Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Mother’s Fiat – Elizabeth’s Birth Story

It wasn’t the birth experience I was hoping for. In fact, it was downright disappointing.

 I blame the hospital tour where I saw a re-designed postpartum unit, complete with its color light therapy over the large Jacuzzi bathtub and a full-sized memory foam bed.  It somehow convinced me I was going on a spa vacation. I actually started looking forward to my hospital stay.  Sure, I had to actually go through the whole labor, delivery and pushing out the baby part before my husband and I got our “spa” vacation.  But, I’ve done that three times before; it wouldn’t be my first rodeo.

Looking back on it now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say anytime you’ve looking forward to a hospital stay because it’s the closest you’ll get to a vacation - you’ll be disappointed.

A nasty flu outbreak and the especially frozen tundra-like conditions of another Wisconsin winter

 filled our local hospitals and gave this mother-to-be a serious case of paranoia. Worried one member of this family or another would catch the “death flu,” I put everyone on lockdown. It was almost a war crime, really. I forced those I love to stay in the house for days on end with my nine-month pregnant self and I was in the worst mood of my life.

I ended up being induced. That involved an IV of what is basically poison trying to convince my brain to go into labor. Yes, it can be a good thing when mama and baby need an induction for medical reasons, which this mama and baby did. Overall, the stuff is evil. With the first contractions I knew this labor wasn’t going to go well. One medical intervention lead to another, and then another.  My body doesn’t do well with drugs and I had one negative reaction after another – all while being stuck at 4cm for hours and hours. Some of my veins boycotted and decided to walk off the job by collapsing. I spent the day feeling like a pincushion – and wondering why this baby hated me.

 My doctor’s opinion was that a fourth baby should come quickly. His readiness to wheal me into the OR for a section like I was a car going through the carwash stole the last bit of sanity I was clinging to. My husband is as supportive and sensitive as they come, but I could see the worry start to wash over his face. We begged for one more chance and I spent those painful minutes praying a silent rosary and mentally solidifying that this little girl’s name would be Elizabeth. I then invoked her patron saint. 

The baby cooperated by moving down ever so slightly and convincing my doctor that she too was just a seven pounder with a normal size head that would indeed fit where it needed to fit, just as those who came before her had. I progressed rapidly and within the hour our fourth daughter came. A sigh of relief did not come with her.

Her arrival was a silent one. When she was placed on my chest I didn’t have time to look at her face or smell her in before she was snatched away and the NICU nurse was called. I spent well over an hour unable to see her or know what was going on in the corner of our hospital room. I was paralyzed from the cocktail of drugs that came with my labor experience.  The poor little love had somehow almost drowned herself on the way out. Her little lungs and tummy were full of fluid. When the fluid came out an hour later, so did her first cry.
By the time we checked into the postpartum room my delusions of a restful vacation snuggling a baby had all but vanished.  Little Miss Elizabeth had come on the very day of my monthly work deadline.  I had planned on working after I delivered. She had other plans. When the pediatrician came to give Elizabeth a once-over she began choking on more fluid and my husband and I agreed it was best she be taken for the night. My restful recuperation in a spa turned into stress-filled, sleepless nights.
A few days after we returned home with our new little lady my initial fear was realized; I had caught the flu in the hospital. My fever spiked at 103.5, the highest fever I’ve had in my adult life. As I tossed and turned in my bed I cried and cried. There were tears of disappointment for the birth and initial bonding experience that had been lost. There were tears of fear and feelings of being overwhelmed with having four daughters five years old and under. Here I was, not even a week in and I was unable to care for my children. With no family around and no live-in nanny, how would I ever do this when I can’t even get past day three without dropping the ball?
I wish I could recall the time leading up to welcoming our Elizabeth as exciting. A time filled with joy, hope and anticipation for the new life that was being gifted to our family. But that’s not my truth. I longed for those feelings I felt as a first time mom, but they never came.

What did come was our daughter.
The first of four to look just like me.
A baby sister that will sanctify and bless our “big” girls.
Another little soul entrusted to our care.

A challenge I say “yes” to, just as Mary did with her fiat.

How fitting for my feelings of disappointment and fear that Mary sought counsel and went in haste to Elizabeth, whose excitement and support blessed her with strength. My Elizabeth too will bless my “yes” each and every day- starting with day one.

Day one of any journey begins with a “yes.”
That yes may be all I have, so it’s a good thing life happens one day at a time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We Get What We Get And We Don’t Complain

Anyone with young ones at home knows it can, at times, be like living with instant play-back. Got a nugget of wisdom or lesson they need to learn? Chances are they’ll throw it right back at you with an innocent face and a big ZING. 

Children tend to remember these life gems at the most inconvenient times such as in front of the in-laws, the parish priest or when I’m already teetering on the very edge of sanity - which these days is pretty much any day of the week ending in Y.

  “We don’t say that word in our family, mama!”

“That’s not very loving to our family or to JESUS!”

“Dishes go in the sink RIGHT after we’re done eating.”

“Mama, is your shirt modest?”

 I’ve been caught talking out of both sides of my month more than once by a four-year-old girl with what I consider to be a super-human memory. It wasn’t until the latest Rutchik family phrase was thrown back at me that I actually saw the mirror being held up to my face. I’m usually too busy wanting to stick a piece of tape over the family parrot/eldest daughter’s mouth to bother looking in the mirror to correct physical or hypocritical aspects of my reflection.

 “We get what we get and we don’t complain, right mama?”

 The phrase entered our parental play-book when we found ourselves breaking up one too many fights over who gets to drink out of/play with/wear what under the reasoning of it being one little girl or another’s favorite color.

 Not-so-secretly holding onto hope that baby number four could be our first son; I had slapped down a $50 bill and marched myself into an elective ultrasound room.

 It took me all of three seconds to identify the sex of the little one we’ve all grown to call “baby bubo.”


All girl.

 I’m surprised her eldest sister didn’t barge in the room and reprimand her for her lack of modesty.

 A good mom would lie and say that seeing the life within in her wiggle around on the screen was an experience she’ll never forget or some other sappy, lame and cheesy thing like that. But this mom already has three girls waiting in an embarrassingly messy mini-van with their father. One’s sippy cup of milk lay forgotten on the kitchen counter at home and another’s shoes buried in the sand-box, left intentionally due to laziness on said mother’s part.

 I was disappointed. Not surprised, but disappointed.

 “I hate to tell you this, but its girl number four,” The technician said. “Sorry to break it to you, that’s too bad.”

 I abandoned my pity party and scowled at him.

 “Hey, that’s my baby,” I said. “Don’t talk like that about my daughter!”

 With a scowl on my face and annoyed eyes I became little girl number four’s mother.

 I thought of the phrase I’d been barking at little lady number four’s older sisters all week:

 “We get what we get and we don’t complain!”

 Our children aren’t the only ones who throw fits, whine and complain about the stupidest things.
(shhh! We don’t say the word stupid in our house!).

 Most of the time, we’re upset because we can’t have things we don’t really even want or need and we defiantly shouldn’t care about.

 So, I was wrong and I’m embarrassed.  Big shocker, like that’s never happened before around here.  I don’t know what is best for us – or even what I want. Yes, I shed a few tears that night as I let go of my life-long dream of being a mom to boys.

Funny how dreams can change.  It hasn’t even been a week and I’m already excited that we don’t have to buy anything, that our girls can all share rooms, and that I can give my children the one thing I didn’t have and always longed for – sisters.

 Most of all, I’m giddy that we will continue to be “that family with all the girls.”

It’s special.

It’s odd.

It’s so very us.

 "We get what we get and we don’t complain.” 

We’ve having a FOURTH baby girl!

There's always room for one more in our family!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laney Bugs Turns ONE!

Elena’s first birthday brought more tears than laughter for this mother. Much like the day of her birth one year ago, there was no time for fanfare. There was simply a red and white checkered ladybug dress and cupcakes to match.  A small homage in honor of the only “bug” in the world I love; our “Laney Bug.”

Her daddy and I knew the moment she was born that regardless of if there will be any more children for our family or not, she will always be “the baby.”

When she entered the world, things were a little dark for our family. Daddy was on the computer writing his thesis right up until mama was ready to push. We didn’t know where we would live, when daddy would graduate or if there would be a job for him.

“Every baby is born with a loaf of bread under their arm” the old saying goes, and our Laney was no exception. Her birth was the first in a domino effect of things falling into place for our family.

Over the first year of her life, she has gifted me with a new motherhood role - that of mothering a child with health concerns. The experience has been quite different than being the wife of a man with health concerns. It has been hard, brought many tears and sleepless nights. It has also taught me to love in the moment and to examine the evil that breads in fear and anxiety. She has reminded me that no moment of life is too small to celebrate.

She’s only now able to eat and she isn’t able to support her weight on her little LDS legs (YET!)

She is a strong one though, and with her carries the brightest light. She is my beacon, and I am blessed and so very humbled to share that for this year at least, I am her brightest light. Yes, we’re got a mama’s gal on our hands, and I am delighted. 

Her presence in our home over the past year has been a conduit of only good and holy things. I’ve fallen deeper in love with her daddy and her sisters as I witness what is good in them spark alive with love for her, the smallest member of this family.

Her eyes are bright and reflective. Her laugh is reserved only for when it has true meaning.  We prayed and prayed for her. It was suggested to us by several people during our discernment that we conceive her in a lab instead of in our marriage. The LDS gene could have been taken out, and she could have been made a he – since we don’t have one of those around here.

How blessed we’ve been by deciding to trust that our family would be given what was perfect for us. We were given another girl, one that does have LDS. And we smile with the knowledge that we were given God’s perfection.

One day just wasn’t enough to celebrate the perfect gift that is you, Laney Bug. There wasn’t a party, but there were tears of happiness, thankfulness and mourning of the passage of time – a reminder that we can’t control the life God has created for us. There were those lady bug cupcakes, and that little red and white checkered lady bug dress which you wore for three days. Daddy washed it twice because mama couldn’t bear to take you out of it, or for the birthday weekend to end too soon.

My dreams for you are big, sweat Laney Bug. You’ve taught me so much over this past year. I know someday you’ll be called to touch others in a big way, so for now I’ll snuggle you and save you for our little family here.  On this birthday you want only to be held and snuggled and to blow raspberries on your sisters’ bellies. 

On this birthday we celebrate your good health, your gentle temperament and the possibility your life holds. 

Happy first birthday, Laney Bug!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Girlfriends In God

“Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.”
Proverbs 31:10

Who can find a woman of worth? Let me tell you, holy women are alive and well in the Diocese of Green Bay.  I was honored to spend the morning with 100+ of these holy women this past weekend at Girlfriends in God – A Women’s Day of Reflection.
It was my privilege to serve on the core team for the first of what may just be an annual event here in my home diocese.

We were blessed to start our morning with mass offered by a young and prophetic priest. He took the time to tailor his homily to women and the theme of our event. Listening to the symphony of women lift their voices heavenward in our beautiful cathedral was stirring. It was as if I could feel our collective, feminine heart unfolding for the blessings of the day.

I left my last speaking engagement with one great tip: bring tissues when speaking to women! As an afterthought I threw them into the bags I had prepared for each table and am I ever glad I did.
The day was full of laughter, tears, new and renewed friendships with one another and our faith. I was inspired by the diverse group of women who came to spend the morning together and honored to have the opportunity to speak.

As women, we tend to flock to those who we can relate to. This often means those in a similar life stage. There is nothing wrong with this; women need someone else who “gets it” in order to share our hearts. However, we can get really caught up in our life stage and lose sight of the importance of shared vocation and giftedness as woman.

It was this that truly touched me about the Girlfriends in God event. Yes, the food was fabulous, we avoided too many time and technology crises and the talks went well (thank goodness, I was a bit nervous for this one!) but the most inspiring aspect of the event for myself was the teenager and 75 year old grandma I witnessed introducing themselves to each other at a pink donned table.
It was a diverse group of women in every aspect, from age to place on the faith journey. This, I believe, is what made the event a blessing for all the women in attendance. 
We’ve got so much to learn from one another. From the wisdom to gain from those more advanced in age and life experience than we are to the fresh face of hope in the young woman that can spark a renewal in our own lives.

Ok, and the top notch gift bags didn’t hurt the experience either. Pink pajama pants, CDs, chocolate roses? There was a haul in those gift bags!
I’m overjoyed the day was inspiring for myself and others but must admit, after crashing for 13 hours to sleep when I got home, I was a little sad to cross it off my calendar.

All that is left to do for this year is to file away the papers and memories and wait for the seeds planted to bear fruits in my heart. Serving on the core team and preparing to speak was that crazy kind of wonderful stress. The kind that makes you pull your hair out and then not only ask for more, but look forward to it.

I had the privilege of working with three professionals in ministry who I learned so much from, and more importantly, grew in friendship with. I’ll miss our hopeful and entertaining brainstorming sessions and of course, the fabulous desserts we ate while dreaming up an event that would build women up and bring them together. Whoever said dessert is bad for you hasn’t met these women. We truly became “Girlfriends in God,” and I am so thankful.
Girlfriends in God Core Team

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Hermit Life: Saying Goodbye to February’s Darkness

I live, write and mother from “God’s County.” There’s even signage on our back road one-lane highways to prove it.
Yes, I’m a cheese eating, Packers and Brewers cheering, God-fearing Wisconsin girl through and through.

While I’ll likely never leave the great Badger state, here’s the thing: February in Wisconsin is the table by the kitchen in the darkest corner hell.

 February and I are not friends. It’s been cold for too many consecutive weeks and people haven’t seen hide nor hair of a human being not covered in marshmallow shaped coats or fur skinned hoods since Christmas. The icing on top of that lovely cake is the fact that there’s only light for about 2 minutes a day in February.
This February my four-year-old assigned animals that have the same likeness to each of our family members. I was given bear.

“Why bear?” I asked.

“There are mama bears in stories that get mad when others bother their family. Plus, you like to sleep.” She said.

There’s a burn, four-year-old style.

My overly-observant daughter has a point. In fact, if I’m going to survive a Wisconsin winter it would ideally be spend hibernating with my bear cubs. Unfortunately, people don’t take well to shut-ins and society expects me to change the children out of their pajamas for Mass and company.

Therefore, until I’m rich and famous and can snow bird on out of here for 8 weeks every winter - February is about surviving.

I can’t imagine life without the four seasons. Plus, having the cold tundra of winter keeps many creepy-crawling bugs out of our state by a deep freeze that kills them all off once a year.

However, the pros just don’t outweigh the cons when it comes to a Wisconsin winter. By the time Lent rolls around every year I often feel like if there’s another doom and gloom day in my soul I just may roll over and play dead until spring. Things are always the worst at the darkest hour of the night (or in this case, year). Thankfully, hope rises with the March sun. There may be snow/sleet/rain and hail, but there’s hope.

Last weekend my husband and I took a late-winter trip to Door County, sans kids. We hiked through the freshly fallen snow and bare trees to a violent and spitting Lake Michigan.

The trees were heavy and bent with the wet, sticking snow of a late-season storm.

They were my peers, the bent trees. Hunched over, naked and frail from a winter of coldness and little light.

A tree doesn’t turn from its source of light as we humans do. Trees search for the light and chose to grow toward what they know sustains them. They grow heavenward. In the cold bitterness of the darkest times they may bend downward but they survive because spring will come and they will bloom again.

With gratitude, I too know the story doesn’t end in February. Just when so many of my branches are on the brink of snapping, Lent comes and the pain is reigned in and re-focused heavenward. This carries me until the bloom of spring - when we are all resurrected.

This winter I’ve put my hermit like behavior to good use. You may have noticed my absence in the social media words. It’s been deliberate. When I’m not changing a diaper or crying into the reproducing laundry pile I’ve been wading knee-deep through the messy dream of writing a book with my dear friend and fellow writer/speaker Woman at the Inkwell. It’s funny how our dreams tend to bend us ever so slightly and look a bit messy.

It’s March and I’m ready to do just that, march forth. God willing, beauty will bloom in the chaos. At least it will be spring, and there will be light.

Winter Trees, Door County, WI

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Budget Woes: Is Vacation a Necessity?

With the start of another year, many are reflecting on personal and familial habits that may need to be re-examined. For families, the top slot on this list is often the family budget.

The budget tends to burst at the seams comes January. December can bring, “It’s a little much, but it’s such a perfect gift for ----,” and, “We can’t stick to the grocery budget, it’s the holidays and we’ve got things to bake/cook and memories to make.”

Every January we sit down with the budget and cut the fat. It’s not that difficult of a job. We know what we’re comfortable spending in each category and it’s easy to see where we are falling short. We look at the numbers and plan out the next year for our family. We think about each month and what our needs will be and everything runs smoothly - until we get to the summer months and one budget category jumps out.

That category: Vacation.

Should we take a family vacation?

No matter how much (or little) money there is, we’re frugal. It’s just how we live. What we have we save because we know there’ll be a time of need. There are student loans that could be paid or a home that could be saved for. Do we spend a large chunk of money over the course of one week in the summer?

The answer for this family is a resounding YES! For us, a vacation is a necessity and something that needs to be budgeted into our lives.

A few years ago my husband, who struggles with a chronic health issue, had a complication after a surgery and I had to rush him to the hospital. There was a serious question as to if he would live or die. I called a few friends to sit and pray with me as the doctors worked and I waited. During that time I didn’t think of our budget, the student loans or if I’d gone over on cell phone minutes. Instead, I was haunted by something my husband had recently shared with me,

“My favorite thing in this world is when we’re traveling and you all fall asleep in the van. I love to drive my sleeping family.”

This memory was interrupted when the doctors came to tell me they had found the problem and that my husband would make it. My friends smiled and looked at me for tears or leaps of joy.

There were tears, but the only thing I could think of to say was:

 “I want to go on vacation for our anniversary.”

Our favorite things are important, especially if they help bond us as a family unit. For us, it's vacations. They are the thoughts that haunt us when we are reminded that this life is temporary and they are the first memories of our very young children.

There is something to be said about cramming five people into a mini-van and living out of a cooler for five days every summer – if it’s done together.

We’re not millionaires over here, so vacations mean other sacrifices throughout the year. We can do vacation on a dime. My husband and I even play “fun games and challenges” to help ensure vacation is possible for our family. You can make dinner for five out of a cooler for consecutive nights and those “free weekend if you take our timeshare tour” trips are actually really fun - and they serve lunch.

Taking his three daughters to Disney World is my husband’s dream. Old age isn’t likely for him, so I’m determined to make it happen sooner rather than later. We even have a code phrase for the dream in our home. “Someday, when we go to the Mouse’s House” we say as we dream while attempting to not tip off the children. It’s a bit early to share our dream with them. We’ll wait until the vacation category in the budget can grow. Until that time, vacation will always have a place in our budget, even if it is a small one.

Does your family have a “Mouse’s House” dream vacation? Does your family have a favorite vacation spot you want to recommend?

Vacation: taking time to climb rocks

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mind your Own Motherhood

If there’s one thing we have as women, its opinions. I’d like to issue a friendly reminder to Catholic wives and mothers that personal opinions on motherhood and issues of morality are two different things.

In other words: mind your own motherhood!

A holy mother has many faces, friends. She may wear different hats. They may be hats you don’t think look good on her.

A holy mother may not breastfeed, use cloth diapers or co-sleep. Or she may. A holy mother may make the baby cry it out. Or not. She may send six kids to public school or stay home full-time and home school one.

There are some popular phrases that some women have been using as weapons on fellow mothers:

“We are the first and primary educators of our children” is slug like mud at mothers who send children to school.

We are the first and primary educators of our children. Education is an important and private discernment process where God may reveal his will in differing ways.

“I could NEVER leave MY kids,” is casually said to mothers who leave the home for work, implying they love their children less than mothers who stay home.

That mother may not be able to leave her kids because she may be called to be home. This does not make her calling superior or her children “better off” then those of a mother who leaves.

I’ve recently been noticing an elitist attitude from stay-at-home (and some school-at -home) mothers in my life and in the media and blog world.

It is only “acceptable” for a mother to be called to work outside of the home if it is financially necessary for her family. When that time passes she can go home, where she “should” be.

Mother’s who leave the home to work even though she doesn’t need to financially may indeed be called to a mission in the world in addition to her vocation at home.

A holy mother may set her college degrees aside and stay home with her children full-time. She may make her husband lunch and have dinner ready when he returns home. A holy mother may have a husband who does laundry and cleans the kitchen.

A holy mother may work outside the home – whether or not her family needs the money.

A holy mother discerns her life putting her vocation as wife and mother first. Her discernment is between herself, her husband and the Lord. A holy mother will do so with a formed conscience. What she is called to is divinely perfect.

Who are we to question how and why God calls anyone, mother or not?

Our thoughts of each other are so disordered they’ve been exploited and are used as entertainment in the blogs and media sources.

Stop it! We’re making Christian motherhood look bad – as if we can’t handle our vocation. It’s embarrassing and shameful.

Mind your own motherhood.

Let’s stop tearing each other down and looking down our noses at those God has called to our same vocation. We’ve got the same goal, friends! Let’s serve each other in the absence of judgment with encouragement and support so we can best serve our vocations.

Mind your own motherhood. I’ll try to do the same.

Mama and bottle-fed baby