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.