Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All the Time, God Is Good

As you may remember if you've been reading mine or my brother's blog recently, you may remember that my affirmation that, despite everything that life has to throw at you, God is good.  I have to say it once again, because yesterday morning, I buried my daughter.

Two weeks ago to the day, we went to our first pre-natal doctor's visit.  It was well overdue because of our current lack of medical insurance.  In fact, I was already 19 weeks along, and was expecting, as I rode to the office with my husband, to find out the sex of the baby, and assuming hoping that he or she was as perfect as my other five children are.  Why should I not expect this?  All of my normal symptoms of pregnancy were here: exhaustion and carpal tunnel syndrome, extreme and in both wrists.  That's it.  That is my norm during pregnancy.  I don't get nausea or vomiting as a general rule, and aside from a growing belly and wrist splints, you wouldn't know I was pregnant.  (Don't be jealous.  I have had five c-sections thus far, so it's a trade off.)  If I'm being completely honest though, I had felt ever so slightly off in the week or so leading up to the visit, and was still in the "was that a kick or not" phase of feeling the baby move.  That's why when, during the ultrasound, the tech was being quieter than usual and the doctor had a strange expression on his face, I wasn't surprised.  I was saddened but not shocked when my doctor, in his usual down-to-earth and straight-talking style, turned to me and said, "Bridget, I have to tell you, this baby isn't alive anymore.  It's measuring about 15 weeks, so too small, and there's no heartbeat.  I'm so sorry for your loss."

And that was it.  With those few words, my world was changed.  I was expecting to see my little baby squirming around, hear a beautiful, strong heartbeat, and possibly even be able to start figuring out a name for him or her.  What happened instead was that my worst fears were confirmed, and I understood why I hadn't felt enough movement, why I hadn't been gaining quite as much weight as usual.  I found out that my baby was dead.

My doctor went right into doctor mode, and told us exactly what he wanted us to do next, to get, what he honestly believes, is the best possible care for me, his patient.  He told us that I should have a D & E.  If you don't know what that is, let's just say it's a highly destructive procedure that is generally used in abortions occurring after the first trimester.  He told us the name of the location where he wanted us to have this procedure done and that is when I started to cry.  The name alone made my stomach turn and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.  I knew beyond a doubt that he was sending me to an abortion clinic.  I told him as much and while he agreed that yes, that is where a lot of their business comes from, they are the best at it (go figure) and that they would give me the best care possible.  I cried some more when I thought of how a place like that would treat my child: not as a person, but as medical waste.  I trust this man (and have trusted him for five years at this point, and still trust him) to care for me and I know he means well, but in this instance, I would not be following his advice.  I would choose something better, for me, and most importantly for my child.

We discussed other options, and while my doctor understood our issues with the place he was sending us, he had no other suggestions.  We told him we'd find a place on our own and let him know what we were doing.

As we drove home, I continued to cry, to mourn the life that I had been cherishing since I found out about it 19 weeks earlier.  With the help of my niece and Priests for Life, we found another wonderful, wholly pro-life doctor who was willing to pursue the option of an induced labor where we would deliver the baby, whole, and hope to bury him or her.  We were scheduled to meet with him on Monday.  That's right, I opted to spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend in the same situation.  I even prayed that nothing would change so that we could deliver the baby in the hospital, and not have complications that could have long-lasting effects for my husband and me and our possibility of future children.  God is good because everything stayed basically the same until after Thanksgiving.

God is good because He took the entire situation out of our hands early on the morning of the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I delivered or passed the baby at about 2:30 AM and, thanks to the help of my sister and niece, was taken, with the baby, to the hospital via ambulance.  Our doctor was there for us, at least in spirit, as he answered many phone calls at all hours of the day and night throughout the course of the entire situation.  As I said, he is a good man, just misguided at times.

God is good because my husband and I were able to hold our baby, to cry over her tiny body in the palms of our hands, and to Baptize our baby, who we decided was a girl, and name her, Gianna Molla Marie, after St. Gianna, an icon of the pro-life community.

We asked about receiving the baby back for burial, and that is where the good news paused (I won't say stopped, because it never fully does; it is just harder to see at times).  No one at the hospital, despite their being very understanding, and caring, and full of sympathy, seemed to have any idea not only why we would want this, but also how to accomplish it.  At first, we were told "absolutely not, it's illegal".  We accepted this, being law abiding citizens, and knew that if it were impossible to bury her, we had in fact done everything within our power to care for her little body while we had her.  We also decided that our new task from God was to make things better for the next couple who had to deal with a situation such as ours.

Our good friend, and one of the best priests I've had the pleasure of knowing, came to visit us, and pray with us, and offer us his condolences and support.  This is just what he does.  He comes when he is needed. And when I grabbed his hand, still sleepy and a little groggy from what had happened during the night and from being in the hospital all day, and I'm sure a little incoherent, and told him that I had a new job for us, and explained that he needed to help us change the laws so that people could do something as basic as bury their own child, he nodded, and said he would do what he could.  He then left, quickly, and completely out of character for him.  We found out later that he had gone straight to the "right people" (whoever they are) and found out that we could in fact bury our baby, and he had, in fact, started the process for us.  God is good because He allows us to have a priest such as this one to help us in our need.

Over the next five days, the good news was slow going and at times, I almost despaired.  Again, everyone had all the sympathy in the world for us, but no one knew what to do.  Despairing herself, the woman at the hospital called down to Trenton to ask for help, and found out, on Thursday, that she should have called them all along, and that they have to authorize such paperwork, but that, definitely, we would be able to bury our daughter.  God is good because somehow, with the help of many hands, the mess of paperwork and regulations was finally straightened out and our baby's body was released.

And so, yesterday morning, my husband and I, along with our family, buried our little Gianna.  Our daughter was treated as a human being, with the dignity and respect that should be given to all people, but sadly, isn't.  One thing we can hope for is that, through her death, at least one of the many people involved will come to an understanding of the sanctity of life.  Regardless of the pain and loss we feel now, regardless of all the pain that is yet to come (and we are far from through with our mourning), God is good, because in the midst of this pain we have the sure joy of having cared for our child in the best possible way we could in the time that we had her.

God is good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God Help Me, How Do I Answer That?

“Mom, why don't we like Obama?”

As I stood in line at the super market and heard my then three-and-a-half year old son's question, I actually said a little prayer that no one else had. It wasn't that we liked Obama or that we didn't like him for the wrong reasons. Oh no. In fact, we, as many other conservative Roman Catholics living in America, cringed at the idea of this man taking office and the consequences it would have for the pre-born (among others, but I digress). I wanted to tell him that we don't like Obama because he supports the murder of babies in their mother's wombs. I wanted to tell him that we don't like Obama because he doesn't think all of God's people deserve the same right to life. I wanted to tell him that there were almost too many reasons to count why we don't like Obama.

Looking around at the faces of the people nearest me at the checkout, I could tell that they had heard the innocent question. Whether or not they realized it was innocent is beyond me. I took a breath, and did what I always do in situations such as this: I prayed. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me in my answer so that I might impart the truth of God's love and honestly answer my child's question. Then, I looked into my son's face and told him why we don't like Obama: “We don't like Obama because he thinks it's OK to hurt babies while they are still inside their mommies tummies and that's just not right.” “Oh,” he responded, and went back to inspecting the items in the cart and on the belt. I could feel the eyes of those other customers on my back, staring me down, or maybe I just imagined that part, (although I doubt it). We payed, collected our groceries, and left the store.

On the walk to our car I replayed the scene in my head a hundred times, trying to think of other ways I could have answered his question that would have been as honest and as respectful of his innocence. I don't think there was another way that would have worked for either of us. I am sure, in fact, that in his young mind, my explanation meant that Obama thought it was just fine to walk up to random pregnant women and punch them in the belly (because this is what my son told me one day while describing how he and his brothers' could not wait to grow up so they could be knights who protected women from Obama, but again, I digress). What I did not do, though, was think of ways I could have avoided the topic altogether. You see, as a mother, I think it's my job to teach my children, to “raise” them up to God in our Faith, and to encourage them to think about things, even things that may be a little beyond their grasps from time to time. This philosophy has gotten me into some uncomfortable situations from time to time, I admit, but it has also helped my children to grow in their Faith by asking about things they don't quite understand and opening the door to conversations I would not otherwise know they wanted to have. So I encourage other parents to keep answering those questions that seem almost unanswerable. Ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance and He will always be there for you. I mean, He was there for me when my toddler asked about Obama, and even when one of my sons asked a question about how, exactly, God puts babies in my belly, in the middle of Sunday Mass. Be open to His inspiration and go with it. It will never lead you astray.

By the by, my answer to the second question was “Love”, in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

God is Good

I have a confession to make: I love my life.

Why is this such a big deal? Because, according to most, I should have some serious problems with the ways things are going for me right now. You see, I am a stay-at-home married mother of five, with another on the way, and an unemployed husband. We live in a small apartment with no yard and we won't be buying a house any time soon. Our health insurance situation at the moment is iffy at best and we are barely making ends meet with our unemployment insurance checks. Also, over the last almost two years, my car has mysteriously died once, been broken in to five times, stolen twice, had the battery stolen once (yes, just the battery), and been completely destroyed once (this was all spread out over three separate cars, by the way). So why, you may ask, do I love my life? There is a very simple answer to this: God is good. Let me elaborate on what may seem an overly simplistic answer.

When I think of anything “bad” that has happened in my life recently, I am reminded of the good things that have always followed (and preceded, and coincided with) the bad. In January of 2010, as we were driving down the NJ Turnpike to visit my in-laws, with all of our then four kids in it, our van died. Literally. We were in the left hand lane, going about...fast...and the thing just died. I somehow managed to coast over to the right shoulder without causing any accidents and we called for help. My father-in-law didn't hesitate and came to the rescue. My husband's family was more than gracious in their offers of help and one aunt even gave us her car. Gave it to us. For keeps. After a few months of making two trips for just about everything, my mother-in-law did the unthinkable: she gave us her baby – I mean her van. God is good.

A few months later, in early October of that year, as we lay sleeping peacefully, we had no idea that, around the corner, a couple of teenagers were in the process of stealing our new van. Some attempts had previously been made throughout the summer, but nothing had come of them, until now. Before we had time to report the theft, a police officer showed up at our door, scaring the heck out of me I might add, to ask if we owned a green mini-van. Apparently, the teenagers weren't very good drivers because, after breaking into and hot wiring the van, they crashed the thing into a tree less than four blocks away. No one was seriously injured, and the breaks that were apparently not so great hadn't failed with my children in the car. God is good.

In April, my husband lost his job. With a wife and five children to support. One month after we had spent our savings on a “new” van (see aforementioned car-tastrophes). I was devastated when he told me the news. I didn't know what to do. How could we tell our families and friends? More importantly, how could we buy groceries and pay our rent? We didn't know what else to do, so we did what we could: we prayed. In a short time, our family was pitching in with everything they could to help us through this rough patch we had hit. Soon, even people I had never met before were praying for us and helping us in every way. Have you heard of Regina Doman? Amazing author. Even more amazing person. She learned of my troubles at a homeschool conference and handed me a copy of her book, free, and promised to keep me in her prayers. God, in His goodness, has blessed so abundantly in our time of need that we can not help but repeat, “God is good”.

When I was starting to lose hope, after our latest was stolen and missing for two weeks, I prayed to God to send me a reminder of His goodness, to help me not despair. The very next day, our van was found. What's more, it was barely damaged. Our family, of course, helped us with the cost of the small fixes it required. A couple months later, I learned that there would be an addition to our family, joining us in April of next year. No, I don't have any insurance yet. No, my husband has not miraculously rejoined the workforce. No, I am not crazy. I am overjoyed. I am reminded with each pregnancy of the words of Carl Sandburg that, “A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.” Who am I to argue with Carl Sandburg...or God?

As I sit in my [small] living room typing this, I can hear the [sometimes] light snoring of my five sleeping children from the next room. I think of the baby we haven't met yet, waiting with his or her “Angel in the Waters”. I know that in them, God has given me the greatest blessing I could possibly receive. (In my family, we have a particular knowledge of just how precious those gifts are but that is a story for another time.)  The good always outweighs the bad. God is always good. With all the wonderful blessings He has given me, how could I not love my wonderful, if sometimes trying, life?