The e-mail to homeschooling parents for prayer to God for help, “to come to terms with the loss” of a child to miscarriage, as “I know many of you [moms] have gone through this before”, took me back many, many years to Mark's story of an identical loss with his partner, Ann (The names have been changed). Unlike Ann, Mark found himself alone, pained and with the only avenue to solace found in writing his daughter, Samantha, a “goodbye letter” in the Emergency Room waiting area in the early morning hours before the sun came up that day over fifteen years ago.
Both Mark and Ann, a young couple were ecstatic, to say the least about their pregnancy. They were very much in love, and this child was conceived from the union of their hearts and they enjoyed the daily anticipation of the “new addition”, as any young couple would find themselves basking in the affection they have for one another in the early years of adult life. Their pregnancy was laden with intimate stories of anticipated Christmas', birthdays, and new roles they would have in the community and among friends and family.
Their joy was solidified one evening at dinner after Mark and Ann came home from work one night and at dinner each shared, with a twinkle in their eyes, “I think I have the perfect name!” Over their usual fare and before an evening comedy programs, they agreed to say their respective choice for their new baby at the same time and then discuss the merits of each name. “Samantha” was the name blurted out in near unison. Wide eyed and to each other's amazement they thought this was surely a sign of more happiness to come for the four of them, Mark, Ann, Samantha and Jake, the cat. They loved thinking of themselves as “the four of us” and no longer “the couple with the cat”.
Several weeks after that dinner, Mark and Ann found themselves in the Emergency Room after midnight. Ann was being attended to in a separate room, while Mark sat alone in the dimly lit waiting room unsure of what was happening. After he found out about the miscarriage from the doctor, who seemed to convey the news as if out of obligation rather than a sense of compassion, Mark was devastated, numb and so much so, there were no tears or questions for the doctor. Ann's family members soon arrived after receiving the news and quickly shared with Mark their condolences, as they rushed past to Ann's room, to “see how mom is doing” (It took some time for everyone to let go of Ann's role as a new mom). Following after them were deliveries of flowers, condolence cards, phone calls, invitations to coffee, lunch, encouragement and reminders, “God has a reason.”
All these wonderful gestures for Ann were very much appreciated by Mark, but he could only reflect and find comfort in the memory of being in the E.R., sitting there doing the only thing he knew to do...write his dear daughter, Samantha a goodbye letter with paper he found in the cold waiting room and using the only pen he had in his pocket. The tears now came, as his goodbye told of his love for Samantha, what his grandfather would have said about her if he was alive, and of how much she was wanted. That letter is, I am sure, in some box in Mark's home now, but Samantha has a special place untouched by time.
Since grieving for such losses is hardly acknowledged for fathers in our society (and much less so fifteen years ago), the next workday seemed surreal for Mark. There was "no longer the four of us", he ruminated. And, unlike Ann after returning to work, there was no question put to Mark in the form of, “How are you doing, Mark?” “How is this affecting you?” which made the loss even more surreal if that is possible, since surely everyone knew that he wanted Samantha as much as Ann. For some reason, what came to his ears every time he met someone who new them both, was “How's she doing? Is she okay?” Of course, Mark wanted the best for Ann, and with genuine concern, he found himself reassuring them she was doing “as well as could be expected.”
I wish I could say Mark, Ann and Jake went on to have another pregnancy, and the dreams of the four of them enjoying Christmas', birthdays, and all the rest followed, but I can't. The reasons are perhaps for a different recollection prompted by another prayer request in an unanticipated e-mail for another time.
Conservatively, miscarriage occurs in twenty percent of pregnancies (1, 2) and it is nice to see that there is some attention now being given to the loss that fathers experience (3). If you have had a loss, and have found yourself similarly alone, perhaps a goodbye letter may help. In any case, your loss is real, no less important and likely your love for your unborn child is as profound for you as it was and is for Mark; the loss may have changed your being in some unanticipated ways. It is okay to say, “goodbye” and look for the hope that our Lord promises in the life hereafter, where there will be no tears and perhaps the opportunity to embrace your child and let him or her know just how much their precious life was wanted.
If you need prayer, please don't hesitate to send out your own e-mail request to someone you know personally, schedule time to talk with your priest, a friend and take time to seek other avenues of healing (4). You don't have bear the burden of loss alone, especially the loss of your child. If you have support, then you are fortunate and may consider making yourself available to other young dads faced with such challenges. The memory of Mark's child, and your child surely is deserving of any love hidden away from others. You may find that sharing what this child has meant to you brings to light the breadth and depth of who you are as a person, father...Catholic man. Then, more whole and present to embrace any precious moments that come your way.
1 - All About Life Challenges - http://www.allaboutlifechallenges.org/miscarriage-statistics.htm
2 – When do Most Miscarriages Occur - http://miscarriage.about.com/od/riskfactors/f/miscarriagestat.htm
3 – Dealing with Miscarriage - http://fatherhood.about.com/od/pregnancyandfathers/a/miscarriage.htm
4 – Angel Teddy Bears - http://www.angelteddybears.org/
Strong Tower, by Kutless
"Brother, if you have lost a child to abortion, miscarriage or some other painful event, remember the Lord is there for you. Maybe he can be your Strong Tower of refuge and hope" (ECLD).
Strong Tower (by Kutless):
When I wander through the desert
And I'm longing for my home
All my dreams have gone astray
When I'm stranded in the valley
And I'm tired and all alone
It seems like I've lost my way
I go running to Your mountain
Where Your mercy sets me free
You are my strong tower
Shelter over me
Beautiful and mighty
You are my strong tower
Fortress when I'm weak
Your name is true and holy
And Your face is all I seek
In the middle of my darkness
In the midst of all my fear
You're my refuge and my hope
When the storm of life is raging
And the thunder's all I hear
You speak softly to my soul...