Have you ever just had a feeling deep in your gut that things were not going to turn out alright?
From the day I found out we were expecting our third I just had this ominous sense wash over me. Something just told me that this was not meant to be.
Call it crazy.
Call it mother’s intuition.
Call it whatever you want, but I always knew buried in the depth of my heart that we would not be meeting our child this coming Easter.
Of course, I hoped for a different ending, I never wanted to actually say the words out loud for fear that they would give life to this nightmare I’d been carrying silently in the recesses of my mind.
I know it sounds silly looking back on it, but I always just knew. Just like I always knew she was a girl.
I remember feeling so anxious as I counted down the days to the milestone eight-week appointment when we would be able to see her heartbeat. With previous pregnancies, my nerves always began to settle down after the eight-week appointment, but still, this was not the case with Francine. Her pregnancy was different from the start. Even after seeing her beautiful little wiggles and steady heartbeat on the ultrasound screen my mind was not at ease.
By the time our twelve-week appointment rolled around I was practically bracing myself for the news that something had gone horribly wrong. I remember the morning of the appointment a thought crossed my mind that I should invite Pat to come along. But in a rush, I failed to heed that little nudge from the Holy Spirit and walked right out the door.
As I entered the doctor’s office and laid back on the cold, sterile examining table my thoughts raced as I anxiously yearned to hear her sweet, healthy heartbeat.
My OB rolled the monitor back and forth against my abdomen searching for a heartbeat he would never find and I found myself repeating the names of Jesus and Mary…my feeble attempt at prayer. The truth was my thoughts were racing so fast I couldn’t even remember the words to a prayer let alone muster up the courage or grace to mumble one.
My doctor soon gave up on the heart monitor and kindly asked me to step into the ultrasound room to see what was going on.
I wanted to scream, “you’re not going to find a heartbeat. She’s gone.” Somehow I held tightly onto what little composure I had and played along. Before I knew it, there she was on a grainy, black and white monitor exposed for all to see.
What should have been a moment to make my maternal heart swell with joy and optimism, instead became the moment it was torn to pieces. My heart plummeted to my stomach. The breath stolen from my lungs.
Time stood still as I began to feel the weight of what was no longer a fear, but a reality…my reality.
I know it sounds so cliché, but I’ve never known suffering quite like this. I’ve met suffering before, of course. I’ve watched friends and family pass away, some unexpectedly, others after a long life well lived. But this cross is different…not necessarily heavier just indescribably different. It’s a foreign sort of pain and loss. One I’m still grappling with for sure.
How do you grieve and put to rest someone the world never knew?
There are no stories or memories to find joy or solace. Yet, I knew this beautiful soul, deeply and intimately. Her whole being was wrapped up into mine.
It’s fitting that we lost Francine on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
I could have discovered this heart-wrenching loss on any day, but Our Mother in Her Blessed Sweetness chose to come alongside and meet me in my sorrow that day. Rather, she chose to lead me further into her own Immaculate, Sorrowful and Anguished Heart that day.
In my better moments, I’ve offered to her this unyielding pain as a feeble way to console her Most Immaculate Heart. In my weaker moments, I’ve reached for Her, clinging to the solidarity that we’ve both lost someone so precious to us, someone, the world never truly knew. And as strange as it sounds I’m thankful for that.
The following days and weeks have been a blur. I feel like a shell of who I once was and while its only been a few weeks I seriously doubt I’ll ever get over this.
The truth is even if I wanted to I could never go back. Six short weeks ago I was with child. I had life growing inside of me. I was starting to show, struggling to zip up my pants and anxiously anticipating feeling her first squirms and movements. I was hopeful and starry-eyed for the future this little one would bring. I anticipated her arrival and looked forward to discovering the little personality that would unfold before us.
And now its all come to a sudden halt. I’m not carrying and nourishing a baby inside of me anymore.
Instead of a round, growing belly — a hopeful, winsome, daydreaming heart, I’m left with an empty tomb, hallow and cold, and a heart now pregnant with grief, worry, and doubt.
Though I’m no longer with child, my heart doesn’t seem to know the difference. I still long to mother her, to care for and love her, but my longings are left with no outlet.
So where do I go from here?
After all, this is the kinda stuff that can cripple people.
The kind of stuff that can unleash a darkness in the heart that never seems to fade, a darkness that if not reckoned with could easily take hold for the long run. If there is one thing I know it’s that there is no middle ground with grief…you either deal or you don’t. You either face the darkness and eventually find the light or the darkness will overcome.
I’m certain Our Lady grappled with the same feelings, the same darkness, the same mess of emotions we desperately try to bundle together under the guise of grief. I’m certain that her pain was infinitely more piercing than mine…even on the worst days. And I’m clinging to the confidence, supplied only by His grace that like any good mother, she will walk with me through this grief to a place where it doesn’t ache quite as much.
After all, didn’t she do just that when the world fell into despair on those three darkest days her Son was in the tomb?
She stayed with the apostles and Mary Magdalene, grieving with them, consoling them. At a time when she could have isolated herself, sitting in the darkness of her own grief…a grief brought on by the world itself, she didn’t. Instead of blaming the world or shutting herself out from it, she did the very opposite.
She brought the lamenting world into her warm, loving embrace.
She consoled the world who put Love to death, resting in hope and confidence that the Lord was not finished. She found healing for her broken heart by giving it to others, by caring for and nurturing like mothers so often do.
And oddly enough it is in her very suffering that I have found hope, hope provided by God’s goodness but brought to life by her example.
So it is my prayer that I can follow the road she has paved for me, walking side by side with those who suffer in whatever capacity, offering hope and encouragement that He does, in fact, have more in store for us, each and every one of us.
This is where I can begin to move past grief and into something greater. This is where healing is found.