The important life and death of my baby.

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I am still not really ready to write this post. But I want to anyway.

About 3 weeks ago I had a miscarriage. It was very early – I only knew I was pregnant for about 10 days. But from the moment I saw a positive result on the pregnancy test I loved this child as much as my other 3 children. I immediately consecrated my child to Mary and loved him with all my heart and soul.

Like my other children, this baby was planned and very much wanted. But it did take an almost heroic leap of faith for me to consent to being open to life a 4th time. My husband now works from home, but was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 4 years ago – 3 months after the birth of our 3rd child. He has been unable to work at all for most of the last 4 years. But pretty much as soon as he got his home business up and running we both knew we had to take that leap of faith and try for, perhaps, our last child. I will be 39 this year, and I went into this 4th pregnancy in full knowledge of the toll it was going to take on me physically, and all the risks involved, but we still wanted another baby so much.

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On the night I began to miscarry, I told Jesus I was scared about what was going to happen to my baby. He told me “Look Clare, he is either going to be with you, or with Me.” Those words gave me a huge amount of comfort in the very worst of circumstances. Whatever was going to happen, my baby would be safe.

The next few days I just cried and cried. Tears of grief that only the women in this special ‘club’ will understand. A club nobody wants to be a member of. My husband felt disappointed, but did not feel the need to gieve like I was. And that is fine. Everyone handles it differently. But he does respect my grief, and is being extremely supportive.

A few days in and I start with the anger – mainly at God. “So where the F**K is my baby?” Refusal to pray, refusal to receive Him in the Eucharist, storming out halfway through Mass. Worry about how I am going to raise my kids Catholic now I hate God. Worry that I will have to close my business because I will never be able to make another vestment ever again. Paralyzing fear He will take my other kids. Terrible, terrible guilt and loneliness because I cannot bear to be with the God who ‘took my baby’. I still believe in Him, I just HATE Him.

We did not get the chance to baptise our baby… where is he? The church teaches that in the case of unbaptised infants, we must ‘rely on the mercy of God’. The same mercy that permitted my baby to be taken from me? I’m not sure I am interested in that sort of mercy. I no longer have any desire to enter heaven when I didn’t even know where my dead kid is. My plan was to go looking for him after I died. (Can I just make the point here that pastorally speaking, the Church fails spectacularly in reassuring mothers of dead unbaptised infants.)

I asked for prayers and I got them. I can only thank those who have been incredibly patient and loving with me during the last few weeks. I was truly humbled by the huge outpouring of love from the online Catholic community. I have never realised how much I rely on my brothers and sisters love until now.

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When the depression hit I knew I had to quit work for a while and the only thing I could think of doing was something physical. So I started going to the Gym 5 days a week. It was a great idea and has really stemmed that depression, and has also given me a great outlet for the anger.

One of the most painful things for me was when people tried to downplay the importance and uniqueness of my baby when they said stuff like “Oh, well, it was very early…” and “obviously not meant to be…” and “you’ll have another one…”. No! I’m sorry, No! My kid WAS, I mean IS important! There will never be another human being like him! He will not be able to be ‘replaced’ with another baby – EVER!

The turning point came for me when a friends teenage son tried to commit suicide twice in one week. I suddenly realised that my child was already safe. He would never be in danger of Hell. He will never suffer, or know sin or pain or sadness or grief. But more than that I realised that my child could possibly intercede for my friends son. I just turned round one day and told my kid “Sweetheart – we’ve got work to do!” But I needed a sign from God that he was in heaven.

My sign came that Sunday evening when I was granted to be with my baby during Mass. Except he was not a baby at all. He was the fullness of who he was as a human being – a young man. Since then he has been with me every day, and will continue to be with me everyday for the rest of my life until he comes to throw his arms round me when I die. I am looking forward to that day immensely, but I have some more stuff to do here first, like raise his other 3 siblings! The relationship I have with him is obviously different from the relationship I have with his siblings, but nonetheless it is a relationship, and it will continue to grow and develop.

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Since then I have had other people come to me asking for my son to intercede for them. I have found this rather strange, but moving, and also I think it is helping me reach some sort of level of acceptance of the situation – of which I am still grieving. Everytime someone does ask, it affirms that my sons very short life and death, does have infinite meaning and purpose, and this is extremely important to me. He WAS meant to be.

To have a son already in heaven has built a bridge for me between this life and the next which can never be broken. Heaven no longer feels so far away. The veil that separates this life from the next just got that bit thinner.

 

 

Why didn’t they just shoot the boy? – Harambe and our contraceptive mentality.

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One monkey gets shot and everyone goes ape. Seriously, the amount of hate and judgment I have seen directed towards the mother of the little boy who managed to sneak into the Gorilla’s enclosure is just flabbergasting. I’ve seen a petition with over 150,000 signatures who are all calling for “Justice for Harambe” although no-one really knows what that means.

Many are blaming the mother for not supergluing the 4 year old to her side. I’m sure if she thought there was any risk at all of her son being able to breach the fence of the gorilla enclosure then she would have. Perhaps the haters need to be looking at the fact that the security at the gorilla enclosure was so weak it was foiled by a 4 year old? If I were the parents i’d be suing the zoo quite frankly.

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And then there is the fact that Harambe is a wild animal kept in captivity so that some people can gawp at him, and others can make money from people gawping at him. I’m sure when God made the majestic and extremely powerful Harambe, He didn’t intend him to spend his life in a zoo. I’m sure God intended him to live in the wild. But we love to control things don’t we…?

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The out-pouring of emotion and grief over Harambe reminds me of the death of Princess Diana (stick with me on this one…!) Harambe and Diana were both gawped at by people. Diana was held captive in her own media prison – never being able to leave the house without Paparazzi, never having a moments privacy. People paid good money to view every aspect of her life. She was a spectacle for our entertainment – just like Harambe.

When she died there was one of the biggest outpourings of grief i’ve ever seen. Why? I never understood why? Yesterday you were happy to gawp at this person and revel in her lack of privacy, and now you are mourning her death like she was your own mother. I think what we were witnessing was the widespread grief of death itself. We cannot control death. Perhaps there was also an element of guilt there for gawping for all those years?

Perhaps people are also feeling guilt for Harambe? I’m sure some are. But many more are just feeling plain old rage. The rage, I believe also stems from this lack of ability to control. We love to control everything. St JPII called this the ‘contraceptive mentality’.

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Our desire to control things leads us eventually to do absolutely anything to remain in control. We want all the benefits and pleasures we can lay our hands on – and none of the responsibility or consequences. As human beings we take this desire for control to the very limit through murdering our own children through abortion. We MUST remain in control.

So when our control of a 400lb wild animal we are holding hostage is compromised by a 4 year old boy and we have to shoot the animal to remain in control,  everyone blames the boy (and his mother).

“She should have been keeping better control of him!” That’s right – there is no room for accidents or anomalies or mistakes in our contraceptive culture. No room at all. In fact, I’m starting to believe that there would have been less of a hyper emotional outcry from the self-loathing haters if the zoo keeper had just shot the boy (and his mother of course…). Then we could all just keep looking at the funny monkey and gawp at how big and strong he is, and how clever we are for controlling him.

People are so stupid…

Suicide, Tattoo’s and Baptism

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The sad news of Robin Williams death this week brought back memories for me of 6th January 1998 – the day i tried to take my own life. It was the worst and the best day of my life.

As an 18 year old almost sick to death (literally) with depression i had been prescribed Paxil Seroxat which was later banned in 2003 for under 18’s because it was found to increase risk of suicide.

I was begging God for mercy. My parents had had Mass said for me even though i had not been to mass for the last 5 years. I had no idea what was going on but can only describe it as a body-spirit split in which i was experiencing the most utter desolation and despair to the point in which it actually physically felt like my soul was being burned alive. This went on non-stop for 3 weeks.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” No profanity was to great to the God i had always believed in – but just hated for the last 5 years or so. Finally, not being able to withstand the torture i was experiencing any longer i felt i had no choice but to end it.

“I’m sorry, i don’t want to kill myself, but i just can’t live in this pain any more.” And after a failed attempt with a bottle of paracetamol, and knowing i was beaten, i turned to God and just surrendered.

“Clare, I’ve never forced you to believe in me” were the words i heard. I was aware of Jesus standing next to me, and behind Him was His Mother. And behind her were hundreds of saints all routing for me to come back to the faith.

“After everything i have done over the last 5 years, you still want me?”

“I love you.” 

And that was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of my conversion. The day i returned to the Catholic church. I guess you could say that i had some sort of an Epiphany (6th Jan – get it? Boom-Boom!!) Straight after that experience i felt the utter desolation lift and i was then able to cope with and slowly recover from what i would describe as ‘normal’ depression. 

Sometimes you have to come completely undone to discover who you are in Christ. Whatever it was that happened to me back then, however painful it was, it was pure grace. God knows where i would be now if i had not gone through that. It was so life changing i had no idea how to cope with it, so i did the normal 18 year old thing and got a tattoo. It is a picture of an electronic heart trace to remind me of the day my heart almost stopped beating, and then beat again for the first time as a new creature in Christ.

Interestingly, this evening i was just going through a box of old paperwork and discovered my baptism certificate. It seems that the date of my baptism was 6th Janurary 1980. Who would have thought that the Lord would use this date 18 years later to bring me back into His church? Unbelievable!

Talking to Kids about Life and Death.

This week in the year is always a very emotional time for our family. It is our eldest sons birthday – when we first became parents. It is also the anniversary of Granddad Michael’s death.

Our son was born at home on my bed on the 17th July 2006 at 11am in a 100 degree heat wave. Of course his life started 9 months previously at the moment of his conception. To explain this to him we recently put up a scan picture of him at 9 weeks post conception “Look Alex – it’s you!”

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But now here he was – all 9lb 11oz of him! (4.4k). He made me a mother – something i had dreamed of becoming since i was 4 years old. I felt totally overwhelmed, intensely proud, completely helpless and wide eyed with wonder at this little human being who had been kicking me from the inside for the past couple of months!

I truly believe there is no bigger adjustment anyone can go through in their entire lives that becoming a parent for the first time. It really does change everything. Things that seemed so important before are now forgotten. Things that meant so much to you before, now hold no interest whatsoever. This tiny being, this baby has suddenly totally re-ordered all your priorities, wants, needs and aspirations. The love you feel for this tiny creature terrifies you because you have never felt this way about anything or anyone in your entire life – not even your spouse. You would give up your life for this child in an instant. You notice everything: every tiny movement, every wrinkle, every breath they take is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen. Your heart doesn’t even know what to do with itself it is so in love! And all you want is for this child to love you back.

Of course the day our son was born was the morning my husband was due to start his big new job. Needless to say he had called in to say he wasn’t going to make it that day! Of all the days I could have gone into labour, it had to be the day he was starting his new job! I told him weeks ago that there was never going to be any question of it – THAT was the day I would have the baby!

We slept the rest of that day and then spent the next day calling and sending photo messages to the rest of our family. We asked for no phone calls because we wanted to just spend the first day or so together just the 3 of us. This decision was the biggest regret of my life.

The next day my husband completed his first day at work and came home to me and the baby. I hadn’t slept much and was still in shock from becoming a mum. But we sat together and congratulated ourselves that despite the chaos, we were doing OK. Then the phone rang. It was my husbands mum. She was calling to tell my husband that his father had just died. We hadn’t even named the baby yet.

To say this news was unexpected was an understatement. This man was fit as a fiddle. He swam in the sea everyday, cycled – you name it. No-one was expecting this.

We both remember the crazy mantle piece we had going on at the time: we had cards saying ‘sorry you’re leaving’ ‘congratulations on your new job’ ‘it’s a boy!’ and ‘with deepest sympathy’. It was like a time line of events that should have spun a few years – not a few days.

We decided to give Alex a middle name of Michael – after his Granddad. We take the kids each year to visit Granddad Michael’s grave. This year was a particularly happy time because it was the first time Angelica had visited his grave. We show Alex the date on the grave stone and tell him the story again of why his middle name is Michael. We talk about the fact that Granddad Michael is in heaven for ever now with Jesus and how happy he must be. We ask him to pray for us.

Life and death are a normal part of any families life. We are fortunate that in our family we have a time in the year where both mysteries can be contemplated together.

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Why does God let Children die?

Bereavement gives us the widowed and the orphaned. But there is no word in the English language to describe Parents who have lost a child. It is as if society is afraid to label this type of grief. How can a loving God allow this type of thing to happen? Obviously the story of Jairus’ daughter had a miraculous and happy ending, but not all stories end like this.

Why does God allow us to suffer? If a bad person suffers, we as humans find some justice in this – but an innocent child? In all these questions we must look to the cross and the resurrection. Jesus did not deserve to be crucified. He’d done nothing wrong. So I guess it would be true to say that the crucifixion was ‘unfair’! But he understood that God had a plan.  His suffering brought about our redemption. There was a greater purpose that wasn’t understood until after the resurrection. As is it is for our suffering in this life – we don’t know why we have to suffer most of the time. It does seem desperately unfair. And we will only know the answers once we reach our eternal life in Heaven. All we can be assured of is that our life, suffering and death are things that are passing. Our life here on earth is only temporary – death is not the end. Through Jesus’ resurrection we have been assured of eternal life after death.

The reality is that even with Jesus’ cross and resurrection, losing a child seems to make very little sense. But without Jesus’ cross and resurrection, it makes no sense at all.

I remember the story of a Father who had just lost his 10 year old son and was so stricken with grief he began to shout at God “What have I done wrong? I begged you to help my sick son but you let him die. Where were you when I needed you? Where were you when my son died?” He immediately felt God speak into his heart saying “The same place I was when My Son died”.

God the Father knows what it is like to lose an innocent child – and He did it for us!??!