I’m so sorry for your loss.”
The ultrasound technician offered me her condolences. I was thankful. At least she understood that I was in anguish over the miscarriage of my child one week prior. My doctor had simply stated that “nature will take its course.” Though I was nine weeks along in my pregnancy, my baby had stopped growing at just five weeks, six days old.
“I’d like a picture from my ultrasound please,” I asked, certain that her acquiescence was a given.
She hemmed and hawed for a little while before finally saying, “I don’t understand what you mean. You know that — ”
“Yes, I know she doesn’t look like a baby in those pictures. I don’t care. That is the only picture I will ever have of my child and I need a copy.”
“Okay. Yes, of course you can have a picture of your child,” she finally agreed.
Our family’s experience is not unlike the experiences of many others. So many of us have experienced the myriad horrors of miscarriage in the secular throwaway culture we live in. The deceits of the culture have quietly discouraged us from even publicly talking about it, let alone placing it into its proper context. So many of us have been disempowered from being able to deal with our miscarriages in a Christian manner and now look back and wish things had been different.
In the hours that we prepared for our miscarriage, we started to research what we could do to care for the remains of our child, if we were able to recover them. We also researched what the Church teaches about miscarried babies and to be honest, we struggled to get the answers we needed. We desire very much, along with the Respect Life Apostolate to change that experience for those experiencing the pain and suffering of miscarriage in our diocese. Through this and subsequent articles that will appear in The Colorado Catholic Herald and the combined efforts of the faithful in Colorado Springs, let us come together to address this widely shared suffering in solidarity, and reclaim it for Christ.
First, the Church understands that burying the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2447). The Church also affirms, “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites” (CCC, 1261). Miscarried babies are children who have died without Baptism. You have a right to bury your miscarried child like any other family member. You also have a right to a Funeral or Memorial Mass for your child, even if you do not have bodily remains.
Second, the value of Natural Family Planning (NFP) is priceless when it comes to spacing our pregnancies, but also as related to infant loss. As many as 1 in 8 known pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Of all pregnancies, as many as 1 in 4 will end in miscarriage as well. Some women miscarry so early on in a pregnancy that it can be mistaken for the beginning of a normal menstrual cycle.
Those of us who practice NFP may, in some cases, be given advance notice of a miscarriage whether we are avoiding or trying to achieve pregnancy, because of the precision with which we track the rhythms of our bodies. We had a full 24-hours to prepare for our child’s passing, logistically, emotionally and spiritually, simply because of NFP. God’s way truly is the best way.
Third, we must be armed as Christian families with the knowledge that our medical professionals will not always be able to offer the bedside manner that they would have if they had a fully correct, pro-life worldview. As a people of life, we must be awake to this fact and stand ready to crowd out the clinical air with love and truth, in order to care properly for those around us who are experiencing a miscarriage.
We received little sympathy from the doctor, nor did we receive realistic guidance on what the miscarriage would look like, just that there would be some bleeding. Online guidance was similar. The physical reality of passing blood clots, tissue, and a placenta the size of the palm of a hand, after spending most of a day with minor labor contractions, was far different than what I was prepared for. The casual nature of how the doctor behaved made us question, at least briefly, the grief over our child’s death in utero, so much in fact that we wondered if we should do anything for her, our little Bernadette Marie, despite our family’s ardent pro-life views.
Finally, as the Body of Christ, we must acknowledge gaps in our knowledge about the care of miscarried babies and their families, and we must now work diligently to educate and empower the faithful, including clergy, to know how to support families who are actively enduring a miscarriage or are coping with the aftermath.
For example, we did not know that there are organizations that offer miscarriage collection kits, full of the supplies needed to attempt to preserve the remains of our miscarried children, particularly 1st trimester losses. There are also organizations that make and sell small caskets and vessels for miscarried babies from the 1st trimester up through the 3rd. Yes, caskets for the proper burial of the tiniest of holy innocents, in accordance with the teachings of our faith, are available to you if you have suffered this loss. Burial at local cemeteries and cremation through funeral parlors, is available too, sometimes even at no charge.
We must push past the paralysis of grief and the lies of the enemy, to properly care for our miscarried children, our saints in heaven, just as we would for any other member of our family. This includes the respectful handling of their physical bodily remains where possible, and the formal, liturgical commending of their souls to the Lord most importantly. Our diocese desires to offer more visible support to the families who experience this loss, and thankfully, that effort is already underway!
In the coming months, through a series of articles in the Herald, we will be addressing numerous aspects of miscarriage and infant loss. In order to better gather, consolidate and publish resources, the Respect Life Apostolate of Colorado Springs is humbly asking for feedback at this time for how it can better serve families who have suffered the painful loss of miscarriage.
To provide feedback or to receive support regarding your miscarriage loss please contact the Diocese of Colorado Springs’ Respect Life Apostolate at 719-866-6478.
Fellow Catholics, we are in a fight against the culture of death, that with all of its lies and errors would prefer that we sweep our miscarriage losses under the rug. We must win this fight. We must battle the lies that say that even if our child is a truly precious, unique and beloved human life made in the image of God that it is acceptable to do nothing for them. It is never too late. In accordance with our Catholic faith, it is time to carry out these spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Sources for statistics about prevalence of miscarriage:
(Bill and Ashley Slack are members of St. Benedict Parish in Falcon.)