Bridget and Her Cross

Every once in a while, somebody tells you a story that makes all your problems look small, and your vision feel blurred. That is the sense I’ve been getting these past three weeks, watching the status updates on my friend Bridget’s Facebook page. They concern her daughter, who was born on April 15th, and whom Bridget and her husband brought home immediately, pending the formalization of their agreement to adopt her.

Before spooning up the details, I should make it clear that Bridget and I have never met. Our friendship is one of those things that could only have happened on the internet. We met over seven years ago on a discussion board. It was partly her quiet confidence in God — and, paradoxically, her boisterous sense of humor about everything and everyone else — that made first made me receptive to Catholicism. To mark the occasion of my baptism, Bridget contributed to the my spiritual bouquet, a mammonth tangle of medals, scapulars and booklets of prayers — plus a plenary indulgence from Pope Benedict — that almost burst the envelope it arrived in.

Bridget and her husband had already adopted two boys, both Guatemalans, both loud, messy, active and fun. What they expected when they adopted their daughter I don’t know, but what they got must rank among the scares of their lives. Within days of her birth, the baby was in the intensive-care unit. It emerged that she suffered from a number of congenital heart problems. “Aortic coarctation, aortic stenosis, and VSD,” are the ones Bridget named. She added, “among others,” as if, somehow, those three weren’t enough.

The diagnosis came on Holy Thursday. As Bridget put it, “We’ve been in the hospital ever since.” Twice, the doctors scheduled an operation; both times, they were forced to postpone — the first time because another child was in more immediate need of surgery, the second time because they detected an infection in Ella’s blood.

If nothing else, the delays have given Bridget plenty of time to reflect. Here’s the meaning she attaches to her family’s predicament:

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how all of this plays out, to see how God’s plan comes to fruition. We’ve been able to go to daily Mass here at the hospital, and a recent homily on the topic helped. The priest said (paraphrasing) that God doesn’t reveal His entire plan to us all at once because the shock would probably kill us. We wouldn’t be able to handle it, for good or for bad, I would guess. I kind of have to agree with that. What would our reaction have been to all of this if we knew from the get-go what was going to happen? Who knows but God? All I know now is that I lovelovelove Ella fiercely and ridiculously, and I can’t imagine our family without her. It happened just that quickly.

My dad told me something a little while ago, too, that stuck with me. I think he heard it in a homily, too. I don’t remember all the back story, but the priest said that his mom told him one day, “The Lord didn’t tell us to drag our cross and follow Him. He said to carry it.” (Or words to that effect.) So I carry this cross because it’s mine to carry. And I think I have to help Ella carry hers, too, just by being her mom and because I’m stronger than she is right now.

Now do you see why I think so highly of Bridget? By my lights, she’s carrying her cross like it’s a golf bag. Honestly, I couldn’t arrive at such a serene place after a dozen years of therapy. If anyone tried preaching these lessons to me before I was in the mood to hear them, I’d be tempted to crease his head with the nearest pool cue.

Bridget is a regular Anchoress reader. In fact, she got here before I did. (I’m ashamed to admit, I have not been above name-dropping. “Why I said to Elizabeth just the other day, ‘Elizabeth,’ I said…”) If you readers have any prayers left in your, I’d ask you to spare a few for Bridget, her daughter, and the rest of her family.

After all, here at the Anchroress, every day is Mothers’ Day.

  • UrbanRevival

    what you are seeing in your wonderful friend is God’s sweet Grace – nothing more, nothing less. And you’re right….it is something to behold.

    Prayers for baby Bridget! May the Blessed Mother intercede on her behalf!


  • Nina Evans

    Prayers also for this family knit by the Holy Spirit. As He leads them thru the valley of the shadow of death, may they fear no evil and know His Presence at the darkest times. The healing will come. I cannot say on which side of the valley. But healing does come.

    God Bless, Bridget and her little chicks.

    Nina Evans

  • Manny

    My prayers too for the child and family. God bless them. Having just adopted a little boy myself this past year, I know the struggles the family must have underwent to get through the adoption process. An adopted child is no less loved than a birth child, and in some cases even more loved. I’m always reminded of the verse from Matthew, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

  • Sally Thomas

    Next Mass is hers. I’ll pray for her alongside my dear (and also unmet-in-real-life) friend P., who is adopting a baby boy with special needs from China.

  • Heidi Saxton

    What a touching story — and one that resonates with many adoptive and foster parents, who can pray for this family with real empathy, having been through similar situations.

    It’s wonderful to see how God gave Bridget such extraordinary graces, which enables her to love so wholeheartedly children not born from her own womb. Like many extraordinary moms, Bridget’s laboring for her daughter (after delivery) can be compared to the labor of a biological mothers, a necessary part of the bonding process. As Bridget’s story demonstrates, this labor can be painful and messy. But it is a necessary part of the bonding process (thank God, for most EMs, this bonding doesn’t involve ICU wards and congenital heart defects).

    Lord, please send your angels to surround this family and raise them up. Give them a fresh vision for your (adoptive) Father’s heart. Strengthen and encourage them to run the race you have set before them. And if it is your will, heal this little girl and bring her home, safe and secure in the love of her forever family. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

  • Winter

    Praying here, too.

  • Julie

    Praying for you, Bridget, and for your sweet baby girl.

  • karen

    A friend of mine- one who has never visited a blog in her life and questions everything on line as being tainted by deceiving hands- asked me what we are all hiding from… from each other and in this world- as we sit and converse in front of a monitor w/absolute strangers who may be lying about who they are and what they know.

    How cynical.

    Grace, by the Grace of God- we find an oasis such as this to humbly share our inner thoughts and ask for prayer- and we feel, honestly feel- touched when people who don’t know us from Adam- promise to keep us in mind and heart before our Lord.

    In this way, may Bridget’s cross be that much lighter- and her burden just a little less worrisome and hurtful. Emma is in God’s hands.

    As an off-side topic: my daughter, Maeve- had a beautiful 1st Communion on the 8th- Mother’s Day- due, i am very sure, to the generous offer of a complete stranger (to me) who posts thoughts and ideas on the internet- to take a prayer all the way to Rome- a true gift of Grace.

  • Sherrill

    For Bridget from someone who has been there. My oldest daughter has/had the same cardiac malformations, 38 years ago! She is 38 has 3 teenage sons and graduates from law school this month because NOTHING is impossible for God. God be very good to Bridget and her baby.

  • Max Lindenman

    Sherill: I’m sure Bridget is checking this thread, but just to make sure, I’m PM’ing her your story. Thank you.

  • Mila

    As a mother who has been through comparable situations, my heart goes out to Bridget. My prayers, too. I pray our Blessed Mother covers this family with her mantle and brings this little baby home healthy.