Being a Catholic in the NICU
means possession of an embarrassment of riches. We have the sacraments. We have a church family that prays for us. We have an understanding of the concept of redemptive suffering.
When I found out that my newborn needed emergency abdominal surgery, I immediately asked to have her baptized. If my baby girl had to undergo all of that suffering, I wanted it all to mean something. I wanted her incorporated into the mystical body of Christ. I wanted her hurt to save souls.
A birth defect is different from the ordinary effects of sin. My baby girl didn't get hit by a bullet or poisoned by an environmental toxin. The Creator of the World, the One who lovingly knit together my baby's body in the womb decided in His infinite wisdom to drop a purl stitch in the formation of my baby girl's intestine.
Somehow, in my Faith, I'm okay with that. I sort of picture God saying to himself, "What if I put a web in Baby Teresa's intestine and then allow all of these people the glory of co-fixing my creation? It would be a sign of Faith, of prayer, and a great glory to my name to show the sacredness of human life."
Having a sick baby is every parents worst nightmare. Yet, when you're in the middle of it, it's not so bad. Mortal sin is bad. The Devil is bad. Sickness is just sickness. Suffering waiting to meet the healing power of Jesus.
At her conception, my baby girl got assigned the Cross of a broken intestine. In her little body, she makes up for the lack in the suffering of Christ. I can picture Tess raising her hand in excitement equal to that of Francis Xavier and telling God: "You mean for a few weeks of pain, I get to transform the hearts of my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my father's co-workers, the cynical Catholics in my church, and save many souls from Hell? Game on!"
My cross is to watch my little girl suffer. It's Mary's cross. I've got to watch my seven pound girl lug her huge cross through Children's Hospital.
I've decided that when people say "I can't stand to see innocent suffering in the world" what they are really saying is "I don't want to follow in Mother Mary's footsteps." It hurts to watch our children suffer. It's a painful breaking of the heart. But Mary would tell us, "what else are you going to do?" God hands you the strength to stay still as a witness, to give love with your eyes, and to pray deeply with a bleeding heart.