NFP: how we do

Wow, how about a really long blog break, with a great re-entry about a topic sure to invigorate the masses?ūüôā You’re welcome in advance!

I’ve been struggling with writing this post all week. If you haven’t heard, it’s NFP awareness week, which means every day this week I’ve been inundated with wonderful posts about the beauty, challenges, struggles, blessings, and reality that NFP is in my oh-so-lovely Catholic blogger world. (That’s sincere, not thinly veiled sarcasm, I really do love all of them. And yes, I read lots of Catholic mom blogs, are you surprised?)

All week I’ve said to myself, Hannah, you should write a post about NFP. It’s just been tugging on my heart. But then I’ll sit down to the computer, stare blankly at my computer screen, and think: what more can I offer to the conversation that hasn’t been said before, and said better?

There’s Rosie’s great post about her struggles and acceptance of NFP, Mandi’s heartfelt honesty about NFP and infertility, Kendra’s reasons for ditching NFP altogether, and (my favorite, if I’m been blatantly honest) Carolyn’s monster of a NFP post that really can’t be blithely summed up for a link.

All of them are honest. And true. And come from their very hearts. And I think to myself, well, I’ve been doing NFP for just about¬†2.5 years now, but¬†I don’t have a ton of revelatory information to share with you all.

There are a few things I wanted to clear up with you all, though.

1. NFP isn’t easy.

I’m very grateful for my NFP education, but I’ll admit that before we¬†started actually practicing NFP, I had this vision in my head (somewhat instilled by my NFP instructor) that it was going to be basically a cake walk. And then came wonky cycles, postpartum hormones, and all that jazz. For some, sure – it’s easy, and fits into their life like it was meant to be. For others of us that may¬†be outside the “norm,” it’s not so easy.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by women in my life (and yes, also on the internet) that practice NFP, so¬†I’ve got a big “village” supporting me, answering my questions, listening in sympathy, and giving practical advice every way I turn. Not everyone who practices NFP has that, I know! I know. The generous support of my community makes it easier, but it’s still not¬†easy. It requires sacrifice, and time, and a whole lot of prayer.

2. NFP is worth it.

The more and more I read about the horrors of birth control¬†(and that’s just the tip of the very large iceberg), I can’t imagine putting it into my body every single day. And heck, I’m not even one of those people who buys only organic or who worries about hormones in my milk or anything like that. NFP (or even FAM, Fertility Awareness Method, the non-religious name for fertility charting) is natural, doesn’t require buying or getting anything other than a piece of paper and a pen (or a free app – Kindara is my favorite!) and a woman’s body. Totally worth it – for non-religious reasons alone!

3. NFP means being open to life.

And I don’t just mean being open to life as in: accept as many children as your body can physically produce. I mean being open to life – realizing that sex does¬†lead to babies,¬†but that being open to life means that you might have lots of kids, or you might have trouble conceiving, or you might not be able to easily read your signs of fertility and have a hard time charting, or you might have heartbreaking miscarriages, or any sort of thing like that. It’s not an easy concept to come to terms with, but it’s oh-so-true. Being open to life means realizing that our reproductive lives weren’t exempt from the effects of the Fall, and that¬†no person is completely “in control” of their fertility, no matter how they¬†handle it.

I hope this post doesn’t come off as preachy or all-knowing, because like I said, I’ve only been doing NFP for 2.5 years (and I was pregnant/nursing for 1.5 of those!). And NFP is a hard topic to talk about on the internet, because there are always those who struggle and the information doesn’t come out right when you’re reading a blog post. I beg you, if you’re interested in NFP or have more questions, or just want someone to vent to – please email us! Or talk to your parish priest, or message a friend on Facebook who you know is doing NFP. Having a community that supports you is one of the most helpful things you can do if you’re practicing NFP.

And if you’ve got a moment this week, say a prayer for everyone practicing NFP and those trying to spread its message.

Hannah

MY Newman Center

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis last Sunday, David and I were lucky enough to get to attend the blessing & dedication of the new Newman Center and St. Thomas Aquinas Church at our alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

If you aren’t from around Nebraska, or know me in real life, the Newman Center’s where David and I met during our first week of college. I could give you a hundred different reasons I loved our time at Newman during college. Through the community there I met some of my best friends, went to more social events and group things than I ever would have otherwise (#introvert), and most importantly developed a deep and real love for Christ and His Church because of the people I met there.

Some say the heart of evangelization has to do with all these new forms of reaching people Рinviting them to things on Facebook, clever graphics in blog posts about Catholicism, new music, or going to people where they are. But I have to disagree. To me, the New Evangelization, what St. John Paul the Great called us to, is based primarily through relationship.

And that’s what I found at the Newman Center. Not only did I find relationships with other faithful, striving Catholic students, all hoping and striving towards a life with Christ, but I found Him. I found Christ Himself, a true and deep relationship with the God who made me. I fell in love with Him there – in hours of adoration, in late-night Masses, in small visits in between classes, in¬†silent tears after Reconciliation. I was formed into who I am now and who I’ll be in the future there.

And now that Newman Center that I treasured so much – with its vividly blue stained-glass windows, and dramatic Crucifix, and beloved side chapels – is gone. It was torn down back in 2013 (part of the reason David and I weren’t married there – it wasn’t there!). Now in its place stands a brand new, beautiful church and Newman Center.

I’m a nostalgic sort of person. I miss the old building a bit – it was cozy, intimate, and a little outdated. There was¬†only 1 set of bathrooms, and the tile was chipping in places, and students were crammed in for Masses weekend after weekend. (The old church sat 300 – the new now seats 650.) I have so many memories built into the old church – hilarious nights with friends; attending 10 p.m. Mass with my¬†then-boyfriend, now husband; hosting parties and winning chili cook-offs; dances and heart-to-hearts and spiritual growth all wrapped up into one small space.

But this change is one that’s necessary, one needed for generations far beyond my own small contribution. In place of the old building is a new space to love for students for years and years to come. Other hearts besides mine will be changed there. Other future spouses will meet and grow in relationship there together. More trials and growth of souls than I can count will happen in this new church, and for that I am in awe and so very grateful.

David and I sat in the very back of the church during the dedication Mass, and I was in tears multiple times throughout the service. I could at the same time see the old and new churches together – the years and people formed by the old church, willing to put time and effort and money into building a church for the next generations. I could envision students for years to come walking into the same space, finding exactly what they were looking for – and more. Seeing people of all ages, from tiny babies to students, from new parents to grandparents, and every age in between made the timelessness of the moment even more memorable.

I’ve felt beyond blessed to be part of the Newman Center during my time in college (however long ago that may feel to me now…and it’s only been two years!). I know that this new church will serve many more students just like I was – looking for a place to call home, a place to find Him. As we knelt in prayer after the Mass had finished, all I could say to Jesus was thank you.

Please join me in praying for all the students to come for this Newman Center, and by thanking Him, too.

Hannah

Lent. It kinda sucks.

So, I don’t know if you’ve realized it or not, but we’re almost done with Lent.

Crazy, right?

In some sense, it’s kind of nice that the end snuck up on me. It gets me just a little bit closer to eating Raising Cane’s again. (My husband and I gave up going to Raising Cane’s together for our joint penance. I will not disclose how many times I have dreamed about going there since Lent started. It’s a little too embarrassing for the internet.)

Christ on the Cross Rembrandt, 1631

Christ on the Cross
Rembrandt, 1631

But as the Passion of Christ approaches, I’m reminded of one simple fact, over and over again: Lent isn’t supposed to be fun. In fact, it kind of sucks.

I start out each Lent, every single year, with amazingly high hopes. I don’t think that’s necessarily a¬†bad thing, but they’re never fully realized. I have this idea in my head that I’ll make a complete 180 during these 40 days – every sin I’m falling into will be totally not tempting by the end of Lent. I’ll be so much further in my spiritual life. I’ll have total self-control over myself because I gave up x and y and z. I’ll be so much happier, so much closer to God, so much of a better person.

And without fail: it doesn’t happen.

Why? Oh yeah, because we’re human. Because we’re frail.

Because Lent isn’t about us. Because Lent is about¬†Him.

Sure, we offer small penances, trying our very best frail human tries to unite them to Christ’s suffering on the cross. We attempt to devote our hearts and minds to Him, fasting with Him for 40 days, trying to make¬†the journey to Calvary together.

Every year, without fail, around this time, I’m reminded of how human I really am. I’m disappointed with my “performance” throughout Lent. I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve failed in my Lenten penances. I get discouraged. I try to justify each one, and then I get even¬†more¬†discouraged.

But then Someone¬†nudges me, reminding me: “Hey, it’s not about you. It’s about Him.”

Praise God for that, don’t you agree? Because if Lent was about me, it’d just be a depressing reminder every year of my frailty, my concupiscence, my inability to change at the blink of an eye.

But no. It’s about Him. It’s about His ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. It’s about His unending Love for us, His glorious and limitless mercy, His desire to share in Eternal Life with every single one of us.

That lifts my spirits a little bit.

And helps me resolve to live these last two weeks in pursuit of Him, with the beauty of the cross drawing me towards Him, and the promise of the Resurrection giving me hope.

I pray it does for you, too.

Hannah

St. Joseph nailed it

(Alternative pun titles: St. Joseph, building relationships. St. Joseph, constructing marriages. St. Joseph, wood’nt doubt him for a minute…)

I had every intention of posting this yesterday on St. Joseph’s feast day but then I (somehow) got sucked into some March Madness (#1 in my family bracket, y’all!) and then didn’t get it done.

But, redemption is real and St. Joseph will understand.

Ever since my junior year of college I’ve had a devotion to St. Joseph. Initially it started because I saw lots of people kneeling by¬†Mary and I felt like St. Joseph was a little neglected. I’m a sucker for underdogs (hence almost all of my MM picks are upsets. Gonzaga for the win!)

I looked up more about St. Joseph and discovered the beautiful litany for him¬†which includes such titles as; terror of demons, head of the Holy Family, solace of the wretched, and Protector of Holy Church. Amazing and pretty hard core. So no longer did I view St. Joseph as this simple and quiet man who gets overshadowed, but an integral player for salvation history. He protects Mary and Jesus, he guides them away from danger and into Egypt, he is responsible for their well being. Can you imagine being responsible for the well being of¬†two perfect¬†people?¬†Or protecting this perfect (and moderately helpless) family from actual murderers? Herod’s men were being sent out to kill babies, it was the law of the land. And the angel appeared to¬†Joseph to tell him to take his family into Egypt.

“Not in my house”

My discovery of St. Joseph also came a pivotal part of my spiritual life, which is not surprising. How often do we “randomly” discover a saint who “happens” to speak into our personal struggles.

Anyway, at this point I was a senior in college and recently discerned away from the religious life. Previously, I was pretty sold on the idea. I had an order picked out, I had an official visit date set, I had my application in, and I had my personal belongings divvied out between my friends. But, all of that fell through (for the better) and I was crushed, disappointed, and a little confused. And now I realized I was probably called to marriage (dun dun dun).

So, turning to my new spiritual BFF, I told St. Joseph that I didn’t want to just date around. I had dated a fair amount in high school and was a little boy crazy in my early years of college. I didn’t want to just date for the fun of it. But ultimately I just wanted to do what Jesus wanted me to do. I figured that the foster father of Jesus probably had a pretty good idea of what that was.

But I decided to be bold in my prayers. I told St. Joseph, “If it’s okay with Jesus, I would like the man I am going to marry to ask my dad for permission to date me”.

I don’t even know why I said it. It seems like a totally ridiculous request. Like, seriously, who asks for a dad’s permission to date¬†their daughter? But my heart was sentimental and I was emotional. So I made the request and forgot about it until a year later.

Fast forward one year, I’m on a great date with an amazing man and as he is driving me home he hands me his phone.

“Hey, will you put your dad’s phone number in my phone? If it’s okay with you, I’m going to ask for his permission to date you.”

I laughed out loud because who does that. And who asks for that in prayer? But Jesus and St. Joseph knew my heart, they knew my prayer, and (Praise the Lord) my request was in favor with God’s ultimate plan.

So I punched in my dad’s number under “Caitlin’s dad/Craig”.

Fast forward a year-plus-some-months-later and John and I got married.

Catholic-wedding-money-shot (Mel Watson Photography)

Catholic-wedding-money-shot (Mel Watson Photography)

Also John’s confirmation saint is St. Joseph. No surprise there.

I’m not saying that St. Joseph is a match-maker (he might be a little bit) or that if you ask for some random request he will grant it like a genie. But I am saying that he is a powerful intercessor. He knows Jesus and Mary personally and intimately. He is our spiritual father and wants to provide good things for his children.

I didn’t dive head first into this relationship because I¬†knew that John was “the one”, whatever that really means. But I knew that Jesus had blessed the beginning of our relationship and had given me a huge gift in this sign. So I was more fully invested in prayer knowing that the relationship was a gift and I wanted to honor it and honor John.

Take some time to get to know the spouse of Mary, the protector of child Jesus, and the universal patron of the Church. Or read this cute article about Pope Francis and Pope Benedict and their love for St. Joseph.

Thanks, St. Joseph. Praise Jesus, now and forever!

Love,

Caitlin

Casting into the deep

Cast into the deep

//Luke 5:1-11//

1¬†It happened that he was standing by the lake of Genesareth, at a time when the multitude was pressing close about him to hear the word of God; 2¬†and he saw two boats moored at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had gone ashore, and were washing their nets. 3¬†And he went on board one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to stand off a little from the land; and so, sitting down, he began to teach the multitudes from the boat. 4¬†When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‚ÄúStand out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch‚ÄĚ. 5¬†Simon answered him, ‚ÄúMaster, we have toiled all the night, and caught nothing; but at thy word I will let down the net‚ÄĚ.

All day you’ve been out in your boat, sun beating down on your back, the salty spray stinging your face, and the cold water splashing up against you. You’ve fought the waves and the currents, you’ve sent your net and pulled it back in and nothing, nothing, nothing. A full day of work and nothing to show for it. Your companions are disappointed and discouraged, you are tired and defeated. You step back onto the shore and begin the tedious work of untangling your nets, gently patching the holes and tears, carefully dislodging seaweed and sticks, and, finally, folding it up for a new day tomorrow.

You had all the tools, all the skills, all the knowledge, the perfect conditions, but no catch.

You notice a crowd approaching the shore and that a single man seems to be leading them. As the people are herded onto the beach, the man reaches the edge of the sea and notices that he is running out of dry land. He gets into your boat and asks you to cast off a ways. Limbs still aching for a full day of work you push the boat back into the waves. It is then that he begins speaking to the crowd.

After speaking, he turns to you and tells you to go back out into the deep water and let your nets down. You are tired from a full day of work, your heart is weary from many failed attempts. The idea of dirtying the nets again weighs on your mind and the fear of more failure causes you to hesitate. But the words he spoke to the crowd are in your mind, and you respond in half-hearted faith.

What is your ‚Äúfailed day of fishing‚ÄĚ? After many attempts, perhaps in Bible study attendance, working hard in class, in reaching out to that one friend, in trying to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker or friend, in patching up a damaged relationship, a failed Lenten sacrifice, or maybe fully investing in prayer, what is it that you want to just pack up and leave for later?

You have all the tools, you have the skills, objectively, you have everything you need just like Simon did in order to fish.

Why is Jesus in your boat? What is your second fishing attempt? Do you have faith in how the story ends? Will you leave you allow me to make you a fisher of men? Simon is called away from his profession, from what he had always known, from his ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ? Do we allow Jesus to call us away from where we are? Do we allow Jesus to surpass our wildest dreams?

Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.

Love,
Caitlin

Jealous of Nineveh

Sometimes, I feel a little pang of jealousy towards the people of Nineveh.

Today’s first reading (Jonah 3:1-10) is the story of Jonah’s travels through the city of Ninevah (before the whole whale-incident). God tells Jonah to go to the city, walk through it (which took 3 whole days of walking, big task in and of itself) and to tell the city to repent of its evil ways. Jonah’s like, okay God, and sets off. He’s only a day’s walk in, proclaiming that the city will be overthrown if they do not repent, when the king hears of Jonah’s proclamation and declares a city-wide fast and repentance.

When I read that, I get a little jealous – perhaps nostalgic is a better word – of the simplicity of that time. In summary, here’s what happens.

People sin —> God sends messenger —> Messenger says repent —> People repent.

What a clear sign from God, right?

When I meditate on this passage, I wish sometimes that my life was that easy. Say I’m stuck in a particular sin. There’s no messenger coming to my door, knocking and saying, “Hey Hannah. God wants you to stop sinning. Okay, bye!” There’s also definitely no immediate reaction of sackcloth + ashes from me. (In addition, there’s¬†not a political ruler telling me to repent, but that’s somewhat beside the point.)

It seems like life would be so much easier if it worked like that nowadays.

No, when I sin, I’m stuck there, without a friendly messenger to prod me along. Perhaps you are, too? You sin, and then keep sinning, and maybe get yourself to confession, and then find yourself falling right back into the same sin. It can be disheartening.

And then I think to myself: well, maybe God¬†is sending me specific signs, telling me to repent. Am I missing them? How do I go about searching for signs from Him, if I don’t even know what I’m looking for? Should I be worried about this? Do other people worry about this?…and on and on it can go.

I do think God is still sending us signs – they’re perhaps just not as blatant as those in Jonah’s time. We might just have to spend a little more time and effort looking for them.

This Lent, I’m trying to do just that. I’m spending more time reading Scripture (the daily readings, which are a very easy place to start!), and more time in mental prayer. I want to know when He is sending me signs, and¬†I also want to not worry about it so gosh-darn much.

God sends¬†us signs in ways appropriate for our day and age – just like Jonah was appropriate for the people of Nineveh. They didn’t have Facebook groups to keep them accountable for Lent. They didn’t have the opportunity to read the Scripture every day, or even have it sent to their email box if they so choose. They didn’t have a Pope, giving recommendations on ways to grow in holiness during Lent, accessible by a simple click. Heck, they didn’t even have the majesty and humility and the grace of Jesus on the cross.

Perhaps my jealousy is a little out of whack. Perhaps it’s time for me to own up to the day and age I live in, and know that God is sending me signs – it’s just a little more my job to look for them.

The Spiritual Lessons learned from “Chopped”

Have you guys ever watched “Chopped”? It is my favorite show on television. And Netflix. And apparently Hulu, too.

It’s a food competition show where four chefs are given baskets of mystery ingredients and only 20-30mins to create something great. It’s amazing. Sometimes the basket things are semi-normal like chickpeas or blood oranges, but then sometimes it’s cotton candy, frozen peas for the desert round, or chicken feet.

Also I realize that the beginning of Lent might be a bad time to post about a tv show and food buuuuut…

The contestants vary in years of experience, location, style of cooking, and backgrounds but one thing is almost always the same. When asked why they want to compete they say, “I’m looking for validation” or “I’m looking for affirmation” or “I’m here to prove x, y, and z to whomever”. All of them are looking for confirmation that what they are doing is worthwhile, that they are worthwhile.

And then, because I get too emotionally involved, I worry about the contestants who are chopped and kicked off of the show. Are they going to be okay? Was their idea of worth riding on this show? What are they going to do now????

And I think it can be easy for me to think, good thing I don’t think that way, good thing I don’t place my worth into food based competitions. While that statement is technically true, I do place a lot of my worth in other things. How successful is my Bible study? How much do these people around me like me? How much have I accomplished today?

As human beings we like to do things that can be quantified so we can evaluate the work we’ve done. But that rarely works. We fail to “measure up” and then we assume that we aren’t enough. That because we haven’t accomplished something, we are worthless.

So I love watching “Chopped” because it’s food based competition and that’s a love language of mine, but also because it inspires creativity and unique thinking. But I also sort of hate watching it because I can’t stand to see people’s hearts break when they don’t win. I want to jump into the tv and remind them that they are still good! Even losers are good!

Our works and achievements and honest attempts and rare successes are important, yes. But why we are doing them also matters. Are we trying to prove our importance, are we trying to earn the love and affirmations of others?

Jesus loves us deeply. He wants us to do well and succeed, but sometimes we need failure to bring us back to reality and back to Him. What propels our actions should be love for Him and love for one another, and not fear of not being enough.

This Lent, I’m continuing to pray about my sacrifices and additions to ensure that I’m doing them out of love of our Lord and not because I’m trying to prove something. I am enough because He has made me good and He wants me to continue to strive to become the person I was made to be.

Happy Lent-ing!

Can I post this quote too many times? No way

Love,

Caitlin

40 days of owning up to having a blog.

I am for sure going to regret this but I’ve decided to write a blog post at least once a week during Lent. I thought about doing one every day but I promise it would be mostly garbage. So once a week it is! You get to hold me accountable.

Most of them will be Lenten meditations and probably won’t be as long as my usual posts but I hope you will still enjoy them!

I realize that if I enjoy writing, and people seem to enjoy reading what I write, and if I feel closer to Jesus when I do, then it should be something I practice more often.

I used to see Lent as a time to just cut back on things and practice self-discipline (which is still good) but now I’m seeing it as another opportunity to acknowledge the Lord’s presence in my life and respond more fully.

Thanks for sticking with us! Also I’m not roping Hannah into this so, no pressure, Hannah.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Love,

Caitlin

My first demerit, going to Rome, and when I didn’t like Pope John Paul

If you have been on Facebook for even 12 seconds and are friends with even one Catholic, you would know that today is St. John Paul’s feast day. And I, like most every other human being, am pretty pumped.

To be honest I was very late on the loving-Pope-John-Paul trend. I knew nothing about him while he was alive, I don’t remember ever hearing about him, seeing a picture of him or anything until after his death. Then my school gave a crash course on how the papal elections work and I snuck out of art class to watch Pope Benedict be announced and I got my first demerit.

So hardcore. Also, what kind of Catholic school gives demerits to students who want to watch the papal election? I digress.

But even after that, I just knew JPII was the pope before Pope Benedict. It wasn’t until I moved to Lincoln, NE where I experienced the deep love people had for John Paul. I heard story after story from my peers, from adults, from priests, from nuns of how their lives were changed by him. Whether it was from World Youth Day or hearing him speak or just his efficacious way of living, people loved him.

And, to be honest, I felt like I had missed an opportunity. Like, he was dead now and I couldn’t experience what these people did. Their lives were touched profoundly and I felt like I was playing catch up. So instead of learning more about him, I just decided that he could be other people’s saint, that it was fine if he was cool and amazing and miraculous for others, but not for me (side note: this is also how I felt about Jesus at this time).

Fast forward many years and in college I went to Rome. As we strolled around St. Peter’s Basilica early that morning, I saw many of my peers congregating not in front of the Pieta or any of the other impressive pieces of art, but around a plain looking side chapel with a tomb in it.

Spoiler: it was John Paul

And as I knelt there (because everyone else was) I felt a little cynical, like, oh hey it’s you again. And I felt a little frustrated because, once again, I had JPII FOMO (fear of missing out) (or fear of having missed out, more accurately).

And I for sure cannot explain what happened next but in my angsty little heart I remembered things that led me to Rome; hearing about JPII in high school, deciding to apply for Totus Tuus and teaching all over that state, spending time in actual prayer while teaching, encountering Jesus in the Eucharist, having to explain at every parish what Totus tuus meant and who first said those words. Those experiences taught me that I did care about my faith, that I did want to be Catholic. That led me to the Newman Center at UNL, which led me to some crazy FOCUS missionaries and one specifically crazy one who fundraised my trip to Rome.

The only reason I had agreed to teach and participate in this Totus Tuus craze was because John Paul first made those words his motto. I realized that I hadn’t “missed out” on encountering JPII because he was still doing amazing things in Heaven. What a weird and wonderful faith we have that allows us to encounter and grow in relationship with people who are dead. People who have already lived and overcame the struggles that living brings. And that we can grow in relationship with the Creator of life itself? It’s unreal, but it’s also very real.

Then I started crying and took that unfocused and shaky photo.

He was a saint for me specifically and he was able to intercede for me in a unique way. This helped me to realize that Jesus was my Savior, Redeemer, Beloved, Everything and that He loved me in a unique way.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 956: The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. .¬†.¬†. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . .¬†.¬†. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”

Thank you, Juan Pablo for all the good you did and the good you continue to do. You make me proud of to be Polish, to be Catholic, and to be human.

A miraculous love

In case you missed it, my husband and I had a baby, a beautiful baby girl named Kateri, in May of this year. (Yes, we named her after St. Kateri Tekakwitha, my favorite (now) saint since I was a little girl.) She is a beautiful and super easy baby. Seriously, we have been extremely blessed with how great she is.

Lots of times when I was pregnant I liked to dream about who the little person was growing inside me. What he or she would be when they grew up, what their favorite food was going to be, what he or she would look like. We chose not to find out her gender ahead of time (which is another subject entirely) so we had lots of time and options to guess about what he or she would be like.

DSC_0918

As she was my first baby, I had never experienced the joy and anticipation that comes with being pregnant. It was more fun than anything I could have imagined. Reading updates on how big the baby was week by week, trying to imagine little fingers and toes growing inside my belly Рall of it. Kicks and hiccups in utero were surreal Рsometimes it felt otherworldly to realize there was a person capable of movement and everyday things like hiccups inside me.

But when she was born it all became clear. Even though I had a devilish hell¬†of a labor and birth experience (and I mean that in the way that women wouldn’t suffer pains with childbirth if it weren’t for the Fall), seeing her face made something instantly click inside me. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it yourself. When I saw her face, held her close, looked into her beautiful blue eyes, and also cried my eyes out (I’m a cry-er, what can I say), it was like Heaven and Earth aligned around this one single moment in my life.

It was so clear in that instant that she Рthis perfect little person, screaming healthily, with 10 fingers and 10 toes and a newborn scrunched face Рwas the exact full person who was inside me the whole time. Sometimes while I was still pregnant it was hard to believe there was actually a person in there Рa person capable of walking, or singing, or riding a bike. But when she arrived it became an unequivocal fact. It was suddenly so real and so true that she was the one in there the whole time. Of course she was, I said to myself. It all made perfect sense.

While we spent hours admiring her in the weeks after her birth, my husband and I had this discussion many a time. After living through the miracle that is the ability to make a human being, we have a hard time now understanding who can believe that she¬†wasn’t a person the whole time. We had the same conversations when I was still pregnant, but seeing her in the flesh solidified it beyond belief. We both have so much love for her, and are still so in awe that we are¬†graced with the ability to bring this child of God up in the world. How could we ever not believe it was her the whole time? After growing Kateri¬†inside me, how can I ever think she wasn’t who she is, complete and whole from the very beginning?

Being a mother also¬†makes me see lots of things in a completely new way. I have so much more admiration now for single mothers and fathers, whatever their circumstance. Raising a baby is¬†hard.¬†I couldn’t do it without David’s help. I also understand to a greater degree the suffering of couples who struggle with infertility. The blessing of a baby is more than I could have imagined – I can’t comprehend wanting and waiting for such a gift for so long and being saddened and disappointed month after month, or year after year. These thoughts are in my prayers much more than they ever were before I was a mom. Miscarriage, complications at birth, all of those life issues are much more prevalent on my heart than ever.

I am also amazed at how motherhood gives me a much more profound insight into our Father’s love for us. I see how amazing David is with our beautiful baby, and my heart bursts with love when she coos or smiles at me. I cry or cringe with pain when she suffers. And I think, how can there be a love bigger than this? How can anything compare? And then I realize that I love with a human frailty, that I have flaws, and will make mistakes, as all human mothers and fathers do. But¬†our Father loves us with an abiding love that is beyond human comprehension – much deeper and more meaningful and infinitely more powerful than the love I feel for my daughter. He has that love for all of us – for me, my daughter, my neighbor, my enemy. And I am amazed. I can try to comprehend it, but I never will. But now, with just the little more wisdom that motherhood has gifted me with, I am amazed at His love for us.

I guess what I’m trying to say, as disjointed as¬†this post has been, is this:¬†motherhood has changed me in so many ways, and I’m only 3 months in. Life is a much more precious gift than I ever comprehended before. And I am so blessed and grateful to have been given this opportunity to be a mother. Prayers to you and yours.

Pax tecum,

Hannah