Note: This article contains mention of pregnancy loss.
The youngest of four I have been a self-starter, go-getter from the beginning. My desire to take responsibility and make things happen have led me to much success—a solid and fruitful marriage, a career that is fulfilling and rewarding, and a solid economic and moral foundation for my family. However, along with these personality traits comes a less desirable one—the need for control.
As a child I was a free spirit, the floor in my room was barely visible under the large amount of toys, clothes and artwork. Thanks to my loving parents, I had the joy of a carefree childhood. But as I struck out on my own, I began to find comfort in order and organization. I loved getting a new planner, color coding it and falling into the routine of college classes, a few shifts of work and meeting up with friends. My desire for control was nurtured, and I felt so very secure in my planning of my day to day, as well as my future.
Then I was given the greatest gift—my children. My husband and I met in college, married, and began a family. My son joined us just shy of our first anniversary and within a year and a half of his birth, his sister joined us too. I loved it. I was still able to plan and structure my days around the tiny infants that did what I told them. We went on trips; I worked my workday around nap schedules. I had, what seemed, to be the best of both worlds, and it was all in my control. But in the early spring of 2019, I was about to face the fact that I did not have control over all things. And my plans are not always His plans.
Just after Thanksgiving 2018, I found out I was pregnant for the third time. We were so excited for another little soul to join our now three year old and one-and-a-half year old. While I felt the discomfort of early pregnancy, we happily told family and friends, celebrated Christmas and welcomed the new year. In March of 2019, I went in for the regular 20 week ultrasound. The technician was quiet, but I saw my baby’s heartbeat, some small movements, and eagerly awaited the review by the radiologist so I could get home. But soon my own OB entered the exam room and broke the bad news to me. My baby had a condition called Hydrops, which was caused by a hole in his heart (which we later found out was due to Trisomy 21). Fluid had formed around his brain and heart and under his skin. She told me that due to the severity of the fluid build up, it was terminal. My baby would not survive to be born.
What followed were follow-up appointments with specialists, weekly ultrasounds and informing our kids that their brother’s heart wasn’t working, and he was going to die. I was angry. I was distraught. I was heartbroken. I remember trying to pray and wondering, “what do I even ask for? What do I say to God about this? Do I want my baby to make it to birth? Do I want his (and my) suffering to just end already? Do I want a miracle? Just enough of a miracle to survive the hydrops and still face the difficulties of Down Syndrome (which I would have so happily welcomed)?” I traveled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, not far from my home, and I sat in front of our Blessed Mother and sobbed. And at that moment it hit me—I didn’t know what to ask by myself. I needed to ask for God’s will. Whatever He wants. If he wants to heal my child, He will. If he wants me to take this suffering, offer it for others, and do something with it, He will.
From that moment, my whole perspective changed. I was sad. I was so, so sad. But I was at peace. I felt my sweet baby boy kick around, safe in my womb for three more weeks, until his heart gave out. I delivered my sweet Benjamin Ray with the most caring staff, that cherished my time with him and the suffering my husband and I were feeling. And most of all, I had the chance to really, truely, understand the Communion of Saints. I am still heartbroken over the loss of my son, but to see his older brother and sister make him birthday cards every year and honor him on All Souls & All Saints day is just unbelievable. They crafted their own prayer to him and we pray it nightly. Benjamin is now a big brother as well, with a little sister and a little brother earthside and a fellow saint-sibling that passed away too early for us to know a gender. And one thing they are all sure of, is the intrinsic value of the soul that was created in their heavenly siblings. In all the planning I did before I had children on how I’d teach these very important lessons to my children, the Lord did it for me.
I still spend too much time trying to write everything down in my planner, only for my infant to decide he doesn’t want to eat when I expect him to. I still stress over how it will all fit in – the work day, the playdates, the chores and the family time. But when I feel that stress creep in; when I start to seek too much comfort in my own control, I recite the words Jesus Himself taught us: Thy will be done. Today I invite you to take a moment—just 30 seconds if that’s all you have—and stop planning, stop thinking, and stop controlling. Quiet your heart, listen for the Lord and say to Him “thy will be done.”