It's been three weeks, and I realized I haven't yet introduced our newest little love.

Zelie Jane
Born June 20th at 1:31 p.m.

She was baptized this past Sunday and was gladly welcomed into the seminary family, too. In fact, her godparents work for the seminary, and have become so close to our family that the girls call them "Aunt" and "Uncle."

It was the first time we've used the Extraordinary Form for Baptism. It is achingly beautiful, but I wouldn't have been able to do it before Gabriel. In the EF of Baptism, the godparents hold the child and answer for her - an acknowledgement that the Baptized is her own person who can speak for herself (or have her godparents do so).

Baptism is one of the things that sustains me in pregnancy. It is an ecstatic moment for me to hold my child as the water is poured over her head and she becomes a daughter of God. I had to hold back tears, not being able to hold Zelie at that moment.

Before Gabriel, I wouldn't have been alright with that. Despite the fact that the Extraordinary Form for Baptism is beautiful, and offers additional blessings (and exorcisms!) for my daughter, I would have wanted to selfishly cling to have that "moment" with her at Baptism.

But the reality is - Ordinary or Extraordinary, both forms of Baptism are a kind of death. They are a giving back of our child to God, just as Hannah did with Samuel. In that, Baptism is the beginning of acknowledging an unavoidable reality - my children are not my possessions. They are children of God, entrusted to me for a time. They may bring me joy, but that isn't the reason for their existence. Ultimately, Andrew and I are only a part of their journey back to God. We are an important part, but only a part.

It was my Gabriel who helped me understand that, my Gabriel who I could only request a conditional Baptism for (a conditional Baptism offered by a doctor, in an operating room, without his mother conscious or his father present). We had to entrust Gabriel to God long before we were ready, and it was the hope of that alone that made it possible to let him go.

With Gabriel I learned that although my love will always go with my children, they do not existence merely for my benefit. One day, each of our three daughters will fly the nest. Whether they fly to a house down the street and give us grandchildren running in and out of our doors, or they fly to a cloistered convent hundreds of miles away - either way, we will eventually have to let them go. We'll have to let these three girls live out whatever vocation they are called to, even if it means enduring the pain of separation.

Baptism is only the beginning of that. Yet, Baptism clothes that process in a kind of grace. Maybe we are offering back to God the child he gave us - but God is never outdone in generosity. 

But for now? For now, I'll hold this child close, well aware of the gift she is, and appreciating her even more after the loss of her big brother. For now, I will be grateful that God has permitted me to care for and raise another little girl.

And do you know what? All the suffering of this pregnancy was totally worth it.

(Btw, birth story coming soon...but there were traumatic moments involved, so no promises on how soon the story will be shared!)


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