Augustine and Maria’s Birth Story, Part III: The LOOOOOONG-Awaited Conclusion

Well, I left you hanging for many a year, but on the eve of my twins’ fifth birthday, I feel like I need to wrap it up.

See parts I and II.

After my nap, I woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed, but still hungry. A nurse had come in to check my cervix one more time. This time, miracle of miracles, I was at ten centimeters.

The nurse asked me to try a practice push and soon suggested that I not push again, since she could see Augustine’s hair. She would get Dr. Parker to the hospital and to get things going. The room was suddenly full of people to take care of my little ones and me.

The anesthesiologist turned down my epidural dose at my request so I’d at least be able to feel some of the birth, but it was rather surreal as Brett and a nurse placed my feet in the stirrups. I found pushing to be much easier than I had imagined and Dr. Parker said I was doing well at it. I could feel Augustine turning as he moved down. I don’t recall how many contractions it took for him, but it wasn’t long before he was out, crying, whisked to the other side of the room to be weighed and measured. It was 3:07 a.m. Brett held him skin to skin while the doctor broke Maria’s sac, and she was born on the next contraction, at 3:17 a.m. After she was weighed and measured, I got to hold them both. I was so amazed!

I still had very little pain, but I had a huge rush of overwhelming joy and awe as I observed my new little ones, memorizing their faces and marveling at their tiny fingernails. Augustine had a full head of fine brown hair, while Maria had nearly-invisible blond velvet on top of her head. It was amazing to see their little noses and how different they looked from each other – even though to this day, people tell me that they look alike.

Sleepy babies

Newborn twins, Maria on the left and Augustine on the right

I remember some details so well, and others, not as much. I don’t remember what I finally had to eat except some orange juice that the Bradley Method suggested for after the birth. I remember going up to the post-partum floor of the hospital in my bed, without my babies, as they went up separately, but after that we were soon reunited. They stayed mostly in my room as we tried to work out the finer points of feeding and eating, but with the amount of fluids we received during labor and the difficulty we had getting established in breastfeeding, the littles lost a bit too much weight. By the time I was able to leave the hospital, they were still not ready. It was a wonderful gift we were given to be able to stay in the same room until they would be released, even though I wasn’t being treated anymore. They were born Thursday morning, November 21, a week before Thanksgiving. We would leave the hospital to begin our home life as a family of four on Monday.

What blessings God has given us!

Words to live by from YOUCAT

What should you do once you have come to know God?

Once you have come to know God, you must put him in the first place in your life. And with that a new life begins. You should be able to recognize Christians by the fact that they love even their enemies.

After all, to know God means to know that he who created and willed me, who looks at me every moment with love, who blesses and upholds my life, who has the world and the people I love in his hand, who waits longingly for me, who wishes to fulfill and perfect me and to make me dwell forever with him, is there. To nod with your head at this is not enough. Christians must adopt Jesus’ way of life. (YOUCAT question 34)

Do I put God first in my life? Can people tell I’m a Christian by the way I treat others, even people I don’t like? Have I adopted Jesus’ way of life, or do I just nod my head at God’s love?

It’s not enough to believe that God is love. I have to believe that God in His love wants to make me perfect, and I have to realize that He can’t make me perfect without my consent and cooperation. God’s love isn’t some touchy-feely “feeling.” Like the old DC Talk song says “Luv is a Verb.” Part of God’s love is the action of providing all the best for me. This includes purifying and perfecting me.  I can imperfectly provide the best for others by doing my best for them, by going out of my way for them. I can, to paraphrase St. Paul “anticipate others in showing honor” (see Romans 12:10).

This is shameful.


From World Policy Forum

The three countries in red are the only countries in the world that offer no paid maternity leave for mothers of infants. Our nation, which I do believe is great, has its glaring flaws nonetheless. Employers are not required to offer paid maternity leave. Parents who qualify may take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, which is up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job protected leave in a calendar year. My employer, more generous than many, offers six weeks of paid leave concurrent with FMLA leave, but I ended up needing to take six weeks of leave before my children even were born. I eventually used the rest of my FMLA for 2013, and plead with my supervisor, receiving two additional weeks leave of absence. Without this, my children would have been at daycare without as much as a first vaccination against any disease. I have co-workers who have spent more time on leave for foot surgery.

My heartbreak every day as I entrust my precious children to another woman is the least part of this equation. Think of their growth, safety, and mental development – of which my husband and I are the guardians, despite the fact that we spend only about two waking hours of twenty-four with our children. Think of my recovery from the most intense physical experience I have ever had, of gaining nearly seventy pounds within the space of less than eight months, of expelling two human beings from my body and the exhaustion and bodily injuries that resulted from these. Think of the sleepless nights and the resulting problems of sleepiness, memory trouble, susceptibility to illness.

Think of how many women and children have even more difficult experiences: of my co-worker who had to return to work before her son, born prematurely and with a metabolic disorder, was able to go home from the hospital; of an online acquaintance who nearly died from a placental abruption; of a friend who suffered from HELLP syndrome; of women who have even uncomplicated caesarean sections. A C-section is a major surgery!

We must do something to help families in our country, so children can get the best start possible.

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective

This week is Infertility Awareness Week. Having suffered primary infertility myself, this is a subject very close to my heart. As a Catholic, I reject any form of infertility treatment that separates the act of marital love and the act of procreation. However, we don’t reject medical and surgical treatments that will cause a faulty reproductive system to work the way it should. I went through much testing, imaging, giving myself shots and taking dozens of pills (both hormonal prescriptions and vitamin/mineral supplements), and a gluten-free diet. Today, I am the mother of twins, conceived by the grace of God and the assistance of my doctor, but I don’t know what will happen in the future, I may experience infertility again. I have found a community of likeminded women in a “secret” Facebook group, and we would like to share the following with you.

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective 


One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.


This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.


We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.


If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey


The Experience of Infertility


In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility.  At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.


As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”


We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our childlessness (primary infertility) or small family (secondary infertility) makes us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.


Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.


One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.


Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.



  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this the tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  • Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercession on our behalf.
  • Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).
  • Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.



Infertility Companion for Catholics

Facing Infertility: A Catholic Approach

Reproductive Technology: Guidelines for Catholic Couples (From the USCCB)


Bloggers who contributed to this article (those with an * have children after primary infertility or are experiencing secondary infertility. They are marked as such so that if you aren’t up for possibly seeing baby/child pictures today, you can meet them on a day when you are, but please do take the time to go and visit them.):


Amy @ This Cross I Embrace

DM & AM @ Snapshots

K @ Lucky as Sunshine

L @ Infertile in Minnesota

Lora @ Abounding Love

Mary Beth @ Grace of Adoption

Mrs. Fitz @ Romans 12:12

Polkadot @ Making God Laugh

Rebecca @ The Road Home

Stephanie @ Blessed to Be

Stephanie @ Chateau d’IF

*A. @ All in His Perfect Timing

*Alison @ Matching Moonheads 

E. @ God’s Plan is My Joy

*Jenny @ All Things

*Katie @ Just Think of Lovely Things

*M. @ Joy Beyond the Cross

*Morgan @ Life as We Know It

*Sarah @ Fumbling Toward Grace


There is also a “Secret” Facebook group with over 150 members who contributed to this article as well. For more information or to join the group, email Rebecca at

An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church


An open letter to women who have left the Catholic Church:

We want to invite you to come talk with us, and we are excited to meet you! Just like you, we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers; students, professionals, and stay-at-home moms. We are teenagers, 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and beyond. We are from many walks of life and from diverse backgrounds, but we share a common faith – one we want to invite you to revisit.

Some of us have been away from the Church, and by one way or another we’ve come back. Some of us never left – but that doesn’t mean we’ve never questioned nor been confused. Some of us were raised outside of the Church, and made the decision to join as adults. In one way or another, each one of us has come to know and love Christ in the Catholic Church – and in keeping with Pope Francis’ request we want to share that love and joy with you.



Being Catholic isn’t easy, and we’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect; we have many planks in our own eyes to worry about. Our faith embraces paradoxes, challenges our culture’s values, and makes us feel uncomfortable when we are called to examine our actions and our motivations. But – as you already know – just because something is challenging does not mean it is not worthwhile.


We know that you are intelligent and capable. We believe that you deserve answers to your questions, and explanations for the teachings with which you’re struggling. We’ve all struggled with various aspects of our faith, but we aren’t here to judge or condemn you. We simply want to listen to what you’re feeling. We want to understand what is making you uncertain about being part of our Catholic faith. We want to help you find the answers and explanations that helped bring us home. We want to meet you, we want to hear about your experience, and most importantly, we want to invite you back.


Feel free to email any of us with questions or concerns you may have about the Church, her teachings, or what reversion means. If you’re not ready to bare your soul to complete strangers, we’d love to direct you to sites that helped us (and still help us) as we discerned our calling in life.

Wherever you are, whatever you believe, know that we are praying for you. You are our sister – another woman navigating a challenging world. We look forward to talking with you!

In The Peace and Love of Christ,

The members of #cathsorority


Augustine and Maria’s Birth Story, Part II

See Part I here.

Note:  There are lady parts and bodily fluids in this post. If that bothers you, I recommend reading something else 😉

It was hard to sleep that Tuesday night, but I managed to get to bed early and have a decent night’s sleep. Brett got most of the things we would need to take to the hospital in the car before we went to bed. On Wednesday morning, I made sure to eat a good breakfast because I knew that they weren’t going to allow me to eat at the hospital.

We checked in at 5:33 a.m. They ushered us right into our room, a large labor and delivery room. I was given a gown and fabulous fuzzy socks to change into. Brett took a photo of the room and posted it to Facebook, saying that we would be spending the next few hours there. Brett and I prayed Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours while we waited for a nurse to come and begin the next step.

This is where we spent November 20th

This is where we spent November 20th

The nurse came in and had to give me an exam. I thought the exam was uncomfortable, but it was nothing compared to how the exams would feel as labor progressed. My cervix was still dilated to about 2 centimeters. Actually, the nurse said it was more like “one and a wiggle,” but still nice and soft and thin. By 7:00, I had had this exam, an IV port started, the Pitocin and fluids hooked up to the IV, and three external monitors strapped to my belly (one for contractions, one for Baby A, and one for Baby B). I was allowed to be unhooked from the monitors from time to time to use the bathroom, walk around the room, or try to find a comfortable position. The nurse showed Brett how to unhook me and how to drape the cords around me.

I had requested the ability to move around, but I was comfortable in bed most of the time. I spent the morning relaxing against the not-too-intense contractions the Pitocin was causing and watching the pitiful daytime television I had gotten used to when I was on modified rest before the babies came. When my doctor came in, I was still dilated about 2 cm. Well, that was disappointing, but no use getting upset about it. He broke Baby A’s bag of waters during The Price is Right (probably around 11:45). It didn’t hurt, thankfully, but I was grossed out by the feeling of that hot amniotic fluid gushing out. He was optimistic that I would begin to dilate more after the sac was broken. He placed an internal monitor on Baby A. I hadn’t wanted to have internal monitoring, but I relished not having so many belts around my waist.

The contractions began to intensify. I still didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but I was hungry, so I had some Popsicles throughout the afternoon, beginning during the noon news. At some point in the early afternoon, I realized I was going to have to get up to use the restroom. I was feeling kind of woozy from hunger and worry, so I asked Brett and the nurse to help me get up. This is when the gross-out really began. The huge rush of hot amniotic fluid fooled me. I said, “Ew, oh no, I don’t think I have to go to the bathroom after all,” thinking it was too late. But the nurse knew better, and she got me into the restroom and got the floor cleaned up. Through all of this, Brett never acted worried or disgusted. I was so glad of that because I think if he had been that way, I would have lost it.

We spent the afternoon learning how to watch the monitor for contractions and by what should have been dinner time, Brett was able to warn me before one would begin. Our friend Jeanne-Marie had seen Brett’s Facebook post about where we were and came to visit us on her break. She is a nurse in the mother-baby floor of the hospital where we had the babies. She was surprised to see the photo because she thought we were going to the other hospital where my doctor delivers (so did I until about 2 weeks before the birth). Jeanne-Marie sent Brett to get something to eat so he’d have his strength up, and she hung around with me until he got back. We were very thankful because he didn’t want to leave me alone and would have been fasting with me if she hadn’t come.

In the late afternoon, my nurse examined me again. I had dilated to 4 centimeters. I was happy to hear that. I figured things were going to start happening, and fast. Brett and I played cribbage to pass the time, as the contractions started to get stronger and stronger. I would have to lay down my hand in order to relax through each contraction. This is when it was nice that Brett was watching the monitor and warning me of impending contractions. We had some trouble with the baby monitors, namely, Baby B kept moving so that the monitor couldn’t detect her. We knew she was a she… even though we hadn’t told many people.

In the early evening, I had another exam. Each exam was more painful than the one before. The nurse had tiny hands, which seems like it would be more comfortable, but actually meant she had to use more pressure to get her short fingers to my cervix. I was still dilated to about 4 centimeters. That was disappointing but okay. The contractions were getting more intense, so I figured I would dilate more soon. She examined me again before shift change, and I hadn’t dilated any more! I was so disappointed, I was crying, and I was starving! The nurse was so compassionate and snuck me the best crackers I have ever eaten in my life. I wasn’t supposed to be allowed to eat, and I normally wouldn’t touch unsalted Saltines, but the crackers were a lifesaver for me.

I hadn’t expected to have to meet the night nurse, but shift change was at 7:00 p.m., and I was still in labor. She examined me early on in her shift (ouch!) and I was still at about 4 centimeters. I tried not to cry, but I was starting to think that the induction would fail. My doctor visited before he left the hospital for the evening, confident that he would be returning soon. I cried again after my next painful exam, not having dilated anymore. The nurse called Dr. P. and he suggested I get an epidural.

I resisted. I didn’t want an epidural. We learned in Bradley Method childbirth classes that an epidural can stall labor, and can make babies dopey and less able to breastfeed early on. I also felt like I had something to prove, and that since women had been giving birth without pain medication for centuries, I should be able to do it too. The nurse tried to help me cope with the intensifying pain by having me bounce on an exercise ball. I didn’t like that, I felt too wobbly, like I might fall. She had me rock in a rocking chair, and that was a little better, but I was getting to the point that I just didn’t feel like I could do anything. I was tired, hungry, and a little angry.

I moved back to bed and started talking to Brett about the epidural. He reminded me why we didn’t want one. He was adamant, but every contraction felt like someone was pulling my innards out. I felt pressure, burning, and nausea. I couldn’t talk. I didn’t want anyone to touch me. All I could do was shake my hands. Even now as I write about it, I can feel a reminder of the pain.

When the nurse examined me around 10:00 p.m. and I still hadn’t dilated any more, I was done. I changed my mind about wanting a baby. I wanted to turn back time to the days before we decided to begin fertility medication and trying to conceive. I no longer believed that I was able to give birth. I felt that Brett was trying to control me. In reality, he was calm and supportive. He kept on reminding me that the pain had a purpose, and that it would not last much longer. He thought I was at transition for a very long time because of my attitude. I couldn’t stop crying and each contraction seemed to remove my mental faculties until it was over. I finally convinced Brett that I should have the epidural that Dr. P. was strongly suggesting over the phone.

We had to wait a little while for the anesthesiologist, and when she came, she sort of rubbed me the wrong way. She had a bit of a brusque personality. She didn’t seem to think that I should have any reason to avoid an epidural. I convinced her to give me the minimum dosage and even decrease that when it came time to push, although she didn’t seem to think it was a good idea. I wanted to feel the birth, even if it wasn’t going to be painful. Sometime between 11:00 and midnight, she placed the epidural. The medication began to work quickly, and soon I decided to take a nap.

What happened after my nap? Stay tuned and find out!

Augustine and Maria’s Birth Story, Part I

It started on Monday, November 18, 2013. I got the oil changed in my car in the morning, and in the afternoon I went to my obstetrician’s office for an exam and what would be my last fetal non-stress test. I was 38 weeks pregnant. The non-stress test went fairly well, the babies were doing just fine and very active as usual. Despite extreme swelling in my legs, hands, and feet, my blood pressure was low as ever and I wasn’t throwing off any protein in my urine. I was 2 centimeters dilated, and almost completely effaced.

Dr. P. had been talking about scheduling an induction for a few weeks. It wasn’t what I really wanted. I had gone through Bradley Natural Childbirth classes  and I knew that induction isn’t usually the best for babies, for mom, and for breastfeeding. Still, I conceded because I was uncomfortable and grouchy, and because Dr. P. said that outcomes for fraternal twins are best around 37-39 weeks. Having not experienced labor, not even many Braxton-Hicks contractions, I was afraid that the babies were just going to stick around if we didn’t do something.

Brett told me I should schedule for Thursday, the 21st, because it is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an auspicious day to be born. Dr. P. preferred Wednesday, the 20th, and I talked him into starting in the morning so we could sleep before the induction. So, it was set: we would arrive at the hospital at 5:30 in the morning on Wednesday, November 20th, to begin a Pitocin-induced birth for my twins.

The rest of Monday and all of Tuesday, I tried to do whatever I could to induce labor on my own. I scrubbed floors, did laundry, cleaned bathrooms, and even baked and ate “labor inducing” cookies. I even tried nipple stimulation, despite the fact that it made me feel kind of dirty. Nothing happened. I was really going to be induced.

So, Tuesday night, we had a nice dinner and went to bed early so we could begin our childbirth adventure in the morning.

Here I am, 38 weeks pregnant, and getting too big for my britches (and every other article of clothing I own).

Here I am, 38 weeks pregnant, and getting too big for my britches (and every other article of clothing I own).

To be continued…

See Part II here.