1 Samuel 1:27-28

For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

889 days. It was October 2014 when we decided to change up our NFP routine and actively try for children. It was sooner than we had originally intended, but it was clear that God had wanted us to get started…or at least try. After eight rough months, we did conceive a child who lived a short life here on earth, but is now our little one in heaven interceding for us. We continued to wait, pray, and work hard (surgery, elimination diets, lifestyle changes, somuchmore).

And PRAISE GOD! On March 7th, we found out that I was pregnant! While the wait was often not easy and many tears were shed, I could not be more grateful for how the Lord worked and for the timing of this gift. This trial has brought Kevin and I closer together, it has put our trust in the Lord to work, and it’s allowed us to take note of so many other blessings throughout these past few years that could easily have been overlooked.

Life is still a bunch of unknowns for us, but that’s okay. This pregnancy has been full of so much peace and a tremendous amount of joy. I know for certain this is the Lord’s work, and not mine (as much as I’d love to boast it is), because of these fruits. What shall we do for childcare? How will we financially thrive? What career changes might need to be made? Will our current living situation suffice? Will we survive without any family around? Lots of questions and no answers. But still, that’s okay. God’s grace is flowing and I have every confidence that these things will be figured out in due time. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” [Matthew 6:34]

Also, since so much time has passed on our wait (and yet, so little compared to what many couples experience), we’ve been blessed to witness many of our friends and family welcome babies (and second babies) into this world. We’ve seen our friends cope with tremendous obstacles during this season of life: military demands, life-changing prenatal diagnoses, cross-country moves and new jobs, postpartum anxiety/depression, and marital struggles. We’ve been inspired by their faithfulness and love, despite the difficulties presented to them. We’ve also been able to see the joy that a new child brings to their lives, even when the struggle is real. (That’s probably because we know such wonderful men & women.) They allow these hardships to bear fruit in their family life, and this gives Kevin and I strength as we embark on this journey. As well as a whole lot of wisdom to benefit from.

So while I could easily complain about how long it’s taken (I’ve certainly done enough of that over the years) and how much money/time has been spent on my health (which has actually been a real blessing), I sincerely thank God for this gift. I really trust that His timing is perfect. And if this pregnancy does not result in a healthy child born this November, than we will continue to trust that all things work for good for those who love God. But for now, we simply say deo gratias.

Baby Gearns coming November 2017 🙂

Giovanna Raphael

I’ve been a bit MIA on this blog for a while, but Kevin keeps telling me to get back into it. I’ve wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure about what to write! I debated whether or not to share what follows, but in the end, I don’t want to hide it – I want to acknowledge it.

This summer has been full. Yes, we’ve been out of the house more and taking weekend/day trips (and I want to write about all of it!), but it goes much further than that. Something big happened, and then something big happened again. And it’s lead to many life decisions, one of which is that Kevin and I will be moving to Duluth, Minnesota in the beginning of September. There will be much more on all of this later, for sure! But right now, I just want to acknowledge the gift (and loss of that gift) that has changed my life, Kevin’s life, and our marriage.

On May 26, 2015, I woke up and decided to take a pregnancy test. This wasn’t exactly anything new as this was my routine for eight months. Eight months of radical dietary changes, Napro doctor support, and lots of prayer. Eight months of people saying, “you’re so young, you have lots of time,” or “just stop thinking about it and it’ll happen” (not very helpful…but that wasn’t everyone!). Eight months of excitement, anticipation, and disappointment. Eight months of intense grace and growth in my relationship with God. Eight months of deepening my love for my incredible husband. I could talk so much more about those eight months, but the point of all this is what came next.

Anyway, woke up, took a pregnancy test, and was SHOCKED…[complete silence]…SHOCKED to see the second bright line. I went back to bed and sat on a sleeping Kevin and whispered “I’m pregnant.” You can imagine his surprise and sort of questioning tone when he said “what?” All that we’d been praying for had happened (the cycle after our pilgrimage to St. Anne’s as well!).

I won’t go into the details right now, but while we were able to experience excitement in the beginning, there were a lot of concerning things that soon arose. The next several weeks were unfortunately filled with much anxiety. There were rays of hope that came, but then even worse symptoms that took their place. Around 4am on July 2, 2015, I woke up and immediately knew what was about to happen. I woke Kevin up and he just laid with me for a while as I experienced the all-too-familiar excruciating pains that would normally signal my period.

A couple hours later, at 9 1/2 weeks, I delivered (would that be the correct term?) our first child. I don’t want to be too gruesome, but to all those pro-choicers out there who would deny the fact that I had been carrying a living human, this was most definitely a child that I held in my hand.

We named our child Giovanna Raphael: “gift of God who heals.” This name had been on our hearts for a few weeks at that point, and it seemed quite God-given. We had already planned a trip back home to PA that weekend, so we took our child with us to be buried. A couple of our best friends, Josh & Ashlie, joined us that weekend with their little baby, John Paul. They were present when we buried Giovanna in our backyard. We wrapped her in the lace from my wedding dress. It was a painful, but beautiful experience. We prayed this lovely prayer from Sister Angelica, and we cried unashamedly at the loss of this precious life.

There is so much I still have to process from all of this. While I know I’m a mother, I don’t exactly feel like one. It’s been less than three weeks since I miscarried, but at moments, it almost feels as if I was never pregnant to begin with. Then there are the times when I just can’t help but cry over what is no longer growing inside of me.

At this point, that’s all I have to share about that. If anyone’s experienced infertility or miscarriage – be assured of my prayers.

The documentary that opened up a whole new world.

I just watched Ricki Lake’s documentary, The Business of Being Born…and WOAH.  I, for most of my life, had no clue how many options women have. I am one of five, and just assumed my own mother had five normal hospital births (one was a c-section). Well, a couple nights before my older brother’s wedding last March, all seven of us were in the car and just so happened to be talking about our birth stories (totally normal car convo). It turns out the first one she used a midwife in a hospital and preferred the midwife. I can’t recall how the second child was born, but I know for sure  that for me, the midwives were no longer allowed in the hospitals. Crazy!

Since getting married and being open to life and having pregnant friends, I’ve felt compelled to research this more in depth. I’m no wealth of knowledge, just a person astounded by what she has learned. I would hear random things about hospitals administering drugs to speed up and then slow down the natural birthing process. All the “interventions” that are utilized out of convenience, not necessity. Doctors are always talking about all the things that might happen, but seem to forget that women have been giving birth since the beginning of time! It’s as natural as it gets!

Are there women that need cesarean sections? Of course. There are emergencies. But FAR less than what the medical world represents it to be. And would I judge a woman for choosing an epidural? Absolutely not! But it’s the fact that women don’t even know what options they might have. Home birthing and midwifery are made out to be these ancient practices that are so dangerous and stupid of a choice. And that’s primarily here in the US. Why? Well, I don’t want to throw a blogging rant so if you’re interested you can watch The Business of Being Born and find out. It’s super informative and really shed light on a lot of things I was questioning.

A Newlywed & NFP

In honor of NFP Awareness Week (which I didn’t realize was a thing until this week), I’d like to share a bit of my experience with Natural Family Planning. I just got married in May 2014, but I’ve been charting one method or another since April 2012.

For those who may not know, Natural Family Planning is a general term for various methods used to avoid or achieve pregnancy in cooperation with God’s plan sans artificial assistance. This is my informal Catholic definition, but I’ve heard of many non-Catholics using it as just a natural way to avoid or achieve pregnancy without putting all that extra hormonal blarb into your body. It’s beautiful for a number of reasons, the primary one for me being it works in harmony with truth. It is about being fully open to life, no matter your circumstance. It is about choosing life, even in those times you’re trying to avoid.

Kevin and I certainly don’t have to practice NFP – we could just leave it up to God, be intimate whenever we wanted, and see what happens. But given our personal circumstances right now and through prayer, we believe that it’s not the best time for us to have a child. Now if I somehow got pregnant, we’d be excited (gosh, Kevin would be ecstatic), but we’re doing our part to delay it at the moment. So in the spirit of this NFP Awareness Week, let me share a bit of both my personal joys and struggles with natural family planning.

🙂 It’s a team effort. My husband knows and [sort of] understands what’s going on with my body, and we actually develop a deeper level of intimacy through it. While we were engaged, I would text him my chart details at the end of each day, and he was responsible for the physical chart. Now that we’re married, it’s a bit more wonky since we’ve switched around so many times what NFP method we’re charting with, but it’s still a similar setup. He is aware of what is going on in my cycle, and how that affects me each day. A woman’s body is constantly changing throughout the month, so naturally a woman’s day-to-day can be so drastically different for no obvious reason. And it’s beyond helpful to have a husband who is aware and sensitive to what might be going on underneath the surface.

🙂 It requires sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but I for sure want my marriage to be made up of worthy sacrifices. It helps us demonstrate our love for one another, as well as our love for God. It unites us closer to each other and to Him. The sacrifices that NFP calls for help us to grow in prudence and temperance. And it builds up the respect that we have for one another.

🙂 It’s natural and healthy. This is an exciting one. I’ve been learning so much recently about my body, and I’ve been trying to incorporate natural things into all parts of my life (essential oils, attempted homegrown herbs, cooking from scratch, etc.). So of course it’s a joy that I’m able to have a healthy level of intimacy with my husband while not worrying about, or harming myself, with outside chemicals.

🙁 It can be confusing and frustrating when you aren’t the poster child for NFP. Even though I’ve been charting for over 2 full years, I still don’t have a “normal” chart. We’ve switched methods three times since getting engaged, trying to find what works best for us. It can be hard when an NFP teacher looks at your chart and tells you that if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, there only looks to be 2 “go” days in that entire month. With my chart being somewhat difficult to interpret, it’s tough when we just don’t know if it’s an okay day. And it leads me to sometimes feel guilty; like there’s something wrong with me (physically or psychologically), or I’m doing it wrong, or I’m making a cross for our marriage.

🙂 The frustrations are purifying. In a way, I’m grateful for not having one’s “ideal” chart, or a regular cycle. It means that I just have to trust in God, which is ultimately what I’m trying to do in all parts of my life. Even with a perfect cycle, we all have to trust in the Lord and in His plans for us.

Kevin and I are still just in the newlywed phase – we have years of learning and growing to do. But I can say with confidence that I’m grateful NFP is a part of our marriage, and I hope we can grow in faith each day as we leave our fertility and our family in God’s hands.

Now for some great NFP related links for the week!

Women Speak on NFP

NFP Awareness Week Contest

Dear Newlywed, You’re Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing