Shortly after finding out the news that our baby's heart had stopped beating, my husband turned to me and asked me, "what do you want to name her?" Without even waiting for a reply he said, "Gabriella Eve?" He had known that was my favorite of the names we had been considering. I looked up at him and immediately said yes.
The business of naming the baby was all in my hands this time, since he had picked the name for our son. We knew we wanted to name her with a name that started with a G. My mother's first name starts with a G and her nickname in the family has been 'Big G'. She is the oldest sister of 9 siblings so the nickname was fitting. There had never been a 'Little G'. Her first granddaughter was to be our 'Little G'. Actually, there weren't many names that I liked that started with the letter G. So with slim pickings, I quickly became fond of Gabriella. Not only was it a beautiful name, it was Italian and is derived from the male name Gabriel. Now at the time, I didn't consider the implications of naming my daughter Gabriella, but later it was almost like it was meant to be.
As we sat in the hospital room waiting for my family to arrive, many things went through our minds. But, almost immediately we asked a nurse to see the hospital chaplain. My husband and I are both Catholic and we have been going to church and participating in our church community regularly for about a year. Seeing the chaplain seemed natural and logical to us. We didn't have questions about how could God do this to us, but, we needed the comfort of prayer. Unfortunately, when the chaplain arrived I did not find much comfort. My first problem was understanding him. He had a heavy foreign accent, and I found it difficult to understand what he was saying. He gave us his condolences and did a prayer. We asked him how it would work for her funeral. Since there was no time or opportunity to baptize her, would she be able to receive a funeral mass? The short, dark man with glasses replied no. NO? That word I understood. How could this be? No? Why would she be made to suffer when she was so innocent. Innocent in its purest form. Innocent of any wrong doing, innocent of even original sin. Even in my haze of despair I understood that "NO". Knowing at that time there was nothing I could do about it, we asked the Chaplain to give me a blessing for a successful surgery and for my daughter's soul. He did, he expressed his sorrow for our loss and he left the room. My husband and I were very distraught. I decided we would contact our Pastor later that morning and see if something could be worked out.
Later that morning, after the c-section and after my good-byes with my daughter, I was moved from the recovery room to a labor & delivery room for further recovery and observation by the L&D nurses. I was alone. I laid there alone and tried to rest. I closed my eyes and soon realized resting was not something I would be able to do. It was sometime between 7 and 8 am, and I started to think about our time with the Chaplain and the distributing news about Gabriella's funeral. I had my husband leave me with my cell phone and I started dialing. Our church's phone number was saved in my phone, as I mentioned we have been active in the parish and it was a number I used frequently. I dialed the rectory, hoping there was someone there, or some sort of emergency contact number, there wasn't. I started to work my way through the menu options of the phone system trying to get my pastor's personal voice mail box, rather than leaving a message on a general mailbox. This was far too personal and sensitive an issue for that. While I tried to get Father Tom's voice mail, I got disconnected. I called back. Again I hit the wrong number and got disconnected. On my 3rd consecutive phone call, I decided I would just leave a message on the general voice mailbox since that is the only mailbox I was successful in finding. I dialed and the phone rang. But, this time a man answered the phone! I was so happy, it was like a small miracle to me. I said I was trying to leave Fr. Tom a message and asked the if he would able to help me. He replied this is Fr. Tom. I was so relieved. I explained to him what had happened and asked if it would be possible for him to come to the hospital to talk to us. He said he could and he would.
It was a Sunday morning. Our church celebrates several masses on Sunday's so we weren't to see Fr. Tom until later in the afternoon. My husband returned back to the hospital just about noon. Fr. Tom arrived sometime after that. I honestly don't remember his first words to me as he entered the room. I just remember being so happy to see him. But, first two questions I do remember him asking me as he sat down in the chair set up to the right of me was: 'How are you doing physically?' and 'What is her name?'. At first this seemingly innocent question would later bring me great comfort. I proudly answered him, "Gabriella Eve." He sat a little further back in his chair and looked slightly upward, as if he was reflecting on my answer. Then he looked back at me, my husband sitting on the opposite of me, and asked, "why did you name her that?" In my haze I frantically tried to remember why I liked that name so much. Why did it speak to me so? I recalled what the name meant about God, but what I really remembered was that Gabriella was the feminine form of Gabriel. Gabriel in the bible is the angel who brings the news to Mary that she was pregnant and would be the mother to the Christ child. I replied to him, 'Gabriella after the angel Gabriel and Eve because she is the first granddaughter in my family.' He smiled gently and continued to talk to us. We spoke about her purpose, how she is a child of God and has never left God's hands, and about the most pressing issue we had, her funeral. We found out that she was entitled to a funeral mass and we were so relieved.
At her funeral mass, during the homily, Fr. Tom once again talked about Gabriella's name. It had never even dawned on me that we were in the season of Advent. Advent is the season Catholics prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ. He spoke about our exchange in the hospital about naming her and he pointed out how appropriate of a name she had been given during this season. It was at that moment I thought, 'wow, she came into my life at the same time Mary would have been given the news of her pregnancy. And she lived in my womb just shy of the birth of Christ. She was like the angel Gabriel.
She graced my life for those 33 weeks as a pleasant surprise and we looked forward to her arrival with great eagerness. Her purpose was love. She gave us all that she had. Even in her death, she was all about love. Even in my deepest sorrow, most mournful moments in those first few days, I could see the love in the faces of my friends and family. Their love for me and the love they had for my unborn child. I can't help but think to myself, what a wonderful, beautiful life to have, one about nothing else but love.