Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Simeon Bernadette

Usually when I meet someone for the first time, he or she will ask, "How many children to you have?"

And, of course, I reply, "One."

But that's not really true.  Chris and I have two children.

"Simeon the Righteous," by Alexey Yegorov, 1830s 
Before we were married--indeed, before we were even engaged--Chris and I had picked out around eight different names for the future children we hoped to have one day.  

From the beginning of our marriage, we hoped and prayed for the gift of a child.  In fact, when we moved to Virginia immediately after our wedding, I didn't even try looking for a job at first, since we thought there might be a baby on the way.

I naively assumed that when a couple is open to the gift of life, that gift will automatically come.  But that's not always the case.  The act of creating a new life is one that is not done exclusively by husband and wife.  No matter how much they will it to happen, it is God's Will that creates a precious new soul.  And this happens in His time, not ours.

So we waited and prayed.  Some couples wait much longer than we did, but for me, it still felt like a very long time.

You can only imagine, then, our excitement when, nine months after our wedding, the pregnancy test was positive.  I remember that February morning so clearly.  I quite literally ran around our apartment, shouting at the top of my lungs.

All day I kept thinking to myself: we have a baby.  There is a baby inside of me.  We are parents.

We decided to wait to tell my family in person.  We had already planned a visit to New York that weekend anyway, so it was perfect timing.  The entire drive Chris and I talked about the baby and began to plan for him or her.  

Needless to say, my family was likewise thrilled.  

But then, three days following the discovery of our pregnancy, we knew something was very wrong.  Chris and I went to the emergency room and I had my first ultrasound, in order to discover if they could see anything.  

Our little one was so little, however, that there was nothing to be seen.

So there followed a very long time of waiting and praying.  We left New York early and I had my blood tested to determine the level of pregnancy hormones.  Those were long days indeed, wondering if our baby were still alive.  

On February 19 I received a call from my OBGYN: the blood results were in and there was no baby any longer.  Commonly referred to as a miscarriage, the medical term for what happened is spontaneous abortion.

St. Bernadette Soubirous
We were only conscious of our first child for three days.  Though the time was short, that baby was so, so loved.  And continues to be loved.

We named our first child.  As I sat, somewhat stunned by the definitive news that our baby had passed away, I glanced at the calendar hanging by our computer desk.  There were two saints assigned to February 18 (one according to the old Church calendar, the other for the new): Saints Simeon and Bernadette.  Since we had no way of knowing our baby's sex, we decided to use both names.  

So we have two children: Simeon Bernadette and Mary.  And we love both of them.

Not a day passes that I don't think about Simeon Bernadette.  Chris and I entrust our little child to God's mercy and we believe that he or she is now with God in heaven.  I like to imagine our Blessed Mother holding Simeon Bernadette in her arms, keeping our baby close to her until the day we (hopefully) can reach heaven, too.  It is comforting to know we already have a family member there, waiting for us.

Every time we end a prayer, Chris and I invoke our child.  Simeon Bernadette, pray for us!  

I always tell Mary I love her before she goes to sleep.  As I lay my head on my pillow at night, I tell Simeon Bernadette that I love him or her, too.

While I think of Simeon Bernadette every day, my thoughts and prayers turn to him or her especially on this day, January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

I had a spontaneous abortion.  For whatever reason, something went wrong in the process of growing our child and nature automatically ceased the development.  

But I think about those women who have a deliberate abortion.  And my heart breaks for them because this is the truth: they have killed their own children.

Whether a week, a month, or six months old in the womb, abortion takes a life.  At the moment of conception everything is there that will develop into a fully grown baby.  And even more important than that genetic material is the soul.  At conception, God bestows a unique, eternal soul.  It is this union--body and soul--that creates life, creates a new human person.

And that is what it is: a person.  Just as alive and real as you and me.

Chris and I cried over the death of our Simeon Bernadette.  And today I cry for the millions of children who have died from abortion: more than all the casualties of all the wars the United States has ever fought.  

How many of those were never mourned, because they were entirely unknown?  Many oral contraceptives act as abortifacients: if an egg is released and fertilized (thus creating a new life), the oral contraceptive dries the lining of the woman's uterus, making it impossible for the new baby to implant him or herself.  Then the baby is swept away during the woman's period.  

How many women taking oral contraceptives are actually  mothers...and have no idea?  How many babies have been aborted due to oral contraceptives, their lives unrecognized and deaths unmourned?

I cry for the mothers who have abortions.  I can only believe that, in their heart of hearts, they do not realize what they are doing.  If they really, truly knew that they were killing their child--their own flesh and blood--then they wouldn't participate in an act of murder.

So this is our job, then: to help people realize that that little dot smaller than a grain of sugar is a baby...the smallest, most vulnerable, and precious gift of life at its incipient stage.  

Chris and I were in the position to welcome a gift of life.  I realize that there are many women who aren't able to have a child, for a myriad of reasons.  But that doesn't necessitate their killing that child.  

It is a day of mourning today.  It is also a realization we have our work cut out for us, especially in light of the fact that we have the most pro-abortion president in history.

For us in New York State, Gov. Cuomo introduced a radical abortion bill, which would allow more late-term abortions on fully formed infants, permit non-doctors to perform abortions, would remove reasonable restrictions such as parental notification, and could force Catholic institutions to both refer & even allow abortions onsite.  Considering that New York is the #1 state for abortions in the nation, it is reduction that is needed, not expansion.  (To send Gov. Cuomo a message opposing this bill, please see here.)

So, on this 40th anniversary marking Roe v. Wade, we grieve and we pray.  And we work to touch people's hearts and to enlighten their minds, to help them see.

A baby, 7 weeks after conception

Simeon Bernadette, pray for us!

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