I had a dream about the baby I would lose later that day. I lay down to rest before the cramping became too intense and fell into a dream-filled sleep. In my dream I sat, holding my baby--a plump four-month-old who relaxed into my embrace. I delighted in the feeling of the baby on my lap, but when I looked to my side, something else caught my eye. Another adult, holding another (or the same?) baby of mine in a pool of water. The baby in the pool kept slipping from the stranger’s hands and struggling under the water, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hang on to one baby while saving the other. I was trying so hard to hold on, even as I knew my baby was slipping away.
An early miscarriage leaves little to hold on to. No sonogram pictures, no special clothes or toys bought especially for that baby, no outward appearance of pregnancy or loss. The loss of my baby left me with only one thing: a great void. A feeling of emptiness. A sense that I had truly lost a child, just when I was getting used to the idea of being pregnant.
“Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and ‘understands’ with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the ‘beginning’, the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb” (John Paul II, On the Dignity of Women, 1988, p. 66).
What a wonder this mystery of life is, that before the morning sickness starts, before the exhaustion sets in, before I feel the faint movement of a tiny kick or the rhythmic bounce of miniature hiccups, I can know the joy of carrying a person within me. The hopes and dreams for this tiny being aren’t yet articulated, but they are there. It’s as though I’m carrying the world’s smallest secret around with me--so small, yet bearing potential with infinite possibilities.
But this time, suddenly, it was gone.
In the days that followed my loss, the question became: What do I do with this void? I knew I couldn’t fill it, but somehow I had to learn to move forward with it. Somehow I had to find my “new normal.” I had to discern how God wanted me to use this experience to fulfill His mission for me. As I journeyed through the grieving process, friends and family brought meals, sent cards and mementos, and comforted us with their love and support. One e-mail from a friend who has been through the same experience was especially helpful. In it she included a list of ways that she found comfort and healing after her miscarriages. Here are her suggestions and how they helped my husband and me:
Three days after losing our baby, my husband and I went to a nearby Catholic Spiritual Life Center. While there, we spent time in Adoration, prayed the Rosary together, and allowed ourselves to feel God in the silence and discuss our experience as we felt ready. It was tremendously healing to allow God to guide us through the initial phase of grieving.
Reading about the biology of the cells from a conception that remain in my body and those that transfer to the next pregnancy
Studies have found that cells from baby, even if he or she is not carried to term, cross the placenta and remain in the mother’s body. These cells have also been found to cross over into subsequent siblings, and provide healing properties for the mother’s body and internal organs. A part of my baby will always be with me, both emotionally and physically--and the same baby whose loss created such an ache in my heart could one day literally help to heal that life-giving organ.
Quiet time with my husband
This has been a time of great loss for both me and my husband. Being open with our feelings and allowing ourselves to cling to one another has strengthened our love and helped us to see that our marriage is fruitful in so many other ways than the children we bear.
Permission to cry or have other emotions often
Sorrow, anger, resentment, bitterness, envy, and, yes, even joy. These are all emotions that have led me through contemplative moments, unexpected bursts of tears, busying myself with mindless chores, and long periods of prayer. Allowing myself to feel all of those feelings allows me to process my loss. I am finding the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be particularly helpful, as it gives me the grace I need to feel every emotion without acting upon them inappropriately. God’s mercy is abundant in our grief.
Permission to rest or take time off of responsibilities
A loss like this brings everything into focus. The things my husband and I thought were important have become less urgent. We are allowing ourselves time to ease back into “normal life,” picking and choosing our activities carefully. My body needs to heal, and my fragile emotions can only handle so much from the outside world. As time goes on, I will know when God is calling me to take on more, but until then, He is using our time of rest to draw us closer to Him.
I am learning to move forward, even with an ache in my heart. I am learning to find joy in my pain, as I offer up the difficult moments for other mothers who have experienced infant loss, whether before birth, after birth, or through abortion. I’m not certain how losing my child fits into God’s plan for my entire life, but I know I have to keep seeking His will, one day at a time.
While I am experiencing some worry and fear about the outcome of future pregnancies, I am also finding a greater call to trust. A call to trust the One who is in control of everything. A call to trust the One who carried me through this difficult time. A call to trust the One who fills my heart with joy as I picture my baby in heaven with all the saints, standing before my Lord as the greatest gift I could offer Him. The gift of a life to the One who gave us His. This is where I find hope in my suffering and joy in my sorrow--by uniting myself to the One who suffered for me, and persevering in my efforts to one day join my child in that place of Eternal Joy.
Information about the transfer of cells from baby to mother:
A wonderful miscarriage support website rooted in Catholic teaching:
Copyright 2016 Charisse Tierney
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist in training. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.