The day after Gregory died I called Esquire Girls, a temporary help service that specializes in legal secretaries. “Helen, you don’t know me but my neighbor Rosemary works for you. My first born son died last night and will be buried on Saturday. I need some place to go on Monday. Find me a job. Any job. I will meet you at lunchtime on Monday to fill out the paperwork. I have been a legal secretary for the past twelve years. I need a reason to get out of bed on Monday, or I might just never get out of bed again.”
She found me a job with a law firm in Hackensack, met me for lunch and did, in fact, give me a reason to wake up on Monday morning. I told the lawyers and the other secretaries that I just buried my son on Saturday. They were so gracious and understanding. “If you need to take a break, just do so. It’s okay.” I typed and cried, and typed and cried. I was out of bed and around people and was so thankful for that.
It was so hard on everyone – especially my own mother. She had to deal with my pain. Mom’s never want to see their children in pain. And she had to deal with her own pain of losing her grandson. To make the situation even worse for her, her fifth child, my brother, Ronald, had died. He was born prematurely and only lived a couple of weeks. I remember being about 14 years old when they told us. It was devastating for both my parents. My father had started his own construction company with what was his best friend at the time. There was plenty of stress because of this, and they both felt guilty that this did not help my mother’s pregnancy. My mother dealt with Ronald’s death by keeping busy with four children. For years and years, whenever my dad had a drink or two too many, he cried and cried and cried.
People meant well with their words which they thought would bring solace like – “you will have another baby some day.” “But I don’t want another baby. I miss Gregory” – I replied. All the motherly hormones were still in my body, but there was no baby to mother. Everywhere I went I saw pregnant women and babies. The extra bedroom had been turned into a nursery. Friends offered to dismantle it and give everything away, but that wasn’t even a consideration. When I went to the butcher, he said “oh you had your baby, is it is girl or a boy.” Saying it was a boy but he died really ended a conversation.
I continued to go on jobs from Esquire Girls and tried my best to move forward. We went to church every Sunday. Two months after Gregory died, I found out I was pregnant again. Fr. Allen blessed me and the unborn baby and promised me that everything would be okay. When I went for my second monthly doctor visit, Dr. Van Elswyck asked me if I felt less pregnant. “Are you kidding me. What kind of a question is that?”- I replied. We need to test your pregnancy hormone levels. There may be a chance that you have a blighted pregnancy, hed told me. “What. First an omphalocele (something that none of the three doctors in his practice had ever seen before) and now a blighted pregnancy.” He tried to explain that the egg might not have begun dividing after it had been fertilized, and a baby might not be developing. “Honestly, where are you coming up with this stuff. Do I need to get a medical degree to have a baby?” I asked not very nicely.
They drew blood,would do some tests, and if the hormone levels had dropped from my last visit, there was no viable pregnancy, and I would need to have a d and c performed. I was told that they would let me know in 24 hours. In my mind and emotions, I was back at New York Hospital waiting to know whether Gregory had survived the operation. I left the doctor’s office crying a river of tears. I stopped for gas and filled the tank still crying. I heard a voice. “Mrs. Woehrle, its Sue Dziemian, one of Gregory’s nurses from New York Hospital. Are you crying because you saw me?” That was weird. I thought she lived in New York. I explained what had happened. She told me that she just heard of a mother whose baby had died at New York Hospital, and she just gave birth to a healthy child.
We exchanged phone numbers. She asked where I was going. I told her that I was going to Fr. Allen’s house, because I didn’t know where else to go. His wife Judi answered the door. Judi had became pregnant with their second child right after Gregory died. Fr. Allen was in the kitchen. He probably wished he could sneak out the back door. Saying that I was in a fragile state, would be an understatement. I tried to explain through my tears about the test results which I would be getting the next day.
He tried to calm my fears and have me just wait until we knew for sure what was happening. He told me that he was flying out of town, but if Judi called him and the worst was the reality, he would cut his trip short and return home.
The doctor’s office called me at the job I was going to everyday now through Esquire Girls. Yes, I would, in fact, need a d and c. The pregnancy was not viable. The procedure would be done labor day weekend – how ironic.
Danny, one of the two law partners told me that I was crying too hard to drive myself home. I objected to his offer for help. “I have become an expert at crying and driving.”
I Am Mad
Fr. Allen came back and my husband, family and I sat in our screened in room out back. I was mad. No I WAS MAD. I was so angry. I wanted to hit someone. Kick something. Punch a hole in something. I was overwhelmed. I was inconsolable. “Are you going to still tell me that God is a loving God?” I asked Fr. Allen.”Yes, I am,” he replied. But you promised me that everything would be okay” I reminded him. “Yes, and I was wrong, that was not my promise to make”. he replied.
The doctor explained or tried to explain to me that he wanted me to give my body a rest. He didn’t want me to even try to get pregnant until after the new year, which was four months away. I wanted to stay mad at God, but now that I knew the love, the compassion, the mercy, the joy, the strength, the comfort and the peace that I found in Jesus, I couldn’t live without those things. I was being carried on the days I could not lift my feet. I couldn’t imagine walking this path alone.
I was hard to be around. I wish I could have found some way not to be around me myself. The clock seemed to tick in slow motion. It taunted me. January finally arrived, and I was ready to walk toward the desire of my heart – to give birth to a baby who would just be a regular infant and stay here with me.
I continued to work for Ian Hirsch and Danny Simpson. Ian and his wife had been trying to have a child for years, and every month when his wife realized this wasn’t the month, the tears would fall and the disappointment would set in, so he was very understanding of the days when my own grief and pain would overtake me. Fr. Allen became involved in their adoption process, and they were so glad when the dream of parenthood became reality for them and they welcomed a baby girl into their lives.
Every month when I realized I was not pregnant, I wanted – I needed Dr. VanElswyck to know that my heart was broken so I called him so that he knew that I was crying and hurt. At least twice I can remember driving to his office in tears and just sitting in his waiting room, so that he would know that I was in pain. It is sometimes difficult to be rationale when your world feels like it is constantly falling apart. On the days when I would cry while I typed, Danny would go into Ian’s office and close the day and beg him to make me stop crying as it upset him. “Don’t worry she will be better tomorrow. She still types faster than anyone who ever worked for us even through her tears.”
Almost a year later, everyone I knew rejoiced with me when I found out that I was finally pregnant again. No one dared to say “don’t worry it is going to be all right.” Everyone just prayed. People who never prayed – didn’t believe in prayer – didn’t want to pray – prayed. I kept saying before this pregnancy that I had every right to be scared the next time I got pregnant. No one denied that. But the funny thing was when I found out I was pregnant – I was not scared one bit. There was no fear. No doubt. No, what if. Just peace. If you believe God knows all things, and I do,He knew for sure that if He wanted me to stay on this earth for any reason at all, I was going to have healthy baby. Otherwise, you could just write on my tombstone “She did the best she could” as far as I was concerned.
Dr. Van Elswyck tried and then tried some more to explain that because I had a c – section with Gregory, I would have to have a c – section again. It was very rare for a doctor to even allow a patient to attempt a vaginal birth following a c-section. It just wasn’t done at that time. I told him the same thing during each monthly visit – you and me and my husband and Sue Dziemian (the nurse from New York Hospital that I ran into at the gas station and who was now working at Englewood Hospital and attending our church), were going to go back into that delivery room, but this time there was going to be happy ending.
He tried to explain that there were three doctors in the practice and although he hoped he would be the doctor on call when it was time to give birth, I shouldn’t be disappointed if he was not the doctor who delivered my baby. I would hear nothing of it. “We started this and we are going to finish this – together. That is just the way it is going to be”. I informed him.
On May 31, 1984, at 2:30 am, me, my husband, Dr. Van Elswyck and Sue Dziemian were all present when I was handed my beautiful daughter. She had the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. So cute. Just a regular baby. We named her Jana. I had graduated from high school with a girl named Jana. Never heard the name before or since that time. It was unique and different. Just thought it would fit her.
As the doctor handed me my bundle of joy, the first thing I said to her was “I am so happy you are here. Jana, you have a brother in heaven. We are always going to remember him. He is going to watch over us all our lives.”
Little did I know at the time, but the name Gregory means – “watchful, vigilant.” Accordingly to my recent research its origin is Old Greek. The name has been associated with Peter’s command to followers in the Bible to “be vigilant” of the return of Jesus. Sixteen popes and ten saints have been named Gregory, the first of which was known as Gregory the Great.
Three years after Jana’s birth, I gave birth to a son. We named him Jeffrey Charles.