“If I were an abortion-minded woman, I would have had more support. Why does my baby matter less than a baby in danger of abortion?”
Sarah was grieving after a miscarriage. She began to cry when she finally spoke of it. She felt alone, scared, sad, confused and angry. She wanted answers, peace, and support, but she didn’t know how to ask for them. As a Birth and Bereavement Doula trained in trauma and a specialist in pregnancy and infant loss, I’ve been asked this…countless times. It is heart-wrenching, almost always asked with extreme sadness and confusion.
An estimated one in three pregnancies results in miscarriage, later-term miscarriage, (also called fetal demise), or stillbirth. Yet too often there is a startling lack of resources for women and families who have experienced this type of loss. Sarah’s situation and feelings were normal for what she was going through, but there was no one to tell her that. When she found me, she couldn’t help asking her question. I struggled, as I always do, with an answer–because I’m not sure I have a good explanation for the isolation that Sarah feels.
Seven years ago, I was Sarah. Asking the same question; feeling the same loneliness, confusion and isolation. When my daughter, Claire, died during my 18th week of pregnancy, I remember wondering, “Would this be easier if I didn’t know that she was a person? A beautiful soul destined to live forever. Would this be easier if I thought she was just a ‘blob of tissue’”?
But I knew better. I knew better when my son, Francis, passed away only 6 weeks after he was conceived—and for the rest of our seven losses.
Because I knew better, I couldn’t understand why it seemed that these children’s lives didn’t matter. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to find information and resources to help me navigate the days ahead, dealing with grief, empty-armed postpartum recovery, burials, tiny caskets.
Where were all the prolife people?
Seven years after my own losses, not much has changed for women like Sarah. They’ve had to say goodbye to a baby they may never have gotten to hold; they’ve carried a baby under their heart, but never in their arms.
Motherhood is Not Lost
Motherhood is not reserved only for those whose babies live.
The motherhood of women who have miscarried and still birthed children extends into eternity; it should and must be honored. There is something absolutely prolife about recognizing that a baby born into Heaven is a unique individual person whose life, however brief, mattered. Women who experience pregnancy loss, particularly early miscarriages, often feel they have no right to call themselves “mother.” Yet their experience, their grief, and their bodies all bear the marks of motherhood. Affirming this helps a grieving mother heal. Speaking the truth that she is a mother has a profound effect.
As prolifers, we often say “Life begins at conception.” This is true. And since this is true, it is also true that motherhood begins at conception.
We Can Do Better
The prolife and the medical communities can and must do better for women like Sarah. It is not prolife to tell an abortion-minded woman that her motherhood is beautiful and that her baby matters, only to tell a woman who miscarries that she can “try again” or “at least she wasn’t too far along.” Either every life has value, or it does not. Either motherhood deserves to be honored, or it does not. Either life begins at conception, or it does not. Either we are prolife in every circumstance or we are not really prolife. Too often this isn’t the message received by women like Sarah.
In the worst cases, Christian friends may tell women that their miscarriage was their fault due to some sin or spiritual defect. More often, well-meaning prolife friends may tell women to simply “try again.” Few know how to deal with loss, and this uncertainty leads to apathy or continued ignorance. Prolife individuals and care providers may never have been challenged to consider pregnancy loss in prolife terms. Sometimes, uncertain what to do or say, they do and say nothing. But if the prolife community fails to recognize and honor bereaved motherhood and fails to acknowledge the dignity of their preborn babies, then the prolife movement risks a type of hypocrisy that will never advance our cause. Until the dignity of all preborn life, however brief, is understood and acknowledged, we will never see an end to abortion.
So What Is a Prolifer To Do?
(DMC, Filumena, Diocesan Partners Project etc.)
The reality that I faced, along with Sarah and bereft mothers like her, is a call to action—a reminder that a better approach to pregnancy and infant loss is not only desperately needed, but also essential to being genuinely prolife.
The answer to Sarah’s question should be that her baby does matter, and that support is available from a growing prolife movement that acknowledges infant loss as a vital part of our work.
The progress being made towards this end is encouraging. Divine Mercy Care is painting a fuller picture of what it means to be prolife professionals serving women in need. They recognize that women experiencing pregnancy and infant loss are in emotional need, and that meeting this need must be part of the prolife cause and the comprehensive prolife care for which they advocate. Divine Mercy Care hosts an annual infant memorial service that I attended last year. Additionally, due to its commitment to fostering local unity among prolife organizations that meet a myriad of women’s health needs, Divine Mercy Care works with my ministry, Filumena Birth and Bereavement. Our collaboration means that women like Sarah will no longer have to ask, “Why wasn’t there anything for me? Why didn’t my baby matter?” We are here for them, and Divine Mercy Care is determined to make sure that their babies are honored.
You can make a difference for grieving mothers and families. Prepare a sympathy card or a meal for a grieving family. Refer to a lost child by name; tell a sad mother or father that their baby mattered to you too. Talk about your own loss–your own child to whom you had to say goodbye. Let a grieving mom cry on your shoulder. These things, though small, have value for a mother who wishes that her arms weren’t empty.
Sometimes we say nothing, fearing to remind a mother of her loss. She hasn’t forgotten. By speaking her child’s name, by acknowledging her grief, you help. Knowing that she isn’t alone, that she has permission to be sad, and that her baby mattered is comforting to a grieving mother.
Imagine a culture that values every life conceived—that respects and honors motherhood, even if that motherhood only extends into eternity. That culture would not stand for abortion. It is up to all of us to make that culture a reality. We do that by honoring the little lives that mattered–by acknowledging that saying goodbye to a baby who was never born, or to one who was born forever sleeping, is an important part of healing for bereaved parents. We do that by talking about the babies waiting for us on the other side of the veil–by listening to the stories of the mothers who have carried these little ones under their hearts, but never in their arms. We do that by affirming the dignity of every life–however brief.
It will take all of us as a prolife people to speak, act, and live so as to leave no doubt that we believe in the dignity and the sanctity of every life. When we do this, the abortion culture truly won’t stand a chance.
*The name Sarah was used to guard the privacy of the client to whom I was referring with her permission