Today has been one calendar month since we lost Jude. Almost to the minute that I am writing this at 10:29 p.m., he was stillborn; I was unconscious under general anesthesia, and my husband was sitting alone…waiting in what I feel was the most horrific position of all of us (my heart hurts for the loneliness and fear he must have felt during that hour). I fully intended to devote my thoughts today to writing the story of “what happened” –how we ended up at the hospital and of Jude’s last moments; however, in the perpetual analysis of the events that took place a month ago, I have realized there’s something more pressing for me to talk about today.
As Sean and I muddle through our new status quo, which is wrought with grief, shock, confusion, pain, guilt (guilt at being able to have a “normal” day), sadness, and peace (among other things, I’m sure), we often hear that we are “brave” or “so strong.” Rest assured we are both and we are neither.
We are brave and strong by virtue of our characters; in the face of losing our son, we are broken and frightened little children, and it is solely by the grace of God that we are able to look at the world and see happiness and hope. We have a beautiful toddler who we love and love being present for. We have faith that we will have more babies when the time is right. We are happy for others who have the joy of babies and children in their lives. I was in church on Sunday behind a family with infant twins (I have always wanted twins and still do (I’m possibly insane)); sure, seeing babies strikes a chord, but it doesn’t make me upset for those aren’t my babies; that’s not my Jude. If I see your baby or if you’re expecting, I’ll only pray that you have nothing but joy in your childbearing and rearing.
Losing Jude has not made me bitter nor has it my husband. Jude has filled us with love if nothing else. I don’t know that these feelings would be possible without God.
Despite my faith, I have been looking for answers to the unsolvable puzzle. To put it in nerd terms, I have a Hermione Granger complex in which I constantly seek answers to questions. I have researched every aspect of my otherwise normal pregnancy and disconcertingly abnormal loss.
There is no rhyme or reason as to why one calendar month ago, at this moment, Father David was standing in a Providence Hospital room on floor seven to provide comfort to my aggrieved husband and to a still somewhat-drugged me. But then, there we were. I will probably write more about this in a later reflection, but I must admit, I don’t recall much from Father’s visit. I remember being filled with gratitude when I was rolled into the room and saw him standing there. A man of God was there to pray over us.
I’m not sure why, but it feels important to note that I’m not Catholic; I was raised Protestant, and I am very much a Christian. I don’t believe that any one denomination is the right or wrong pathway to Heaven; rather, I believe that our personal relationship with God and our faith and acts of faith are more important. Whether you achieve salvation via Mass or some other means is immaterial (at least to me) compared to the quality of the relationship. I’m sure theologians would consider me woefully ignorant (and in many ways, I am), but that is a very basic explanation of my beliefs.
So, Father David was there, and I was truly, truly comforted. As I said, too, I was still recovering from anesthesia, and I don’t remember much. I do remember one thing. As Father was leaving, I started praying the Our Father. My husband held my hand and prayed with me, and Father was at his shoulder and prayed with us.
What preceded and what immediately followed is subject matter for another reflection. I soon began a silent quest –something conducted at the wee hours of any given morning when sleep was elusive and my iPhone was fully charged—to find answers. What happened? Why? Why me? Was it preventable?
The last question was the worst. Was it a virus? Was it that time I sneezed and had a cramp? Was it too much grapefruit juice? Was it …. The questions went on and on. Some questions were more metaphysical. Why me? Why us? Are we such horrible people that God had to get our attention in such a fashion? Why our baby? Why 32 weeks? Why not sooner or never? Couldn’t a near car crash have “gotten our attention”? Was that even it? Was it my horrible humanity that killed our baby?
I know that the answer is probably not. I have no idea what the reality or truth is. I know that God is not cruel; while He allows things to happen to us –sometimes things that are “random” and sometimes things that are the product of our own deliberately stubborn humanity—He always loves us, and He is always there for us. I realize that He wants us to come to him –I also realize how “cultish” that might sound to nonbelievers; I promise, this is anything but that. It’s truly the greatest comfort that nothing on this Earth can provide.
The axiom is that “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In this case, my faith has become stronger. As a Christian, my faith was never challenged before (though, I now really do understand the verse that states, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthen me,” as all of my strength in this is granted through Christ); I grew up as a Christian and never was motivated to question my faith (despite being a rational, critical thinking, analytical person). Here’s why.
When I was very little –perhaps not much older than my daughter who is 19 months is now—I pondered the origins of the universe. I recall being between two and three, which is consistent with when I formed my first memories; because of the cognition involved in this memory, it’s highly likely I was between three and four. Anyway, I was told that God created the universe and the heavens and then the Earth. My small mind understood this, but I was utterly plagued by the conceptual crisis of what preceded that? What came before God? Something had to come before God. God had to come to be somehow; before there was nothing, there had to be something, correct, for there cannot be nothing without something to make it nothing, if that makes sense. It’s conceptually abstract. It bothered me greatly.
I can only assume that God recognized this conundrum as something that could easily shake one’s faith in Him. I don’t recall when, but shortly after this pondering began, I had a dream in which God answered my question. I woke up feeling renewed, light, and fresh with remnants of the dream still fresh on my mind; in the first few seconds, I believe I could’ve recalled the dream’s content; however, very quickly, the dream faded, and I remembered nothing other than the very important fact that my question was answered. God explained things to me, and I understood them. I understood, too, that I was not meant to understand the universe’s origins. This was the day faith was born to me. I never questioned God again, and having faith was never something that I found to be shakable.
That was the first intangible proof I received of God’s existence and hand in my life.
The second proof came more recently. I don’t remember the date –perhaps somewhere between December 17 and December 19….I was at work talking to a colleague. The Christmas holidays were forthcoming. Almost absentmindedly, I told her that it was odd, but I “had a feeling that I wouldn’t be pregnant after the New Year.” But, what an absurd thought. I wasn’t due until February 11. I attributed the thought to the concept that the New Year symbolizes starting over and rebirth; however, the feeling I had when I made the statement was something I felt in my core.
If you’ve ever had a premonition or déjà vu, then you understand. Speaking of déjà vu, I recall I had it during the initial stress test; though, I don’t know why (I can’t remember what previous memory prompted that, but I do recall that when I had the déjà vu, I had a strong feeling things wouldn’t end well. I did quickly banish the thought when I had it during the stress test).
Anyway, I digress. As I was saying, anyone who has ever had a premonition knows the feeling. It’s a certainty that lacks logical support; you just know though you have no idea why. Such was the case in this instance; however, obviously, I had no reason to remember that odd statement or moment until God called Jude home.
This part of my story is where some may disagree. Some might say that it was a premonition brought on by a woman’s instinct and a woman’s bond with her child; that may also be true; however, I attribute the premonition (for lack of a better word) to suffice as proof that God had a plan for Jude and that He was preparing me, somehow, for the imminent suffering that I would experience as a result of losing Jude.
Oddly enough, this faith provides comfort. Allow me to explain. In believing that it was God’s intention to take Jude when he did (as evidenced by the premonition), then there was nothing I could have done to prevent my son’s death. I couldn’t have gone to a better hospital. I couldn’t have arrived earlier. I couldn’t have exercised more or drank less grapefruit juice. I couldn’t have been less stressed. It simply wasn’t part of God’s plan, and God knows just like the mysteries of His origins, I don’t understand, but He also knows that I have the faith to accept that.