Merry Christmas, Gregory

My dear baby boy, Gregory,

I haven’t written you any more letters since the morning after we said hello and goodbye. So, here you go.

I’ve written about how I’ve missed you. A lot. I’ve worked through my grief and feelings over and over again. Much of the stress, sadness and anxiety died down once your due date passed. I no longer had to anticipate a date with empty arms. I was able to take a deep breath again and really feel like everything was going to be OK.

As the holidays have approached, though, my sadness has been bubbling just under the surface. I didn’t realize it until tonight as I tried to process why I’ve been hyper-sensitive to words said or not said by friends, or perceived imagined injustices by people I know are good friends. 

I realized that I’ve been pushing my sorrow down the past five months — hiding it. I’ve been putting on a good face, because that is what this world expects me to do. I moved on…outwardly. What else could I do? Your older sisters and brothers depend on me to be present to them and not spend my life missing you. My job requires that my mind be present and accounted for and not dreaming of the life we never got to experience. We’ve made some decisions in the last few months that impact our family long-term — and I need to be fully committed to those decisions — the dream of sending your older siblings through Catholic high school, discerning that our days of adding to our family biologically are over, and deciding that Vincent will most likely begin Kindergarten at the age of six, meaning an extra year of daycare before two years of preschool. Those are just the biggies. Our lives are filled with little decisions every day that impact the entire family…and they require that I not spend much time sorting through my sorrow, my grief.

I miss you, Gregory. It may seem silly to say. But I knew you best, outside of our Heavenly Father. I miss the experience I could have had giving birth. I miss warming bottles and tiny diapers. I missed those first few weeks where I’d have slept on the recliner with you cuddled up on my chest…our hearts beating next to each other.

I miss it that we didn’t have a Baptism and all that entails. We’re so blessed by the couple we asked to be your godparents. I truly feel like Rebecca is walking this path with me. She doesn’t hesitate to let me know that she remembers you and misses you, too. I never feel awkward talking about you like you’re real with her…because you are real. But it’s awkward for people if I talk about it in passing…I can tell. 

Tonight, as I was sitting down to write…Craig placed a box in front of me. Well, first he asked how I was doing and I lied and said, “I’m doing just fine.” Then he said, “Then you can open this” and laid this box in front of me.

First I pulled out this…


And before I read the names at the bottom, I knew whom the gift came from. And the tears came. Because I was already feeling the sadness that had been just under the surface, bubbling up and spilling over…and before I even saw what Rebecca and her husband had sent me, I knew it was perfect.

So, now you, sweet boy, have two beautiful Christmas ornaments atop our Christmas tree (this one from your godparents and the one Grandma made for you). You are our “Angel” or the “Star” that tops our tree. You will be every year for the rest of our lives.

I know that since you’re in Heaven, you probably are busy basking in the Light of our Lord and Savior and interceding for us that you don’t particularly care whether we remember you or not. But that’s okay. Because remembering is for us earthly beings. You’re a part of me that I can’t smell, see, or touch. And I miss that more than anything. I miss that I will never hold your hand as we cross the street. I miss buckling you into a car seat. And I miss tucking you in at night. As your siblings grow up, I discover new things I will miss about you. And know this: I WILL miss those things. I’ll miss late night talks when you’re in middle school and I’ll miss whatever sport you would have found to be your niche. I’ll miss learning about your special talents and gifts. I’ll miss wondering whether you’d become a priest someday. I’ll miss the way you’d surely tell me that I’m the best Mommy in the world, just like your big brother, Dominic, does. I’ll just miss everything and anything we could have done, said and had in this world together.

I want you to know that I think about you every damn day. 

It’s funny…but I don’t even have to TRY and I think about you every day. Sure, it’s not constant…but I think about you just about as much as I think about each of the other children who consume my days on Earth. Some days I just wish I could look at everyone who seems to have forgotten that you’re in Heaven and be like, “Hey! Missing my baby boy right now. Hang on a second.”

But that’s not how life works. It’s not anyone’s fault that they’ve forgotten. They think they are helping me by not bringing it up, if they do remember. Onward and upward. Moving on. That is what we do here on Earth. We live in the present. And you, my dear boy, live where Time and Space have different dimensions.

So, this first Christmas, I guess I just want to say…send up some extra prayers for your Mama, sweetheart, because she’s missing you something awful.

Pray for me, Gregory.

Merry Christmas.





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Miscarriage and Infant Loss Awareness Day

Today is Miscarriage and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

In years past, this day would come and go and I would see the posts on facebook or I would read blogs and try to understand. But, today, I understand far more than I ever wanted. I’ve caught myself a few times over the past few days remembering moments here and there that cause me a moment of grief. 

I recently held a baby that couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 weeks old. She was so precious, and the tears came, though not heavily. I see pictures of my nephew who is now 6 months old and I wistfully think of my baby boy in Heaven and say a little prayer.
The loss of a child through miscarriage and/or stillbirth is often a silent and invisible grief. It had only been 3 months and I already had extended family asking my husband if I was getting counseling and if I was okay because I still cried at Mass. In our day and age of “get over it” many times, those who have not been through such a thing don’t understand the pain involved and wonder just why a mother cries in grief months after the loss. In this society where babies are seen as something to be desired only when everything is perfect, many don’t understand why a woman grieves the loss of a child from miscarriage when clearly, “that’s nature’s Mercy for an imperfect child.”

What I have lived for the last 7 months, I would never wish on anyone. I’m grateful for my faith that helps me understand that Gregory is with God and I pray I will see him when, God-willing, I begin new life in Heaven after my earthly death. But that doesn’t take away the sadness and the longing I have for the baby that didn’t join us here on Earth.

If you think about it today, say a prayer for a bereaved mother.

Throwback Thursday Reruns: The Decisions I Won’t Regret

Last week, on Thursday, I posted an old post as a re-run and I kind of liked doing that. 

So. I am doing it again. I wrote this post as I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Vincent. The only thing I could add to this post is that I still don’t regret the decisions since then. We were open to another child and God blessed us with Gregory. Of course, we miss him terribly, but on some level, I feel honored that God asked us to bring the soul of a saint into the world. It hurts that Gregory’s time with us was so fleeting, but it humbles me to realize I am parent of a soul so loved by God that He saw fit to bring Gregory into His presence so early in his life.

Without further adieu…my reflection from May 2011, on the Decisions I Won’t Regret.

********************************************************************************

I had the opportunity to talk with my husband’s uncle and aunt at a party recently.  They have two beautiful daughters about 15 months apart who are now grown-up, successful adults (one is a doctor, but chooses to be home to mother her four children and the other is an attorney with her own practice).  Craig’s aunt mentioned that there had been times she had wished they might have tried for one more child.  Through the discussion, I mentioned that when Craig and I have discussed our family, God’s plan for how large it should be and such, one thing we’ve tried to keep in mind was that we would never regret having another child…but we might regret not being open to another child.  Both his uncle and aunt nodded and said that was a wise way to look at it, based on their experience.  These two people were/are very successful in their own careers and about to retire.  They enjoy their four grandchildren as much as any grandparents ever did and I’m fairly certain that they don’t have much to regret, but even if they did have a slight regret about their family size – it is just that – slight and most likely fleeting. 
But as I think about our family and where we stand today, with four active children and number 5 kicking away at my ribs, I think about my chances to regret….and am surprised to find that I really don’t regret much.
I do not regret my nervous discussion with Craig just about 11 years ago when I said I thought maybe we should try to have a baby.  Having children wasn’t really on our radar when we got married, and I was relieved that the most resistance I received from Craig was, “But…I thought we weren’t gonna do that.”  
When Sarah came along, our lives changed dramatically.  What was important before her took a back seat to what was important now.  Particularly, Sarah’s baptism into the Catholic faith was a major turning point for Craig and me to get down to business on knowing our faith so that we could pass it on to her.  I am not sure I could ever convey to Sarah just how very important she has been to her parents.  I’m quite certain that our acceptance of her was the catalyst to our acceptance to all the Grace and Blessings that could be bestowed on two people in the Sacrament of Marriage. 
I could probably write a post per child explaining the non-regret I have for each of them.  They have all brought something new and necessary to our family.  Watching them grow up together brings me more joy than any earthly experience I could ever imagine.
I do not regret my nervous discussion with Craig just about 10 years ago when I broached the subject of learning Natural Family Planning (NFP), which opened the doors to learning the Church’s unwavering teaching regarding marriage and sexuality.  I do not regret tossing those pills, learning how to read my body’s signals through its ongoing cycles, and giving a gift of my total self to my husband in our marriage.  That decision has been a waterfall of love and grace pouring down on my life, blessing me in my husband’s love and devotion, showering me in plentiful hugs and kisses from my babies, and gifting me beyond measure as my children grow up into people who continue to teach me.  Without a doubt, the blessing of NFP in our marriage has been a savior of sorts…much like I cannot imagine where my life might have gone without Sarah entering into it, I cannot imagine what my life would be without NFP.
I do not regret putting our children in our parish’s school.  While every education choice and decision comes with its ups and downs, our school has been a place of spiritual growth and cultivation for our children.  Our parish is a place I flee to when I need to confess and cling to when I need to pray.  We are so blessed by everyone we encounter at Mass, social gatherings, meetings and school functions.  There was a time in my life when if I had been asked if I would place my children in a Catholic school, I probably would have answered doubtfully.  (Maybe someday I’ll write about that.  Maybe not.)  Truth be told, it took a VERY special place to turn my heart around on the subject, and I thank the Lord every day, for our parish and school, providing a place for my children to grow in love of Christ, learn beyond perceived potential and a place where they can daily express the deepest desires of their heart to be close to our Lord and His Blessed Mother.
When we moved 5 months ago, I was going through a closet and found a piece of paper on which I had written goals over the next five years back in 2001.  Of course, we’re now 10 years past that, but it struck me funny how even in 2001, while I was expecting my first child and much of my worldview hadn’t changed from before her conception…that the path I constructed with these goals still lined up with what had happened over those five years.  
One of the goals was that we’d have three kids.  That one made me smile…because apparently, as soon as I grasped the idea of a blessing of one child, I jumped immediately to three (but it was clear from the goals I wrote, that three was the max…in 2001, at least).  One of the goals was to have completed my MBA.  One of the goals was to have met a certain salary requirement.  
Amazingly, even though I’d forgotten about this slip of paper with these 5-year-plan goals…I had met all of them.  We had Dani in 2003 and Helen in 2006 (3 kids in 5 years).  I graduated with my MBA in 2003.  And I had attained the salary that I had set out to attain by the year 2004.
My only sort-of-sad observation was that none of these goals I had written had anything to do with my spiritual life or growing deeper in my faith.  
Maybe what I should take from it is this:  It was never up to me in the first place.

Even though I didn’t set out at any one point in time to get closer to God, I was still pulled in that direction.  And quite possibly the reason I don’t regret anything I have written about here, is because I can see how it’s all led to the one place I want to be more than anything…closer to being in union with God.

Real

It took me by surprise the other day, the flashback to Thursday, February 28, 2013. 

We had just arrived at Mass Saturday afternoon, the Rosary was in full swing, the kids all filed into the pew behind me and Craig and Vincent sat on the end. Dominic and Helen vied for their spots right next to me. All of a sudden, my mind was in the ultrasound room at the hospital where I found out that Gregory had passed away. I was seeing the screen, feeling awkward at the tech’s silence, trying to make small talk — “Oh, is that the leg?” and “That looks like a normal size head alright” — as my voice shook and my stomach sank the longer she was silent. My memory lingered on the moment she said she had to call my doctor and then I recalled the phone conversation with him. I felt so helpless. And I don’t know why I felt the need to try and console him or anyone else trying to console me! But I did…I kept apologizing when there was nothing to apologize for. But I didn’t know what the hell else I was supposed to say? I had to call Craig, but what the hell was I supposed to say to him? I had plans that night that I needed to cancel, but what the hell was I supposed to say to Maggie when I called her? And for some reason, I called my dad — I just felt the need to burden him with my sorrow. I didn’t know if he’d understand, but I needed to talk to my dad in that moment…to tell him. All of this whipped through my brain as I was sitting there Saturday, trying to get ready for Mass.

Then, my throat caught as I looked around the church and remembered how I had come there that afternoon. Our parish has Adoration on Thursdays, so our Lord was exposed on the altar. I had walked all the way to the 2nd pew from the front, gone in and knelt down. I had laid my head on my forearms — and the sobs had come violently. I didn’t know any other reason to be there at that time other than I wanted so badly to feel the presence of God in this horrible time. And I was worried about being loud and disturbing others. As I thought about this Saturday, I realized how absurd that was. But I remember thinking to myself, “Hold it together, don’t cry too loudly.”

I shook my head trying to expel the images that kept coming to my brain. But I couldn’t stop them from popping into my consciousness. My mind floated to the remainder of that afternoon while we waited for the children to return from school. I felt so lost. I wanted a priest, but I didn’t know what for. But, Father had come and just sat with me for a bit at my home. He didn’t know what to say. And I didn’t either. And I don’t know that I needed anyone to SAY anything to me right then. I needed to make phone calls to find places for the children to stay and I hated every single time that I had to explain what had happened. 

Then for some reason, the moment we told the children about their baby sibling — that we didn’t yet know was a boy — and my chest throbbed as I remembered their tears. 

Almost as suddenly as the memories intruded on my consciousness, I was able to pull my mind into the present. I think the pain was too much. I’d avoided tears for most of the past 5-6 weeks at Mass. When the due date passed at the end of July, I truly felt as though I exhaled for the first time in a long time. I can’t explain the feeling, but I knew it was good. I know I will always love Gregory and have a different relationship with him than I have with anyone else. 

I’ll always remember him. 

And even though the memories that take the forefront in the scrapbook of my mind are sad, I’m still happy that we accepted the gift of Gregory from God like we accepted the gifts of all of his siblings. I am a different person because Gregory is a part of my life and experience. I’ve aged and matured in ways I could never have anticipated. I see life completely differently than I did before. 

This is the first time my mind transported me so wholly to that point in my life. And even as I have written it here, I’m feeling the tightening in my chest, the lump in my throat and the tears have fallen freely down my cheeks and pooled in my lap. But I don’t wish for it to go away. I welcome the refresher of pain and sorrow. It helps me remember my baby…my baby I didn’t get to snuggle close and hold tight. 

But he was real.

And he was mine.

And I love him.

Ultrasound Picture
These items (bear, block, rattle) were placed in pictures they took of Gregory at the hospital. The hat on the bear’s head was on Gregory’s head for a photo or two. The items are tiny and made to scale with how tiny he was.


On the Feast of St. Gregory

Today is the Feast day of St. Gregory the Great. 
That means it is Gregory’s Feast day. I knew it was his Feast day coming up a few days ago, but didn’t know what to do, or whether we should do anything at all.

At school, the Saint of the day at the kids’ school was St. Gregory of course. So, I knew I would come home to everyone knowing whose feast day it was. So, on my way home, I stopped at bought a cake and had them put “Happy Feast Day, Gregory!” on it. (I had to explain what a feast day was, and then had to endure a little smirk from the bakery lady and the comment, “never heard of anything like that before” but…she did a lovely job and I brought the cake home.)
The Cake
The cake and the plants we received in honor of Gregory
Sunday was 6 months since Gregory was born into heaven. While it’s a little easier to think about Gregory these days, there’s still a bit of longing and sadness. 

But today, we celebrate our little guy in heaven.

Happy Feast Day, my dear sweet boy. 
Saint Gregory, Pray for us.

 

A Seventh Day Post

It’s Sunday and I rarely post anything on Sundays. But, I’m linked up with Jennifer completing the challenge of writing seven posts in seven days. So here I am.

Today was a relaxing sort of day. Since we went to the Vigil Mass last evening, we weren’t required to get up this morning for that. The whole house slept in until about 8:00 a.m., then we started moving around a bit as the time inched toward 8:30. I got up and went for a 6+ mile run. The weather this weekend has been phenomenal. This morning was no exception; 68 degrees, sunny, a light breeze that hit my face as I came to the crest of a hill — it was beautiful.

Yesterday was Gregory‘s due date and Craig and I took time off work this weekend to just hang out together and with the kids. Once everyone was fed and clothed for the day, we loaded up the van and took a trip out to the cemetery. Craig and I haven’t made the headstone purchase yet (they are pretty pricey and every time I pull out the paperwork, I end up just putting it back…) so it was a bit tricky. We finally settled on where we decided Gregory’s body must lay and I resolved to get my butt in gear with getting a marker ordered.

It was strange to be at the cemetery. The last time we were there was when he was buried after the funeral. I’m comforted to know where I could go to be close to his physical body. I spend so much time asking him to pray for me and thinking about him that I didn’t really feel all that much closer to him there than I do anywhere else.

Rebecca wrote a lovely post yesterday. When I saw the title of it, my breath caught. I guess I should have known she would have saved something for Gregory’s due date. After all, when I sent her a text thanking her for the beautiful Rosary she had sent, she replied saying that she had hoped it would have arrived on Gregory’s due date. In the end, I’m glad I got these wonderful symbols of love and friendship in doses, because I am pretty sure my heart might not have been able to handle it all at once. I am so touched by what Rebecca wrote, because I feel the same. So many times over the past almost five months, I have read her words describing her pain in her infertility struggle and understood for the first time what she was talking about. No…losing a child and suffering with inability to conceive a child are not the same things. But the pain that she spoke of, the loss of innocence around childbearing and fertility…it was a small glimpse, emotionally, into what she goes through.

After we went to the cemetery, we went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for a couple of hours. The kids behaved pretty well, I thought. Craig took some good pictures of the kiddos…

There’s my big boy…

Playing around…

Dominic and Vincent

Trying to do what Daddy says….

Craig and the kids

Why does she have to grow up so fast?

My sweetie-baby girl

Love getting pics of all 5…

Dani-Squirrel

 Well, it’s been fun posting every day, but don’t expect it again for awhile!! 🙂

Ramblings

The Estimated Due Date (EDD) for Gregory was July 26 or July 27. Somewhere around there. Rarely have my children arrived on their due dates, though, so we’ll never know when Gregory, had he been healthy, would have graced us with his presence.

I took a couple days off work, Craig took a couple days off work. We really didn’t have anything planned, but didn’t really want to be at work. I have a feeling that over the years, March 1 will have more significance for me as that is the days we truly said goodbye.

I have realized how many babies I will watch grow up that would be Gregory’s age. My sister’s baby boy, who was born in April, would have been best buddies with Gregory, I am almost certain. But I guess he and I will just be best buddies. The Royal Baby was born this week…I suppose there will be enough coverage of him over the years that I’ll realize Gregory would be that size or something when I see him on TV or in the magazines. Of course, we’re not royalty, so there’s that. A woman at our parish had her baby last night. She also has a son in Helen’s class, so surely as I watch her little girl over the next several years, I will have reminders of my baby boy and what new adventures we would have experienced.

Surprisingly, I am coming to a point where I am okay with this. I remember early on that I didn’t want to hear about babies being born or see pictures. There’s a friend on FB who is almost exactly where I would be pregnancy-wise with Gregory and I did have to hide the bump updates for a bit. But lately, I have been able to handle it again and I’m glad…it means that I’m healing.

Healing is good, right? I don’t cry all the time. Stuff doesn’t always hit me so hard that I break down. When I hear of women having trouble with pregnancy or losing their babies, however, my chest tightens and I sometimes lose my breath. Yes, that still happens. Part of me wonders if it will always happen. But I am happy again at the news of a new baby entering the world. I find joy in my other children and in the children I see running around at church or at the park. I don’t spend so much time thinking about what I’m missing and instead try so much harder to live in the moment and enjoy what is happening in the here and now.

Something Craig said to me recently resonated. He said that losing Gregory helped him to see how truly fleeting the time is that we have with our children. And I agree. Sarah is already twelve. In 6 years, she will have graduated high school and will embark on an adult life. And it will be a snowball really because shortly thereafter, Dani and then Helen and basically all of our children will join her. When a new baby comes into our family and into our lives — it feels like we have forever. But Craig and I are reaching a point where we see that it’s not forever and raising our children is the most joyful and enriching blessing of all and we don’t want to miss a day of it. I think we could have figured that out without losing a child — but, I guess it was just time for God to make sure we understood it right then.

The last few days I have prayed and asked my baby boy’s intercession, along with our Blessed Mother. I asked for a sign of sorts and I asked for acceptance of God’s will in all things. I’m so grateful for all the prayers we have received for our friends and family here on Earth and the ones I feel certain we’ve had from our son and from others in Heaven that care about us and are in the presence of God. 

Today, in the mail, arrived a beautiful Rosary that Rebecca ordered to be made (by trendy Traditions) and sent to us.


Rebecca and her husband are Gregory’s godparents. We communicated a bit earlier than we normally do with regard to selecting godparents and I am really glad we did. I’m not glad that Rebecca and her husband had to have some grief along with us necessarily, but Rebecca has been such a strong and present friend during this time and I appreciate it more than I could ever express. And we might not have had this opportunity to grow together if not through this experience and if we hadn’t asked them about being godparents earlier in pregnancy.  

So, I guess I am glad the due date is finally here and is passing. No more looking in my planner at work and seeing the weeks tick by that I had written ahead of time. No more thinking about what stage of pregnancy I would be in, or that I would have been waddling. I have grateful thoughts — grateful for friends and family and prayers. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get running again and set some goals and achieve them. I feel grateful that the door hasn’t closed on my childbearing years yet, though it feels like the door is closing with the passing of each day. I’m grateful for my children here on Earth who hug me the minute I walk through the door, give me kisses, tell me how much they love me and assure me that I am the best mommy in the whole world.

Life can provide Joy to equal the Sorrows.

I am linking to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary and posting every day this week! Click HERE to see who else took the challenge!