Reflection: Mourning Miscarriage

On our very first date, my husband Blake and I discussed children. “I love kids,” my dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist boyfriend declared. “I think I’d like to have two. How many do you want?” he asked.

I think he realized for the first time just how very Catholic his Catholic girlfriend was when I shrugged and answered, “Five or six.”

From our engagement until today, as I write this, every decision we’ve made as a couple has been with the idea in mind that we would have a larger-than-average family. I could’ve kept driving my Honda Fit a while longer after we had our daughter, but there was no way it would fit more than one rear-facing car seat; we chose our house in part because the upstairs bedroom is large enough to bunk at least three kids. Even my career path has been informed by our conviction to have as many children as possible – my freelance writing career, my first love, has been shoved to the back burner as I’ve developed my photography business, since that’s easier to do in the evenings and on weekends when my husband is home.

When we suffered a miscarriage in January of 2013, we were understandably heartbroken but still confident that there were many more children to come. Anyway, I knew the statistics – up to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage (American Pregnancy Association). So we were sad, but not at all shocked.

Our second miscarriage in a row occurred in July of this year, and it shook both Blake and me to our emotional and spiritual cores. As I wrote in a blog post the following day, “I’m not just crying out to God, I’m howling in sorrow and despair.” I couldn’t imagine why this was happening. Questions raced back and forth through my brain like cars on an overheated track: Did God make this happen? Did Satan make this happen? Did I make this happen? Is this God trying to tell me that I’m not supposed to have any more children? Does this mean I’m a bad mother? Did I make a mistake by telling our daughter too soon that we were expecting another baby? Did I “jinx” this pregnancy by letting family and close friends in on our secret?

As I read back over these thoughts, I realize now how completely illogical some of them are. But in those shell-shocked first few days, my grieving mind just couldn’t get a grip on the fact that this was happening to us again.
Part of the grieving process was complicated because part of me didn’t feel I should be grieving at all. I didn’t even realize I felt that way until my husband pointed it out. I wasn’t sure I should publish a blog post on the subject at all, so I let him read it first. The first thing he said after he finished gave voice to an idea, a resentment that had been clanging around in my head ever since my OB gave us the terrible news.

“One of the biggest injustices,” he said, “is how women are expected to grieve miscarriages alone, quickly and in secret.”

A girlfriend pointed out that this attitude toward miscarriages – that they don’t represent a “real” loss – may actually contribute to the abortion culture. “Think about it,” she said. “If you’re not supposed to grieve the loss of this baby, one that you wanted, just because it was very tiny and hadn’t been born yet, then why should we grieve the loss of a baby who’s been aborted?”

She’s absolutely right – a life is a life, after all, even if we weren’t aware of this particular life for very long. Our baby, small though it may have been, is a member of our family and deserves for its parents and sister to grieve the loss of its earthly life. We know we will meet our babies again someday, and on that day, we’ll sing and dance and rejoice. But the knowledge of their heavenly lives doesn’t lessen the sting of their earthly deaths for us…at least, not yet.

It was my husband who insisted that I meet with our pastor, Fr. Peter Mangum of the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, to talk about our loss. Blake went with me, and neither of us could scarcely have imagined the comfort and wisdom Fr. Peter would impart to us. It should have come as no surprise to us that Mother Church would have a blessing and ritual specifically for parents who have suffered a miscarriage. (Find the full text of the blessing here under the category of Blessings: If you or a Catholic couple you know has suffered in this way, I cannot urge you strongly enough to seek the counsel of your pastor.

As for Blake and me, we are sure once more that God wants us to increase our family and thus His kingdom. The only question, really, is how our children will get to us – will we give birth to them? Will we adopt them? Will we foster them? At this point, we have no earthly idea. The only thing we know for sure is that God will show us the way.

by Kelly Phelan Powell

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