But before I returned to work, needing time to grieve, to pray and to elevate my spirits, I indulged myself in a week off. At that time my mother flew in from out of town to be with me, as she was already scheduled to visit the new baby we would have brought home. The time with her was very special, and memories were made that I will treasure the rest of my life. We made the best of the visit with shopping, having lunches together, and relishing the heart to heart talks that only occur between a mother and her daughter. But the most significant part of that week was the day we visited the local Catholic book store, a wonderful shop the local patrons could always count on for excellent spiritual material. It was here I found a book that would change my life forever, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla's biography. I had never heard of the then-beatified woman before. As I flipped through the pages, I was instantly drawn to the book and to her. The photographs of a stylishly dressed Italian woman with her beautiful children and of she and her husband in a tender embrace on their scenic honeymoon, coupled with the knowledge that she was Beatified and therefore must have led a holy, devout life, compelled me to make the purchse.
My mother and I read the book together, and when finished we resolved that we, mother and daughter, would pray to Blessed Gianna for a baby. Not just any baby, we would pray for a girl, and should those prayers be fulfilled, I would name her "Gianna".
When I returned to work, the cards, flowers and prayers came flooding in. Sitting at my desk one afternoon, not able to concentrate on office matters, I received this:
This beautiful arrangement of roses was not only a floral bouquet, but also a spiritual bouquet. Each ribbon tied to a rose represented the prayers being said by friends and family on our behalf. It contained hundreds of prayers, rosaries, masses and adorations offered up for our loss. The roses lived for weeks, and at that time having something living and growing in my home after having been deprived of the living baby I had expected was, well......adored. I have no doubt that those prayers were instrumental in the miracles soon-to-follow.
On a dreary, gray afternoon after having returned to the office, I had just finished some work on the computer when my phone rang. A woman announced that she was a case worker from our adoption agency. I immediately sat down in my chair and listened while she told me the news: there was a baby for us. A little girl. She had been born six days before, and we were chosen to be her mother and father. The social worker filled me in on all the happy details, how many pounds she was at birth, her hair color, her sweet smell and how beautiful she was. I couldn't believe it. We arranged for Patrick and I to meet our little girl for the first time, and after the conversation ended I wept with joy. I knew this was the baby for us. I knew instantly who interceded on our behalf. I immediately told my husband the news, as well as everyone around me, that our "Gianna" was born!
We visited her for the first time at her host family's home (similar to a foster home, but these families only host babies during the waiting period from birth until finalization in court). The first moment I saw Gianna I was in love. Her sweet, beautiful heart-shaped face and rosy cheeks combined with her innocence and utter dependence seemed like a portion of Heaven itself. Then I got to hold her for the first time, then feed her for the first time, and gaze on her new father cradling her for the first time. It was sublime. I remember being nervous, wondering, "Am I holding her right? Is she comfortable? Is my sweater bothering her skin? Does she know how much I love her?" But I treasured each and every second with her for that two hour visit. It was painful to leave that afternoon, but we scheduled to see her again in two days, and having been very pleased with her host family, we were at peace.
We visited Gianna as often as possible, spending afternoons with her for the next nine days at her host home until the day the birth mother was scheduled to go to court for finalization. That day couldn't come soon enough. It seemed like months. But it did come, and not just on any random day of the year. The finalization date, upon which we would bring our child home for the first time, fell on March 19th, The Feast of Saint Joseph. God could not have chosen a more perfect day for us, as Saint Joseph had been the "patron saint of our family", securing jobs and homes for us and blessing us with countless material needs and spiritual gifts since the beginning of our marriage. And so it seemed perfectly fitting, Blessed Gianna whom Pope John Paul II had just named "Mother of the Family", and Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, the patron saint of fathers and our own spiritual father, would work together to bring us our first child.
Unlike our previous car ride back home bearing an empty car seat and enough tears to fill a well, this long drive was filled with love, joy, a tiny miracle beside me and the start of a family. The happiness Gianna has brought me since that glorious Feast of Saint Joseph is beyond comprehension, though perhaps not beyond the understanding of a mother who has longed for a child. Every moment of my mothering her has been miraculous to me, and I have thanked God for her every day since that first meeting. I only hope that I will be a good mother to her for as long as God will allow, and that she will understand when I fail.
Gianna at her host home, 8 days old