We are a pro-life people in life and in death. We recognize that even our unborn child (only 2 inches long at delivery) lived for a purpose and we did our best to love him in life and treat him with dignity in death. Miscarriage is a loss...An empty womb. But recognizing the value of the life of my baby is a gain. I have a son forever!
After my own loss, I discovered that many, many parents have already been down this same road and a great many will be where I walk. It's often a hidden sorry and cries out for attention. How can we deal with miscarriage as a pro-life people? I'd like to share some things that I have learned....
1. Do we deliver at home or the hospital?
There are certainly situations that require hospital delivery. Pregnancies that are far along or earlier pregnancies that show obvious signs of difficulty fall into that category. The desire to stay at home may meet with the necessity of greater medical care. But if a women does choose to go to the hospital, there are some important things of which she should be aware.
Most doctors will throw away the body of a baby prior to 20 weeks simply because death certificates are not issued before that time. If you want the body of your child respected, then be prepared to fight for it. My midwife was very glad that I chose to stay at home. She described the process of trying to retrieve the baby from the hospital doctors as "difficult".
We delivered our baby at home and were able to see him and hold him. That's not possible for everyone, I know, but very worth it if it is a possibility. Stay in touch with your doctor regardless of your situation and be bold in defense of your preferences with regard to the body of your child.
2. Naming the baby.
During my personal grieving process, the greatest moment of healing came with the naming of our child. We did not know with certainty whether our baby was a boy or a girl but we took a leap and named him anyway. My husband chose the name Matthew. And in that naming I understood fully that I had a son. My arms were empty but my heart was full. My tears were a mixture of sadness and unquestionable joy as I imagined the meeting I would have with him some day.
I strongly encourage anyone who has lost a child (at any age) to consider naming him or her. It will bring you closer in love and knowledge to your little one and one step further in your healing.
3. What do we do with the baby's body?
This is not a simple question when the child is earlier than 20 weeks. Again, 20 weeks appears to be the cutoff age for a death certificate (at least in my state) and as I was told by an OB at the Catholic hospital in my area: "Honestly, they just throw them away before that...But I guess you could bury it in your backyard." She offered this directly after my loss and in response to my question about where I could bury my child. I made a mental note never to seek out this women for care!
Fortunately, many cemeteries will bury your little one regardless of age with a letter from your doctor (proof of pregnancy). A Catholic cemetery in our area buried Matthew, at no cost to us, in a special section dedicated to infants. They will also provide the headstone free of charge. It is a beautiful example of Christians walking the talk and I am profoundly grateful. We also had the option of burying him with a relative already at the cemetery and that would have cost us about $200.
The photo below was taken of a burial box that was lovingly made for Matthew by our friend, Jim Kelley. The box measures 11 x 7 x 6 and is constructed using pine. Not all cemeteries allow wood but our funeral director is providing a concrete enclosure for the box at no charge. I lined it with soft and pretty fabric and the other children were aware that the body of their little brother was in that pretty box... but his soul was with Jesus.
Contact your church leaders for any information they might have specific to your location.
4. Should we tell people about our loss?
Absolutely. Your baby's life was beautiful and worth remembering and honoring. By acknowledging the loss we are also acknowledging the life. Perhaps your example will inspire others to look at an unborn life in a new way. I hope and pray that mine has.
I strongly suggest having a memorial service or Mass which your friends and relatives can attend if they wish. My sister-in-law lost her baby 3 months before I did and we had one Mass said for both Matthew and Caeli (her baby). We did not advertise widely but our closest relatives and dearest friends attended. We were also surprised to see other members of our church who heard "through the grapevine" and wanted to lend their love and support. Our service was perfect and I will always carry that memory in my heart
5. How can I support someone who has experienced a miscarriage?
Please do follow your instinct and just love them as well as you can. There are so many ways to show support. I can list a few here but I'm sure there are many more. Please feel free to share additional ideas in the comments.
-Acknowledge the loss. Please don't ignore it. Set aside your own feelings of discomfort and offer your sympathy. Even if it seems to remind the mother of her grief, she will not be sorry that you have expressed your love. She may, however, notice if you seem to disregard her loss. And she will feel isolated and alone in her grief if none have the courage to walk with her.
-Ask if they've named the baby and use the name when speaking with and writing to them. If they haven't chosen a name, please remember not use the term "it" when referring to the child.
-Let her talk. Although a miscarriage seems "small" to others, it's a pretty big deal to the person it happens to. I am very blessed with people who allowed me to pour out my thoughts and feelings and I can see how difficult it would be to have no one.
-Consider sending a nutritious meal or offering to watch other children. A miscarriage is like a mini labor. It can be physically exhausting, quite painful and sometimes rather lengthy, and does require a period of recovery.
-Do send an expression of sympathy. A card is a beautiful way to let someone know you are thinking of them. I recently purchased several beautiful cards from Loss Remembered and unfortunately, have had occasion to use them all. I intend to purchase several more so that I never again delay or miss the opportunity to send a token of love and support.
-Consider a small memorial gift if you are close to the family or simply want to do something more. A personalized Christmas ornament is a lovely choice. A very close family member (husband or parent) might consider memorial jewelry for the mother. It is a beautiful way to honor the life and loss of her baby and her motherhood at the same time. The picture below shows a memorial cross that I purchased for my sister-in-law. It was handcrafted and personalized for her with her baby's name and a '2009' charm on the back by Totally Crosses. We were given one of these for Matthew and the kids hang it on our tree every year. They never forget their brother and look forward with joy to meeting him someday.
This memorial necklace made by Peace of Mind is a personal and touching way to express support, especially given from a family member who knows the mother's tastes a bit better than others.
-Pray for the family. A woman's grief often runs deeper than anyone can see. I have heard many stories in the last few weeks of women who suffered intensely after an early miscarriage and were offered no support from a spouse or family. Depression is common.
We live in a world where babies are throw-aways and a woman is so often expected to forget and move on quickly. The smaller the baby, the less we are supposed to grieve. But our pro-life hearts know that every life has an equal value and great purpose and that we are called to love each and every one.
I offered the suffering of my loss in solidarity with all mothers who are victimized by abortion. I pray that they may find healing, consolation and forgiveness through the lives of their heavenly children.