My 14-month-old recently kicked the nursing habit. I am 25 pounds lighter! Rejoice with me!
But in the dark of my mind I’m uneasy. Freedom demands payment: Now that I’ve brought up the one the laws of natural spacing dictate that I’m very likely to be blessed with another, DV, and I’m scared.
Pregnancy is very, very hard. Delivery is harder. The first months with a new baby try the best of us: the nursing is protractedly painful, the diapers are awful, the nights are miserable and long. But the source of it all is a child who curls on your shoulder and shares with you his warm, wrinkled, subtle self. As you wither he grows stronger, and come what may you do not really begrudge him for his needs. Quite the opposite.
During my third pregnancy, the baby died a mere nine weeks along. His tiny body washed from me in a flood of pain three weeks later. The pregnancy was hard; I had never been more sick. The delivery was harder, an act of violence I committed alone on the cold hospital floor. The first months without my baby almost killed me, with nights miserable and long.
I cower under the very possibility of it happening again. Lord have mercy.
In this kingdom of death, the loss of a life so short and small is regarded as something so completely insignificant it is better left unmentioned. Few mourn your loss. Many roll it around in their mouths like something bitter and spit it back in your face. They cannot, by reason or strength, believe in that which they cannot see. As the months unravel even your husband forgets. And alone on the cold kitchen floor in the dark of a protracted night you feel the silent emptiness of your womb open up to swallow you, hungry as the tomb. For that is precisely what it is.
From dust you are made, and thus your body became both grave and gravestone to someone you barely knew. As flesh of your flesh he took his share of your heart as his grave clothes. When the tomb spat him out without celebration or ceremony, his share went with him.
I miscarried my little one over two years ago. I have, as you know, been blessed with a baby who survived my womb since then. When the memories of my loss tremor through my brain, when the anger emerges, I tell myself I should be past the pain by now—that I should be whole again, glad for what has come and for what lies ahead. But I am weak. I cannot make myself forget. Instead, I linger on the ashes of guilt, anger, fear, and doubt.
While I may never be pregnant again, or while I may never lose another child, in weakness I pray for mercy and prepare with fear and trembling for the very real possibility that another pregnancy may yield another loss:
Soon afterward, he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7: 11-15).
I am not a theologian. I am a simple minded idiot, and it is as a idiot that I read my Lord’s words. With the devastated mother of Nain, Christ bids me not to weep. Should you have survived the death of a child, He bids you to do the same. Though covered with ashes and unclean, Christ regards us, the Mothers of the Dead, and comforts us. Dear Christian mothers, do not despair. The compassionate Christ who raised the woman’s long dead boy, who is Himself triumphant over the tomb, knows our babies. He sees them, loves them, and with us remembers them. They are not lost forever for He is coming again soon to make seen the unseen, to fill their lungs with the breath denied them in our bellies, to sanctify them for life everlasting in the Kingdom He has promised to reveal.
The dead man sat up and began to speak. Jesus gave him back to his mother. Thanks be to God.
In the meantime, we cling to Baptism and remember that the Son humbled Himself to be born of a Virgin, taking up residence in her womb, turning a place of tenuous life and imminent death into the very House of God. Mary was changed. We are changed with her. We are not empty tombs and crumbling grave stones. We are the Mothers of the Living, now and forevermore.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Strengthen us as we wait. Have mercy upon us. Amen.