I would like to share my journey with you. The first post I wrote when the pain was still very palpable in my being. Then I began to experience the light of hope. Now, you may not be there yet, and that’s okay. You just keep taking one day at a time. Yet I want to share it with you to let you know hope still lives, even in your darkness; your joy will eventually return, and even now, God holds you ever so lovingly in his arms.
But Not This Day
We found out we were pregnant again with our seventh child. We were excited to welcome another child into our home, and had begun to prepare for him or her. We also had accepted new job positions in a different state. There was so much to get ready for! And yet I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. When I was about to leave for the big ultrasound, my husband said, “Everything is going to be fine!” I responded, “And even if it’s not OK, it will be OK.” And usually it always was—each time before, it was always OK. But not this day.
At that appointment, we discovered my baby no longer had a heartbeat. At eighteen weeks along, this child had gone to see Jesus already. My spiritual sight darkened, and my heart felt as though it would collapse in on itself. I didn’t even get to fight for him! My husband picked me up, and we were in shock. We picked up the rest of the children, and they knew something was wrong. When we told them, they wept—every one of their sobs echoed the pain in my heart. It tore me apart. Normally, when my child cried, I could hold them, comfort them, give them some words of hope. But not this day.
We scheduled the induction date two days later. Hoping we could at least have a chance to hold him, I consented to an unmedicated, natural labor. My nurse-practitioner-midwife said I needed to be able to feel everything so she wouldn’t have to do any tugging, because we didn’t know what stage of decomposition his little body was in. So this was my battle ground—I walked into the delivery room that used to hold so much joy, and now it was full of sadness. I was a walking tomb, bearing my dead child within me. And here I would have to face the pains of labor in order to hold him intact. As dark as this day was, I wouldn’t have wanted to go about it any other way. I needed to do this. I was so numb in so many ways, I needed to feel this, to offer this for the repose of our son’s soul. As the pain increased, so did our prayers. And then it escalated to its peak. For women who have gone through drug-free labor, you understand the extent of pain involved, but there is always joy awaiting you in the end. But not this day.
Ever since I was young, I have always had a soul open to the spiritual life. This is not due to any merit of my own; it is just the disposition with which God blessed me. I have had profound moments that could never be fully explained except through faith. My husband and I have given our lives in the service of God and his Catholic Church, teaching the truths of marriage and family and serving his people. Yet each of these moments was in the light, in the joy of God, basking in his holy presence. But not this day.
I stood next to the bed, holding onto the guard rail and the pain was more than I have ever experienced (and I had experienced several unmedicated labors before). And in a moment, in what was a split second, but was seared into my soul forever, a contraction peaked and blackness fell around me; coldness was everywhere; I heard distant laughter, and I felt the lifeless body of my child pushed into place by the contraction, and landed in its new spot with an inner thump. I screamed. I felt like I had had a face-to-face with death, with all that is the absence of good and God. It was uncontrollable. People tried to console me but were themselves wrought with anguish. There are some moments when no matter how dark it gets, you can always see some light—some shimmer of goodness. But not this day.
The midwife returned to see that I had indeed gone from four cm to ten in an hour. She was shocked. I wasn’t surprised. I was still shaking from the experience when I delivered my son born into heaven. My husband and I wept, the nurses kept having to excuse themselves from the room and would come back with eyes red from tears. My midwife never left and just let her tears flow. She was a beautiful witness of feminine strength. She had been there to catch three of my other babies. She always was kind, and sometimes firm, when I needed it. She was enjoyable to be around. Oh, how we would laugh together! But not this day.
We were blessed to be able to entomb him, PierGiorgio Matteo, at the Memorial to the Unborn at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. The shrine is such a beautiful place! You truly can feel Our Mother’s presence there. We would walk up the hill, visit the church and the walking paths. The boys would run along the trail kicking rocks, grabbing leaves, and laughing. But not this day.
I grasped onto the casket that held my son’s body for as long as I could. The rain poured down, and I felt as if my heart, mind, and soul were pouring down as well. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I begged God to make it not be true! But here I was placing his casket into the tomb. One day I would find joy again; one day I may even be able to smile. But not this day.
I know you are in heaven, my little Giorgio! I am so blessed to have such a perfect soul praying for his mama and looking out for us! But—oh—how we still miss you! We will carry a heartache for you with us forever. You have a little sister now, and you must pray for her, too! Did you pick her out for me? She has helped me find my joy again. Slowly my smile is returning; slowly the heartache doesn’t feel so dark. And I know that one day she will play with you in heaven! And oh—how we will kiss you! We will laugh and dance and sing praises to God! One day, we will be together! But not this day.
And the Sun Rises
When you left our lives, sweet baby son, it felt like you took our hearts with you. I thought I would never be whole again. I could not see beyond the darkness that hovered over me. I set aside time alone every day just to weep and let the sorrow out. Every night I went to bed not knowing where my strength for tomorrow would come from . . . and then the sun rises.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months; the world around me kept moving forward, but part of me was still there in that moment with you. Wishing it was all a dream, wondering what kind of child you would’ve been . . . all of your brothers missed you. We spoke of you; we cried for you, and we lit candles for you. The days came and went . . . and the sun rises.
Each new day would bring a tiny bit of healing; each new month would bring a stretch of a smile. Our lives would always feel your loss. Yet, as the days marched on, our vision began to change. As the months turned into years, the eternal night of our life began to lighten . . . and the sun rises.
Instead of just seeing you as a lifeless body in my arms, our dear Lord has given me a vision of a vibrant soul alive and soaring in heaven! The sting begins to fade and the joy of your life remains. The darkness of my soul begins to dissipate . . . and the sun rises.
Sweet baby boy, your little sister and brother made me laugh today. What joy came to my heart and soul, and it startled me! I cried, realizing how much I had missed being joyful. The grief of your loss was so thick, my little love, I doubted I’d ever feel joy again. But there it was—coming upon me like a child jumping out of a hiding place to startle you . . . and the sun rises.
I can see heaven again! For so long I felt as if I stumbled in darkness, believing by sheer force of will. All delight in my faith was gone with you. All feelings of joy, vanished. Yet I held tight to what I knew to be true. I chose to believe. And after years, my little love, the thick darkness is lifting. I can see heaven again! I can see the light of the sun, and it is indeed rising! I can see you playing and laughing, and I have joy once more! How I long to embrace you! Yet now the hope is more palpable than the pain . . . and the dawn breaks upon my soul like water crashing against the rocks. God’s mercy endures forever . . . and the sun rises.
Please embrace the full story by reading part one of this post here.
Theresa Martin is a Catholic wife and mother of eight, seven boys and one feisty, little princess. She has an MA in Theology, is a published author, a speaker, and she works alongside her husband in marriage ministry. With four more babies awaiting her in heaven, pregnancy and infant loss is a topic close to her heart and one she knows women need to hear: “Too often women feel isolated and feel as though they can’t or shouldn’t share this suffering. I share to encourage them that they are not alone. When women are able to share their own stories, their healing can begin.”