On August 17th, we celebrated the five-year anniversary of our sweet Lucy Rose’s birth and death, and as always it was a bittersweet day for us all. We remembered Lucy with stories and pictures, by going to Mass and having a gathering with friends at our home afterwards, and with our traditional carrot cake and all of us singing “Happy Birthday, dear Lucy, happy birthday to you!” after dinner that night. This is an important tradition for all of us, and especially for Christopher (our only child to actually meet Lucy), because it is our way of concretely celebrating Lucy as a very special part of our family. Even Maria, our 3 1/2 year-old, was telling people that it was a “very special day” because it was her “big sister’s birthday with God.” I know that it is all a bit confusing for the kids, but we do the best that we can and we are all in it together as a family.
On a journey filled with many joys and sorrows, the most wonderful part about being Lucy’s mother was, quite simply, having the chance to give birth to her and hold her in my arms. This is a chance that many mothers do not have, and whenever I think of Lucy I thank God for the blessing of those moments. The most difficult part of the journey was kissing her good-bye the next morning and handing her to the nurse, knowing that I would never hold or see her again. When we found out that Lucy had anencephaly at our 20-week ultrasound, we knew that we would have to pack a lifetime of memories into a short time, and that time was very, very sweet.
One of the gifts that Lucy gave me was that she was born with her blue eyes wide open, and they stayed that way for our entire time with her. Although she died only moments after her birth (technically, she was stillborn, but I am quite certain that her lips were moving for about 30 seconds when she was first in my arms), we enjoyed spending many hours just holding and cuddling her. We introduced her to so many family members and close friends, who bought last-minute plane tickets just to meet Lucy and be with us, and we made lots of memories. Those who could not be with us were our army of prayer warriors, and I could tell you many stories of the miracles that their prayers brought about on the day of Lucy’s birth. A wonderful pair of photographers withNow I Lay Me Down to Sleep came to take professional photographs of our family, which have been such a treasure to us throughout the years. Our amazing doula from perinatal hospice, Janet, helped us along every step of the way, and had also been present for the birth of Red’s little girl, Therese Joy, in November of 2002. Although she already knows this, I must say that Red was truly my lifeline in the months leading up to and following Lucy Rose’s birth. I called her with all of my questions and in my times of great sorrow, and she was always willing to courageously listen and offer her support and advice. When God brought Red into my life my freshman year of college, I could never have known that she would be my sister on this journey of losing a child.
By the grace of God, my experience of being Lucy’s mother only drew me closer to Our Lord and His Church. When nothing else seemed to make sense, I would be sitting at Mass just soaking up the words of the Scripture readings, and the songs were like sunshine for my weary soul. When I couldn’t explain to anyone how I was feeling, I would sit and write prayers in my journal and suddenly my emotions would come streaming out from deep within. When I couldn’t pray for myself, I knew with certainty that countless others were lifting me up in prayer. When I felt that the pain of missing my daughter was too much to bear, Mary held my hand and let me know that she understood, that she had been there, too. My suffering was my joy, and my joy was my suffering.
It has been five years since Lucy’s birth, and I still do not find it easy to tell others about her. This is not because I don’t want to talk about Lucy – to the contrary, I love telling people about her and sharing with them about her life. I love hearing other people say her name, and I very much appreciate it when people ask me questions about her. But I am always conscious of how other people will feel when I tell them about Lucy, and I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. Most mothers cry when I tell them that I have a daughter who died at birth, because they are so sad for me and they imagine how sad they would be themselves. Many want to ask questions but don’t know how. Others have recently had a loss themselves, and hearing of my loss just brings up all of those raw emotions for them. I wish that I could talk about Lucy clearly, without my voice quivering and my heart pounding in my chest, and without feeling like my words are so inadequate. I imagine that many people who have lost a loved one prematurely share in my experience, and I think that this awkwardness is all a part of the journey of grief.
This was a much longer post than intended, and there is so much more to say. Thank you for reading, and to so many of you for your prayers and encouragement over the years. God is so good.
Lucy Rose, pray for us!