Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – 2017

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 18-30). I also think about the seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 22 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

 

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A Bittersweet Reunion and Excerpt from Emily’s Hope

1994 (the year after my near death experience)

I recently attended a neighboring church for Mass and was approached by a woman who said that I probably wouldn’t remember her, but that she had been a nurse at the hospital when I came in many years ago and nearly died.

“You were whiter than a ghost,” she said.  “And we didn’t think you were going to make it.”

“Neither did I,” I responded.

“We’ve never seen anyone as critically ill as you and survive.”

“But I did!  Not only that, I went on to have two more children.

“I know!  I’ve been following you through friends. I just wanted to tell you how happy I am that you survived.”

“Thank you.”  You and me both.

A special shout-out to all the nurses and doctors on duty that night. And another special shout-out to Our Lady, who was also instrumental in helping me to survive.

I included this experience in an article I wrote in 1995 and below is an excerpt from my first novel, Emily’s Hope, and is based on the true story of my near-death experience, written in the third person.  This illustrates the powerful intercession of Our Lady, especially when death is whispering in one’s ear:

The pain in her abdomen became more excruciating with every passing moment. She sat on the sofa and dialed the number of the high school. It seemed like an eternity for the line to connect. One, two rings. Please, someone pick up, she silently begged. Hearing the secretary’s voice, Emily could barely speak, but she uttered enough to make it clear that she needed her husband. She dropped the phone to take a deep breath. Feeling an overwhelming need to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom just in time to spill the contents of her stomach. She gripped the cold, hard toilet, as if in some way, it would make her pain bearable. Disoriented, she thought of her baby and quickly glanced at his smiling, inquisitive face, oblivious to his mother’s pain.

I’ve got to stay conscious for my baby, she repeated over and over in her mind. She moved back to the floor next to the sofa, trying to sit upright with her young child next to her, while drifting in and out of consciousness. Keeping a death grip on him, she woke up as the paramedics were prying her hands off her son and placing her on a stretcher. It all seemed like a dream. She overheard the paramedics talking about what a “little thing” she was.

Too weak to make a sound, she wondered where her young son was. She caught a glimpse of her husband holding him at the back doors of the ambulance.

His right arm cradled their son’s little body, while his left hand clasped his small head to his chest as if to shield and protect him from the turmoil that surrounded them both. But her husband’s face. . .his face was so broken and distraught that Emily felt the anguish of a wife and mother abandoning her family. Tears welled up in her eyes and for a moment, Emily forgot her pain.

Then his eyes caught hers and he realized that she was watching him. Everything changed. His chin lifted as if for courage and penetrated her being with a look of tenderness, of confidence and reassurance. Whatever happens, I will be strong for you and for the sons we both love and for God, who has asked so much of you. He seemed to say all of this with his eyes, all of this and more. As his love reached out to her through the shouts of the paramedics and their frantic procedures, the beeping of machines and the overwhelming wail of the siren, its light already flashing, her terror began to fade and her heart surged within her. Now reassured, she allowed herself to fall back to sleep.

Emily’s eyes opened again this time as the paramedics were inserting an intravenous needle in her arm. Although it felt like they were stabbing her with an ice pick, all she could manage was a wince and a quiet moan. It seemed as if every ounce of energy had been sucked from her being. This is what it feels like to die.

Then she imagined her little boys’ faces, and suddenly the possibility of dying weighed heavy on her heart. Please, God, I can’t die, she silently prayed. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mother. All at once, a feeling of warmth surrounded her, then she felt at peace. There was no bitterness, only acceptance, a calm that was huge enough to quiet an ocean. She silently recited a Hail Mary. . . .now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Those last words took on powerful meaning with the possibility that this could be her hour. She knew that whatever happened would be God’s will, and she would submit to that, whatever it was.

Drifting into unconsciousness, the last thing she heard was “We’re losing her….”

October 22, 2016   Our five sons left to right in order from youngest to older: Paul, Adam, Tim, Ben and Josh

 

Theology of the Body Fiction – #NFPAwarenessWeek

Since this is “NFP Awareness Week,” I’d like to share some of my favorite Theology of the Body fiction!

(Pardon the shameless self-promotion of my own books in this list!)

Emily’s Hope (Ellen Gable, 2005, FQ Publishing)

Passport (Christopher Blunt, 2008, Pelican Crossing Press)

Midnight Dancers (Regina Doman, 2008, Chesterton Press)

In Name Only (Ellen Gable, 2009, FQ Publishing, 2010 IPPY Gold Medal Winner)

Stealing Jenny (Ellen Gable, 2011, FQ Publishing)

Finding Grace (Laura Pearl, 2012, Bezalel Books)

Angela’s Song (AnnMarie Creedon, 2012, FQ Publishing)

Rapunzel Let Down (Regina Doman, 2013, Chesterton Press)

Vingede (Friar Tobe #2) (Krisi Keley, 2013, S & H Publishing)

Don’t You Forget About Me (Erin McCole Cupp, 2013, FQ Publishing)

A Subtle Grace (Ellen Gable, 2014, FQ Publishing)

The Lion’s Heart (Dena Hunt, 2014, FQ Publishing, 2016 CALA Award Winner)

A World Such as Heaven Intended (Amanda Lauer, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Working Mother (Erin McCole Cupp, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Stay With Me (Carolyn Astfalk, 2015, FQ Publishing)

Dying for Revenge (Barbara Golder, 2016, FQ Publishing, Finalist Next Generation Indie Book Awards)

Dying for Compassion (Barbara Golder, 2017, FQ Publishing)

Discovery (Karina Fabian, 2016, FQ Publishing)

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body (Cupp and Gable, editors, 2016, FQ Publishing)

Rightfully Ours (Carolyn Astfalk, 2017, FQ Publishing)

To check out many of these books, go to the Full Quiver Publishing website!

In Name Only #FREE on Kindle

My gold-medal winning novel, In Name Only, is FREE today through Thursday (April 18-20) on Amazon Kindle. In Name Only is a Catholic historical romance, and is not a formulaic or Harlequin-type romance. It is the first in the O’Donovan Family Series.

Synopsis: Caroline Martin’s life has finally taken a turn for the better. After years of hard work, she has met a virtuous and wealthy man whose love seems to promise the kind of life realized only within the comforting novels she keeps on her night table. Tragedy, however, will teach Caroline of the complexity with which God Himself authors the lives of those who turn towards Him. Gold Medal Winner in Religious Fiction, 2010 IPPY Awards, Amazon Kindle #1 Bestseller (February-March 2012).

Reviews:
“If you love romance but hate smut, pick up this beautiful story and let it carry you away. The characters are believable, layered, human and humorous even in the midst of tragedy. The reader never loses hope and is rewarded on every page with little gems of character behavior, dialogue, plot twists and romantic intrigue. I was so very sorry when it ended!”
Lisa Mladinich, author, True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life

“This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. It has all the qualities that make for an outstanding memorable novel – and it’s Catholic as well. I highly recommend it!”
Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints, Traditional Catholic Novels.com

“There aren’t too many historical romance novels that appeal equally to men and women, but Ellen Gable pulls it off admirably with In Name Only. It’s great to read a Catholic novel that’s not overly “sanitized,” realistic enough to make you wonder if it’s really fiction, and yet not at all offensive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!” Gerard Webster, author, In Sight

“Gable has skillfully crafted this intriguing novel… which conveys the beautiful Catholic teachings on conjugal love, and shares both a pro-life story and a conversion story.”
Jean Heimann, author, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

To download the book for free on Kindle, click here: In Name Only, free on Kindle

An Open Book – January 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month:

joy-to-the-world

Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) by Scott Hahn

From the Amazon summary: The cast of characters is strange and exotic: shepherds and magicians, an emperor and a despot, angels, and a baby who is Almighty God. The strangeness calls for an explanation, and this book provides it by examining the characters and the story in light of the biblical and historical context.

Bestselling author Scott Hahn who has written extensively on Scripture and the early Church, brings evidence to light, dispelling some of the mystery of the story. Yet Christmas is made familiar all over again by showing it to be a family story. Christmas, as it appears in the New Testament, is the story of a father, a mother, and a child–their relationships, their interactions, their principles, their individual lives, and their common life. To see the life of this “earthly trinity” is to gaze into heaven.

My review:  Excellent book, a kind of “behind-the-scenes” narrative. I was able to buy the Kindle edition for 1.99 when it was on sale a few weeks ago.

unsinkable

Unsinkable: a Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

From the Amazon summary: Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds. Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

My review: Like most people, I was shocked at Carrie Fisher’s death last week and then just one day later, equally saddened by her mother’s death.  I’ve always liked both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but this book gives the reader a better idea of all the heartbreak and financial challenges Debbie has had to face in her life. The Kindle edition was reduced in price a few days after Debbie’s death so I took advantage and downloaded it. For mature audiences only.

heart-div

A Heart Divided: A Novel by Kathleen Morgan

From the Amazon summary: It is 1878 and the Caldwells and Wainwrights have been feuding for decades. Still, Sarah Caldwell has misgivings when her father pressures her into distracting a ranch hand while he and her brothers rob the Wainwright place. When it becomes clear that hand is actually Cord Wainwright, Sarah realizes she needs to lay low. But Cord spots her in town and, with the sheriff away, makes a citizen’s arrest, dragging her off to the Wainwright ranch until the sheriff’s return. As the feud boils over, Cord and Sarah make a most inconvenient discovery they are falling in love. Can they betray their families for love? Or will their families betray them? Against the beautiful and wild backdrop of the Rocky Mountains comes this sweeping saga of romance, betrayal, and forgiveness from beloved author Kathleen Morgan.

My review:  Just started reading this one, but if it’s like other Kathleen Morgan books, it will be a clean, Christian romance that I will thoroughly enjoy.

 

2016 Highlights

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year!  Tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  Happy Feast Day!

Here are a few of the most popular posts during 2016!

Like Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

FQP Books Sweep CALA Awards

The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae and the Joy of Being Open to Life

The Importance of Theology of the Body in the Year of Mercy

Pregnancy and the First #Advent

One of my favorite Advent quotes is from Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House:

“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent. Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl! Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation! Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent. Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.” Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

Every new life encompassed within his or her mother’s womb “sings of the first Advent,” as Catherine so eloquently said in her book, “Dear Parents.” Not all of these lives will actually be born. Sadly, some will be miscarried and others will be aborted.

However, for those women who nurture their babies lovingly in their wombs, pregnancy can also be a great time for character growth. Mary was a wonderful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors and discomforts.

But Mary also acted as my consoler during seven miscarriages. For who else could understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross and watched her Son die in agony, then embraced him lovingly after His death?

Let us embrace the last week of Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach