At the tail-end of my pregnancy with Lucy, Tom and I met up with the sweetest doula-in-training, to see if she would be a good fit as our birth doula. We clicked right away with Tabitha– she was warm, personable, comfortable, and overall, super encouraging about our out-of-hospital birth. We talked for a long time (way longer than our 30 minute scheduled meeting), and I had several more (long) conversations with her via phone as well, as the pregnancy continued on.
She actually never had the chance to be at Lucy’s birth, since Lucy came so unexpectedly early and fast, but somehow that morning, Tabitha knew something might happen. She texted me in the early morning, probably an hour or two after my contractions had started, to let me know she had another birth that morning but would be available for anything I needed later. I never did get to text her back, but her sweet, motherly soul somehow intuited that I was in labor and going to give birth. Amazing. We talked and met up a few times after the birth, and she proclaimed me a birthing warrior and hoped I would have Irish twins every year (ha!).
I remember the morning she emailed the birth announcement for her tenth child, Sebastian. He was born the day after my birthday, and I quickly wrote back to congratulate her. I told her I loved the name they chose, and it had been at the top of our list if Lucy was a boy. And then I told her we were unexpectedly pregnant again, and she was ecstatic for us, and so, so encouraging. She’s just one of those rare people who exude calm, love, and peace pretty much all the time. Oh, and she is the mother of 11 kids, making it look easy somehow.
I was heart-stricken to hear last week that little Sebastian was in extremely critical condition in the hospital just down the road. He struggled for a few days and passed to Eternal Rest on Tuesday. The grief of Tabitha and her family in unimaginable. Her sweet boy, right between my two girls in age, is gone. She wrote the following on her Facebook, as she held her son in the last hours:
So we miss our other children, who are hurting and sorrowing and missing us, and we are here with our beloved baby boy, whose existence is so delicate and so hard to disentangle from all the machines and wires and procedures. But since they removed the EEG stickers from his dear head, I was able to sponge bathe his hair, which just recently got long enough for him to twirl in his fingers the way he likes, so I spend a lot of time holding his head in my hands and kissing it and his face and cupping his brown shoulders and trying to memorize him, whose body I know so, so well. It’s just like labor is for me: I always want to just stay in those moments forever, to take those sensations and put them into a bottle I can open anytime. But I can’t. This time of having his body to hold and keep is about to pass, and if I step outside of the exact moment, it’s so unbearable, there are no words. Even now, his temperature is so low, and they keep trying all kinds of measures to raise it, without much success, so when I touch him, he is so cold. But I can still feel the heft and contours of his body. I don’t want to sleep even a single moment that I could touch him and smell him and feast on the sight of this beautiful life. The big girls spent a lot of time yesterday making molds and prints of his hands and his feet, but I want his sturdy, dense body with its bubble toes and…how can this be borne? As much as I rejoice in the fact that my son is a saint, now and for all eternity, I just can’t understand how to live without taking care of him every day.
It’s nearly unbearable to read these words; how much more impossible to have lived them? And yet, here is a picture of Tabitha and her husband, holding their dying son, and still smiling, rejoicing in the last moments of his short but beloved life:
Please keep this family in your prayers. Here is the giving page, if you feel moved to donate to their medical/funeral expenses.
St. Sebastian, pray for us!