It’s been a year.
A year ago, when I was in labor at 33 weeks, I thought, “This can’t be it! It’s too early! I’m not ready!” But she was. Cecilia was ready to change our lives.
There’s a quote that a fellow Trisomy 18 mama shared, and it has resonated with me so much this past year. “People ask, “Why do children or young people die, when they have lived so little?” How do you know that they have lived so little? This crude measure of yours is time, but life is not measured in time. How do you know what inner growth this soul accomplished in its short span, and what influence it had upon others? Each life is meaningful, significant, and valuable… no matter how short.” -Leo Tolstoy
I only had a few hours to hold my second baby girl. I tried to soak up so much of her before I had to give her away. Touching her baby-soft skin, staring at her dark hair, and memorizing the visible signs of her Trisomy 18 diagnosis – clenched fists, cleft lip and tiny ears that stuck straight out. But the time still came, and I still had to go home without her. Back to the home that remained the same, and also somehow changed forever.
The word ‘seasons’ stuck with me. I knew this would be a long, hard season of grief. Just like the seasons of the year, I knew it would eventually transition into something else, but I would always circle back to it.
Somehow, day by day, things got easier. Talking helped, but prayer gave me strength. Between our 22-week ultrasound when we were given her Trisomy 18 diagnosis, and when she was born, there was a gospel reading that spoke right to me.
“On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and the sea obey?” -Mark 4:35-41
Every time I felt the choppy waters of life threaten to drown me, I told myself, “I’ve got Jesus in my boat. He will keep me safe.”
I was beyond thankful for having two healthy children at home, finally realizing what a gift they are, and I didn’t want to take them for granted any more. I ignored most ‘outlets’ that I used to distract myself with (online shopping, social media scrolling, etc.) and I searched for ways to become a better mom and wife.
As a family, we started a garden, filling up almost every square inch of what I thought should just be put to lawn two years ago. We enjoyed the Black Hills like tourists do. I joined the women’s book club through our church, and was introduced to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
This is where things really took a turn! I had been considering homeschooling our kids for a while, and had come across some Montessori things here and there, but didn’t really know where to start. When it was suggested that I check out this training for CGS, I thought it would just be for my personal growth.
So I signed up for an intense 8-day training (which was both overwhelming and SO exciting) and I learned all kinds of ways to teach scripture + liturgy to 3-6 year olds. I learned so much about my faith, and was amazed at how much young kids can soak up if only we present it to them! On the last day of training, we visited another church who had this system in place.
It was the church that Lance and I got married in seven years ago. And the classroom used for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd had a sign with a name above the door: St. Cecilia.
I had already thanked God for giving me this opportunity to learn something so wonderful, but that sign was everything I needed to know that this is exactly where I was called to be.
The rest of the summer and fall was a blur. I was so grateful to have found something that God clearly wanted me to pursue. He gifted us with another new life (yes – we are expecting a baby boy in April!!!) which has been a journey in and of itself. And this winter I was able to finish up my training for CGS – which brings me to Cecilia’s first birthday.
It was the first day of our last 3-day training session. Before I got out of bed, I pulled up the day’s readings on my phone. The gospel was Mark 4:35-41. “Quiet! Be Still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Thank you, God, for giving me exactly what I needed that day.
I traveled to the church where Lance and I got married (where the last of the training took place) and cherished the image of Mary and baby Jesus above the front door.
I studied hard and answered the awkward small-talk questions at lunch, “When are you due?” and “How many kids do you have?” Deep breath… “Two at home, one in heaven.” And then someone asked how long ago that happened. Another deep breath. “A year ago today.”
I busied myself all afternoon with more learning and note-taking, and when it was time to go home for the day, I walked out of the church to see the sky filled with PINK!
Thank you God. Thank you Cecilia. I love you so much. Thank you for this year of immense growth. My family and I wouldn’t be who we are without you.