our baby valentine

I wanted to write about our experience of miscarriage because it was helpful for me to read stories from other women, like this post a friend sent me. So I share some of how I processed it in the hope it could help someone else feel less alone. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

At the end of June, I lost a baby at five weeks. I wrote about how that baby is part of our story now, and this post is more about the experience of miscarriage and the ways we have grieved and found closure. He or she would have been born sometime this week, so it’s been on our hearts.

It was my first miscarriage, so at Chris’s urging I went to immediate care, where it was confirmed a miscarriage and I was sent home. There was heavy bleeding for several days, and painful cramps. And now I know that this experience of passing the baby varies widely for different women. But I was grateful, in a way, that the pain lasted for a while, because it felt like a mini mini labor, and a way that only I got to experience a little more of this baby we would never get to know.

Chris’s reaction to the news was to cry a little with me and then figure out how we should do this well. He did some research and found that we could give the remains to a local funeral parlor, who would bury the baby for free in a designated section of the cemetery. They would hold a memorial service for all the babies who died before 20 weeks from March-June in 2018. We named the baby Valentine, since he or she (I usually say she) would have been born around Valentine’s Day, and it was a name I liked but probably would never use for a living child. The memorial service was held on a sweltering day in August. I was glad we went, but I’m more grateful that we have a physical place to visit her whenever we want. (Evangeline has now asked if we’ll all be buried under the same stone as Baby Valen when we die. Chris and I made a mental note to make a will.)





When Chris did the funeral parlor research, he also asked if I wanted to invite a priest friend over to pray for us. I felt awkward about this. But I knew that later on I would wish for something – some way to find closure – so I said sure, let’s have him over for dinner.

Chris had just gotten to know this priest on a trip to Israel. He’s a Franciscan, newly ordained, also studying theology at Notre Dame, and a Catholic convert. I always love meeting other converts. As Chris put the girls to bed, I told Fr. Andrew more about the miscarriage, and how I’d been feeling. When Chris returned, we sat in the backyard and Fr. Andrew prayed for us, using a prayer specifically for parents after a miscarriage from The Catholic Book of Blessings (which also has the prayer we used to bless our garden seeds). It was so beautiful, and I just let the liturgy wash over me. I felt deeply at peace, and was grateful to Chris for suggesting we do this. We sat in silence for a few moments and then Fr. Andrew asked, Would you guys want to sing some songs together?  

IMG_5344 (1)
I miss you, summer backyard.

I was surprised but said sure, I like to sing. Fr. Andrew started singing, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” Chris joined in, and I started bawling. I leaned back in my chair, letting them sing, feeling waves of sadness, and also, still, peace. It felt so right, to be there in our backyard, singing songs that I had grown up with in church, with a Franciscan priest. I hadn’t realized how much I missed singing casually with other people. As they sang, I asked God, What role will this baby’s life and death play in our family’s story? And as I asked, I was surprised to feel confirmation in my desire to have more kids, to have a large family, like this baby was already praying for courage for me. I also felt God pointing out to me the consolation of that moment and saying, It doesn’t help anyone for you to leave behind all the ways you knew me before you were Catholic. There was something so healing for me in Fr. Andrew singing those songs I had almost forgotten. It brought together two worlds; the old that I had begun to reject as I was learning to navigate the new.

flowers sent by a friend

This was an unexpected gift I received as I processed the miscarriage. A reminder of how I used to connect with God and with others, and the courage to more vulnerable. I had time in those summer weeks to think about how, after a year in South Bend, I was fairly happy with the community I’d found, but still wanted to know others more and be better known. When I voiced this, I found that my friends were also hungry for deeper friendships and wanted to pray together more openly. Since then, our moms group that meets for play time and prayer has grown more vulnerable in ways I was craving, and I didn’t have to force anything to happen. I just started being a little more honest.

This baby’s life and death has already taught me so much more about trusting God. My hope is that I’ll remember and remain open to what He brings, open to lessons from grief and from joy. Thanks, Baby Valen. We love you.

this picture was actually taken on the day of miscarriage, I realized later. We were showing The Village to a visiting friend.

part of our story

As I’ve entered the second trimester of this pregnancy, I’ve been thinking about how this baby’s life has already changed our family’s story. About how this baby comes to us after losing another.

At the end of June, I had a miscarriage. I’d only known I was pregnant for ten days and had only told one friend. It was still so new, and then, it was over.

So this is my fourth pregnancy, my fourth baby. But I won’t explain that to strangers in the grocery store; I probably will hardly ever talk about it. For all outward appearances, this is Baby #3. But we know that there was a little soul who would have come to us in February, and we named him or her Valentine. It’s made me think about how many other families share this experience, how the question, How many kids do you have? becomes a bit more complicated to fully explain.

I may share more about the miscarriage and how we grieved and found closure, because I found it helpful to read about other women’s stories when it happened. But for now, we talk about Baby Valen with the girls, and we go and visit the cemetery where he or she (I’ll call her she), is buried. We’ve been looking for a way to volunteer time as a family, a way to engage in social justice in some way with the girls, but everything we’ve thought of has been too late in the evening for our current early dinner/bedtime schedule. So for now, in this season, we’ve landed on the spiritual work of mercy – pray for the living and the dead. We take the girls and pray a decade of the rosary  and the prayer for the dead for the soul of Baby Valen and all the departed.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I wish it wouldn’t have happened, of course. I wish I could have felt her move, held her, seen her, been able to get to know her. But I’ve been comforted by the reactions I’ve received from friends, and even the (free!) services offered by the local funeral parlor and cemetery. Overwhelmingly, it’s been – This is a person to bury, this is a person to grieve. Despite how common early miscarriages are, and the various factors that can cause them, I was never made to feel that this was something to just get over and forget about. And that’s been a good lesson and reminder for me, as we’ve talked about her with Evangeline. Baby Valen was still a baby, even though she was so little, and she will always be a part of our family. We can ask her to pray for us because we trust that she is with Jesus. It’s brought up good conversations about the communion of saints, the dignity of life, and death. And it just feels good to talk about her, this little person God sent to us for such a brief time.


Baby Valen, pray for us.