By REY FLORES
Miscarriage is a very real and very painful reality for many of us. While society and the medical community for the most part will dismiss a miscarriage as yet another medical occurrence without merit or value, what it really is, is a death in our families.
When my wife and I lost our sixth baby, it was at 12 weeks into Mary’s pregnancy. It was especially difficult because Mary announced that we were having a baby on our daughter Xotchil’s ninth birthday, as a sort of present to her.
When we had to share the news of our miscarriage with our other children, particularly Xotchil, it was a sad day for our family. Having been blessed five times already with healthy, beautiful children, we weren’t prepared for this.
There were tears, but more so than expected. Mary and I wanted to let our children know just how losing this baby was as hard and painful as if we had lost any of them. It was a terrific opportunity orchestrated by God and our baby in Heaven whom we named Gabriel to make an indelible mark on our children’s hearts and in their brains that every life, no matter if it only was a barely recognizable 12-week-old baby, was just as precious as any of them are.
Working in pro-life outreach and education exposes us to many images of unborn babies in the womb and, sadly, aborted ones as well. Nothing prepared me for whom I saw when my wife miscarried our baby.
When my wife held our tiny baby in her hands, we immediately blessed him or her with holy water and found a tiny box to place him or her in.
The box was a beautiful ornamental box. I can’t even remember where I found it, but I was saving it for a gift box for either my wife or my daughters. It didn’t mean much to me at the time when I found that box, but inscribed on it was the verse from Matt. 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Being blessed with Catholic friends who had experienced miscarriages as well, Mary and I reached out to some of them and learned about a funeral home that helped families with preparing miscarried babies for a dignified burial and helping arrange the burial itself with a local Catholic cemetery.
Within a couple of days, our family attended a brief memorial burial service with our friend and former pastor, Fr. Charles Fanelli from St. Thomas More Parish in the southside of Chicago. He said a few prayers, blessed the tiny coffin, and we laid our beautiful baby to rest.
Not long after, my family and I moved to Virginia because of professional obligations. I recently had a business trip back to my hometown in Chicago and visited with our baby. There he was, where we put him in God’s hands for eternity, surrounded by other children in the “baby land” section of Good Shepherd Cemetery in Orland Park, Ill.
I placed a few flowers, cleared some of the grass off his tombstone, said a few prayers and wept. It occurred to me that one of my favorite things to do with my children is to read bedtime stories to them and that I had never had the opportunity to read to this baby of mine. I proceeded to sit on the damp grass and gathered all the little souls around Gabriel to read them a silly version of the Three Little Pigs.
Again, I wept as I finished my story, but said goodbye with a smile on my face, knowing Gabriel was surrounded by other little saints who did not have the opportunity to get to know their mommies and daddies and brothers and sisters in this life.
These babies, however, have gotten to know Jesus and Our Blessed Mother Mary and are praying for us every day, waiting for their chance to meet us and jump in our arms for the most tender of embraces between parent and child.
If you have experienced miscarriage in your life, please know that you are not alone. It is estimated that one in every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Imagine how many babies there are who we have not been honored with the prayers and dignity they deserve.
Jeannie M. Hannemann, MA, who is the co-founder and executive director of Elizabeth Ministry International, said it best to me recently: “How can we be credible in the pro-life movement if we do not honor the dignity of unborn children who were lost through miscarriage?”
For more healing and educational resources and information on how you can support Elizabeth Ministry International, visit their website at www.elizabethministry.com or call 920-766-9380.
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(Rey Flores is a Catholic writer and speaker. Contact Rey at firstname.lastname@example.org.)