The following story appeared in the May 28 Idaho Catholic Register.
Editor’s note: The Respect Life group at St. Mark’s Parish in Boise is hosting a Mass in honor of babies that lost their lives during pregnancy and early infancy. The Miscarriage Mass is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the church on 7960 W. Northview in Boise. The column below is written by a member of the Respect Life team at St. Mark’s Parish.
by Ryan Antoinette Valenzuela
Before our first encounter with a miscarriage, I was content not thinking about it. Years before I had entertained joining the sorority of motherhood, I had subconsciously characterized miscarriage as an old woman’s malady. In my mind, miscarriage was the destiny of desperate older women grasping their last chances to bear children. Younger women afflicted with the misfortune, I thought, probably failed to follow the sage advice dispensed by “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” The myth that miscarriage was rare among healthy young women insulated me from the reality that miscarriage was capable of scaling the walls of my 20-something fortress.
After four years of newlywed bliss, we decided to start a family. We resolved to give up the luxuries of sleep and fingerprint-free windows. In 2010, I was a 24-year-old Army wife spending time with my dreamy husband between deployments at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany. Just before his pre-deployment leave, we learned I had been eating for two and then some. We kicked off his upcoming tour and our journey to parenthood with a free “hop” home to Chicago aboard a C-17 aircraft courtesy of the Air Force. The excitement of sharing the news with our family was so big that it eclipsed the discomfort of my steel and canvas jump seat and blurred my sense of time.
I’ve since forgotten the words I used to announce to my mom that I was growing her newest grandbaby and craving her homemade peanut butter cookies. What stays with me is the sight of her happy tears pooling in her light brown eyes and how she scooped me up into a hug so tight, and so filled with love, that I knew for certain that her pre-born grandchild felt it.
The next day was ushered in by jet-lag and an invitation to join my sister for a celebratory lunch at Olive Garden. At 10 weeks along, I was feeling my motherly oats and diggin’ it. Not long after we were seated, something went wrong. Struck by pain in my lower back and abdomen that took my breath away, I broke into a cold sweat. I grew queasy as my heart began railing against the sudden vice grip of my rib cage. I recall the air being too thick to swallow and the feel of my clammy hands gripping the table to help me stand. The memory of anything anyone around me said or did is lost. Before the breadsticks had hit the table, I was limping my way to the lady’s room where miscarriage was waiting to greet me. I cradled my tiny bump in the vain hope I could save our sweet baby. The following 36 hours were rife with unbearable physical and spiritual pain as our child and I parted ways in the very hospital in which I was born.
Two weeks after returning to Germany, my husband kissed my forehead moments before his unit embarked upon another year-long tour in the unfriendly provinces of Afghanistan. Childless and without his companion-ship, I fought the urge to crumble.
Thinking there was healing to be found in enlightenment, I set out in earnest to understand God’s plan for me.
More than a year had gone by. No amount of prayer or reflection had brought me any closer to divine comprehension or closure when I found myself once again in the throes of miscarriage.
Our second attempt to bring a beautiful baby into the world lasted 13 weeks – three days shy of our baby shower. For six months, I grappled with a vicious depression amplified by another of my husband’s absences while we were stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. It wasn’t until I had exhausted all of the energy I spent trying to figure out His will that I finally let go and let God. Accepting that I was never meant to understand the logic of our Lord led me to trust that what He had in store for me was greater and more awesome than anything I could fathom.
The wounds of losing my babies will never fully heal, but I trust they are with Him, waiting for me to hold them again someday.
On Feb. 25, 2013, we joined the ministry of parenthood when we welcomed our daughter into the world.
Thank you for reading my story. If you, your friends, your loved ones, or anyone you know has experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child in utero or in infancy, St. Mark’s Catholic Church invites you to attend the Miscarriage Mass on Tuesday, June 15, at 5:30 p.m.
Join us as we honor the memory of the children we lost and foster a greater, more compassionate awareness to this sensitive issue.
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