Thoughts on miscarriage: I lost my baby, but she lived her life fully
December 1, 2020 (Love Unleashes Life) — On October 8, a second line on a pregnancy test would declare that I was a first-time momma at the ripe age of 40. My husband and I received this news with great joy, celebrating by opening the Scriptures to pray, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ... for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-47, 49). Only a few weeks later, however, we would be devastated to lose our little one to miscarriage. We named our baby Laetificat Judah (“LaeLae” for short). Laetificat, from Latin, means “I delight, cheer, gladden. I make fruitful; I fertilize, enrich.” Judah, from Hebrew, means “praised.” Jesus has been called the Lion of Judah. As is typical with loss, those who care for us say all kinds of things to express their sorrow and to try to help.
One very supportive friend gently suggested that if my husband and I get pregnant again, we might consider waiting a little longer before telling people. My friend meant well, but I have a different view. People are unique, and life experience and personality are contributing factors to how we respond to things, but cultural influence is also a factor. And our culture has established a norm to discourage disclosing one’s pregnancy until the first trimester passes. Have you ever thought about why? The truth is, it’s because miscarriage is common and although people aren’t often conscious of what they’re saying, it’s as though the message is this: “Your child might die, so don’t tell people until that’s less likely.” The truth is, everyone will die, and if a child makes it past the first trimester there are no guarantees they will have a live birth. And if a child makes it to birth, we have no guarantee of decades with one’s offspring. How long must someone live before we celebrate them? I have a friend who miscarried at 9 weeks and another who lost a child at 13 weeks. My cousin miscarried at 21 weeks and my aunt had a stillbirth at 40 weeks. One of my friends lost her child at 2 years old. Another friend lost her son at 19 years old. I don’t want to be quiet about my child’s existence because they might not live as long as someone else. Instead, I want to live life fully with my beloved child for as long as they are present.
A Life Fully Lived
The three weeks when we were aware of LaeLae’s life were absolutely glorious. We happily told family and friends, and I shared the news with the world in three livestreamed presentations. As one of my friends later wrote me, “Even though her life here was short, your baby brought joy to many people.” There were so many adventures in a brief time: My husband and I returned to the island where he proposed just because we wanted to give LaeLae a beach outing. Then there was the cool Florida evening where my husband and I, with little one in my womb, retreated to our backyard and were surrounded by the sweet smell of jasmine bushes; I strummed the ukulele, we prayed, and gave LaeLae her first family fire pit experience. LaeLae was also part of our Canadian Thanksgiving celebration held south of the 49th parallel. I loved writing notes and texts to “Daddy” to let LaeLae be the bearer of my various messages to my husband.
I loved introducing LaeLae to Jesus. I would go to Mass and when I received The Body of Christ, I would imagine I was giving my child a “John the Baptist Experience.” Just as he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the proximity of the pre-born Christ child entering his home in Mary’s body, my child got to experience the proximity of the Eucharistic Jesus entering the tabernacle of my body as my little one nestled nearby in my womb.
LaeLae was also my companion for major debates against two leading abortion supporters, on October 20 against abortionist Malcolm Potts and on October 22 against Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer. LaeLae helped me bear witness to the dignity of the child in the womb, and her existence even elicited, perhaps surprisingly, congratulations from both my opponents.
Entering the Vestibule of Heaven
I once read an inspiring article about a palliative care physician, Dr. Michael Brescia. He said, “[W]hen someone is dying, you think that room [they are in] is part of this earth? No! You are not in this world. You have entered the vestibule of heaven.”
On Thursday, October 29, my husband and I entered the vestibule of heaven as our little LaeLae would begin to leave my body. I heard from a Jewish friend that when a Jewish person dies, someone sits with the body and prays through the Book of Psalms (my spiritual director, a Byzantine monk, subsequently informed me the Eastern Catholic tradition is the same). Although we don’t know when, precisely, LaeLae died, that night, when my body was showing signs of miscarriage (which an ultrasound the next day confirmed), Joe and I prayed through the first 27 psalms to send Laetificat Judah to our Heavenly home. I am struck by these passages:
- “O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens! Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have drawn a defence against your foes, to silence enemy and avenger.” –Psalm 8:2-3
- “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence” –Psalm 16:11
- “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” –Psalm 17:8
- “He reached down from on high and seized me; drew me out of the deep waters.” –Psalm 18:17
- “God’s way is unerring; the Lord’s promise is tried and true.” –Psalm 18:31
- “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple.” –Psalm 27:4
That night I sobbed, but even amidst the ache of losing my child I realized the deep sorrow was because I let myself deeply love. I was reminded of a powerful scene in the movie Shadowlands and said to my husband, “The pain now is because of the happiness then.”
I Can Only Imagine
One rainy afternoon, before we had become parents, my husband and I watched the movie I Can Only Imagine. It tells the true story of musician Bart Millard who wrote MercyMe’s song, I Can Only Imagine. Bart had been brutally abused by his father growing up, but before his father’s death his dad became a Christian and reconciled with his son. After his dad’s death, Bart composed, “Surrounded by Your glory, What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in your presence, Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.”
So as part of my grieving and healing, I let myself imagine. I’ve thought of my friend Anita whom I had done pro-life projects with. She was a post-abortive woman who came to regret ending the life of her child. She repented, experienced God’s mercy, and shared her testimony through Silent No More Awareness and Rachel’s Vineyard. She passed away a couple years ago at the age of 76. I imagine her in Heaven with a grandmother’s delight in LaeLae, telling her stories that would start with, “Your mom and I worked to save babies your age, and there was this one time…”
Miscarriage is common, and various friends and family who walked this rocky path before me were like flashlights steering me through the darkness. Many of them named their little ones too, and now I imagine LaeLae playing in a Heavenly park with her tiny new friends: Hope, Paul Francis, Karol Agape, Pierre, Grace, Miriam, Judith-Ann, Faith, Providence, Karol, Owen, Asis Gabriel, and Pieta Marie, to name a few.
And then I imagine how, one day in the future, I will stand at the gates of Heaven and see my Savior, a kindly Jewish rabbi named Jesus, holding the hand of a little girl who has thick, curly brown hair and who’s wearing a blue dress, and she’ll whisper to me,
“Welcome home, Mommy.”
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” –Victor Hugo
Final Note: For anyone who may experience the tragedy of miscarriage, know that no matter how young your child, you can collect the blood and bury it. Your baby may be so tiny that no body is discernible; you may not even know how early your child died, but out of an abundance of caution you can bury whatever you collect. You may find, as was my experience, that you pass a discernible gestational sac and you can bury that. No matter why your child died — whether your baby was so disabled she or he didn’t keep growing, or your body had a hard time sustaining a pregnancy, or some other reason — no matter how little time your child lived, you can hold a funeral.
Published with permission from Love Unleashes Life.