“Whoever receives a child such as this in my name receives me” (Mat. 18:5). Herein lies the joy of being a parent. Our children reflect Jesus to us in the joys they bring us, the trials we suffer with them, and the love they shower upon us even though we are not perfect.
But what if we don’t receive the news of a child with an open heart? What if the news of a pregnancy brings dread instead of joy? I wish I could say that I can’t even imagine ever experiencing that, but I was in such a scenario three years ago.
It was the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2011. I was too late to be anything but pregnant. Still, I was still holding out hope for early menopause, asking St. Joseph to let God know I was getting too old and too tired to have another baby.
By the 23rd, that ole nauseous feeling I knew all too well was overshadowing me. There was no doubt; no need for a test. I had this feeling eight times before. I was pregnant and I was exasperated.
“Lord,” I cried out, “I have already served you six years in pregnancy. That’s a whole year longer than I served you as a religious. How much longer, Lord? I have been changing diapers for 16 years straight! How much longer?”
Then the words that I so often said in the convent came back to me: “I am so resolved.” God would send the grace. Peace came. Excitement began to build. By the 25th, the feast of the Annunciation, I was ready to tell the world, starting with the grandmothers.
The next two months went along fairly much like my other pregnancies. I dealt with the nausea, the lack of appetite and the lack of energy. Paul and I discussed possible names and godparents. And I was counting down to the second trimester.
On May 31st, I had a routine prenatal appointment. I had considered taking the children with me. They always enjoyed hearing the heartbeat. They like to try to determine what it sounded like – a race horse, the little engine that could, a really fast heartbeat. What can I say, some are more creative than others! However, the previous month, the doctor had a hard time finding the faint heartbeat, so I decided to wait one more month until baby would be bigger and stronger.
I was sitting in the waiting room. The doc was running a little late, but I did not mind. I had dropped the seven younger children off at my mother’s and was enjoying the peace and quiet, reading a magazine. Entering the second trimester, the morning sickness had ceased, and I could occasionally feel the baby move (always the coolest part of being pregnant). I was feeling good.
When my O.B., once again, had difficulty finding the baby’s heartbeat, I smiled, thinking, “Oh, that little stinker is already causing problems!” As he continued to search for the beating sound of life, I became somewhat concerned, yet cautiously optimistic. I could hear what sounded like a faint heartbeat; it just wasn’t loud enough.
Having no success, he decided to send me immediately for a sonogram. I was happy to go. Maybe I could find out the sex of the baby. Then we could settle on a name. I love when we as a family pray by name for our unborn child. With all kinds of happy thoughts, I wasn’t worried.
Outside the office, I called my mom and asked her to hold onto the children a bit longer, that I had to go for a sonogram. Immediately, my mother was concerned. She offered to come with me. My dad was home for lunch and could stay with the kids, she said. I declined, telling her that I felt that everything was fine, that the baby was probably hidden by the intestine or something, making it difficult to hear the heart beat. In a little while, I would call her and let her know if she was going to have another granddaughter or grandson.
At the imaging center, with nothing else to do but wait, I began to pray the rosary. “The first joyful mystery – the Annunciation.” I began to meditate on our Lady’s acceptance of the news of her pregnancy, although she was not yet married. Even considering the law by which she could have been stoned, she trusted the Lord. Then I reflected on my own response to my pregnancy. I did not trust God; I saw only the bad, none of the good. I asked God for forgiveness. Every child is a blessing, a gift for which we ought to be truly grateful.
By the fifth Joyful Mystery, I began to realize and accept the severity of the situation I and my baby were in. While contemplating the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, I prayed, “Lord, my baby is lost. We cannot find him. Please, help us find him and let him be alright.” I asked our Lady, who knew this prayer all too well herself, to pray with me. I was frightened by the news I may soon be receiving, yet comforted knowing that I was not alone. I had told my earthly mother to stay home, but my heavenly mother was with me. Still, for the first time, I began to tear up.
The technician called me back. She recognized me right away. She had done sonograms for me before. I had to go often when I was pregnant with the twins. As we were walking down the hall, she asked me how the girls were doing and how old they were now. When we came to the room, she shut the door. She knew exactly why I was there. She asked me a few questions like how I had been feeling and had I felt the baby move.
Then she said, “Well, let’s not put you in suspense any longer. Get up on the table and let’s see the baby.” I was not on the examination table more than a couple of minutes when she declared, “Honey, I’m so sorry. There is no movement from your baby. I am sorry. I need to get the doctor.” Like one who just announced the time of death, she placed a paper cloth over my stomach and left the room.
Alone in the darkened room, I began to cry. The tears flowed freely. I had not “known” my baby long, but I was attached to him. I loved that child and knew I would miss him. I was not thinking anything, yet feeling everything. Words cannot describe the emptiness, the sorrow, the guilt that descended upon me.
Thomas Gabriel, who I knew so briefly
I left that day with a picture of my baby boy, the only picture I would ever have of him. Paul and I named him Thomas Gabriel. I asked Thomas to be my family’s patron saint. I asked him to beg God to let his brothers, sisters and earthly father join him one day in Heaven. Me, too.
I asked his forgiveness for not being excited about him from the very beginning. And I begged him to plead on my behalf before God for mercy. I tell him often that I love him and that I miss him.
So as Mother’s Day comes and goes, and I bask in the love shown to me by my husband and children, I remember what a truly precious gift my children, all 10 of them, are. They are to be the Christ Child to me. As I have received them, I have received Jesus Himself (cf. Mat 18:5). What an awesome privilege.
What is one of your greatest joys, memories, or even regrets about being a parent?
Copyright 2014, Kelly Guest