Saturday, December 13, 2014

How To Help Someone Suffering From Miscarriage

Today, December 13, is a day of bittersweet emotions for me. It is the feast day of St. Lucy...a very important saint in my life. My middle name, Lucia, was taken from Sr. Lucia, who was my grandmother's best friend. My grandmother, after whom Mary Ellen is named, was one of the most important people in my life. I often think of her and Sr. Lucia on this day.

This day also brings great sorrow to me. Today, three years ago, was the day I lost my first baby, who we named Catherine. In the early hours before sunrise, as I lay in bed nursing my infant, I think of my first baby. My girl who had a short life, but a life nonetheless. I have been wanting to write a post about how to help mothers (and fathers) who have suffered miscarriage. So many well meaning people say such hurtful things without even realizing they are hurtful. And likewise, so many people just want to help, without knowing what to do. Miscarriage is a taboo subject in our culture...many people don't quite know how to react to it. It is a lonely cross that parents must bear. So I hope these tips might help the loved ones of those going through a terrible loss.

Things you should not say 

1. At least it happened early.

It always amazes me that "pro-life" people treat miscarriage as something that does not need to be addressed. If you believe that life starts at conception, why wouldn't an early loss be just as devastating as a later loss? It's the same person...the same soul...the same baby. Just a different size. It is, I believe, because of our "seeing is believing" culture. People cannot see that the mother is pregnant. No one but the mother feels the physical pain of miscarriage. And typically, no one but the mother (and father) sees the tiny, tiny baby that has been taken from the womb. So always realize that, no matter when a miscarriage occurs in a pregnancy, the pain (and the baby) is so real.

2. There was probably a genetic problem, so it was for the best.

"It was for the best" is something that no one ever wants to hear when they are experiencing a loss. After going through a miscarriage, you do not care that the likelihood your baby could have survived outside the womb are very slim. You do not care that there was probably something seriously wrong with your baby. The fact is, that was, and is, your baby. No matter what medical state the baby was in while in the womb.

3. God needed another angel.

First of all, theologically speaking, humans do not become angels when they enter heaven. Angels are a different species than humans...all spirit, with no body. But aside from that, this is one of those phrases that well meaning people think might comfort the parents. In reality, it does the opposite. Especially when parents are fresh from the loss of their baby, they do not want to hear that "this was all in God's plan" or "God needed them in heaven." Death was never part of God's plan. God's plan was for people to live in the perfect world of Eden with Him. Death would have never existed had it not been for original sin which resulted from our free will. And even though it certainly is true that our baby can intercede for us in heaven (something I definitely kept in mind during my early pregnancy with Elizabeth), during the time of miscarriage, we want our baby with us here on Earth. 

4. You can always have more children/at least you have children already

This phrase takes away from the importance of the baby for whom the parents are mourning. It implies that this death shouldn't be so bad, because at least you'll have other kids to take your mind off it. I doubt that anyone would ever say this to parents who have lost a child who has already been why is it okay to say this to parents who have lost their child in the womb? 

Things that you should say or do

1. Give the parents space if they need it

After I had my miscarriage, I did not want to speak to or see anyone for awhile. Partly because I didn't want people to know about what I had gone through. Partly couldn't stand facing the (well meaning) comments people would make. And partly because I couldn't handle being around those who did know, acting like nothing had happened and that everything was okay (again, well meaning). I chose to mourn by myself. It was difficult, because it was around Christmastime. I remember opening presents with our families, trying to be happy about Christmas, but simply thinking the whole time about how it was impossible to feel happy after losing my baby.

I also remember it being very difficult to go anywhere in public for awhile. Every time I saw a baby or a pregnant person, I would burst into tears. I specifically remember one time going to a restaurant with my mom and sitting down to our table. I glanced to the side, and realized that literally right next to our table was a brand new mother with an infant who couldn't have been more than a week old. I had to get up and go to another table because I couldn't handle being around the baby.

2. Acknowledge that this baby is real, and that they will always be his/her parents.

The most comforting thing anyone ever said to me while I went through my miscarriage had to do with this point. I had not told many people about it, and chose to tell a coworker at school. I remember that instead of looking at me with sorrow or awkwardness, he broke out in a big smile, and said: "Wow! You guys are parents! That's amazing!" For me, it acknowledged the fact that my baby was real, and that, especially since this was my first baby, I was a mother. 

3. If the couple gives the baby a name, refer to him/her by that name.

We chose to name our baby Catherine. It was too early to tell if the baby was a girl or a boy, but based off a very real dream that I believe was a message from God, we knew our baby was a girl. Since parents who miscarry early do not get a funeral or any sense of closure from the loss, giving the baby a name has helped us tremendously. 

And the most important thing, I think, is this:

Never forget this baby.

As the months and years pass, most people tend to move on. But as a mother, you never forget. My mom sends me messages often, telling me she's thinking about my baby in heaven. I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that someone still remembers. That not everyone has forgotten. 

I think many people are afraid to bring it up, thinking that it might bring me pain. But it's actually quite the opposite. By acknowledging my baby, you are telling me that my baby was real and important to you. And that you want to be there for me, even years later, when even though the pain is different now, it is still there. And it always will be.

My baby girl will always be in my heart. And I will never forget the love and support I received from those who have helped and continue to help me along the way. It is a long and windy that is traveled easier while holding someone's hand.


  1. When we lost our child April 27 2000. One of the hardest things was to flush the toilet. We ended up capturing some of the larger clots, and in this child's honor, placed him/her inside a rosebud and buried on top my favorite grandmother's grave. John led the kids in prayers and my mom was there to be strong next to me, holding the umbrella because God was crying with us. We have always referred to our lost child as RoseBud which contains a girl and boy name and is beautiful in its promise. A few years later, this poem jumped out at me and has been on our refrigerator ever since. The reference to my RoseBud was like sunshine on my heart.

    When God Calls Little Children

    When God calls little children to dwell with Him above,
    We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love.
    For no heartache compares with the death of one small child
    Who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild.
    Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold,
    So He picks a little rosebud before it can grow old.
    God knows how much we need them, so He takes but a few
    To make the land of heaven more beautiful to view.
    Believing this is difficult, still, somehow we must try.
    The saddest word mankind knows will always be "goodbye."
    So when a little child departs, we who are left behind
    Must realize God loves children ...... Angels are hard to find.

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