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Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Each year, on October 15 – National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day, Catholic Sistas has made it a priority to share the vast and varied experiences of our writers (and friends writing guest pieces) on the impact of the loss of our children. This year, we thought we would share past posts (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to our archives on this topic), but take a different direction. Oftentimes, moms and dads have no idea what to do after they’ve been told of their baby’s loss. Add to this, many medical establishments (and sadly, even some parishes) are ill-equipped to even answer practical or spiritual questions, leaving the grieving couple (and children, too) to grapple and muddle their way through the trauma feeling isolated and alone.

This guide is intended to be thorough and give parents a place to through according to their needs, be it spiritual, in solidarity by reading through others’ accounts, or simply finding resources to work through the logistics of planning a burial, finding a Catholic cemetery that has a garden specifically for lost littles, and the steps for finding a priest to handle the burial rites. To make this guide simple, the information will be linked by category. If you have any additional resources you feel fit the scope of this post to be considered for next year, please don’t hesitate to email me at Martina@CatholicSistas.com.

 


NAVIGATING GRIEF

How do I break the news to my other children? This book, Loving Baby Louie, was written by grandparent and Catholic apologist and author David Currie and his wife Colleen. This family is close to the hearts of Catholic Sistas because their daughter, Alison, is a friend of Catholic Sistas. She wrote about the loss of Louie a couple of months after his death and before the book was written because she understood how important it was to not just share her story, but to reach other women and families dealing with similar tragedies. I invite you to read her story, and then purchase the book to support this wonderful family. Consider buying several copies to give to others in need.

My spouse and I are grieving differently. How can we best support each other through our loss? Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, a book written by Laura and Franco Fanucci might be of some comfort.

How can I go about asking friends and family to remember our children through their grief? Though this was written for grief in times of sudden loss, there are some practicals that can be easily implement through the loss – miscarriage and infant loss.

A friend suffered a loss. How can I help both she and her family? Read this to find some good ways to help and read about some things to avoid doing in this time of great loss.

What if I don’t know if the baby was a girl or a boy? Prayerful discernment of a name is really all you need. It’s less important that you know the sex of the baby and more important to name the baby. If it’s something that is really pressing on your heart and mind, you can always pick a name that is gender-neutral. 

Should we name our baby? Ink Slinger Michelle does a beautiful job of sharing her own story of losses and the names they discerned. You can also share the name of your lost littles through the Shrine of the Unborn’s book of life in New York City or the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Remember that this child had an impact on your life, and naming allows you to acknowledge his or her unique identity, as well as your own grief. You can pray for the soul of your child by name, as well as ask them to pray for you. Your child is now an intercessor for you, before God in Heaven, and a part of the communion of saints: according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (no. 1261).

A few options for naming your child:

  • If you are concerned that you might name the baby the wrong sex, try to find a gender-neutral name.
  • Look at the day the baby died, the day you found out you were pregnant, or his or her burial date, and choose from the list of Saints who have that as their feast day.

We weren’t able to baptize our baby before the loss. Now what? The CCC states in 1261: As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. The Hope of Salvation for Infants who die without being Baptized is also a good read.

Is it possible to get PTSD from the stress of miscarriage and infant loss? Absolutely, and it’s not something you want to take lightly. If you or someone you know or love is showing signs of PTSD, PLEASE seek help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Read more about the connection between PTSD and miscarriage and infant loss here.

Read a father’s response to the loss of a child herehere, and here.

How do I normalize my loss/es? It’s hard. Grief is a weird thing that, truthfully, will take as long as it will take. You can’t rush it, but you also don’t need to let it drag on. If you are constantly in prayer about it, ask God to place that peace in your heart when the grief comes to a level place. One thing we did as a family was to talk about our babies whom we had named. We ask them at the end of our evening prayers to pray for us. We talk about them as though they are part of the family – because they are! And when referring to how many children we have, I will – depending on the type of conversation and how that is going – share about our losses. I have never felt right keeping that a secret, and it also models to my other children that our small army of saints IS a part of our family, every single day. Here is one of my witnesses about our third loss.

People keep referring to my lost baby as an angel, or saying “Heaven gained another angel,” but I know this is untrue, as angels are pure spirit and humans are both body and soul. Should I ignore or say something? It’s tough and I know people generally are trying to be supportive and kind in those moments and comments, but you are correct that people in heaven are not angels. All in heaven are called saints, though, which is why we can refer to Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel as saints. But man is not and never will be considered an angel. We humans are unique in creation and have a special dignity. It would seem that we have to change from human to something else in order to enter heaven and that can inadvertently have a lot of negative consequences, philosophically and theologically speaking.


PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS RESOURCES

I just found out I am miscarrying. What do I do next? First, I am so so sorry for your loss. Whether this is your first loss or not, the grief you are feeling is real and raw. I’ve found the best way to move through the grief in a healthy way is to simply BE in those moments of emotion. It will lessen with time, but if you allow yourself to have those emotional moments, it ultimately helps you to process. As for the practical side of what to expect with your body in terms of pain, how long will it take, how do I collect the baby, this link may help you out.

What do I use to catch the remains of my miscarried baby? Heaven’s Gain sells a miscarriage kit that will help guide you through the process, both spiritually, and physically.

I don’t have anything to bury – I had no idea I was supposed to collect the baby’s remains. You know what? It’s OK. Seriously, it can be disheartening and a huge source of stress to not bury your baby – this happened with one of my lost babies and I was looking. If you need to, grieve as part of healthy coping, but know that you did NOTHING wrong. You can still have a memorial said and a marker made that honors that sweet little soul. If you look at our family marker, notice that the wording for Michael Christopher is different than the other lost babies, Felicity and Sarah. There was nothing I found to collect, so the wording simply reflected that. Ultimate Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide 2019

BOOKS

Loving Baby Louie: Hope in the Midst of Grief by Colleen and David Currie

Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss by Heidi Indahl

PINTEREST

Miscarriage.Infant Loss board

 


BURYING MY BABY

Should I bury my baby? Yes, although it is not required. “The local ordinary can permit children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism to be given ecclesiastical funerals.” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1183.2). The graces and healing that come from the closure of a burial are worth prayerful consideration as well.

Do I need to bury my baby in a cemetery? This varies from state to state, but depending on the gestational age of the baby, you may, in fact, be able to bury your child on your property. As someone who buried in my own backyard, and later came to regret that decision when we moved, please feel free to email me about specifics on why I ultimately found this to not be the best decision. Martina@CatholicSistas.com

Who do I contact to have my child buried? You have a few options, which will be further explained below. You can call your parish priest and leave a message, contact the person in charge of bereavement at your parish (which in some cases may still be the priest depending on the size of your church), or you can contact a local Catholic cemetery and ask for help. 

I’m overcome in my grief and the hospital is telling me I can’t take the remains of my miscarried child home. What are my options? Read this post first, as it will be a good first step in going over your options, from arrival to the hospital, what to pack, and how to treat those who give you both stellar and subpar care in the hospital.

ADDITIONALLY: If you give birth at a hospital, make sure you tell the staff (ahead of time if possible) that you want to take the baby home. Sadly, some hospitals treat younger gestation babies as medical waste and will dispose of them accordingly unless you request otherwise. Older gestation babies (the age will vary, but starting at around 18-20 weeks) are usually kept in the hospital morgue and are easy to request for burial. Even if you requested genetic testing, you should still be able to come back to the hospital to retrieve the baby.

How do I contact a priest to help me with the burial rites? Contact your local church and ask to speak with or leave a message with either the person in charge of bereavement or with your priest directly. If a receptionist tells you that’s not something the priests handle or that they don’t really handle miscarriages, insist on speaking with or leaving a message anyway. You will find plenty of personalities that may not speak to your grieving heart – push through, anyway and leave that message. The person who coordinates funerals or the priest directly will get back in contact with you. Additionally, you can contact the cemetery and they will be able to assist you in locating a priest.

How can my parish best serve grieving families? This article is a MUST READ for all parishes. Many times, Catholic churches do a good job of assisting families in times of death and burial – the pastoral element MUST be present, but when it comes to miscarriage and sometimes even infant loss, it can be a challenge to bring solace and help to the family. 

How can I assist other families in their time of grief? This article by Heidi Indahl provides great insight into the role Catholics play in supporting others through these times.

Can I even buy a casket small enough for my child from an early miscarriage? Heaven’s Gain is a good place to start – they carry caskets for first trimester through third trimester losses as well as infant urns. Trappist Caskets will also send you a FREE casket and an engraved cross when the parents speak directly with the Monks.

Resources and help burying your baby in TexasMary Claire Project

Resources from the Arlington Diocese (Virginia)

 


ARCHIVES

General collection of articles of Ink Slingers and friends of Catholic Sistas of both pregnancy loss and infant loss.

 


A BIG THANK YOU

Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Catholic Miscarriage Support

Mary Claire Project

Heaven’s Gain

David Currie

 

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Ink Slingers Martina

How Social Media Helped my Pregnancy Announcement

How Social Media Helped my Pregnancy Announcement

On Easter Sunday, I casually announced on the blog social media account that I was pregnant with #8. After three consecutive losses, it would have seemed perfectly acceptable for our family to hesitate and wait to announce this pregnancy. After #6 was born in 2012, we would experience our first loss in November 2014, followed by another loss in January 2015, and again in January 2016 – all early losses, none past 6 weeks.

How Social Media Helped my Pregnancy Announcement

WHAT SHAPED MY DESIRE TO SHARE

I had heard a reflection by a dear friend years before that really stuck with me. She had her own loss further into pregnancy – if I recall correctly, I think she was somewhere close to 20 weeks. She went on to have carry two more children to term and what she said to me was this (roughly paraphrased) – she and her husband would continue to share the good news of a pregnancy for a few reasons, two of which were it was a celebration of life and, whatever the outcome, the prayers were always appreciated and needed.

Wow.

She told me this five or more years before we would experience that first loss. The initial excitement of discovering I was pregnant never seemed to be a deterrent even through those losses. If anything, my friend’s words would ring through my head, a constant reminder and balm to the soul that life can and does go on. And the loss of one (or many children) does not need to color the desire to celebrate new life or the desire to ask for prayers.

And there you have it.

HOW AN INTROVERT SHARES DEEP HURTS

I won’t lie. That first loss was like a sucker punch. We had six children, I had no serious complications from pregnancy (carpel tunnel syndrome, pre-eclampsia symptoms, sciatica, car birth from a history of a rapid labor), and no reason to think that pregnancy #7 would result in anything other than another June bug baby addition to our family. I think oftentimes, we associate being introverted as being completely closed off or not open to sharing those deep hurts. The reality is that it has more to do with other people sharing our hurts. Blogging had become a source of cathartic healing and, in doing so, I was able to heal on my own terms, by writing from my own point of view. Giving careful consideration to my husband’s feelings on the matter, I always made it a priority to run my posts by him in case I misstated something or forgot a detail he’d remembered.

We do make a pretty great team, afterall.

Introverts simply need to tell their own business on their own terms. And when we do, hold on – cuz we have a LOT to say about something that’s near and dear to our hearts.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND SUBSEQUENT PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENTS

It’s a little odd, having managed and written for Catholic Sistas for almost eight years now. As an introvert, it’s been interesting running into people who seemingly know about my life who I’ve never met. That took some getting used to. Over time, I came to realize that the platform goes far beyond any personal discomfort I might bristle at initially when someone relates to something I willingly and publicly wrote about. Ok, turnabout’s fair play. I get it. ?

Though I didn’t always manage to publicly announce each pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage on the blog account, I didn’t shy away from sharing on my private platforms (IG, FB). I felt convicted that the right direction was always to seek in sharing this new life – no matter how long he or she was with us, and asking for prayers was never a fruitless endeavor. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Being open to life, through the good and the heartbreak, has a place in living that authentic life and I didn’t want to whitewash negative experiences without really journeying down that road. 

Having a serious heart for those who experienced miscarriages and infant loss, it shaped the blog’s approach and I wanted women to share in those experiences. Even as a brand new blog, I just knew that was a taboo topic I wanted to expose and bring those heartrending experiences to the forefront. 

So, imagine how much more I appreciated those stories when we began our series of consecutive losses. It shaped how I grieved as a person, how my husband and I grieved as a couple, and it even shaped how we parented our grieving children – who then were 18, 13, 9, 6, 4, and 2 years old. It shaped how we talked about our lost babies and siblings. We named them. We buried them. We made them a part of our everyday family by making them real. They were and still are in our daily prayers. We call on them everyday to pray for us. And after a very hard journey, I was finally able to give all that hurt and grief over to God the Father, Who knew better than I ever would what to do. He always knew those lost littles would never see this world. And I had to place my trust firmly in His hands that He knew exactly what He was doing. My focus was on finding that healing…and I did.

We were never owed any children to begin with. And once I let that go, the real healing began. The grief was still there, but there was a sense of peace resting in the knowledge that God had it all under control. Surrender. That’s all I needed to do.

MY WITNESS MIGHT HELP SOMEONE ELSE

When I began to blog about our losses, I wrote not because sharing itself was cathartic, though that was good. I wrote because I knew someone out there reading needed to read what I was sharing. Knowing you aren’t alone can be such an immense source of healing. And even though we have different circumstances and ways we grieve and come to terms with the loss, just the knowing…that’s so so valuable. 

PREGNANCY ANNOUNCEMENTS AND INTROVERTS

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least enumerate a few serious points to consider if you or a loved one are an introvert and also pregnant. These are just a few etiquette practices to put into place to help keep that stress down for us introverts.

  1. Sharing publicly. If we (introverts) haven’t shared the pregnancy publicly, it’s with good reason. This includes posting photos that are dead give aways or flat out posting an update on Facebook. Etiquette suggests that you wait until the pregnant woman/couple have announced or you can just ask directly. Maybe they don’t care at all.
  2. If you don’t have something nice to say… we all know how the saying goes, but for those of you who really need to read that, too, it goes…don’t say anything at all. And it’s with good reason. Exercising polite manners should extend to what we share online. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t type it. In fact, even if you would say it to someone’s face, that’s still rude. If you make a comment about overpopulating the world, that’s not cool. Just hit the “like” button or “heart” that photo and move on. We don’t need to say all the things we think. It’s not worth torching a friendship over. And even worse if you’re a family member. Just don’t be rude and awkward.
  3. Share news with family first. We learned this lesson some number of kids ago when we casually announced on Facebook. We later found out that family members were disheartened that we didn’t share with them. Fair enough. Though we didn’t mean anything malicious by it, we did learn a lesson. Even now that our kids are older, there is still a pecking order of sharing that we’ve developed in our home: person who is pregnant (duh), spouse, children and extended family, and then close friends and/or social media announcement.

I’ve learned over the years that sharing has been a huge blessing in our family and through my pregnancies. Letting virtual strangers (fans, readers) into our lives is part of the life of being a blogger, but letting you know of the potential serious need for prayers after a series of losses has helped put this pregnancy into perspective.

I’ve been pregnant on/off since 1995. That needs to count towards helping others through their pregnancies and losses. And so, introvert (and serious homebody) that I am, I am more than happy to share these experiences with others in the hope that you, too, won’t feel alone.

In closing, I ask again for more prayers as we head into the 20 week anatomy scan at 9:15 a.m. CST. So far, all has looked good and we have had two separate indications as to the sex of the baby. I do anticipate sharing the baby’s sex on social media and if you’ve followed me even sporadically, you know I don’t miss any opportunity to laugh in the hilarious birth pattern we’ve had so far – girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl…and what will this little one be? Tune in to our IG or FB account to find out. God bless, y’all.

 

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Loss Mary Michelle Hamel Parenting Prayer Respect Life Saints Vocations

When Our Lady Reaches Down to Us

WhenOurLadyReachesDowntoUs

I gave one of my sons the game Bananagrams for Christmas and it became an obsession for some of us. We’ve played over 100 times since Christmas day, including a “Bananagrams Madness” tournament at our little New Year’s Eve gathering. (I admit that I am one of the people that look forward to playing whenever someone else is willing. Scrabble has always been one of my favorite games and Banangrams is similar with a quicker pace!)

Keeping on the topic of favorite things, one of my favorite feast days recently passed; Our Lady of Lourdes. Growing up, I really didn’t learn much about the saints despite attending Catholic elementary school. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started to read more about my faith, which included the lives of the saints.

About 21 years ago and only about 2 years after my reversion…I am a cradle Catholic who, beyond going to Mass on Sundays, didn’t really have a relationship with God until I was about 20…my husband, Jay, was going through a rough time with his first of three grad school clinicals. He had been placed in a setting where his supervisor was unprofessional and had an issue with men. It was a very negative atmosphere and a very stressful time. At the time of the clinical, we had three little boys under 5 and I was pregnant with our first daughter. I was working part time and really worried about Jay and everything he was going through.

My introduction to Our Lady of Lourdes seems to have been a happy accident, but I prefer to see it as a Godincidence in my life at the time. On February 11th, 1998, I felt the pull to go to Mass before going to work that day. I walked into Mass carrying all of my worries and still very new to my faith. During Mass, the priest announced that it was the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. All that I knew about Our Lady of Lourdes was from the CCC video on St. Bernadette that we had bought for our sons. But, just knowing that is was a Marian feast day brought me comfort. I left Mass feeling a deep sense of peace and I thought it was a sign that God was telling me everything would turn out all right.(i.e. the way I wanted it to!)

Now that I’m not so new to my faith, I understand that a deep sense of peace and knowing that God is in control does not mean that things will turn out the way I hope they will. Sometimes when we bring our fears and worries to God, He takes them completely away from us. Other times, God gives us the grace to carry them and the consolation that we are not alone. He is always right there with us.

The next few months of 1998 taught me a lot about suffering and faith. Jay’s clinical did not turn around, and the school removed him from the terrible situation but he had to repeat the whole clinical and had to wait three extra months to graduate. My pregnancy developed problems and I delivered a baby girl that May, who we only got to love in this life for 16 days. Yet, throughout all of the discouragement and suffering, God carried us. He helped us to survive such traumatic experiences and, over time, healed our broken hearts.

This year, I prayed a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and I was able to attend Mass for the feast day. At Mass, I remembered the peace that Mary brought me all those years ago. I am so grateful for a Mother in Heaven who reaches down to console me when I bring my hurts to her Son.

Is there a time in your life when you felt Mary’s presence or intercession in a special way?

 

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Ink Slingers Martina Real And Raw Series

Real and Raw – A 2018 Catholic Sistas Series

Welcome to our new series, Real and Raw: Soul-Stirring Stories. In this series, guest authors* will get “real and raw” about the most challenging situations in their lives.

Too often there’s a tendency in the blogging world to whitewash our lives when sharing with others. As Catholics, we may feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in our relationships with each other and with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too.

Through the Real and Raw series, we will stop sugar-coating our spiritual journeys and suffering in silence about our addiction to alcohol or porn, surviving a spouse’s infidelity, enduring the agony of infertility, living with chronic illness, or managing our child’s mental illness. Our authors will share the good, the bad, and the ugly about life’s heaviest crosses, which we hope will destigmatize many struggles lived out daily by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also hope these stories will reassure our suffering readers that you are not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, Who loves you and has a divine purpose for your pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories will give you hope…hope that there is empathy and help, and that you, too, will survive. And one day, you will make it out of this darkness and be stronger for it.

*While some authors may post anonymously for privacy reasons, we assure you that each story is authentic and reflects the journey of a real person.

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Ink Slingers

Advent Gratefulness and Emptiness

heavens
I would have had a newborn this week. I could be curled up on my couch with a beautiful new baby in my arms and a coffee table covered in diapers, receiving blankets, and mugs of Mother’s Milk tea. I should be happily exhausted with a bigger family.

But this past April, I had a day of dizziness and GI distress that ended with an ambulance ride and emergency surgery. What I thought had been middle-aged tummy weight creeping up for a few weeks had been an abdomen slowly filling with blood. What I thought had been lightheadedness due to dieting had been dangerously low blood pressure. What I thought had been a stomach bug had been broken parts of myself and an unborn baby. My fallopian tube burst, due to a (unbeknownst to me) six week pregnancy. gratefulness

I am grateful for a sharp nurse and doctor at the urgent care clinic whose quick thinking got me into an ambulance. 

I am grateful for skilled emergency room staff who ordered and clarified my tests, who validated and calmed my fears, and who questioned and remedied my comfort.

I am grateful for the obstetrician whose casual greeting and explanation belied capable hands and intense focus (She was sipping an espresso while leaning against the door frame of my room, telling me how she would, “get in there, get me cleaned out, and put me back together, good as new.”). I hung onto her words. She was excellent. And correct, for I was safe in her care. 

I am grateful for our Holy Faith full of mystery, consolation, suffering, redemption, and love. 

I am grateful that this tiny one’s perfect soul is with our Lord and I have peace in the knowledge that he or she knows me.

And while I am grateful for all these things, I still want my baby. 

Oh, Advent, lead me closer to the Infant Christ and his Blessed Mother.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:12-12).”

jesus-1