Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Rosa Mystica: A Few Words about Cubby and from Cubby on the Four-Month Anniversary of her Death

Cubby Rosa MysticaI have written about Cubby LaHood, my mentor from Isaiah’s Promise, a few times. Today I want to hold the space to remember her in her own words. I am so blessed to be one of her last moms that she mentored through a pregnancy with a fatal “diagnosis” earth-side. I’m sure that she is helping many from the heavenly realms. Following is a brief excerpt from a longer chapter in my forthcoming book.

Cubby’s son Francis Edward died after birth of a kidney disorder. As a mentor, she offered me guidance based on her own experience after dedicating decades of her life in service to others. Many people offer the platitude “I know what you’re going through” with no such knowledge at all. Cubby did know. She had walked through the difficulties and knew how we felt. Her words reverberate still with incredible love and kindness. She wrote me many e-mails from the time that she offered support through Isaiah’s Promise until her death.

E-mailing Cubby was so good for me because I would weep and write when I could not sleep. I couldn’t speak on the phone because I would cry and couldn’t talk. I often told her about my concerns with the pregnancy. In May I write to Cubby about how hard it is to be in my pregnant body during the pregnancy. I tell her about my anxiety and worries for my unborn daughter. She responds

May 26, 2014

Yes, the suffering is what we all worry about so much. Its like a catch 22, we want them here with us, but we also want God to take them. You must not feel guilty, you have carried her because you love her – in life we all suffer in some way, even a healthy child suffers along the way. It is just that Mary Rose will have all the joy, love, and suffering, in a short period of life….With all the babies I have helped deliver – I have not seen suffering. It has always been very, very peaceful, like falling asleep. Even with Francis, it was slow and peaceful and I was not afraid. We held him always. You won’t need any equipment because you will not be putting her down.!!

Mary Rose deserves dignity…she will always live in your heart. She will give you strength.

I confide my feelings to her many times between May, when we began to correspond, and Mary Rose’s birth and death on August 8, 2014. She responds again

May 31, 2014

Oh My Friend – I know how hard it is…I would stare out the window at our swing set and weep, knowing my son would never play there…However, the closer I got to delivery, the more I became calm because I wanted to MEET him after all those months…I wanted to hold him and love him even if that was all we could do…I was HIS mother and I would cherish him every second. All of my fear and doubts would ebb and flow, but on delivery day I was only ready for love. I really prayed hard for strength. God gave me this baby son – if only for a few minutes. And I was going to love him…

June 18, 2014

YOU are stronger then YOU think – right now it is all the unknowns that make life so tedious – After birth, things will fall into place – even though you sense that Mary Rose’s time will be short – you must begin to look forward to meeting her – whatever the outcome. Love and letting go will be a part of it – but nothing is more important then love…

In the meantime – we will keep praying for you, especially for strength – and remember LOOK forward to meeting her – God has given you a great gift.

When I was still pregnant with Mary Rose she told me about the Rosa Mystica. It was June and Cubby was sick, but I did not know that she was sick yet. She didn’t tell me that she had stage 4 cancer until the fall. Cubby did not want to burden her mothers with her problems. I am taking care of the Rosa Mystica she told me. I googled Rosa Mystica and found out about more miracles of Our Lady, learned that the rose is her flower. Mary Rose. I didn’t know the significance of the name that entered my heart when I was pregnant. I believe that Cubby had the statue in her home, that there was to be a prayer service that night. I will pray for you and Mary Rose she told me.

And she still does.

 

Photo credit: Mary Frances LaHood. Cubby seated with her friend Kathy Schaef near the Rosa Mystica.

The Baby who Became a Seal

creature-robbe-seal-sea-pets-north-swim-water_121-72528

I stand in the gift shop at the Virginia Aquarium in February, almost halfway through my second pregnancy looking for a small stuffed animal to set up an altar for my unborn child. I am scheduled for my first ultrasound the following week. I hold a blue dolphin and all of a sudden I remember my first midwife, Vicki, and her nephew.

Over two years before I interviewed Vicki in December. My son was due in February. I had decided to move to New York toward the end of my pregnancy and needed to figure out his birth. I asked Vicki if any of her babies had ever died.  Yes, she said, One baby. He was my nephew. She told me that before he was born she had a dream that her nephew looked like a seal swimming in deep, dark waters. She told me that Ian, her nephew’s older brother, asked his father What if the baby isn’t a baby? What if the baby is a seal? When the baby had low heart tones towards the end of the pregnancy his mother, Karen, went to the hospital to deliver and soon after labor, without any knowledge of his condition, he died as she held him.

I bought that small dolphin and put it by my bed. A few days later I found out that my baby had several anomalies and might have trisomy 18 or 13. The best scenario is that this baby has Down Syndrome and a heart defect the doctor said. When I trained recently to become a Peer Minister for Isaiah’s Promise, the trainer from Be Not Afraid said Our parents pray for Down Syndrome. Those babies live. Those babies are miracles when you have a fatal “diagnosis.” I didn’t pray for that particular trisomy because somehow I knew that the sadness I had felt, the sadness that I thought was exhaustion might have been some intuitive knowing. My baby would be severely retarded. My baby would have no muscle tone. My baby would die.

I texted Vicki to tell her about my ultrasound results and she told me then that her nephew, John Gilbert, died of trisomy 18. I imagine the baby swimming in deep water, his body lithe and dark, flexible to be who he was. A sweet boy. Someone’s son. A Light.

When pediatric hospice tried to sabotage my homebirth, Vicki offered her home to me to birth Mary Rose peacefully. She had a friend in hospice and had already made contact with her. I felt so loved, surrounded by Grace here in my house with Vicki’s support reaching from New Jersey to Virginia. I recently had tea with Vicki and she told me more about John Gilbert’s birth. After John died his mother decided to pump and donate her son’s milk to other infants. His mother pumped for six weeks and during that time, Vicki got calls from all over the tri-state area from mothers who needed breast milk for their infants. John’s mother pumped gallons of milk and Vicki drove that milk to the Bronx, Westchester, Rockland County, around New Jersey. His milk fed five babies in that time. Vicki says John Gilbert continues to bless families by putting babies in need and their mothers with extra milk years later.

In Patricia Harman’s novel The Midwife of Hope River, Mrs. Potts, an older midwife is talking to the narrator, a younger midwife, about her son.

“Is he grown?”

“No, he died. Died at birth…”

“That’s what makes you a good midwife,” the old lady says. “You know the value of life, and you know loss. My father used to say the two are one, like the bramble and the rose. Life and death…the bramble and the rose” (200).

John Gilbert and Mary Rose are integral parts of our lives. Vicki and I choose to hold the space for the living and the dead who live on and bless us still. When Vicki and John’s parents looked into his dark eyes, they saw the depths between the worlds. As Vicki continues to receive babies she remembers her nephew and somehow understands the connection between the ancestors and ourselves a little more than those who have not witnessed the deaths of young ones whom we expected to live. Once we experience an infant death we do not take new life for granted anymore.

John Gilbert is an excellent midwife’s assistant. He is there with Vicki, especially in those dark hours of the night that remind us of the ocean’s mysteries when women labor as they wait for the light of the sun and the warmth of their newborns’ bodies in their arms.

To the Mother in the Red Shirt at Music Class

musicroom_tcm4-119705When my son walked over to you, staring at your beautiful baby boy, you asked him What do you want? My three-year-old boy did not take the triangle that you offered him. What is it that you want? you asked again reaching for a tambourine as he stared at you and your son processing how your baby moves and his sister did not.

The first time that my son saw a newborn after his sister, Mary Rose, died of trisomy 18 an hour after birth, he was startled when the baby girl moved her hands. Later in the car he said to me Our Mary Rose didn’t move.

Why do some babies go to heaven? he asks. Why do some babies live? God, the Gardener, plants the soul in the best garden for her soul I tell him. Mary Rose is doing her work in heaven. We are here doing our work on earth. I want to go to heaven, he says again. I want to be with my sister, Mary Rose.

Mother in Music Class, I’m sorry that my son made you feel uncomfortable. He is a little boy who knows unbearable loss and yet he bears it. Your son was moving and crawling and thriving. He doesn’t know much about the babies who live yet.