By Carissa Douglas
A few weeks ago, we were at the World Meeting of Families in Philly. We were stared at, stopped and photographed as we wheeled around our four-seater stroller followed by our six other children. We were something of a spectacle. People exclaimed, "Wow! Ten children!" I had a secret though. Unbeknownst to the spectators, we had actually smuggled in an eleventh child to the conference.
I had only found out I was expecting the morning we were departing for Philly and it was the first time that, though overjoyed at the thought of a new life, I was frustrated with the timing. We were open to life, but I was still fully breastfeeding twin seven month olds, who were teething and feeding throughout the night, so my charting indicated my fertility was sporadic at best (which usually meant I wouldn't be conceiving for awhile). It was a surprise met with mixed emotions. Happiness laced in dread. I wasn't getting much sleep and I was going to have to spend long hours at the conference. I was not liking the idea of adding first trimester fatigue to my already sleepy existence.
This pregnancy also meant that I wouldn't be able to try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section). It meant that there would only be fifteen and a half months between the twins and the new baby - I needed at least eighteen to avoid another c-section. My first had been with the twins and I had a very difficult recovery. It meant I could no longer be under the care of midwives and it also meant that I would no longer be able to lose weight (I had lost 35 lbs and was motivated to continue get my weight down before another pregnancy). There were so many reasons why the timing was all wrong. And yet, it was obviously God's timing, which is never wrong. I had handed my fertility over to Him and He always knew who to send to our family. I knew this little one was no different and I began to fall in love with this very tiny new member even though the cost was greater than I had hoped. So many sacrifices, but isn't that what love is?
The experience in Philly was beautiful - a testament to the gift of the family. It was also a lot of work. Our family walked ten miles on the day of the mass, five of which necessitated carrying our two year old on my back. The physical overexertion, the sleep deprivation and the stress of keeping everything running smoothly, made me worry about the health of little one inside me. I started to fear losing him or her. I knew the pain of loss. I had five other children in heaven who I never had the privilege of holding.
During the conference, I was given a gift. God, in His love for me, brought me out of the state of unease. He filled my heart peace and trust. During this month of October, a month when we remember children we've held in our wombs and now only in our hearts, I want to share what eased my anxiety over the thought of another loss.
It was sublime gratitude.
Gratitude for everyday I was being given with this little one and it dispelled any fears. I began saying to the little one:
Whether you've been created to go directly to heaven or to spend a life on earth with us first, I praise God for the privilege of holding you inside me. I thank God for your very existence and know that His plan for you is perfect, even if it is beyond my understanding. I am grateful for the gift of you.
It's the reason I'm not afraid to tell family and friends about our pregnancy, even before the standard three month mark. I want everyone to know that I'm thankful for this baby, regardless of God's intentions for him or her. And though it would be so heartbreaking to have to say goodbye early on, I won't deny this little one my open expression of joy at his or her creation.
So far, our baby is still growing strong and my daily song is one of perfect gratitude and a love for God's will. My joy extends to the heavens where my five other children reside. And my prayers this month extend to you, my fellow mothers who know the pain of losing our children far too soon.