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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.

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Ink Slingers Michelle Motherhood Prayer Respect Life Respect Life Month Spiritual Growth Vocations

The Gift of a Son

baby_handsI hold you close and kiss your sweet head. I hold your hand and notice how tiny it looks nestled in my own. I watch you run and hear you giggle. I delight in every aspect of you. Your eyes twinkle with naughtiness and I try to hide my smile as I tell you no, don’t do that. But I can’t hold back how much I enjoy your antics and you laugh in return knowing I can never be angry with you. Your smile brightens the darkest day and makes the rain clouds seem not so dreary. I look at you and wish that this moment in time would never end.

But, as the night melts away and the morning glow begins to spread across the sky, I know that our time together will be just another memory. As I begin to rouse from my sleep, I am saddened that I won’t see you again all day. I’m not even sure you will come again through the night, but I pray that you once again will visit me in my dreams.

william handsI held you inside of my body for just a moment in time and yet I hold you in my heart for all eternity. I dream about the memories we would have made, should have made, before your beautiful life ended. It is through my dreams that I am able to hold you and my arms don’t feel so empty. I look forward to our time together as I wait until one day we are reunited.

God gave me a beautiful gift. I was only able to hold that gift in my arms for a short while and yet that gift continues to bless me, continues to show me God’s love, and continues to give me hope. My beautiful son, I don’t know why we lost you when we did and I can’t understand why we lost you the way we did, but I find that knowing you are in heaven, waiting for us, praying for us, and loving us, gives me such hope! While I love to hold you while I sleep, I dream to hold you for real. You inspire me to be a better person. I want to live my life so that one day, when God decides my fate, He will allow me to spend the rest of my days with you, glorifying and thanking the Lord for all He has given us.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of my children, those who are living and those who reside in heaven with You. While we can’t know Your ways, we know that You are merciful and loving and that you take care of those who call out Your name. You know the pain of seeing Your Son suffer. Please be with me as I long for my own son and all my children who have gone to be with You. Ease my pain and unite my suffering to Christ’s. Thank you for the gift of holding my children in my dreams; please hold them close to You until they fill my arms once again.

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Current Events Ink Slingers Kerri Loss Respect Life Respect Life Month Testimonials

Five Types of Guilt After Pregnancy Loss

You can never anticipate the feelings you will go through following a pregnancy loss. Nothing in life prepares you for it and no one ever thinks it will happen to them. Of all the emotions I went through after each of my three losses, the one that kept surprising me over and over again was the guilty emotions that would surface at unexpected times and in unexpected situations.

Oftentimes the guilt I felt was from some sense of having committed a wrong that was entirely in my imagination or that I had no control over. After speaking with many other women who have experienced similar losses, I know I am not alone in these feelings.

Feeling guilty for some imagined wrong is not unusual following any traumatic event. I hope the following five situations will help others to not feel alone in their own emotions after the loss of a child.

I did something that caused my baby to die

I think almost everyone goes through this. It’s a natural part of coming to terms with the grief. It goes without saying that nothing you did “caused” the death of your child. I remember how guilty I felt as I thought about what I could have done.

Was it something I ate?

Were my pants too tight? (Totally serious)

Is this a punishment for some past sin?

Maybe we shouldn’t have been intimate?

Did that one glass of wine before I knew I was pregnant make a difference?

All these questions and more go through your head. If even just one of them makes sense in your mind it can eat you up inside for months. It’s hard to get past. I remember after my first miscarriage my doctor even went over some of the above questions and told me none of them were true. She did that without prompting from me, she just knew that these were the kinds of things women can come up with and she wanted to put my mind at ease. It didn’t really help at the time, but as more time passed I’m glad she had that conversation with me. Once I could accept my loss as one of those unfortunate events that happen in the lives of many women, I could get past any guilt I had from any of these questions that went through my mind. If you have had similar thoughts, I hope you know that none of these things or anything like it “caused” you baby’s death. In our most rational moments we know that. But many of us aren’t always thinking rationally when dealing with the grief of a pregnancy loss.

I couldn’t look at my child/I flushed the remains

Immediately after a loss we are not in our right mind. Believe me, I look back now at how I was just after each of my three losses and it’s like I’m watching a movie in my head of someone else. With my first miscarriage, we never saw the baby. I was in a room in the triage unit of my hospital’s Labor & Delivery floor, I was in pain from extreme cramping, passing blood clots and tissue, and feeling completely unprepared. An ultrasound showed nothing. I went to the bathroom at one point and passed an extremely large clot. I didn’t even look, I just flushed. I had a very distinct feeling that it was more than a clot, but fear overtook me. I was all alone, I was confused, and it was very late at night.

Our third child, Brigit Ann, was buried in this box with these blankets. I was unable to provide the same for our first child, Casey Marie.
Our third child, Brigit Ann, was buried in this box with these blankets. I was unable to provide the same for our first child, Casey Marie.

It wasn’t until much later that I felt extreme guilt over my actions. Why didn’t I look? Why didn’t I reach in and save my child’s remains? What is wrong with me? It was hard to get past the guilt. Over time I came to accept that no matter what, God is in control. I depend on Him to make all things right. And I can’t go back and fix things. It’s not a lot of consolation, but it’s some.

I’ve talked to many other women who have had similar experiences. It’s nice to know I am not alone.

Along with this, some women have been unable or unwilling to hold their child after a second or third trimester loss. My first experience led me to have a great desire to hold my son when we lost him at 22 weeks, so my experience is quite different. But many women do not feel that way and may never hold their child. That can lead to a lot of guilt later on when they wish they had taken the opportunity when they had it. If that was your experience, you are not alone. Try to take some time for yourself to spend in quiet prayer, lay your guilt before God, and let Him handle it. Easier said, than done, I’m sure.

I’m so happy right now, but wait …

The very first time I felt any sort of happy/excited/joyful emotions after each of my losses I immediately felt guilty about it. How can I possibly be feeling happy after what I just went through? Whether it is a moment of laughter with a friend, the news that you are expecting again, or any kind of milestone in a subsequent pregnancy, these moments that should be happy have an undertone of sadness to them. And those joyful times then lead to feeling guilty that we felt happy for even a moment.

At first this can be so hard to deal with. Moments of joy can lead to tears. We feel like we don’t have a “right” to be happy. This can be even harder if a subsequent pregnancy happens quickly after a loss. But honestly, sometimes the length of time doesn’t matter at all. Even a year later you can feel guilty for those moments of joy and adulation.

It takes time and it takes many moments of this happening before you can truly feel joy again without that guilt behind it.

“How many children do you have?”

After a pregnancy loss, this can be a hard question to answer. For myself, I found it difficult to answer without feeling some guilt. After my first loss, a miscarriage at 8 weeks, if someone asked me if we had any children yet, I often said no. But a small part of me cringed inside as I answered. This also depended on who was asking the question to an extent. Those close to me knew of our loss, but strangers usually got the “no” answer. If I was meeting someone whom I expected to have continued interaction with, I tended to modify that answer.

Our second child, Zachary Thomas, January 11, 2009.
Our second child, Zachary Thomas, January 11, 2009.

When we lost our second child, a stillbirth at 22 weeks, I had a harder time telling people that we didn’t have any children. I had held my second child in my arms, looked into his tiny face, felt his hands and feet, how could I tell someone that I had no children. And once I started telling people that yes, we had a son who had died too soon, I then felt guilty for not mentioning my first child.

It was surprisingly freeing to be able to tell someone, even a complete stranger, that I had two children but that they were with God and not here with me. By the time we lost our third baby (a miscarriage at 9-10 weeks), I was very comfortable telling people that we had three children in heaven.

I encourage others to include their children lost too soon as part of their family as much as possible and in whatever way is most comfortable for their family. This is one way to alleviate the guilt that can come along with not including them in the count of your children. How this looks for each family will be different. I happen to be very public about my losses, but I know that isn’t comfortable for everyone. Do what works best for you.

I can’t keep track of pregnancy milestones

I don’t know about you, but I have a few half filled out or completely empty pregnancy journals laying around my house. I have attempted to fill them out, but I’ve been disappointed so many times that I eventually give up. The irrational part of my brain tells me that if I ignore it the pregnancy will be fine, but if I start filling it out, something will happen. Thus I end up with no tangible record of pregnancy milestones for any of my pregnancies.

Other women I have spoken with have confided that they later felt bad about this. There wasn’t anything to share with an older child about the milestones of the pregnancy with him or her. Should we feel guilty for not tracking our pregnancies more? Saving ultrasounds? Noting food cravings and aversions? Describing how we felt, how we slept, when we felt movement? Taking the monthly “belly shots”? I think we need to give ourselves a break and realize that we can only do the best we can do.

For myself, I’ve learned to let go of this one thing because it causes me added stress during pregnancy. I’d love to have the perfect little journals to share with my children when they get older, but not in exchange for my sanity. Sometimes we just have to be okay with how things are for us and not let others (our parents or in-laws or siblings or friends) guilt us into feeling bad for not recording all the “important” moments of a pregnancy.

These are just a few examples of the kind of guilt mothers (and fathers) may deal with following a pregnancy loss. Some of these feelings can stay with us for years. Learning to forgive ourselves, accept the things we can not change, and letting go of the things that don’t matter in the bigger picture can be a very long road. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone in your feelings. And I encourage you, if you are feeling stuck in any of these unhealthy emotions, to lay your feelings out before God in prayer and also to seek the help of a trusted priest through spiritual direction.

Have you felt similar types of guilt at times? How have you learned to live with it or get past it? What else would you add to this list?Pregnancy loss pic (2)

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Current Events Guest Posts Loss Respect Life Respect Life Month Testimonials

Christopher: Taken too Early

My name is Shari and I am the mother of nine children. My eighth child, Christopher James was taken from me too early to become a saint. Taken before I could ever see his eyes open, feel his breath on my neck or do any of the other mommy things I was supposed to do.

Christopher James
Christopher James

At the end of March 2011 I found out I was pregnant with our eighth child. In the beginning, the pregnancy was pretty uneventful. I was a little sicker than usual and very tired. Around 12 wks I had a few days of spotting, but the doctor couldn’t find the reason. I felt the baby move from about 11 wks until about 13 wks when the placenta was too big and blocked his movement.

At about 22 wks I started having too much amniotic fluid and my hands and legs would go numb very easily. Once I started feeling movement again I only felt about 3 weeks of true kicks and movements as the amniotic fluid was too much and all I could feel was his hiccups. Due to all the fluid he could turn breech and back the right way several times a day and I wouldn’t really feel it, I could just tell by where his hiccups were. At my 32 wk prenatal I told my doctor that I didn’t feel right and felt like a balloon ready to pop and that I couldn’t really feel the baby move other than the hiccups. I was having contractions pretty regularly and a lot of pressure. The doctor didn’t understand why I had pressure since the baby wasn’t engaged. We now know it was because of all the fluid.

Sat Oct 15th, 2011 started out like any other day. Ashley, my oldest, had a volleyball tournament at 8:15 am so I got up and took her to that and then went to breakfast with a homeschool friend. Went home and got the kids ready to go to my nephew’s birthday party. Ryan and the boys were at a pilgrimage and were going to meet us there later. At the party I finished knitting the newborn longies for the baby; that was the last of the newborn knitting I had to do.

Around 7 pm I was getting really tired and sore and had flu like body aches and I just wanted to get home, it was a 45 min drive home. We got home I had a low grade fever. It dawned on me I hadn’t felt the baby move all day, I hadn’t even felt the hiccups I normally felt. I drank some cold water and told my husband we might need to go to the hospital if I couldn’t get him to move. I laid on my left side and waited, nothing. I got an ice pack and put that on my stomach and started to doze off. Still nothing.

As I was dozing I could see the doctor saying he was gone. It was strange and I can’t explain the visions in my head.  I pushed really hard on my belly and could feel him, but he did not push back. I got up and called the doctor and he had me go into labor and delivery. I thought, “We will hear the heartbeat and it will be fine and we will come home.” When we got there the doctor came in with the u/s machine and did an ultrasound. “I am so sorry, but your baby has passed away.” I will never forget those words. He passed away in the breech position- his head close to my heart.

We came home to get things in order and tell the kids. We called our parents that night and told them. Ryan called our priest as well, who was with us every step of this nightmare. I emailed our homeschool group for prayers. In the morning we got the kids up and brought them into the living room. All the kids asked what was wrong and before I had a chance to say anything my ten year old asked, “Did baby Eeyore die?” I have no idea why he asked that but he just knew that was what was wrong.

Our priest announced our loss at Mass that morning. We had many calls of support and sympathy. Our homeschool group set up meals for us for over a month. That afternoon our priest came to sit with us and my in-laws came to take the kids.

Baby Eeyore still did not have a name so we had to pick one. We chose Christopher James. Ryan’s middle name is James.

We were going to go back to the hospital between 8-9 pm Sunday the 16th to start induction. We realized we did not have a shirt to go with his longies and I wanted that to be his burial outfit. It was so hard to have to go buy our baby’s burial outfit, Ryan lost it a little.

When we got to the hospital 15 of our friends were there in the family lounge praying for us. They stayed until 10-11 that night. I asked the doctor to do another u/s just to be sure. There was no change. The doctor checked me and I was dilated to 4 cm so we decided to try for some sleep and break my water in the morning. The doctor said I didn’t have to have any pain with this labor and I told him I wanted a natural birth and to follow my birth plan. The staff was so good.

We broke my water at 6 am Monday morning, Oct 17th, and labor started pretty quick. I was 34 weeks exactly, 2 weeks before I normally deliver my babies. The doctor told us what to expect when the baby was born and that his skin would be peeling from being in the water for so long. Friends came back up and prayed in the lounge again. I had the labor I had wanted. Christopher was placed on my chest and I was still praying for a miracle. I looked at the clock to remember the time since I knew no one else was going to since there was no need. He came to me at 11:20 am. He weighed 6 lbs even (one to two of these pounds was swelling) and 19” long. The nurses were crying at his birth as well. He was beautiful and looked just like our other children.

Our priest was there within 5 minutes and came and baptized him and confirmed him. The doctor and nurses left the room for which I was grateful.

Christopher (Shari)Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep came and did pictures. We took pictures with our own camera as well. The kids came up later that evening. Ryan stayed with me at the hospital and we left Tuesday morning after spending a little more time with our baby. We spent every minute we could holding him.

I don’t think there ever could have been enough time or memories made with our precious little saint. I know the social worker at the hospital and she was wonderful. She set everything up with the funeral home that donates its services to parents who lose children. We left the room with a box of mementos (a baby ring, foot and hand prints, a hat, the tape measure used to measure him, angel pins for the kids, and other things that were used for him) instead of a baby and my heart broke more than I thought it ever could. My heart was shattered and there will always be a piece missing. I would never hear him cry, see his eyes open, feel his sweet little hands stroke my face, snuggle to sleep at night. I would never get to see him dance like a silly little kid with his siblings, or any of the other many milestones I had been looking forward to. A part of me died that day and yet I had a husband and seven other children who needed me so I had to be strong and I couldn’t just collapse.

All the things like going to the funeral home and picking out the prayer cards, going to the cemetery to pay for the grave site and get the things to choose a grave marker and to stores to get Christopher a rosary and try to find a baptism blanket to be buried with- no one should have to go shopping for things to wear to your child’s funeral, but that’s exactly what we had to do.

Christopher--Reif Family
This is my whole family.

Someone anonymously donated a beautiful wooden casket handmade from monks in Iowa. Christopher had a full funeral just like someone that had lived a full life. The church was full and the support from our church family was overwhelming. The children’s choir sang for it, parents pulled their children from school to sing or serve for it. It was a rainy cold October day, one of those days that was perfect for a funeral.  It was as if all the angels were weeping with us for our loss. Although I can remember clearly every detail of those days, even now two years later, it was a very surreal experience and like it wasn’t us going through that nightmare. Even now it seems as though I am remembering a movie I watched. My arms physically ached for a baby.

It took a couple months before I was able to put the baby things away. I was gifted a beautiful prayer shawl from some online groups I am a part of and a beautiful quilt made in honor of my Christopher. The outpouring of support from women I had never even met in person as well as the ones that were dear to us, words can’t even describe how it made us feel.

In April of 2012 we were blessed to be expecting again. The pregnancy was extremely stressful and emotional for me. I did everything perfect. I was pretty sick again. I couldn’t bring myself to think about actually bringing a baby home. I got nothing ready for this baby. Everything was good and still I would not let myself get things ready for the baby. Everything looked fine before, too. I couldn’t imagine having to put it all away again. I did knit one skirt and hat for her. When my husband asked if I had changed my mind on making things for the baby I said, “No, she will wear this one way or the other” and he knew what I meant. Towards the end I started having too much fluid again. Zoe Clare came into the world as a healthy baby on Dec 3rd at 36 wks gestation. It was such a roller coaster but one that was well worth it. Of course now we had to come home and get things ready!

I miss my Christopher and no one can replace him. I find myself looking at Zoe and wondering how Christopher would have looked at that age. It is very bittersweet. Now when people ask how many children we have I say nine and explain if they ask why they only see eight. When doing a head count to see if everyone is present I know I am always missing one.

Thank you for caring enough to let me share my story. I pray daily for all those parents that have lost little ones too early.Pregnancy loss pic (2)

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Current Events Ink Slingers Kerri Loss Respect Life Respect Life Month

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Pregnancy loss pic (2)On this day, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, we take time to remember our children who have died too soon. Whether you have experienced the loss of your child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or in those first few hours, days, or months of their short lives, the pain can often be overwhelming and unbearable at times while at other times you may simply feel numb to everything around you.

Those feelings in the days and months following a loss will often change as more and more time passes. Yet, no matter how much time goes by and how much we “move on” with our lives, we never forget. Our child or children will always have a home in our hearts and we often find ourselves thinking about them and missing them at random times.

The best part about today’s special day of remembrance is not just that we can take a moment to remember our precious children, but that we can also share our stories with others and find consolation and camaraderie with other mothers and fathers who understand the pain we have all been through. It’s nice to read of other’s experiences and realize that you are not alone in your grief, that someone else has been where you are and they have lived through it. [For some resources for those mourning or those wanting to recognize a friend or family member’s loss, check out our Miscarriage.InfantLoss Board on Pinterest.]

Today, we at Catholic Sistas would like to share our stories of loss. Throughout today you will see a variety of different stories shared from our writers as well as a few of our friends. But we also want to hear your stories! If you have a blog, we encourage you to share your own story there and to link it up for us below in the link-up. Please also include a link in your story back to this post so that others can find us and read the various stories we will be sharing with each other. Thank you in advance for sharing your stories with us. We hope they will give support and encouragement to others.

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