Jesus Carries His Cross
Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
A Lesson in Patience
by Olivia McCarthy
In October of 2014, I was desperate. I had an eighteen-month-old daughter and I could not wait to be pregnant again, to hold a newborn again, and to experience the joys of family life as a family of four.
One day in late September, those beautiful lines appeared on a pregnancy test. Elation was short lived because moments later I began bleeding. “Maybe it’s implantation bleeding?” I hoped despite the blood. It was not implantation bleeding. A trip to my OBGYN, complete with blood work confirmed that it was, in fact, a miscarriage. I felt shattered. Motherhood, in my naïve opinion, was not supposed to be wrought with such heartache and pain.
We named our baby Francis and prayed fervently for another baby, a sibling for our daughter who would share in our earthly family life. I cried for Francis, a baby whom I knew about for approximately five minutes before he was lost to this world. I pined and mourned and prayed and felt convinced that God would honor my suffering with the desire of my heart soon. Young in both years and faith, I misguidedly believed that suffering was rewarded. It was kind of like if you ate your vegetables without complaining too much as a kid: you’d get what you wanted eventually. I was certain that I had just carried my cross, and I was carrying it well. I was remaining faithful to Jesus. Sadness, tears, of course those were part of the story. Little did I know that this cross was not up the hill to Calvary yet. This was my first fall as I carried the cross of loss.
The next month I was pregnant again. With great joy I celebrated with my husband. Elated, I was convicted that THIS baby was the answer to the suffering of loss we had just experienced. Things were going well: my midsection was thickening, my pants were tightening and there was no bleeding! I had felt sick, but it dissipated suddenly and though I thought it was unusual, I decided not to worry.
December came and with it, my first prenatal appointment, the one with the ultrasound and the heartbeat and the estimated due date that would allow me to compare my baby to random fruits and vegetables each week. My husband’s work was incredibly demanding during this month, so I drove to my appointment alone. Excited to see my baby, to find out when he or she would be expected to come into the world, to feel for the first time since my miscarriage the assurance that this baby was coming, I did not expect the appointment to be the second stumble with my cross.
By now you probably have guessed what happened. The ultrasound showed a baby, but no heartbeat. Though the baby should have been measured at eight weeks, the measurements topped out at six weeks, right when I suddenly stopped feeling nauseous. I knew enough to feel frightened when the technician didn’t say anything other than “I have to go get the doctor.” Alone, cold, and frightened, I was told “I’m so sorry.” These are words no pregnant woman ever wants to hear regarding her child. As I reflect on this experience, I find the loneliness a vivid emotional memory. It was so painful to face this second loss without anyone I loved by my side. The sky was bleak and gray, and there was a handrail around the building that I clung to as I shuffled to my car with tissues in hand. To this day, I still do not know how I managed to drive myself home, other than that there was no other option and I wanted to be with my daughter, to hug her and hear her call me “momma.”
The doctor who delivered this news to me asked that I consider doing blood work and NaPro technology to determine why I had two miscarriages in a row. Of course I agreed. I longed for a baby and I wanted to fix whatever was wrong with me. I had no idea that the NaPro blood work would simultaneously lead me to the heaviest cross I ever carried, the biggest hope I had ever had dashed, and the greatest blessing I had ever received.
NaPro involves a significant amount of blood work, and despite my less than kind feelings toward blood and needles, I underwent the regular trips to the local medical lab, offering up my arm to the phlebotomists. It is important to note that I had elected to attempt to miscarry naturally before any kind of medical intervention. So when my doctor received my blood work results from the NaPro work, he was shocked that the HCG, or pregnancy hormone, levels were doubling as they would expect during a regular pregnancy. Astounded, we heard the news that I might not have miscarried, that the ultrasound might not have been accurate, my dates may have been wrong, and as I believed at that moment, this was the miracle. This was the reward for suffering a miscarriage and remaining faithful: choosing to trust in Him that a baby would be coming and soon.
Though we lived in Austin, Texas, at the time, we had travelled back to Michigan to spend Christmas with our families. It was on our journey north that I began bleeding lightly and though I knew what was coming, nothing prepared me for Christmas Day. In an incredibly traumatic moment, I physically lost my baby, and not even in the privacy of my own home. It was in the basement of my parents’ house. Time did not exist. Nothing existed except physical and emotional pain. The last shred of hope I had clung to evaporated. The cross had crushed me. I had stumbled and fallen and was beaten and bruised both literally and figuratively.
In motherhood, the moments that crush you are doubly cruel. Not only have you just been crushed, but there is still someone who needs you. Someone small and helpless, someone tiny and blissfully unaware of adult burdens. So in those moments, I’ve learned to simply trudge forward. The rest of that Christmas passed in a vortex of suppressed grief and emotion as I trudged, weary, worn, and entirely exhausted from what felt like a very unfair game with God. Our baby was named Marianne and I ordered an engraved stone with both her and Francis’s names that to this day, sits outside of my front door.
Returning to Austin meant that the fertility information my doctor had gained from all the laboratory work was ready, and the first miracle of my cross was that there was something we could do. We decided to try to correct a hormonal imbalance that was probably contributing to these miscarriages through self-administered injections. It was then that I began a series of HCG injections on certain days.
The HCG meant that I could not use over the counter pregnancy tests, but had to rely on watching the HCG numbers double every few days in my blood. I am not naturally a patient person, but by the end of February I felt that something was different. That hope that I thought had been crushed by this cross of miscarriage, it was dented and scratched, crumpled and bent, but it was still there.
“Congratulations!” the doctor told me over a phone call one brisk February day. I was pregnant again.
The second miracle of my cross arrived approximately nine months later. Maria Lily, the most blissfully content baby I have ever met, made her appearance one day before her due date in the most undramatic labor of all my children. Maria, a child for whom I prayed, whom I loved even before I carried her in my womb, who to this day brings me a smile as I see her sweet face and am reminded that God does answer prayers.
I carried that cross, suffered, and waited. I could not hurry along a pregnancy. Impatient by nature, I was forced to be patient through this cross. To rely on blood count numbers over the course of days instead of instant pregnancy tests. To suffer the routine trips to a medical lab, and then the indignity of having to inject myself all while not knowing if this would work, if this was even worth it, or if I would continue to have miscarriage after miscarriage.
I still carry this cross. There are days when I find myself wondering what my Francis and Marianne are doing in heaven. There are days when I remember vividly the traumatic loss of Marianne, and every Christmas day is tainted with the sadness of loss. But as God is a God who gives, there are moments when I look at my four children on earth and thank Him for these gifts that I cannot take for granted.
My beloved Dad recently died. He was a wonderful and loving man, who my children called Grampy Joe. Imagining him with my Francis and Marianne brings a peaceful comfort that family is eternal. Francis, Marianne, and Dad are uniquely bonded as family members who are missed dearly in my heart. The gift I have discovered is that this bond is not only one that is felt on earth. It is a bond that transcends time and space.
It is love, and love endures forever. Isn’t that what the cross is all about?
About Olivia: Olivia is a Catholic wife, mother, and podcaster. By the graces God she was led to praying a daily rosary and through intercession of Mary she experienced a major reversion to the Catholic faith in 2013. She is striving each day to become saint. (It’s hard!) Olivia loves running, making sourdough bread, crochet, and cross stitching.
She is building a freelance writing business and would be so thrilled to write content for your Catholic brand or blog!
Follow her on instagram @hearthomefaith Listen to HeartHomeFaith wherever you get your podcasts!