A Year Without Jude

jesuswithbabyLast year on this day, my wife and I went through one of the hardest days of our married life: we lost a baby due to ectopic pregnancy.  I don’t have much recollection of the nearly two weeks leading up to her emergency surgery, most of it presents as a hazy blur of stress, emotions, doctor visits, and worry.

We had exhausted every option and waited longer than the doctors would have preferred in hopes of a miracle or a natural miscarriage, but in the end we had to exercise the Principle of Double Effect and my wife had surgery to remove her damaged Fallopian tube which resulted in the loss of our child.

A year later, I feel like I have some further perspective and I’d like to share a few thoughts today.

Understanding Suffering

The hardest thing in the world is to watch your spouse’s heart break and there is nothing you can do about it.  This is made even harder when your own heart is breaking at the same time.  Going through this pain together has brought us closer as a couple.  We both talk about the emotional pain that we feel even though the physical wounds of the surgery have long healed.

Before this all happened, I would read reflections or passages from Scripture regarding mourning and suffering in a somewhat academic way.  I had lost relatives that were close to me, however I had never gone through something that razed my emotions so deeply.  The absolute worst part was the pain of losing the baby, and the realization that I came very close to losing my wife too.  Then to experience firsthand the pain that she went through was a wholly different experience.

A year later, I understand better what it means to cooperate with the grace that comes from suffering.  I know that people have it far worse.  Some people have experience this sort of emotional pain through numerous miscarriages, stillbirth, or the loss of a young child and I am far more sympathetic to that type of pain now.  I also understand that I only have a partial perspective on this, because the emotional suffering that my wife went through (and to a degree, still does) was much worse.

Walking in faith and not by sight

In hard times like this, we were often counseled to trust in God… to heed Christ’s mandate to take up our cross and follow him.  I was helped greatly by one of our parish priests, who heard my Confession shortly after the surgery where I admitted being angry at God that my family had to go through this.  He told me that I took the hard but correct road and that I was a great friend of Jesus, and to know that He is there with me to make good come out of this.

After some reflection and discussion, my wife and I realized that God had willed this and we could assist in seeing that some good came from this experience.  We were already advocates of the pro-life movement, and this redoubled my resolve to participate in pro-life activities.  I worked on a spaghetti dinner project to raise over $1000 for the Knights of Columbus ultrasound initiative, which purchases ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy centers to enable women to choose life.  It was, after all, an ultrasound machine that detected this situation and potentially saved my wife.  We continue to pray for the unborn, including our baby Jude.  We continue to have faith that Christ will work through us to bring good out of this loss.

Hope for an intercessor

Shortly after the counsel that I received from my priest, I had a discussion with an 87-year-old friend of mine from the parish.  He had lost a two children of his own, and we talked about the hopes and prayers that our children were with Christ now and enjoying their eternal reward.

The reality hit me in that special way that gave me goosebumps all over: my baby Jude could be in Heaven interceding for us here on Earth.  I take great comfort in the idea that my child is with the Lord now praying for us and watching his big sister build blocks with Daddy.  I explained this notion to my elderly friend, and found it comforting as well.  While we don’t claim to know God’s Will for anyone, we can trust in his great mercy and the hope that our departed loved ones are with the Lord, praying and interceding for those of us they left behind.

Remembering is important

Many people have told me to just get over it, or that I’m making too big of a deal out of this situation.  I usually counter with the argument that if this child had been born, nobody would dare to make such an argument.  I take great comfort in praying for him by name and remembering that little life.  I am also deeply thankful for the support of our family, friends, and parish who stood by us during this difficult time and continue to strengthen us today.

I ask that all who read this stop and say a prayer for my baby, Jude Michael, and for our family’s continued healing.  Pray for all that have been stricken by the pain of miscarriage and stillbirth that they might be strengthened by Christ, and pray for an end to abortion and for the souls of all of the unborn.

If you have a few extra minutes, you can also read the rest of Jude’s Story including the prayer that I wrote for his baptism.

We miss you and love you, Jude.  Pray for us!

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)


The mystical Body of Christ

The week of waiting before we knew the ultimate fate of our pregnancy and Tasha’s health was terribly hard.  After she went to the emergency room, I stayed close to home in order to keep close tabs on her condition.  The one exception I made was for my Friday morning men’s fellowship, for no other reason than I was so wrapped up in concern for my wife and unborn child that I neglected to arrange someone to cover me.  After checking on Tasha’s condition and ensuring that she would have her phone nearby in case something happened, I headed off to Church for the two hours required to do the session.

I had my phone at the ready, and before the session began I informed the group that if I received a phone call from my wife it was urgent and I might have to leave immediately.  Unsurprisingly, they pushed me for more details so I told them that Tasha had a very serious situation going on and if I got a call it could be life threatening.  I wasn’t ready to share with them that we were pregnant let alone that the pregnancy was at risk, because we weren’t sure at that point if anything was wrong or if this was a big false alarm.

I was taken aback when one of the men in the group suggested that we start the session with a prayer for her, so I croaked out an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be before heading back to my chair.  Before I was done with the last prayer, I noticed the man I was sitting next to fiddling with something around his neck.

As I sat down, he leaned over to me and pressed his chain of saint medallions into my hand, along with a laminated prayer card with a relic of Our Lady of Garabandal (a Marian apparition).  He told me that he would be praying for my wife and for her to keep these things with her and pray with them until she was healed.

At this point I was holding back tears.  For one, this man is a very traditional Catholic and very orthodox in his practice of the Faith.  These items are very dear to him (as my own medallions that commemorate my favorite saints are to me) and for him to quickly give this holy items away in order to ease our pain was jarring to me.

Later in the day I got a phone call from that same man.  He wanted to check on Tasha to see how she was doing, and wanted to know if it was possible to drop off a few things.  He showed up around twenty minutes later with a bottle of water from Lourdes, citing the tradition that bathing in and drinking the water has presented miraculous cures.  He also brought a card indicating that he had already had a Mass said for our intentions.

It was clear that my friend was pulling out all the stops to heap graces on my family, in hopes that our pain would be removed from us.  His prayers, and the prayers of many of our other friends and parishioners helped us immensely through this challenging time.  Never before has it been so evident that the human members of the Catholic Church truly do comprise the mystical Body of Christ.  These people are not my family by blood, some of them aren’t even close friends.  Tasha, Jude and I had a veritable army of people praying for us.  At least two priests said Mass for us.  The outpouring of support and love was astonishing, humbling, and truly made me thankful to God for our Faith.

Some of my skeptical friends might be asking the obvious question: “well, why didn’t those prayers work?  Why weren’t you healed and your baby saved if these things were so holy?”  Valid questions.

I honestly believe that through these prayers and the intercession of Mary and the Saints that our desires were presented to God.  I am confident that he listened and that the way this situation played out was a result of his Divine Will.  The exact reason for this is a mystery that I may never know the answer to, however it has shown me more clearly how supportive the Church can be in a time of need.

I thanked my friend profusely a few weeks ago when I returned his prayer card and medallions.  Throughout this process, he was very supportive and mourned with us at the loss of our baby.  He was distressed as he told me that he was sure that we would have had a happy ending and he wished it would have ended differently, and I told him that God’s Will was done and we can take some comfort in knowing that.  He should take some comfort in that too, since his actions helped us further our understanding and relationship with God.


The Adversary at our heels…

In the baptism prayers that I wrote for our unborn baby Jude, I referred to The Adversary at our heels throughout this process.  I have received several questions about this, so allow me to elaborate.

Thanks to the Grace of God, Tasha and I were prepared for the worst kind of news when the phone call came to confirm that our pregnancy was, in fact, ectopic.  The doctor informed us of the specifics of the situation, and that we needed to come in immediately for the shot.  For those of you that don’t know, the most common way to handle this situation is a shot of  the drug Methotrexate (MTX), which attacks the tissue cells that connect the embryo to its mother, causing miscarriage.  The problem with this approach is the fact that it amount to nothing short of a chemical attack on the growing baby, which kills it.  This “solution” was not acceptable to Tasha and I, and the doctor was very surprised when we denied this treatment.  So we scheduled the partial tube removal surgery, which is morally acceptable by the Principle of Double Effect.  For more details, see the excellent article at Catholics United for the Faith regarding ectopic pregnancy.

As we moved from that situation to informing our friends and family, we had to field MANY questions regarding why we have to have surgery… “can’t they just handle this without surgery?”  Or appeals to convenience: “why don’t you just take the shot and be done with it?” Several people tried to convince me that our child was merely a lump of cells and we were making a big deal out of nothing.  Even the doctor continually referred to our child’s remains as “the tissue” when asking whether we needed to view the remains.  Despite knowing the reasons for our objections to the treatment, she still wouldn’t call our child a child.  (Granted, she may have been doing this for liability reasons but it really offended me.)

The worst type of affront was when people would try to convince me by pointing out that my baby was doomed regardless of the treatment we took.  I know.  My baby is going to die, or my wife AND my baby could die.  The logic continued that since the baby would die anyway, why wouldn’t we just take the least invasive, convenient treatment so we could be done with it?

I believe that if the end is going to be the same, then the way you get to that end truly matters.  Taking the easy way would require me to handwave the fact that my child is every bit alive and growing, and this was exactly the problem.  My baby wasn’t dead YET.  The convenient treatments all required us to directly dissolve our baby, and from my perspective that’s nothing short of murder.  If we chose this course, then we would be acting in a way to take us away from salvation and make us complicit in the death of our own child.   This seems to me like the sort of thing that the Lord told us explicitly not to do.

The surgery that we had did also result in our baby’s death, but it was done by treating my wife’s Fallopian tube which was near rupture.  Jude’s death was the secondary (and undesired) effect of the procedure.  We chose to do what we felt was the best moral way to handle the situation.  Jude was our child, and his life deserves equal consideration to our own.

I believe that this is the way that the Devil tempts people today, using the tools of attractive convenience.  He’d rather make us believe that a tiny life is no different than any other tissue,  mole,  or skin tag – that we can medicate or burn it off without a second thought.  He’d prefer us to think that just because you can’t look that child in the eyes, or hold it in your arms that it’s not real and from God.  He wants us to put ourselves in front of others, our own convenience in front of the sanctity of life.

Each time this happened, I turned to Christ’s rebuke for strength: “…‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” (Matthew 16:23 NIV, in part)  My prayer is that our actions did put Satan behind us during this difficult time and drew us closer to God.


A baptism prayer for my child…

After we found out that our pregnancy was ectopic and would require surgery, I contacted our local priest for some counsel.  He instructed us to get some holy water from the Church and baptize the baby prior to the surgery.  He explained this is the same way that nurses can baptize, and told us that we can sprinkle Tasha’s stomach with water in the same form as standard baptism.  He also instructed us to pick a name for the baby and then remember the baby in prayer and he would remember the baby in Mass for us.

My Mom had decided to rush in from Illinois to support us during the surgery and to watch our daughter, so I decided that we would do the baptism the night before the surgery.  We spent the day prior selecting a name, and I had decided at that time that I would like to put some prayers together.  I always enjoyed hearing the priest or deacon talk before the baptism, and I figured it is my right as a father to pray for my child.  I wrote down some notes and practiced in a weak attempt to protect against breaking down and bawling (it didn’t work).

I set up some candles and a cloth and said the following prayers with my wife and Mom present. I decided to post them here for the benefit of my friends and family that could not be present and to thank God yet again for the blessing of this little life, with us for far too short of a time:

Almighty and ever-living God, we gather here today with the full knowledge that your Mercy extends beyond the Sacraments that you provide mankind.  We come to thank you for our own lives and the life of our unborn baby, for Tasha’s health, our friends and family that comprise your mystical Body, and for the gift of Faith which we cling to in hard times such as these.

Your Son said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:14)” and so we do.  But as we aim to do this, The Adversary is ever at our heels tempting us to take immoral actions that would take us away from your Grace.  Instead of losing our souls and salvation we strengthen our resolve, our Faith, and our family bond during this hard time and bring you one more saint in Heaven.

As so I baptize you in the name of the Father <pour water>, and of the Son <pour water>, and of the Holy Spirit <pour water>.

Thank you for the life of this child, who we name Jude Michael Dalcher after the patron saint of lost causes.  We ask you to commend him to your Divine Care and grant us peace instead of sorrow, love instead of pain, and strength instead of despair.  This is living our Faith and though this child will not be with us, we hope our example of strong Faith brings others to you.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

O My Jesus, forgive us our sins.  Save us from the fires of Hell.  Lead all souls into Heaven, especially those most in need of thy Mercy.

Saint Jude, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Peregrine, pray for us.
Saint Peter, pray for us.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
All our departed family, pray for us.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.



A terrible loss…

This sad story begins on the morning of October 30th, with some happy news: my wife Tasha and I found out that she was pregnant with our second child.  The test itself showed only a faint positive line, but a second test confirmed the result.  From there, things progressed normally (albeit quickly) into the normal nausea and fatigue that accompany early pregnancy.  I was surprised to receive a phone call from my wife around 11 am on Tuesday, November 6th: she was experiencing sharp pain and cramping and I could tell from the tone in her voice that she was scared.

I rushed home from work and took her to the emergency room, where they opted for a sonogram to check to see if there was anything visibly wrong.  Unfortunately they could not see anything because it was too early in the pregnancy.  They also checked her pregnancy hormone levels via a blood test to get a benchmark level and they wanted to test it again in two days.  By the time the doctors had finished their assessment, Tasha was already starting to feel better and the pain was subsiding.  The doctor agreed that this was encouraging, and that we should diligently monitor her condition in case the pain returned or worsened.  At the follow-up blood test, they discovered that hormone levels were not doubling every 48-72 hours as they should be at this phase.  They warned us that it could be an ectopic pregnancy, or it could be nothing at all wrong.

A grueling week of close monitoring my wife (due to the threat of a possible ruptured tube) and worrying about the fate of our child culminated in some very bad news: last Monday we found out that the baby was located in my wife’s left Fallopian tube and was still growing.  This placed my wife in serious danger, so last Thursday she had the operation to remove the damaged tube.  Tragically, there was no way that the baby could survive.  My wife is still recovering from the surgery but we both thank God that we detected the condition before it turned life-threatening for her.  This leaves me in the difficult situation of being both grateful that my wife is safe and devastated the loss of our second child.

I must admit that I have sat down to write about this experience several times over the past two weeks, recounting the whirlwind of emotions and fears, the comfort of unexpected support, and the deep sorrow of loss… but frankly the pain is just too near right now for me to do a reasonable job at it.  One thing that I can capture now, is that I know that God is working in my life.  Four weeks ago – before our positive pregnancy test – I was preparing to write the first of a handful of articles that I was concerned would be too controversial.  It was regarding facts about abortion, the fifth of which outlined the Principle of Double Effect.  When researching that article I thought it was important to refresh my understanding on what is morally acceptable and what is not from the Catholic point-of-view.  I had no clue that less than a month later my wife and I would have to execute on this new knowledge.  God was preparing us for the road ahead.

I can tell you this with certainty: doing what is morally right and licit is difficult.  Devastatingly difficult.  But over the last two weeks, Tasha and I have received great comfort from friends, family, and faith.  Through this tragedy I have gotten to see God’s work in new ways.  As I work through the grief, I want to capture the impact of these experiences in order to honor that little life that ended far too soon.