By Evelyn French
In the last few decades, we have come a long way in our attitude toward expectant mothers. Only 40 years ago, mothers were expected to limit their appearance in public. If a mother was employed, her employment was terminated as soon as her pregnancy was visible.
An unfortunate carry-over of our former reticence is that, for the most part, we are inclined to hush-hush a miscarriage. This should not be so, especially among pro-lifers.
It is estimated that 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. When a baby is lost through miscarriage, the miscarriage should not be treated as a non-event. It is one thing to respect the privacy of others, but it is another to ignore grieving parents. Grieving parents should not be left alone to suffer in silence.
Insensitive comments such as “You can always have another one” are cold; heartless attitudes like this provide no comfort to the grieving parents and miss a crucial aspect of being 100 percent pro-life without exceptions. These insensitive words and attitudes do not re-enforce the pro-life position that a human being is a person from the moment of his/her biological beginning.
Regardless of the stage of development at the time of the miscarriage, losing a child is losing a child. We must remember that and approach parents who have miscarried a child with empathy and love.
Recognizing the personhood of the preborn
What can we do to recognize the little person whose debut is not expected for seven or eight more months? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Support the passage of laws making the deliberate injury or demise of the preborn child a felony.
2. Support legislation that treats the remains of a miscarried child with the respect his/her remains are owed as a human person. In some states, no law requires the return of the child’s remains to the family after medical examination, even if they request it. That is an outrage that must be corrected in those states.
3. As soon as you know you are pregnant, give your child a name. Choose both feminine and masculine forms of a favorite name, settling on the appropriate gender when the sex is known. Never refer to a preborn child as “it.” Say “he,” “she,” “the baby,” or use an affectionate nickname.
4. Make it known to those attending to you and your child that you want your baby baptized immediately after birth. A baptism can be done in the delivery room or even in the labor room.
5. If your baby is miscarried, ask your pastor to conduct a memorial service. Some pastors will conduct a memorial service for a child who died through miscarriage as privately as a family wishes. A Catholic priest will probably offer the Mass of the Angels, especially if the family requests it.
6. Recognize grieving parents in obvious and practical ways. For example, bring them dinner, help them plan a memorial service/funeral, but most of all, make sure to be present and to listen. Sometimes listening empathetically without saying a word can do more for a person in grief than any wisdom-filled discourse.
7. If you, or parents you know, have lost a child through miscarriage, know that help is available. For example, Elizabeth Ministry International (ElizabethMinistry.com) offers many resources such as a “miscarriage delivery aid plus burial set” to allow a mother to deliver the child with as much dignity as circumstances allow and small burial vessels for funerals. Another excellent resource is God’s Little Ones (GodsLittleOnes.com), which offers tiny life-like dolls to help with the grieving process.
It is important to realize that everybody experiences loss and grief differently. Some will find comfort where others find none. What one might find beneficial, another might find trite. We must always be sensitive to these differences and keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for grief.
Properly handling miscarriage, a tragic loss, will promote our 100% pro-life stance, recognize the personhood of the preborn, help grieving parents, and serve as a witness to those who refuse to admit the preborn are human persons from the moment of their biological beginning.
For further reading, Celebrate Life Magazine has another superb article on miscarriage entitled “When a baby dies from miscarriage” by Jeannie Hannemann, as well as a fascinating article on Catherine Jacob’s life-like doll ministry, “God’s Little Ones,” by Diane Stark.
Evelyn French is a retired nurse who has been writing from Colorado Spring for the last 28 years. She is the author of A Treasury of Plays to Celebrate Our Faith, the mother of eight children, and a convert to Catholicism. She writes on topics of faith to inspire others.
This article and others like it can be found at clmagazine.org/topic/human-dignity/seven-suggestions-for-recognizing-the-personhood-of-the-preborn.