I should have known the day wasn't going to go well when, nervous about my OB appointment later that morning, I opened up my book of daily meditations and found the day's title was A Christian Outlook on Death.
When I got to my appointment and there was no heartbeat to be found I wasn't taken by complete surprise because, unlike last time, I now spend the first half of each pregnancy thinking that everything is probably going to go horribly wrong and then the second half trying to convince myself that everything will be fine. After I got past that formidable twenty week ultrasound with John and then Margaret I made them each a quilt by hand. Every night I would sit down and patiently sew stitch after stitch praying and willing myself to believe that I would get the chance to wrap those babies up in their quilts and that I wasn't wasting my time with keepsakes that my baby would never need.
The day before this appointment I spent my time putting my house in order; tidying up, scrubbing the floors, dusting the furniture, folding all the laundry--just in case. Just in case I would need to call in help. Just in case it was weeks before I felt up to doing any of those tasks again. Just in case I would be spending the night in a hospital laboring to bring one more child into the world who had already left it for another.
If you had asked us a few babies back how many children we were going to have, we would have told you we were "open to life" but we would have had no idea of the full meaning of the phrase. We've found out the hard way that you can't be open to bringing new life into the world without also being open to death. When you've carried death inside of yourself the reality of it presses in on you in a new way. Every child lost is a reminder that death is always there waiting, inevitable--that we don't know how long we or our children really have.
We don't know how many children we'll be given that won't be ours to keep but we're open to life anyway. We're open to death, we're open to love and we're open to loss and suffering if that's what we're called to endure. We're open to God's will for our lives and trying to accept whatever that may be whether it's what we want or what he knows we need.
. . .
After a good deal of arguing back and forth we were able to take our baby home with us from the hospital and bury her that afternoon at a nearby monastery. We are so thankful for everyone's prayers and offers of help and food and especially for all those who brought me wine and/or chocolate. Please continue to pray for us as we grieve for the loss of this tiny, precious child.
Baby Frances, pray for us.