When my husband Phillip and I got married, we figured we'd wait about a year before we tried to get pregnant. Two months after our wedding I started volunteering at CareNet Pregnancy Center, where I learned about the miracle of carrying and delivering babies into the world. I helped fold tiny little baby clothes in our Earn While You Learn boutique, talked to glowing pregnant women, and saw pictures of serene, chubby newborns every week. Before long, I had the baby itch myself.
A month later, I was pregnant.
Phillip and I were so excited that we told everybody right away. My husband was the youth pastor at a small country church that hadn't seen a baby in quite a long time. It was hard to tell who was more excited for our first child to arrive, Phillip and I or our congregation.
And then, just a few days before my first trimester officially ended, we lost the baby.
I kept volunteering at the pregnancy center, mostly because I hated being alone during the days while my husband was at work. But for months following our miscarriage, my heart sank every time I saw those sweet angelic newborn pictures hanging up on our center's walls. When I went to fold onesies in the boutique, my entire body ached with my overwhelming sense of loss.
Preparing Your Center
Since an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of all pregnancies result in miscarriages, chances are sky-high that some of the pregnant clients you meet this year in your center will end up miscarrying.1 Unfortunately, many PCCs ignore miscarriage altogether in their volunteer training and are unprepared to minister to those who have lost a child through non-elective measures. After my miscarriage, I went through the dozens of brochures we had at our center and found nothing to help me heal.
Thankfully, your center can be better prepared than that. With a little bit of training and some forethought, you can turn your center into a haven where parents can find healing and hope after a miscarriage.
Assess your surroundings. Babies are beautiful. But decorating your entire center with framed pictures of cherubic newborns can leave many of your clients — including those who have suffered miscarriages and elective abortions — feeling isolated or depressed.
Don't make assumptions. I was devastated after my miscarriage, but not every woman reacts the same way to losing a child. Hear your client out so that you can sympathize with her unique situation.
Remember that miscarriages are not the mother's fault. After a miscarriage, many parents wonder, "Could we have done something different to save our child?" Most of the time, doctors are unable to ascertain a medical cause for the miscarriage. Assure your client that her miscarriage was not her fault, even if she was uncertain whether or not she wanted to carry the child to term in the first place.
Spare the clichés. I can't tell you how many times after miscarrying I heard senseless remarks like, "At least you know you can get pregnant now," or "There must have been something wrong with the baby" (so it's better off dead). Someone could write a book called Things Not to Say to a Woman Following a Miscarriage. These two comments would definitely deserve chapters of their own.
Don't try to speak for God. As Christians, we know that "God works all things together for good for those who love Him" (Romans 8:28), but you're probably not going to help your client by jumping in and guessing God's purpose for allowing her baby to die. Assure her that God has the answers to her questions, and then let the Holy Spirit reveal those answers in His own time.
Know the medical facts. Even if a mother miscarries during her first trimester, she still goes through "mini-labor." If your client is in the middle of a miscarriage, don't assume that her doctor has prepared her for everything her body is about to undergo -- mine didn't! She will probably experience severe cramping. There will be a lot of blood, and, depending on how old the baby was, the mother may actually see the body as it is passed.
Some women have to undergo a D & C, which can be especially traumatizing for those of us in the pro-life movement who know the details of such a procedure. No woman should have to go through this kind of trauma alone.
The goal of your center is to minister to pregnant women and their pre-born children. Women who have suffered (or are in the process of) a miscarriage certainly fall under that umbrella. As members of a movement that cherishes both mothers and their unborn babies, we should reach out to victims of miscarriages with the healing love of Christ and not overlook this needy demographic.
Alana Terry and her husband Phillip have invested years into pregnancy care center ministry. Alana has volunteered as a peer counselor and her husband has served on the board of directors of two different PCCs. Alana is also the author of "A Boy Named Silas," the story of her second son's traumatic birth experience. You can find out more about Alana and read her blog at alanaterry.weebly.com.
1. "Early Pregnancy Loss," American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletin, Number 150, May 2015; accessed 2/25/2016