Slowly my smile is returning; slowly the heartache doesn’t feel so dark. … And oh—how we will kiss you! We will laugh and dance and sing praises to God! One day, we will be together! But not this day.
by Heidi Indhal
Please welcome my friend, Theresa, as she shares the story of her small son’s precious life. Her experience of loss and healing, as well as those of Molly and Mary Kate, highlight both the uniqueness and shared experiences of pregnancy and infancy loss.
We found out we were pregnant again with our seventh child. We were excited to welcome another child into our home, and had begun to prepare for him or her. We also had accepted new job positions in a different state. There was so much to get ready for! And yet I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. When I was about to leave for the big ultrasound, my husband said, “Everything is going to be fine!” I responded, “And even if it’s not OK, it will be OK.” And usually it always was—each time before, it was always OK. But not this day.
At that appointment, we discovered my baby no longer had a heartbeat. At 18 weeks along, this child had gone to see Jesus already. My spiritual sight darkened, and my heart felt as though it would collapse in on itself. I didn’t even get to fight for him! My husband picked me up, and we were in shock. We picked up the rest of the children, and they knew something was wrong. When we told them, they wept—every one of their sobs echoed the pain in my heart. It tore me apart. Normally, when my child cried, I could hold them, comfort them, give them some words of hope. But not this day.
We scheduled the induction date two days later. Hoping we could at least have a chance to hold him, I consented to a unmedicated, natural labor. My nurse-practitioner-midwife said I needed to be able to feel everything so she wouldn’t have to do any tugging, because we didn’t know what stage of decomposition his little body was in. So this was my battle ground—I walked into the delivery room that used to hold so much joy, and now it was full of sadness. I was a walking tomb, bearing my dead child within me. And here I would have to face the pains of labor in order to hold him intact. As dark as this day was, I wouldn’t have wanted to go about it any other way. I needed to do this. I was so numb in so many ways, I needed to feel this, to offer this for the repose of our son’s soul. As the pain increased, so did our prayers. And then it escalated to its peak. For women who have gone through drug-free labor, you understand the extent of pain involved, but there is always joy awaiting you in the end. But not this day.
Ever since I was young, I have always had a soul open to the spiritual life. This is not due to any merit of my own; it is just the disposition with which God blessed me. I have had profound moments that could never be fully explained except through faith. My husband and I have given our lives in the service of God and his Catholic Church, teaching the truths of marriage and family and serving his people. Yet each of these moments was in the light, in the joy of God, basking in his holy presence. But not this day.
I stood next to the bed, holding onto the guard rail and the pain was more than I have ever experienced (and I had experienced several unmedicated labors before). And in a moment, in what was a split second but was seared into my soul forever, a contraction peaked and blackness fell around me, coldness was everywhere, I heard distant laughter, and I felt the lifeless body of my child be pushed into place by the contraction and landed in its new spot with an inner thump. I screamed. I felt like I had had a face-to-face with death, with all that is the absence of good and God. It was uncontrollable. People tried to console me but were themselves wrought with anguish. There are some moments when no matter how dark it gets, you can always see some light—some shimmer of goodness. But not this day.
The midwife returned to see that I had indeed gone from 4 cm to 10 in an hour. She was shocked. I wasn’t surprised. I was still shaking from the experience when I delivered my son born into heaven. My husband and I wept, the nurses kept having to excuse themselves from the room and would come back with eyes red from tears. My midwife never left and just let her tears flow. She was a beautiful witness of feminine strength. She had been there to catch three of my other babies. She always was kind and sometimes firm, when I needed it. She was enjoyable to be around. Oh, how we would laugh together! But not this day.
We were blessed to be able to entomb him, PierGiorgio Matteo, at the Memorial to the Unborn at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. The shrine is such a beautiful place! You truly can feel Our Mother’s presence there. We would walk up the hill, visit the church and the walking paths. The boys would run along the trail kicking rocks, grabbing leaves and laughing. But not this day.
I grasped onto the casket that held my son’s body for as long as I could. The rain poured down, and I felt as if my heart, mind and soul were pouring down as well. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare. I begged God to make it not be true! But here I was placing his casket into the tomb. One day I would find joy again; one day I may even be able to smile. But not this day.
I know you are in heaven, my little Giorgio! I am so blessed to have such a perfect soul praying for his mama and looking out for us! But—oh—how we still miss you! We will carry a heartache for you with us forever. You have a little sister now, and you must pray for her, too! Did you pick her out for me? She has helped me find my joy again. Slowly my smile is returning; slowly the heartache doesn’t feel so dark. And I know that one day she will play with you in heaven! And oh—how we will kiss you! We will laugh and dance and sing praises to God! One day, we will be together! But not this day.
Theresa Martin is a Catholic mother of eight and published author. She has worked many years in ministry and has a deep love for Christ and our Catholic faith. Yet, it is through her motherhood, through the powerful moments of birth, new life, and death, that God has transformed her faith. Her life affirms that it is certainly true what our Savior says, “if you believe you will see the glory of God” (Jn 11:40). Theresa believes the more we give our life away in love, the closer to God we can become. You can reach her at her blog: One Life to Give found at www.theresamartin.org