Jozio and Franus
Fr Piotr Gasior talks to Katarzyna, a mother who had two natural miscarriages.
Fr Piotr Gasior: - The Gospel says, ‘When a woman is in labour, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world (cf. John 16). This is true when a child is alive but when a child is born dead....
Katarzyna: - In my case it was different in each pregnancy. I miscarried twice. Both the first and the second time the tech found no heartbeat. When I was in hospital with my first child I asked what it would happen with my child and was told that its body would be burnt together with other remains left after the operation. I was not informed that I had other rights. And I accepted what I was told. I did not even think that I could do something else. Therefore, we left the child’s body so that the hospital could make some histopathological examination of tissues. The results of the examination were given to me. And when I returned home, I remember my feelings well, I did not know whether I had been pregnant at all. It was hard to talk about it with my relatives because when someone dies all people know about it. There is some grave. And there was nothing in that case. The doctors themselves used different words when they talked about our child. Some tried to comfort me, ‘It happens. This was the first pregnancy. It was only a foetus. It would have died anyhow, and so on. The word ‘child’ was rarely used. In such an atmosphere I did not know what to think. I could not speak about it without any emotions. There was no mourning or actually no mourning was experienced.
- Saint Gianna Beretta Molla miscarried twice, too. I do not know exactly how she coped with that. But her behaviour and openness to new life can lead us to the conclusion that her experiences were mature. And what about you? How did you cope with those hard experiences?
- I can say that I did not experience any severe depression. In fact, I felt depressed. From time to time I cried when I recollected the event. But generally speaking, I mobilised myself into continuing my life. I wanted to conceive again as soon as possible. I wanted to forget what had happened by expecting another child. However, it occurred that it was not the best decision, at least in my case. When you want to conceive nothing can be ‘shortened’. You need biological health and a good psychological attitude. I frankly admit that I bore grudges against Lord God. We waited for each child and loved each child. In my first miscarriage I had no possibility to experience that event. But I was fully aware of my experiences in my second miscarriage. I owed it to some doctor who stood by my bed in hospital and told me to ask whether I had the right to bury my child. He added, ‘Please do not say that I suggested you the idea.’ He was my doctor-angel who brought the news and then disappeared at once. Thanks to him I began asking about that possibility. My husband and I named our first and second child. My first child had no official document but we wrote its name in heaven. So when we pray we mention their names - Jozio and Franus. Although we were not sure what the sex of our children was we gave them male names. This is very important to us. The mistake about their names does not really matter.
- I assume your husband was a great help for you...
- Yes, he was. Generally speaking, his support is enormous. We have been even closer to each other after these experiences. It was also very important to me that he did not hide his tears and that he showed his feelings. My husband has always stood by me; he has always supported me. And he has always been ready to express our opinion forcibly. Without him I would have felt even worse.
- And what was the attitude of your closest family?
- They simply stood by me. I could talk to them about my tragedy. They also attended the funeral of my second child.
- You mentioned the doctor who informed you about your right to have a funeral. Did his behaviour seem strange to you?
- Exactly. Unfortunately, I am sad to say that the medical environment has had the worst attitude towards miscarried babies and their parents, which I have experienced myself. In the light of the present law I had the right to bury my both children. I cannot understand the cruel behaviour of the junior medical personnel that I met. I do not know why they behaved so. They should have had a better training: how to react in such situations, including the ethical perspective. Or perhaps the nurses should be replaced by others so that they do not show callous indifference. The job might be too hard for some people. I do not know. I can only suppose it could be. As far as the officials are concerned I happened to meet very nice, patient and polite people. They gave me all kinds of advice. We could not know the sex of our child because it was the 13th week and no heartbeat, so most likely the child was already dead in the 11th week. And then some official advised us to ask the doctor to write the sex we had thought of. Her attitude showed no unnecessary formalism. The parish priest, having seen the register’s document, i.e. dead birth, did not create any problems.
- What does the burial of a miscarried child look like as far as the cost is concerned?
- We learnt that we were entitled to receive funeral benefits. And we received them since as in any other funeral there are costs. Moreover, we wanted to use the money from the Social Insurance Institution because we had to undergo further costly medical tests, I mean, the test stating the reason for miscarriage or the cost of future medical care provide by a good gynaecologist.
- Is it estimated how many families experience the loss associated with miscarriage every year?
- As far as I know, about 40,000 a year. My knowledge is based on the statistical data given at www.poronienie.pl, but I do not know the source of the data.
- Let us repeat: what are the rights of parents who had miscarried babies?
- The couples have the same rights as parents who have lost their older children, i.e. born in advanced pregnancy or when they were several years old. Hospitals are obliged to send written statements concerning dead births to the registry three day after the treatment. I do not know the obligation of hospitals in cases of miscarriage without any treatment. But you must make sure that this formality is completed. You can face some difficulties when you want to take the dead body from the hospital or when you organise the burial in the funeral parlour. You must not give up your rights in any case or get touched for some extra cost.
- Do you think that every mother has the obligation to take the body of her miscarried child and organise a worthy burial?
- I think that some people will not be able to do that. They will simply have no strength to deal with this. And then they should have the right to leave the child’s body in the hospital knowing that this institution will see to a worthy funeral. Currently, the reality in many hospitals is...it would be better not to ask about this. Fortunately, there are some medical centres that organise such funerals in a very beautiful and thoughtful way. For example, the Holy Family Hospital in Warsaw, where by the way I noticed the picture of Saint Joanna Beretta Molly, collects the remains of the miscarried children and organises a common funeral. The hospital board takes part in the funeral. There is a special burial place and a symbolic tombstone for such children in the cemetery. So when some parents could not bury their children they know at least that all things were done in a human way, i.e. with dignity. Parents have some burial place to come and pray for their children.
- Should the engaged couples be informed about these matters before their marriage or not?
- As far as the so-called premarital course are concerned I must honestly say that I was not informed about such issues at all. But the most helpful religious formation was given to me at home and in the youth parish communities I belonged to. But generally speaking, no one talks about these matters.
- Did you talk about natural miscarriage to your fiancé before your wedding?
- Rather not. You assume that everything is going be all right. We were healthy. There were no such cases in our families so we did not expect to experience such things.
- What attitudes do you face while talking openly about your experiences?
- Since it is a taboo conversations begin when I say that I had miscarriages. Then other women say that they have miscarried, too. It is likely that the shame results from the fact that the miscarried child was not buried and not from the very fact of miscarriage. And if someone does not know what happened to her child who is she to talk about? On the other hand, your attempt to forget the event is a misunderstanding.
- I can see that you are happily expecting your third child. I would like to ask whether...
- ...of course, we will tell our child that it had elder brothers. That’s why, we are glad that there is some burial place that can testify to them. We will certainly tell our child...