I’ve been quiet for several weeks now because we unfortunately found out at 18 weeks that one of our twins did not survive my case of H1N1 a few weeks prior. We’re (thankfully) not at any increased medical risk, and our remaining child is growing well. We have named the child that we lost Nicholas, and the daughter we are blessed to have Mercy.
Looking at my “reproductive history” now, I have had 11 babies in 9 pregnancies leading to 4 (soon to be 5, by the grace of God) babies alive at birth. It can be pretty demoralizing to look at, to be perfectly honest. Less than 50% of the children given to me actually live long enough to make it into my arms? I have more children in heaven than I do on earth? I mean, we have chosen to embrace openness life, and this is the result? Sometimes it feels like this is all some kind of cruel joke.
And at the same time, what gives me pause when I’m going to go on one of those really negative trains of thought, asking God what the heck He was thinking, is to ask myself two questions: do I really believe that life begins at conception or not, and whether I believe my children exist for their own sake or because they exist to play a part in MY destiny. If I make myself act in line with what I know to be true, namely that the fertilized egg is as much an image of God as I am, I am a mother of 11, not a mother of 4 (hopefully soon to be 5.) We both exist for the same purpose and in loving relationship to God and to eachother, no matter how different our specific roles and abilities may be at that point. And their existence has everything to do with them and their relationship with God, in which I am honored to serve them as they become the people God calls them to be.
If I embrace that truth, I am doubly blessed and my life is twice as rich even though that joy is mingled with the pain of separation. It’s the 50/200 paradox. Have I been “cheated” of half the children that I was supposed to have, or has God given me the privilege of being a mother to twice as many children before birth as those I’m called to mother beyond birth, such that for 6 children for their whole lives I have been the one honored to give them love, dignity and affection?
I do not believe that God will just let someone die before they have had the opportunity to do what He has called them to do, or the entire Catholic theology of salvation doesn’t work. Therefore I have to believe that my children died having done what they were called to do, and that’s the best that any of us can hope for. And as much as it can feel otherwise, it is an honor to be the mother to that child even if just for a few weeks. You are that child’s entire world, and it is a profound gift. They spend their entire lives within the confines of your body, in a constant and living dialogue of love. That child’s vocation may be to live only for a short time, and my body gets to be the setting for that life. What an honor to be the loving home for someone’s entire life. I am called to be the mother of my children regardless of what the outcome may be. And my children have the right to a loving mother more than I have the right to a living child.
I am not entitled to my children having a long life or a healthy life, because their lives are about their vocations and their relationship with God and I am only the blessed woman who is graced to love however many children, and care for them for however long God calls me to do so. My life and my love are given over to them without condition or expectation because that’s what I vowed before God in marrying my husband. I promised to accept the fruit of our love and to jump off that cliff, embracing whatever ends that implies, because my husband is worth everything I have… even, maybe especially, when that means blood and tears and loss.
Love is a gift. Love is not commerce, or a contractual negotiation made for the mutual benefit of the parties involved. Love isn’t about being safe or what I receive in return. The God I worship is Christ crucified, and my pain is not greater than His love.
Love is the road to the cross, and even through the pain, I choose it still. That I have children at all is the result of the fact that I have a husband first, and in the middle of this sadness I am called to love more fully, not less, and to live free from fear. That my children may only be mine for a short time is a greater reason to love with all I have, not a reason to delay love until I have a better assurance that that relationship will not end earlier than I would have hoped for them.
Ultimately, I choose to love and live by the 200%, not the 50%. I am blessed in all of my children, no matter how long they live and no matter what their vocations in life are. Saints Evelyn, Anastasia, Zoe, Patience, Aine, and Nicholas, pray for me now and at the hour of my death.