Saturday, July 29, 2017

"They will also persecute you"

Some people compare themselves to others and decide they are better than others. Since they think they're better, they assume they're good enough. They don't see a need for Jesus. But their world view is based on a lie. Everyone makes mistakes and falls short of reaching their virtue potential.

Other people who know they've made mistakes, maybe big ones or maybe not, also believe the lie of the first group. They compare themselves to them and think they might as well keep doing what they're doing, assuming they cannot be redeemed.  They don't expect forgiveness, so they don't look to Jesus either. Even if they've stopped making these mistakes, they assume the damage is done and they're a lost cause.

Then there are people who are aware of their mistakes and don't deny them, but they don't continue in their life of sin once they've been exposed to the good news of Christ. They don't compare themselves to others because they know the only measure of virtue is God himself.  "Be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, quoting Leviticus 11:44).  

Some people from the first group may look at this third group - the only group who isn't fooling themselves or believing a lie - and look down on them.  They judge the mistakes of this group as being too numerous or too grave, and dismiss their faith claims.  They hold onto the idea that they - the first group - are the ones who are "right by God".

Others from the first group may feel threatened by those from the third group.  They consider their own mistakes as bigger than those of this group, and find it troublesome to hear that they're admitting as sin even lesser mistakes.  They ridicule them as "holier than thou" because they don't want to have to admit their own wrongdoing.

And yet it's only the third group - the people who do not compare themselves to others but only to God - who have any shot at perfecting their character, reaching their potential of a virtuous life, and pleasing God.  So long as we compare ourselves to others, regardless if we conclude that our sins are bigger or lesser than those of others, we are keeping the focus on ourselves and not on God.  We are pleasing ourselves and not God.  

There is no grading curve in Heaven.  God doesn't pit His children against each other and only take the top 1% of the good.  In the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus tell His disciples, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2).

Elsewhere Jesus says, "Those who are well do no need a physician, but the sick do.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17).  Yet those who think they're better than others fail to understand this.  They don't think they need Jesus, and they don't think others deserve Jesus.  Well, I'm sorry, but who made them God?  

Many Christian testimonies seem to address the second group; they try to appeal to a sense of sinfulness in the person, extending to them the hope that is found in Christ.  But what I think has been ignored is this first group, addressed here: "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

My confession today is this.  I have been hesitant about embracing fully the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because I have bought into the lie of the first group.  First, I thought I was one of them - "good enough".  I learned to compare myself to worse sinners than myself and figured I was doing pretty well of my own efforts.  Then, I realized I had sinned and felt doomed to remain in my sin because I hadn't yet discovered the saving grace that should've been abundantly clear to me as a regular church-goer.  Now, I'm learning to find my place in the third group, not denying my sin, but not letting it stop me from nonetheless pursuing holiness.  And yet old habits die hard.  I still know people who would see my efforts and accuse me of being prudish, "holier than thou", or "trying too hard".  

The problem isn't that some people may think this about me.  The problem is that I even give their possible opinions a second thought.  My focus needs to be directed to God alone.  I can be "good enough" and stay mediocre while on Earth.  Or, I can claim the grace that has been offered to me through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, and say, "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Philippians 4:13).  Even holiness.  Yes, I can become a saint!  Not of my own power, not through anything I have done or can do.  But only through the power of Christ, so long as I welcome Him to live in me and through me.

Jesus said, "'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). I have to learn to expect it.  I cannot wait for people to stop judging me before I start living the life I am meant to live.  I cannot wait to build up enough courage to stand up to people who judge me, for Jesus said that His grace is sufficient for me, "for power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Ah, the power of one's convictions, to one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) be able to say with Saint Paul, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Homeschooling Research On Hold

I have been gung-ho about researching all things homeschooling for years now.  In fact, one of the reasons I was hoping to have children was so that I could homeschool!  I've enjoyed "doing preschool" at home with my daughter, but I've been noticing that I feel stretched and unable to balance everything I want/need to do.  The hard truth is that with my daughter only three and a half, homeschooling is not a current need.  It's been a hobby really, the research and the planning and the attempts at implementation.

Instead, what I think I'm going to focus on is laying the foundation of our future success.  A smoothly running household will require me to have a firm grasp on decluttering, truly finding a place for everything so that everything could actually go in its place, and then getting into a reliable schedule of household cleaning and chores.  I am slowly warming up to cooking again, so that is where my research and planning needs to be directed right now.  Gardening is another area that requires my attention.  All of these silmultaneously present educational opportunities anyway, just not standard academics.

So what I propose for the next year or so is this.  Still attend the Catholic Homeschoolers'  planning meeting at our church in August. Still participate in the annual Not Back to School online summit in September.  Still attend the homeschooling curriculum fairs/conventions next May.  And in the meantime, I know what I'm working on with Maya is letter and numeral recognition, letter-sound correlation, counting, as well as the things I have prepared on our Morning Board that just needs a few finishing touches for us to start using it daily.  And of course we'll continue with library books, lots of reading time in all three languages, and prayer and faith talks.

I don't need to incessantly view YouTube videos on homeschool room tours or curriculum reviews or how-tos of any kind.  I know what I need to be doing over this next year of preschool, and I am deciding to be intentional about how I spend my free time.  I'm done researching homeschooling until next summer, at which point I will access where we are and determine if we'll be starting Kindergarten "level" work, or rather how we're going to be implementing what is suggested in The Well-Trained Mind (I've returned to this resource and realizing I have the freedom to tinker with what doesn't resonate with me, I think this will be our primary go-to as far as choosing subjects and resources.  Basing our educational approach on the trivuum makes the most sense.  Everything else we'll take as it comes.)

Hopefully this decision will pave the way for more intentional prayer time, as well as using my desire to research and plan for more useful endeavors (gardening, cooking, homemaking in general). Sometimes just writing it down makes it feel more official, and so here it is.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What is the Good News?

"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence"  (1 Peter 3:15)

For years I asked the question - what is the good news?  It seems so vague, reading about it in Scripture.  I hear it weekly, proclaimed from the pulpit.  It appeared as though every other Christian knew what this was all about, except for me.  I kid you not, I truly didn't know what exactly was the good news!  

Basically, it's like this.  God loves me unconditionally, and He sacrificed even Himself on the Cross to ensure that I could spend eternity with Him in heaven.  He loves me so much that He couldn't stand the idea of being separated from me, even though I turn from Him when I sin.  He loves me like no one else loves me.  He loves me like I love no one else.  He models true love for me.  I am loved to the ends of the Earth.  What can possibly be better news than that???

Ok, so here comes the natural extension of this realization.  If I feel so utterly loved by God that I live my life in a way that is often contrary to the secular standards of the world, then shouldn't I be grateful beyond measure for this gift of unconditional love and the resulting inner peace that comes with it?  And if I am indeed grateful, then shouldn't I desire to share this gift with others? 

(Of course, if I don't live my life any differently than Secular Sam, then I have to wonder if I really believe in God's eternal love for me.)

I struggle with self-consciousness.  But in Christ (the incarnation of God's love for me!), I am learning to accept who I am, praising the Lord for my positive attributes, and humbling accepting correction surrounding my negative tendencies.  

I worry. But in Christ, I trust God and needn't worry any longer!

I judge. But in Christ, I am aware of my own smallness and feel a sense of comraderie with my fellow sisters and brothers, all children of God, all struggling to some degree in various areas of their lives.  

I have been waiting to replace these faults with virtues (mainly humility and faith) before feeling ready to be able "to give an account for the hope that is in" me (1 Peter 3:15).  But perhaps the best way to attain these virtues is through practice!  Humble in the realization that I am not where I'd like to be, where God calls me to be, as far as virtue is concerned, I have faith that He can nonetheless use even my imperfect attempts to give a testimony of His great love.

So, if right now you do not have a sense of peace about your life, if you are anxious about the future or have regrets about the past, if you struggle with tendencies that you aren't very proud of, if you feel alone and unloved.... I have great news for you!  

Your Creator loves you beyond measure!  He made you on purpose, with a plan for your life. He forgives you for whatever is nagging at your conscience, so long as you admit your wrongdoing and repent!  He wants to spend not just this earthly life with you, but all of eternity!  Whatever is holding you back from living up to your potential, He can help!  He is, after all, the mastermind behind the blueprint for your life!  He can fix it!  He can make it better!  All He wants in return is your love.  Can you believe it?  Can you accept His love? Because that is all it takes - accepting His free offer of unconditional love and eternal life.  

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What Makes You an American?

What makes someone an American?  Is it merely American citizenship?  Or is that just a technicality?  What makes anyone associate themselves with a given nation?  I think a given country's culture is what makes that country unique.  This includes history, geography, traditions, food, clothing, religion, music, values, language.

I was born in Poland to Polish citizens.  I'm ethnically Polish (albeit about 75%, per my dna test results!)  I speak Polish and I'm Catholic (which highly correlates with Polishness). On the surface, this makes me Polish.  To boost, I hold dual citizenship, so my European Union passport likewise identifies me as Polish.

But over the years, I've struggled to put my finger on why this simplistic formula just wasn't working for me anymore.  I'm an immigrant, and as such, I'm essentially a cultural transplant.  I started my life on one trajectory, but at age 8, the trajectory of my life changed drastically.  Sadly, it was a much bigger cultural shock than my parents could've prepared me for.  They assumed a Polish-born, Polish-speaking daughter of two Polish-born, Polish-speaking parents would grow up to be - what else? - a Pole (Polka).

Whenever I did anything "Polish", I would be praised for it, in particular by my maternal grandmother.  My letters to her would always be praised, albeit with a grade attached: "You only made X grammatical mistakes, your Polish is still very good!" (Gee, thanks for judging and editing my letters instead of just reading them for pleasure, and for making me feel as though every letter "home" was a test of my Polishness.)

I hate to say it, but even though my parents adopted the United States as their new countr by virtue of moving our little family here (it was just me and my parents when I immigrated here), they never embraced it to the exclusion of our country of origin.  Unbeknownst to them, their Polish daughter was quickly becoming an American teenager, something no expat parent could possibly be prapared for.  I grasped at proverbial straws wherever I could, trying to make sense of the world I was living in, the world I was coming of age in.  My parents weren't able to prepare me for American adulthood - how could they?  They weren't American adults themselves.  Even my dad, who did become a naturalized citizen when I was 14, still only knew what he learned from colleagues and television about American culture and values.

I grew up trying desperately to please my Polish parents/family while at the same time making sense of the often contradictory values I was met with in my American school and among my American peers.  I had no Polish community to fit into, as we settled in an area without a Polish presence.  Now I know that community is crucial.  Humans are social beings.  We must feel that we belong.  One way or another, we will make it so that we feel we are a part of a community, any community.  This is why kids join gangs.  This is why people join cults.  Less extreme, this is why there are cliques, and why sports fans can be each other's mortal enemies.

So where did I belong?  We attended church, but that's just what it was - attendance.  It was not participation.  There was no fellowship.  I never made any friends through our church.  It was in and out, Sunday obligation fulfilled.

My parents worked very hard, so they were very busy.  My younger siblings were born 15 months apart when I was still a "tween", my dad worked overtime or two jobs in addition to a crazy commute, and once my siblings were in school, he and my mom started an alteration business for extra income.

I get that they were concerned about providing for us kids the economic opportunities they didn't think we could've had in Poland.  I cannot know how founded this concern is, because I only know life here.  But money was a big deal.  Making it, saving it, being very selective when it came time to spending it.  The assumption was made that the ticket to a happy life is a certain socio-economic status, and the higher one's formal education, the better one's chances at said status.

I'm a pretty literal person.  I set my sights on something and I'm not easily swayed to reconsider.  And so, having heard from my family that education is crucial, and since I was a pretty good student and - as an introvert - enjoyed studying, I took it upon myself to pursue a doctoral degree as my life's mission.  All because I simply assumed that having a PhD would mean employers would seek me out and offer me work.  It took many years of higher education - five years on top of my Master's Degree - to finally come to terms with the reality.  The truth was, there was nothing magical about a doctoral degree.  There was no guarantee of employment upon defending a dissertation, and even my own college professors were making no more annually than my dad, who did not have a college degree of any kind.

I withdrew from my doctoral program after many sleepless nights, lots of tears, and facing a total loss of identity.  Up until that point, I was the good little Polish daughter who would be "Dr. Karolina".  In fact, when we visited my grandmother and godmother in Poland shortly before I made the decision to quit my PhD program, I received gifts and congratulatory cards on account of the degree I didn't even have!  It was just assumed that I would follow this trajectory.  That was a lot of pressure, because what did I have to fall back on?  Absolutely nothing.

Being done with higher education after 11 years of post-secondary schooling was the beginning of the end of my primary association with the nationality of my birth.  By then, I had changed my name to my mother's because it was typically Polish.  When we became parents several years later, there was never any question I would speak Polish to my kids, but even choosing a baby name included considering if Polish-speakers could spell and pronounce it.  I was going to raise Polish kids.

And then, I started parenting.  And while I do speak Polish to my kids, when it was time to name our second, I was already disillusioned enough with the Polish aspect of my identity to not let that determine what we would name our son.

What was holding me back before?  On some level, I was still trying to please my Polish parents and relatives.  I was still trying to prove that I was Polish enough.  I was still trying to live up to an impossible standard.  I could no more claim 100% Polish identity than I could claim any other nationality.  Except American.  At one point in recent years, I thought I had figured it out.  I wasn't 50/50, I was 100% Polish AND 100% American.  But now I see that this was merely wishful thinking.  The truth is, I AM 100% American.  By virtue of my citizenship.  By virtue of my English fluency.  By virtue of my having served in the US Army.  By virtue of my understanding and appreciation of various (though not all - still learning!) American traditions and passtimes.

But I am no longer any more Polish than other Polish-Americans.  I used to differentiate between Polish-Americans and Polish expats like myself.  I followed my relatives' cues in judging myself to be more Polish than them. I no longer deem my language ability as some sort of secret handshake that gives me the priviledge of Polish idetity.  Nationality is circumstantial.  There is no reason to boast of one's national identity.  No nationality is any better than any other one.  I thought I believed this when I would call myself a global citizen, but really, before I was more like a nomad with no home base.  NOW I can truly call myself a global citizen.  An American, first, but with international ties and interests.

  What makes YOU an American?

Monday, May 29, 2017

10 Commandments of Parenting

1. "I am the Lord, thy God.  You shall not have other gods before me."

Our children are not the center of the universe, although it may certainly feel like this sometimes, especially in the beginning, especially with your first or only child.  You are not only not honoring God if you allow your relationship with your kids to take precedence, but you are also not doing your kids any favors.  How can we teach our children to live a Christ-centered life if we place them at the center of our own lives?

2. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain."

When speaking about God, show the proper respect.  In our family, this meant making a conscious effort to quit talking about Jesus as if He were our buddy.  We fell into the trap of "Jesus is my homey" and would refer to him as "J.C." (short for Jesus Christ).  When I think about it now, I'm appalled on one hand at the audacity of this practice, and embarassed on the other hand. Once we started to discuss religious topics around our preschooler, it quickly became apparent that we had to stop trying to make Jesus into something He wasn't, and give Him the proper respect He deserves.

3. "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day."

Take your kids to Mass every Sunday.  Teach them how to behave during Mass from the time they are little.  I do not like the practice of "kids' church", where the little kids are taken out of the sanctuary to be given an age-appropriate religious lesson on that day's readings.  I like the ide of the lesson, and would certainly support it before or after Mass, but Mass is Mass.  Our Eucharistic Lord is not present in the religious ed class.  In some churches, children are only taken out during the Liturgy of the Word, and brought back in time for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  But even then, there is a disconnect between the flow of the Mass.

Cry rooms, depending on how they are set up and utilized by the faithful, can be both positive and negative.  Positive because they allow young babies to be nursed or even have their diaper changed.  In churches where there are no cry rooms and a baby needs to be changed, the restroom tends to not have a speaker installed, and so the parent ends up missing part of the Mass that she or he could've still heard if there had been an appropriately set up cry room.  That said, some families take the cry room to mean a place to go hang out and let the kids play, rather than a place to still try to teach young kids proper behavior, but allow for more wiggling and noises that are natural to the young child without interrupting the larger congregation.

4. "Honor your mother and your father."

Model by example.  Honor your own parents and never speak ill of them in front of your kids.  But also, remember that respect is a two-way street.  You must respect your child as a human being, if you expect them to learn to respect you in turn.  Many parents treat their children as mere dolls, waiting for some magic day when all of a sudden (perhaps as they approach adolescence!) they can be given choices or asked for their opinion.  Of course, we are still the parents, but it doesn't mean we can't include our (even young) children in our decision-making process.

5. "Thou shalt not kill."

It is so sad that we live in a world where this has to be said, but here goes.  Don't have an abortion.  You can sugar coat it all you want, but that little life growing inside you is a human baby, no question about it.  There may be secular arguments for why your life is more important than that baby's, but let's not pretend that we're dealing with "a mass of tissue" when you can clearly see movement and hear a heart beating on sonogram.  Phew.

That said, more subtle ways to follow this commandment include avoiding lashing out in anger.  Don't kill your kids' spirit.  Don't crush their dreams.  Don't stifle their imagination.  Be life-giving in your approach to parenting.

6. "Thou shall not commit adultery."

First, honor your own marital vows.  Cheating on one's spouse betrays not only the spouse's trust, but the children's as well.  It creates chaos and anxiety and resentment where there should be peace, trust, and comfort.

Also, teach your children about the proper place for sex.  Don't treat sex as a taboo subject, as that will only backfire.  Sex is good, so long as it's in the correct context.  It's your job as parents to teach your kids this fact.

7. "Thou shall not steal."

Don't steal time away from your children.  Your job, your hobbies, your social life - none of these ought to be more important than time spent with your children.  It may mean taking a pay cut.  It may mean passing on a promotion.  It may involve some creative lifestyle changes.  Also, putting your kids in so many extracurricular activities that they don't have time to relax or spend time with you is also on you.

8.  "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

I think we can all agree that the broader meaning of "don't lie" applies here.  And if we are to not lie to our neighbor, we must realize that our children are included in this category!  Don't lie to your kids.  I'm not talking about avoiding the subject so as not to ruin a surprise birthday party.  I'm talking big stuff.  Otherwise honest people may feel perfectly justified in lying outright to their own children. A rather big and obvious example: if you adopted your kids, for instance, they deserve to know the truth.  How can you expect to raise honest children if you allow yourself to be dishonest?

9. "Thou shall not covet your neighbor's spouse."

Similar to the sixth commandment, lead by example, but also teach outright.  Your children will see if you are flirting with someone or lustfully commenting on a celebrity to a friend.  This is a good place to mention modesty of dress, also.  I recently heard modesty defined as "humility in a nice, occasion-appropriate outfit."  So teach your kids humility (including modesty, as an extension of humility as a whole), both by modeling it and explaining why certain outfits or activities are not allowed in your household. (Unchaperoned co-ed slumber parties at a house with a pool come to mind...)

10.  "Thou shall not covet anything else belonging to your neighbor."

In other words, don't entertain envy and jealousy.  Don't let your kids hear you comparing yourselves with the proverbial Joneses. And if you hear your kids doing it, nip that in the bud as well.  Practice gratitude instead.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

About the Moment of Death

Death is not scary.  The actual moment of death really is no different from falling asleep, even though that's not what we're supposed to tell kids about death, as it may confuse them about the permanency of death.  And yet... for believers, death really isn't permanent at all, is it?  It's a birth into eternal life. 
Three weeks ago, we had to euthenize our dog.  That day marked the end of a 9 year era for us as "pet parents".  Our dog, Bigosia, got very sick very quickly, and we didn't have much time to process what was happening or what we ought to do.  The day we had her xrays done to confirm a large growth that had been interfering with her eating and breathing, we knew that one way or another, we had to make a decision quickly, within the week.  We couldn't make her suffer any longer.

All four of us were there with her as she passed onto the other side.  I remember petting her on the bridge of her nose, softly encouraging her to lay down, saying "get comfortable, baby".  She was calm.  Just that, she was calm.  No deep penetrating looks trying to tell me something.  No trying to remove herself from the situation.  She was calm.  Peaceful.  Weather she knew her pain was about to be gone for good, I don't know.  But she certainly didn't fear dying.  And she seemed no different to me after the vet confirmed that her heart had stopped beating and she was "gone".  I was so used to seeing her just lying around, keeping to herself.  I'd approach her and pet her at my leisure, and she often wouldn't stir, so this was no different.  

Five years ago, I approach another loved one's deceased body - my best friend Rachel, at her viewing.  It was four days after she died, so I suppose her body had been embalmed.  I noticed several things as I stood over her open casket to say my last goodbye.  One - they really caked on her makeup! Two - she had her hair straight and cut, a newer style to the one I preferred, the one I always image her with - long and curly.  Three - she was not in that casket.  Standing over Rachel's body, I remember realizing that my best friend was being housed in that body, transported in it, but she was not bound to it.  On some gut level, I knew that what made her Rachel was that je ne sais quoi that could only be described as "that which animated her body" - her spirit, her soul.  That realization gave me closure, even though her death was unexpected.

I wasn't present at the exact moment of my great-grandmother's death, but I was there just minutes before, and minutes after.  I had just stepped into the bathroom to wash my hair when she died.  I was drying my hair when I heard my grandmother talking to her mom and, upon not getting a response, starting to wail.  I knew even before she reached the bathroom door to tell me that Babcia Bronia had passed on.  I remember being very calm about it.  Sad, but calm.  Earlier in the day, I watched my great-grandmother as she lay on her bed in the large kitchen, where she had been living to ease getting to and from the one bathroom in the house.  She was on her back, and she was stretching out her arms above her, with a gentle grin on her face.  She was clearly reaching towards something - or someone - that only she could see.  As soon as I knew she had died, I knew that she had known she was dying.  Not in the prolonged illness, my time is approaching kind of way, but in the "that's my name, gotta go!" kind of way.  She was a devoted Catholic, and she died on the 8th of September, Mary's birthday.  So we suspect that she was reaching out to the birthday girl, ehem, Queen of Heaven, thrilled to have been called home on such a day.

In the hour or so following her death, before the funeral home people came to take her body, I helped my grandmother and grandfather dress her in the funeral clothes Babcia Bronia had picked out for herself ahead of time.  Before she died, her daughter/my grandmother had shown me the neatly folded outfit in her dresser.  Babcia Bronia had packed for a trip, essentially!  She packed light - she only wanted to wear a black dress with white ruffles.  She knew she didn't need anything else.  Anyway, the three of us liften her into a seating position to take off her nightgown and put on her funeral dress.  I will never forget the shock I felt when she sat up.  A gaspy noise came out of her mouth.  For a split second, I thought she was back!  Later I'd learn that it's normal for the last remnants of air to escape from the body after death, thereby making sounds.  In fact, when we were preparing for our beloved dog Bigosia's "big moment", the vet also mentioned the possibility of some unexpected - well, she actually mentioned liquids coming out, but luckily no such thing happened.

And so I'm back to my original observation.  Death itself is nothing to fear.  Instead, it's all the trauma that often leads up to death that can be scary, painful, and confusing.  And of course, the loss and grief that is felt by the loved ones left behind is the other unpleasant aspect of death.  But the actual moment of death?  Nah, that's just a transition.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Happy homecoming anniversary, Fernando!

(photos forthcoming)

A year ago, we had our fourth and last embryo transfer.  First transfer of two blastocysts on the 11th anniversary of daddy and I meeting, resulted in a week-long pregnancy followed by a chemical loss.  Second transfer of two blastocysts, about four months later, resulted in a "BFN" - big fat negative (pregnancy test). Third transfer of two blastocysts from a second batch resulted in our miracle 3 year old daughter, your genetic sister Maya. And our last transfer was also planned for two blastocysts, but only one survived the thaw.  That last little embryo was you Fernandito!

Just like with your sister three years earlier, daddy had to wait across the hall while I went in for transfer.  My bladder was bursting and I was certain that I would pee on the doctor, for which I wouldn't have felt bad since he made me drink twice the recommended amount of water and then had me wait on the transfer bed.  I walked on the wild side this time, and secretly took a photo of myself just before transfer.  (What'd you think I was going to say?  I videotaped the transfer?  I wish! Our first two transfers were videotaped, but alas that's irrelevant to you, I guess.)  Luckily this time I wasn't made to lay there for 30 minutes, so I was up and with daddy and Maya in no time.

We had made the whole trip into a family vacation.  We visited my brother and his family, Alex's grandpa and some cousins, aunts and uncles, and we managed a quick day trip to the beach the day before transfer.  I squeezed in an acupuncture session on the morning of the transfer, just in case it would help.  It certainly helped me relax and put me in the right frame of mind, if nothing else.

As we were leaving the hospital after transfer, we had someone take a lovely photo of us - first photo of us as a family of four!  I knew that no matter what, this was the last time I was undergoing any sort of fertility treatment, and all that was left was to find out what the good Lord had in mind for the future of our family.

I'm not sure what to think of the embryo that didn't get transferred.  All of the other embryos we "adopted" were in my body for however brief a moment in time.  I sort of thought of them as little angel companions for each other, especially for my Maya.  But Fernando, you were in there all alone.  So silly how the mind can weave crazy stories out of nothing.

Your batch of four embryos, I called the Franciscans, after the newly elected Pope Francis.  Maya's companion embryo I named Raquelita after my late best friend, Rachel.  We called Maya "Dee or Dino", alternating months during the pregnancy, since we weren't finding out her sex until after birth.  Your would-be companion embryo I named Francis.  We found out you were a boy in mid-pregnancy, at which point we started to think of names.  We had decided not to name you the boy names we had prepared three years earlier when expecting Maya. You were not some fantasy but a real boy, our son, and everything had to be reset.  Until then, you were a "Franciscan" ;)

I'm going to go ahead and put it out there, though I went back and forth about it.... I started to suspect right after your transfer that you may receive a calling to the priesthood.  (Since we're Catholic, this also meant that I suspected you were a boy!)  You see, after your sister was born and we moved to a new state, I became distant in my faith for a long time.  I had all but given up being able to recapture that sense of spirituality going into your embryo transfer.  Literally within days, I felt something spiritual.  I cannot explain what it was, because it wasn't anything concrete.  I just felt God's presence, I guess.  For the first time in years, I felt hope that I may one day truly "be Catholic" again.

I had a terrible first trimester as far as nausea and prenatal depression.  It was so bad that I had to request prescription medication, because the ginger root tea that finally helped when I was pregnant with Maya only made things worse this time!  I was thinking all sorts of nonesense about my lack of worth and I dreaded the idea of being responsible for two small children. I tried to sleep most of the time to avoid facing these thoughts.  But two Sundays in a row, before and after we moved into the house where you were born, the nausea and depression let up, to the point that I felt well enough to pack and move some of our stuff the first time it happened, and to unpack and put some things away the second time it happened.

Because these were Sundays, I again thought this was a sign of a possible religious vocation for you.  Whether or not the Lord calls you to the priesthood or not, He clearly called you to help bring me back to the faith!  I went on a spiritual retreat while pregnant with you, which helped tremendously in edging me in the right direction (namely, towards God).  As I write this, I am in my third week of spiritual direction, and I have started to call Jesus my friend.

In one of your sonograms, you resemble your sister Maya.  It is most uncanny, the lip and chin area in particular.  With Maya, I didn't think she looked anything like her sonos, but with you, wow!  I hope that you and Maya will be very close friends and are able to find comfort in each other's shared journey as donor conceived adoptees.  I have been working on locating your genetic family, in case you or Maya ever want more information about your genetic roots.  The Lord even put in my life a lady at our church who loves doing geneology and who has been working on your genetic family tree for many months.  I was also able to get a little more information from the clinic where your and Maya's embryos were stored, which has been a great joy to me, and I'm hoping it can help us locate your and Maya's three older genetic siblings, if not your donors as well.

So Fernando, thank you for showing me that just when I thought my heart couldn't possibly grow to accomodate loving another child as much as I love Maya, you proved me wrong!  My heart has been cloned, and each of you have their own mommy-heart in my chest.  I don't know how else to describe it.  I love you, and I'm so very happy that you're here and we're all together as a family now!