Close to Home:
Molly is prompted to write a letter to the baby she miscarried 9 years ago after reading the newly released book by Matushka Jenny Schroedel entitled Naming the Child.
My Dearest Little One,
I’m trying to wrap my mind around you all these years later and that too brief encounter in which we were present together in the same place and at the same time. “Name your child”, insisted our doctor at that very first appointment. Our doctor with the conviction that from the get go you were a person worth acknowledging and claiming. We called you Lucy.
Your brother Elijah was but a toddler when I discovered, by way of a violently nauseous reaction to the smell of my morning coffee, that you were blooming in my abdomen, wreaking havoc on my hormones. Who else but an expectant mother could take such pleasure in her own discomfort?
I was never much of a planner, never one to map out my life from month to month, year to year. I was surprised, pleasantly so, but not shocked by your arrival. I was ready from the very second I knew of your existence to become a mother all over again. “What’s in my tummy?” I’d ask your two year old brother who’d jab at my soft but not yet bulging stomach and answer every time, to my delight, the way I trained him too, “baby… baby… baby.”
It is hard to explain how immediate that bond is. I daydreamed about you. I relished in my awareness of you, of you being with me throughout every menial task I performed, every errand I ran, and every chore I completed. It could have easily been argued that we hadn’t the space, the money, the time, for another son or daughter but my joy and instinctive devotion superseded any misgivings regarding the logic of bringing yet another child into this world under our current, perhaps less than ideal, circumstances. In my head I had already built up a life, a long life, one in which you and I would be forevermore inseparable. I jumped ahead of myself because the kind of adoration felt by a woman for the miracle, the individual, forming extraordinarily within her body, being fed by her body, taking on, even while the size of her thumb, her characteristics, cannot be tempered. There is no choice but to love hard and with reckless abandon.
Pregnancy is a real faith stretcher because the stakes are always higher when people, or more specifically, our own flesh and blood are involved; are all entwined in the uncertainties, too haunting to ponder without one’s breath being taken away by thee enormity and apparent permanence of our inescapable mortality. Whenever loss is a possibility there is a danger of our gladness, our gratitude, or our intrepidity becoming contaminated by doubt and fear. It is precisely this universal vulnerability, this lack of say in who leaves us and when that prompted Christ to weep for all of humanity when at the tomb of his friend Lazarus before so boldly revealing his omnipotence and then conversely death’s constraints. He understood then, as he understands now, that it can be awfully distressing and agonizing to have to wait on this side of eternity for a one day reunion with our resurrected friends and family members.
It’s not your fault, they all assured me, after hearing my theory about how the plane ride I’d taken was to blame for your sudden departure, which I had anticipated for several disturbing hours before the actual miscarriage took place because I’d woken up that morning feeling indescribably, inexplicability, I don’t know, just different, a little less alive than before. I was desperate for an answer that could explain such an abrupt emptiness. I was so full of you and then, just like that, you were gone.
I like to imagine you as nine years old, your freckled arm linked affectionately in the prophetess Anna’s, my patron saint and my child united. As we gather as a family to say prayers, attend the Liturgy, stand in the bosom of Christ’s Church, where earth and heaven intersect, I like to think that you meet us there, worship with us there the same God. Our merciful God who promised, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Sweet Lucy, I haven’t forgotten you and now have that much more incentive to keep on plowing through the distractions, the disillusionment, the despair, to reach that other side of glory, where the curtain will part and I will touch you, hold you, stroke your hair, kiss your face. Pray for me darling.
I love you,
Several weeks ago I began this letter to Lucy, the baby I miscarried in 2000, inspired by the stories of grief and hope shared gracefully and candidly in the pages of a brand new book entitled, Naming the Child: Hope Filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death by Matushka Jenny Schroedel. It was quite challenging, to be honest, revisiting my own past experience. I procrastinated, I think in part because I felt guilty about not having made the effort earlier to forge a connection with a soul I knew was thriving and yet was so insulated from my own limited understanding. It felt good and healing to finally give myself permission to recognize my miscarriage as a legitimate and significant encounter with the mystery that is God’s incomprehensible wisdom, to reach out and spiritually, emotionally, embrace my child.
For both parents who have lost their children so heartbreakingly early in life and for those friends and family who don’t know what to say or do, how to just be their for them. Matushka Jenny offers a tangible resource full of tenderness and compassion; with eloquence, warmth, and courage. She explores thoroughly and with sensitivity a topic, more often than not, tip-toed around or spoken about in whispers. For mothers and fathers whose grief remains palpable despite the years that have gone by, the subsequent children born of them, the diminishing support, as everyone else, not directly affected moves on. Jenny has provided a safe community apathetic to the unique struggles of these parents bearing quietly an ache for their babies that have passed on from out of this world and into the next. The chances are pretty good that every one of us will at some point, either personally or through someone we care about, be affected by the tragedy of infant death. I encourage you to visit Jenny’s website www.namingthechild.com, where you can find; articles, letters, poetry, and ideas on how to help as well and information on how to order her book.
During this Lenten season as we ponder upon Christ’s voluntary sacrifice on the cross let us remember these hurting families in our prayers and anticipate with expectancy, bravery, and longing, his and our resurrection.