Husband & Wife Articles


 

A Brief, Blessed Life

Loss of a child brings grief amid hope

By Kelsey Paff

Among the many common questions newlyweds receive about their young married life, the one I hear pretty frequently is, “How many children would you like to have?” Most friends who ask me that are either eagerly anticipating children or already have one and are planning for more. Their dream of having a baby seems to bring insurmountable amounts of joy, especially when it’s the first child.

There’s the initial excitement that comes with finding out that you’re pregnant, the doctor appointments, the careful planning about which foods to eat and avoid, how much exercise to get and where to find “flattering” maternity clothes. Similar to the anticipation that goes into a wedding, the bride – or in this case the mother – imagines what the big day will be like and prepares accordingly. She envisions not just the big day of birth, but the new family life that ensues.

A constant stream of thought comes to mind as I walk by shop windows or past mothers with strollers. “Isn’t that outfit adorable?” Or “how nice it is to see both parents together enjoying the company of their son.” Or “pretty soon I’ll be holding an infant just like that!”

But sometimes the dream of having a child becomes so real that when it doesn’t come true, we feel incredibly vulnerable, perhaps lost and unprepared for loss that we had pushed aside as ever being possible.

Over a month ago, I found out that I was pregnant for the first time. Having been married for almost eight months, I cannot even begin to explain how excited and overjoyed my husband and I were to be given this gift of life. Over the previous months I had developed a series of medical complications unrelated to conceiving, yet this pregnancy that added complications to my health was a joyous cross that my husband and I were humbly willing to carry.

Just recently, however, we learned that God had other plans when I suffered a miscarriage. As much as I tried to convince myself that I had not built castles in the clouds for this particular child, no one is ready for the moment when a much-loved life is no more, no matter how long or short the time is spent with that soul.

When I hear couples say that they’re planning on a big family or a small family, two kids or eight, or that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the way to go, I wonder if they ever stop to think about what they are really saying. From an earthly perspective, it may make life easier or “better” if couples received the exact number of children they would hope for in the way that they would plan. But offspring made to order in this way would obscure the fact that children are gifts and should be respected as such. Conception is not a right that husbands and wives receive once they exchange marriage vows; it is a gift that is given to their marriage. We have no right to employ unnatural ways of having children, such as IVF, just as we have no right to abort our babies or take back our marriage vows. We must recognize that whatever joy new life may bring, a child is not the pinnacle of marriage but rather one aspect of a lifelong vow between a husband and wife who are devoted to Christ.

Marriage in and of itself is a gift, and just as we have promised before Christ to accept whatever trials and struggles it may bring, we also need to remind ourselves that while we can pray for the blessing of a child, God has first and foremost asked us to keep him at the center of our lives. We should bring our joys and sorrows to him and know that he wants to be with us in our sorrows, joys, fears and uncertainties, whether we have many children, no children or have lost children.

For me and for my husband the news of our loss has not been easy. It should never be easy. But God gave us a gift, and for that my husband and I are unsurpassably grateful. We laughed as a family, we went on walks knowing that we were not alone, and while for now it feels lonelier with the knowledge that come October we will not be joined by a little boy or girl, we will always, always have a place in our hearts for the soul that God brought into our world.

Requiescat in pace, Little One.

Kelsey Paff graduated from College of the Holy Cross and lives with her husband, Jeremy, in Plainsboro, N.J.