It has been 2 months since we lost our lil’ Gus in miscarriage and it is still hard sometimes. One day you are literally full of life, and the next, you are left feeling… well, empty.
To the world a baby is born on his or her birthday. That is the first day of life. But a mother knows her baby came into being long before then.
“As soon as she realizes she is pregnant, her child is born in her heart. And as that little one grows in her womb it simultaneously grows in her heart. If the unexpected happens and the baby never sleeps in the nursery, he will always have a dwelling place in the home created in his mother’s heart.” -Regular Joan
Gus shouldn’t need a place in my heart though if he’s in the arms of Jesus.
I was surprised to learn that the Catholic Church doesn’t have a definite teaching on what happens to the souls of unbaptized babies. Ironically, (because Gus is named after St. Augustine) St. Augustine taught that the unbaptized go to hell!
That stain of Original Sin is nothing to mess around with. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that they go to the “Limbo of Children” a place that isn’t heaven, but is an outer ring of hell where there is no pain, just separation from God. This idea is still prevalent enough that when I called Catholic Answers Live during a recent show about grace, that is what the priest told me. I was taken aback, not knowing that this was up for discussion. Why would God give babies an immortal soul and not call them home? Even if Gus hasn’t been baptized becoming a child of God and brother of Jesus, I have! That makes him a grandchild of God and nephew of Jesus. The host (Patrick Coffin) referred me to a great article, Let the Children Come to Me http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/let-the-children-come-to-me. I strongly encourage everyone to read it. It explains that in 2007 the pope gathered a group of moral theologians to discuss this exact issue. The general consensus, as supported by the Baptism of Desire in the Catechism (CCC 1260, 1261) is that we have every reason to hope that miscarried babies go to heaven.
For some reason I couldn’t get J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers song Last Kiss out of my head.
“Oh where, oh where, can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven so I’ve got to be good. So I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
There is truth to those lyrics because I find myself trying to be good : ) I got back in the habit of saying a daily rosary asking Mary to pray for me that God would give me the patience and wisdom I need to be a good mother. I have a stronger desire to do right by God so that I can one day meet my boy Gus. Our family is proud to have him as a small part of us, and I hope that he is smiling down on us and equally proud of his family. His sisters still draw him in their family pictures and include him in our prayers.
St. John of the Cross expressed the idea that the closer a pane of glass is to the light the more clearly you can see how dirty it is. As I draw closer to God through my trials, I can’t help but become more aware of my sins. Before Adam and Eve there was no lottery of life’s diseases or death; there was no miscarriage, no heart defects, no cancer. But they failed God and Eve put a knot in the plan of salvation. I can’t help but recognize that despite my best efforts, I falter into sin. And in a way it was my sinful humanity that led to the death of lil’ Gus. It was obvious what happened, the umbilical chord was wrapped around his neck three times. Like the three times Peter denied Christ. Have I been denying Christ? Have I put him second fiddle to busyness, pride, comfort? I feel closer to God, which is a great place to be, but there is pain in the pruning as I try to let God shape my life.
Over the last year I’ve connected with Mother Mary as the Undoer of Knots. It started when after 3 months at home we were preparing to head back to the Los Angeles hospital for Ian’s third open heart surgery. About a month ahead of time it hit me and I felt the weight of doing it all over again. My stomach went to knots thinking about the surgery, the separation, the swelling, the tubes, the uncertainty. In the mail the next day I received a letter. In that letter came a devotional card to Mary the Undoer of Knots. It was God’s way of reminding me that my mother Mary knows too well what I am going through, having to watch my son suffer yet trusting the Lord. I sought Mary’s intercession to ease the knots out of my stomach.
Later, I realized the origin of the moniker (thank you Scott Hahn). Eve made the knot with her sinful disobedience; Mary untied it with her obedience. We all fell with Adam and Eve; we are human and we sin. But the New Adam is Jesus Christ and where Adam fell, Christ rose again. Through his cross and resurrection the gates of heaven are open for all of his children to follow: Gus, myself, you. St. Teresa of Avila said that the cross is a bridge to heaven. This used to confuse me, but I am beginning to understand how through suffering we are able to connect to God in a whole different way. God fills the void that Gus left with promise and peace. So I’ve got to be good, so I can see my baby when I leave this world.