many of them had a lot of very respectful and thoughtful questions. It ended up being very cathartic for them and made Gertie seem real vs. a concept or idea, which can be a real danger in early pregnancy.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Time is sometimes the only way things heal. Having a loss so early on in pregnancy, the holidays don’t feel sad or burdensome, but I expect our would-have-been due date to be a tough time. Since I can’t predict the future, I can only hope and pray that the God’s graces to move us through that time will be there. St. Gertie, pray for us!

RESOURCES

I have always had a heart for those who have suffered a miscarriage or infant loss, which is why we have tried to do our best at Catholic Sistas to highlight National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day on October 15 through a series of stories. We have also created a board on Pinterest dedicated to helping mothers and fathers move through lost parenthood. For those curious about the casket, a friend found theirs through Heaven’s Gain, so we ended up ordering through them, too, and were pleased with our purchase and experience.

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About Martina Kreitzer

Martina is a cradle Catholic, wife to Neil, and mother to seven kiddos here {and three in heaven}– 4/96-1/17. She decided to homeschool the kiddos in 2010 after many years in public schools and is currently transitioning out of homeschooling. She is the creator of Catholic Sistas which focuses on a feminine perspective of the Catholic Faith. The website was the result of an existing camaraderie by the contributors in a Catholic women’s group she created. She is also a Seal of Approval evaluator for the Catholic Writers Guild. Lest you think she spends all her time online, Martina has enjoyed getting out into the community by serving on the Pastoral Council from 2010-2013. She is constantly on the lookout to make her parish as welcoming as the small town she grew up in East Texas. This task is not easy given that St. William is the largest parish in the Austin diocese, serving well over twenty thousand parishioners. She loves Jesus, coffee, bacon, chocolate, photography, more bacon, evangelizing, and the company of those unafraid to use their sense of humor.

  • Nicole - I am sorry for the loss of Felicity. Thank you for sharing your story. May God be with Felicity and your whole family!December 26, 2014 – 6:48 amReplyCancel

  • Adrienne - Well done, Martina. Thank you for sharing about the life of Gertie. You are making me think about my next post topic.December 26, 2014 – 7:52 amReplyCancel

  • Shiela - Thank you for your story, Martina. It is always in our darkest moments that God reveals himself through comforting signal graces. Merry Christmas, Kreitzers.December 26, 2014 – 8:04 amReplyCancel

  • Sheri - You did a beautiful job of sharing your story. I know it is difficult, but I also know that sometimes you just need to share your story. We had a very early miscarriage (1-2 weeks) in 2005, but it wasn’t too bad emotionally. But then we miscarried at 19 weeks what would have been our sixth child here. We lost him on November 14, 2008. I know this Christmas season has been difficult for you. I couldn’t stand any songs that were not about the coming of Christ – too syrupy. I wanted Christ to come NOW and take away my pain. It took medication, time, and another pregnancy (and live birth) to heal my wounds. The emotional scars are still there, of course, but we’re doing okay now. God bless, and please accept my virtual {{hug}}.December 26, 2014 – 9:55 amReplyCancel

  • Jill Florence - Thank you so much for sharing Gertie with all of us….thanks for the post Christmas tears. :). I’ve been holding my business since watching my oldest serve at midnight mass but for whatever reason, it’s time for tears. I can’t even say they are truly sad tears; because I’m not sad, I’m blessed. I just recently found Catholic Sistas and look forward to reading your posts….I don’t feel as alone in my religious journey; I don’t feel so inadequate as a Catholic mother, rather, I feel inspired and motivated. I won’t pretend to know your pain you and your family have experienced from Gertrude’s passing but you and your family will always have a special place in my heart because you included me on your journey. Side note, St Gertrude is special to me as well because she is the patron saint of my childhood school….Gertie attaches herself and never leaves, it’s kind of nice.
    Love and blessings,
    JillDecember 26, 2014 – 10:46 amReplyCancel

  • Charla - Martina, thank you for sharing this. It is absolutely beautiful. You and sweet Felicity Gertrude are in my heart and prayers.December 26, 2014 – 11:31 amReplyCancel

  • Monica - Thank you for posting this article. I recently lost a little one whose name I wouldn’t have chosen either: Innocent. I didn’t know I could have done something to keep and bury the baby who was an early loss. I felt so alone. Even my good husband was distant. I’m still recovering though I have 3 healthy kids at home. People need to talk more about it. This article informed me and helped me grieve with someone else who knows how I feel. Thanks.December 26, 2014 – 1:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Anon - thank you so much for this. I found out a week ago that my baby didn’t have a heartbeat, and am still waiting for the miscarriage to occur. Christmas was incredibly hard.December 26, 2014 – 7:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Martina Kreitzer - Anon, I am so sorry for your loss. I remember well how topsy turvy those three weeks were. I would say I had an absolutely solid network of friends with similar situations, but still…they couldn’t walk it with me. It’s such a unique circumstance, much like pregnancies and labors, and babies…they are each so different. I pray you are able to move through this with relative ease. ::hugs::December 28, 2014 – 1:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Ana - I am sorry for the loss. She joins our Morgan, Maureen and Justin and I can hardly wait to see them sometimes! Merry Christmas!December 27, 2014 – 10:48 amReplyCancel

  • Cindy - I offered my mass today for you and your baby.December 28, 2014 – 2:25 pmReplyCancel

    • Martina Kreitzer - Cindy, Thank you so much. That means a lot to me and our family. 🙂

      AnnMarie, Thanks. 🙂December 29, 2014 – 3:42 pmReplyCancel

  • AnnMarie - Thank you for sharing your story, Martina. I know your little saint in heaven is praying for her loving mother and her family. God bless you.December 28, 2014 – 5:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Brittany - Hugs and prayers for you Kreitzer Family. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.December 29, 2014 – 9:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Joan - Thanks for sharing your story with us. Prayers for you and your family as you start this new years with your precious little one in heaven looking down on you with much love.December 30, 2014 – 3:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerri - Thanks for sharing your story, Martina. I know how tough it can be. This is such a difficult experience and yet you are surrounded by so many good friends, so many people praying for you. Your story here is beautifully written and I loved how you approached this with your children. Many blessings to you and your family. St. Gertie, pray for us!January 6, 2015 – 12:49 pmReplyCancel

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