Couples find healing in praying for their miscarried children

Losing a child to miscarriage is a painful experience.

“Miscarriage is not something that people talk about,” Bernadette Prochaska told a congregation of about 400 gathered at Queen of Peace Church in Aurora Nov. 2 “And until I had mine I didn’t realize how complicated they were.”

Prochaska shared her powerful testimony during a special Mass on All Souls’ Day to honor and pray for miscarried and stillborn children, and help comfort and support their grieving families.

“My husband Matt and I have lost two babies in the last two years,” she continued, pausing to collect herself while speaking of the painful losses. “We both want to have a large family and have been looking forward to being parents since the day we got married.”

While each loss was devastating, she said, there are practical things they did that have brought them healing and recognized the children’s God-given dignity: the first was to name the baby.

Their first, lost at 12 weeks, they believed was a boy and they named him Samuel Gerard; the second, Clare Gianna.

“Naming them made them so much more real to us,” she said. “We speak of them by name; we also ask them to pray for us.”

The other thing they did was have a memorial Mass and burial for each, something they hadn’t considered previously for a miscarried baby.

After losing Clare at five weeks and six days gestation, Prochaska was in the hospital preparing for necessary follow-up surgery. While signing document after document, she was appalled when she came across one of the forms provided by the nurse: the document authorized disposing of “the product” as medical waste.

“The thought of throwing her away as ‘medical waste…,'” she struggled as she relayed the story; many in the congregation joining her in tears. “It broke my heart.”

She refused to sign it, and asked for the baby’s remains for a proper burial.

“We had to fight to be able to treat Clare with the dignity she deserved,” she said. Ultimately they were able to bury their daughter at Sacred Heart of Mary Cemetery in Boulder, and they take comfort in visiting the site.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about how to handle the reality of miscarriage,” Prochaska said. “I think this is due to the fact that most miscarriages happen so early in pregnancy: before you can see the baby on the ultrasound, before you can feel it move, and before you look pregnant.”

She encouraged those parents to not be tempted to just “move on” because not dealing with the loss of the child can prevent them from getting the healing they need.

This was the case for the family of Father John Nepil, parocial vicar at Queen of Peace, who celebrated the Mass—a Mass he organized prompted by his family’s grief over the loss of his two older siblings to miscarriage many years ago. Their grief has come to the surface in the last 12 years or so, he said, as their faith has deepened prompting a “deeper recognition of life.”

“As it looks, I’m the oldest of three,” Father Nepil said in his homily. “But my brother reminds me I’m the middle child.”

His older siblings are “completely unique and beautiful in the eyes of God,” he said.

“Because they’re with Christ, they’re more real than I am.”

While it is difficult and often messy to deal with the grief, it is important to recognize these real children, with real souls.

“To live a life recognizing life, and recognizing the fullness of our family life, is a profound freedom,” he said. “The pain of it is worth it … you have to trust that they are with the Lord.”

 

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”