On a beautiful autumn afternoon about a year ago, I played with three of my grandchildren in their backyard while their parents went to an ultrasound appointment.
We were all excited to hear about the progress of this pregnancy in particular, because my daughter-in-law was carrying twins.
Today’s appointment at 18 weeks gestation would confirm for sure what her doctor already suspected—that both babies were boys.
I took a break from kicking a soccer ball back and forth with the kids to glance at my watch, noting that Danny and Amanda should be back soon.
Then I received a text message.
We got some unexpected news and need some time to process.
Heart sinking, I went over to the playhouse to order pretend food from my granddaughter, acting as though all was well.
Having lost two children to miscarriage years before, I knew all too well what it feels like to go to an ultrasound appointment full of anticipation, only to come home devastated.
When Danny and Amanda finally arrived, I could see they’d been crying. The kids rushed to them, oblivious and full of questions. I hung back to allow them to share the sad news:
There would only be one baby brother coming in the spring.
As the gentle autumn sun sank and the shadows grew longer, there were “why” questions and soft answers, tears and hugs. I held my daughter-in-law and then my son, weeping, trying to absorb the shock, wordless.
Pregnancy loss is a real and deep sorrow.
The grief is different than that of other types of losses—but different does not mean less painful.
There’s good reason for sorrow, and for showing sensitivity to those who have lost children in utero.
As Dr. Suess put it, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
The moment a human being is conceived, he or she is present in our world—and that presence matters.
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Especially for a pregnant woman, the sense of connection to her child begins early in her pregnancy, long before she feels movement in her belly.
She begins nurturing hopes and dreams for her baby. She delights in the anticipation of what her son or daughter will be like one day.
On the flip side, if she is distressed by an unplanned pregnancy, a woman may suppress such emotions due to fears about her own future.
She may emotionally distance herself from her child in order to go through with an abortion.
The purposeful termination of a pregnancy brings heartache and sorrow, just as spontaneous pregnancy loss does.
In addition, a post-abortive woman is likely to deal with feelings of guilt and other emotional complications of post-abortion stress.
Losing a baby, whether by choice or by chance, is not easy.
There’s a sense of loss of what could have been. The loss of dreams and hopes for the future. The loss of a relationship.
Those who experience prenatal loss (or early infant loss) don’t have memories stored up to treasure as they would with someone they’d gotten to know over time.
They never got the chance to make those memories. And that hurts.
Since it’s National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and since pro-life people have a great frame of reference on this topic, how can we help those who are hurting?
- We can model and teach awareness in general by passing on helpful tidbits, such as what NOT to say (“You can always have another child”… “There was probably something wrong with the baby” …”At least you know you can get pregnant” and so on.)
- We can validate the feelings of the mother (and father) who have lost a child by offering gestures of comfort—a card, a listening ear, a simple “I’m so sorry for your loss.
- Pregnancy centers can offer specific ministry to mothers and couples by means of pregnancy loss counseling, sympathy gifts, and even a memorial service. (Your center probably already offers post-abortion recovery. Why not consider adding a ministry for other types of pregnancy loss as an outreach to your community as well as a service to your clients?)
Today, I’m grateful that my grandson Asher is a healthy, happy seven-month-old—but I still experience sadness about his twin brother Josiah, whom I won’t meet on this earth.
Reflecting on Danny and Amanda’s story of grief, my own losses come to mind as well.
To this day, I remember the kindness of friends who surrounded me when I lost babies before birth.
I still have hand-written cards from that time. I recall how others shed tears with me and how their empathy carried me through those difficult times.
Their love was healing. It made a big difference.
Awareness of the particular emotional difficulties experienced by those who lose children before or shortly after birth is an important way to demonstrate the love of Christ.
It’s also a great way to demonstrate our convictions about life.
Let’s bear the burdens of others as they pass through the shadowed valley of pregnancy or infant loss—and in so doing, demonstrate our commitment to life.
Editor's note: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month was first declared by President Ronald Reagan on October 15, 1988. In 2002, Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown and Tammy Novak petitioned the federal government to proclaim October 15 Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Today, all 50 states have an annual proclamation in honor of those who have lost a child during pregnancy or during infancy.