Emerging From the Fog

Lent is always an appropriate time to reflect on suffering, and over the past 12 months, This Catholic Family has had some rough times.

I’ve shared a few times about the loss of my aunt to suicide in February 2018. The grief from that, and the slow path toward healing, has been a part of the fog that made it hard to write at times on this website. I poured a lot of my energy over the past year into writing a fiction manuscript about a young girl who experiences a loss, and finds her way to healing. Using words in that way for that time helped a lot.

The other fog we experienced has been for a much happier purpose.


We found out in December that we are expecting Baby Savaryn Number 4! New life is the happiest of news, but for our family, we also knew it would be difficult for a while. I, to varying extents during my pregnancies, suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. This is extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. A condition that used to be fatal for some mothers, and is slowly gaining more publicity in our current times for its devastating impact on an expectant mother’s health while she suffers.

This time, despite proactively taking nausea medication and planning for my care, I ended up incredibly sick. As it amped up, I wasn’t able to be in the kitchen, or prepare food, or eat much. It felt like I was on a boat with severe seasickness 95% of the time I was awake. Movement and smell made it worse. Relief only came when I slept. Then, I hit a point where I couldn’t keep anything down and hadn’t had something to eat or drink in over 18 hours. I had to go to the hospital, where I ended up being admitted for three days until they could rehydrate my body and until I could eat and drink on my own without getting sick with the help of some additional medication.

I was this sick with my son, who will turn five soon, and I had much better medical care this time than I did with him, but it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through inside my own body. And when it was at its worst, it was very hard for me to see the light beyond all the darkness in the struggle to survive moment by slow moment.

Friends came through and brought us food, and there were so many praying, and my husband was good about reminding me that this would all be worth it.

It was still so difficult to lose myself, even for a little while.

The Hope and the Grace

But in suffering, there is grace.

I was fed by the Eucharist during my suffering, and I weakly attempted to unite my own suffering with that of Christ. In many ways, I do not feel like I suffered ‘well.’ But I also knew Jesus would carry me through, and that if I was willing to walk this path for Him, that he would not forsake me.

On the first Sunday I was home from the hospital, I was still confined to my bed, and the family had to go to mass without me. I hear the door open as they returned home, and in moments, my two oldest children entered my room with their hands folded in front of them in quite reverence.

JP soon followed, and produced that which had fed my soul so many times during this sickness.

A priest at our parish had helped JP bring Jesus in the Eucharist to me right where I was, and I was able to receive communion, right there, in my bed. When I couldn’t get to mass, Jesus came to me.

And there is such hope in new life too. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around the idea of redemptive suffering. That something good can come out of something hard.

It has helped more than a little to know there is such a clear and redemptive reason I went through all I did. I am bringing a new life into our family and into the world. At 18 weeks now, and finally feeling much better, I can feel our little one kick. I can speak to this baby, as it now can hear my voice. I can reflect on the phrase ‘this is my body, given for you,’ in a new and profound way. I can understand just a little bit better, in some small, small way, how Jesus gave his body for us, and the love that must have been there for him to go through his passion.

Let the Sun Shine In

The fog is clearing away from the difficult year we have had, and the very, very, dark and cold and grey winter. The days are getting longer. The sun is shining a bit more. And our family is soon to embark on a vacation to the beach, a much needed bit of togetherness and warmth and light.


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Skinny Vs. Strong. Managing A Postpartum Body While My Young Daughter Watches

I purchased a bathroom scale for the first time in my life just over a month ago. It actually was kind of a difficult decision. I’ve never been super focused on the number on the scale. I know what a healthy weight range is for me, and, realistically I know I’ll end up back there someday. But, also realistically, I know I am like many women who do not recognize the shape of the woman they see in the mirror after giving birth. I jokingly refer to it as my period of “deflation,” but it is difficult to know the way you feel inside and the way your body looks are not in union. It’s difficult when your pants can’t make it over your widened hips. It’s difficult when you still, 2 months after giving birth, can’t fit your wedding ring all the way on your finger.

I think a lot of us probably feel that way. I gained 18 lbs more weight during this pregnancy than with the previous two. And the reason for that is actually something to celebrate. I was incredibly nauseous for the first 20 weeks, but a new medication helped enough that I didn’t get sick as often. With the first two kids, I lost weight during the first trimester. With one of them, it was nearly 10% of my bodyweight. That didn’t happen this time. And, as a result, I naturally gained more. So, the extra weight is, in many ways, good news.

Holding All The Things

And I know that I am doing much better now this third time around at being gracious to my postpartum body than I have in the past. My body grew, sustained, and gave birth to human life, which is freaking amazing. But I think I can love and appreciate my body for its ability to do that, and also accept that it is still in a period of transition. That pregnancy and postpartum are both times where our bodies change dramatically. I can say- “Ok. It sucks that I have to rotate between 4 shirts right now that look appropriate,” and also stare at my daughter and say “Woah. This amazing little creature was formed inside of me.

I can know this, and also sometimes I just really just want to wear my wedding ring, and have more than one pair of pants that fits. I can feel frustrated when that pair gets majorly spat up on, and I have to give them an emergency wash with not enough time, and then spend an evening out doing pub trivia with damp pant legs.

I can hold all of those things and accept that they all are valid. I can sit with dichotomy. I can grant that pregnancy and postpartum are both times that require patience and grace. Yes I can.

Getting A Move On

Exercise is one of the key components to my treatment plan for Postpartum Depression/Anxiety this time around. Being active helps my mood, and enables me to manage the stressors of each day more effectively. I also know it will help to tone and strengthen me. And lose the baby weight. So, once I was cleared to move, I started a manageable yet effective workout program, interestingly titled Bikini Body Mommy. I make it like an appointment each day that I cannot miss. And the program isn’t how it sounds. The lady who runs it is a mom of 4, who looks normal, and is working on strengthening her body as well. It’s very focused on acceptance, and being strong and healthy. Just being honest – its much easier to go through this program during my postpartum period than it would be to watch a perfectly toned 0% body fat Jillian Michaels or Other Hyper Toned Woman tell me to get a move on, or that I can handle 10 more reps or something. I’ll take the mom with the kids in the background of her videos, who deals with the same stuff I do when trying to get a workout in thank you very much.

Anyway… the Bikini Body Mommy 90 day challenge has set intervals where you take your weight and measurements.

I like seeing progress, and I like things I can quantify. I wanted to engage in the program with fidelity, and so, I bought the scale. I bought the tape measure. And began.

I am now nearly 30 days into the program, and I am seeing progress and change. I’m feeling stronger and more energetic. All of which are good things. But I am also keenly aware that my 5 year old daughter is watching everything happen. And I am aware that how she sees me handle this time will teach her a lot about what she should think about her own body.

The Little Eyes Upon Me

Even if my own brain is screaming in excitement when I see the scale dip down a bit, or I notice that or that hints of a waist are beginning to reappear (and those abs are in there somewhere, I just know it), I am consciously, painstakingly careful about the words that I let out of my mouth, and of the way I let my daughter hear me talking about my body. To some extent, I have always been this way around her. But now, especially now, I am more careful than ever.

She, my precious girl, is so confident. She is so secure. She knows she is lovely. I want to build upon that, and teach her to be gracious to herself when her body goes through change. Because women’s bodies go through a lot of change in a lifetime. We are meant to expand and retract. We are meant to grow life, and give life. Our metabolisms speed up and slow down. Our bodies change monthly as our fertility cycle repeats time and time again. Our bodies are not and never will be stagnant. And I want her to know that when she, too, goes through those inevitable changes in her body, that health and strength can be the rocks she can stand on.

So here’s what we’re doing right now.

Right now, my daughter sees me exercise 6 days a week, for about 20 minutes at a time. Sometimes she joins in with me, and we talk about how strong we feel, or how we can feel our muscles working. She knows exercise is a priority. She knows that for kids, running, and playing, and anytime she is moving is good exercise. And that she’s welcome to join in with mommy. And let me tell you, that girl can plank.

Right now, I let her see me sweat. It’s ok that it is hard work. It took mommy’s tummy a long time to stretch out to grow the baby, and it’s ok and normal that it takes work and time to help get those tummy muscles un-stretched out and strong again.

Right now, I’m careful how often she sees me step on that scale. She knows that it is one way I can track how mommy is getting healthy. But I don’t make it a focus.

Right now, (and always and forever because I need food to live,) she sees me eat. Regular food. And treats. This momma cannot a day without chocolate go. But she sees me eat healthy portions, and she hears me talk about filling up on good-for-you foods first with vitamins that will make us strong, and then leaving a little room left for a treat afterwards.

Right now, (and hopefully forever,) she does not and will not hear me complain about feeling flabby, or misshapen. Truthfully, I am a bit flabby due to the extra skin. I had 8 lbs 10 oz of humanity fit inside my abdominal region. The flabbiness is simply a reality of the situation. But, though I may be tempted to feel like I am, I am not misshapen. I grew a human. This is the shape my body has after giving birth to said human. It is differentshapen if anything. But the prefix “mis” means wrong, and there is nothing wrong with a body looking like this after doing what it did.

Right now, even if I may not particularly like what I see, she does not see me look disapprovingly in the mirror, or pinch or grab the stretched out parts of myself. She does, however, see me take my progress photos, and she knows I am taking them so I can keep track of how strong I am getting, and so I can see my muscles grow.

Right now, she knows it is more important to be healthy than to be skinny. She knows this because I ask her from time to time, and she always gets the answer right. And I hope and pray she continues to believe it. Because it is the absolute, and total truth. She also knows all women are shaped differently, and we all are different shaped at different times of our lives. And that all of that is normal, and good.

When Others Say Things

I was glad tonight when a woman approached me and said “Look at you, all skinny already,” that Felicity was out of earshot. However, she was in earshot when her daddy recently, and briefly, forgot the deal and said “Look at mommy, isn’t she getting so skinny?!” I said, “No, daddy, I am getting healthy, and strong.” And Felicity echoed the same, acting almost as if her daddy was silly to have spoken in that way.

That a girl.

JP didn’t mean to do anything wrong- he was trying to pay me a compliment and acknowledge all the hard work I’ve been doing. But, he’s also man whose body has pretty much stayed the same since high school. Having never been a woman, he doesn’t fully get what we are doing here. But he also realized the mistake and corrected his own language as well. Nice recovery. Positive message reinforced.

Teaching Me

In some ways, I am also helping to teach myself how to think more healthily and graciously during this time. I have to frame my own thoughts better in order to make sure that the words I say match the message I want Felicity to hear. And, the little ways I’ve seen her repeat back to me the things I have spoken let me know that, at least as far as this goes, we are doing okay. She’s talked about how long it takes to grow a baby and stretch out, and that getting un-stretched out takes a long time too. She cheers me on when I am working out, yelling “You’re getting stronger mommy!” Yes, sweet girl. Yes I am. Thanks for the compliment.

These things are music to my ears. These things keep me going, and encourage me to continue on this path.

The path to health. To continued happiness. To being content right where I’m at. Even if I have a few more evenings with damp pant legs in my near future. We’ll get there. After all, these things take time.


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A Letter to My Infant Daughter

Dear Mary,

From the moment of your conception, you were genetically distinct from me, your momma. You were not an extension of my own body, but were your own self.

From the moment of your conception, I had an obligation to respect your body, just as I respect mine. I had an obligation to provide a safe and healthy environment in which you would be able to grow and develop until you could sustain yourself outside.

You will hear, as you grow up, that in fact, I did not have such an obligation, and that it would have been legally permissible for me to terminate your existence. But we live in a world where what is legal is not always what is right. I follow the laws of this country, but I follow the moral code of our Christian faith. And that moral code is very clear about your value and your personhood prior to your physical birth.

Psalm 139:13-14

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made…”

You were created, my child, from the moment of your conception with a soul, with a purpose, and with intrinsic value given to you by your Creator.

From the moment of your conception, it became my obligation, and my joy, even through the suffering, to put my own interests aside to serve the interest of your well-being. It became my obligation to put my own convenience aside. My own comfort aside. My own plans aside.

Because nothing in this life points to the idea that it is good for us to serve our own interests. Nothing in this life points to the idea that following our own plans leads to happiness. Nothing in this life points to the idea that we should be expecting or deserving of comfort and convenience. Those things are not what life is about, and those things are not owed to us.

What is good for us is to serve the needs of others before ourselves. From the moment of your conception, you gave me the gift of being able to practice that, in a very real way, the entire time you grew inside of me, and beyond. What is good for us is to trust that sometimes, our plans for our lives aren’t always the best, and that maybe God’s plans, at times in the form of a small human life, are better- and could hold blessings for us down the road that we can’t even imagine. What is good for us is to accept discomfort and inconvenience as gifts that can help us to grow in holiness and love. What is good for us is to know that we aren’t owed anything, and that anything good we receive is a gift of grace, unearned.

There are people that will fight for the legal right to terminate a life growing inside a woman’s body. We need to pray for those people. We need to pray that the value of life from the moment of conception is seen and understood. We need to pray that we stop clinging so tightly to our perceived right to comfort and convenience, and start clinging tightly to trust in God, who endows each soul with intrinsic value, and who will sustain those called to motherhood.

We also need to pray that those who fight to give pre-born babies a legal right to exist will also fight for the rights of those children to have a safe and healthy upbringing. If a mother in difficult circumstances values her baby’s life and gives birth, we need to fight for her right to support her child and sustain a livelihood. Because life doesn’t lose value once born.

My dear daughter, we believe that from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, that life has value. Immense value, regardless of what the laws say. And we need to pray for, and love on, and speak the truth of this to others.

Because, from the moment of your conception… you were you. And your right to exist came not from me, but from God. And He is and will always be our ultimate standard of justice.



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A Story of Healing

JP’s last post, found here if you haven’t read it, gave some insight into Jp’s journey during  a period of time where our marriage has been transformed. I (Lorelei) would now like to share my simultaneous journey. It’s one of the most personal, and, for us, the most powerful in our marriage so far.

When we found out we were pregnant with the little fella’ we would come to know as August, Jp and I were so excited. I was so sure it would be easier the second time around… somehow I’d feel better, be less nauseous, be able to eat more. With my daughter, I had lost 7 lbs in the first trimester from being sick.

How we announced our pregnancy with Auggie. I’m smiling, but if you look carefully, you can see I’m already pretty thin. I was losing weight at this point, but this is a few days before I started dropping 1-2 lbs a week for several weeks in a row. I don’t have many pictures from my skinniest days.

Little did we know, that my pregnancy with Auggie would be far more challenging than I ever imagined. Long story short, I developed hyperemesis gravidarum. Which basically meant I threw up all the time. I could barely keep anything down, even a sip of a drink or a single bite. When I finally was coming out of it, I knew I was getting better because I was able to drink an Ensure shake and keep it down. It took me 4 hours.

And here’s why this was difficult on our marriage. I went from being a normal, competent wife and mother, to a shrinking bit of humanity who could barely move from the couch or even shower myself well. It was a time when I was completely out of control of what was happening to my body, and my emotions were very depressive as a result. I felt useless.

JP had to cook the food, do all the grocery shopping, and take care of Felicity when he was home because I was barely making it through the day. He was also commuting to Chicago each day and working a challenging post-doc. He wasn’t prepared for me to completely tank.

As a result, at a time I needed my husband to support and love me more than ever before, JP wasn’t able to consistently provide it. I think he tried, as best as he was able to. But there were moments and times that were seared in my mind and heart where I felt ever so alone. There were the nights he was making dinner, and I knew he was frustrated and resentful of the additional responsibility, and yet there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t move. I had to focus so hard on each little bite, that making a dinner felt like Mt. Everest.

There was the time, when I, skinnier than I should ever have been- about 12 lbs below my normal healthy weight, my eyes sunken and dark, when JP came around the corner after tucking our daughter into bed and he looked at me with such sadness and distance and asked me “Where did you go?”

I didn’t know how to answer that question. I was just trying to survive. It caused deep wounds between us. I knew that, because of how life goes, this probably wouldn’t be the only significant trial we would face, and I didn’t know how I could endure those trials without the support of my husband.

Once I passed the 20 week mark, things started to get better, as it often does with those who have HG and I started gaining weight again. I was able to cook eventually and resume my regular responsibilities. But the space created by feeling so alone for so many weeks in a time of my great need still remained.


Fast forward a bit to last fall. JP and I were each simultaneously and yet independently of each other on a path moving us closer to the Catholic Church. During the winter, JP discovered Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. And, even though we were not in any sort of significant trial at the time, my husband started changing.

He started giving more, without being asked. He started offering, with true sincerity to help out in ways he hadn’t before. He started looking at marriage as a way to be giving and loving, and it started healing us. I read Theology of the Body (for beginners), and I understood, and I started changing as a wife, too.

This isn’t a post about TOB, but, in short, it is all about the way God designed marriage to be a reflection of the union of Christ and the Church. And our model is Jesus, who gave himself completely for us. So, as we grow in our faith, we grow in our ability to model our own lives after Christ Himself. And we learn to realize that happiness comes in giving, in being “gift” to others, and that this is the fullest sense in which we can live out our married calling, as well as our calling to the others we encounter. But, I’m sure we’ll write more on that later.

The main point of this is that we had another significant test ahead. Through our journey to the Church, our hearts became more open to more life in our family, allowing for the possibility that we would have more children.

There was a lot of fear associated with pregnancy for me. I had an 80% chance that the hyperemesis would reoccur. I had felt so alone last time.

And I remember, either just before getting pregnant or just after, as JP and I were getting ready to fall asleep, I said to him “I might need to be gift to this baby for a while, and if I do, I’m going to need you to be gift to me.” And I hoped that in so many ways this time would be better, but didn’t know.

Thankfully, I would not have qualified for the hyperemesis diagnosis this time around. For the first time, I did not lose weight. I was able to try a new medication, which I think helped. But I was still extremely nauseated, and fought being sick all day, every day, for weeks on end.

But, I also think that the change in JP made a huge difference in how I was able to cope with the intense sickness I did have.

Photo on 7-6-16 at 4.30 PM.jpg
On a particularly bad day. So tired from weeks of being nauseated with little relief.

He scooped up taking care of the kids when he was home. He willingly went to the grocery store, and made the food, and even still, when I’m “off” in the evenings even at 20 weeks, he brings me dinner, and anything else I need so I don’t need to expose myself to my “gag” triggers, which can sometimes be as simple as opening the fridge or smelling something in the pantry. He has let me sleep when I need to sleep, because I’m less nauseated when I am well rested. He massages my feet every night without being asked. And as hard as it is for me to be less helpful than my “usual” self during this time, I haven’t felt resented at all. All his actions have been encompassed in an envelope of honest love and desire to help me get through the struggle.

And I know that this change in JP is contributed only to one thing. He is growing more in love with his Savior, and is starting to look more like Him too. I still remember when he told me that he was praying for me at Mass, that God would show me how much He loves me. And God told him, “That’s your job.” I can’t even tell you how, despite being horrible and difficult in some ways, this pregnancy has provided our marriage with incredible healing. I have not been alone. I have struggled, but I have been lifted up by my husband, who is modeling spiritual leadership for me and our children. In growing this baby, I have not had to bear the challenges alone.

And that is one of the amazing gifts of this faith we hold so dear. Now, at 20 weeks, and still emerging day by day from the challenges of pregnancy sickness, our marriage has grown in love and kindness and thoughtfulness in a way that strengthens my own faith in our ability to be a model of Sacramental Marriage in the world, no matter what we may face in the road ahead.

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