In Sunday’s NY Times of all places, an article written by Professor David Hlavsa of St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington, struck me right between the eyes and through my heart. I’ve never written a full account of the circumstances surrounding the loss of our second child to miscarriage and still am not quite ready. We allude to it in one of the Engaged Encounter talks that we deliver during the weekend retreats for which we are responsible. This talk always “sneaks up” on us. One weekend we get through it without a hitch. Another time Janell rips out kleenex after kleenex. Last month I had to stop three times to compose myself so I could finish. You cannot prepare yourself…you never know. But after reading Dr. Hlavsa’s account I think I’m finally close to facing this part of my past.
I, too, held the lifeless body of my stillborn son in the palm of my hand as David did. I studied his shape. His little arms, legs, nose. His skin was a tannish-orange. I counted ten toes…ten fingers. He appeared to me to be perfect, but obviously he wasn’t. Something had gone wrong.
I also experienced the onslaught of sadness that he writes about. I sat on the edge of my bed holding our Nathan and heaving such terrific sobs as to move the mattress partially sideways on our bed. A feeling of such loss…such unrealized potential washed over me as I studied my baby. It dropped me to my knees ultimately. And then came the rage. Unmitigated anger at God. We went to Mass faithfully. We prayed. We were good people. What happened? Why? The eternal question: why us?
I became reckless…taking chances in heavy traffic. Unfeeling towards others and especially myself. Selfish really. I eventually got past all of this and reconciled myself to God, even writing a fictonalized short story based upon my experience. Nathan’s remains were entered into rest at a place set aside in the local Catholic cemetery for the unborn. We stood together and prayed and wept with other couples much like ourselves as a priest performed the rite. But I haven’t gone back. I still can’t. Not yet.
So I can relate more than I’d ever wish to what David writes about in his article. But I’m very thankful to him for having the courage to write it.
It wasn’t until I had settled Lisa onto the couch that my own legs quit working. I was in midsentence — something about an errand — teakettle in hand, halfway between the tap and the stove. A spasm went through me, I doubled over and I heard my own voice howling from far off, the full-throated cry of a child.