Brittney and Derek LaFosse will never forget February 25, 2019. It is forever etched into their memories as the day they lost their second child and first son, Matthew, to miscarriage.
Miscarriage had never been on the couple’s radar because, as Brittney told Live Action News, “We got pregnant very quickly with our first child,” a daughter. The couple uses natural family planning, so they knew when they conceived their second child a few years later.
Tragically, just days after the much-celebrated positive pregnancy test, Brittney woke up and realized she was bleeding. What followed was “a blur,” she recalled, as the couple headed to the emergency room only to have their worst fears confirmed. At five weeks gestation, Brittney was miscarrying.
“Society is so cold”
Both Brittney and Derek remember their experience with the emergency room staff as “very cold.” Though presumably coming from a place of compassion and a desire to make her feel better, Brittney didn’t feel comforted when the doctor told her ,”Oh, it could have been a false pregnancy.” Adding to Brittney’s pain, the doctor used the technical medical term “spontaneous abortion” in reference to Brittney’s miscarriage. “Why do we have to put the word ‘abortion’ to a miscarriage?” Brittney asked.
The couple knows that a society ignorant of the fact that human life begins at conception would not logically understand their devastation when, as many mistakenly believe, “it wasn’t even a baby yet.” Derek told Live Action News, “In today’s society, where abortion is rampant, I can understand why society is so cold.”
Still, when people who interact with newly-grieving parents fail to recognize the humanity of their preborn child, deep pain is inevitable. Brittney wishes the medical staff had handled the situation differently. “I wish they had said, ‘I’m sorry that you lost your child,'” she told Live Action News. The lack of acknowledgement and dismissiveness she encountered from the medical staff led Brittney to feel “unworthiness about my loss compared to somebody else’s.”
After the miscarriage, Brittney said the reality of the loss combined with the reaction of the medical staff sent her “down a spiral. I kept asking, ‘How could my body fail?’ All I wanted was to get pregnant again, for my body not to fail me.”
She was told there were no medical restrictions against trying to get pregnant right away, and Brittney said she “got pregnant again the next time I was fertile” with the couple’s son, Quinn, but she dealt with a great deal of fear. “I went through a lot of anxiety and depression during the pregnancy with him,” Brittney said, due to both unhealed grief and fear about whether she would be able to carry Quinn to term. “It was definitely a hard and unexpected heightened emotional time after just losing a child,” she said.
The couple welcomed Quinn in late November of 2019.
“We started to understand suffering”
In the midst of deep, ongoing pain, Brittney read about a Red Bird Ministries Child Loss healing workshop in their church bulletin and signed the couple up. That workshop was “our life vest that brought us into the other support aspects of Red Bird such as support groups and a women’s healing retreat,” according to Brittney. “At the workshop, we got to talk to other people who had gone through miscarriage. Through the support groups and then the retreat, we started to understand suffering. I learned that even though I went through this horrible thing, I can’t expect horrible things not to happen to me. I grew up expecting that when I pray, only good things will happen to me. But Jesus was the best person in the world, and look what happened to Him.”
The turning point of the couple’s grieving came from communication, according to Derek. “We learned during marriage prep that there are certain things we have to say and do to see where the other person’s at emotionally during the day,” he told Live Action News. “But my initial thought after the miscarriage was, ‘There’s nothing I can do to fix this. I don’t have the right to grieve because Brittney’s the one who physically lost the baby.’ I didn’t feel worthy to grieve in front of her and I assumed that she felt the same way about things that I did.” He added that the workshop’s inclusion of the Catholic sacraments aided in their grieving process.
“We have to be willing to grieve with every family”
During that retreat, Derek decided to name their miscarried child, likening it to “praying for a deceased grandparent by name.” After several weeks of prayer, Derrek told his wife that he felt convicted that their child was a boy and that his name was Matthew. For her part, Brittney was “so grateful that Derek initiated that, because I just wasn’t in a place to think of [naming our child].”
“If we had never named him, [we] don’t feel like we would be where we are now,” the couple noted.
The couple learned from their experience not to compare their loss experience to anyone else’s. Their loss was no less real because of their child’s earlier gestational age. “Still to this day, especially when you go to a retreat and hear other people’s stories, it can be easy to think ‘I never even had an ultrasound, never even heard a heartbeat,'” said Brittney. “But because we… know that life begins at conception, we have to be willing to grieve with every family at whatever stage.”
Brittney and Derek want other couples facing miscarriage to be aware of the resources they didn’t know about when they lost Matthew. Resources like this one can help couples wanting to know how to respectfully collect and dispose of their child’s remains, when possible. Other resources encourage couples parenting after a miscarriage. Prayers specifically intended for couples grieving the loss of a child to miscarriage can be especially comforting.
The LaFosses want other grieving parents to know, “It’s okay to talk about your child. Name your child… We have to acknowledge that life begins at conception….”
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