The last six weeks have been memorable, culminating in four days where Stephanie and mine lives have changed forever. As a part of processing what happened, I’ve decided to write down the events here.
Stephanie and I have spent the last couple of years discerning when we should have our next child. We use the Creighton version of Natural Family Planning, which means every month we had a chance to revisit this conversation. For the most part we agreed that we wanted to wait until we had more of our health issues looked at before proceeding. This has been difficult, because both very much wanted another child – but felt as if God was telling us to wait. So, we waited by using periodic abstinence via Creighton charting.
A few months ago while meeting with our NaPro doctor, we were told that it was likely that Stephanie was not ovulating. Throughout our time charting, there never appeared to be any high fertile situations, only moderate to low scenarios. With those things in mind, in January and February, we relaxed our NFP techniques and renewed the marriage convenient on a more frequent basis.
So with all of that in mind, it came as a huge surprise when Stephanie took a home pregnancy test, which turned up a positive result.
At first we were scared, frightened. A second child! We talked it over, and quickly came to be at peace with the situation. We both felt that God worked a miracle, that this was meant to be and we would be able to make it through. We began planning to re-arrange our house so Stephanie could continue composing, while I could retain an area to play tabletop games. We began getting into the “pregnancy routine”, with the usual assortment of appointments. I started talking to our child, placing my head on Stephanie’s lap and talking to our baby. I would tell the baby about my work day, about my plans for the weekend, about what our son was up to. I would talk to the baby about theology, tabletop games, pro wrestling.
Our family and friends were extremely supportive. I couldn’t wait to tell people. Stephanie gave the go-ahead that I could start telling people starting this past Sunday. So it was with excitement and joy that I told the volunteer team at Annunciation of the Lord’s Youth Ministry program that we were expecting, and then made an announcement to the youth that evening. The love they showed towards my family was palpable, it was a feeling and experience that I will carry with me forever.
Two days later (Tuesday), Stephanie had some bleeding and cramping, which resulted in a trip to the ER. Once there the doctor gave us a grim prognosis; it appeared that a miscarriage was happening. We made it home, and reality set in. We were devastated. We tried to process things, tried to hold onto hope. I didn’t sleep much that night, concerned for my wife and child.
The next day (Wednesday) we went into the ultrasound with sadness, expecting the worst. During the exam I thought I saw something, a dot of sorts, but I’m by no means an expert so I kept my thoughts to myself. After a long wait after the ultrasound the doctor showed up and presented us unexpected news; not only was our baby alive, but the baby had a heartbeat! A healthy heartbeat! Our child was six weeks old with a heartbeat! For once in my life I was cowed, I had no words. We gathered up our things, and after leaving the building we couldn’t contain our excitement. That moment you could ask me to scale collect for you a mountain, and I would have delivered it. We went out to celebrate a good meal, we went home and I had an amazing conversation with our child. Life could not have been better.
The next day (Thursday) I went into the office to work, incredibly excited for the future. In the afternoon Stephanie messaged me, saying that she was still bleeding and had some cramps. These cramps escalated to the point where she described them as being contractions – which after consulting with Telehealth and Stephanie’s sister resulted in another trip to the ER. Our friend Theresa drove her to the hospital, and I began fighting through traffic to get to the hospital. Once I got there, Stephanie informed me that she was passing blood clots along with the blood, and that she passed a large mass which resulted in some temporary relief from the pain. We were both apprehensive, the situation looked grim. A resident appeared and did an initial exam, after which she brought in another doctor for a consult. They continued the exam and removed some contents from Stephanie. They examined some of the contents, and our concerns were realized.
That was our child, our friend.
In twenty four hours we went from jubilation, to mourning.
It was when they all left us that it hit Stephanie and I, that our child had died. That we went from a low to a high, then back down to a low. I said I wanted to name our child, Stephanie named the baby “Sage” without hesitation. A beautiful name, with a strong meaning. We got home, and while Desmond was sleeping and Theresa went home, that feeling of loss hit us both.
The grieving comes in waves, there’s certain things that are triggers. The feeling of loss is real, the love we have for Sage is real. We miss our friend, we miss the things we wanted to do with our friend. Sage was already my best friend along with Stephanie and Desmond, and to have such a short time with my new best friend was crushing.
“Crushing”. An apt word, that’s what it feels like at times to me. There’s times I feel crushed, defeated. As a fierce extrovert, this had defeated me to the extent that I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I wanted solitude, I wanted to be alone. I wanted to only be near my wife and son. And despite the use of the past tense in all of those statements, one remains within the present; I want my friend back. I cannot stress how much I want my friend back, how much I miss my wonderful Sage. I’m writing this stuff down, but that feeling – the feeling of loss and desire to see my friend, I can’t describe. There are times I break down crying, with those feelings. It has dissipated over the course of a few days, but there’s still times. And seeing my beautiful wife suffer in this way is heart-wrenching, it makes me feel powerless. The whole situation makes me feel powerless, that I couldn’t protect my child, that I cannot protect my wife.
There are times I think things through coherently. Scientifically our child wasn’t viable, that this is nature’s way of taking its course. In an emotional sense, I think about our family and friends. Specifically, Stephanie’s parents with their unyielding support, always being available to talk with. My Mom, who provided someone to talk to, and empathy which I greatly appreciated. Stephanie’s sister Patricia, who was a huge help in so many ways, including giving medical advice (she’s a family doctor). My friend Danielle provided an ear while I was at work, while some of the situation was unfolding. On Sunday, my “son” Avery put up with me punching him as I was expressing my frustration. My “son” Marc, the youth coordinator who I volunteer with, sitting down and having a chat with me, reminding me that there are others who do care. So many others, Deacon Marc and his wife Rosemary, Andre, Mel, Liz D., Jo, Caleb, Sara-Ann, Alex K, and Sue. And of course, my “adolphos” once again standing with me, with us. I called Matt soon after we found out about the pregnancy, giving me someone to share the news with and offering encouragement. And the unequalled Timothy Carl, who as he always had since 2004 stood by my side. Tim was the man who instigated giving me shelter within his home when I was homeless (when I was the seventh guy living there under one roof, sleeping on their couch), dropped everything when Stephanie had a health crisis, and stood beside me at my wedding as my best man. He provided guidance, wise-words. He knows me well enough that he knows how to say things without myself getting upset. He has also helped kickstart myself feeling more “human”, gaining feelings of joy and happiness. Doing whatever what was needed. On top of this, Tim’s wife Cheryl also chipped in – calling us with advice and encouragement during this difficult time. I could not ask for better brothers, and now Cheryl as a sister I suppose.
Which brings us to our friend, Theresa Snell.
Theresa is a curious case. We’ve known each other for I think around eleven years, and it has not always been pleasant. We were both argumentative, stubborn, with different likes/dislikes. After several years I began to mature more, which softened things up a bit. After the birth of Des, she took on an active role in his and our lives – becoming a close friend of the family, to Desmond, Stephanie and myself. Last week she had gall-bladder surgery, this week she had a fierce cold virus. She did not hesitate to drop everything to help us, she took care of Desmond for us. She drove us to appointments. She provided indispensable assistance, support, and love. We cannot thank her enough for what she has done for our family, and we wish nothing but the best and happiness for her.
And Stephanie, my beloved. There are no words to describe my beloved and how she has impacted me during this time, but I will attempt to do so regardless. Stephanie has remained a refuge, a woman of unrivaled strength that cannot be met. She was honest with her emotions, she let be known how this impacted her. She was unwavering with being supportive, she did everything she could to support her and myself. She is an amazing mother, and there is no other woman who can compete with her when it comes to being a wife, she has no equal. She knows exactly what to say to me, exactly what I should do to help myself feel better. It was Stephanie who pushed me to go out on Sunday to do music at Mass on Sunday, pushing me to interact with people. Since I am an extrovert, she knew that in order to accelerate the healing I needed to be around people. So she, an introvert, sacrificed her own comfort and anxiety to push me to enter the public realm. And she was right to do so; going to do music at Mass (with music also being something I love doing) started the process of myself regaining my personality, beginning to no longer feel numb. She’s the toughest woman I know, and I am blessed to have her in my life, bonded through the Sacrament of Marriage.
I started the afternoon by walking to a baseball diamond, entering the field. I stood at home plate, and looked out. I envisioned myself hitting baseballs to Des, and to Sage. They would field the ball, throw the ball to each other. It is said during traumatic times that one retreats into their childhood, for me baseball, one of my first loves, was such a thing. I went into the chapel to read Scripture, to begin to further come to terms with what happened. To understand the whys/hows. By the end of the evening, I still remembered Sage, still missed Sage, but it was no longer oppressive, it was healthy. The next day (yesterday) I went to work, missing Sage but generally feeling alright. In the evening Tim arrived to hang out, we chatted about serious things, and re-learned a game I’ve been wanting to play for some time. It’s reached the point now where I feel comfortable with the space I’m in; I miss Sage, and there’s still some sadness. But there is also happiness.
Happiness. I think of those six weeks we had with Sage. I think about that I got to see that ultrasound, that I got to see our child on the screen. I think about that Wednesday that Stephanie and I had that happiness, that we spent hours just the three of us together. That we went home and spent time with Desmond, the four of us being together as a family. Theologically, I know of God’s infinite mercy, that He will take our innocent child to Heaven. Where our Sage will play with the Child Jesus, under the watchful eye of our Blessed Mother. When I close my eyes, I can see that image clearly, and that brings me joy. And hope.
Hope. That hope that all Christians have. I am feeling more of this hope as I gradually become myself again. As a Christian, we have that hope, that image, which reminds us of the life of the world to come. We will see Sage again. And every night, I will say a prayer to our child. A prayer that is a promise.
I will see you again, my child. My Sage. I promise, I will see you again.