We love life. Each pregnancy in our house has been a source of great joy and excitement. It has been a gift to bear children and raise them for Heaven. We pray for and bless each night “the baby in mama’s belly” and anticipate baby’s arrival with great joy. This pregnancy was no different. The boys were excited to see if we would be a family of five boys or if God has given us a little girl this time. Most of their votes were for another boy!
At our 20 week ultrasound baby was measuring a week and a half behind so my doctor wanted us to have another ultrasound at 26 weeks to track baby’s growth. At that ultrasound we discovered that baby was a he and we named him Andrew Jon. He was now a month behind and my placenta was shutting down; blood was not flowing through the umbilical cord like it should be. The next week was a blur of doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, steroid shots, tears, prayers and preparations. If Andrew remained in the womb he would die in a matter of weeks; if we delivered, his chances weren’t great either. We wanted to give him a chance to live, and give God a chance to work a miracle.
Andrew Jon was delivered on November 9th, 2009 at 26 weeks gestation but weighing just 13oz. After the doctor told us he was off to a good start we hoped and prayed that we were just looking at a long NICU stay. What a gift it was to see him for a moment just after he was born, and to know that in the next room he was being baptized by our dear friend Fr. Andrew! Our first two answered prayers for miracles-he was alive and he was baptized! We were told the next day that Andrew had a major hemorrhage in his brain. Because of the blood flow problem in the placenta and umbilical cord his body tried to compensate by pumping extra blood to the brain to protect it. All that extra blood had pooled within the tissue of the brain and it was something the doctors couldn’t fix.
Our son was going to die. The news was shocking, devastating. Even knowing going into delivery how serious things were, I had not prepared myself for this possibility. I needed more time; “Please God, more time with my son. I’m not ready, please don’t take my son.” But time was not something we had; we saw his movement decrease, we watched his little body puff up with fluid as his kidneys were shutting down, soon the need for insulin because his body couldn’t regulate his sugar levels, and we knew, short of a miracle, the hemorrhage in his brain wasn’t going away.
We had the gift of one more day with him…sitting with him, touching him, praying with him, having him receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick/Last Rites, giving him a little sponge bath, dressing him, and finally, holding him in our arms and kissing him before we said good-bye. Another answered prayer- to hold him, to kiss him, and to tell him that I loved him. We had our four boys brought to the hospital so we could have some time as a family with Andrew. In our little room we prayed together, the boys got to hold Andrew, kiss him and bless him. He was surrounded by love. His body only knew pain, but his heart only knew love.
Andrew died Wednesday November 11th, living just two short days.
We were so blessed to be surrounded and sustained by prayer; family, friends, friends of friends, strangers even were praying for us. Our oldest son, Lawrence, said a miracle already happened because “all these people are praying.” And our second oldest, Michael, told the babysitters when he got home, “Now we have a Saint in our family!” We had wonderful priests walk with us during this time; bringing us not only their love and support, but the graces and gifts of the Church…Holy Communion, Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick…the grace was tangible.
Andrew Jon’s funeral was big and beautiful. It was a celebration of life…the life we were allowed to share with him and the life that he was now enjoying in Heaven. The funeral procession on the way to the cemetery went on and on. I was filled with gratitude, both for those who loved us so much and for the beauty of life. Andrew didn’t “do” or “accomplish” anything by worldly standards…but his life had infinite value because he was a Child of God.
Andrew’s life is such a gift. The pain of losing him can’t erase the love in our hearts. Even in the midst of the pain and sorrow, I would choose him again. I can’t imagine not loving him. I can’t tell you how much I’ve cried, how I long to hold him and have him here with me, how many times I’ve asked God why this had to be, how many acts of faith and trust I’ve made and will have to make in the future. But I would never wish not conceiving Andrew-I am grateful for the gift and beauty of his short life.
We know that Andrew Jon is in Heaven, we trust that he is interceding for us to the Father, and we hope to be with him again one day in Heaven where every tear will be wiped away. Saint Andrew Jon, pray for us!