God Does Not Waste Life
My journey of motherhood has confirmed what faith has taught me: that life is a gift to be cherished and protected from womb to tomb. Each person must discern how to act on this belief within a culture that tends to value life only when it is “wanted.” My experience of becoming a mother, losing a baby, and awaiting another has clarified what my pro-life values look like in daily life.
Becoming A Mother
My two-year-old daughter, Lucy, affirms for me the gift that life is. Her name means “light,” exactly what she brings into our lives. Before I knew if Lucy was a boy or a girl, before I glimpsed her tiny form in the first sonogram, I knew that I was now a mother. The connection I felt with my baby was immediate and palpable and grew stronger as the pregnancy continued. Although I struggled with nausea and vomiting through all nine months, I knew what I carried within me was a sacred gift, not to be diminished. I knew this was true of every baby carried in every womb, whether wanted or unwanted.
In my first pregnancy, I came to see how our culture treats unborn babies so inconsistently. When a baby is wanted, parties are thrown: gender reveals, baby showers, baby “sprinkles” for subsequent children, etc. Men and women alike hold doors for expectant mothers, offer their seats to them, and otherwise defer to their needs. The sight of an expectant mother can bring a smile to a stranger’s face and elicit advice from an older woman who knows the joy and exhaustion awaiting the new mother. When a baby is unwanted, many no longer refer to it as a baby. The baby’s worth and value are reduced as it becomes a “fetus,” now a medical entity to be removed from the woman’s body. Yet, that woman is a mother who carried a baby, and it is a tragedy when the baby’s life is willfully terminated.
Losing A Baby
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband and I learned we were expecting our second child. We were overcome with hopeful excitement. Because of the pandemic, my husband was unable to come with me to my first prenatal appointment. This made me slightly uneasy, and although I was experiencing normal symptoms such as nausea, I remember saying to Eric as I left for the doctor, “What if something is wrong?”
It seems I intuited what I was about to discover alone at that first appointment. At nine weeks of pregnancy, my baby had no heartbeat. I had to call Eric from the doctor’s office to tell him this news. Our desperately wanted, prayed for, and hoped for baby was not alive within me, and two days before Mother’s Day I underwent surgery to remove the baby’s body from my own.
Though I will not know in this lifetime whether the baby was a boy or a girl, though I will never hold that baby in my earthly arms, I feel a deep connection with and love for our baby. His or her life impacted me and my husband profoundly. We mourned this baby as we have mourned grandparents we knew for all our lives. We mourned all that we had hoped for this child, every holiday we had imagined as a family of four, every cherished moment we had expected.
My faith brought meaning to this baby’s life that explained why I was feeling such profound loss and helped me move through it. I reached out to a compassionate priest at my parish, who offered Mass for the repose of our baby’s soul. We named our baby Zelie Louis, for the Martin saints – the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, who themselves experienced the loss of children and whom we have felt interceding for us. This thoughtful priest had the relics of Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin on the altar during the memorial Mass and gave the most beautiful homily. One sentence he said will remain with me forever: “God does not waste life.”
Every single soul conceived on this earth was willed by God and glorifies God in their existence, no matter how long they live. While we may never understand the intricate connection of life with death, we can be confident that God’s acts of creation are always done with purpose. This lends a sanctity, dignity, and importance to every human created in God’s image.
Although miscarriage often brings undeserved feelings of shame and guilt, the courage of a close friend who revealed her own experience of miscarriage compelled me to share my story with others. I told close friends and family members about my baby, and they mourned with me. They acknowledged my baby’s life with flowers, cards, kind words, and gestures. All of this affirmed what I already knew to be true in my heart – that my baby’s life has meaning and worth, no matter how short it was.
Awaiting A Baby
God has once again gifted us with life as we now await our third child. Halfway through this pregnancy, I began to experience bleeding and cramping. At the hospital at the start of Advent, we discovered that the placenta had partially detached from the wall of my uterus. At 19 weeks, we knew the baby boy was not yet viable outside the womb, and I was put on bed rest. I was filled with great anxiety as we waited for an appointment with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
On Christmas Eve, at the specialist appointment, we experienced what we can only call a miracle. The bleed was clotting. The specialist assured us that this pregnancy should continue without further complications and that our baby boy would be fine. We praise God for this miracle of life and know that the prayers of so many people contributed to this happy news.
Although the baby continues to grow and the bleed has begun to heal, I remain on bed rest. In the early days of bed rest, I realized that each day I have with him is a gift, one day more than I had with my second child. This sweet boy is benefitting from the intercession of his sibling in heaven, which gives me great peace. The fragility and preciousness of life have never been clearer to me as I await the birth of my son.
My Pro-Life Journey
As I contemplate how to act on this belief within American culture today, I have come to several conclusions.
First, I am now in a unique position to support other women going through the unspeakable pain of losing a child. Already I’ve seen how my own experience helped me lend compassion and understanding to a cousin who recently miscarried. Had I not initially shared my story with her, she may not have reached out for support in her time of need. I was able to share with her some resources that helped me process my grief (see below). As a Church, we can do a better job of supporting couples experiencing infant loss. While we do need to pray for and take action to make abortion illegal in this nation, we cannot forget the families who mourn the loss of their babies. Support groups, annual memorial services, and openly praying for them at Mass are pro-life acts that would help many families feel less alone in the experience of losing a child.
Second, I believe we are called to partner with people of all faiths and people of no faith to advance the cause for life. Deep down, we know the value of life in all its forms. Uniting in our common recognition of the dignity of each person can only result in a more human, less partisan movement for life – so desperately needed in our deeply divided culture.
Third, we cannot forget the pregnant women who need support. Mothers experiencing medical complications, financial difficulty, spousal abuse, and many other hardships need the emotional, physical, and financial support of pro-life people. My experience on bed rest has shown that it truly “takes a village” to get a child safely into the world. Every person who has prayed for me, brought meals, checked in, and helped with errands has helped get him here. I wonder whether some of the women who choose abortion simply lack the support that has been so abundant for me in my experience of motherhood. Had they had this direct support, would they have made the same choice? Supporting organizations that provide direct support to mothers is “voting with our dollars” against abortion as they provide the resources women need in order to choose life. God doesn’t waste life; let us not waste any opportunity to live out our belief in this truth.
- Barrett, Elise Erikson. What Was Lost: A Christian Journey through Miscarriage. Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.
- Manning, Margaret. “I Knew Miscarriages Were Sad – But Nothing Could Prepare Us for the Experience.” 26 September 2017. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/09/26/i-knew-miscarriages-were-sad-nothing-could-prepare-us-experience
- Mowry-Willems, Michelle. “Grief and Miscarriage.” 28 October 2019. http://www.femcatholic.com/grief-and-miscarriage/
- Woodhouse, Theresa. “What to Say When There Are No Words?” 30 October 2017. http://www.femcatholic.com/what-to-say-friend-miscarriage/
- New Wave Feminists offers direct assistance to mothers in need at the US border: https://www.newwavefeminists.com/campaignrelief
- Project Rachel, a ministry offering support to women who have had abortions: https://hopeafterabortion.com/
- Pfarr, Andrea. “What Women Considering Abortion Need.” 29 November 2018. http://www.femcatholic.com/what-abortion-minded-women-need
- Secular Pro-Life, an organization working for justice for the unborn: https://www.secularprolife.org/
- Wilson, Emily. “We Know What She Holds.” 14 August 2018. https://emwilsonmusic.com/blog/2018/8/14/we-know-what-she-holds?fbclid=IwAR1ye0-DVR6L7kOQ7NvnR6BAFvKgjGnt2RFeRzx9j5NCARIIk7mh8Fnmnkc
A Prayer for Respect for Life
Father, You gave us the gift of life and You called it “very good”. We thank You for the gift of life, help us to always welcome it with joy and reverence. Please give us the grace to value and the courage to defend the dignity of all human persons from conception to natural death.
We ask for healing and reconciliation for all affected by abortion, suicide, euthanasia, and all abuses to the sanctity of human life. Help them to know Your unending mercy and be filled with Your peace.
We pray for all those struggling with difficult or overwhelming decisions. Place in their lives supportive men and women to lead them to You and provide for their needs. Fill them with hope and strength.
We pray for all in leadership roles that they would defend the value of all human life at all stages. Give them the courage and charity to defend the right to life.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.