Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Our Loss

Last Friday morning we went in for my twenty week ultrasound appointment and learned that we had lost our baby.  I checked into the hospital later that afternoon and delivered our little girl at 12:34 a.m. on March 3, the feast day of Saint Katharine Drexel.  Chris named her Katharine Louise in her honor.

I cannot begin to express the enormity of our grief over our loss of this precious child.

It doesn't seem possible that we could have lived all of the events of the past few days in such a short time.  As we entered into the very same hospital where Henry was born not even two years ago, everything struck me as being incredibly wrong.  You shouldn't enter the labor and delivery wing in tears of sorrow.  You shouldn't stare at the baby warmer and want to shove it into the hall because you know your baby won't be needing its warmth.  There weren't going to be any happy visitors with congratulations and balloons, just our priest and everyone's condolences.  There wasn't going to be any impatient waiting for a final car seat check before we carried our little one home for the first time, just a long walk past the nursery that she would never visit.

I declined the drugs that would have lessened my pain.  I welcomed the pain.  I wanted the physical pain of the birth to match my pain in knowing I was delivering a baby that wasn't mine to keep.  I read recently that you know you are having a challenging Lent when you don't get to chose your sacrifice.  This Lent will be our most challenging yet. We always knew that none of our children are really ours to keep, however much we may wish they were, but now that knowledge has been made real to us.  Our children are gifts given to us to look after, to love and to help on their way to heaven--we may have them to hold for our whole lives, or we may have them for only a few short weeks.  We have loved Katharine since before she was conceived, and now she has been born into heaven.  David keeps telling me that he doesn't want her to be in heaven, I just try to hold back my tears and tell him that we do want her to be in heaven, we just didn't want her there so soon.

As we left the hospital we noticed the white rose that marked our door, a signal to all those entering that ours was a room of mourning.  I don't think we'll ever look at a white rose the same way again.


As I labored Chris read aloud from a book I had been carrying in my purse--the only thing we brought with us to the hospital.  After all, what does one pack for an occasion like this?  We weren't sure so we opted not to bring anything at all, which seemed fitting since we knew we would be leaving with even less.  It was Peter Kreeft's Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion which happened to be bookmarked at a chapter entitled Blessed Mourning vs. Mourning at Others' Blessedness.  As I sit here typing, with an ice pack strapped to my chest in an attempt to stop the flow of milk that my baby isn't here to drink, his words still bring me comfort:

"All can be blessed by mourning...ordinary human suffering is blessed--any suffering, from a headache to dying.  Every suffering can be blessed because it hollows out a place in us for God and his comfort, which is infinite joy.  Finite sorrows fertilize the soul's soil so that the plant of infinite joy can grow.  Sorrows sensitize the soul both to sorrow and also to joy.  The more we suffer, the more we appreciate joy.  If this truism holds even of earthly joys, how infinitely more worthwhile to suffer the brief sorrows of this world so as to appreciate better the eternal and perfect joys of the next!"


How does mourning (suffering) bless us?  First it trains us by sculpting souls.  This is God's work, not ours.  The sculptor, not the statue, knows when and where the hammer must fall.  Second, it strengthens our love, the motive for enduring suffering.  After we invest a lot of suffering in something, we treasure it more, for "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Third, it teaches us the wisdom that comes only by the experience of suffering.  Rabbi Abraham Heschel puts it simply:  "The man who has not suffered--what can he know anyway?"

What does suffering teach?  The wordless wisdom that even sinners can detect in saints. The thing that made Job finally satisfied.  Even Christ, "though he was a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb 5:8)"

Thank you all so much for the generous outpouring of love, support, and prayers you have given us as we grieve the loss of this precious child.  Our little Katharine Louise is currently at her grandparents house, who kindly offered to take care of her for us until she can be laid to rest at home in North Carolina at 10 a.m. on Thursday morning.

My Lord, the baby is dead! 

Why, my Lord, dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face. It will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise.

Why, my Lord?

“Why, My child, do you ask ‘why’? 

Well, I will tell you why.

You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty, he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”
I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool, forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity. 
-Mother M. Angelica-

Katharine Louise Reintjes, pray for us.


  1. Oh Cristina, my heart just aches for you and Chris. The enormity of your loss is so hard to understand. We are praying for you daily. Your post is truly a beautiful testament to your love and faith. I love you.

  2. Thank you for posting the passages from your book. Brad and I have often discussed the role of grief in a relationship with God. This is a beautiful explanation to many of these questions. I will certainly have to look into this book. Your words show a lot of love and strength and I pray you continue to find strength from your relationship with God.

  3. Oh Cristina, I am so so so very sorry for your loss! My heart is just breaking for you, Chris, and the boys. While I cannot begin to fathom the grief you're experiencing now, I know with all my soul that Baby Katharine is watching over you all and giving you strength during this difficult time. Take comfort in your faith and know that God is holding your little angel in the palm of his hand! Prayers and hugs for you all....

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  5. Beautiful words Cristina. I only hope that if I were to experience a loss like this that I could model your beautiful grace and faith...clearly both a gift from God. Be assured of our prayers for you all and be assured that you certainly have the prayers of your little Saint in heaven.

  6. I read this last night and I still don't know what to say. I'm just so very sorry for your loss and we are praying for and thinking of you constantly. Your post is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, so fitting for a beautiful baby girl and your beautiful faith. God bless you all.

  7. My heart breaks for all of you. I pray for peace and comfort for all of you. No words can make it better but know all of you are in our continual thoughts and prayers. I am glad that your family now has a precious angel watching over each and everyone of you.

  8. I am so impressed by what you've written. Your faith is truly an amazing gift from God. Your post could offer so much healing to others who are suffering a loss.
    My thoughts and prayers are constantly on you and the family. Katharine will always be missed. May God lessen your pain and heal your broken heart. I love you all.

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  10. Cristina, I am so very heartbroken for you, Chris, and your sweet boys. I am so glad you have your faith to rely on right now. I will be praying for you and your family. You are so right that our children are not ours, but His. Your precious girl is in His loving arms and I hope that brings you some peace. Your post is so eloquent and illustrates your strength. I will be praying that God continues to give you and your family strength and heal your hearts. Lots of love to the Reintjes family.

  11. Christina,
    My heart aches for you! We are both very blessed to have been given Angels, if only for a short while! Not one day will go by, that you'll not think of her. Painful, and empty it's in those times we reach for God! As I write this, I cry.! My pain is still deep, 18 years later! It's a pain that I have learned to be grateful for. Better to have had, and lost then to never have had at all! I love you, and your family! If you ever want to talk just call. (803) 807:8385.

  12. I have no words to empathize with your pain, for I have never suffered a loss so tragic. My prayers are with you and your family, now and forever, amen.

  13. My sincere and deep sympathy for your loss, Cristina. I'm so very, very sorry.

  14. Just seeing this post now. We have been thinking and thinking about you and Baby Katherine. Please let me know if you'd ever like to drop the boys off for some playtime, etc. if you'd like some time to rest.

  15. Reintjes Family, I hesitate to comment since so much time has passed, but I was significantly impacted by the quote from Mother M. Angelica at the end of your post. Our prayers will continue for your family. It is so significant to see God's work in your lives even in the midst of such difficulty.

    Tim and family


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