I had an "I'm pregnant!" post all ready to go. There were just a few relatives we needed to inform before I could tell the internet.
And then I started bleeding.
This really could be like a birth story, but horrible. In fact, many women have written them. I've decided not to publish the physical details of my miscarriage. If you really want to know, my blog isn't the vehicle for that. If you don't want to know, well then that's just awkward. The essential facts are that I was supposed to be 11 weeks pregnant, but the baby died around week 6 or 7. Once we confirmed via ultrasound that the baby had died, we let nature take its course and no other intervention was necessary.
I do want to talk about what happened after the miscarriage. In our culture, we do not grieve publicly. Especially after a miscarriage, we don't even talk about it. I have been guilty of saying, "I'm okay," when a friend kindly asked how I was, even though I was definitely not okay. It's an automatic reaction.
But more than that, the culture at large doesn't recognize a miscarriage as a true death. If you're grieving, it's for what might have been and disappointed hopes, not for a particular child with an eternal soul who can never, ever, be replaced. Even if you get pregnant again immediately and have a baby in January instead of October as originally expected, there was another person, your child, who DIED and you will not meet him or her this side of Heaven. That child's life, brief as it was, is just as real and unique as anyone else's. And just as deserving of being honored and respected.
Even those who believe that a baby is a baby from the moment of conception do not understand this. I didn't understand it myself until I lost my child. It's just something I didn't think about, precisely because miscarriage is so invisible to everyone else. There was a doctor who wanted to take away the baby's tiny body for "testing". Testing for what, I have no idea. But I asked how soon I would get the body back for burial and she looked at me like I was insane. Then she put on her compassionate voice and said, "That's not what they do." This was at a Catholic hospital. They do not do abortions or sterilizations. But bury a miscarried child? It simply isn't done. But if we believe that's a human person, there is absolutely no reason NOT to give the child a respectful Christian burial if it is at all possible. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In talking to other women who have had miscarriages, especially multiple miscarriages, they are all unique much in the way that every birth is unique. Even if they don't name their children, the memories of each don't blur together. My own mother related the events of all three of her miscarriages in precise detail, even though the most recent one was over seventeen years ago. Of course this is all anecdotal, etc. take all disclaimers as read. I didn't have to work too hard to gather this evidence. All it took usually was a friend saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry. You know, I lost two babies myself." And almost all of them said their miscarriage(s) were one of the worst experiences of their lives, unprompted by me. Often I had no idea they had had a miscarriage at all, even the ones I consider close friends. See? We just don't talk about it. I'm not advocating that we talk about the deaths of our little ones to all and sundry, but it's absurd how taboo the topic seems to be. So many women, and men too, go through this! My midwife told me that as many as 50% of pregnancies end in loss of the baby. We need to talk about this. Especially as pro-life people, how do we support those grieving the loss of their child, how do we honor the lives of even the littlest ones we've lost, that we've never known and never will? There are many, many things to discuss on the subject.
First of all, we named our baby. Joseph Martin Keane. It just seemed
fitting for a child to be given a name. It was obviously too early for
us to know for sure of his being a boy, but I had a boy feeling all
along so we went with it. Joseph for St. Joseph, of course. Martin for
Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin. They lost three infant sons themselves, all
of whom they named "Joseph." I do think of him by name. It seems to
help for grieving a particular person rather than just a generic, abstract, "baby." I may have another baby. I will never have another Joseph Martin.
Naming Joseph was also helpful in honoring him as our son and we are and will always be his parents. Nobody else could give him a name. And really, that is one of the only things we will ever be able to do for him. Now, two months later, I think of him by name every day. Of course his soul is eternal whether I named him or not, but he is alive to me in a particular way and I can pray *to* him as my own little saint in a way that I think would be difficult to experience if he were merely, "the baby we lost." Also, it does witness to the unique humanity of each individual, no matter how small.
If you are one of the many women who have lost a baby and you haven't already, I encourage you to give your child a name, even if it is years ago. Pray about what it should be. It doesn't have to sound good with your last name or anything. This name is for your child, and for you. We wouldn't have chosen "Joseph" for a child brought to full term, because "Joe Keane" would always be thought to be just "joking!" But it was meaningful to us and the circumstances of his life, and therefore the right name for this child.
And I am praying for you tonight.