I have been unable to even begin to write about my pregnancy and birth of my 11th living child for months, until now, as if the depth of my experience was beyond any words or clever ways I could express…
I write to you humbly, as a staunch pro-child, pro-life mother who loves to be with my beautiful children more than most anything on this earth.
I was devastated to discover that I was pregnant with Simeon, whom we affectionately referred to as “Tuberry” before we knew he was a boy; this nickname had several purposes. It was the adorable way my firstborn referred to “strawberries” when she was a toddler, and I perhaps subtly chose this nickname to help my children accept that I was pregnant yet again.
Because none of us saw a number beyond ten children. I could not imagine more than ten, even though I have also lost three through miscarriage. My last miscarriage felt like a relief. That’s right… I’ll just get that out there.
In my little mind and heart, there were no more than ten.
My health had been deteriorating right alongside our finances and our joy in being married. We have been “survivors trying to hold on in such distress” for over three years now. Trauma after trauma hit us like so many arrows, bringing us to our knees and ending up in a distance and a thick wall that filled the room with deafening silence. Two people who had a purpose and a simple joy, reduced to a huge dark question mark, layers upon layers of unhealed past, distractions, injustice, loss of vision, increasing illness, and a coldness that I could not admit anywhere… or when I tried to call out for help, my closest loved ones didn’t want to look or couldn’t look. No one did, or could, it seemed.
It seems that when we admitted that we didn’t have it altogether, it forced others to consider that maybe they didn’t either. And in our previous home town, where there is a second lesser-known Golden Globes of “perfect” home school Christian families, and Catholics who look pretty on the outside in their mansions, we mustn’t speak of things like “I have problems.”
We moved in 2015 to the Midwest because we converted to Eastern Catholicism, and because we could no longer put on any show, and we needed true support. The non-judgey kind, or at least the transparent honest kind. We had been betrayed in the past a number of times because our openness about brokenness seemed to cause a scandal of “too much truth”. It was time to move toward a culture where the faithful who were actually passionate and thought outside the 1980s box, or the “health and wealth prosperity Gospel” that alluded us (and still does 🙂 ), are the majority, rather than the minority who see what we see….
But when we arrived in the Midwest, with me 8 months pregnant with our tenth and very ill, we discovered a new challenge: living day to day relying on God’s providence…. job after job seemed to fall short or be non-existent, and our 1860 home is a different joke. (No, really 🙂 ) We got through though….
And then I got pregnant with number 11. Everything pushed over the edge, like a thin plastic cup on the edge of a table, waiting to fall at any moment when the slightest breeze passed by. No money, a beyond-strained relationship, bewilderment at having what seemed like no break from the suffering, added to the packed days and hours of caring for the children and juggling every penny. I’m not sure when the traumas actually began in our situation, but I am quite sure I am trying to recover from something decades ago, despite plenty of direction, support, and psychological help.
Add to that, I didn’t realize I was pregnant for a while because I was receiving transfusions for severe anemia (which was discovered last summer when I could barely stand…), and the transfusions caused nausea.
I am writing this experience with no “conclusion” yet, which is different from what I typically do, because I’ve been waiting for one, and I am still “living the question” as my spiritual director quotes. I don’t know what’s going on, and half the time I feel like I am in a dream, desperately wanting to wake up, yet oddly feeling an almost forced peace beyond understanding.
I am telling this story in real time, mainly in response to all the wonderful friends who only see the “highlight reel” on my social media, sprinkled with a few who have implied that I “appear to be living a dream…..”
No….. I am hanging on by a thread…. and that thread is my children, the grace from my mysterious vocation, my church family, my dear friends, and God Himself. The thread of hope is there, it is here… but this is real, guttural. And I want you, reading, to know you are not alone in your struggle either. Not one bit.
In this time of tons of social media and “constant communication,” we are experiencing more loneliness than ever in our society. People are despairing daily, and I am so stubborn that we HAVE to get through this, but we are not meant to “get through this alone.”
And so now begins the time I tell you of how I and my baby almost died on Good Friday, 2018, and how God intervened, and how even with the miracles, the pain is still so acute in realizing that He alone is my hope… and that I am being asked to carry a cross that requires that I reach out to all who suffer in silence behind closed doors.
Let me tell you how the biggest surprise of my life saved my life, and how I am living a contrast of exquisite joy and deep desolation, right at the same time right now…..
All my love,