I didn't intend to be gone from this space for so long, but I needed to be.
Since we last talked I turned 30. We moved to a new house. We started homeschooling (with a Kindergartener/1st grader and a preschooler). I traveled for a speaking engagement. We celebrated seven years of marriage. Andrew started his new job.
I have so much I can share, so much I want to share. But today there is only one thing I need to share. I need to share it because I need other mamas in my shoes to know that it's okay to feel the way that they feel.
Monday is four months since Gabriel's "birthday," and tomorrow is four months since learning we'd lost him. Sometimes I think I'm okay, and sometimes it all comes rushing back. Lately, I've had a lot of things that I've done, or places I've gone, that I had envisioned doing with Gabriel nestled inside of me. The other day, I realized he would have now been past the point of viability - that is, he could have technically already been born at this point and survived. Each instance has been a painful reminder that he's gone.
I also am a part of an incredibly pro-life community and am surrounded by women who are expecting (some due around the same time I was due), and women with babies. I am so grateful for the women who share their babies with me. You know the kind - the kind of friend that sees the aching in your eyes and knows the aching in your heart and lets you take their little one into their arms for a little while to soothe your heart. It's funny, because I always am nervous about meeting my friends' new babies, but then having that little one nestled in my arms for a bit - it heals my aching heart. The worst feeling when you're infertile (which is us, again) or mourning the loss of a child is seeing friends with their babies and feeling excluded from that. The best feeling is when you're allowed to, at least, be a spiritual mother to the little ones of your friends. I have some incredible friends who are really, really good at that. We mother each other's children, we put each other's babies into each other's arms, and it is a real comfort.
Last weekend, we went to an incredible final vows Mass and celebration for a dear seminarian friend of ours. It was so beautiful, so filled with joy. It was such a gift to celebrate with him and his community, and we were so grateful to have been invited. So, so much joy.
(Please, please pray for Brother Joel and all of the Apostles of the Interior Life!)
After the final vows, we visited one of Andrew's best friends, who teaches at a college near where the final vows were celebrated. His wife is a dear friend of mine, too - one of those dear women who you can go a long time without talking to and then pick up right where you left off. She has a newborn, but she also lost a little one a little over a year ago. It was so, so good for my heart to have that time with her, and to - of course - have the opportunity to snuggle her sweet newest addition.
One thing she said stuck with me, though. I was telling her how much my heart aches for Gabriel, and she confessed to me that even with the joyful distraction of her new baby, she still does ache for the child she lost. That made me feel better about my own, ongoing grief. The grief never completely goes away. It's not natural, losing a child. It shouldn't happen, but in our fallen world it does.
Recently, a thought occurred to me. In a way, losing a baby through miscarriage is a bit like having a greatly prolonged pregnancy. I was reading a beautiful blog post the other day, in which a woman shared the story of her traumatic birth and how much she ached to hold her child after delivery, but had to wait to. When she finally was able to hold her little one for the first time, all the nurses were in tears, witnessing her love.
When she described her aching, I felt as if she were describing my own aching. And suddenly, I realized - one day, God willing, that will be my reunion with my child happening. I haven't the faintest idea what our bodies will look like at the final resurrection of the body, and I prior to that, only our souls will be in heaven. So, it may be that I never get to physically hold Gabriel's infant self. But, nonetheless, God willing, he and I will be reunited. One day I'll get to see how he looks (or find out if he was actually a she!). My arms will be able to go around him. His arms can go around me. With tears of joy, I'll be able to say, "Oh, Gabriel. I love you so much. You are so beautiful, and I have missed you so much!"
(And shoot, because now I'm crying in Panera like a crazy person.)
The thing is, though, that I held Gabriel his whole life long. Every living moment, I held him. I sacrificed for him. I suffered for him. I held him. I whispered my love to him. His daddy blessed him. Our pastor prayed for him and blessed him. But God's plans for him were something different. The fact that we cannot see him does not change how very, very real he is. It doesn't take away the reality of that tiny, beautiful heartbeat that I saw on the ultrasound screen. My baby was and is real, and my love will go with him always, whatever it is that God is asking him to do.
(My speaking engagement was for an Ohio diocese and the conference was held on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie. So stunning.)
And one day, I will have that moment with him that I had with his sisters at their births, except even more joyfully so, since we will be in that perfect place, free of pain and suffering. I will lay eyes on him for the first time. And the long, long wait will have been worth every moment.
It's appropriate that I'm writing this on the feast of St. Monica. Unlike her Augustine, my Gabriel is (hopefully) not a wayward sinner, but you can bet I pray for him every single day, hoping and praying that he may know the joys of heaven. I pray for him relentlessly, in hope of sharing the joys of heaven with him one day.
But for now I wait. I thank God every day for the gift of all three of my beautiful children. I tell each of them that I love them. And I hope for heaven and the day of the final resurrection, when our family will be reunited again, praising God forever.