Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead

My Unplanned Pregnancy, Or Why We Stopped Using Birth Control—For Good
July 30, 2011, 3:34 pm
Filed under: Children, Husband, Pregnancy


Right now the result of our unplanned pregnancy is snoozing in his beloved “big boy bed.” As I check on him and watch his chest rise and fall, it hits me once again: here he is, the best gift of my life. My unplanned son and I spent the morning at the pool and I watched him shriek with joy as he went down the water slide, splashed in the water, and giggled after accidentally ducking his head under the water. “That was CRAZY!” he told me as his head popped up out of the pool. When I think that the joy he brings me, his very existence, would never have been mine to know if I hadn’t stopped taking birth control, I feel slightly ill. What if I had missed out on this? What if our plan to start a family after we achieved “financial stability,” “career goals,” “world travel” and had “figured out all the answers” had really come to pass? I thank God everyday for turning our plans upside down.

After two years of marriage, we were definitely in one of the “lows” rather than the “highs” of our relationship.  We were both full-time students (I was graduating, Daniel had a year and a half to go) so we obviously had nothing in the way of financial stability. We were in the midst of some major changes in worldview—particularly in our movement towards Catholicism. Should we convert? Should we wait? What do we think about the big issues? I still had vestiges of pink dye in my hair from when I dyed it tomato red and it quickly faded to Nymphadora Tonks pink. Daniel was wearing moccasins exclusively in those days. My main concerns (other than hearing back from job interviews for work to put Daniel through his last few semesters, yes, I was not COMPLETELY irresponsible) were throwing a really epic graduation party and going to see Radiohead in Dallas the following day. An objective observer would not have tagged us with a “ready for parenthood!” flag anytime soon. And parenthood certainly wasn’t on our radar AT ALL. We went on a 2nd anniversary trip to Disney and discussed having a baby in about…..four to five years. A couple of weeks later, and to our great surprise, we found out that during our future planning anniversary chats, a little soul was already growing in my womb: we were pregnant.

To explain just how NOT ON OUR RADAR this was, I was probably already 7 weeks pregnant before taking a pregnancy test.  Pregnancy hadn’t even crossed my mind and my housemate Courtney (girls in the same house notice these things) had to ask me….um…are you really really late this month? Eh, I shrugged. Thesis and Graduation pressure messing with my hormones! Besides, I can feel cramps coming on right now…not pregnant.

I was really, really late. And those cramps? Yeah, a little human embryo implanting itself in my womb. But I was oblivious. Courtney pointed out, “You’ve seemed a little tired lately…and a little hungry?” “What, just because I sleep all the time and ate breakfast twice today? Chill out!” But inside I was thinking…”hmmm, I have been feeling a little emotional…there was that time the other day when Daniel asked if I could run to the grocery store for something and I started crying hysterically and saying accusatorily: you know I HATE going to the grocery store. How can you even ask me to do that?” Courtney finally just put me in the car and drove me to the drugstore to get a pregnancy test.

After taking a pack of pregnancy tests (the two lines if you’re preganant, one line if you’re not kind) I was still unconvinced (even after making a friend be the control group and seeing that her results looked totally different from mine) and went back to the drugstore for a test that would blink “PREGNANT” or “NOT PREGNANT.” Until the moment I was waiting for the results, I did not want to be pregnant. I had just told Daniel a month before that I wasn’t ready to be a mom yet because I was still too selfish and enjoying being so. But as I waited, I suddenly WANTED to be pregnant, in fact, I’d never wanted anything so much in my whole life. My heart started to race and when the result blinked “PREGNANT” at me, I was filled with unexpected joy. I called Daniel who was at the grocery store (the poor man probably remembered the last time he asked me to go and went himself to avoid a similar uproar) and said…”I think I’m pregnant.”

His response was…”OK…I’ll come straight home.”

When he got home he said calmly, “I’m excited. We can grow carrots in the garden and mash them up for baby food. Maybe Reid can help me build a crib.” I’ve never been so glad of my husband’s cool and collected personality.

We had no idea exactly what we were going to do. I had just accepted a full-time position at Baylor University and Daniel had 3 semesters of full-time school to finish his BA. Who was going to watch this baby while I was at work? How were we going to pay for this baby? We don’t know the first thing about raising babies! These things crossed my mind. But mostly I felt an overwhelming peace and gratitude. I felt overcome with the knowledge that I didn’t even know I wanted this greatest of gifts and God had blessed us anyway. I knew I didn’t deserve the precious gift inside me and the grace of this blessing was so generous that I could almost not bear the thought.

How did we get ourselves into this predicament, you might ask? Six months previously, I had gone off The Pill, which I had been on for our first year and a half of marriage. Our reasoning for this change was two-fold. A primary motivation was that The Pill made me feel AWFUL. I was on a very low dose and it still gave me terrible nausea, unbearable headaches, and wretched mood swings. I was constantly emotional and overreacting. And why is it a good idea to put hormones in my body that I don’t need? But apart from the physical misery, as Daniel and I moved towards the Catholic Church we started to realize that artificial birth control didn’t fit into our mindset of marriage, sex, and family at all. So we decided I should stop taking it. It was one of the best decisions of our lives.

It wasn’t until after I stopped taking The Pill that I started to read about how it can have abortive effects. Due to the low levels of hormones in prescriptions such as the one I was on, it is possible for an egg to get fertilized. Due to The Pill, however, the fertilized egg will not be able to implant and the body expels it. Although I asked my doctor when she prescribed the Pill if it could be considered abortive in any way, she did not inform me of this possibility. This may have been because she did not know—it is not highly publicized. Knowing that this might have happened during the 18 months I was on the Pill grieves me. I’m not haunted or wracked with guilt, partly due to the fact that I was ignorant of this while we were using artificial birth control. But, I now look back on those 18 months with regret. I wish someone had told me there was a better way. I wish someone had told me that natural family planning was an option. I wish I had offered the gift of my fertility back to God, leaving him in control. Once we hesitantly moved in that direction, we were blessed with the best gift of our lives.

I have always liked to be in control (don’t we all?). The idea of giving up control of such a monumental thing is scary. Yet, I am learning over and over again that my plans and desires, if fulfilled, would lead to my ruin and that turning control over to God is an opening to God’s grace. God has been very good to us. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college (ok, the day after graduation) that we got pregnant. In some ways, perfect timing. And with baby #2, we were able to space our kids out by 2 and ½ years without me being on birth control. I know that next time the spacing might be smaller and our lives might get increasingly chaotic, but having to trust God has been for us so liberating.

Benjamin’s birth brought so many good things. He transformed Daniel and I and brought us closer together. We have become more like the people we were created to be. I shudder to think of the person I would be without the entrance of our son in our lives. I would not be half the woman I am.

And the joy he brings hasn’t been limited to us. Watching his grandparents enjoy him has been one of the greatest pleasures. When he was four or five months old, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The existence of her precious grandbaby gave her strength and motivation to complete the grueling journey of chemotherapy.

Unplanned pregnancy was the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, of my closest 6 friends with babies, 5 were quite unexpected and all are desperately loved.  Now you’ll have to excuse me, my unplanned son has just woken up for some snuggles.

St. Anne, Mussels, and Grandparents
July 27, 2011, 2:09 am
Filed under: Feasting, Saints, St. Anne, St. Joachim

Check out our new post about today’s feast, St. Anne and St. Joachim’s Day, at Feast!

Moules Marinieres, Gateau Sainte-Anne, Sliced Baguette, Roasted Potatoes, and Garden Tomato and Arugula Salad. Yum.

We invited my folks over since St. Anne and St. Joachim, grandparents of Our Lord, are the patron saints of grandparents.

Also of note, I overheard Benjamin whilst falling asleep and snuggling with his mouse stuffed animal saying, “Oh, Mouse. I love you. I love you, you pretty ol’ girl.” What?






29 Week Update
July 25, 2011, 10:47 am
Filed under: Health, Pregnancy

Benjamin woke up at 5am after having a bad dream and even though my sweet husband jumped up to console him so I could rest, I’ve been wide awake ever since: thank you, third trimester insomnia.

Yes, I’m in the third trimester already. Can you believe it? I had a little bit of a heart attack the other day when I realized that if Baby Girl comes a week early like her big brother, I’m only 10 weeks away from bringing her home.

Luckily, except for the achiness of a little cold that Benjamin sweetly shared with me this weekend, I still feel fantastic. The last pregnancy and this one are like night and day. With 7 or 8 hours of sleep at night and a short nap midday, I have energy, no headaches, and I feel motivated to take on the day. Last time, I felt like a semi had run over me every morning and I dragged through the day and fell asleep by 8 so I be sure to get at least 11 hours a night.

I also haven’t had nearly the trouble with my bladder that I did last time. I’ll usually get up once to pee but last time I was up at least every two hours at night all through my pregnancy. Pretty miserable.

I think the difference between my first pregnancy and this one has lots of factors. One is that six months before getting pregnant I went to a naturopathic sort of doctor to sort of my constant fatigue, foggy thinking, UTI symptoms, afternoon headaches, and lethargy. After setting me up with some supplements, cutting most of the sugar and gluten out of my diet and discovering that an allergy to coffee and tea as well as yeast were at least part of my bladder issues, I started to feel like a normal human being again. I remember a couple of weeks after really ruthlessly laying off anything sugary, waking up to the world again. The renewed energy I received from these changes has really carried me through this pregnancy. I feel way better pregnant than I did a year ago even though I wasn’t pregnant and was getting plenty of sleep. I’ve also been far more active during this pregnancy due to my job teaching ballet and chasing Benjamin around all day as opposed to sitting in front of a computer screen in an office all day. I think my job situation in general has also made a huge difference. Working full-time while pregnant was so hard for me, especially when I knew that five weeks after Benjamin was born, I would be back in the office. The past year has been so relaxed and delightful and this summer in particular (as I haven’t been working at all for June and July) has been the most stress-free I can remember since childhood. Benjamin and I have a blast going fun places where he can swim or run around each morning, followed by a lovely nap, and then playing at home and making messes in the kitchen until Daddy gets home. I’ve also been praying the rosary a lot. So there’s that.

I am so excited that this time around, I will get to be home with my newborn. It was torturous going back to work for Benjamin’s whole first year. I feel like I missed out on so much. At least I have the consolation that when I was at work he was either with Daniel, my mom, or my best friend Eleanor, who all love him as I do. So it’s not like he suffered, but…I did from missing him.

Some other updates: I started pre-natal yoga a couple of weeks ago. Feels great.

We’ve decided to name our little girl Lucy. I love that it means light and I love St. Lucy.

We’re going to have some housemates for about six months! Our friends Brian and Lois plan to move in early August into our third bedroom while the raise money to return to Nepal where they have been doing missions work. We love Brian and Lois and can’t wait. Lucy won’t need that room for awhile because we plan for her to sleep in our room for the first year like Benjamin did.

I’m trying to savor each sweet day that Benjamin is still an only child. He is at such a fun age. And here he comes toddling into the living room…our day has begun!

It All Ends…
July 16, 2011, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Books, Misc

If you know us at all…you know that Daniel and I are super nerdy about the Harry Potter series. I started reading the books in middle school (thank you, Elizabeth Martin!) but I couldn’t get Daniel to read them until college. Once he did, he was hooked, too. The series is entertaining and delightful, but the themes therein are surprisingly orthodox and admirable. There are several fantastic female characters (you can read a short article on this subject here), a very Augustinian view of evil, and wonderful elements of family, friendship, and sacrificial love, not to mention one of the most finely crafted and interesting characters in English literature: Severus Snape.

For us, the release of the final HP film marked the end of over a decade of Potter book releases and movie premieres. It is the end. So we had to throw a party! Fortunately, we have some friends who like it as much as we do in attendance.

Starting from the left we had a Professor Trelawney holding Baby Harry (with adorable lightning bolt scar!), Dobby the House Elf, our friend Ashlea with a Horcruxes Got Soul T, Pregnant Hermione, Conally the Beater of the Irish National Quidditch Team, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks pregnant with Teddy, Padma Patil, and a Death Eater. We had some “muggles” in attendance but they didn’t get to be in the special picture as punishment for their lack of costume.

Here is our food spread: Shepherd’s Pie, Chocolate Cake from Hagrid for Harry’s 11th Birthday, Licorice Wands, and we also had Pumpkin Pasties, Treacle Tart, Butterbeer, and other yummy treats.


At 8pm we headed over to the theatre to get in line for the midnight show. It was wonderful. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for people who haven’t seen it but we loved it and cried through the second half. There were several scenes we wish they had done differently and at points they missed crucial themes by their alterations but all-in-all….fantastic. Dame Maggie Smith (I LOVE her!) and Alan Rickman completely stole the show.

Now we just have to wait til Benjamin’s old enough to read them.

Toddler Compliments…
July 11, 2011, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Misc

On two occasions, Benjamin has seen a picture of someone on the internet and said, “Hey! There’s a picture of Mama!”

He couldn’t have been more flattering. One time the photo was of Ree Drummond, my beloved Pioneer Woman:

The other time, he saw a picture of Christina Hendricks:

What a womanly figure!

Thank you, Benjamin. You might not be very accurate…but you’re very charming.

A Book for the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia
July 11, 2011, 1:21 pm
Filed under: Books, Feasting, Saints, St. Benedict of Nursia

Today is the Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, 5th century saint, the father of western monasticism, and author of The Rule of St. Benedict.

To celebrate this special saint, Benjamin and I read The Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica, illustrated by one of our favorites, Tomie de Paola.

I ordered it last year but it was a little too wordy for him at that point and didn’t keep his attention very well. This year he seemed to really dig it and wanted to talk about the miracles and stories in the book.

I highly recommend it! In fact, all of Tomie de Paola’s books on saints are really great.

A Few Things…
July 7, 2011, 1:07 am
Filed under: Books, Feasting, Pregnancy

I know Trinity Sunday was almost three weeks ago but I finally posted the recipe for the Blueberry Pie I made for the occasion.

Super easy, super delicious. Check out the post here.

In other news, due to my best friend Eleanor’s urging, I started a Pinterest. You can check it out here. It is taking over my life. Help.

And here’s a somewhat recent pregnancy pic (from three weeks ago?). I feel like I look tons bigger already but…c’est la vie.

And if I had some money to burn I would clearly spend it on these beauties:

I bought Cranford and Jane Eyre for Eleanor last year because I couldn’t resist. But the whole set? Maybe I’ll start collecting one a month.