This blog is long overdue both personally and within the Church. It is written in the hopes of helping those men who have long been in silence or have never been given permission to mourn such a deep and personal loss in their life. I am talking today to men who are fathers of miscarried children. While this blog is for men, I write it for mothers as well because my journey is intertwined with my wife’s emotionally incredible experience. We are parents of five miscarried children. These saint’s names are Gabriel Michael, Raphael Hope, Patrick Cyril, Benedicta Ambrose, and our latest saint, Lily Jacinta.
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither labor nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You of little of faith!” Matthew 6:28-30
This is the scripture quote that my wife received when she knew that our baby’s name would be Lily. Lily passed away officially from this life on April 17, 2021, but not before our Lord revealed to us whom she would forever be known by God, allowed us the great gift of receiving her body into our arms, and sharing the joy of her presence in our home till her burial.
Each lily of our field, that was alive today and gone tomorrow for us, had a unique story and journey. I believe the Church has rightly eliminated the concept of “limbo”—thank you Pope Benedict XVI—and encouraged all of us who are parents of miscarried and unbaptized babies. The Church entrusts these children to the mercy of God. God, who knows the hearts of all men, would no doubt grant baptism through their parent’s “baptism of intention or desire”.
It is also my firm belief that all miscarried children should receive a name. Not only because they deserve to be identified eternally by their Creator, but the naming of a miscarried child can bring both healing and comfort to both the parents and siblings of the pre-born child. Sadly, this is a practice that I am aware many devout Catholic families don’t do. I don’t know exactly why, but my guess is they were never instructed or given permission to do such in their Catholic formation or by their priest. Parents of miscarried babies often are left to navigate this journey alone and with not much guidance from anyone. It is unbelievable to see, in truth, how little there is out there within the Church on the pastoral care of those who have miscarried a child. This is why I am writing this blog.
Miscarriages leave men in much quandary. Women are left to ponder usually in silence their own hearts regarding this very confusing and often unresolvable situation medically. Many well-meaning Catholics, family members and friends don’t know what to say when a parent loses a child through miscarriage. Some might even regrettably say, “Well, at least it happened early.” Simply awful, yet many have said such. While I am sure the person means no harm, it is a tremendously hurtful thing to say to the shattered emotional parents and in many ways, almost contributes to the dismissal of such a loss.
Men typically don’t know what to say to their spouses either at this difficult time. I have learned quite painfully through 5 miscarried babies that it is critically important for men to just be present for their spouse and not rush back to work or move on like nothing has changed for the men. I repeat. It is vitally important that a man not abandon his baby’s mother. He should stay close to home for a while till his wife both heals physically and emotionally has moved into a safe place. In some respects a man’s world has not changed much as compared to the woman, but if he would allow himself to just stop, feel the loss of his child, and just be present to his wife, this would enable himself to more greatly heal, but also tremendously bond him with his wife through their collective grief. His wife can help him understand his grief, if he will allow himself to remain in the “at home grief journey.”
A woman can really help a man process the loss of a miscarried child, but a man can also equally draw a woman to share how she is feeling, which will grant him tremendous insight into the grief that he is so often confounded by. I have learned that it is important for men to spend quality time with his wife not only during the hours and day of the miscarriage, but the many days that will follow. I realize that this is not always convenient for a man’s schedule with work, but he must take time off if he is going to truly help his wife heal and enable himself the same. Trust me, I know the damage it can cause a marriage when a spouse leaves too early after a miscarriage.
How can a man know when it is time to leave? His wife’s emotions and ability to re-engage the family after the loss will be his best indicator, but as my mother would say, “You will just know” as sure as you knew that you wanted to marry that girl. Remember that?
There are many things that need to happen after a miscarriage especially when a child is miscarried at a time in the pregnancy when the baby is fully developed. From 11 weeks to just under 16 weeks, parents will have a fully developed child in their presence and not be in the window where a funeral/burial is required. This was my little Lily’s situation. Lily was delivered in the hospital and I received her, or I should say, the ultrasound technician received that child. Upon receiving the child, I declared to the tech, “I want the child.” She reluctantly, but quickly handed the child to me, albeit in a small jar, I finally had my child in my tender and loving hands. I felt the same love that I felt with my other 7 living children whom I received after 9 months of waiting and preparing for their arrival.
It is important to remind men: you are still a father to your miscarried baby. Women: you are also still a mother. Don’t let anyone tell you that a miscarried baby is any different than a life outside of the womb! The miscarried child is still made in the image and likeness of God and is loved by Him equally as much as any child who is delivered at full-term. The only difference is time with the child.
Moms and dads, you must take control over this situation if you find yourselves in a hospital. Especially in the hospital, the medical staff will want to take the baby for testing and you will not get your baby back. They might even refer to your child as that which has “passed” from the mother’s womb. Don’t be afraid to grant personhood to your child and declare it to a very confused, at times, medical field. The healthcare industry does not always agree with our values about life, especially inside the womb. We did this recently and we brought our baby home to meet her siblings. Don’t miss this opportunity if you so desire it. The medical field will dictate terms to you if you do not declare your intentions immediately.
The siblings can handle the news and they can process seeing their little sister or brother, especially the little ones. My kids are ages 12, 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 and 17 months. Yes, there will be tears, but don’t shelter them from their feelings is my only advice to you. They will want to cry and it will greatly bond the family together. This has been my experience and though it is difficult, I believe it is a great aid in their young grieving journeys and will help in comforting them when they hold their sibling as it did for my children. Children are incredibly resilient in handling these matters and adults rarely give them the credit they deserve in their ability to process these important life issues. That said, each parent knows their child or children best and so should make the decision that they feel most comfortable with for their family.
It is my prayer that this blog, while long, has been helpful to families in need of guidance, assurance and affirmation in the midst of their own miscarriage healing journeys.
In closing, I would like to share a wonderful ministry that helps families with the grieving process and it is all done free of charge. The Trappist Monks have a wonderful outreach, which is most helpful for any family that will need to bury or cremate the remains of their child. Their information can be found at Trappist Caskets. Or contact New Melleray Abbey at 1-888-433-6934.
Also, the ministry of The King’s Men will be offering programming to men who have experienced miscarriages in the future, but until then, all men are welcome to come to our Samson Healing Retreat for Men, www.samsonretreat.com. Our Judith Healing Retreat for Women is also something that might be of value to women.
God bless you and rest assured of my prayers for you!
Father of 12 children