5

Miscarriage

The wound comes from well-meaning people. “Well, it wasn’t that far along.” “You can always have another child.” “Lots of people go through this.”

Miscarriage is a tragedy that so many people misunderstand. They are not quite sure how to console a friend or relative who has suffered this loss.

While there are no magic formulas, there is one fundamental truth that needs to stay front and center: a miscarriage is the loss of a child who is just as real and has just as much value as any other child of any age. A woman who has a miscarriage is a parent who has lost a child, as is the father of the child as well.

In a society which continues to have a legal and cultural blind spot for the unborn, many suffer from the illusion that miscarriage doesn’t grieve a parent as much as the loss of, well, a “real child.” And that is precisely what hurts so much. We can never console someone in grief if we imply, even remotely, that the person they lost wasn’t real.

Dr. Byron Calhoun, President of the American Association of Pro-life Ob-Gyns, has observed that prior to 1970, the loss of a child before or during birth was often treated in medical literature as a “non-event,” but that now there is a growing awareness of the grief associated with such loss. In fact, Dr. Calhoun has developed a hospice program for unborn children.

As the medical community advances in sensitivity and understanding of these points, so must we all. Our love, our compassion, our sharing in the grief of such losses, can bring healing to the parents who have suffered miscarriage. The naming of these children who have died is one significant way of acknowledging their reality. The counting of these children matters too, so that if a parent is asked how many children he/she has, the child who died before birth is counted as one of them.

I recall the first pro-life billboard that we set up in 1990 here in our community of Staten Island, New York. It depicted a developing unborn child. One of the first phone calls I received about it was from a woman who had lost a child by miscarriage. “I can’t tell you how consoling your billboard is to me. Thank you.” That was all she said.

Perhaps the reason it was consoling was that someone was saying publicly what she knew privately: that was a real child. The life of that child matters, no matter how short it was. The death of that child matters, no matter how many may not cry. And the love I have for that child matters, even if nobody else knows.

Lord, comfort all parents who grieve the loss of their children of any age. Take them into Your loving arms, and give us strength until the day You give them back to us in heaven. Amen.


(This update courtesy of the Priests for Life newsletter. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; call 1-888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; fax 718-980-6515; mail@priestsforlife.org; www.priestsforlife.org.)
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  • Lyn

    I really appreciate this article on miscarriage. I had a miscarriage after 16 years of marriage (most of that spent trying to get pregnant according to acceptable means by the Church) and was totally devastated. It seemed like no one understood or knew what to say. I felt that child in my womb – it was definitely a person! Fortunately the pastor at my parish said a Mass for my child. I was the only one in attendance, but that meant so much to me. He also encouraged me to name the child which I did. Thanks for writing about this – we really need more on it.

  • sparks1093

    17 years ago my wife miscarried one of the twins she was carrying. To this day we mourn the loss of our Terry, even though we never held him (or her). The worst part was the doctor saying “that was probably your girl” while doing the ultrasound (knowing that my wife and I were trying desperately to have a little girl). Sensitivity training is definitely needed.

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  • Jann

    I had 3 miscarriages and was caught off guard by how hard each one hit me. I grieved deeply but we named each of them one had a small service and buried the remains at friends rural properties. 2 boys and one girl. I still pray for them and to them daily and especially on their birthdays (my due dates). I only wish the priests in the parishes were more sympathetic. One actually said to me,”what are you doing getting pregnant at your age anyway.”I was nearly 40–and now that it’s fashionable to have babies at 40. My mom had 4 of them and most of my many sisters also.

    It can be a sign of an under active thyroid so women, keep this in mind.

    • Fr. Nate Harburg

      shame on that priest for that anti-life statement. Lord have mercy on us! May Jesus continue to comfort you in your grief. I hope you’re aware of this ministry: http://hannahstears.net/about-us/