Thursday, September 9, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches

Being a Catholic in the NICU means possession of an embarrassment of riches. We have the sacraments. We have a church family that prays for us. We have an understanding of the concept of redemptive suffering.

When I found out that my newborn needed emergency abdominal surgery, I immediately asked to have her baptized. If my baby girl had to undergo all of that suffering, I wanted it all to mean something. I wanted her incorporated into the mystical body of Christ. I wanted her hurt to save souls.

A birth defect is different from the ordinary effects of sin. My baby girl didn't get hit by a bullet or poisoned by an environmental toxin. The Creator of the World, the One who lovingly knit together my baby's body in the womb decided in His infinite wisdom to drop a purl stitch in the formation of my baby girl's intestine.

Somehow, in my Faith, I'm okay with that. I sort of picture God saying to himself, "What if I put a web in Baby Teresa's intestine and then allow all of these people the glory of co-fixing my creation? It would be a sign of Faith, of prayer, and a great glory to my name to show the sacredness of human life."

Having a sick baby is every parents worst nightmare. Yet, when you're in the middle of it, it's not so bad. Mortal sin is bad. The Devil is bad. Sickness is just sickness. Suffering waiting to meet the healing power of Jesus.

At her conception, my baby girl got assigned the Cross of a broken intestine. In her little body, she makes up for the lack in the suffering of Christ. I can picture Tess raising her hand in excitement equal to that of Francis Xavier and telling God: "You mean for a few weeks of pain, I get to transform the hearts of my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my father's co-workers, the cynical Catholics in my church, and save many souls from Hell? Game on!"

My cross is to watch my little girl suffer. It's Mary's cross. I've got to watch my seven pound girl lug her huge cross through Children's Hospital.

I've decided that when people say "I can't stand to see innocent suffering in the world" what they are really saying is "I don't want to follow in Mother Mary's footsteps." It hurts to watch our children suffer. It's a painful breaking of the heart. But Mary would tell us, "what else are you going to do?" God hands you the strength to stay still as a witness, to give love with your eyes, and to pray deeply with a bleeding heart.


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  2. Oh that is BEAUTIFUL!!! Abby, thank you for putting that so eloquently. Our Babies' little Pure, Spotless Souls are saving so many others, inviting more people into God's Love.

  3. So true, Abby. I have said many times that after suffering my miscarriage in July that I wish everyone could have what I have. Just the sacraments alone would have sufficed to bring me through, but then knowing I could offer my suffering (and the mere fact that the suffering was acknowledged as more than a mother's sentimentality) was enough to make me thank God over and again for bringing me to this beautiful Place.

  4. That last paragraph made me burst into tears! I've been having some struggles lately trying to come to terms with all the suffering in the world.
    When I hear about people being tortured or little babies starving to death, I feel like I just can't bear it. I'm always trying to put "bad" things out of my mind or avoid hearing about them.
    But . . . "God hands you the strength to stay still as a witness, to give love with your eyes, and to pray deeply with a bleeding heart." I think I will print that out and put it in my Bible.
    Thank you!

  5. Beautifully written and oh-so true. As a cradle Catholic, I've always loved Mary but it was becoming a mother myself that transformed the relationship. The first Easter vigil after my Madeline was born, Mary's suffering hit me harder and in a way it never had before.

  6. It's inspiring what beauty and meaning you're finding in such a difficult situation. Tess is not only touching the lives of those physically around her - she's touching the lives of those of us whom she's never met just through her (and your) story.

  7. Abigail, this is so beautiful; I haven't been online and I'm just now discovering the difficulties you've been having. I am overwhelmed by your grace in this situation and I am praying for you!