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The Rainbow after the Storm

The Rainbow after the Storm

I always told myself I’d be satisfied with the family size we had, whether that was one child or many. And so it came to be that five more children would follow the first – and in an order that proved God has a sense of humor, girl boy girl boy girl boy. What we didn’t expect was the storm that was brewing unbeknownst to us. It would be years before the rainbow finally showed its face.

When we got pregnant after #6 was born, we started to brace ourselves for what was to come. We had recently downsized from a rather large home into a much smaller one to be close to our home parish. Multiple daily trips there and back for Mass, youth ministry, RE, volunteer meetings, parent meetings, children’s choir, altar boy trainings, weddings and funerals, and spiritual direction, it just seemed like the right move. We wanted the neighborhood – or so we thought – until we realized that our size 10 shoe of a family was being squashed into a size 5 shoe of a house.

But it wouldn’t matter.

That was November 2014 – almost four years ago when our entire family experienced our first and most devastating miscarriage. It was the most devastating only because we didn’t see it coming. It was my grief, my husband’s grief, our grief together as a couple…then there was our children’s grief, both individually and collectively. And lastly, it was our family’s grief. It was almost too much to bear, but we muddled through it. We gave her a name right away, following our birth order, of course – Felicity Gertrude, or baby Gertie. We asked her in our nightly prayers to pray for our family and the practice of normalizing her place in the family began with such mixed emotions.

My due date came and almost went. I realized it on the actual day as I lay in bed, ready to go to sleep. Sad thoughts crept into my head, but I brushed them aside. I made it a priority to focus on the fact that God is good all the time. I had spent a considerable amount of time in grief after the loss of our little one and allowed myself to experience all those emotions.

Our oldest was 18 at the time and always went to her own favorite Mass time, while the rest of our family went to our usual 9:30 a.m. Mass time. Going all together as a family was a rare treat, usually only enjoyed on Thanksgiving. And so it happened that the first Mass we went together after our loss on November 15, 2014 was ON Thanksgiving. The woman leading the rosary before Mass prayed the St. Gertrude prayer at the close of the rosary – and that’s when I lost it. Ugly cry, don’t care WHO sees me, this crying is happening NOW kinda cry. We were all together – our whole family – because during Mass, heaven and earth meet and our lost little was with us.

TWO MORE LOSSES

Little did we know losing Gertie would be the beginning of multiple losses. Soon after her burial on Our Blessed Mother’s solemnity, the Immaculate Conception, we would find ourselves pregnant again in January – Michael Christopher. It was cautious optimism followed by almost instant grief. A week passed from learning of our next baby to his death. It was over almost as soon as it had started.

The numbness sets in.

Loss three would be the following January 2016 – Sarah Olivia, whom my daughter named. My due date was to be our anniversary, on the actual date. I found solace in this connection, but it was stacked alongside inevitable grief. God was done with our family here on earth, I was sure of it.

Remember when I said I had always worked hard to be happy with our family size? Six children appears to many as a very large family and sometimes the outside perception is that it’s too many or pangs of sadness aren’t necessary seeing as we already have “too many children” by society.

And yet both mine and my husband’s heart desired to continue to be open in the face of what felt like a continued string of miscarriages – lost babies.

It wasn’t until I saw the look of sadness on my sweet Josie’s face when we became pregnant for a 10th time that I realized the depth of the grief and impact of those losses on our family. However, my hcg numbers were strong, everything looked good, the doc (and personal friend) had me on progesterone (again). It was more hope than we’d seen since my pregnancy with #6 in 2011. I did my best to assure my sweet five year old girl that it seemed like we might get to meet this little one.

And so we did. In January 2017, we welcomed our sweet Emmaleine Rose (Emmie to friends and family). When I was pregnant with her, I did a lot of soul searching, talking to God, and putting in petty requests like, I want her to have green eyes and curly red hair. He, however, did NOT give me a red headed green eyed girl like I wanted, lol, but she has the MOST FABULOUS brown curls and STUNNING blue eyes that may turn green, as most of our kiddos have some shade of green or hazel eyes.

My pregnancy with Emmie was by far one of my most physically difficult, ending up with SPD, which made it practically impossible to walk, and affecting my ability to walk even months after her birth. And yet my pregnancy with her carried with it some of my best memories. I cherished each moment we had together. I talked to her, played with her when she rolled around like a barrel and tried to break my ribs with her feet – fun times! 

I wrestled quite a bit with coming to terms that these beautiful children first belong to God and that ultimately I shouldn’t dwell on despair of their losses. That’s easier to type and read than it is to really take in and make my own. I credit our priests who lifted our family in those hard times and availed themselves to us when we needed them most, showing up late at night to talk to us and help us out after they had no doubt invested 12+ hours into their work day already, or just sending a text to see how I was doing. Pastoral didn’t even begin to cover how they made our family feel in those troubling times.

Looking back, I know it wasn’t only the hope and desire of a baby after three losses that brought that catharsis full circle. Instead, it was a combination of Emmie, our priests, and the complete surrender to God’s will that brought a final sense of peace.

God is in control.

And God is good, all the time.

 

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Guest Posts Loss Respect Life Testimonials

Baby Louie: A Tale of Faith, Hope, and Love

“I am so sorry, but your son has a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. His limbs are very short and his chest cavity is very, very small. He will only live for minutes to hours after birth because he will not be able to breathe.” In thirty seconds, our lives changed forever. Our third child was diagnosed with a condition “incompatible with life” at his anatomy ultrasound. The doctor went on to say, “Many women would choose to terminate in a situation like this, but you are too far along…” I interrupted him, with tears streaming down my face, and declared, “It doesn’t matter! I would never kill my baby, no matter what!”

We were absolutely devastated from the news. We didn’t know that it was even possible to feel pain that deeply or to shed that many tears. Carrying a child for weeks who was not expected to live was both the most difficult and most beautiful thing I have ever done. The uncertainty of when and how our son would be born and waiting for his birth was agonizing. It was so hard to answer questions from strangers asking, “When are you due?” “Is your baby a boy or a girl?” But answering those questions and carrying our baby was such a beautiful witness to the sacredness of every life. Even though we didn’t understand why this had to happen to our son, we knew that his life was sacred and had a great purpose. And we were so grateful that God had given us the precious gift of time with our baby, so we wanted to use the months ahead to cherish his short life.

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We named our son Louis Gerard after Blessed Louis Martin and St. Gerard and we nicknamed him “Baby Louie.” We took tons of pregnancy pictures and we got lots of ultrasound pictures and clips of Louie moving in utero. We took our kids to Build-a-Bear to make bears with Louie’s heartbeat  Baby Louie bearsrecorded inside. The bears have t-shirts that say “I <3 Baby Louie.” Our son Michael drew pictures of our family, including Baby Louie. We talked about Louie a lot to our kids but most importantly, we prayed for him. It was so beautiful to see our kids pray for Louie too. Michael reminded us to pray the rosary every day and he remembered to pray for him every night during bedtime prayers. Our family and friends covered us in prayer and we were not alone. We were surrounded by God’s love and we were comforted by His words: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Baby Louie was already showing his purpose – he was drawing our family closer together in prayer and faith.

We are so grateful that we had time to prepare for Louie’s birth. We arranged for our family, our priest, and two photographers to be at Louie’s birth. We picked out outfits for photographs and my mother-in-law made a beautiful quilt for Louie out of one of my shirts and one of my husband’s shirts. Finally on August 12, 2014, after several days of failed labor, we decided to have a c-section. I was wheeled back to the OR to be prepped for surgery and I remember begging God to please just give us at least a few minutes with Baby Louie. I have never prayed so hard in my life. “Please God, let him be alive, please God.” I kept repeating it over and over as I lay there. My husband, our priest, two photographers, and my mom were all in the OR with me. And at 4:04 pm Louie was born! He came out crying – he was born alive! Our most fervent prayer was answered! Louie was placed on my chest and our priest baptized and confirmed him in our Catholic faith. One of the photographers took a video of the whole time, which was such a blessing to share with our kids. After the surgery was completed, I was wheeled back to my room and our kids and the rest of our family got to meet him alive, kiss him, and tell him how loved he is and always will be. He was with us for 74 precious minutes before he passed from my arms into the arms of his Heavenly Father.

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We spent hours afterwards holding him. Grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, and his siblings all held him. We took lots of pictures! We cut a few locks of his beautiful blond hair, we stamped his handprints and footprints, and we made molds of his tiny hands and feet. Finally, we had to hand his body over to the funeral home. Even though we knew that Louie was already in Heaven, handing over his precious little body was the most heart-breaking part of the entire experience. My time here on earth to hold him was at an end and I broke down sobbing.

We miss Louie so much and I ache to hold him again and I always will. I love to talk about him because he is and always will be our child. And I would not give up those weeks of carrying our precious child, no matter the outcome. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, know that there is hope and healing at the end of this difficult journey! Despite the pain, our wait was so grace-filled and such a gift. Carrying, loving, and holding Louie was the greatest privilege I have ever had and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He taught us so much during his short life and we will never be the same! Yes there was pain and suffering, but Louie’s life story is not a tale of sorrow or grief. His story is a tale of faith, hope, and love.,,

FAITH.

Baby Louie, you have strengthened our faith. You’ve taught us to accept that God is in total control and to accept His plan with faith. We have always been faithful Catholics, but this experience has brought us so much closer to Christ and His cross. Carrying, birthing, and losing you was the first time in my life that I had a “real” cross. A cross simply too heavy to bear on my own. A cross that I needed God’s help to carry. I needed prayer. And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly praying and truly offering up my suffering to grow closer in love to God. We had an army of people praying for us and we could truly feel it. We prayed unceasingly for peace and we prayed the rosary every night as a family. We felt so close to Christ and so grace-filled during your birth and death. And we know that it was because of the power of prayer. It was beautiful to witness that power firsthand.

HOPE.

Baby Louie, you have given us renewed hope in Heaven. We have always aspired to go to Heaven but never more than we do now, to see you again. We have the hope of meeting you again one day! We don’t get to hold you again on Earth, but our time here will be gone like a blink of the eye compared to eternity. We want to spend eternity with you. We know you are waiting for us and the hope of meeting you again gives us such great joy! You have reminded us of our true calling here on earth – to get ourselves and our family to Heaven. We can’t bring anything material with us when we die. We can only bring souls! We want our family to be reunited again in Heaven someday. Baby Louie, it pains us to know that we won’t get to watch you grow up. But we have hope and joy, amidst the pain, because we know that you can watch over us and pray for us. Normally the parents and older siblings watch out for the baby of the family, but not in our case – what a beautiful role reversal!

LOVE.

Baby Louie, you have taught us so much about love. Daddy said that before you, “I did not know how much I was capable of loving someone before ever meeting them.” And it is so true – you have helped us to love more. You have reminded us that we don’t know how much time we will be granted on earth and we don’t know how long our loved ones will be with us either. So we must live and love each day like it is our last! Daddy and I must cherish every moment we have together, every moment we have with Michael and Colleen, and every moment we have with family and friends. But above all, we must love God and serve Him by loving others. We can’t get time back once it’s gone, so we need to love better today and every day! Baby Louie, we love you and we miss you. We always will. You have changed us for the better and you will forever be a part of our family. Our little saint, please pray for Daddy, Mommy, Michael, and Colleen! Please pray that we love God above all things and that we meet you again someday!

BabyLouie

 

View More: http://jessicakochphotography.pass.us/alisonmaternity::Alison Currie Duffy enjoys her vocation as wife and mother. She is wife to Bradley, momma to Michael, Colleen, and Baby Louie, and the daughter of Catholic author David Currie.::

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Ink Slingers Kerri Loss Respect Life

A Memorial to Our Children

oct15_bannerToday we recognize the children that we never got to know. Those that we only knew of for a short time, maybe held briefly, and loved with all our being. The women of Catholic Sistas are no strangers to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. For Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day we thought we would take some time to memorialize all the children we as a group have lost. Following is the list of names of our children who are no longer with us but, through God’s mercy, are in heaven praying for us. Please share in the comment the names of any children you have lost so we can remember your children as well.

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Dearest Lord, thank you for giving us precious time with our children. We may never understand why our time could not be longer, but we trust in your goodness and in your mercy. We pray that our children are in Heaven and basking in Your heavenly glory. Help us Lord to continue to trust in You and to live a holy life so that one day we may be reunited in Your Kingdom with our precious children. Amen.

Please share in the comments the names of your children so we can add them to our prayers. Thank you and may God bless you today and always.

More stories for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day can be found HERE. And visit our Miscarriage.InfantLoss Pinterest Board for more links and stories.