Saturday, March 28, 2009

Naming the Child

My dearest little one,

I am trying to wrap my mind around you, all these years later, and that too brief encounter in which we were present, together, in the same place and at the same time. Name your child, insisted our doctor at that very first appointment, our doctor with the conviction that from the get go you were a person worth acknowledging and claiming; we called you Lucy.

Your brother, Elijah, was but a toddler when I discovered, by way of a violently nauseas reaction to the smell of my morning coffee, that you were blooming in my abdomen, wreaking havoc on my hormones. Who else but an expectant mother could take such pleasure in her own discomfort?

I was never much of a planner, never one to map out my life from month to month, year to year. I was surprised, pleasantly so, but not shocked by your arrival; I was ready, from the very second I knew of your existence to become a mother all over again. What’s in my tummy? I’d ask your two-year-old brother, who’d jab at my soft but not yet bulging stomach and answer every time, to my delight, the way I’d trained him to: baby, baby, baby.

It is hard to explain how immediate that bond is. I day dreamed about you. I relished in my awareness of you, of you being with me throughout every menial task I performed, every errand I ran and every chore I completed. It could have easily been argued that we hadn’t the space, the money, the time for another son or daughter but my joy and instinctive devotion superseded any misgivings regarding the logic of bringing yet another child into this world under our current, perhaps less than “ideal,” circumstances.

In my head I had already built up a life, a long life, one in which you and I would be forever more inseparable. I jumped ahead of myself because the kind of adoration felt by a woman for the miracle, the individual forming extraordinarily within her body, being fed by her body, taking on, even while the size of her thumb, her characteristics, cannot be tempered. There is no choice but to love hard and with reckless abandon.

Pregnancy is a real faith stretcher, because the stakes are always higher when people, or more specifically, our own flesh and blood are involved, are all entwined in the uncertainties too haunting to ponder without one’s breath being taken away by the enormity and apparent permanence of our inescapable mortality. Whenever loss is a possibility, there is a danger of our gladness, our gratitude, or our intrepidity becoming contaminated by doubt and fear.

It is precisely this universal vulnerability, this lack of say in who leaves us and when, that prompted Christ to weep for all of humanity when at the tomb of his friend Lazarus before so boldly revealing His omnipotence and then conversely, death’s constraints. He understood then, as He understands now, that it can be awfully distressing and agonizing to have to wait on this side of eternity for a “one day” reunion with our resurrected friends and family members.

It’s not your fault, they all assured me after hearing my theory about how the plane ride I’d taken was to blame for your sudden departure, which I had anticipated for several disturbing hours before the actual miscarriage took place because I’d woken up that morning feeling indescribably, inexplicably … I don’t know, just different - a little less alive than before. I was desperate for an answer that could explain such an abrupt emptiness. I was so full of you and then, just like that, you were gone.

I like to imagine you as nine-years-old, your freckled arm linked affectionately in the Prophetess Anna’s – my patron saint and my child, united. When we gather as a family to say prayers, attend the Liturgy, stand in the bosom of Christ’s Church where earth and heaven intersect, I like to think that you meet us there, worship with us there the same God, our merciful God who promised, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Sweet Lucy, I haven’t forgotten you and now I’ve that much more incentive to keep on plowing through the distractions, the disillusionment, the despair, to reach that other side of glory where the curtain will part and I will feel you, hold you, stroke your hair, kiss your face. Pray for me, darling.

I love you,

Mama



Several weeks ago, I began this letter to Lucy, the baby I miscarried in 2000, inspired by the stories of grief and hope shared gracefully and candidly in the pages of a brand new book entitled, Naming the Child - Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Still-birth and Infant Death by Mat. Jenny Schroedel. It was quite challenging, to be honest, revisiting my own past experience. I procrastinated, I think in part, because I felt guilty about not having made the effort earlier to forge a connection with a soul I knew was thriving and yet was so insulated from my own limited understanding. It was good and healing to finally give myself permission to recognize my miscarriage as a legitimate and significant encounter with the mystery that is God’s incomprehensible wisdom, to reach out and spiritually, emotionally, embrace my child.

For both parents who have lost their children so heartbreakingly early in life and for those friends and family who don't know what to say or do - how to just be there for them, Mat. Jenny offers a tangible resource full of tenderness and compassion. With eloquence, warmth and courage, she explores thoroughly and with sensitivity a topic more often than not tip-toed around or spoken about in whispers.

For mothers and fathers whose grief remains palpable despite the years that have gone by, the subsequent children born of them, the diminishing support as everyone else, not directly affected, moves on, Jenny has provided a safe community empathetic to the unique struggles of these parents bearing quietly an ache for their babies who have passed on from out of this world and into the next. The chances are pretty good that every one of us will at some point, either personally or through someone we care about, be touched by the tragedy of infant death. I encourage you to visit Jenny’s website, http://namingthechild .com, where you can find articles, letters, poetry and ideas on how to help, as well as information on how to order her book.

During this season of Lent, as we ponder upon Christ’s voluntary sacrifice on the cross, let us remember these hurting families in our prayers and anticipate with expectancy, bravery and longing His (and our) Resurrection.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Molly,
Thank you for writing a letter to your Lucy.
My husband and I very recently miscarried our third child. I know our little Francis is in heaven but it is affirming to read about another mother's faith. Thank you for sharing your letter.

Charlotte (Matilda) said...

It is so true. Just the name of our little Felicity has brought such bittersweet comfort to us in these past 6 years. Your letter was very beautifully written.

Jared and Beth said...

So beautiful. Want you to know that your little Lucy is never forgotten in our hearts and that each time we prepare the prosphora and the list of names to be read during The Great Entrance, her name is always included with those who have departed this life before us. All our love.

Delilah said...

That was so beautiful, I just lost my little Haven Joy at 18 weeks pregnant, and it has honestly been the hardest thing I have ever gone through.

AmysZoo said...

Thank you so much for posting this beautiful letter to your Lucy. I lost a son, William, two years ago. He was stillborn at full-term. Very shocking and heart-rending. I am only now at a place where I can think of him being in heaven, with our Lord, worshipping and truly being and living. At first, I only wanted him here, with us. But the gentle truth of Christ has been working on my heart and mind, and I am grateful. Thank you for sharing and for being a part of others' healing, like my own.

Your post touched me deeply today. May God bless you.

Tabitha in Alaska said...

I named my lost babies and everyone thought that was strange. I almost cried when I read this, although it's been 14 years since number 3 (after 4 live births). Here's to Nectarios, Innocent, and Justina. I pray for them with the departed every day.

Molly Sabourin said...

I have been moved to tears by your comments, by thinking about and praying for you and your tiny angels. Thank you for sharing with me a bit of your own lives and inspiring me with your rugged faith. God bless you!

Fr. James Early said...

Molly,

That was powerful. Your post brought tears to my eyes (and that doesn't happen very often). I think that Mat. Jenny's book will be a great resource not just for those who have lost their babies, but also to pastors and other caregivers attempting to minister to those who have. I'm going to get it ASAP.

Pres. Kathy said...

The tears in my eyes do not stop still as I am writing this. It is so beautiful. May God bless you all.

Johnson said...

When we lost our Simeon Zita to miscarriage in 2004, this quote from Fulton J. Sheen ("Simple Truths")helped:
"When God takes someone from us, it is always for a good reason. When the sheep have grazed and thinned the grass in the lower regions, the shepherd will take a little lamb in his arms, carry it up the mountain where the grass is green, lay it down, and soon the other sheep will follow.
Every now and then our Lord takes a lamb from the parched field of a family up to those Heavenly Green Pastures, that the rest of the family may keep their eyes on their true home and follow through."
We include an icon of Simeon on the wall with the rest of our family icons - our child is still a very real part of our lives. God bless all who are healing from their loss. ~ Patricia

Elissa Bjeletich said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful letter with us, Molly. My son, Luka, died of SIDS four years ago, and your letter resonates so profoundly with me. His sisters and I pray for him every evening with the departed, but also I am forever asking him to pray for his mommy, as I know he is so close to our Lord now. I have found much comfort in the understanding that every child is so different, with a unique life to live, and we are their faithful stewards. If Luka's life was to be so short, I am only thankful that he spent each of his days right here with me. I couldn't have been blessed with a sweeter boy.

Thanks for letting us know about Mat. Jenny's book -- I have seen other such books, but none from an Orthodox perspective. How much more beautiful and comforting it must be! I look forward to reading it.

MamaHolly said...

Oh Molly,

I remember now that you had miscarried but I never knew the story of Lucy. Thank you for expressing these emotions that are so hard for people who haven't experienced loss to understand.

I always name my babies but they have funny, silly, non-gender names until I know their gender. I've lost three babies since 2004. They each have names. I definitely would love to have more children but sometimes I just miss those who were with me, as you described, such a short time.

Thanks for your bravery in facing the strong emotions for this entry.

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

thank you molly

Kimberly said...

Dearest Molly:

Such a poignant reflection on motherhood...sorrow and sweetness mingled.

We lost our Mary Grace on my birthday, January 5th, 2001. I thank God for the brief gift of her life and for tying her leaving to the day of my birth...there was never any question that I could forget, each birthday is filled with that bittersweet memory, and while painful, I wouldn't erase it for anything.

Thank you for sharing Lucy's story...brief, and yet full of meaning, as is every life.

God bless you,

Kimberly

Jenny said...

Molly,

This is a beautiful post! Thank you so much for your powerful reflections.

Kelleylynn said...

Dear sweet Molly!

Thank you for sharing your story of Lucy. Just the other day, I listened to Mat. Jenny's interview on AF.
I had miscarried between my third and fourth in 2003.
The saddness comes and goes with a sting of pain because I had not named him. I feel compelled to do so since listening to the interview and reading your blog.
With grateful tears in remembering to name our child.

The Clearys said...

Dear Molly,
I cannot thank you enough for this post! My Godson's parents are carrying a baby that has a 1% chance of survival outside the womb. This is after they had a miscarriage last May. It has been very stressful on their lives (obviously) and hard for them to come to terms with their spiritual life since they found out.

I want to thank you for this wonderful resource - I plan on passing it on to my friend to help her get through her last few weeks of pregnancy. I am very sorry for your loss as well.

May her Memory be Eternal!!

Yours in Christ,
Kami Cleary

Angela said...

Dear Molly,

Thank you for your words. It is so hard to move on after losing babies that we never get to meet this side of Heaven. I have two, Zillah Elizabeth - means beloved shadow of God - and Elizabeth Anne - means promise of grace. I also find comfort in the moments of the Eucharist every Sunday. Thank you for sharing.

In His Peace,
Angela Weaver

Anonymous said...

It was hard to read your post about Lucy, both because of feeling sadness on your account, and because of renewed sadness of my own. Thank you for your blog entry, which I stumbled across by accident. In July 2000, our Anastasis returned to God before her birth. I was 45 years old, with four living, healthy children already. We had wanted her so badly. She rests in an Orthodox Christian section of a local cemetary where, one day, I shall join her in the same site. Your post is a blessing and a ministry to others. Thank you.
With love in Christ,
Antonia

Anonymous said...

See the photos of Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, Fr. Christian Mathis, getting married in a Protestant church. Enjoy!

https://melissa-zehner.squarespace.com/blog/anneandchristian

His bishop is no doubt less than pleased.

Hopefully he will do better pleasing his wife.

LOL