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.”