By Christi Marcheschi | Guest Blogger
Today marks one month…
It was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We had reached the 20 week mark and gathered up our two little ones in excitement as we headed to the doctor’s office for the big ultrasound. The ultrasound tech squeezed that cold jelly all over my stomach and started pointing out our baby’s face, spine and…. I knew she was going to say “heartbeat” but she hesitated and the flicker of excitement in me died. She searched and searched, but it simply was not there. I nodded my head in acceptance as she expressed her sympathy and I covered my mouth as I burst into tears. After the tech left the room, Matt embraced me with our two little girls in arm and we all cried together, completely heart-broken that we’d never get to welcome this precious life into our home.
Gianna, almost 3, tried to wrap her little mind around what this might mean. During those intense moments and in the weeks ahead, she would astound me with the compassion and incredible faith she showed. While still at the doctor’s, she knelt down on the cold, tile floor clasping her hands and prayed, “Lord, please help the baby in mommy’s tummy to grow.” When the 2nd ultrasound confirmed that our baby indeed had passed, she gently placed her hand on my shoulder and with a concerned expression said, “Sometimes these things happen, sweetheart.” I fought back the tears again as I thanked God for the gift of Gianna and the strength she was bringing me.
It was no coincidence that we miscarried our first baby at 6 weeks, four years previous, on the very same feast of our Lady. Matt’s Uncle Graz gave us a beautiful reflection over the phone that night that began to carry me through this impossible time. He pointed out that Mary must be asking us to share in her suffering. Each time the pain of tears pierced my heart, I began seeing Our Lady weeping over the death of her only Son at the cross.
The nights ahead would be the most heart-wrenching nights of my life. Every night I awoke hysterically crying, wondering how this could have possibly happened. Only 1% of pregnancies end in late-term miscarriage. Why us? Had I done something wrong? Could this have been prevented? What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I clung to Him, more than ever. The words of John 6:68 echoed in my heart: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I knew I could get angry at God and that He would be big enough to handle it. But, I just couldn’t bring myself to it. I’ve experienced life without Him and found it wanting. To whom else would I go? I know deep in my heart of hearts that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
So many graces began flowing. Mom flew in that night to be with Matt and I during the delivery the next morning–it meant the world to have her here! Our nurses were the most compassionate women I could have ever hoped for. They treated us with such kindness and our baby with such dignity. The process of delivery seemed something from hell, as it took over 4 times as long as it “should” have, but even through the pain I was able to maintain a peace about it all. After 26 hours, Anne Marie was born. Our doctor cut her from the amniotic sac, folded her tiny hands, wrapped her in a blanket and handed her gently to me. Having prepared for the worst, we all marveled at how perfect her little features were. In many states, it is perfectly legal to kill babies her size, throw them out as if they have no dignity or worth, and my heart just broke at the thought of it…at the thought of any baby being cast aside in abortion! I counted all ten fingers and all ten toes and soaked up all the beauty that was Anne Marie. We had 9 precious hours to hold her, sing with her, pray with her, cry over her and celebrate her. Matt’s parents and some dear friends came to share in these sacred moments with us and we treasured being able to share the gift of her. After 36 hours in the hospital, we said our goodbyes, entered into the bitter cold of the night and headed home.
The laughter and kisses from Gianna and Gemma helped me through the day, but the nights left me feeling empty, both literally and in my heart. I felt so alone, so dead inside, but felt a nudge inside, begging me to choose life. I refused to fall into despair, knowing that the cross is the path to Christ and even the path to true joy.
Over the next few days, we planned our daughter’s funeral and burial. We visited with the wonderful bereavement minister at St. Edna’s, picked up an infant casket that was graciously donated and bought a grave-site in the Holy Innocents section at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines (the same cemetery where Matt’s grandparents are buried).
Somewhere I once heard that suffering is easier when you look up, towards the cross. Christ never desired for us to undergo suffering, but in His infinite wisdom and love He does allow it. I trust that He brings good from all things, even though I won’t understand the bulk of it this side of Heaven. What I do know is that through this most difficult time, there have been many graces that have put into my heart a great joy…an impossible joy. All this happened during Advent, our preparation for the birth of Christ. So many compassionate souls expressed their deep condolences to us and many told us how it would change Christmas for us forever. They were right. The joy of Christmas never shouted so loudly in my heart! We were made for Heaven..and then we screwed it all up. In God’s great mercy, He sent His only Son to suffer, die and rise again. All this to win me, to win you, a chance at Heaven, a chance at eternal union with our Lord all those who have gone before us.
There has undoubtedly been great sadness this past month, but there has also been joy! The joy of being inspired by my husband’s deep and constant faith and feeling more united to him than ever. The joy of being with and learning from my amazing daughters, Gianna and Gemma. The joy that has come from so many friends and family expressing their love and care for us. The joy I’ve found in sharing the story of Anne Marie and the sacred photos I was able to take of her. Above all, the joy of Christ…the one, the only lasting joy of this life and the next.
Life is truly a gift! Anne Marie, pray for us…
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