Our son will grow, safe in his mother's womb, but we will only have him for a moment
For my wife and me, that invisible black cloud has become something we are no longer able to hide.
With each passing day, our beautiful baby boy continues to develop and grow in the safety of my wife’s womb. Prior to our most recent ultrasound, each step of our journey toward the birth of our fourth son filled us with joy, excitement and anxious anticipation.
But now, each passing day brings us one day closer to the most terrifying day of our lives.
Recently, rather than walking out of the ultrasound with a long string of pictures of our son, we walked out in misery, with a fatal diagnosis of renal agenesis.
While our baby will continue to develop and grow in the safety of my wife’s womb throughout her otherwise normal pregnancy, he is only expected to be able to survive for a matter of minutes once he is born.
This has become our quiet thing that no one else can ever fully know.
My beautiful wife will continue to walk bravely and strongly on this journey over the next 20 weeks, and will undoubtedly be showered with well wishes from those who see impending motherhood, but not the hidden agony.
Well-meaning comments like, “Wow, a fourth child!” and “You’re going to have your hands full!” will hit both our ears and crush us under the weight of knowing what our future holds.
Each inch of growth seen, each kick and movement felt is all a bizarre mix of thrilling joy and heartbreaking sorrow as we march toward our own inevitable Pieta.
How are we supposed to handle this? How are we supposed to carry on when the weight of our quiet things lead us to the brink of despair and hopelessness?
It only becomes possible when we realize that in our quiet things, what no one ever knows is known; known by him, known by his Mother, no matter how invisible it might be to those who surround us.
That first Sunday, we stood at Mass following the ultrasound appointment. I stared up at the crucifix in such hopeless anger. I stared up at him as my mind raced with the inevitable thoughts: How could you do this to us? and You have to fix this!
And yet, paradoxically, I felt like I just wanted so badly to collapse into his open arms. I knew that being in his presence, and that of his Blessed Mother, was the only way I was going to find any peace, any sense of relief.
They know my quiet things, which I keep locked away, and that bring me the comfort I so badly desire.
As my family walks on this journey, anticipating the most painful, bittersweet moment of our lives, we have nowhere else to turn. With tears in our eyes, we gaze upon Jesus on the crucifix, we gaze upon Mary holding the body of Jesus, in the Pieta, and we find another kind of peace, in a deep and quiet place.
It is the peace that can only come when your quiet things are known, understood and met with unconditional love.
Tommy Tighe is a Catholic hipster, husband and father. You can follow him on Twitter @theghissilent.