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Miscarriage & Stillborn Support

If you are experiencing the grief of miscarriage or stillbirth, we are so incredibly sorry for your loss, and please know our thoughts and prayers are with you. As one father who lost children to miscarriage stated,

“The pain never goes away. You just learn to cope with it.”

You will need to manage your miscarriage or stillbirth medically, emotionally, spiritually, and possibly legally. Please review this webpage for resources and ideas to help you manage.

 

The Medical Aspect to Miscarriage

  1. Deliver your baby at home
  2. Deliver your baby at a hospital

The Medical Aspect to Stillbirth
Legal Rights for Parents in New York State
Funeral Homes and Cemeteries Willing to Assist
Liturgical Rites for Your Child in the Roman Catholic Church
Emotional Support During and After a Loss 
Suggestions to Help You Grieve Your Child
Receiving A Prenatal Diagnosis

 

 



 

The Medical Aspect to Miscarriage

Miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends before 20 weeks gestation of the baby. There are different kinds of miscarriages that can take place in a woman’s body, and for many different reasons. No matter how old or young your child was or how it happened, they are a human being and our world has lost a potential for greatness, while Heaven has gained a beautiful soul to praise God. Different kinds of miscarriages include(1):

  • Blighted Ovum: Also called an embryonic pregnancy. A fertilized egg implants into the uterine wall, but fetal development never begins. Often there is a gestational sac with or without a yolk sac, but there is an absence of fetal growth.
  • Chemical Pregnancy: About three weeks after the last menstrual period, a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, and cells that would become the placenta begin to produce hCG that are high enough to detect on a blood or urine test. However, for some reason it does not complete implantation, resulting in bleeding around a week after your regular period was due.
  • Complete Miscarriage: A completed miscarriage is when the embryo or products of conception have emptied out of the uterus. Bleeding should subside quickly, as should any pain or cramping. A completed miscarriage can be confirmed by an ultrasound.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy: A fertilized egg implants itself in places other than the uterus, most commonly the fallopian tube. Treatment is needed immediately to stop the development of the implanted egg. If not treated rapidly, this could end in serious maternal complications.
  • Inevitable or Incomplete Miscarriage: Abdominal or back pain accompanied by bleeding with an open cervix. Miscarriage is inevitable when there is a dilation or effacement of the cervix and/or there is rupture of the membranes. Bleeding and cramps may persist if the miscarriage is not complete.
  • Missed Miscarriage: Women can experience a miscarriage without knowing it. A missed miscarriage is when embryonic death has occurred but there is not any expulsion of the embryo. It is not known why this occurs. Signs of this would be a loss of pregnancy symptoms and the absence of fetal heart tones found on an ultrasound.
  • Molar Pregnancy: The result of a genetic error during the fertilization process that leads to growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus. Molar pregnancies rarely involve a developing embryo, but often entail the most common symptoms of pregnancy including a missed period, positive pregnancy test and severe nausea.
  • Recurrent Miscarriage (RM): Defined as 3 or more consecutive first trimester miscarriages. This can affect 1% of couples trying to conceive.

Depending on the kind of miscarriage you experienced, there are different ways to move forward. For Inevitable, Incomplete, Complete or Missed Miscarriage, you may need to go through a series of ultrasounds to determine your health needs.

If your child is still within your womb, there are different routes you can choose. The most important thing to remember when determining how you move forward is you need to know yourself: how you grieve, what aspects of saying  goodbye to your child matter most to you, and what you  hope your future holds.

One choice is to wait to deliver your child naturally. After fetal death occurs and you have a loss of pregnancy symptoms, your body will eventually realize your child is no longer living and start a series of hormonal changes to deliver your baby. You experience labor: you begin to spot, eventually your mucous plug is released, your water breaks, and contractions start. This journey can be either short (within 2 weeks), or long (4 – 6 weeks). The negative aspects of this route: carrying your child for several weeks after his/her death will require you to be monitored health wise- you will need to be on the look out for signs of infection such as fever and more. Also, this may or may not be emotionally draining for you- different women grieve differently and carrying their child for an unknown amount of time can be exhausting. The positive aspects of this route: physically, you embrace what women experienced centuries ago (waiting it out) and feel connected to them. You also have a good chance of recovering physically with no uterine issues ensuing. Emotionally, some women have expressed how happy they are at the opportunity to feel the pains of childbirth with their baby, and in a mysterious sense, honoring their child.

 

We lost our son at 9 weeks development, but didn’t discover his death until the 12 week ultrasound. I carried him in my womb for 16 weeks total, and during the 4 weeks we had from when we learned of his death to the time he was born, I had time to absorb every moment of having his physical company with us, even though I knew spiritually he was in heaven. Allowing my body to do what I needed it to do was a good move for my health as I had hoped to at some point to conceive again, and a good move for my mental and spiritual healing. I was my own best advocate, and I felt honored to be able to protect my son’s body and then bury him with the respect and dignity every child deserves.

— Diana Johnson

Another choice is if you would like to deliver your child naturally but your body is not able to tolerate the miscarriage or you are emotionally exhausted, your obstetrician can prescribe a medicine such as Misoprostol or Methergine (depending on your health) to deliver your baby at home. Please keep in mind you need to have another person with you at all times if you choose this route for your safety and emotional well being. The contractions are similarly painful and everything happens as it would with a natural delivery, just on your own timetable.

Lastly, if a serious medical condition is present that does not allow you to deliver your child naturally with or with out medicine, then a D&E or D&C at a hospital may be necessary, usually followed up by a hysteroscopy or ultrasound to determine the success of the procedure. If you need a D&C, insist your doctor use transabdominal or vaginal ultrasound technology, as D&C’s are typically performed by using touch and pressure only, not with vision like an ultrasound or hysteroscope (a.k.a. hysteroscopy). Depending on your medical health or family history, a D&C might not be the best option for you as 30.9% of D&C’s for missed miscarriages can end in Asherman’s Syndrome.

While your ob/gyn can fully advise you of your options, there are benefits and risks to all three choices.

 

DELIVER YOUR BABY AT HOME

For many reasons, mothers and fathers will choose to deliver their child at home in order to grieve in private. Please remember, if you have not given birth before and are not familiar with the physical pains, sights and loss of blood that usually occurs at deliveries, delivering your child naturally at a hospital might give you the added comfort you need from medical professionals. If you have experienced childbirth before and wish to deliver your baby at home, once you deliver your child and have been able to grieve in peace, it is always wise to go to the hospital afterwards in case you need monitoring (examples include loss of fluids, excessive loss of blood, the placenta not coming out whole but in pieces, etc.)

There are Home Delivery Kits that can help you deliver your child at home.

Elizabeth Ministry International is a Catholic organization (in Wisconsin). They make Kits called “Miscarriage Aids” which give you everything you need to get through delivery: gloves, a mesh net, a small coffin with soft bedding, and a prayer book.

A woman can labor in the bath tub or on the toilet. If she chooses a dry birth, she can put the netting on top of the toilet, held in place underneath the toilet seat, and this net allows the blood and fluids to fall through but catches the child.

We used this net and it provided me a very great comfort as the entire experience was overwhelming enough, and it allowed me to focus on my labor with out fear of not being able to find my child later. After we delivered our son Michael, we spent time with him, we gently placed him on a small pillow (that came with the kit), and wrapped him in a blanket that we had bought for him with an embroidered message. In his coffin we also gave him a blessed rosary we had prayed with. We sealed the casket, and finalized the plans with the cemetery and my parish for the funeral. Medically, it took two months for a full but perfect recovery (no hCG in my system, no tissue left in my uterus, etc.) and I was given the all clear.

— Diana Johnson

DELIVER YOUR BABY AT A HOSPITAL

If you deliver your child at a hospital either through natural labor or a D&C/E, you will have to fill out paperwork for a death certificate. After delivery, it is required your child be taken to a Pathology Department for holding. In other words, when your child has exited the womb, you may spend as much time with him/her, but you will eventually need to allow your child to be taken to the Pathology Department. At this point, you may either accept or decline an offer for diagnostics to discover the cause of death. Make sure at all times you have stated and made clear to the attending physician and nurses that your intent is to bury your child and that a representative from a funeral home will be picking your child up.

Through personal stories, it has been noted in the past that some physicians never presented families the option to bury their child, or flat out refused, regarding a child’s remains as “tissue” or “medical waste” and that they are inappropriate to bury. In no way, shape or form is this legal or true. If a medical professional does not mention the release of your child’s remains, bring it up. If they refuse, it doesn’t matter because New York state favors your parental rights and in no way does hospital policy trump state rights for a parent to bury their child.

Please remember that you yourself are not allowed to collect the remains of your child from the Pathology Department. In order for the remains of your child to be released to you for burial, you will need to call a funeral home in advance and explain the situation. Usually a Catholic or Christian oriented Funeral Home will be very supportive and understand how important it is to pick up your child’s remains as soon as possible. They will come to the hospital, sign paperwork, and take guardianship over your child’s remains. From there you can make the other necessary decisions: will you hold a Funeral Mass for your child, where will you bury him/her, etc.

The Medical Aspect to Stillbirth

Information coming soon, we are very sorry for this inconvenience.

 

Legal Rights for Parents in New York State

As a parent, you are always allowed to bury your child’s remains, whether you delivered your child at home or at a hospital. If your child was lost due to a miscarriage and you delivered your child at home, contact the cemetery you wish to bury your child in: they can advise you further. If you deliver your child at a hospital, New York State law dictates you must have a funeral home intercede for you for the pick-up and delivery of your child’s remains. Please remember: no matter how much other people (including medical professionals) discourage you from burying your child, disregard them as there is no legal grounds for this advice.

If you deliver your child at a hospital, you will need to fill out paperwork for a death certificate. After delivery, it is required your child be taken to a Pathology Department for holding. In other words, when your child has exited the womb, you may spend as much time with him/her, but you will eventually need to allow your child to be taken to the Pathology Department. At this point, you may either accept or decline an offer for diagnostics to discover the cause of death. Make sure at all times you have stated and made clear to the attending physician and any nurses present that your intent is to bury your child and that a representative from a funeral home will be picking your child up.

Through personal stories, it has been noted in the past that some physicians never presented families the option to bury their child, or flat out refused, regarding a child’s remains as “tissue” or “medical waste” and that they are inappropriate to bury. In no way, shape or form is this legal or true. If a medical professional does not mention the release of your child’s remains, bring it up. If they refuse, it doesn’t matter because New York state favors your parental rights and in no way does hospital policy trump state rights for a parent to bury their child.

Please remember that you yourself are not allowed to collect the remains of your child from the Pathology Department. In order for the remains of your child to be released to you for burial, you will need to call a funeral home in advance and explain the situation. Usually a Catholic or Christian oriented Funeral Home will be very supportive and understand how important it is to pick up your child’s remains as soon as possible. They will come to the hospital, sign paperwork, and take guardianship over your child’s remains. From there you can make the other necessary decisions: will you hold a Funeral Mass for your child, where will you bury him/her, etc.

RESOURCES

NYS Law regarding Fetal Death

Funeral Homes and Cemeteries Willing to Assist

HOLY SEPULCHRE CATHOLIC CEMETERY

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery is run by compassionate and caring staff that understand the incredible loss you have suffered. They have a special section for our angels called, “Christ Child Section”. Give them a call at (585) 458 – 4110, and they can provide you everything you need to know.

CATHOLIC AND CHRISTIAN OWNED FUNERAL HOMES

A Funeral Home is necessary when you deliver your child at a hospital. In order for the remains of your child to be released to you for burial, a funeral home must intercede for you. Catholic or Christian oriented Funeral Homes are very supportive for miscarriages and stillbirths and understand how important it is to pick up your child’s remains as soon as possible. They will come to the hospital, sign paperwork, and take guardianship over your child’s remains. From there you can make the other necessary decisions: will you hold a Funeral Mass for your child, where will you bury him/her, etc.

If you lost your child due to miscarriage, what funeral homes do when they pick up your child is they visit you first and ask for anything special you would like to bury your child with. From personal stories, funeral homes have facilitated wrapping children in blankets given by the parents, or even placing a cross, or a rosary in the child’s casket. They then seal the casket and keep your child’s remains until you are ready for burial or a funeral liturgy.

If you live in the Rochester area, call Holy Sepulchre Cemetery for a list of recommended funeral homes.

If you live the Syracuse area, one Catholic funeral home that is dedicated to serving families during their most difficult times is the Thomas J. Pirro Jr. Funeral Home. Another is Buranich Funeral Home.

 

Liturgical Rites through the Roman Catholic Church

Liturgical Rites for Deceased Infants, Stillborn or Miscarried Infants – this web page is provided by the Archdiocese of Boston, and offers the different options parents have for a prayerful farewell to their child. There are several routes to consider:

  • In the case you never had the opportunity bury your child’s remains, a Blessing of Parents After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth is common. (“Often the ceremonies of naming and signing the child from the Rite of Baptism can be consoling when celebrated together with this blessing.“) If it is important to you that the priest mentions the name you wish to name your baby, let him know as he can include his/her name in the prayers. Priests are extremely supportive of your desire to name your child, so do not feel like you are imposing on him. Some priests will even go as far as presenting the parents with a certificate acknowledging their child was named. In addition, another Rite you can celebrate for your child is the Rite of Final Commendation which can be prayed at a cemetery, a home, or a hospital, with or without your child’s body present. You can also choose to hold a Vigil for your child, and this can be done by a priest, a deacon, or lay minister, and it can be done in a church, a hospital, a home, or a funeral home.
  • If you would like to hold a Funeral Liturgy for your child, but your child has already been buried, you can still hold a Funeral Liturgy for him/her.
  • Regardless whether your child was baptized, or he/she passed away before baptism, you can hold a Funeral Liturgy with Holy Communion for your child: simply let the priest know if your child was or was not baptized, as this changes some of the prayers for the Funeral Liturgy. Once you are ready to bury your child, a priest or deacon does a Rite of Committal with Final Commendation at the cemetery.
  • If you would like a Funeral Liturgy for your child and wish for it to be done by a deacon, you can hold a Funeral Liturgy with out Holy Communion (also known as “Funeral Liturgy outside of Mass”). Simply let the deacon know whether your child was or was not baptized so he can make the specific prayer arrangements.
  • If the body of the child is present, some parents choose to do a Rite of Committal with Final Commendation at the cemetery. (A Funeral Liturgy is not mandatory.) This can be done by a priest, deacon, or lay minister.

It’s important to choose an option you believe will honor your child, hold your child up in prayer, and will give you the strength to ask God to hold your child.

“Trying to decide what was the best way to pray for our son Michael wasn’t easy. My husband had one set of ideas, I had another, but we both agreed that burying him was not negotiable: we had an obligation. As the days passed, I kept expressing to him how important it was to me that we celebrate a Funeral Liturgy for Michael, and my husband began to understand my perspective. As the days approached, my husband started to look forward to the funeral, and after the funeral and burial, both my husband and I felt immense peace. It was such a horrible loss for our family, and to hear our priest say the words he said  in his homily and to have our close friends and family pray and read scripture with us was consoling. Now, when we look back on the loss of our son, we are able to look past the pain and have peaceful thoughts.

— Diana Johnson

Emotional Support During and After a Loss

One of the strongest emotional struggles parents face when experiencing a miscarriage is how “life continues” normally, and how there is only a small group of individuals who truly understand your grief. While we don’t want to remind you of how great your loss is, we want to validate your pain in acknowledging you lost a beautiful and irreplaceable child: no matter how old, how small, or for how long you knew you were pregnant, a life conceived is a life conceived. He gives a unique soul and identity to every human being on earth at the moment of conception, and you are fully correct to grieve the true loss of your child.

While your life may never be the same again, never forget that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we might enter heaven, and thanks to Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, our children await us in heaven. The Catholic Church firmly reaffirms the mercy and love of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Indeed the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let them come to me, do not hinder them’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism.” (CCC 1261)

 

RESOURCES

 

Suggestions to Help You Grieve Your Child

Information coming soon, we are very sorry for this inconvenience.

on March 22 | by

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