Burying the Dead During Advent: Asking “How” & Not “Why”

“When I closed the eyes of my dear little children and buried them, I felt sorrow through and through… People said to me, ‘It would be better to never have had them.’ I couldn’t stand such language. My children were not lost forever; life is short and full of miseries, and we shall find our little ones up above again.”

St. Zellie Martin

After a very risky and complicated identical twin pregnancy, my family and loved ones buried my niece Isabella born to heaven at 25 weeks. There are no pictures or videos of her funeral, but the memories and emotions are seared forever in my heart and mind. There are few words to adequately describe witnessing your eldest brother carry a tiny white casket out of the Chapel after his daughter’s funeral Mass or watch him place her int he ground. Or hold your niece and godchild for minutes while she cries into your wool coat. Or tell your teary eyed and recovering sister-in-law, “I’m so grateful you’re here, and I don’t take that for granted.” We could have experienced a double to triple funeral. And there is still the hopeful but unknown future for her sister Sara.

We did this together as a family and faith community. Withing the sacraments, we commended and entrusted this beautiful, precious girl to God. I’ve learned through the years not to ask “why” anymore but “how.” How has this child transformed our lives? How has this child reflected God? How have I responded to this gift? How can I act with compassion? Am I grateful for this life? Am I open to this life? Am I open to love- the love of a child? Yes.

Dear, Isabella, Aunt Hannah loves you and misses you. Your entire family loves and misses you. I hope to join you in Heaven someday. Requiem Aeternam, baby girl.

Advent Preparation, Anticipation, & Funerals

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist- Savannah, GA

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
– O, Antiphons

Advent a season of preparation- preparation for the gift of a child. While we prepare in joyful  anticipation for the Christ child’s birth, we also prepare to bury a child. During the 2nd week of Advent, my family & I will celebrate her life & mourn the loss of my 23 week old niece while her 26 week old sister fights to develop & grow in the NICU. Advent for us is a season of joy & sorrow & of loss & life. Mostly unwavering love.

This Advent heightens that the joyful birth of Christ is intertwined with the Cross of Christ & the Resurrection. One doesn’t exist separate from the other as with the Christian life. As a Catholic Christian, the crucifix & the manger bring me great comfort & perspective. The wood of the manger leads to the wood of the Cross, but neither is the final word. Because we look forward to the Resurrection of the Dead & the Life of the world to come.

Our family friend & priest that baptized me offered Mass for my family & for the repose of the soul of my niece Isabella at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. My best friend is travelling in the Philippines praying for our family. Two innocent little children deemed less than human by many have not only touched our hearts but people all over the world. In the Spirit of Advent, the season of preparation & anticipation of the birth of a child, we find the profound beauty & importance of the presence of a child- a child in utero.

Happy Advent!

Love, Babies, & Loss

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” -Jeremiah 1:5

I’ve kept mostly quiet about the TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) pregnancy my brother & sister-in-law are navigating. After 2 emergency fetoscopic surgeries 4.5 hours away, dozens of local Maternal Fetal Medicine appointments, & hospital bed rest, my precious identical twin nieces were born via emergency extraction at 25 weeks Thursday, November 29th. Isabella was born to heaven, and Sara is in the NICU. Mom is struggling with complications, but she is beginning to show signs of improvement.

Both baby girls are so loved & cherished by their parents, siblings, & extended family. Our lives are forever transformed by their presence! They’re parents have fought hard for their girls health and wellness despite the many challenges and risks.

We’ve experienced extraordinary medical situations & miscarriages in our family, but our present situation is uncharted territory. The fragility of earthly life is inescapable, changing within a moment with minimal control or certainty. The prolonged reality unavoidable. Our holidays will be involved in the best and most challenging sense. The intensive, specialized NICU care of Sara will continue into the New Year and beyond. And eventually our family will gather to celebrate her life and mourn the loss of Isabella.

But the certainty of God’s merciful & unending love never changes. He has never abandoned us or the girls. Through the confusion, heartache, & stress, the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit sustains our weary spirits. The sacramental life of the Church brings purpose, perspective, meaning, & grace. The twins’ lives are a catalyst for entering into a deeper understanding of authentic love, trust, hope, & joy. The twins are bringing us closer to heaven if we chose to respond to them through the eyes of God. By love refined…

🌹

Prayers are much appreciated! God bless. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

NFP for the Unmarried- Women By Design

My friend and I laughed like hyenas over bagel sandwiches when we both realized that “Oh yeah, we don’t use trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy protocols.” Single and unmarried we truly forgot in that moment that most individuals and couples use Natural Family Planning or Fertility Based Awareness Methods for fertility and infertility related reasons- as the name implies, Family Planning. But for this duo of laughing single gals, sex (the responsibilities and pleasures) had little do with why or why not we practiced Creighton Method. We practice Creighton NFP for medical reasons- women’s health. And that is a message I hope to share with others.

If you’re a women, whether married, unmarried, consecrated or religious, you qualify to learn & practice NFP or FABMs. Being in a sexual relationship with a man does not activate or call into existence your womanhood. You are a woman by God’s design whether you “use” your reproductive organs for unitive & procreative functions, i.e., babies and bonding, or not. Baby girls develop their ovaries in-utero by week 16-20 holding about 6-7 million oocytes. By birth, a baby girl is born with 1-2 million oocytes. This occurs years before a girl enters into puberty & biological sexual maturity. God designed us intricately and deliberately.

Does a women’s reproductive system remain frozen in-time & space until sacramental marriage & the marital embrace? Or what if the women never engages in God’s mystery of sex because she is called to a celibate vocation (i.e., single, consecrated, or religious life)? All these women deserve the same care and concern for their reproductive health too. (Read Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae!)

Like myself, many women are struggling with their reproductive health within a limited and archaic ideology infested healthcare system that seems to equate hormonal poisoning & the insertion of unsafe devices with the height of medical sophistication for a variety of women’s health conditions. The increase of hormonal birth control therapies contributes to the general decline and demise of health and wellness, especially anything endocrine related. We are all swimming in a cesspool of synthetic estrogen 24/7. Whether you or I take hormonal birth control, globally we’re all living out the biological, environmental, cultural, and spiritual effects. (Did I mention my Undergraduate Environmental Sciences Lab final involved a presentation on EDC/PPCPs effect on fish & amphibians?) Cause & effect- science and facts.

Where do we turn for reproductive health help? Where do we find good medicine? First, you need to “know thyself.” Your cycles and bodily functions, whether for good, mediocre, or ill, are telling you something. Your body is waiting for you to listen. FABM or FAM apps are gaining popularity. Learning a NFP method is best when taught by a licensed professional because each women is different and therefore her cycle can vary. A trained professional can help you (and a spouse) walk through your unique questions and concerns. You can locate specialist in your area via Diocesan websites, Fertility Care Centers of America, social media, search engines, etc.

Within the spectrum of Fertility Based Awareness protocols resides Natural Family Planning and within NFP resides the Creighton Method which I chose because of the scientific and research evidence based medical knowledge and protocols used for the diagnosing and treatment of reproductive health issues. And diagnose and treat my specialists have. My naprotechnologists have diagnosed and treated about a dozen different reproductive health issues with treatment protocols ranging from quick procedures, medications, supplements, injections, dietary changes, diagnostic imaging, various blood work panels, referrals to other specialists, and exploratory laparoscopic & hysteroscopic surgery. Am I miraculously healed? No, I struggle & suffer, and I’m open and honest about those struggles. Naprotechnology stretches me thin like butter over thick toast. It’s become my spiritual fitness regime building up my spiritual metabolism and building & toning virtue muscles. I’ve found breaking points I never knew existed. Most importantly I found healing- primarily within my relationship with God as a Daughter of the King.

Somewhere amidst the struggles of learning, practicing, and treatment with Creighton NFP as an unmarried woman, I recognized something profound. When the dust of confusion and pain settled momentarily, I found myself authentically beautiful and whole as a woman despite my physical brokenness. In the world of hedonism and utilitarianism, I fail, but in the realm of God’s authentic female design and the feminine genius, I’m whole and beautiful. And that’s what NFP can do for women (and for men) when you cooperate with God’s design for the body. For a brief glimpse, I saw myself as God does- awesome, Made in His Image & Likeness. Then those storm clouds returned, but those storm clouds can’t rob me of my glory beams anymore.

We are fearfully & wonderfully made. May God bless and keep you now and always!