Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why does God let bad things happen?

I have very little to add to Father Mike's wise and moving words. So I will just share his knowledgeable explanation. Short answer, we have free will, and he honors that. God did not even will that Jesus die. That was not part of his perfect will, but he used it for the greater good. When something happens that is not part of His perfect will, he can bring about a greater good from even the most evil, heartbreaking, or tragic of things.

Father Mike Schmitz via Ascension Press: Why does God let bad things happen?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

One week

One week ago we were on our way to the hospital, preparing for Bethany's arrival via c-section. After the initial anxiety of the the first few hours pre-op, the day flew by. Those first few hours felt like minutes. I remember looking at the clock around 3 and thinking "this is going too fast". I kept her with me until around 1 in the afternoon the next day, but it has to be the fastest 26 hours of my life. What I wouldn't have given to slow down time. I sat and held her again on Friday for an hour. Then we saw her again on Sunday for an hour, and for two hours on Monday. None of it was enough. All of it went too fast.

We laid her to rest yesterday in an absolutely beautiful Mass and internment. Dear Father Francis gave a beautiful homily, while our parish priest concelebrated, and our friend Deacon Mike assisted at Mass. We are so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful, faith-filled friends on this journey. The hugs, cards, prayers, and kind words of our friends before and after Mass meant so much and made us feel so loved.

There is a peace and a joy that comes to me through all of this. Even while I cry for myself, while I am heartbroken for my own loss, while I wish I had more time for my own memories, I know she is better off than she would have been here. I rejoice for her, and feel a deep, abiding peace that she is in a place of eternal happiness, that she will never know pain again, that any suffering she endured here on earth has come to an end. She is healed, body and soul. She is no longer in a broken world, with broken people. That is beautiful beyond words.

So my heart will remain broken for a time, but I know from experience that it will heal. I will eventually remember her without crying, and just be able to smile at the thought of holding her, at the pictures, at the memory of her tiny hands and turned in feet, without doing so through tears of grief. For now I cling to that certainty, that this pain will lessen, I will heal, and my children will heal. And then, one day, I will hug her again. And one day, my family will be together again, all 9 of us.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Goodbye for now, again

Am I really here again? Hugging another baby for the last time in this life, trying desperately to remember the feel of her body in my arms, so I can relive that sensation when my arms physically ache to feel her? Watching my daughter cry for missing the sister she never knew? How am I here again? Why, God, did you send me another soul to cherish, knowing she wouldn't be here long?

I ask these questions, though I know I won't receive an answer. I am not sure there is an answer to receive, as least not this side of heaven. Meanwhile, my soul aches, and grief is deep, my arms yearn to hold my baby, and my breasts are full of nourishment meant for her. But this time I can't even distract myself with mindless activities like errands, cleaning, cooking, or gardening, because I am already overdoing it after the surgery and need desperately to do nothing.

I'm designing a grave marker and assembling a slide show when I should be nursing and wishing I had a moment to wash the spit up out of my hair. I'm trying to be the best mom I can be to the two girls I still have with me, when I feel like I can't even care for myself. I'm trying to figure out how to help a 10 year old navigate her grief when I, a grown women, am not sure how to navigate my own.

None of it is fair. None of it is right. I will never cease wondering why otherwise healthy babies are abandoned, aborted, allowed to become addicted to drugs, or otherwise neglected or abused, while my children can't even survive a day out of the womb. I don't know what God is trying to teach me, but I only hope that my childrens' lives, their very existence, have made the world a better place, have made others appreciate their healthy families, have shown the world that all lives matter. All lives have value, even those of babies who are too sick to even make it to term. All I can do is lean on Christ, on his Blessed mother, and my friends and family, allow the Eucharist and prayer to sustain me, and be the best wife, mother, and Christian I can be, while I wait to meet my babies again.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God. Bethany's life will work for good. My grief will work for good. Please Lord, let this experience work for good in the life of my precious daughters. Let Julie not be anxious about having a family, about the very idea of pregnancy. Let our grief turn to joy at the thought of rejoicing with them and you again someday (but not too soon!).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. -Proverbs 3:6

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bethany's birth

Beautiful miss Bethany Hope made her appearance on Wednesday, August 3, at 11:14am. She let out the sweetest, although brief, cry when she was born. Our priest was so generous with his time, arriving early to pray with us and staying through the delivery and beyond. He baptized her as soon as she was born. We were blessed to have over an hour with her, which is more than we expected, and then we still kept her with us through the night and into this afternoon, when I finally let her go. That is so difficult. I remember it with Peter, although it was a different situation, because we delivered him to the funeral home after he had passed. But leaving your child, or watching her be rolled away, even knowing it's only a body, is a unique kind of pain.

We had a wonderful photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep come. I think she got some beautiful shots, and I can't wait to see them. She did a mini newborn session, with her curled up in blankets, and I think they're going to be darling.

The surgery went as well as it could, and recovery is also going as well as can be expected. I'm about 36 hours out from surgery (at the time of writing) and my pain is well controlled but I am on a lot of medication. I am spending the vast majority of my day sleeping, although in 10-20 minute increments. I may go home tomorrow, but it's so quiet and peaceful here that I just may stay until Saturday. The doctor will begin weaning me off of the epidural pain relief in the morning, and see how I do on oral main medication alone.

We were very torn over the decision between c-section and vaginal birth, but I am at peace with the choice. Knowing that she was born alive, without the pain and straign of vaginal delivery, made it worthwhile. It's also likely that it would have been a long and difficult labor and delivery. Maybe she still wouldn't even be here as I am typing this.

This pregnancy has been one so mixed with emotions. The pregnancy itself was a surprise. Then finding early on that she was so sick. Living daily wondering if she would die in utero. Having her beat the odds and make it to 30 weeks, and to be born alive. It's been a real roller coaster of a year. And now we will finish off the year mourning the daughter we lost, but knowing we have another saint in heaven, and that she's up there with Francis, Sarah, Peter, and Molly, living a life of joy, free of pain, sadness, death, and sin.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Scheduled birthdate

Bethany is due to make her appearance on Wednesday morning. We met with the doctors and midwife yesterday, and after much discussion and many tears, we decided to have a c-section rather than go for a natural birth. There were many factors - her head and abdomen continue to grow at a rapid rate due to excess fluid on the brain and in the kidneys. There was a chance of laboring for days and ending up with an emergency c-section. It was also quite unlikely that she would make it through an induction alive. At Monday's ultrasound, we could see that there is no fluid at all around her, to protect her from the contractions and compression. This will allow us to meet her, for her to be born alive, be baptized, and die in our arms, instead of in my womb.

We've set funeral arrangements for 10:00 am on Tuesday, August 9, at Saint Ursula Church in Parkville. Anyone is welcome to attend.

I'm struggling a bit to keep it together today. This is such a unique experience. I've never known when my babies would be born, nearly to the minute. With Peter we had some hope of hours, maybe even days if we were really lucky. Bethany will likely have only minutes. It's an indescribable feeling, and I am struggling to find that joy today that I want and need to have. I'm so grateful that she will be without pain, without deformities, in the arms of our Lord, just a day from now. But that isn't making her impending death any easier today.

As always, your prayers are so appreciated.