It dawned on me the other night that we’re already into August. Thinking of August reminded me that one of my precious babies in heaven would have been born in August 2001, had I not miscarried. She was due the 22nd or 23rd (Queenship of Mary, and feast day of St. Rose), so we named her Mary Rose. Looking back on what was, at the time, an incredibly painful experience, I started thinking about suffering, and about how our culture has really robbed it of its value.
When people see my family, and how blessed we have been, they usually have no idea of the suffering that we have experienced on the way to that blessing. People don’t know that I lost my very first baby through miscarriage, before I was blessed with my oldest son. Or that I was afraid afterwards that I would never be able to have children, which was my biggest dream for my future. I could have let that fear paralyze me, but instead, I grasped onto one word my doctor gave me: “hope.” He told me that the miscarriage didn’t mean I couldn’t have kids; instead, I should have hope that I could get pregnant again, since I had been pregnant once. So we named that first baby Hope, and sure enough, I delivered a son just 11 months later.
When we lost Mary Rose after two more healthy babies, I again faced a choice. I will admit, there was a part of me that wanted to rant at God, to say, “That’s it! Forget it! I have three healthy children, and I’m not taking any more chances on getting hurt like this again. No more! I’m done!” I wanted more children, but I was afraid it was going to happen again.
Somehow, God gave me the grace to persevere in spite of my fear. I’d like to be able to say that everything was fine after that, but I’d be lying. Just three short months later, it did happen again, even more devastatingly, as it looked like it may have been triplets this time. And there was really no closure for me, as we had no way of knowing for sure how many babies we were mourning. And it was so difficult to make sense of it all. I mean, God was blessing teenagers and women who didn’t even want babies, and He was taking mine away! Trinity joined her/their sisters in heaven, and I was once again broken-hearted.
But the Lord put wonderful people in my life who loved me and reminded me that He is faithful, and always has a plan even though it may not always be apparent. Their faith sustained me when my own could not. And the truth is, His plan was better. Had I not struggled through all the painful emotions, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to keep trying. And had I not lost those babies, I would not have my beautiful 8-year-old son, who was born the following year. And the best thing of all? I now have at least three little saints in heaven to intercede for me, and for their dad and their siblings, before the very Throne of God.
I was fortunate to grow up with a dad who knew that suffering had value. He would always tell us to “offer it up,” whenever we were experiencing pain of some kind. Oh, how I hated hearing that! But as I got older, I began to see the truth in those words. Christ allows us to join our sufferings to His for the salvation of souls. Certainly God does not need our help, but He invites us to come alongside Him in His suffering. And in doing so, we not only contribute to the work of His Kingdom; we also become holier in the process, by getting out of ourselves. Suffering becomes a powerful prayer when offered for the sake of someone else.
We all have our own crosses to bear, and we usually don’t have a choice as to what those crosses will be, but we can always choose our response. Christ embraced His cross. We can, too. By accepting the suffering that comes our way, trusting in His divine plan, and offering our trials up as prayer, we will come to see that this is what really leads to the blessings that we all want. To think that we can be blessed without suffering in some way is not only unrealistic — it is just not good for us. As a parent, I don’t simply give everything to my children; rather, I teach them to do things for themselves, and let them know that they are not going to get what they want if it is not good for them. Sometimes, I can see the bigger picture more clearly than they can. I need to trust that this is what God is doing for me.
What I didn’t realize when I had those miscarriages is that God would use them to prepare me for something. It dawned on me years later, when I was able to be present for someone else who was going through the same thing — in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had not first experienced it. And I have been able to share it as a witness at various times, even on TV once, so I have no idea who may have been impacted by it. It gave me a compassion for other women that I may not have had otherwise. And mostly, it reminded me, and continues to remind me at other challenging times in my life, that God is sovereign, and that He has a plan for my life that will be better than anything I could ever dream up.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 RSV)