So This Is Love
At first we couldn’t find her heartbeat on the doppler, so my doctor suggested a quick ultrasound. His silence was a little worrisome, but I had no idea what we were headed for that afternoon. When he told us that our baby girl had passed, the pain was instantaneous and the tears were plenty. It was hard to believe that my big, round belly no longer carried life. The copious movement I had felt over the weeks was actually contractions. My body already knew what my mind would never have dared imagine. Then I learned that we would have to go to the hospital to induce labor, and I realized, this is love. I was going to have to experience great pain and sacrifice without expectation of gaining anything for myself. I also recalled my husband’s words, meant in jest at the time, that to be friends with God usually involves much suffering, if the lives of the saints are any guide. We teased each other about not getting “too holy” in order to avoid any special attention or unusual blessings we might receive. In truth, I thought our lives were pretty darned perfect, what with a happy and stable Catholic marriage, a steady job for me and a law degree on the horizon for my husband. That we had conceived our little Paloma on the first try was more icing on the cake. We wondered -- sometimes together, sometimes privately – what God would choose to bring us by way of a cross. Can one truly draw close to the Lord’s Eucharistic heart without first suffering and dying with him?
So this is our first big cross. So this is love.
Labor hurts. It really hurts. I was planning on a natural delivery at home with our midwife and doula. I had my labor music playlist ready, replete with Bach, Mozart, and Phillip Glass. I inwardly rolled my eyes when women told me their scary labor stories, secretly thinking they must not have my strength, or the conviction to do what is best for their child. Fourteen hours into labor, I was crying for the epidural. I lost a little decorum but gained a lot of humility. I’m not the tough lady I thought I was, but that’s alright. I have so much empathy and respect for other mothers now, it was worth the lesson.
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to look at Paloma without having some sort of cowardly reaction. I was afraid of myself. But when the doctor laid her on my belly, everything melted away. Her warm, red, quiet body was beautiful and smelled strange yet delicious. Her little eyes were slightly open and her crooked mouth revealed a tiny, pink tongue. All her parts were there, from fingernails to fine, brown hair. But her body was delicate and swollen, not ready for this world, and I knew we couldn’t hold her forever.
I was looking forward to a baby shower, but instead we had to quickly arrange a funeral. Rather than making birth announcements, my husband and I sat down to make prayer cards. Rather than shopping for a stroller, we browsed an assortment of grave markers.
Yet, for every sorrow we’ve felt on this journey, there has been twice the sweetness.
We felt compelled to pray a novena to St Therese of Lisieux, whom we felt would watch over our darling girl and show her the ropes in heaven. Shortly thereafter, we received our shower of roses in the form of masses said on our behalf by the Society of the Little Flower, a gift from a dear friend.
While we sat and looked at Paloma’s little 18 inch casket during the visitation, we heard the sounds of our rather loud and loveable families conversing and milling around. We heard our cousins and siblings and their children. We heard laughter and baby sounds. Life surrounds us! We are mourning not so much for Paloma, whom my husband baptized himself, but for ourselves who remain in this valley of tears.
This is love, and this is life. Thank you Lord Jesus, for giving us this opportunity to draw closer to your heart. We will be forever changed.