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Managing My Mind While Carrying the Cross

For 37 years I’ve struggled with my brain continuously producing thought after thought. No rest, just going down lots of rabbit holes, which only led to stress. My husband once jokingly asked me, “Do you ever just turn your brain off?” I just laughed and replied, “No. I don’t know how to do that.” I was convinced that this was a superhuman quality he possessed.

From the first time I met my husband, he has always been able to do this. It was one of the things that I fell in love with the most. But after we got married, it started to drive me crazy that he could let things go so easily. He never seems to be bothered by anything – and I mean anything. Even the hardest of trials we have faced, from where I stand, has not phased him.

His response whenever I would share something negative that I was thinking, “Well, just don’t think that,” or “You are choosing to think like that.” I would immediately respond very sarcastically, “Yeah, because everyone can do that so easily.” My blood would begin to boil because I interpreted this as him not caring. I realize now he was exercising his free will to choose to think about our circumstance differently than most. And by most, I mean me.

A lot has happened in our nine years of marriage, and my husband’s superhuman ability to manage his thoughts naturally, I believe kept our marriage afloat. Through him, so much grace, forgiveness, and mercy has been given to me. It wasn’t until these last two years that I discovered that I too might just have that ability to manage my own thoughts and emotions! The biggest and most dramatic impact I saw was regarding my fertility.

In nine years of marriage we have had nine babies, three here on earth and six in heaven. For seven years, I believed to my core that my grief and my fertility was a plague on our marriage and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. It all seemed to be completely out of my hands.

After our first loss people tried to encourage me by saying things like, “God has a plan for you,” or “God will use this suffering for something.” I knew in my heart that these statements were technically true. The people saying them were trying to be helpful, but it was extremely hurtful to hear. I felt like people just didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand what it was really like for me. My thoughts usually went straight into a disqualifying mode because I also whole-heartedly had come to believe that I was simply not good enough. It seemed like a fact, I was broken, because I literally couldn’t carry many of my babies to full term. I was not worthy of my babies because if I was, then they would all be with me. These and so many lies always outweighed the truth.

I had created a huge manual around what a Catholic wife and mother was supposed to look like, and I was a failure because I didn’t fit that description at all. When talking with other women who had similar experiences of pregnancy loss, they would affirm many of my thoughts and feelings; therefore, in my mind, validated these things as truths.

For seven years I lived this way, holding tight to these beliefs. I was one big bottle of mixed emotions that could explode at any given moment. I would lose my patience and yell at my husband and children for little things and then feel extreme guilt. I can’t tell you how many times I confessed how terrible of a wife and mother I was for yelling at my family. I was on a hamster wheel of shame, and I had no idea how to get off because in my mind I had no control over any of it.

Every pregnancy was torture because of my unmanaged mind. My inability to process my thoughts fueled anxiety that I had struggled with for most of my life. Anytime I got pregnant I immediately started to create a plan of action for how I would mentally handle another loss. I allowed these thoughts to control everything. No part of my pregnancies were ever safe because I thought that all of this could end at any moment. I remember actually telling myself many times, “This pregnancy isn’t safe, and I can’t do anything to make it that way.” With my three pregnancies that did in fact go to full term, it was like holding my breath everyday for nine months. The worst part was that I accepted this as normal because I knew so many others that would tell me they were going through the same thing.

Then, it happened again. We lost another baby at 19 weeks. We had been in this space before. We had previously lost one of our babies at 17 weeks, so naturally to cope I just told myself I knew I’d be fine because I knew exactly what to expect. I had created my manual for loss, and it was going to help me survive and get through it again.

But the strangest thing happened as I experienced each of the scenarios I had played out in my head from the previous time…I acted differently than how I thought I would.

When I checked in at the hospital front desk, I told the lady I was there to deliver my baby early at 19 weeks because there was no heartbeat. After she told me to just go on through the doors, she said, “Congratulations and good luck!” I intentionally chose to let what she said go.
I was a bit shocked at her response instead of becoming angry at how painful her words were.

My sweet young nurse kept fumbling around the room nervously. As I watched her, I recognized that this might be the first time she had ever had a birth like this. Instead of getting annoyed, I chose to tell her we’d get through it together. I reassured her I would be ok and that her compassion and presence was going to be such a big help.

Looking back now, I realize I was taking ownership over each thought I was having and choosing the path that I wanted to take instead of falling into the trap of believing that this extremely sorrowful moment had to be another one of worst moments of my life.

As I held my perfect little boy, I called out to God and begged him to allow this little one to continue to change me. I told him I would come back to this space a million times over, give him as many of my babies as he wanted, but I didn’t want to be a victim to these circumstances anymore. I didn’t want to hold onto all this frustration, anger, and jealousy. I knew there had to be a different way to grieve and I needed him to show me how. Then in the deafening silence of that room I heard Him say, “From this moment forward everything will be different.”

God had been calling me to deeper healing for many years, but in that moment I was finally ready to accept it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” // Romans 12:2

Three months later, I started coaching with someone and began learning how to capture my thoughts with the Metanoia Catholic journal. After a couple of months, I began to view my fertility, my losses, and my marriage all through a different lens—a lens I was choosing.

Erin once said on a coaching call, “That’s just a thought.” It is so simple, yet it transformed the way that I approach everything now. Thought-by-thought I take captive and these lies surrounding my worth and my identity are being rooted out one-by one. What’s funny is this is basically what my husband had been telling me from day one, but I was too stubborn to see how one could go about doing it.

Today, I am 11 weeks pregnant. I wake up every morning amazed at how peaceful this pregnancy has been. I have had a few intrusive thoughts about losing this baby. However, now when that happens I recognize the thought, acknowledge what I am feeling, and then decide to choose differently because at this moment there is no truth to them.

While I can’t predict the outcome of this pregnancy, “What if I lose this baby too?” doesn’t have to be the thought that I say daily. Instead, I am working on the belief that, “I just might get to hold this baby in my arms.”

This work is a process, but I have found so much peace knowing now that I have this superhuman ability, too. We all do. Like me, you just might need a little help knowing how.