|Elijah taking a nap in the hospital|
But the next day, her leg was still swollen, and bad enough that it was difficult for her to walk. For the next three days leading up to the birth, Krista could hardly get out of bed.
After our son was born, the swelling in Krista's leg didn't recede as we were expecting. A doctor decided to do another scan, and they discovered that Krista had a massive blood clot stretching the length of much of her left leg. They didn't want to put her on a blood thinner yet since she had just given birth, so they rushed her into surgery to put in a filter to catch any clot that might dislodge (which can be deadly). Within a few days, though, she was on warfarin, a common blood thinner taken orally.
Here's the thing about warfarin: it is known to cause deformities or death in babies developing in their mother's womb. In other words, as long as Krista was taking warfarin, we did not want to conceive a child.
There are blood thinning drugs that do not cause problems for babies developing in their mother's womb, but they are given by injection and cost significantly more. The doctors said that they would want her to be on some sort of blood thinner indefinitely, so if she ever did become pregnant, she would have to be on the injections. We wanted Krista to be able to give her body a break from the injections when she didn't need to be doing them and so we decided she would be on warfarin pills for the time being.
We could have used natural family planning techniques to try to avoid conceiving a child while she was on the warfarin. But from what we understood (perhaps wrongly), you had to chart for a few cycles before you could start to predict when the woman would be fertile or not, and since Krista had just given birth, she wasn't having her cycle. Besides, like all forms of birth control, it's never 100%: anytime a couple has sex, they should be prepared to welcome a child. Couldn't we just hold off once she got her period back? But a period means a woman has already had a cycle and could have conceived a child.
|Elijah was born-again soon after his birth.|
See: Why we baptized our newborn, and you should too
We didn't want it on our consciences that we produced a deformed or dead child simply because we couldn't control ourselves. So we decided to take no chances and use the only birth control method that is absolutely 100%: we would abstain for as along as she was on the warfarin.
Meanwhile, we were enjoying our beautiful new baby. Even though I had come from a family of six kids, I was one of the youngest, so I had very little experience with babies. Changing Elijah's first diaper in the hospital was my first time ever changing a diaper.
It was a few weeks before the swelling in Krista's leg went down enough for her to be back up and walking around normally. I was able to take off a week from my job to be around to help out during the day, and our parents staggered their visits so we had someone there to help us for much of the summer.
We had a lot of fun taking Elijah out and enjoying the summer weather. We went on lots of walks around the neighborhood, went to the park and the farmer's market regularly, and enjoyed free outdoor concerts near where we were living. We generally took the attitude that we'd still go out to do things we'd normally do and just bring him along for the ride.
And as anyone who has children knows, taking care of a new baby, particularly one's first baby, can also be very challenging. They obviously need someone 24 hours a day. They cry, sometimes for seemingly no reason. Routine things like sleeping or going to Mass have never been the same.
But he wasn't a burden and he didn't detract from our relationship as we were warned a baby within the first year of our marriage would. He wasn't something coming from the outside to disrupt our marriage; he was the fruit of our married love. He was another person with whom we were now sharing our lives, one with his own personality that showed itself right away and his own will and desires which became apparent as he got older (what? he doesn't always want to do what we want him to do?). While it was still nice to be able to leave him with Krista's mother for an hour or two every now and then and get away together, we felt he brought us closer together. We didn't have less love to go around, we had more love.
We needed to be out of the place we were living by the end of August. We had been entertaining a pipe dream of moving to Rome for me to work on a graduate degree in theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in Rome, but after the complications with Krista's blood clot, we decided it was no longer feasible.
|Elijah was growing up fast! (No, the thing his finger is in|
is not an electrical socket.)
I thought it would be wise for me to continue my education, and given her medical condition I thought it would be good to be near Krista's family. Krista's mother lived in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, so I applied to the MA of Theology program at the St Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St Paul, MN. Thankfully, I got in to start right away that fall, along with a very helpful scholarship to help cover tuition. But how would we support ourselves financially? It wasn't immediately clear, so we started praying that God would provide.
The school offered classes in the evenings, so I would be available to work during the day. I had a degree in philosophy from an evangelical college; my job experience included work in my college's alumni giving department, work as a teaching assistant in the philosophy department, a paid summer internship for two summers at the baptist church I attended back in Oregon while I was still an evangelical, a summer working in a True Value distribution center, and, most recently, work as a summer nanny; and I had just joined the Catholic Church a few months ago. It wasn't immediately clear to me for what kind of work I was qualified that could support a family.
Since I had largely read my way into the Catholic Church, I thought I could maybe work for a parish. I knew I understood the faith well; I also knew getting a parish to hire me would probably be a long-shot. But I didn't have many other leads, so a month before we were moving up to Minnesota, I applied for several faith formation jobs throughout the Archdiocese of St Paul/Minneapolis.
All but one emailed me back right away saying I wasn't qualified enough for consideration, so I didn't get my hopes up for the one I hadn't heard from yet. But a few weeks later, they contacted me and said they wanted an interview. I was still in Illinois, so I did it over the phone while sitting in our car in the summer heat after getting off my nanny job for the day.
I thought the interview went well, but I was still surprised when the priest contacted me again and said he wanted to meet with me in person as soon as I got up to Minnesota. I scheduled the meeting for the first day after we'd be arriving at Krista's mother's house (she had graciously allowed us to land there until we found a place to live). Our meeting went well and ended with the priest offering me the job.
|Outside our house in Buffalo, MN last|
summer soon after Adelaide was born
Krista ended up being on the warfarin for about a year, during which we abstained. I'm sure there are many married couples out there who for one reason or another have to abstain for extended periods of time (a good thing for young engaged couples to remember).
Did we desire each other? Of course. Was it really that hard? For the most part, no. Life went on: going to work, taking care of our son, learning about how to be parents. We didn't feel any less married. Our relationship did not suffer in any way whatsoever. If anything, our relationship was strengthened in our mutual respect for each other.
After a year of being on the warfarin, Krista's period had returned and we were excited to try for baby number two. She switched to injections that were self-administered once a day (later increased to twice a day) - a task Krista took on with grace. We didn't want her to be doing the injections for nothing, and little time was lost: we were blessed to conceive our second child two months later.
Krista was blessed to have a gestational-diabetes-and-blood-clot-free pregnancy, and, in March of last year, our daughter Adelaide Esther Millegan was born.
Keep Reading: Part 6: No Regrets
This is Part 5 of a six-part series:
Part 1: Asking the Question
Part 2: Flipping the Switch
Part 3: No Longer Afraid
Part 4: Hey Baby
Part 5: Tested Twice
Part 6: No Regrets
- Humanae Vitae
- Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
- Children of the Reformation: A Short and Surprising History of Protestantism and Contraception
- Sanger's Victory: How Planned Parenthood’s Founder Played the Christians—and Won
- Birth control is moral (but not all methods)
- Organic Sex, Organic Farming
- The Vindication of Humanae Vitae
- Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution
- Find an NFP class