Worry was beginning to replace my excitement. Lying on the couch, twelve weeks pregnant, I was hoping to hear my baby’s heart-beat for the first time. But there was no glorious glub dub, only silence.
“I’ll try over here,” said the doctor, moving his instrument across my body, once more. “Sometimes it’s difficult to hear the baby’s heart-beat at this stage. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong.” He tried to reassure me but he failed. If a doctor can’t find a heart-beat, it probably means the baby has died. I knew this from my own experiences.
The doctor eventually gave up trying, and asked me to make an appointment for an ultrasound to find out what was going on.
As I walked to the hospital I prayed, “Please help me face any bad news.” I knew that seeing my lifeless baby on the ultrasound screen would be very painful.
I explained my situation to the receptionist in the ultrasound department. “It’s Friday. You won’t want to spend the whole weekend not knowing one way or the other,” she said with empathy. “Start drinking this water. I’ll fit you in as soon as possible.”
So I sat in the waiting room with my jug of water, and as I sipped, I prayed over and over again: “Mother Mary pray for me! Help me get through the ultrasound.” I needed strength to face the words, "I'm sorry... your baby has died." I wanted to get home without breaking down.
An hour or so later, I was lying alongside the ultrasound screen with my eyes closed, trying to pretend I was somewhere else.
“There’s your baby. Let’s see if I can find the heart… Yes… It’s beating beautifully!”
“My baby’s alive?” I opened my eyes. Surely the technician had made a mistake. But there was no doubt. I looked at my baby. She was moving. Her heart was beating. She was very much alive.
I floated home with a huge grin on my face. I’d been preparing myself for sorrow, but instead I’d been given joy. I couldn’t quite believe it. I kept replaying the scene in the ultrasound room: “There’s your baby. Let’s see if I can find the heart… Yes… It’s beating beautifully!”
That baby was Gemma-Rose. I loved her from the moment I knew she existed. That love grew even stronger the day I saw her for the first time on the ultrasound screen. My heart overflowed with joy. I didn’t think it was possible for that love to increase any further. But my love for my youngest daughter has grown and grown and grown. It has grown so much it hurts.
Love hurts? Why does love hurt? I am sure love is God. Or is God love? Anyway, they are bound up together. God is perfectly good, so how can love hurt? I think some more and decide it’s not actually love that hurts but the thought of losing that love that causes the heart to ache. The more we love someone, the more it will hurt if we lose that person.
I wonder if I should hold back and not love so much. I could protect my heart just in case. But it is impossible. That love will not be suppressed.
I think again about Gemma-Rose’s ultrasound. I had prepared myself for sorrow and instead received joy. What if I step back and protect my heart, anticipating sorrow, and it never arrives? What a waste.
And if sorrow did arrive, and I were to lose any of my children, I do not want regret to be tangled up with the grief. I want to know I loved with all my heart while I had the chance.
So I am living in the present moment, loving as much as I can, cherishing all that God has given me, not only Gemma-Rose but my whole family.
Despite this resolution, sometimes a tiny nagging thought appears (from the devil, I am sure), “Be careful about loving too much. What if…?” I try to crush it and answer with confidence, “If sorrow arrives, God will give me the strength I need. He will look after tomorrow. All I have to think about is today.”
Today Gemma-Rose climbs onto my lap. “You look like you need a hug," she says. I do.
So today I hug. Today I enjoy. Today I love.