Life is unpredictable. We all know this to be true. Nothing is within our control. No amount of planning, organizing or preparation will guarantee a desired outcome. While we go about planning our days and lives, we often come to discover that God has entirely different plans for us.
My husband and I recently stumbled upon such a discovery, when we learned that we were expecting another baby. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. This baby was, in every way, very much a surprise. Truth be told, upon finding out our news, my first reaction wasn’t what one might expect— there were no rainbows or butterflies… no jumps for joy. My first thought was a panicked, “uh-oh!”
I was instantly overwhelmed with the prospect of a future filled with unknowns… how would I manage another pregnancy, when my previous pregnancies were fraught with serious complications? Would the baby be healthy? How will the other kids adapt?
To the Lord, I pleaded, “Help me, please… because I don’t know what to do… I’m giving it all to you.” I asked Him for faith to trust in whatever it was that He had planned. I recalled the words from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you”. Then, an immediate calm washed over me.
From that moment, I knew this baby was not our baby, at all. This baby belonged to God, and we were blessed to be entrusted with yet another tiny life. What a gift! All of the fears and anxieties I had harbored subsided, and my excitement grew. Being a master-planner, within no time I had calculated the due date, came up with new sleeping arrangements for the kids, and possible names: Joseph if it was boy, Lucia if a girl. Finally, I felt at peace.
God may work in mysterious ways, but He is always intentional. Perhaps God doesn’t always reveal His plan… because He is the plan. Just as soon as I had embraced His new plan for our family… plans changed, yet again.
Within a few days’ time, I fell into a painful labor. The room began to spin, my vision and hearing began to fade, and my blood pressure plummeted. I was rushed to the ER with severe bleeding.
The baby— the gift that God had surprised us with— was lost.
The grief was overwhelming. As parents, we often take for granted that in being open to life, we become vulnerable to an entirely different kind of heartache and loss. Falling in love always comes with a risk of heartbreak.
In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in a casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Yes, to love is to be vulnerable.
As Catholics, being open to life also means being open to death.
In a world that suggests we ought to be in control, pregnancy and parenting confront us with a slew of unknowable, uncontrollable realities. Choosing life almost always involves embracing risk and fear; it’s embracing vulnerability.
Despite the painful outcome, I can say with certainty that there were no mistakes or coincidences when God gently knit this baby in my womb.
In His infinite wisdom, this baby was created and gifted to us as a masterpiece of His love and perfect design.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God.” (2319)
Though his or her life was short, our baby’s life had purpose and meaning…worthy of dignity. Our baby had a soul and was very loved—by God, and by us.
Even in death, this baby is a witness to life.
If you have experienced a similar loss, find comfort in knowing that the Lord is faithful in His love for you, and that He is present in your suffering. Though it can be difficult, it is only through accepting His will that you can find peace and hope.
As parents, may we strive to love selflessly, courageously and fiercely, despite all of life’s uncertainties… trusting in the Lord’s everlasting and eternal love.
by Andrea DePaola