What I remember in September

September is a big month around here.  Both of my boys are September birthdays, which means that the first few weeks of school are extra- fun and hectic.  (If you are thinking, “Wow, it’s really bad timing for a teacher to go on maternity leave in September,” well, you’d be right.   And I did it twice.  Thank God for tenure.)

But September is bitter as well as sweet.  Yesterday was the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, a day which, over the last few years, has had real emotional resonance for me.  It was on that day in 2005 that I found out that the baby I was carrying had no heartbeat.  (If you’ve read Mary and Me, you know this story already.)  This was particularly devastating because it was our second pregnancy and our second loss.  I was not sure how much more I could stand.

At the time, I remember my sister saying, “It will all work out somehow.  When you have your first baby, you will look at that baby and you won’t be able to imagine life without him or her.”  I didn’t want to hear that at the time, mostly because I didn’t want some mythical future baby.  I wanted the dead one inside me to be alive again.  It was as simple as that.

But then, a year later, I was holding Matthew and marveling at his dark perfect hair, his big blue eyes, his sweet bandy legs.  For the last four years, I’ve had my heart wedged open by this little guy.  Two years ago, my heart opened even wider to welcome Luke.  And no, I cannot imagine life without either one of them.

I don’t know why the first two pregnancies did not work out, and I’ll probably never know.  I really don’t believe that those losses “happened for a reason,” that totally inadequate phrase that is often used to explain tragedy.   I mourned those babies, because I loved them already.  I was devastated to lose them.

But at the same time, my sister was right.  I cannot imagine life without my Matthew and my Lukey.  It is as simple as that.

I don’t know what the lesson is here, if there even is one.  Maybe it’s about fully living the life we are given.  Perhaps it’s about trust.  Perhaps it’s about realizing that sad things are still sad — even as we recognize that something beautiful would never have come if that loss hadn’t happened.

Maybe it’s about this: the older I get, the more I realize that we see things as through a glass, darkly.  I’m not sure we’re meant to understand certain things on this side of the grave.  But I do believe that we’re called to live this life joyfully.  I think we’re called to make it as much about love as we possibly can.  Matthew and Luke make it very easy for me to do that, every day, in thousands of little ways.

So I have a lot to remember each September.  I think of four babies, two birthdays, countless questions.  Most of all, I think of love, that common thread that binds it all together.

And that’s what September means to me.

8 responses to “What I remember in September

  1. Thank you for sharing your very personal and heartfelt story. September is also a busy and special time for my family. I have two children born this month-a daughter who turned 15 years old, and a son soon to turn three. It is crazy trying to remember and celebrate while you get through back-to-school and adjust to new routines. I also suffered a miscarriage a few years back, the end of August, and had to hold things together while getting everyone ready for their changes. Not easy at all. Looking back, it is hard to understand and amazing how your faith guides you through all of the changes in your body, your emotions, your surroundings. I won’t forget, either. So glad that God has blessed you with your two very special boys. I love reading your posts about your family-everything is so easy to relate to!! I also can’t wait to read your book (I didn’t win your contest-so I still have to buy one:) ). Anyway, please keep writing because you have such a gift. God Bless…

  2. Michelle — your comment means so much. Thank you. I’m glad to know I have a partner in the September ups and downs! I really appreciate your kind message.

    Happy birthday to your babies (not really babies anymore, I guess!). I hope you and yours have a lovely September.

  3. I’m so sorry for your losses! Thank you for sharing your ongoing emotions, including the difficulty of understanding how with time sorrow can be juxtaposed so closely with joy.

    I know exactly how you feel and the awkwardness of knowing that you wouldn’t trade what you have for anything and yet still feel sorrow for those whom you miss. Our first was born alive at 16 weeks, but didn’t survive. We had four more miscarriages and two wonderful births over the five years that followed, when the seventh pregnancy ended with enough trauma to nearly cost me my own life (I had no discernible pulse when the emergency responders arrived).

    When I think of those losses, each painfully felt in emotional trauma that far exceeded the physical pain, it is almost too much to comprehend. And yet, what we have has truly blessed me with joy and love beyond description. I know I’d appreciate my lovlies regardless, so the necessity of the experience of those losses does defy the limitations of my understanding.

    Still, in searching for meaning, I can see that the combination of living blessings and never-forgotten losses has served to remind me of how terribly fragile life is, frightening me with my own mortality. That terror necessarily leads me quickly to the reassurance offered by faith, knowing that an appreciation of the present moment is essential. As St. Teresa of Avila says, “life is an instant, an hour which passes by; life is a moment, which I have no power to stay. I know, oh my God, that to love you here on earth, I have only today.”

  4. I just love this, Ginny, for the heart-wrenching and the joy it weaves together. Because, really, that’s what I think of when I think of Our Lady of Sorrows. I think of how much pain…and how much joy…we have to bear. And we can. And we do.

    But not without a LOT of help.

    Hugs to you!

  5. Therese,

    Thank you for the beautiful thoughts and for sharing your own journey. And I adore that St. Teresa quote. It’s so true; there is really nothing better to do than to love fully while we can. (Side note: I was listening to “Rent” last night,and the song “No Day But Today” is the Broadway showtunes version of the St. Teresa quote. Kind of an interesting parallel.)

    Sarah, it sounds weird to say that Our Lady of Sorrows is one of my favorite names for Mary … but it is. And I know you “get” it. Hugs right back at you.

  6. I actually read your post a few days ago, and was so affected emotionally that I couldn’t bring myself to respond at the time. Our son, Henry, was born still in December of 2008 (full term, completely unexpected and to this day unexplained). We then suffered an early miscarriage six months later. And now I sit here with a gorgeous baby boy, Francis, sleeping by my side. And so your words:

    “Perhaps it’s about realizing that sad things are still sad — even as we recognize that something beautiful would never have come if that loss hadn’t happened.”

    struck me profoundly. Because I think some people assume that now that there exists something beautiful, the sad things are somehow less sad. On the contrary, I have found that the beautiful things make the sad things even more unbearable. Yet I feel blessed beyond measure.

    Thank you for sharing your heart. God bless you and ALL of your children.

  7. Molly, my heart goes out to you. I cannot imagine losing a child in that way — and then to lose again ….

    The painful and the beautiful have such an odd relationship. Like you said, the gift sometimes intensifies the loss. So many questions, so many mysteries. We just fumble through as best we can and hug our kids as tightly as possible. God bless you and your family, too.

  8. Gosh, I had not read this Ginny and I have not read your book yet. Oh my- my heart is opened by your honest revelation here. Joy and sorrow intertwined shape our lives, and the balm of love, in our children and otherwise calls us toward healing and grace.