I just recently miscarried our 8th child. I had only been pregnant 5 weeks, which is to say, that I had only known I was pregnant for about a week before the baby died.
Backing Up a Bit
Now let me back up a bit. In case you’re new here, you may not know that our family has had one wild year, with the most stressful thing being the health of Paul. In particular, we have spent the last few weeks making multiple trips to Mayo in Rochester, resulting in two surgeries.
In the midst of this, I became pregnant. Now I know some of you will think this is irresponsible. Some of you will shrug your shoulders and scoff at the effectiveness of NFP. Some of you will think we’re just downright crazy.
And so we are. For we knew what we were doing. It was not a reckless choice; rather, it was a decision of love.
Because I do chart according to the Creighton Model, I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. And truthfully, in spite of it all, I was struggling with feelings of doubt, of stress, and of, well, craziness.
In fact, I spent an hour with Jesus in Adoration, discussing these very things. After I poured my heart out to Him, I opened my Bible to read my passage for the day, which happened to be Isaiah 61. Knowing my passage was coming from Isaiah, I fully expected to read something about fire and brimstone and years of exile. Instead, I got this:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me…to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called the oaks of righteousness…”
A Year of the Lord’s Favor
I read and reread that passage. A year of the Lord’s favor…garlands, oils, mantles of praise… I let it wash over me, and I left Adoration feeling light and full of hope. This was going to be a year of the Lord’s favor. I mean, that’s awesome! Who know what’s in store for me? Whatever it is, it’ll be great.
A few days later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions. I’d be lying, however, if I said that I was all jumping jacks and high fives. No, I was worried. My pregnancies are never easy after all, and how was I going to handle this?
Then I thought of all the things I’d have to say “no” to. No to a silent retreat. (I’d be too sick.) No to running and biking and even walking later on. No to fitting into my clothes again. No to wine and lemon martinis. No to sleeping ever again. No, no…no.
Thankfully, however, I have great friends who reminded me of my silliness and then, I also remembered Isaiah 61–a year of the Lord’s favor. After I hyperventilated for one more minute, I stopped and laughed out loud. A year of favor from the Lord!
Yes, suffering and pregnancies and children are great blessings from the Lord. All one needs to do is read Psalms 127 and 128 to know that. In fact the Bible is replete with passages about children being a blessing.
As a couple of days went by, my husband and I began to be excited. 8 kids! Under the age of 13! Wow, we’re so blessed!
St. John Marie Vianney’s Heart
During this time, the heart of St. John Marie Vianney happened to be at the Cathedral for two days of public veneration, so I loaded the children up and braced myself for long lines.
When we walked into the church, however, almost nobody was there. I held the baby, grabbed the hand of the 3-year-old, and led the children straight to the kneelers, which were placed directly in front of St. Vianney’s heart. We knelt and prayed. We touched our scapulars to the glass of the reliquary. Then I handed the baby off to The Eldest and prayed some more.
I prayed that my guardian angel would somehow take the heart of St. Vianney and touch my heart with it. I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my cousin, who suffers from alcoholism. I prayed that he’d touch the heart of a certain priest I know. I prayed that he’d touch the heart of my husband, my children, and lastly, the little baby growing inside of me.
My heart swelled with emotion, as I knelt there with all 8 of my children surrounding me. God is so good, so good.
Afterwards, we stopped by a friend’s house, and I mentioned my pregnancy and the Isaiah passage about a “year of favor from the Lord.” She said, “You know, that reminds me of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with, ‘Hail, Favored One.'”
How beautiful! To connect a year of “favor” and pregnancy to Mary, Full of Grace, and certainly favored. My heart was full.
My Heart Breaks
Two hours later I began bleeding. At first I couldn’t believe it. Maybe the baby would still be ok? I called my doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him until the next day.
And that night the baby died, as I bled and bled.
In the morning, my husband and I stood before the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and my soul cried, My little baby! I will never hold you in this life! Did I tell you how much I love you?
My husband held me. We prayed Morning Prayer and knew that the baby needed a name. As I had mentioned Isaiah 61 and the Annunciation to him earlier, we named the baby Gabriel Marie. We thanked God for his life, and we commended him to Jesus and Mary.
We told the children too, as they joined us for Morning Prayer, and we answered their innocent, concerned questions as best as we could.
Then my husband had to go to work, and I had to take care of the children. It was an emotional day.
My Heart Grows
Life must go on.
A few days later I was in Adoration again, and I was overcome with a spirit of doubt–doubt about my feelings, doubt about naming the baby, doubt about the existence of the baby himself. Maybe I was just being ridiculous? Overreacting?
I soon realized, however, that these agitating thoughts were not from Jesus, and I cast them aside. But still, in a place of fear, I begged Jesus, Please will you give me a sign about little Gabriel? Jesus, I am weak. If my Gabriel was real, let me come across someone named Gabriel today. But not my will, only Your will be done.
I left Adoration feeling a little down and drove to the grocery store. As I pushed the cart around, I forgot all about my prayer and moved to a checkout lane. I zipped by an empty one, because I was looking for a particular clerk that I always go to. But she wasn’t there, so I backed up and entered the empty lane and began unloading my groceries.
When I glanced up, I noticed a new clerk, someone I had never seen before. His name was Gabriel.
I was stunned. Could this be a coincidence? No, for there is no such thing for those who believe in God. Oh, how my heart swelled again! How weak and fickle I am, but Jesus is so good to his little ones. I felt His love in that moment and knew that my Gabriel would be ok.
I continued unloading my groceries, and I smiled at Gabriel the clerk.
When I got home, these greeted me:
While I was away, someone had anonymously sent me these beautiful flowers with a quotation from the Bible which reads,
“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”