In the past few months since Gabriel's passing, I've meant to sit and write so many times. I've had so much I didn't want to forget... so much to remember... and yet, my time with my family has seemed even more important. My time with my children that I've always cherished has become even more of a gift and felt even more fleeting. My days (as those of any mother of young children) have been long and by the end of the day I really am not drawn to sit at my computer desk and hash out what feels so meaningful that it shouldn't be rushed. In my lack of attempt, though I fear many of my memories will be lost. This post is mostly for me, but for those of you who have wondered, I'll try to write a bit about what I've experienced and learned from Gabriel.
Gabriel was due right around Mother's Day this year. We pondered whether he might come on Shaun's birthday (May 11th). His coming was (as all of our children were) very happily awaited and my time of pregnancy was cherished. Shortly before we lost him, I made a short post on facebook along the lines of how much I loved being pregnant during Advent. I just loved being pregnant period. I know there are times when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient, but overall I really really love the thought of a child growing within me and God using me to cooperate in a hidden miracle. I am always so grateful.
This pregnancy was different, though. It was not more "difficult" than the others... actually the opposite. It was a great pregnancy with little to no reason to worry. Every visit to my midwife was good and both I and the baby seemed to be progressing well. We are not "waiters" when it comes to finding out gender. We look forward to knowing whether we will be having a boy or a girl and being able to settle on a name and bond with the baby by name even before he/she is born. We were excited as the date approached to find out what we were having and not all together surprised that the baby was uncooperative with the ultrasound as Ava had been the same way. I was not concerned about not feeling the baby kick yet as with my previous pregnancies, I had also tended to feel the first movements a little later.
When we found out the following week that Gabriel had died I was silent. My mom had come with me to the appointment as Shaun had returned to work only a couple of days before after being out of work from the recent car accident(s). The ultrasound tech was nearly in tears, my mom began to pray, and Ava jumped down from her seat and began to dance and sing "...up above the world so high... like a diamond in the sky... twinkle twinkle little star... how I wonder what you are"
I silently laid on the table with tears quietly rolling down the sides of my face thinking as she sang of all the passages about stars in the scriptures. The first one that came to mind was "In the midst of a twisted and depraved generation you will shine like stars in the sky" My midwife was called in and they rechecked the ultrasound. I can still remember her stroking my hair and holding my hand. Strangely enough as I got ready to meet her in her other room, I felt... resigned.
As I sat with her and she asked how I was, Ava and Clara played nearby and my mom sat across from me. I turned to her and said, "This entire pregnancy, I always felt as though I would lose this baby". She and my mother looked a bit surprised. My mom said, "You didn't ever mention anything". To which I scoffed something like, "Well, who says something like that? I mean, especially when nothing is wrong?" I tried to explain, but at that point couldn't.
I still have trouble explaining it, and all I can say now is that it wasn't a "fear" during the pregnancy and it was different than the feeling we might all have of worry that comes when you have long periods between visits to your doctor/midwife and don't feel anything yet. We have always known and discussed with each pregnancy that Shaun & I knew that no matter what happened, this child had an immortal soul and whether they made it into our arms would always live forever.
We always knew that with each baby.
This time there was this "whisper" always in the background that somehow this pregnancy would not reach completion. I don't exactly know how to describe it and I proceeded along as usual, not "expecting" to lose the baby, just going along as if everything was fine and taking each step as it came. Still, the whisper was always there.... subtle... almost silent in the background of my busy days.
I still had joy and expectation. We spoke of names and I thought of where I would be able to fit another car seat, how I would rearrange rooms, how the heck would I wean Clara who was still up somewhere between 4-6x on average each night and was no where near showing any interest in weaning from nursing. We just went forward trusting that as always, everything would work itself out and we were just to take each day as it came.
Advent came and I always loved this joyful season of waiting. I felt especially blessed to be waiting in anticipation of my own gift of the womb. I felt that in my busy life this was how I was most able to enter into the mystery of the season and share it with Our Lady. The girls busily grew and bumbled along and brought joy and wildness and fullness to my days and unlike a first pregnancy when all there is to focus on is the new baby to come, they also brought distraction from this pregnancy and I had to find the moments to slow down and reflect on the new life within coming along quickly. Most moms will tell you that each consecutive pregnancy goes a little quicker as there's so much "life" around to pull those weeks and months along.
Before we knew it I was nearly at my 1/2 way mark (a little over 19 weeks along) and the day of my 2nd ultrasound appointment I remember it had snowed the days before (as it had so much this winter) and I was trying to still get the house decorated for Christmas. We made it a point to really celebrate "Advent" as a family and not rush into the Christmas season too soon. We liked to put up our tree on Christmas eve and then really celebrate the "Christmas SEASON" that the church gives us in the days and weeks that follow Christmas day. When everyone else seems "done" and ready to throw their trees out and take decorations down, we're just getting excited and entering in.
Anyhow, my mom had stayed over during the bad weather and the baby had been up a lot during the night, so she took a nap with the girls that day. Everyone was put to sleep and I remember hanging Christmas lights along the stairs and archways of our doors. I was so happy. I loved this time of year and whenever I hung decorations or ornaments I always get nostalgic and start thinking about the people and things in my life. I was reflecting on our wedding day (also celebrated around this time of year and Christmas trees and decorations always remind me of it) and my wonderful marriage. How much I really loved Shaun and felt loved by him. Thinking about my wonderful friends and the people in my life. The help and support I have. My beautiful children that I'm blessed to spend my days with. This lovely little home that won't seem to sell right now, but brings with it so many happy memories. I was secretly happy to have another Christmas here. I thought about how many things I had to pray for and how many I knew were struggling in their lives with health, infertility, their marriages, their children, financial situations, uncertainty... whatever. So much to pray for and in the midst of it all I just kept thinking about how GOOD my life was. I was flooded with this feeling of gratitude. FLOODED. I felt my life was just so so GOOD. I look back and think that the flooding of gratitude I received and memories of all that was so good in my life was a gift to me that day.
In the midst of all of this I was still hanging ornaments and though I didn't hear a "voice" the words "But a really heavy cross could come at any time... and would you thank Him even then?" came strongly to me. They were not a "threat" but merely a strong thought to remember that every gift I was thankful for I had received from God, but would I still thank Him if I were to receive a heavy cross as well.
A couple of hours later we found out Gabriel had died and those words came back to me. It was like He had "braced" me somehow beforehand.
I wrote this post almost up to this point months ago and got "stuck" and seemed to have a hard time writing any further for some reason.
I had a hard time writing about all the good and bad things that have continued to happen in our lives, mostly blessings really perhaps because I felt like If I continued to post it would bring the reality that we were moving forward with our lives... or life was moving on... without our Son with us.
I had so many things I held in my mothers heart and thought and reflected on throughout the months. So many lessons that he taught me that I wanted to share with you and I didn't' want to write about anything else until I'd given him a proper tribute, but I've realized that as with all of our children, Gabriel is no different. He continues to teach us and be with us and is a part of our lives for sure, but just in a different way.
We had discovered after his autopsy results came back that Gabriel had some sort of chromosomal disorder. One of the Trisomy types. Though it is comforting in some way that we didn't do anything wrong and we didn't do anything that would "cause" his death, I have learned that it's perfectly natural to try to find a way to almost blame yourself as a mother because it's a way of struggling to find some way to bring "control" over a situation that is out of our control. But it wasn't my fault. It just happened.
I think of him every single day and I am happy and joyful even when I think of how perfect he is with all of the Saints. He's just... perfect.
I heard once that when a family receives a Saint from one of their members, that gift never is "easy earned".
It is an indescribable thing to lose a child. I don't always feel like I'm the best person to look to, because as much as the grief comes, our faith really does change everything for us. The truth, just changes everything. We feel like he obtained the grace for us to find healing and peace and a knowledge that he is very much alive and well where he is (which really is not very far away) fairly quickly. I know this is not always the case for others, but we watched as he brought healing and reconciliation and graces and peace to SO many through his intercession that it was hard not to see him at work all around us. I know others struggle for a much longer time to find peace... and I've learned that each person's grief and journey in life is their own.
Every child in a family is a gift and each one has a purpose. HIS purpose was always to go first. He was always supposed to be first and he was to be the one interceding for us. He is the one that has taught us all how very close heaven is to us... it's really not that far away at all. He has taught us how very real the saints are and when we say they are our family and they are praying for us and they have a very real interest in what is going on in our lives, it's true. It's one thing to pray to a Saint that we feel a particular devotion to, but imagine the gift I feel in being able to pray to my SON? I mean, seriously, how can my son say no to his mother? I'm still his mother! What a gift to be able to say to his sisters with confidence, "If you ever need anything, just ask your brother".
Gabriel's funeral was just beautiful. Our Pastor said a beautiful and heartfelt Mass and told a story about how each tree has beautiful blossoms, but not all open and reach fruition, yet all make up part of the tree. I had gotten to sing and Shaun read the readings and I thought of how Daddy reads to his children every night and I sing them lullabies and even for Gabriel we could do this. When I was singing I looked out into the church and saw how many had come to support us and this little boy they had never met and how they took the time during a work day, right after they celebrated Christmas with their families. We were upheld in so much love that I said afterwards how my cross didn't feel so heavy after all because I had so many others helping me to carry it. It made me think of Simeon and how grateful Jesus must have been for the company while carrying his own cross.
I looked and saw so many women who had sat on my couch and told me their stories and shared their losses with me and I felt united to them. I gathered them into my heart and offered them in prayer. I still do. I will never forget those women and fathers. I know many found healing and one in particular told me she received a lot of healing that day to finally grieve over the loss of her daughter years before and find more closure. Months later she told me how when sitting in the back of the funeral she had seen in prayer (not like a vision, but almost so real that you can see it ...if you know what I mean) a beautiful dark haired, dark eyed little girl and a beautiful little boy holding hands. The little boy turned to the little girl in happiness and while pointing at me said, "That's my Momma! Where's your mommy?" the little girl turned and looked right at this friend of mine and said "There she is. That's MY mommy!" Both were happy and perfect and beautiful and very much alive.
That's my son.
Our little Saint is SO much a part of our family still. Ava talks about him all the time. He is her brother. She will regularly ask to bring a balloon to him at the cemetery and let it go for him to play with. Usually it's in the shape of a heart or a star (which always makes me think of that song she sang in the ultrasound room).
Today we went to water his flowers at his beautiful little grave and it was such a sunny, gorgeous day. Ava helped me water them and she and Clara ran around picking dandelions. It was a brief visit and on the way out we talked about how Gabriel must share all of his balloons with all of the other children in Heaven. "Yes he does, Mommy! I think so, because he is a very good sharer, just like you and Daddy" she said.
What do I hope she learned from all of this? That we love ALL of our children from the very beginning no matter what and we never forget them. We will always love them, forever.
You remember why we named Gabriel, his name? One of the reasons is because the Angel Gabriel made Mary a mother when he visited her ...and that is what he did for me.
Well, on the Feast of the Annunciation I was sitting in Mass, and had totally forgotten that it was the Annunciation (the day we celebrate when Gabriel came to Mary). I had taken a pregnancy test a few days before and it came back negative, so we knew we weren't pregnant, but sitting and listening to the readings about Mary and Gabriel I couldn't help but think happily of my son and also of how beautiful it would have been to be expecting during the same time as Mary was, leading up again to Advent.... but I knew I wasn't and that was ok.
That night I felt compelled to take another test and we found out that the first test was wrong! We WERE pregnant! We were just meant to find out ON the Feast of the Annunciation!
What a gift from our little son!
Uh, Later we found out it was twins!
God is so generous. He had to take one and but he gave back two.
He did not have to do this for us and we didn't expect it, but this was his gift to us. Twins!
I've been wanting to tell you all so badly, and am sorry to announce so late. (I'll be 20 weeks on Thursday)
We just found out that we are having a little BOY and a little GIRL!!!
Both look very healthy so far and are measuring a little big for their age (which is normal for my babies ...and good).
My due date falls right at the end of November, just after Thanksgiving (right before we lost Gabriel) but we expect they will probably come early.
Please, keep us in prayer for a continued safe and healthy pregnancy! God is so good!
Oh, and P.S. If you want to view the latest Ultrasound pics, send me and email or friend me on facebook because they sent them to me via email, but I don't know how to download them so that you can see on them on the blog.