Well, here we are. Another October. Another year to mark the date that Jack and I were supposed to bring home twin babies. Seventeen years ago to be exact. This month is one that touches my soul deeply each year.
We had been married 6 years when we learned we were finally expecting a baby! Nine weeks into the pregnancy, some concerns prompted a visit to the ER. I’ll never forget the fears Jack & I shared on the way to the hospital. We were emotional and both agreed that there could be nothing worse than losing the baby. During that visit, an ultrasound was done and the tech said she saw two “somethings”. She cautiously told us that it looked like two babies, but couldn’t say with 100% certainty. We went home with instructions to see the doctor the next day to confirm what she suspected. Indeed, a more in-depth ultrasound showed two little heartbeats and everything looked normal! The news couldn’t be any better! A few weeks later, we announced the pregnancy and happily began planning for our twins, who were due on October 6. We were so grateful.
The pregnancy was uneventful, aside from the fact that I worried about everything from the first moment. I made several extra trips to the doctor for things that turned out to be nothing. The great part about this is that I had many ultrasounds, which gave a glimpse of the personalities of these babies who were already so loved! One in particular revealed baby A repeatedly kicking baby B. I literally cried with joy. The pure happiness I felt just seeing them was incomparable. Fall couldn’t come fast enough!!
I reached the 20 week mark and let out a sigh of relief, having heard that many risks of carrying multiples decreased at that point. Then, just a few days later, another last minute appointment was needed. I was all but certain I was overreacting again. Upon seeing the doctor, it was evident that I was wrong. He immediately instructed the staff to call an ambulance. At the hospital, we endured 14 hours of specialist opinions, tests, medications and difficult decisions. On May 22, 2003, our two tiny girls, Carly Ann and Jacklynn Marie, were born. They lived a short time and passed away in our arms, surrounded by their loving aunts, uncles, and grandparents. A priest came to baptize them, and we were allowed to spend time holding them, taking photos, comparing their differences and similarities, and just loving them. They were perfect and beautiful, just too small to survive.
The heartbreak that followed is something words cannot describe. It felt as though all of our dreams were shattered, prayers were unanswered, and our world was now an unfamiliar place filled with painful reminders of what should have been. Coming home, we were met with high chairs, bouncy seats, piles of onesies and tiny socks. Prenatal vitamins waited on the counter for babies who no longer needed them. Now irrelevant pregnancy magazines sat on the table. Diaper coupons had come in the mail. And what were we left with? Carly & Jacklynn’s tiny footprints imprinted in clay, brochures about grief, and the phone number of the funeral home. It turned into a very isolating time. Our families were suffering with us, and that added to an already overwhelming amount of emotions. It felt as if nobody understood us anymore, and we withdrew.
We wouldn’t have our babies in the fall. They wouldn’t join us for Thanksgiving or for Christmas. What hurt just as much is that they wouldn’t be here for Halloween. Knowing that they were due in October, it was the first holiday we had looked forward to celebrating with them. It was so hard to feel fall in the air, see Halloween decorations, and think of all the children in their costumes. I still pray for others who are feeling that emptiness for the first time as Halloween approaches. It’s a unique part of infant loss that is hard to understand until you’ve lived it.
In the years since, our family has experienced the roller coaster that is grief. Certain seasons are harder than others. Our hearts ache when we hear of someone else losing a pregnancy. We have made connections with others through our girls though, and those relationships are positive and priceless. One thing that has become clearer over time is that God has been with us through it all. It wasn’t easy to see through the depths of our sadness, but He held us in our grief and gave us the graces to come out stronger on the other side. He also welcomed our girls home. Someone once pointed out that our greatest hope is to help get our children to heaven…. And we did that! We helped them go home.
The word “home” has taken on new meaning for me as I grow older and grow in my faith. I’ve always been a homebody. As a child, I had a hard time spending the night at a friend’s. I’m usually the one who’s ready to be home at the end of vacation, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than at home with the ones I love. But home is so much more than that to me now. Let me explain what I mean.
In February, I was working at MHT and received a request to post a job opening in the bulletin. It was a secretary position at St. Therese in Lansing. It called to me, though I couldn’t say why, and I applied. I was brought in for an interview and, subsequently, offered the job! It threw me into a decision making process like I had never experienced before. I spent days trying to pray about it. It sounds strange, but each time it seemed there might be a quiet moment, something interrupted it! Finally, I had about 6 whole minutes (in the car, waiting for one of the kids to come out from practice!) to pray and to really listen to what God was saying. I asked the question, “Lord, where do you want me?” I told myself I was open to His answer, but let’s face it, I already knew MY answer. I was staying here at MHT. Then He said it -- not verbally, but anyone who has heard the Lord speak to their heart knows what I mean. He said it: St. Therese! Wait, what?? I sat in disbelief for a minute, and then I answered Him by saying aloud, “Ok, I will go, but I’m terrified and I need you to be with me”. Again, He assured me by speaking to my heart. He would be there with me. At that moment, I knew I would follow the path He chose for me, no matter what I thought was best.
As most of you know, I answered His call and moved on to St. Therese. I met some wonderful people, learned new things, and saw the way things are done at another parish. I came across people I knew there, and even found some that I am related to! I really liked the job, but deep down, I kept wondering if I had made a mistake. I prayed and listened for an answer, but nothing. I was not making this decision alone, so I kept at it. Then one night, I got on facebook to check on our St. Therese page. The first thing that came up was “Most Holy Trinity is Live”. It was Adoration! Covid had stopped our Holy Hours and I missed them terribly! It had started at 7pm, and it was only 7:02. I was so grateful that it wasn’t too late to join. I thought I’d stay a few minutes and move on with my night, but before I knew it, the whole hour had passed. I cried and prayed. It was so humbling. I asked God if this is where I’m meant to be. I felt more certain that I had made a mistake by leaving my home parish -- the place I love being involved, where I grew up and received all of my sacraments. The answer I heard that night was as clear as when I was called to go to St. Therese. I was meant to be home at MHT. After the loss of our twins, Jack and I have always agreed that if we were blessed enough to have children that lived, we would be here for them as much as possible. We talked it through as a family and decided that this was our way to stay true to that. I had stayed in contact with Adam during my time away and it seemed like there might still be a place for me here. We talked details, and as they say… the rest is history.
The past few months being back have been a huge blessing. Heartfelt thanks to all who have welcomed me back and told me how good it is to see me home again. I can’t remember a time I’ve been more content. I attribute that to following God’s plan, even when it was difficult. Even when it felt like He led me further out of the way. The path I have taken over the last few months has solidified my belief that home is what’s most important. Home - meaning nearer to my family, home meaning MHT, and most importantly, home - where I feel closest to God, am able to do His work, and bring the people of MHT closer to Him each day.