On Losing a Baby

Miscarriage is a loss that's often invisible except to the mother and father

Spring is a time of life and hope. That’s apparent in nature. It’s also apparent in the liturgical year, as the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25. People begin going outdoors and, sometimes, baby carriages appear more prominent.

But, in the midst of that life and hope, there’s also a painful — though often unspoken — side: the loss of a child by miscarriage. While the death of a child is always painful, miscarriage is a loss that is often invisible except to the immediate parties: the mother and father. If it happens early in pregnancy, others may not have been told. They’re unaware of the once-happy event.

And, when we have a political party prostituting itself to defend prenatal killing, denigrating the loss of life as a “clump of cells,” parents who lost a child to miscarriage are doubly hurt, particularly when there may be no remains to receive or bury. It’s like everything has just disappeared.

On top of people’s ignorance about whether one was expecting a child, there comes the discomfort of how to address what’s happened. Talking to somebody about a death is awkward for lots of people; talking to somebody about a death before birth — before the parents even had a chance to see that person face-to-face, eye-to-eye — is harder.

Please don’t ignore those parents. Please don’t act as if nothing happened. Please don’t reinforce their feeling of invisibility. And please don’t think it is just “mom’s” issue.

The current political exploitation of people’s desire to have children by trying to lash the in vitro fertilization debate to “reproductive choice” is cynical politics that obscures the fact that people today are having more problems getting — and presumably staying — pregnant. The involuntary prenatal loss of a child may be a lot more common — and less spoken of — than voluntarily procured abortion. And no parent who has lost a child “shouts” that loss.

Few parishes have any organized ministry to support parents who lose a child to miscarriage. Pastoral support opportunities are often few and far between. For a pro-life Church, that is a serious gap.

How — in a springtime of new life and as we approach the Feast of Divine Mercy — can we fix that to show a face of Mercy toward those parents hurting from loss of a child?


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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