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There are a ton of resources for grieving and healing after a miscarriage out there, but it’s one of those experiences where when you need answers, you need them now. While my hope is that no one will need this, the reality is that fifteen to twenty percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. At the playground the other day, I looked around at all the children who had survived pregnancy and birth, and understood what it really means that each child is a miracle.
This list is a compilation of things I found online and things friends sent to me (thank you Carolyn, Gilbert, and Elizabeth!), either from their own experiences or with the guidance of a grief/loss counselor. In sharing what other people have shared with me, I hope to create an accessible resource that readers can turn to if they or someone they love ever needs it.
What I’ve Done (and All of It Has Helped):
The obvious: family, friends, date night, take out, babysitters, daytime TV
Name your child. I had a sense that No. 2 was a boy from the start, although not as strongly as I did for Jacob. Within two days of knowing I was pregnant, I wanted to name him Ethan Karl. Sometimes I worry that he was really a she, in which case, I think of her as Ethana Karla, and hope she will forgive me for an awkward (although I think still beautiful) name in Heaven.
Have a memorial Mass with a few close friends (or have a service appropriate to your faith, if you’re not Catholic). We intend to do this, and I am thinking about when and how to go about it. I am considering having a Mass on October 15, which is officially Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Whenever we choose to do it, I want to have the Mass offered for Ethan and for all babies lost in miscarriage and stillbirth, and I hope to do it annually.
Talk about it. One friend told me, “most of all we found that the more we shared our experience, the more we were able to help others.” I am taking that to heart. I talk freely about Ethan, when I need to, and don’t let myself worry that someone else doesn’t want to hear about him.
Make a baby box. In my own mind, I am adamant about not calling this a “memory box” for Ethan. I am putting together a baby box for Jacob, just like my mom has one for me. More on this in another post to come. A friend suggested that this is not just for the mother, but also to share with future siblings or other family members.
Write letters to your child. This was the first thing I did after I found out, but then writing is a natural form of release for me. I’ve invited John to do this as well, and I should open it up to the rest of our family, if they’d like to contribute something to the box. Family: please consider the invitation open!
Have your child’s name inscribed in the Book of Life at The Church of The Holy Innocents. This is free and very simple. I filled out a short form online, and within a few days, received a Certificate of Life (as PDF, to print out) along with a very sweet email from the priest who cares for this ministry. I am so touched by this physical—and spiritual—validation of our child’s life.
The church is located at 128 West 37th Street in Manhattan and online here: http://www.innocents.com/shrine.asp. And here’s a description from their website:
Often children who have died before birth have no grave or headstone, and sometimes not even a name. At The Church of The Holy Innocents, we invite you to name your child(ren) and to have the opportunity to have your baby’s name inscribed in our “BOOK OF LIFE”. Here, a candle is always lit in their memory. All day long people stop to pray. On the first Monday of every month, our 12:15pm Mass is celebrated in honor of these children and for the comfort of their families. We pray that you will find peace in knowing that your child(ren) will be remembered at the Shrine and honored by all who pray here.
How beautiful is that?
Books: I have been devouring material on miscarriage and grief. After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope is exactly what the title makes it out to be. A friend sent me two pamphlets from Perinatal Loss/Grief Loss (online here: www.griefwatch.com). I read one so far. The other seems similar, so I’m holding it until I need more. The same friend also sent me When Your Baby Dies Through Miscarriage or Stillbirth, which was helpful, but not as much as the others. I wanted a lot of information, and this isn’t as statistic/research/anecdote heavy. Its virtue is its chapters for mothers, fathers, and grandparents or siblings.
I’m also reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. This book would not mean what it does to me if I weren’t grieving as I’m reading it. It makes me feel my thoughts and emotions are validated. John’s reading it, too, and it’s helping him understand me better.
Blankets: This is the coolest, saddest thing I’ve found. In my Internet-trolling, I came across a woman who, in memory of her own lost child, crochets blankets and hats for miscarried children. You order by gestational age, in any color you like. Her prices are reasonable, her correspondence was gentle and loving, and turnaround time was fantastic. This is a smaller version of what she made for us. Still, what we have fits in the palm of my hand.
What’s Been Recommended, But I Haven’t Yet Used:
It takes some time to process things, and I am taking these offerings a little at a time, when I need them. I haven’t clicked on these links yet, but they may help someone else before I have a chance to read them:
NYT article on miscarriage http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/grieving-a-miscarriage/
Miscarriage resources and links http://www.hopexchange.com/ResourcesLinks.htm#Miscarriage
If you’re in New York, Gianna Healthcare for Women offers comprehensive women’s healthcare that is consistent with Catholic teachings. They have been extremely successful helping couples with pregnancy/fertility related issues. I was with the center when I was pregnant with Jacob, just for prenatal care, and they were fantastic! I only had to switch because of a hospital affiliation thing (read more here).
Gianna Healthcare for Women (fertility counseling)
15 E. 40th Street
New York, NY 10016
Phone (212) 481-1219
Fax (212) 481-1423
Volunteer at places like the Sisters of Life (http://sistersoflife.org/) or Good Counsel Homes (http://www.goodcounselhomes.org/about/mission.php).
Make donations (in memory of your child) to life affirming causes. When I called around to a couple of priests looking for answers as to what to do with Ethan’s remains, post-testing, I found that the good priests I knew had never been asked what to do in the case of a miscarriage. If they’ll have them, I’m hoping to donate some of the books I used to local churches, so these resources are on hand when people need them.
A once annual St. Gianna Mass will be celebrated sometime in April 2012 at St. Catherine of Siena Parish (411 East 68th Street, NY, NY) for couples suffering from infertility and recurrent miscarriage. Here’s more:
Join the Dominican Friars Healthcare Ministry and The Gianna Center for Women for a night of prayer, music, reflection and healing for couples faced with pregnancy-related difficulties. All are welcome to attend this evening dedicated to healing for couples.
Find a support group. My mom recommended this, and my friend graciously did the work of researching two in my area for me. Calling for the schedule of the closer one is on my to-do list. Let’s hope I “do” it soon!
Other books: Also recommended to me were: Empty Arms: Emotional Support for Those Who Have Suffered Miscarriage or Stillbirth and We Were Gonna Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel Instead, which is aimed at young children to explain the loss of a sibling.
I wish no one would ever need this information, but I know someone will. Please share where and when folks need it!