I have talked before about how, as a priest, the life cycle is ever present in my work [see post here]. Simultaneously celebrating new life and honoring earthly death can sometimes happen within days or hours. But this week I have been reminded of how sometimes we do not even see or think about that thin space between life and death because, all too often, we have the privilege of not having to think about it.
This week, one of my close friends celebrated the fifth anniversary of the birth and death of her child. The baby died in utero around twenty weeks. That event was formative for our entire community of friends. Suddenly, pregnancy was no longer a happy, idyllic time, when everything always turns out okay. We all began to see the dark side of pregnancy, and understand how much we take a “normal pregnancy” for granted. In thinking about baby Ella this week, and the impact she had on so many of us, I find myself humbled by how much her death gave us.
And like any other cyclical week in the priesthood, what news should I learn but of a friend who was surprised to discover she is pregnant after having lost her first pregnancy over a year ago. I was equally elated and terrified. Elated, because I knew how much the couple hoped that maybe, just maybe, they might be blessed with a successful pregnancy and birth. But terrified because they, and I, know how fragile these next thirty-four weeks will be.
So this week, my prayers are with all of those who walk through the journey of life, death, and pregnancy. I especially lift them up, because all too often, their joy, grief, and anxiety are hidden. For fear that life will not be viable, many couples elect to keep their pregnancy quiet for as long as possible. Whether they share or not, the couple faces consequences. When everyone knows about a pregnancy that is lost, the couple can have to retell the painful story over and over again. When no one knows about the pregnancy, the couple can feel isolated and alone in their grief, because to share their story, they have to tell you that they were pregnant and are now no longer pregnant. There are no easy ways forward, and so for those in our midst walking the path of longing to create new life, fearfully growing new life, birthing new life, and mourning lost life, our prayers are with you. You live in a fragile reality that we honor and hold with love and that we lift to God. You are not alone.