Today is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In many communities, memorial services will be held and candles will be lit in honor of the babies many of us lost far too soon.
I will speaking tonight here in Danville, as I have done for several years now. It’s always a quiet service, attended by parents and siblings and grandparents. Some people come once; others need to hear the message year after year. That’s okay. I refuse to put a timeline on grief. I understand, to some extent, what these families are feeling.
Last Monday, October 6th, was Gabriel’s 20th birthday. For him, it was also the day he died. Stillborn at 33 weeks and weighing just 2 pounds & 3.8 ounces, he made a remarkable impact on our family and friends. Unlike many families, we anticipated our loss because doctors had warned us that our baby may not live long (after birth) if he survived birth at all. We were all struck with grief, but not shock.
Bruce and I requested prayers throughout my difficult pregnancy. Our family and parish friends embraced us; our co-workers supported us. After I gave birth and it was time to say good-bye, we had a funeral Mass…and the Church was packed! We received flowers and cards, meals from church friends. The Body of Christ did so much for us, and I am immensely grateful even to this day.
But not everyone has supportive family. Not everyone attends a church that recognizes the unborn Baby as a real child. And many pregnant women have no warning before a miscarriage…often leaving people to wonder “what do I say to her?” Today, my heart aches for families whose loss was completely unexpected, and who did not experience the support they so desperately needed.
Studies vary when talking about the number of miscarriages each year in this country. It is difficult to decipher accurate numbers because many women miscarry so early, and for completely unknown reasons. This may happen before a clinical diagnosis of pregnancy…but sometimes the woman “just knows.” I know many women who miscarried shortly after their excited announcements about their pregnancies…and then they feel like (or they’ve been told) they should “just get over it.”
Now, I don’t want to create grief or dig up old wounds, but I think sometimes women (and men ) are not given permission to grieve. That needs to stop. We, as family and friends, need to reach out in compassion. Losing a baby through miscarriage is not like losing your appendix. We’re talking about a Real Baby. And the Baby is now gone. Sadness is a natural feeling, not a sign of weakness.
Thinking about one’s Baby on your due date is common. So many of us wonder what might have been. I cried like crazy, ironically, the day before my due date. I was lying in a bed at Vencor Hospital (now Kindred Hospital) in Indianapolis. I was acutely aware that I had expected to be in a different hospital for a very different reason. I ached with grief. The medical team was so understanding. My physical therapist even got down on his knees and prayed for me! I was allowed to grieve. And going through a healthy grieving process meant I was able to heal, however gradually over the years.
Losing a real Baby so early on…during pregnancy or early childhood…is overwhelming in many ways. For me, it has been mostly because I missed out on many experiences I expected to have.
But I have some positive memories. Most notable was a special moment on a sunny August afternoon. It was the first time I actually felt Gabriel move inside my womb. I felt a ripple across my belly in one direction…and then in the other. I was overjoyed! Between Gabriel’s tiny size and my decreased health, I didn’t feel much movement throughout my pregnancy…so this moment was a pure GIFT from God!
As a prolife person, I always say “Every baby counts. Every baby matters.” After all, if life begins at conception, we should remember each baby. I encourage women to count all of their children…born alive, miscarried, or stillborn. (Or even aborted. While this was a loss by choice, it often brings regret and grief later.) I also encourage women to name their children. Placing a name with a child tells the whole world how much that baby matters.
Gabriel would be 20. I missed out on many things as a mom. But when I think about where he has been all these years, I’m okay!
To God be the Glory!