Joy. Abundance. Life.
I have experienced all 6 of these things and can say that, because of my faith, I live with peace amidst the uncertainty surrounding why certain things happen. Why certain people are taken from us. Why certain babies get to be held. Why others never are conceived, some are never born and why some are born only to live for a few moments, hours or weeks. I have seen friends walk through these losses and I have grieved with them.
I’ve had 5 babies and I have 4 beautiful children. Right before Ben turned 1, we found out we were having a second little person. Gearing up for the 20 month age gap we anticipated what a sibling would be like but, for some reason, we never announced this pregnancy to the general public for the first 4 months – an expression of restraint not typical of my extroverted and perhaps excessively open personality (I may have been known to yell the gender of our first born out my car window at a friend that was passing by, just after our 20 week appointment).
And then, before I could even announce our joy, grief swept over us in the form of a missing heartbeat at my four month prenatal appointment. I still remember that sinking feeling in my stomach when our doctor told us that we should walk over to the hospital to do an ultrasound. I still remember the Christmas carols that were playing in the background in that hospital exam room and I still remember the sounds of voices celebrating new life and abundance while I was in the other room facing death and loss.
I remember the days and months following – the grief, the loneliness and the depression. I remember feeling so alone and I remember the moment that the doctor called to tell me the results of the autopsy. She had three full sets of chromosomes. An extra set that made it impossible to live and thrive. She. I grieved again and then I named her.
Bridget Corazana McCarthy. A different name but a name with meaning. Bridget that means ‘strong’ and Corazana that means ‘heart.’ She wasn’t supposed to live. Her heart wasn’t even supposed to form or beat and yet it did. At our 12 week appointment, we heard a heartbeat and it was strong. Not strong enough to make it to 9 months but strong. She was strong and she was ours.
I still think of her. I did many things to process our loss. I took time off, I saw a counsellor, I prayed, I slept, I journalled, I prayed some more and I leaned in to Jon – to our relationship and to our amazing little human, Benjamin, who was right in front of me – smiling, being silly, encouraging me and blissfully unaware of my sadness. We travelled and I healed. On Spring Break of that year we travelled to New York for the first time and, on that trip, I bought a sweater. A beautiful cable knit pink sweater. A different sweater and a sweater with meaning. It was a purchase full of hope. Hope that maybe one day we would have a baby girl that we would get to hold and hope that, if that didn’t happen, that I would be able to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it’s importance. Someone who was like family.
I kept that sweater in a box for years – 5, in fact and then, just this past week I pulled it out and placed it on my 5th beautiful baby – Lucy Ella Grace McCarthy. I put it on her and I watched her sleep all tucked into her car seat and I smiled. My heart was encouraged. A bit of my grief was quieted and, instead of thinking about grief or loss or death, I was overcome with joy in an appreciation for abundance and life.
Proverbs 31 talks about a wife of noble character and speaks specifically about a woman who is ‘clothed with strength and dignity.’ (Proverbs 31:25) A woman who recognizes that ‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ (Proverbs 31:30).
I have lived in a house full of boys for the past 7+ years so I am new to being a mother with a daughter but I know how I was raised. I know the legacy that my mom with her dog-eared red bible and thoughtful, Christ-centered heart has passed on to me and I know, with all my heart that I want my Lucy (and I would have wanted my Bridget) to be a woman whose heart belongs first to the Lord. A woman who is strong because her identity isn’t wrapped up in her appearance or popularity. A woman whose life reflects the glory of the One who made her.
I recently came across a company called SHE IS Clothing and I was blown away by an incredible local business that puts Christ at the centre of it all. I absolutely love that they put these powerful words literally right over the hearts of girls and women. I love wearing my Elle Est Forte tee and I plan to get something for Lucy from their Kids line when she’s big enough because you truly can’t get enough reminders of this truth (and why not support a local business in the process).
And each time I look at her pink cable knit sweater or look at those three words, Elle est forte, I will be reminded.
Reminded to pray for her heart. Reminded of my sweet, sweet, strong hearted Bridget and reminded that, because of the victory and strength I have in Christ – death, loss and grief do not have the final word but, instead, I have the absolute privilege of sharing in joy, abundance and new life.
That is what gets me through. That is my strength and hopefully will be hers in the years to come.
With love to both of my baby girls and with thanks to my mama who taught me where to find my strength,
For a song that has spoken deeply to my heart through seasons of loss, check out “Lift” by Laurell Hubick based on Habakkuk 3:17-19
Habakkuk 3:17-19New International Version (NIV)17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.