Miscarriage: The Pro-Life Movement’s Inconsistency

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Has the pro-life movement fully embraced what it espouses? This is a question I am left pondering in the wake of my most recent miscarriage. I have sensed for some time that there is indeed serious cognitive dissonance going on within the movement of which I am a member. My miscarriages have taught me that while we preach to the world that a child is  murdered through abortion, we do not fully live that message in our response to families who have experienced a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage.

As we pray in front of Planned Parenthood, we are so sure that a child is being torn apart, limb-from-limb with each abortion. We even believe this about a child aborted at 7 weeks, which was the age of my child who died a week ago in a miscarriage. Our hearts ache, we grieve, we pray fervently. I know from personal experience that surgical abortion day is truly tragic. It is not only heart-breaking because a child has been murdered, but it is painful to watch these women stagger out of the clinic. I have watched women unable to get home, who were either too sick, hopped up on medications, or too emotional to leave. I can’t approach them or offer them comfort lest I be arrested, although, the compulsion has occurred more than once in me. There may come a day when I say “the hell with it” and walk over to check on those women regardless of the consequences. This desire grows in me after each of my losses. They may not know that they have killed their own child, but I do, and the denial of their motherhood will have long term consequences. I weep for them and greatly desire to console them.

I have never questioned, even before I lost a child in miscarriage, that a child dies in an abortion or miscarriage no matter the gestational age. When I found out that I had lost my daughter’s twin, I mourned the loss of a child. With my third miscarriage the child died days after conception, and yet, I knew that I had lost my child and I grieved as one who has lost a child. My grief has compounded over the years as I have now lost four babies.

So what is the disconnect I see? People within the movement far too often do not show the same care, concern, or understanding of those families who have lost a child to miscarriage as they do to an abortion. Now it is understandable that abortion is truly horrendous and it is the great moral and human rights issue of our day. There is no doubt of this fact, but a miscarriage is also the loss of a child. Why is it then that rather than allow or encourage the grieving process we tell people who have suffered miscarriages some of the following: You can always have another child (can I really?!), they are in a better place, how disappointing for you (I just experienced this one), something was clearly wrong with the child, a miscarriage is just a hiccup on the road to parenthood, and the list goes on and on. If we truly believe what we say, then why are we treating families grieving a miscarriage in this manner?

Life is sacred. All human life is worthy of great dignity because all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. The image is no less at the moment of conception when full potentiality has entered the human being or in a person who is 107 years old. When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she isn’t rejoicing over tissue. We constantly state this argument to the pro-choice side, and yet, we don’t fully embrace it ourselves. If we truly understood these words then we would be grieving with miscarried families. We would be reaching out to them with support and resources and we would be learning from their experiences.

The available resources are sparse. I’ve looked and only recently has miscarriage become a more open topic of discussion in social media. We should be recognizing that they, that I, have lost a child or children. We certainly should not tell them that they can always have another child or that a miscarriage is disappointing. A miscarriage is agony and comes with profound grief. While we all grieve differently, a person who truly understands when life begins, knows they have lost a child in a miscarriage. A child they will never hold.  Would we go to a funeral and tell someone that the loss of their loved one is a great disappointment?

The reality is that many times we are not fully aware of the philosophies within our culture that influence us. It took me taking an entire graduate course that focused on the philosophy of nihilism for me to understand how I too have been shaped by false philosophies. The advent of medical technology in the area of fertility and sexuality has completely reshaped how our culture understands children. Even within the pro-life movement, the lie that we are in control of our own fertility is believed. This blog post is not meant to address the contraceptive mentality, but that is an issue I plan to address at a later date. While it may not be intended, this influence is betrayed in words which imply that a family can control whether or not they have a child or more children. We do not know if we can have more children, if any. It isn’t up to us, it is up to God. This erroneous thinking is largely subconscious and unintended, but it can do damage to those who are suffering from the real pain of miscarriage and infertility.

Tied to the on demand fertility of our culture, is the belief that each pregnancy is a part of the journey to having a child. In some cases the desire to become a parent supersedes everything else and miscarried babies are disposed of and not even recognized as lost children. They are dehumanized. This understanding that miscarriage is a part of the process points to a disconnect within a movement that argues the sacred nature of all unborn children in the case of abortion. This is precisely why implying that the loss of a child in miscarriage is merely a disappointment betrays the errors of our culture. Pregnancy is not a trial and error presupposition. I do not get pregnant as if I am playing Russian roulette. I get pregnant in the belief that I will give birth to each unique child I carry. My immediate response to a pregnancy test is one of love. When that child dies, no matter what age, the loss is devastating precisely because it is the death of a child. I am not test driving a car. I am a co-creator in an “embodied spirit.” Each unique baby is a gift and many of us can forget this fact, even if we do not mean to forget.

When an individual said that I must be disappointed in my loss, I was taken aback. Disappointed is not a word I would use to describe my emotional state at the moment. I didn’t just lose my job or the house of my dreams. I lost my fourth child. The bleeding of this miscarriage has only begun to let up. Grief-stricken, agonized, in anguish, angry, sorrowful, suffering, these are words that describe how I feel right now. I am not disappointed. I am suffering tremendously from the loss of my fourth child. And, no, it does not appear that I can just have another child. While I know this person meant well, it is crucial for us to understand that words matter. If we want to win this fight and end abortion, then we need to truly live the pro-life message. We need to celebrate each human life as sacred and discard any part of the “throw away” culture or erroneous philosophies which may have infected us. We need to stop telling people that they can always have more children, that a miscarriage is only a stumbling block on the road to parenthood, or that parents who have lost children in miscarriage should not grieve as if they lost a child. These are all lies. They are lies that we have mistakenly taken on from the culture of death.

I understand and I have learned that people do not know how to respond to grief. It’s awkward for people, which I understand to a point; however,  if we are truly going to bring a Culture of Life to the world then we need to stop ignoring the very real grief families suffer from with miscarriage. We need to stop using accolades and partial truths in response to their pain, to my pain. After four miscarriages, I pray at Planned Parenthood precisely because I understand, better than most, a child is being lost, as well as motherhood. A mother who has miscarried understands abortion in a completely different light. No, we don’t know the trauma and horror of abortion, but we certainly know what it is like to bleed out our beloved child. We know intimately that life begins at conception. We know it in our very being.

Compassion for the grieving goes a long way. Movement towards the grieving and tangible support can in some way lessen the burden of grief. We cannot take away another’s suffering, but we can walk alongside those suffering from miscarriage. I have learned from relief work during the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history, as well as in my own suffering, that the grieving are not looking for great gestures, profound thoughts or answers, or for someone to fix their pain. The grieving only desire a recognition of their pain and the understanding that it is warranted.  They are looking for a human response from the people around them. “I am sorry for your loss” is enough, because, quite frankly, it is all that can be said. This type of response recognizes the child lost and does not minimize or dehumanize the unborn child. In the case of miscarriage, people are also looking for guidance. They need to know how to respond to a miscarriage, especially Catholics. There is no reason why the pro-life movement cannot devote some time and effort into resources and ministries for those bereaved by miscarriage.

The pro-life movement cannot be fully effective while ignoring its members and countless families who have experienced miscarriage. We cannot continue to treat miscarriage like an “unfortunate” event. This type of approach is patronizing and insensitive and it is completely contradictory to the arguments, the true arguments, we use to fight abortion. It flies in the face of the very mission we have all signed up for, which is the protection of children, women, and men. It is incoherent to fight abortion in one breath while remaining silent or responding hardheartedly to the pain of miscarriage. Either life begins at conception or it does not. We don’t get to hold onto abortion as a great horror while ignoring the anguish of miscarriage. Both result in the tragic loss of a child. The pro-life movement needs to fully embrace the message found in the Culture of Life and that means responding to the great sorrow of families grieving the loss of a child to miscarriage. If life does begin at conception, which it does, then miscarriage should be recognized as the great tragedy it is, which is the loss of a child that comes with profound grief.

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8 Articles/Blogs to Help You on the Spiritual Journey Oct 5-11

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I am going to start a new weekly update on my blog of articles or blogs I see that will help you on the journey to holiness. I have noticed that a lot of the places that collect Catholic blogs and articles focus on news and politics. I think there is a need for Catholic writers to also focus on the mission, which is a life of holiness and evangelization. There are many wonderful articles available each week, if you look, that provide spiritual guidance from the saints, the Church, and daily life. Here are a few from October 5-11.

The Ultimate Challenge: A Heroic Life as Spiritual Fathers, David McClow at Catholic Exchange
Be Perfect…Really?, Br. Timothy Danaher, O.P. at Dominicana
The Beads and Repetition of the Rosary, Romano Guardini at Catholic Exchange
A Lamp for My Feet, Br. Ambrose Arralde, O.P. at Dominicana
The Man of Wasteful Love, Dr. Tom Neal at Word on Fire
Enemies of the Cross of Christ, Sam Guzman at The Catholic Gentleman
Saints are Still Being Made, K.V. Turley at Crisis Magazine
God Wants Me to Be Happy-A Reflection on a Deeply Flawed Moral Stance, Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington DC

Pax Christi

Just Say “No” to Discouragement

I have been fighting discouragement pretty hard this week. I was struck deeply by a quote by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own powers.” Some of my frustration has been of my own making and some of it is with the state of the world. I have no control over the latter. All I can do is try to serve where I can and pray for the conversion of souls. God has called me to multiple roles of service; all center around the dignity and sanctity of the human person. I am a cradle Catholic, but I would say that I had a full conversion 5 years ago. That would make me a newer Catholic, even though I have read theology and philosophy since high school.

I was not prepared for how lonely of a road it can be at times, even within the Church.  My vigor and passion for Our Lord and His Church have at times been met with apathy and outright hostility.  I think that this is a struggle for a lot of people who come to full conversion.  I know many RCIA candidates who are on fire, but become disillusioned when they see that their rigor is not shared in their parish.  I should have known better.  The Saints have met much pushback.  I am not a Saint, yet, not even close.  That is the goal, but I have some very deeply rooted sins that Our Lord is ripping out of me.

I think my discouragement has been compounded by the chaos that has been in our parish for a year now.  A much beloved priest was moved out of our parish suddenly because of some shifts that were needed throughout our Diocese.  This was a major shock for many of us and it has been struggle.  Our replacement quickly became ill and had to retire, and then we spent months with a different priest each week.  In late summer we finally were assigned a “permanent”, which really means temporary, priest who is on loan from a Diocese in Nigeria by way of Tucson.  We all knew that he would leave this summer, and that is the case.  We are now praying and waiting to find out who the Diocese will assign us on a permanent basis.

While we come to Mass to give God “right praise” and receive the Holy Eucharist, in our brokenness we need a shepherd.  Our current priest is a holy and godly man, unfortunately people have not accepted him and there has been a lot of nastiness.  His hands are tied by his posting with us.  So all of this has compounded my own discouragement and many people have left our parish.  I myself have thought about it, but we will stick it out.

If there is one thing about ministry, it is difficult.  It is called service for a reason.  You get to see the best and the worst in people.  I head up what should not be, but is, the most controversial ministry in the Catholic Church in our country today: the Sanctity of Life Committee.  It seems a given that Catholics would understand that we are called to bring a Culture of Life to the world, but that is not the case.  We are a small Committee of 5 deeply dedicated women.  We do what we can and want to do more.  Our Committee’s job is not just to tackle abortion, which we do with passion and purpose by praying at Planned Parenthood and providing much needed items to moms in crisis pregnancy, we also must teach and share social teaching.  That includes the hot button issues of our day: marriage (to include divorce, “gay marriage”, and contraception), the death penalty (the Church’s position is much nuanced), war, etc.  We do what we can, but it is difficult to figure out how to combat both ignorance and disobedience.

About a year ago one of the women on our Committee had discovered what the real issue is in the Church.  She had found a book, which most of our Committee read, by Sherry Weddell (a fellow Lay Dominican) called Forming Intentional Disciples.  I had been beating my head against the wall in response to the apathy and hostility within the Church.  I did not get it.  This book answered my questions.  The majority of Catholics are ‘sacramentalized, but not evangelized’.  What does that mean?  It means that most Catholics, the vast majority, have not had a conversion to Christ.  They do not actually know Him and His call to follow Him as disciples.  Catholics go through the hoops and receive the Sacraments, but many do not even know what they are doing or just do it because that is how they were raised or what they married into.  No wonder our Protestant brothers and sisters do not understand us?!  And no wonder we have such a hard time engaging people.

This is not an easy issue to tackle and it is one we cannot really look at until we have stability in our parish.  It is something that our Diocese is trying to do on a macro level, but we need micro level changes.  I know one thing, we all need to support and encourage one another on the path.  Discouragement is the sin of pride.  We need to lift each other up.  We need to help each other in the battle, because we are waging a fierce spiritual battle both inside the Church and outside of it.  We need to find a charitable way to engage disobedience rather than sit idly by or get into fights.  We need to pray for the conversion of souls and fast.  I cannot stress this enough.  These are the weapons we use to fight discouragement and despair.  The forces of darkness are on the move and many souls are at stake.  I would suggest fasting throughout Holy Week next week.  Skip a meal, stay off the Internet, or offer some other sacrifice daily.  This is a great time to re-gain focus, if like me, you have wandered a bit this Lent. As we approach the Holy Day of Easter, remember that the battle is won in the end. Let’s pray that we all make it on the journey to holiness and see Our Lord waiting for us at the end.  God bless.

A Response to Feminism’s Clarion Call to Be “Self-Made”

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I saw yet another article condemning stay-at-home moms as second class citizens. Quite frankly, the author is not worth the link in on my blog. She is worth prayers, but not a link. The argument is always the same: The self-made, individualist, materialistic, selfish woman is the REAL woman of the 21st Century. Let’s call a spade a spade shall we? Anyone who trumpets themselves as the center of the universe is struggling with selfishness. How do I know? Mainly, because like all people, I have to battle my own selfish nature. The biggest difference is that I know that my family will tear it right out of me, while rugged individualism will leave me selfish and alone.

I am not condemning women who choose to work. My mom worked part of the time we were growing up, as did most of the women in my family. No, rather, I would say that we must always prioritize properly. It is family and then career. Part of the reason I decided to stay home is because, when I enjoy my work, I am a workaholic of the worst kind. My family would suffer as my aspirations took precedence over them. I worked for 12 years before I got married. I was a workaholic. I cannot believe the hours I pulled while I was in the Navy.

What exactly does it mean to be a “self-made” woman? To own a lot of things? Make a lot of money? Promiscuity? Childlessness? Being alone? I am not sure what this phrase even means, but I hear it a lot. I think of myself as pretty “self-made”. I chose to marry my husband. I opted to stay home with our daughter. I am choosing to stay home to school her because, yes, I think that I can do better than the public schools and I assure you my daughter’s test scores will reflect that fact. This is not arrogance. It is the truth. I choose to serve my family over myself. Is it hard? You bet. I fail daily, but it is my choice. I decided that others are more important than little old me.

Let me think back to my “glorious” single days of my Twenties. I worked a lot. I had multiple careers including stints that a lot of 20 year olds could only dream of. I lived in Europe and traveled. I saw the back-stabbing, self-centered, corruption up close interning on Capitol Hill at The Heritage Foundation. I did everything that I wanted to do, but it was never enough. Why? Because “I” am never enough. I am not the center of the universe. God called me back to Him during Holy Week of 2009 and there I have stayed.

So if being a “successful” and “self-made” woman means selling my soul and my family, then I would rather keep my soul. I know what real priorities look like. There is nothing that I can buy, no men that I can date, no salary that I can make, that would take away the joy I have received in my husband and daughter. I truly feel sorry for the woman who cannot experience that joy. So you can berate women like me all you want, but we know the real secret to happiness: sacrificial love.

Dear Daughters: A Letter to Girls, Teens, and Young Women in Their Dating Years

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*A note to moms and dads: Some of this may be hard to read or understand, but this is the reality of what our daughters are facing. Things have changed drastically since we were teens.

Dear Daughters,

  You are beautiful.  Every single one of you.  You are created in the image and likeness of God.  You were made to be loved and to love others.  You have every right to be truly loved.  Our society will tell you things that are not true.  Our society will push you to do things that you do not want to do.  Our society will tell you how women are to act.  Our society will tell you how women are just like men.  This is a lie.  Yes, men and women are equal, but they are not the same.  You do not have to be a man and you should not try to make men into women.
You might be a young girl, teenager, or an adult when you stumble upon this writing.  It is meant for all daughters, but I wanted to directly speak to teens and young women who are dating.  You will get a lot of information in your short life about how you are to act, to be, and what to do.  You will be told that certain behaviors are normal and expected.  You probably heard a lot of this in your sex ed classes or other classes.  So here are a few things I want you to know.  I am a daughter.  I have been hurt by the lies.  I also have a daughter. All women deserve respect and love:
*You do not have to have sex.
*Waiting to have sex until you are married is best for you and your future husband.
*No man should expect sex from you. A man who loves you will wait for you.
*Your peers should never pressure you to have sex.
*Teen pregnancy is not “normal”. If it happens there are plenty of centers that will help you.  Planned Parenthood is not one of them. Abortion is not the answer.
*Casual sex hurts women. It hurts men too, but they are less likely to recognize it.
*It is NOT acceptable for boys and men to look at pornography. If he will not stop, then he does not deserve you and you need to move on.  You need to discuss this with your boyfriend.  He may be doing it and you do not know it.
*It is  NOT acceptable for women to look at pornography or read pornographic novels like 50 Shades of Grey.  S&M is not normal and it should not be read in a novel that portrays it as normal.  It is unhealthy, destructive, and uses people as objects.  Pornography is not just pictures and movies, it includes novels.
*No man should expect you to act like a porn star.
*No man has a right to hit you or abuse you in other ways.
*It is always the right thing to do to get help in abusive situations.  You have a right to safety, love, and justice.  If the first person you talk to will not help you, tell someone else.  Keep going until someone will help you.  Never give up.  You are worth it!!!!  The first girl I met who was being beaten up by her track star boyfriend was when I was 15.  It starts early.
*Rape is never right or acceptable.  Get help!  You deserve healing and peace.
*Abuse from family members is never right.  Get help! Talk to someone, regardless of how it impacts your family.  You deserve safety.
*Cheating (you or him) is not acceptable behavior.  Love requires devotion and loyalty.
*It is right for a woman to desire marriage, regardless of what our culture tells you. (Men want marriage too)
*Sexual promiscuity is never the answer. It only leads to pain and self-hatred. You deserve a partner who loves you for you and does not use you as an object.
*Never live with a man before you are married.  A man who will not put a ring on your finger, but will live with you, is not fully devoted to you.  Cohabitations end in break ups way more often than they do in marriages.  You deserve MARRIAGE!
*Women and men should never use drugs.  Stay away from drugs!  You have so much more to offer this world.
*Binge drinking is dangerous. It puts you in vulnerable situations that you may not be able to get out of.  Enjoying a couple of drinks is fine.  Binge drinking is not.  Regardless of what our culture tells you, you are not physically stronger than your average male.  You also do not have the physical capability of keeping as much alcohol down as a male.  Alcohol poisoning hits a lot earlier for women.  You have a long life ahead of you.  Don’t endanger yourself to fit in.
*It is a good thing to desire feminine things: motherhood, marriage, love, comfort, security, etc.  You can also desire a career and success in the workplace.  God created us as female.  The gifts we have to offer the world stem from the beauty of our femininity.  You were not created to be a man.
*Motherhood is the most important job.  It comes first. It comes before a career (you can still have one, just prioritize).  Shaping human beings is a tremendous gift, it is hard, but joy-filled.  Children help make us better and less selfish people.  It is a good thing to desire children.  It is natural.  When we do not prioritize our children, they are hurt and become resentful.  Children need their parents, even if they say the opposite.
*No one should expect you to go on birth control and that includes doctors.
*Material possessions are not more important than having a family.
*You deserve a man who works hard for you and wants to provide for his family.  Slackers need not apply.
*Not all forms of feminism are good.  In fact, the majority these days will bring you heartache and misery because they fly in the face of who you really are designed to be.
*Take a lot of what you learn about feminism and politics in school with a grain of salt. Ignore snide comments about religion.  Read and educate yourself on these topics from a variety of sources.  Learning does not end after school.
*Remember that you are so loved that God came to earth as a man and died for you.  You are worth dying for.  No matter what you have done.  Jesus Christ forgives all sins and he gives us the grace to overcome sin.  Ignore the people who mock you for this belief.  They, like you, crave love, but have not found it.
*God needs to be priority in your relationship.  Religion becomes huge in marriage.  Marrying across religions and even denominations can add stress to a marriage.  Really consider your faith before you get married.
This list is not meant to be a condemnation.  Rather, it is to show you that you are worth more than what the outside world would tell you.  Doing these things will help you find happiness and love.  You are worth so much more than what our culture would have you believe.  You are talented, unique, smart, beautiful, and gifted.  You have unique gifts to give to the world.  You deserve a man who truly understands what it is to love, and he deserves a woman who truly understands what it is to love.  God created you in His image.  That makes you beautiful beyond compare.  May God bless you on your journey.

*There will be a letter to sons coming very soon.