The implications of having or not having children is personal and feels high-stakes, and it's only natural to want to take the wheel. It is hard to trust God with one's fertility. We shared this sentiment early in our marriage; our kids for the most part were planned, we didn't have any problems getting pregnant, and they were born healthy.
We became convicted of the Church's teaching on the Theology of the Body later in our married life together, and began to move away from artificial contraception to the practice of Natural Family Planning as a way of delaying pregnancy. Though we were conservative in practice, it was a complete paradigm shift of (the illusion of) control, a new way of looking at life not as burden or inconvenience, but as gift and blessing. Though not looking to expand our family, loosening the white-knuckle grip on our fertility came with its own graces--our consciences were at rest, our relations were more intimate, and not closing the door completely on the possibility of conception breathed a new kind of dynamic and life into our relationship that seemed fruitful and healthy.
We had found a miraculous medal (read about the story here) shortly before Deb's mom died in September, and started wearing it around our necks, not really thinking about the graces promised to those who wear it. We began to grow closer to God in trust. Deb loved her mom so much. We began to pray the rosary together every night and read scripture.
Some unexplainable things started happening too. The evening after we returned home from the funeral, Deb and I were sitting in the living room talking to friends who had come over to visit. At the top of the stairs Deb saw a flash of white and a child running across the upstairs hallway, which she took to be Monica (so much so that she called out 'Monica!'). But when she went to the top of the stairs, Monica was in her room playing. A few weeks later, as Deb was leaving the chapel at St. Ann's where she was praying, she heard a voice in her head say, "you will name her Catherine."
Not long after that, we found out we were pregnant.
We couldn't believe it. We always knew it was a possibility, but looking at the test we kept saying to each other "I. Can't. Even." Not expected, not planned. As the weeks went on and we adjusted to the idea of our family expanding, though, we started to get more excited, looking forward to welcoming a new life into our home. God was working on our hearts. I went out and bought some cloth diapers and a Bjorn (which we had used before but sold when we got rid of all our baby stuff), just figuring this pregnancy would be like the other two.
It wasn't though. Our baby made it to about twelve weeks in the womb and then went home to be with the Lord.
There are a hundred little deaths that come with this event, including the death of the life you imagined for yourself (which is, ironically, the life that we never imagined prior to getting pregnant). You build a future world for yourself and make plans, go minivan shopping, etc. maybe foolishly so early on, but it is hard to contain. Then all of a sudden, it is no more.
We do not understand, but trust in God's ways which are so much higher above our ways (Is 55:9). If I can glean anything from this experience, though, it is that opening yourself up to God's plan for your life, rather than your own, opens up a world of possibility--which does not preclude suffering and pain. But there is no doubt in my mind that it is a thousand times better than the alternative of nudging Him out and living for ourselves alone, trusting in our own limited designs and ideas for our lives. He does not waste opportunities. His way is perfect (Ps 18:30).
It has been a hard year, but God is so so good. Thank you for those who have prayed for us. We know that an immortal soul was formed, and that God can bring good out of all things, for "though He slay me, I will trust in Him still" (Job 13:15). As tomorrow is St. Catherine Laboure's feast day, we pray our little Catherine Rose is with the saints in Heaven as we share in King David's words, "I will go to the child one day, but the child will not return to me" (2 Sam 12:23).