I wanted to so desperately share with you the story of my first daughter's coming into creation. I couldn't before so I will share now, hoping that you can see this and know this in Heaven.
I had had a miscarriage a few months prior and was in a depressed state. My husband was very supportive, in fact, it strengthened our marriage because we know knew we would count on one another totally through life.
It wasn't as though we had struggled with infertility for many years. It just took about a year to become pregnant and then the anticipated joy was ripped away.
But I was feeling like a failure anyway. Easter was coming so I did what I do every year since as long as I can remember. I went to church to bless the Easter Basket.
I went inside, knowing full well that I felt out of place. After all, I had not done my First Holy Communion, nor did I know the hymns and other rituals of a Catholic Mass. Not really. It had been years since my parents had taken me to church. At this point in time, I had only been going to bless the Easter basket and sometimes the Christmas Mass.
I had serious doubts in my heart about God, Heaven, and the whole Life after Death subject.
After prayers, I went to put some money into the Poor box and take my basket from around the alter where everyone had placed their baskets. I saw many people walking to a corner by the alter and look into an alcove and whisper and pray together. I looked at a woman next to me and asked what they were doing.
She was dressed in plain clothing, no logos, no designer names, no patterns or prints. She had short brown hair cut in a low maintenance style and wore glasses. She looked at me and smiled a makeup free and yet open smile. "They are going and praying at the shrine to Jesus' crucifixion. Come on, let's both go."
I thought, "She's awfully presumptuous." I shook my head and said "I don't really know how to pray" before I knew what came out of my mouth. In my mind, I kicked myself and planned a way to run out of the doors of the church before my non-Catholic self is found out by other Catholics present.
By then, I had been lead in the crowd to claim my basket and come before the shrine. It hit me that I knew this shrine. I had knelt before it as a small child, my mother in a dark dress crying and kneeling and praying quietly to God about what I didn't know. My mother was not exactly a fervent Catholic.
Jesus was made of a dark glossy wood and his face was full of suffering. He was lit from the sides of the shrine and flowers, Easter Lilies, surrounded the shrine. I looked at the shrine and thought "How easy is it to believe in a man you have never met when people have always been liars, cheats, and exaggerators?" Yes, deep down, I am a cynic. Of everything. How terrible does it feel to go into a church when you are cynic, you have no idea if you are not one. And I can tell you, it feels terrible.
I turned away and began to walk out. The woman asked me a question, if I came there often. I mumbled "No, I don't really go to church. I just came to bless my basket."
She then floored me by saying "I didn't use to really go to church either. I didn't have faith. But then I met my husband and blahblahblah" I can't tell you what she said, I was in my own little world of misery thinking about the fact that my baby should have been a newborn at this time and not really hearing much of the world around me.
Then, she looked at me differently and said "I had a really hard time getting pregnant too." I swear to you, I heard this random woman, whom I had never met before in my life who I was not really sure why in the world she was talking to me, say "too".
I looked at her confused. She went on to explain that her and her husband had gone through infertility for a few years and that she had gone to pray at a special spot in the church and become pregnant. Her husband had by this time come up to stand by her, holding a little blonde haired girl. Apparently, this was a classic Catholic family having several children, I found out.
This woman had offered me such an intimate glimpse into her infertility struggle, which I won't go into details because honestly, my mind was reeling with questions how this particular woman having this particular problem had come to be talking to me. So, I decided to tell her my own struggle. "My husband and I lost a baby a few months ago. It was due about this time. I can't seem to get pregnant since." Yet, I didn't cry.
I felt like a child again, just telling an adult what the Easter bunny had brought me. A big fat nothing. No big deal, I was used to it. Why would the Easter bunny bring me anything? Who was I? Probably he only visited the bratty kids anyway. The ones who's Mami and Tati could afford toys and candy because they weren't new immigrants.
Just like the pregnancy fairy only visited the women who didn't want children. It sounds terrible, I know. I was hurting inside and my way to deal with it was to shut off from others. And remember, I am a cynic.
This strange woman told me that there was a spot in the basement where two miracles had occurred which the Father had seen and which were ratified by Pope John Paul II. That there was a curio cabinet now at the spot commemorating it. That she had gone there in her "hour of doubt" as she called it, prayed and become pregnant and from there had not had any more problems with becoming pregnant.
That it couldn't hurt for me to go and pray there as well. I looked at her, blinked a couple of times, unsure of what to say. In my mind, I thought "Is this some sort of crazy killer trick to get me in the basement of this church for who knows what? Is this some sort of cult thing?"
I told her again "I don't know how to pray". This was crazy. Yet, why I wasn't just walking out the door, I can't tell you.
I followed her and her husband downstairs, I am sure the Father of the Church approved it for them or they worked for the Church or something. The basement was an off white tiling I recognized from my childhood. The lights were turned on for the area around the curio only.
There was nothing special about this. The curio cabinet was just a curio cabinet. There were photos of Pope John Paul II and some letters and a plaque from the Vatican regarding the miracles at the spot.
They both looked at me expectantly. My vision honed in on the red on the robes of Pope John Paul II. In my mind, I thought "There is a bigger picture beyond me. And amazing things happen when people hope and believe. There is my proof." I had not thought like that for, well, I don't know how long.
I bowed my head, crossed myself, unsure if I was praying "right". I felt the same feeling I would feel when I would try praying in front of my mother as a child and she would laugh quietly, making some comment about why I was doing one way or another when it was obvious I was just trying.
I thought "God, you know I don't know what I'm doing here. I don't really talk to you. And I'm sorry. I don't know how. But you know that. I want to have a baby with my husband. If you think that we would be good parents, that would be great if you would let us have a baby. But if you just let me know somehow that it's not meant to be, I'll adopt. Well, thank you." I crossed myself again because I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to in the beginning of the prayer, the end or both times.
I looked up, squared my shoulders, made eye contact with them both, said "Thank you" and walked out of the church without looking back. Perhaps I should have talked to them more, I don't know. But I walked out.
I went home, life went on as normal. But I wasn't depressed. Life was just life at that point in time. Nothing too terrible. My husband and I didn't stress about my becoming pregnant. We just loved one another and went about our daily routine together.
Less than two weeks later.
My husband, our best friend, and I go camping. I am feeling fine leaving the neighborhood. It begins to rain. It always rains the first camping trip of the year for us. This is nothing new. We are nature lovers. We can handle rain. This trip, we rented a cabin instead of tent camping because we wanted to see what cabin camping was like.
Normally, during the setup, I grab the items belonging inside the tent or cabin and begin setting up the pad, pillows, sleeping bags, etc. This time, I grabbed a sleeping bag, walked up the stairs, and laid down. I felt... wrong. Not wrong, but off. Something wasn't right. My husband and our friend were calling to me to help out, what was the hold up, what was going on.
I sat up and the world spun. "I don't feel good. We need to go home."
This has never come out of my mouth camping. Ever. We have probably gone camping thousands of times. I have gone camping with allergies, a cold, miserable rain all day and night, heat and humidity all day and night as well.
And normally, my husband is the type to cry out incredulously "What?!" and begin drilling with questions trying to understand what nonsense is popping his proverbial balloon. Instead, they talked for a second, shrugged their shoulders, asked me if I could camp for one night.
"No." The tone wasn't angry, frustrated, sad. It was dizzy, make this ride stop so I can get off, and yet I was laying down at this point.
Everything was packed up again and we drove home. I fell asleep on the ride back. Again, very unusual. I fell like the weight of the world was physically keeping me from moving my arms and legs, from opening my eyes. The dizziness was gone, thankfully. Now, my throat hurt on one tonsil.
We arrived home and I just remember waking up the next day. I felt terrible all day and my tonsil hurting.
We all went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant. The Czech waitress, who had served us many times before and was a pleasant person, looked at me crossly and proclaimed "What are you doing? Don't you know what's going on? You, a Pole, should be wearing black right now!"
I asked her what was going on and that we had gone camping and I wasn't feeling well. Her eyes teared up and through the emotions, she whispered "The Polish Pope is on his deathbed."
I had known he was not feeling well but this was too much. We left immediately and turned on the news and I put on black clothing.
As the day passed, I felt worse and worse. By Sunday, I was in Patient First thinking I had the flu. The doctor was leaving the room to get me a prescription as I mentioned as a side thought, but discounting it completely, "We are trying to get pregnant, by the way."
He had a woman come in to draw blood to do a pregnancy test, just as a precaution. I wasn't thinking about becoming pregnant. I was thinking about the Polish Pope passing away.
I called my husband and was telling him that the doctor thought I had the flu when the doctor came in. I hurriedly ended the conversation and he smiled at me. "Call your husband back. You're pregnant. Congratulations."
I was floating on clouds suddenly. I was thinking about Easter and that strange woman and the red of the robes in the picture and the kind smile I grew up feeling as though it was meant for everyone everywhere, like a kind Dziadek.
I looked up and whispered "Thank you, God. I hear you."
And went home to bury the Polish Pope with the rest of the world. A world united in mourning and knowing that there would not be another like you for a very very long time.
Part I: Letter to Polish Pope