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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

 

Categories
Charla Ink Slingers Loss Respect Life

Old and Pregnant

old-and-pregnantI have known so many women who have experienced pregnancy loss and miscarriage. I never in a million years thought I would be one of them.  I had three children, three uneventful pregnancies, and I had reached the age of 44.  It was highly unlikely that I would get pregnant again.  I was past that time, despite still having regular cycles and no symptoms of menopause whatsoever.  Besides, we had gone nine years without getting pregnant.  We certainly had not been “trying,” but we always said we would accept whatever God gave us, so quite unlikely another child was in the cards for us.

I was at a conference out of town and was preoccupied and very busy with learning about the latest in Advanced Placement and just enjoying a little time to myself.  In the evenings, I finally got to spend some “in real life” time with my friends, Donna, Martina, Tina and others.

Any day now, I told myself. I sat by the hotel pool reading (quite a luxury for this wife and mom of three) semi-worrying that I would have to run to the ladies room at any moment.  But nothing;  I was asymptomatic– no cramps, no real moodiness, no adolescent break out. I told myself, not possible, any day now; I am just late, right? Though I was ordinarily like clockwork. I spent a final  evening with these wonderful ladies and almost asked for a ride to the drugstore to get a test, you know, “just in case”. Nah– not possible for this old lady; I’d wait until I got home to check for sure.  

However, something just kept nagging at me, so after walking to Mass that Sunday, the day I was headed home, I begrudgingly took a detour to the drugstore near my hotel.  I finished packing and took the test– just to make sure I had nothing to worry about.

Lo and behold! It was glaringly positive!

I was incredulous.  Not possible.  No way.  What??? Am I looking at this stick correctly???

I wish I could say I was elated.  I wish I could say this unexpected news overjoyed me.  I wish I could say this is what I wanted. Alas, I could say none of those things.

I can’t even describe what was going through my mind at that moment.  I am ashamed to say, I screamed at God, “What are You thinking!? How on earth is this a good idea?! Why are You doing this to me?!” I just can’t be pregnant!

All I could repeatedly tell myself is “I can’t do this!” “I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”

I started doing the math in my head.  I would be almost sixty two when this baby graduates from high school.  I am just too old.

I told God to take this baby; I was not a good enough mom; I was too old and too tired for nursing, diapers, sleepless nights.  I was not to be trusted to give this baby the perfect, young, energetic mom he deserved. Oh why did I say this out loud for God to hear me?

“I can’t do this!” “I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”“I can’t do this!”

But I would have to do this.  I would have to trust God’s will, but I was not quite ready to do that.

After this melt down, I calmed down and got ready to leave. I went through all this by myself in a hotel room. No one to talk to, no one was around.

I got to the airport and called my mom. She is the only one I wanted to talk to at that moment.  I did not want to tell my husband on the phone, so I called my mom and told her.  I started to cry hysterically yet again, and my sweet mom says, “Why are you crying? This is wonderful. You’re having a baby!” To which I replied, “Mom, but I am SO OLD!” She kinda laughed and said “Oh yeah. That’s right. Well, that is okay.  It’ll be just fine! You should be happy.”  At that moment, I felt if I had been listening earlier, these were the exact same words that God was saying to me.  Thank you Lord for repeating Yourself loud and clear through my mother’s words.

I arrived back home and as my husband picked me up, I handed him the test stick. He reacted quite the way I did, but with less hysterics. He was worried about all the same things I was worried about. Talking to my mom gave me some clarity and I attempted to instill some of it into my dear husband. Eventually, that is what happened.

Everything fell in place and we started to make the beginning preparations: find a doctor, take the vitamins, pick out names… My husband and I actually agreed upon a boy’s and a girl’s name pretty quickly. My sons were elated, especially the younger, and my sister and her family were ecstatic. We chose to wait to tell the nine year old until things were further along, but sadly, it wouldn’t get much further along than a few more weeks.  

We were heading out to the lake cabin with the family one weekend when the end began. At about nine weeks, I woke up and started spotting. I tried to keep up hope, but I knew two things in my heart: one, that it was baby boy, and two, that he was gone.

His name is Liam Phillip.

I cried and cried and cried. Not the hysterical cry from when I was overwhelmed with the pregnancy news, but a low constant sob that still hasn’t quite stopped. I cried for my beautiful boy, who I just knew would look like my oldest son, who I knew I would never meet, never hold, never nurse. I cried in regret for the words I spoke to myself and God, not trusting Him or myself.  I cried that my kids would never meet their brother.

Blood tests confirmed what I already knew and I saw each result, spaced days apart,dwindle down to nothing. I returned to work after summer break, keeping this pain at bay, until not just one, but two, coworkers announced their news: One was about to be a new mom, and she shared my due date; the other’s wife was due days before that. Her baby was born later, but his was born on my due date.

It has been six months since my baby should have been born, and many emotions are at play for me. I am still in mourning to be honest. I am mourning not only my baby boy, but I am mourning my fertility.  We do not dare “try again.”  I could not bear to try to replace him with another.  As this one wasn’t planned to begin with, I reacted horribly, and besides, what if I lost the next baby, and the next, and the next…? No, I can not go through that again. The doctor said it probably happened because these things just happen. There is nothing wrong with me medically, except that my eggs are pretty old.  Yes, there is something sad about probably not being able to bear anymore children. Every month is filled with dread, regret, yet relief.  This is one of those areas that I have to truly put my trust in God.

I am starting to talk about him little by little.  Many friends did not know I had a miscarriage, so they do not know quite what to say.  Here is what not to say to a 44 year old woman who has lost a baby: “It’s best anyway.  There was probably something wrong with it.” “You did not want to have a baby this late in life anyway!” “You are lucky to have kids already.” “You already have three perfect kids. Why tempt fate? It could have been abnormal.”  While all these things could be true, I am a mother through and through. No one can tell me I am better off without my baby.

Categories
Ink Slingers Loss Michelle Pro-Life Issues Resources Respect Life Respect Life Month

What to Say When a Friend Miscarries

what to say when a friend miscarries

The loss of a child during pregnancy can be one of the most devastating events in a person’s life. Not only do you lose your child but you lose all the hopes and dreams that you had for that child. Your life never feels the same. Things that brought you joy now bring you pain. Things you loved to do now seem trivial. Your heart feels empty as there is now piece of your heart gone forever. It can be one of the loneliest and heart-wrenching experiences you will ever have.

Perhaps you have never lost a child but you have a friend who has recently experienced a loss. As a friend it can be difficult to know what to say and what to do to help her through this traumatic event. Sometimes even those who have suffered a miscarriage or experienced a stillbirth will find it difficult to know just the right thing to say. For those who have never lost a child it may feel like you are wading through a mine field knowing that if you say the wrong things you might cause more harm than good. It feels like everything you say is not enough and nothing you do will help heal her pain.

However, there are things you can say and do that when she looks back on them, she will remember them with love and appreciation. Likewise, there are things that you should avoid saying or doing so that you don’t contribute to the pain she already feels so deeply. But how do you know what to say or what to do?

I thought it would be helpful if I gave a short list of several things to avoid saying and several things that I found to be helpful and comforting during my many miscarriages. I hope that they will help you to provide love and comfort to your friend as she experiences one of the worst pains imaginable.

What NOT to say…

  • This happened for a reason
  • The baby probably had something wrong with him/her
  • You can always try again
  • You are so young, you have lots of time to have babies
  • At least you have other children at home
  • At least you don’t have other children at home to console
  • You should be thankful for what you have
  • At least it was an early loss
  • The next one will be fine
  • You are so old, this must be a sign for you to stop having kids
  • You already have enough children, this is God’s way of telling you to stop
  • You need to stop grieving and get on with your life, you are missing so much out there

Things TO say…

  • I am so sorry
  • Is there anything I can do
  • I am praying for you
  • Can I take the kids sometime so you can have some time to be alone to grieve
  • Can I bring you dinner
  • My heart hurts for you, I am here to listen if you need me
  • How are you feeling
  • I know nothing I say or do can take away your pain, please know that I am here for you
  • I don’t know what to say
  • Would you like a hug
  • How is your husband doing
  • How are your kids doing
  • I know how much you wanted and loved this baby
  • I can cry with you if you need someone to cry with
  • I would love to hear about your baby
  • I love you

Helping a friend through a loss can be difficult. Your friend may not want you to do anything. She might need you to do everything. She may want to talk incessantly about her baby, her loss, and her experience or she may not want to share anything about it with you. She may need to go out and occupy herself with activities that don’t remind her of what she is going through or she may want to stay at home and away from everyone else.

Each person grieves differently. As a friend it is most important that you open your heart to her. Speak with gentleness and kindness even if she lashes out in pain. While you may have difficulty putting yourself in her shoes to know that she is going through, remember that right now she needs empathy and compassion.

Reach out to her not only in the first few days and weeks of her loss but in the months that follow. Important dates like her due date, holidays, and other events are sure to bring a new wave of tears and sadness. It will likely be hard on her to see others having babies. Be there for her as she is jealous and angry and sad. Tell her that her feelings are all right and they are good… she needs to work through them to help her heal.

More than anything, remind her that you are there for her. Don’t be scared of her pain. It will hurt you to see her cry, but allow your shoulders to be damp with her tears. While she may not be able to say thank you now, your acts of love and charity to her during the worst time of her life will be a part of the light that saw her through the darkness.

tears

Categories
Assisted Reproductive Technologies Current Events Ink Slingers Jenny V. Loss Marriage Motherhood Parenting Pro-Life Issues Respect Life Respect Life Month Spiritual Growth Testimonials Vocations

My Journey through In Vitro Fertilization

IMy Journey through In Vitro Fertilizationt’s July 2008 and I’m strapped to a surgical table as a fertility doctor siphons three dozen eggs out of my ovaries through a long needle. Blood is coming from between my legs, as the needle repeatedly perforates my vaginal walls en route to my ovaries in search of viable eggs. In the next room, my husband is masturbating so fresh sperm can be used to fertilize the eggs.

When we’re done, my ovaries hyperstimulate and I pass out. My abdomen and chest begin to fill with fluid; the anesthesia doesn’t stop the severe pain that fills my body. I struggle to breathe. The doctor stabilizes me, but it still takes nearly a week to recover from the brutal procedure.

The doctor had retrieved 38 good eggs, of which 31 are fertilized. Over the next week, 16 of our embryonic children die and are discarded. Thirteen are cryogenically frozen, mostly two to a vial. Two fresh embryos are transferred to my uterus.

Yes, the cost is high for what we’re doing, both financially and physically. But it will be worth it, I tell myself. Because surely at least one of these embryos will give us our heart’s desire–a beautiful child of our own.

Justifying Our Choices

My journey into in vitro fertilization (IVF) actually began in the 1980s, when my mother used donor sperm and intrauterine insemination to conceive me and my twin sister. When we were 12, we discovered that the man we thought was our father was not. I was disturbed that we were created by my mother and a stranger, and have always felt as if only part of me was “real.”

Fast-forward to my own marriage in 2004. We wanted children right away, but a year of trying had resulted in no pregnancy. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, an endocrine disorder that inhibits regular ovulation. Doctors put me on the same ovulation-stimulating medication my mother had used to conceive me–Clomid. Four unsuccessful cycles later, we moved on to artificial insemination, though we did at least use my husband’s sperm. Still no baby.

My Journey through In Vitro FertilizationIn desperation, we graduated to the expensive and complex process of IVF, where my eggs and my husband’s sperm would be taken out of our bodies, joined in a petri dish, and the resulting embryos would be inserted into my uterus.

Even before we started down the IVF road, there was a voice inside of us whispering that it was wrong. But that voice was drowned out by louder, more persistent voices, like the doctors’ who said we had little to no chance to conceive without it. Friends and family, too, supported anything that would end the suffering of our infertility. Then there was my own desire for a child, shouting down the doubts and assuring me that God would want me to be happy and that as a woman, I deserved a child. And really, how could science that helps create life be a bad thing?

So we signed the contract and started the IVF process. To prepare, I took hormone injections and pills to stimulate my ovaries for egg retrieval. Though most eggs were fertilized simply by exposing them to sperm, some needed sperm forcibly injected into them with a needle. These newly formed, microscopic human beings were then graded for quality and we were encouraged to discard “low-grade” embryos that had little chance of survival. But because we couldn’t fully stifle our doubts about the wrongness of IVF, we insisted that all our viable embryos be preserved.

Suffering and Loss

After the first transfer in July 2008, we were thrilled to discover we were pregnant with twins, due the next April. But at 21 weeks gestation, our twins–Madi and Isaiah–were born prematurely and only lived for one hour each. During those brief, heartbreaking few hours, we held them, bathed them, dressed them, and baptized them, holding onto their tiny, fragile bodies as long as we could.

For the next year, I floated numbly through life. I believed the twins’ death was God punishing me for my past sins. My husband remained silent. Through it all, my heart was torn about the route we’d taken, as well as the fact that we still had 13 frozen children whose lives were on hold.

Eventually we felt ready to try IVF again. In October 2009, our only singly vialed embryo, Jeremiah, was thawed and transferred to my womb. We did not get pregnant.

My Journey through In Vitro FertilizationIn February 2010, we did another transfer. The embryologist came into the room beforehand and said that “one expanded and one did not.” We knew then that our son, Luke, had survived thawing, but that our daughter, Lucilla, had died and been discarded. In the end, Luke died, too, and we did not get pregnant.

Three months later, we thawed another vial and both Elijah and Ezekiel survived. The situation was complicated, however, because the death of the twins at 21 weeks had shown I had an incompetent cervix. This made carrying even one baby risky. We decided to transfer only one of the boys, because I would likely lose both if they developed properly after being transferred to the womb. Elijah was transferred and we were ecstatic when he was born in 2011.

His brother, Ezekiel, didn’t make it. But he was so, so resilient; he was initially frozen, thawed, refrozen, and re-thawed, yet survived to be transferred in January 2012. We did not get pregnant. Three months later, Olivia didn’t survive the thaw, but we were able to transfer Isaac.

A Spiritual Awakening

While waiting to see if I was pregnant with Isaac, I went on my first spiritual retreat. I went skeptical and defensive; I wasn’t going to share what I was going through with anyone. But God gave me a “spiritual spanking.” The poignant lyrics to a song caused me to break down crying and I experienced an intense spiritual awakening. That night, I went to reconciliation for the first time in years.

I had yet to own my sinfulness, however, because in my mind, I was still denying the truth—that I had killed my children through the violent and undignified process of IVF. By the end of the retreat, however, grace had finally washed away my pride and I experienced a full and overwhelming gift of faith. Overnight, my life went from being about what I wanted to being entirely about the love of God. Two days after I returned from the retreat, we discovered that Isaac had died, too, and I was not pregnant.

After seeing my transformation, my husband went on the same retreat in May. He had several profound spiritual experiences of his own, where he felt the Lord lift the guilt from his heart. God assure him that our deceased babies were safe and loved and would be waiting for us in heaven.

My Journey through In Vitro FertilizationBut faith didn’t solve the problem of what to do with our still-frozen children. We could leave them frozen, discard them, donate them to scientific research, or adopt them out. We felt all those options were disrespectful to the children and we feared they were offensive to God, too. We’ve since learned that the Catholic Church hasn’t fully clarified what is the most morally prudent and loving route to take when dealing with frozen embryonic children and theologians are all over the map on the issue. Some say every child created deserves a chance at life and ought to be implanted, as we did; other theologians suggest embryonic babies should be baptized, thawed until they pass away, and then buried. Hopefully the Church will soon define the best course for frozen IVF children, but until then, couples in our situation can only seek counsel through their spiritual advisers and through the Holy Spirit, in prayer.

We went into the first of the final three transfers in August 2012. Though I had been through the process before, this time was different; sadness consumed me as I sat in the clinic waiting room. I felt God’s pain from all the lives discarded by doctors and parents, who often create embryos only to throw away the “surplus” to save storage fees or get rid of lesser quality ones. I saw the cold beginning and end of so many of my babies’ short lives–first in a petri dish, then in and out of a freezer, and finally discarded like trash.

My Journey through In Vitro FertilizationVincent survived thawing and was transferred to my womb. Raphael hadn’t survived, however. We’d learned from our priest that if a baby didn’t survive, we had to save his body and bury him properly in holy ground, just as we would a born child. So this time I told the embryologist we wanted the “bodies” of any babies who didn’t survive the thaw to take them home to bury.

I remember it so clearly–the embryologist walked out of the lab, cradling the vial containing Raphael. She had a very solemn look on her face and was very respectful. I knew she was Catholic, too, and I can’t help but wonder how that experience affected her. Vincent didn’t survive transfer, either, though, and we did not get pregnant.

Four months later, we transferred Bethany; John didn’t survive the thaw. I was able to keep John’s body in a vial as we had Raphael’s. We did not get pregnant.

The final transfer took place in February 2013. Mary Laura Claire was transferred, and we carried her brother, Gabriel Jesus, out in a vial as we had his two brothers before him. We did not get pregnant.

When our twins had died, we’d had them cremated and placed their remains inside small pewter hearts that had been sewn into “Build a Bear” animals. We kept them on a shelf in our bedroom for five years. As we grew in faith, so did our knowledge that those babies, too, deserved to be buried respectfully. Five months ago, we went home to New Mexico, and buried our twins with their three embryonic brothers.

After nine transfers and 30 babies, our IVF journey had finally come to an end.

Realizing the Truth about Life

Earlier this year, I went on a retreat for post-abortive parents, since I felt that what I’d done to my babies through IVF was similar. I felt mixed vibes from others there, possibly because most people don’t understand the complexity of IVF. But if life starts at conception, then you can have sorrow and regret for denying your children life through IVF, the same as you do with abortion.

My Journey through In Vitro Fertilization
The tombstone for our deceased twins and their three embryonic brothers.

At one point, I was sitting outside. The sun was warmly bathing my face, but inside I was in turmoil. In my mind, I saw two ribbons–one expressed was the violence, darkness, and sinfulness of humanity, while the other showed the beauty and sacredness of human life. I suddenly understood just how sacred every single person is to God. I realized how selfish my decisions had been in allowing my babies to be violently injected into my uterus after they’d endured the indignity of freezing and thawing. Yes, the violence paralleled that of abortion.

The similarities were further brought home to me when I read over the IVF and cryopreservation contracts for the first time a month later. I felt brokenhearted and ashamed as I read the dehumanizing language describing that most sacred process of creating human life. Our babies were described as “cryopreserved material,” “concepti,” and “orphaned specimens.” Another section gave the clinic permission to take “Title” (ownership) of our embryos if we stopped the process, as if our children were commodities like cars. This consumerist mentality, combined with the emphasis on “cost effective treatment,” is what makes it acceptable for IVF children to be donated for research, abandoned, discarded, and even aborted through “selective reduction” when too many embryos stay alive after transfer.

My Journey through In Vitro FertilizationThe contract also stated that, “It is rare for an embryo to not survive thawing.” Half of our babies didn’t survive thawing. And, “Occasionally, an embryo is not found in the vial due to the nature of embryos to stick to the vial or pipette.” What incredible dangers we’d exposed our children to! Only one phrase in the entire contract spoke to the humanity of our children by calling them babies.

Being created in a lab and then frozen violates the dignity of these tiny human beings. Thawing and discarding is killing. Reducing women to incubators and men to sperm donors is also undignified. Children have a right to be the fruit of their parents’ loving union, not products to be bought, sold, donated, or trashed.

There are still days when my sorrow about our children and the IVF industry itself becomes nearly unbearable. It’s hard to accept that we consented to what we did, but the desire for a child is so primal and powerful and we understand the desperation that drives couples to IVF. I take consolation in what God said to Habakkuk: “WAIT! I am here through it all! And I am establishing a work in my people that you cannot imagine! Be ready and willing when I call you.” I offer this story of our family’s journey through IVF, with its perils and heartbreak, as my expiation and my fiat–“Father, You are my only source of strength; my very existence. I am your instrument; do with me as you will!”

 ::Stay tuned for the podcast! You will hear from Jenny Vaughn directly about her journey with IVF.::

My Journey through In Vitro Fertilization
All of our babies. Of 31 embryos created in a lab, only one survived to be raised by us.
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Ink Slingers Kerri Loss Respect Life

A Memorial to Our Children

oct15_bannerToday we recognize the children that we never got to know. Those that we only knew of for a short time, maybe held briefly, and loved with all our being. The women of Catholic Sistas are no strangers to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. For Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day we thought we would take some time to memorialize all the children we as a group have lost. Following is the list of names of our children who are no longer with us but, through God’s mercy, are in heaven praying for us. Please share in the comment the names of any children you have lost so we can remember your children as well.

Baby names 1Baby names 2Baby names 3Baby names 4

Dearest Lord, thank you for giving us precious time with our children. We may never understand why our time could not be longer, but we trust in your goodness and in your mercy. We pray that our children are in Heaven and basking in Your heavenly glory. Help us Lord to continue to trust in You and to live a holy life so that one day we may be reunited in Your Kingdom with our precious children. Amen.

Please share in the comments the names of your children so we can add them to our prayers. Thank you and may God bless you today and always.

More stories for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day can be found HERE. And visit our Miscarriage.InfantLoss Pinterest Board for more links and stories.