Damian & Andrea’s Story
"He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We drove in silence to the nearest pharmacy. We didn’t know the area well, but figured even Whitby had to have a Shoppers Drug Mart or the like close by to pick up a few essentials. Not like it really mattered anyway; we welcomed however long the errand would take. It gave us some valuable time to escape the festive family gathering that is Christmas.
Andrea had been bleeding profusely that day. A box of super-absorbant pads and new underwear and we’d be on our way back to my sister’s in-laws. We were told Andrea’s body would need some time to heal, and that the bleeding would be quite excessive. That was back in mid-October when Andrea suffered one of the most tragic of circumstances – the loss of an unborn child.
From the day of the miscarriage to that cold day in December, I lived in a virtual haze. As for Andrea, I couldn’t comprehend what kind of strength she would have to muster to get through it. I was unable to say the words that would bring that gleam back into her beautiful brown eyes. The only solace I could take from all the sadness was one thing – Jesus is with us. I mean, truly with us. In my heart, I knew Drea believed that as well, despite the fact she could not bring herself to go to Sunday Mass with me. It would take almost a year before her shadow would darken a church door.
Why it was so difficult at Christmas, at Church, even at her workplace where she runs a recreational gymnastics facility, was due to the fact she faced the possibility of going through life without a child of her own. The Nativity scene. The applause following another baptism at Mass. Adventurous children giggling inside her gym. At times, it was simply too much for my beaten-down wife. I often asked God if this was part of the healing process and if it was, could we maybe speed things up a bit.
Our child was supposed to be born early April 2004. Needless to say, it was an extremely emotional Easter for us. I remember tears rolling down my cheek as I stood alone in the pew just in front of the church door… strategically positioned for a quick departure, just in case it became too much. But these were not so much tears of sadness.
I recall an overwhelming sense, an undeniable feeling as I listened to The Passion of our Lord. The words couldn’t escape me.
God loves me.
I kept hearing that in my heart.
God loves me.
God loves me.
The Creator of all that was and shall ever be… loves me.
God, who gave his only Son for me, loves me.
I, wrought with sin, am loved by Perfection whose heart I cannot comprehend.
Every so often, I would harken back to talks I would have with my father when, as a child, I was faced with assorted trials and tribulations. And geesh, I though not making a midget Triple-A hockey team was crushing! My father would say ‘offer it up to Christ’. To be honest, I didn’t know what the heck my dad was talking about then. But in that pew on April 9th, 2004, I knew the full meaning.
I went home that night and began a pattern of prayer that continues to this day. I did not pray to have a child of my own, necessarily. I did not even pray to have the pain disappear. To this day, I pray “Father in heaven, help me to love You more. That is all I need.”
But God is so smart. He knew what I needed before I could ask him. He gave me strength. Strength to even stand up against a person I loved more than myself – my wife, Andrea.
Months after the miscarriage, Drea began picking my brain about other ways to bring one of our own into the world. Not only did we go to an in-vitro fertilization information session at the local clinic, we found ourselves even in a doctor’s office seemingly beginning the process of forcing Drea’s body to do something it wasn’t ready to do. Because, in essence, that is exactly what IVF is. I never believed in it, and yet I found myself in that doctor’s office listening to the laundry list of drugs and procedures that my poor, embattled wife would undergo in the subsequent months… possibly years.
Andrea and I fought. We discussed. We talked. But a lot of the times, we fought. I’ll take the blame for that. Gentle persuasion is not one of my trademarks. But all I could remember telling Drea was that this was not the right way to go. Here I was looking into my wife’s eyes and telling her I did not want to be part of something that was supposed to lead to the one thing my wife had wanted most in her life. While discouraged, I also remember falling in love with Drea even more. This woman was literally going to become a train-wreck so that she could bring a child into this world. Women like my wife are absolutely amazing. We men can certainly learn from them about sacrifice.
To this day, I’m not 100% sure Drea didn’t truly resent me for a stance based on Chruch teaching. To be truthful, I’m not exactly sure what would have happened if Drea had really dug her heels in on the subject. You see, I did accompany her to these sessions and appointments, but en route, I would silently pray in the car… “Lord, I offer this up to you…. You know what is in my heart… give me strength… I trust in you… help me to love You more….. that’s all I need…” Sometimes, they were just words, rapid-fire in my soul. During those times, I felt like a man thrown overboard, grasping desperately for a life-line. Other times, the words would ebb and flow in my mind’s eye, in synch with my deep breathes. I would feel like a man floating in the ocean, completely at ease, starfished on top of the water without a worry in the world. But those feelings were few and far-between.
Today, I am made aware of the truth of the matter; God answers prayers. Maybe not the way we want them answered. But I have to believe this, considering how things panned out in the following months.
In the fall of 2004, Andrea went in for surgery to treat her moderate/severe case of endometriosis. Later that year, through a friend at church, we had heard of a place that would have a profound impact on our lives.
A little-known secret called The Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre in Toronto had started out as a basement operation in 1983. I had been a Catholic since birth. I was 15 years old when the MBFC had started, but didn’t catch wind of it until I was in my late-30’s. Didn’t catch wind? Or maybe, I just wasn’t listening. We Catholics must do a better job of that. The Church is a loving parent. While the Holy Spirit guides her, the Church then sets out to teach us how to attain true happiness. I thank God for his role in helping Pope Paul VI construct an ageless piece of literature, a most wonderful teaching tool on the sanctity of life – Humanae Vitae. I am also thankful that that work then inspired a Dr. Thomas Hilgers to turn his attention to helping people either achieve pregnancy or avoid pregnancy through natural family planning.
Our first steps into the Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre were unlike any steps I had taken into various clinics and offices throughout my lifetime. This was not a cold, sterile environment. This was not “Name… Health Card… take a seat, the doctor will be with you shortly”. From the moment we walked into the Coxwell and Danforth establishment, Andrea and I felt at ease, still not knowing if this was ‘the answer’.
We met frequently with our practitioner. We studied mucous levels. (Guys, it’s alright to chuckle but I promise you ‘ll be fascinated at ‘how your wife works’!) Our interaction with staff doctors were detailed, and yet, not laden with information that would make our heads spin. Andrea and I knew we would have to be patient and put our trust in God.
Our introductory session at the MBFC was August 24th, 2005. And I remember the following, vividly. I’ll never, ever forget coming home from First Friday Mass, December 1st, 2006.
I heard Andrea upstairs on the phone. And then, a gasp… a thank-you… and a click. I looked up the staircase.
Then, I saw… that gleam.
Evelyn Theresa Goddard was born at 4:37 pm at Oakville Trafalgar Hospital on July 26th, 2007.
Damian & Andrea