Miscarriage: A Catholic Perspective
Losing a baby during pregnancy is a difficult trial to walk through, whether it happens at the beginning, middle or end of pregnancy. Doctors estimate that around 15-25% of all confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, which is the death of the baby before 20-24 weeks, depending on which state you live in. After 20-24 weeks, the death of the baby is termed a "stillbirth."
Of course, whatever the title, "fetal death" is the loss of a baby--your baby...The baby you have gotten to know from ultrasound pictures and listening to the heartbeat...The baby whose kicks you felt or never got to feel...The baby you have been dreaming about and planning for; the baby you couldn't wait to meet...
If you have experienced the loss of a child in pregnancy, I understand your pain, a pain worsened by the fact that you never got a chance to really meet your child, and by the realization that so many in our culture do not believe that you lost a child, but simply the possibility of that child.
I am so thankful that my Catholic faith believes that life starts at conception and saw my baby, who I delivered still at 23 weeks (19-20 weeks gestational age at death) as just that--my baby and helped me to grieve her death just as our society allows mothers who have lost born children are allowed to grieve.
You may be wondering how God could have taken your little one before he or she even had the chance to experience this world. You may have been told that it "is for the best," or that "you will have more children, or any number of other hurtful things.
It is my hope that the Catholic perspective of miscarriage and stillbirth gives you the comfort and hope it has given me.
Prayer to Infant in Heaven
My sweet, [insert child's name/or "baby"] you are now in perfect happiness in the presence of our Lord and in your spotless innocence you can speak to Him directly and He will hear your request. My darling child, hear now the prayers of your mother. Intercede for me now, as my child who stands before the throne of God, that the Lord will grant my petition. [name petition].
But if what I ask is not in accordance with God's wisdom and plan for my life, as Him to grant what He knows is best and to give me the faith and wisdom to confirm to His will. Amen.
Have Hope: Your Baby is Now a Saint in Heaven
We often hear about our babies being angels in heaven, a concept that while comforting, does not actually present the truth about our babies. The reality is far more incredible. As my wise priest said at Jenni's funeral, Jenni is not an angel in heaven. She is human, and we are different beings than angels. Jenni died without ever having sinned, and is a Saint. Our babies are not angels in heaven, they are saints. If you have lost a baby, you can be assured that your child is a Saint in Heaven with God.
Yes, our children have died and we will not get to see them grow up or hear their little voices. We are separated physically from our babies, but never spiritually. We are forever connected to them. We can talk to God about them and we can ask our babies to intercede for us to the Father. We can tell them we love them and know that they do hear us. What a beautiful and powerful truth!
Reconciling Yourself to the Things You Will Miss
The most painful part of losing Jenni has been the realization that I will never know the joy of holding her in my arms, or hear her voice or feel her little arms around me. She will never see my face, or know me in this life. She will never feel the wind on her face as she runs through our yard; I will not get to teach her to garden or bake cookies with her... I could go on forever.
We should be sad about these things, if this life is all there is, but the Catholic faith teaches that there is life after death and that it is more splendid and more fulfilling than anything we could experience on earth. The most beautiful scenery, music, feelings, and moments on earth, they are just glimpses of what we will encounter in heaven.
Recognize that these are legitimate things that we will miss about our babies, but they have not lost out on anything. Our babies are in a place more beautiful than you could imagine. We do not hear their voices, but God does. We will not get to teach them about Noah or Jesus, but they are sitting at their feet, learning these stories first hand. They will not get to play with their siblings here, on earth, but they play with the Holy Innocents, they play with the angels. They feel no pain, they are never sad, they will never get hurt and they will never face rejection. They will never know loneliness, fear or loss.
Of course, that doesn't make your loss any less. You have lost every experience you expected to have with your child and it is normal to feel a little cheated. Feel those feelings; grieve those losses, but don't stay in that place.
Instead focus on the experiences you will have with your child. Allow your child to bring you to a deeper relationship with God. Pray to your child for intercession. Imagine what that first meeting with be like when You will get to meet your child one day and you will spend eternity getting to know your child.
He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor
Mother Angelica Miscarriage/Stillbirth Prayer
My Lord, the baby is dead!
Why, my Lord—dare I ask why? It will not hear the whisper of the wind or see the beauty of its parents’ face—it will not see the beauty of Your creation or the flame of a sunrise. Why, my Lord?
“Why, My child—do you ask ‘why’? Well, I will tell you why. You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.”
I am humbled before you, my Lord, for questioning Your wisdom, goodness, and love. I speak as a fool—forgive me. I acknowledge Your sovereign rights over life and death. I thank You for the life that began for so short a time to enjoy so long an Eternity.
-- Mother M. Angelica
"Why would God create life just to take it away before that life has even really begun?"
Have you asked yourself this question? Perhaps you have had multiple miscarriages and cannot understand why God would continually create life that was never meant to leave your womb. Maybe you have heard that up to 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, many of which are so early they go unnoticed. Why? What does this say about the beginning of life or about God?
I don't know why God allowed your child to die, but I don't think the "why" matters. We live in a fallen world, a world full of death and suffering and sadness. We must remember the eternal perspective. Every person is created, not primarily to live a life on earth, but to live forever with God in heaven. God created your child and mine for a specific purpose: to live forever with Him in Heaven. Your child's physical life, no matter how short, is nothing compared to the eternal life she/he has in heaven.
Joining Your Suffering to Christ's
According to St. Paul, we can suffer on behalf of others, joining our afflictions with those of Christ, helping to complete his sufferings (Colossians 1:24). We can offer our suffering as atonement for our sins or to help those in purgatory, or for other petitions similar to fasting. It's not that Jesus’ sufferings were lacking in any way, nor does He need our suffering to bring about salvation for anyone, but He allows us to suffer with him, so that we may grow closer to him and grow as individuals.
Nobody likes to suffer, but eventually we all will face suffering in our lives. Offering up our suffering does not lesson the pain, but it can give some meaning to it. It can also give some meaning to the death of your baby.
God works all things for His good. While He created your baby to live a full and happy life, our broken world led to another end, but God works all things for the ultimate good and your baby's death is no different. Pray that He will use the death of your child to bring about conversion of other loved ones, or for society, or for whatever would be meaningful to you. You may never see the good that was worked in other's lives because of the death of your child, but you can be confident that good did come from it.
My darling, [Child's name/baby], spotless saint in heaven, pray for me.
Burying Your Child
Chances are your miscarriage is already complete and in your shock and horror at what was happening you didn't think about the baby's remains. This section is NOT meant to make you feel guilty in anyway. God is not mad that your baby's remains were flushed away and neither is your baby. You were not in a state to think through what was happening.
But perhaps you have just been told that your baby is dead and you are wondering what you should have done with the remains after delivery. You should talk to your doctor about your hospital's policy before going in to deliver your baby. Many hospitals offer mass cremation of the remains if the baby was under 20 weeks gestation. Some hospitals may require this if you have a D&C or D&E. The mass cremation may include only the remains of babies who died in utero or these remains may be lumped together without other "biowaste" like tumors, skins, organs, etc.
The church says that the human body deserves the dignity of a proper burial or individual cremation whenever possible. You can ask the hospital to allow you to take care of having the remains cremated. Most funeral homes offer very deep discounts for the cremation of babies. If the hospital will not allow the remains to be taken for proper burial and it is safe to deliver the baby's remains at home, consider doing so.
If you do pass your baby at home, try to fish out the remains for burial. You can bury the remains somewhere on your property, or other place of your choice or have them cremated.
Whether you have the remains or not you can always have a funeral, burial or memorial service to celebrate the eternal life of your child and to offer prayers for her soul. This service can be as public or as private as you want.
When we lost Jenni, we had a regular catholic funeral for her, attended by our family and friends. We displayed pictures and a book about her short life as well as the memorial items given to us at the hospital. My good friend, who also delivered her baby still at 20 weeks opted for a private graveside service. Yet another friend had a simple memorial service.
Again, if you did not do this, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Your child really could care less--She is with God! However, it is never too late to ask your priest to offer prayers to help you say goodbye to your child.
- Losing Jenni Grace - Modern Homemaking: Home and Garden, Faith, Food and Family
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© 2014 Sarah