Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Loss Marriage Martina Parenting Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Testimonials Vocations

The Rainbow after the Storm

The Rainbow after the Storm

I always told myself I’d be satisfied with the family size we had, whether that was one child or many. And so it came to be that five more children would follow the first – and in an order that proved God has a sense of humor, girl boy girl boy girl boy. What we didn’t expect was the storm that was brewing unbeknownst to us. It would be years before the rainbow finally showed its face.

When we got pregnant after #6 was born, we started to brace ourselves for what was to come. We had recently downsized from a rather large home into a much smaller one to be close to our home parish. Multiple daily trips there and back for Mass, youth ministry, RE, volunteer meetings, parent meetings, children’s choir, altar boy trainings, weddings and funerals, and spiritual direction, it just seemed like the right move. We wanted the neighborhood – or so we thought – until we realized that our size 10 shoe of a family was being squashed into a size 5 shoe of a house.

But it wouldn’t matter.

That was November 2014 – almost four years ago when our entire family experienced our first and most devastating miscarriage. It was the most devastating only because we didn’t see it coming. It was my grief, my husband’s grief, our grief together as a couple…then there was our children’s grief, both individually and collectively. And lastly, it was our family’s grief. It was almost too much to bear, but we muddled through it. We gave her a name right away, following our birth order, of course – Felicity Gertrude, or baby Gertie. We asked her in our nightly prayers to pray for our family and the practice of normalizing her place in the family began with such mixed emotions.

My due date came and almost went. I realized it on the actual day as I lay in bed, ready to go to sleep. Sad thoughts crept into my head, but I brushed them aside. I made it a priority to focus on the fact that God is good all the time. I had spent a considerable amount of time in grief after the loss of our little one and allowed myself to experience all those emotions.

Our oldest was 18 at the time and always went to her own favorite Mass time, while the rest of our family went to our usual 9:30 a.m. Mass time. Going all together as a family was a rare treat, usually only enjoyed on Thanksgiving. And so it happened that the first Mass we went together after our loss on November 15, 2014 was ON Thanksgiving. The woman leading the rosary before Mass prayed the St. Gertrude prayer at the close of the rosary – and that’s when I lost it. Ugly cry, don’t care WHO sees me, this crying is happening NOW kinda cry. We were all together – our whole family – because during Mass, heaven and earth meet and our lost little was with us.

TWO MORE LOSSES

Little did we know losing Gertie would be the beginning of multiple losses. Soon after her burial on Our Blessed Mother’s solemnity, the Immaculate Conception, we would find ourselves pregnant again in January – Michael Christopher. It was cautious optimism followed by almost instant grief. A week passed from learning of our next baby to his death. It was over almost as soon as it had started.

The numbness sets in.

Loss three would be the following January 2016 – Sarah Olivia, whom my daughter named. My due date was to be our anniversary, on the actual date. I found solace in this connection, but it was stacked alongside inevitable grief. God was done with our family here on earth, I was sure of it.

Remember when I said I had always worked hard to be happy with our family size? Six children appears to many as a very large family and sometimes the outside perception is that it’s too many or pangs of sadness aren’t necessary seeing as we already have “too many children” by society.

And yet both mine and my husband’s heart desired to continue to be open in the face of what felt like a continued string of miscarriages – lost babies.

It wasn’t until I saw the look of sadness on my sweet Josie’s face when we became pregnant for a 10th time that I realized the depth of the grief and impact of those losses on our family. However, my hcg numbers were strong, everything looked good, the doc (and personal friend) had me on progesterone (again). It was more hope than we’d seen since my pregnancy with #6 in 2011. I did my best to assure my sweet five year old girl that it seemed like we might get to meet this little one.

And so we did. In January 2017, we welcomed our sweet Emmaleine Rose (Emmie to friends and family). When I was pregnant with her, I did a lot of soul searching, talking to God, and putting in petty requests like, I want her to have green eyes and curly red hair. He, however, did NOT give me a red headed green eyed girl like I wanted, lol, but she has the MOST FABULOUS brown curls and STUNNING blue eyes that may turn green, as most of our kiddos have some shade of green or hazel eyes.

My pregnancy with Emmie was by far one of my most physically difficult, ending up with SPD, which made it practically impossible to walk, and affecting my ability to walk even months after her birth. And yet my pregnancy with her carried with it some of my best memories. I cherished each moment we had together. I talked to her, played with her when she rolled around like a barrel and tried to break my ribs with her feet – fun times! 

I wrestled quite a bit with coming to terms that these beautiful children first belong to God and that ultimately I shouldn’t dwell on despair of their losses. That’s easier to type and read than it is to really take in and make my own. I credit our priests who lifted our family in those hard times and availed themselves to us when we needed them most, showing up late at night to talk to us and help us out after they had no doubt invested 12+ hours into their work day already, or just sending a text to see how I was doing. Pastoral didn’t even begin to cover how they made our family feel in those troubling times.

Looking back, I know it wasn’t only the hope and desire of a baby after three losses that brought that catharsis full circle. Instead, it was a combination of Emmie, our priests, and the complete surrender to God’s will that brought a final sense of peace.

God is in control.

And God is good, all the time.

 

Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Prayer Respect Life Month Rita

America the Divisive

 

America the Divisive

The past week or so has been hard for Americans. It’s been divisive. It’s dredged up difficult memories for some. It’s made many of us question our ability to determine who is telling truth, and really, what is truth? It’s made us think of justice and the American legal system of due process and burden of proof. It’s made us worry for our daughters, and for our sons. It’s brought about name-calling, gender-shaming, bullying and stalking; and it’s brought out the worst in some people.

In a country increasingly less and less faithfully Christian, politics has become a religion for some. Proclamations denouncing those who do not fall in-line with the representatives of their political parties. Prophesies of what will come to pass if the other political party gets their way.

Less than a week ago, on September 29, the Universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Archangels, Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Let us pray and ask the Archangels to care for our country during this difficult political time. For St. Michael to defend our nation against the wickedness of the devil, for St. Raphael to heal the hearts, minds, and souls of all our fellow Americans, and for St. Gabriel to deliver the message of God to all Americans, especially our leaders.

Prayer

O God, who dispose in marvelous order ministries both angelic and human, graciously grant that our life on earth may be defended by those who watch over us as they minister perpetually to you in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect Prayer from The Roman Missal, Third Edition, Mass for the Holy Angels)

Categories
Ink Slingers Loss Michelle Pro-Life Issues Resources Respect Life Respect Life Month

What to Say When a Friend Miscarries

what to say when a friend miscarries

The loss of a child during pregnancy can be one of the most devastating events in a person’s life. Not only do you lose your child but you lose all the hopes and dreams that you had for that child. Your life never feels the same. Things that brought you joy now bring you pain. Things you loved to do now seem trivial. Your heart feels empty as there is now piece of your heart gone forever. It can be one of the loneliest and heart-wrenching experiences you will ever have.

Perhaps you have never lost a child but you have a friend who has recently experienced a loss. As a friend it can be difficult to know what to say and what to do to help her through this traumatic event. Sometimes even those who have suffered a miscarriage or experienced a stillbirth will find it difficult to know just the right thing to say. For those who have never lost a child it may feel like you are wading through a mine field knowing that if you say the wrong things you might cause more harm than good. It feels like everything you say is not enough and nothing you do will help heal her pain.

However, there are things you can say and do that when she looks back on them, she will remember them with love and appreciation. Likewise, there are things that you should avoid saying or doing so that you don’t contribute to the pain she already feels so deeply. But how do you know what to say or what to do?

I thought it would be helpful if I gave a short list of several things to avoid saying and several things that I found to be helpful and comforting during my many miscarriages. I hope that they will help you to provide love and comfort to your friend as she experiences one of the worst pains imaginable.

What NOT to say…

  • This happened for a reason
  • The baby probably had something wrong with him/her
  • You can always try again
  • You are so young, you have lots of time to have babies
  • At least you have other children at home
  • At least you don’t have other children at home to console
  • You should be thankful for what you have
  • At least it was an early loss
  • The next one will be fine
  • You are so old, this must be a sign for you to stop having kids
  • You already have enough children, this is God’s way of telling you to stop
  • You need to stop grieving and get on with your life, you are missing so much out there

Things TO say…

  • I am so sorry
  • Is there anything I can do
  • I am praying for you
  • Can I take the kids sometime so you can have some time to be alone to grieve
  • Can I bring you dinner
  • My heart hurts for you, I am here to listen if you need me
  • How are you feeling
  • I know nothing I say or do can take away your pain, please know that I am here for you
  • I don’t know what to say
  • Would you like a hug
  • How is your husband doing
  • How are your kids doing
  • I know how much you wanted and loved this baby
  • I can cry with you if you need someone to cry with
  • I would love to hear about your baby
  • I love you

Helping a friend through a loss can be difficult. Your friend may not want you to do anything. She might need you to do everything. She may want to talk incessantly about her baby, her loss, and her experience or she may not want to share anything about it with you. She may need to go out and occupy herself with activities that don’t remind her of what she is going through or she may want to stay at home and away from everyone else.

Each person grieves differently. As a friend it is most important that you open your heart to her. Speak with gentleness and kindness even if she lashes out in pain. While you may have difficulty putting yourself in her shoes to know that she is going through, remember that right now she needs empathy and compassion.

Reach out to her not only in the first few days and weeks of her loss but in the months that follow. Important dates like her due date, holidays, and other events are sure to bring a new wave of tears and sadness. It will likely be hard on her to see others having babies. Be there for her as she is jealous and angry and sad. Tell her that her feelings are all right and they are good… she needs to work through them to help her heal.

More than anything, remind her that you are there for her. Don’t be scared of her pain. It will hurt you to see her cry, but allow your shoulders to be damp with her tears. While she may not be able to say thank you now, your acts of love and charity to her during the worst time of her life will be a part of the light that saw her through the darkness.

tears

Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Loss Michelle Motherhood Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Vocations

To Say Their Names

To Say Their Names

Our names are important. Even if we share the same name as someone else, our names are still uniquely our own. If someone said, “Tell me about Michelle Fritz”, I’m sure that there would be all kinds of stories-both good and bad- that people could tell you simply by hearing my name. Just as yours does, the mere mention of my name invokes memories and emotions.

michelle-name

We don’t have names simply so that others know what to call us; our names are a part of our identity. They are important because they signify that we belong to someone- a family, a clan, a tribe. They are important because they tell us a little about ourselves. Sometimes our names can tell where we are from, who our ancestors were, when we were born, or perhaps what religion our family calls their own.

Our names, when said by others, can bring us joy or deep pain. When one speaks our name with malice or hate, we hurt. When one speaks our name with love or affection, we rejoice. Our name, spoken aloud, is powerful.

Many years ago a dear friend of mine asked me if I would share the names of my children whom I had lost over the years. I was taken aback. No one had ever asked to hear their names. With deep regret I told her that some of the babies I had lost in very early pregnancy did not have names. I had once been chided about naming babies lost early and so I felt like I was being silly for giving them names when they were lost so soon. She encouraged me to name the babies who did not have names. She said that it would bring healing. She was right.

By giving my babies names I was recognizing that they were a part of our family regardless of how long they were with us. In a world that refuses to acknowledge the importance of the tiniest human beings, naming our children helped us to show that we recognized their humanity and their importance even if the world didn’t.

The world fails to understand the preciousness of each life and this often makes it hard for parents to talk about their children they have lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Most often it is not because it hurts to remember our children- we want to talk about them and remember them! Instead, it is because mentioning the names of our lost babies makes others uncomfortable. They may not know what is right and what is wrong to say. They may just even hate the thought of talking about death, especially of a child. Or, they may not be able to understand because they have never <thankfully> lost a child. It seems as if there is an unspoken rule that when someone loses a baby they should grieve and then get on with their lives never to talk of this life-changing event ever again. But it’s not that easy.

williams-graveShortly after I lost William, another dear friend of mine asked me if I would share the names of my babies with her. Once again I was taken aback. Typing up their names was overwhelming. I wasn’t sure I wanted to send them to my friend. They were a part of me and I didn’t know that I was ready to share them with anyone else. Still, I sent the list to her. The love and the deep pain she felt regarding our losses was something I had never expected. Her words meant so much to me as I grieved the loss of my children. Soon afterward she had a necklace made for me that included all my beloved lost babies’ names neatly written in a gem. I was once again moved to tears. In one single act of love and kindness she has brought humanity and dignity to my children simply by writing their names. While we have lost more children since then, it is still one of my most treasured possessions.

This month is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I am participating in a photo journal challenge to capture the grief that comes with losing a child. On the second day of the challenge the topic was “Who They Are”. We were instructed to share as little or as much about our children as we wanted. I first shared William’s picture but then I decided that it was time to share all my children’s names. I wanted others to know them too, but to be honest, I was scared to death.

You see, many people know that I have lost many, many children; but most had no clue just how many I have lost. They see that I have 11 living children and many believe that getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy comes easily for me. But being open to life means we open ourselves up to loss as well and we have experienced more loss than most will ever experience. Sharing the names of the babies I have lost meant that I was going to share just how much we have gone through. I knew it would bring not only words of comfort but also words of condemnation and chastisement as well.

Still, I decided the time was right and that God was asking me to trust Him. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the courage I needed as I typed each of their names and shared them for the first time to everyone.

Today I share my children with you. I pray that seeing their names will help you have the courage you need to share your child or children’s names as well. Saying their names out loud helps the world to see that even though they did not make it to our arms, or were taken too soon after coming into the world, that their lives have value.

Fritz Babies' Names

If you have not named your child, I encourage you to do so. Naming your baby will bring you peace. It will tie your child to you in a very powerful and meaningful way. It brings recognition to the dignity of his/her life and helps others to understand that this was a child… a child who was loved, a child who was wanted, and a child who will forever be a part of you.

I pray for each and every one of you who has lost a child. It is a pain that no parent should ever have to feel.

I invite you to share with us the names of your children lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Allow us to pray with you and for you and honor your children as we honor our own.

pregnancy-loss

Categories
Current Events Faith Formation Guest Posts Prayer Respect Life Month Saints Sisterhood Vocations

St. Maria Goretti: The Little Saint of Great Mercy

 

St. Maria Goretti

You know when you drive your kids on a five hour road trip to stand in line for two hours for a brief 15 second encounter with international celebrity, only to find out that 13,000 other people had the same idea? Yeah, that just happened. Our road trip to pray at the side of St. Maria Goretti’s relics was an adventure with five young kids and worth every “are we there yet?”

familyIn today’s world, kids are offered a wide array of role models to choose from. As a mother, part of my job is to help guide their eyes and hearts towards those that are worthy of their admiration. Luckily, the Catholic Church has a head start on this category and declared a beautiful group of people to be saints pointing us towards Christ. 

St. Maria Goretti is truly unique as a role model for kids due to her young age of 11 and her mature understanding of the Faith. When Maria was stabbed 14 times for resisting the sexual advances of an older man, some of her dying words were to wish him repentance so he could join her in heaven. For me, as an adult, Maria’s open forgiveness where most of us would feel hatred or anger is nothing short of a miracle.

For the past month, we had visited Maria’s story almost daily to prepare for this trip. I had talked through all of the questions my kids asked about the young saint, her family, her murderer, her relics, canonization and more. I wanted them to be able to get as much out of this experience as they possibly could. The one part of the experience that I could not fully explain to them was the actual road trip to see her. This would have to be an adventure which we would figure out together as the day progressed. Many questions raced through my mind as we neared our destination. Did the kids really understand my teachings on forgiveness? Would they fully appreciate this opportunity to pray at the side of this great but tiny Saint? Were they prepared for their own time of prayer in the church? Why did Perkins have to take so darn long to cook our meal?

stained glassAs we stood in line with thousands of others, I sighed aloud, internally wondering when this stand-still line would ever begin to move. At just that moment, my ten year old son tapped me on the back and leaned in to whisper “This is great! I was worried the line would be short.” I must have given a confused look because he went on to explain “Can you imagine her (St. Maria) being brought here, all the way from Italy and having no lines of people to pray with her? This is the first time I ever prayed for long lines of people.”

It all came back full circle for me that day. There was so much that I could learn from young children, the children that had been declared Saints but also those living under my own roof. St Maria Goretti was a beautiful role model for my kids to learn about before their brief 15 seconds of prayer at her side. My kids were role models to me that day and every day, if I really take a step back to give them the credit they deserve.  
 
St. Maria Goretti, Pray for us!

HAVE YOU VISITED ST. MARIA GORETTI? WHERE DID YOU SEE HER?

 
Andrea Gibbs is a wife and homeschooling mother to five children. Her family leads student and adult mission trips to Guatemala. She previously worked as a curriculum coordinator and teacher in early childhood education, high school youth minister, and speaker to Catholic teens. She has a deep affection for strong coffee, 19th century British literature, dark chocolate, and all things Latin America.
 
logo-2001
Click photo to see the full tour schedule