Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness – 2017

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 18-30). I also think about the seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 22 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

 

Now and at the Hour of Our Death….

October is the month of the Holy Rosary, and I will be sharing rosary-themed articles, true life experiences and excerpts from my books in the coming weeks. This post (which was originally published on my blog in 2010) shows the grace and peace that comes with Mary’s intercession, especially when one is facing death.

“If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).”Saint Louis de Montfort

I am blessed to be the mother of five sons ages 14-26. However, my journey to motherhood has not been an easy one. I have lost seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. When my third son was 10 months old, I became pregnant. We were overjoyed until it became apparent that the baby was in my fallopian tube once again. I nearly died from complications of this ectopic pregnancy.

Below is an excerpt from my first novel, Emily’s Hope, and is based on the true story of my near-death experience, written in the third person. Fortunately, I survived and later gave birth to two more sons.

This excerpt illustrates the powerful intercession of Our Lady, especially when death is whispering in one’s ear:

The pain in her abdomen became more excruciating with every passing moment. She sat on the sofa and dialed the number of the high school. It seemed like an eternity for the line to connect. One, two rings. Please, someone pick up, she silently begged. Hearing the secretary’s voice, Emily could barely speak, but she uttered enough to make it clear that she needed her husband. She dropped the phone and tried to take a deep breath. Feeling an overwhelming need to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom just in time to spill the contents of her stomach. She gripped the cold, hard toilet, as if in some way, it would make her pain bearable. Disoriented, she thought of her baby and quickly glanced at his smiling, inquisitive face, oblivious to his mother’s pain.

I’ve got to stay conscious for my baby, she repeated over and over again in her mind. She moved back to the floor next to the sofa, trying to sit upright with her young child next to her, while drifting in and out of consciousness. Keeping a death grip on him, she woke up as the paramedics were prying her hands off her son and placing her on a stretcher. It all seemed like a dream. She overheard the paramedics talking about what a “little thing” she was.

Too weak to make a sound, she wondered where her young son was. She caught a glimpse of her husband holding him at the back doors of the ambulance.

His right arm cradled their son’s little body, while his left hand clasped his small head to his chest as if to shield and protect him from the turmoil that surrounded them both. But her husband’s face. . .his face was so broken and distraught that Emily felt the anguish of a wife and mother abandoning her family. Tears welled up in her eyes and for a moment, Emily forgot her pain.

Then his eyes caught hers and he realized that she was watching him. Everything changed. His chin lifted as if for courage and penetrated her being with a look of tenderness, of confidence and reassurance. Whatever happens, I will be strong for you and for the sons we both love and for God, who has asked so much of you. He seemed to say all of this with his eyes, all of this and more. As his love reached out to her through the shouts of the paramedics and their frantic procedures, the beeping of machines and the overwhelming wail of the siren, its light already flashing, her terror began to fade and her heart surged within her. Now reassured, she allowed herself to fall back to sleep.

Emily’s eyes opened again this time as the paramedics were inserting an intravenous needle in her arm. Although it felt like they were stabbing her with an ice pick, all she could manage was a wince and a quiet moan. It seemed as if every ounce of energy had been sucked from her being. This is what it feels like to die.

Then she imagined her little boys’ faces, and suddenly the possibility of dying weighed heavy on her heart. Please, God, I can’t die, she silently prayed. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mother. All at once, a feeling of warmth surrounded her, then she felt at peace. There was no bitterness, only acceptance, a calm that was huge enough to quiet an ocean. She silently recited a Hail Mary. . . .now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Those last words took on powerful meaning with the possibility that this could be her hour. She knew that whatever happened would be God’s will, and she would submit to that, whatever it was.

Drifting into unconsciousness, the last thing she heard was “We’re losing her….”

PS: The “baby” in this excerpt is now 21…

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Saints and Scripture Sunday – Happy Mother’s Day

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at The Kennedy Adventures for “Saints and Scripture Sunday.”

On this Mother’s Day, I remember my own mother (who died five years ago). I miss her so much. She often said that the happiest days of her life were the births of her children (she had five), one who was a “Surprise Gift.”

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. John 15:16

Today’s Gospel reading was the Gospel my husband and I chose for our wedding 30 years ago. Both of us were open to the fruit of many children and I commented to him just before we were married that a dozen kids seemed like a good number. I prayed frequently that God would bless us with many children.

Well, I didn’t give birth to 12 babies, but God indeed answered my prayer.

It hasn’t been an easy journey to motherhood: I’ve been pregnant eleven times with 12 babies. I’ve lost a set of twins as well as five babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. There were times we were accused of being irresponsible. My novel, Emily’s Hope, is based on my true story of love and loss.

The difficulties and challenges have made me more fully appreciate my five sons. I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

It was only recently that I realized that God had indeed answered my prayer. He blessed us with 12 eternal souls, the fruit of our love: five sons here on earth and seven precious babies waiting for us in heaven.

Text and photo copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach