By Erin Mersino
Like many women, I spent my early youth nurturing baby dolls. Some could hold their own bottle, some could cry by being flipped upside down, some looked more realistic than others—but they all shared one commonality. My dolls were all girls, or at least my imagination willed it so. How I loved donning my little ladies in pink, lacy dresses and the most stylish accessories. From as young as I can remember, I always dreamed of having a daughter of my own, and I just learned that I am having a girl.
The news hit my husband and I unexpectedly. No one can ever be fully prepared for the gravity of any pure and astounding blessing, although we certainly had thought about this moment.
My husband, Paul, and I met in law school. Immediately, I was captivated by Paul’s classically handsome good looks, but even more drawn to his intelligence and confidenct ease. Paul, in contrast, showed no interest in me. I would eventually win this argument.
A few years after law school, Paul and I crossed paths at a Detroit Tigers baseball game. That fateful meeting turned into a beer after the game. And by our second date, I found Paul lying on his back on the couch in my apartment, hands behind his head, and eyes gazing at ceiling. Some of our early dating is beclouded from the thrill and nervousness of our new love or lost due to time gone by, but this conversation remains clear. We discussed baby names, and specifically how we both always envisioned having a daughter named Sophie.
Later, my husband’s friends would reveal that Paul wanted a daughter by the name of Sophie to such an extent that they would advise Paul whether his dating prospects were “Sophie’s mom” material or not. In time, his friends generously granted me the well-coveted title of Sophie’s mom. Paul and I married, and, naturally, had three sons for whom we did not have planned names but love beyond measure.
Which brings us to this past November: a positive pregnancy test and with it a tidal wave of loving ardor. Paul asked me if I cared if our baby was a boy or a girl, and with wholehearted honesty, I answered no.
On our wedding anniversary, we scheduled our 12-week ultrasound. Paul and I walked through the open automatic doors of our doctor’s office, and next thing you know, we were in the dimly lit ultrasound room, the light from the baby’s image on the monitor reflecting on Paul’s smiling face. Paul is holding my hand. We see our baby’s cute little chin, we see our baby’s long legs curled into her chest, we see her ten fingers and ten toes. But, there is no movement in the baby’s chest. There is no heartbeat. Our baby is not kicking. Her arms are still, and her body is slowly floating on the screen. I see our baby has died. The room freezes with silence.
Having witnessed ultrasounds, even as early as eight weeks, I have glimpsed at life in its early stages. Nothing made the reality of this life more profound and important, than also witnessing death at this young age. With every cell in my body, I craved to hear the echoing waves of our baby’s heartbeat. This desire followed with more silence. As I looked at this beautifully formed baby in my womb, I thought about all the mothers who purposefully end the life of their child at this stage in pregnancy without realizing the effect of their acts. If those mothers knew what I see, would they still want to stop the baby’s heart from beating? Would they still want to snuff the life from their baby? I thought about how God has witnessed the life retched from over 58 million babies in the womb in the United States alone since Roe v. Wade. How a large percentage of abortions occur after 9 weeks, and those were not natural deaths in accordance with His will. In this moment, I comprehended that this baby, no—all of my children, never belonged to me, but always to Him, the Creator of all life. Only He knows when to call us home, and my baby’s call came quickly. She must have been a first round draft pick.
The coming weeks proved difficult. My husband and I buried our baby in a miniature white coffin during the cold, snowy winter in a ceremony conducted by our beloved priest and joined by only one other person, the director of the nearby funeral home. We were not joined by groups of friends and family, nor did we invite them. Never was the stark impossibility more clear that our baby would not achieve greatness on earth. Not only would we never be able to hold her, but she would never enjoy the company of friends, attend a daddy/daughter dance, or get to laugh at her dad’s jokes, and she certainly would never have her name on a building or become president. We were disqualified from engaging in all the delusions of grandeur in which parents relish. We mourned the future our baby would never live. Yet through our mourning, our faith unflinchingly abounds, for it was all too apparent that God never hesitates to have faith in us, even when people abuse the free will He grants us, even when people blindly destroy life—God’s greatest creation. God wants His love, peace, and forgiveness to overwhelm us, if we just let it. Just let it. Choose life over death. Choose faith over weakness from shame or selfishness or depression. Choose His way—it will never disappoint.
About a month after we buried our baby, my husband received a call from our doctor’s office with the results of genetic testing from which the sex of our baby could be determined. The results were not conveyed as a joyous “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy” moment. Instead, my husband was simply informed that our baby was “female.” When my husband told me, I could hear some trepidation and longing in his voice. When I heard the news, however, I felt nothing but a rush of pure excitement. It’s our daughter, Sophie! Some may have thought to save the name. We didn’t. The best does not exist in this world but will come in time. The responsibility is now on us to earn our way home so we can finally have our Sophie.