Topic Thursdays by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) is a live chat with Crystal Johnson, therapist at the AFLC, on a variety of listener-submitted matters concerning the well-being of families. Initially beginning as a July–August programme, its popularity encouraged continuity. There was no Topic Thursdays this week because of the AEC Mission Congress, but the Catholic News will take a look at the August 5 show on miscarriages.
Miscarriages, Johnson said based on her research from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, is a term used for pregnancies that end on their own within the first 20 to 30 weeks of gestation. Studies reveal that 10 to 25 per cent of pregnancies will end with a miscarriage, and while the causes are manifold, often there is no discernible reason, something which can be “a hard pill to swallow”.
During the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality, meaning that something is wrong with the baby’s chromosomes. Other causes include but are not limited to: hormonal problems; infections; maternal health problems; lifestyle issues such as smoking, excessive drug use, malnutrition; exposure to radiation and toxic circumstances. Another reason may be an ectopic pregnancy where the egg did not implant on the uterine wall but the fallopian tube instead.
Johnson acknowledged that pregnancy is and should be an “exciting time”: “You have dreams about starting a family, loving the little ones that you are imagining, dreaming about what they would look like…” Thus should a miscarriage occur, the effect can be devastating, especially when there are unanswered questions.
Having experienced two miscarriages herself, Johnson described the gamut of feelings she went through: feeling that her body had failed her and she had failed her husband; that she had betrayed her vow to bear children. Worse was her feeling of being “a damaged parcel”.
Her own journey out of the sadness began with the immense support of her husband, friends and family, and faith that even in her miscarriage, there was a reason for it. She commented that she “surrendered it all” and trusted in the process of what life had to offer.
Now a mother of two children, while admitting it was not an easy road, she managed through “lots of prayers”, continued support, and working on fertility issues she did encounter while trying to conceive. Johnson stressed the importance of being in a healthy atmosphere to get the body ready for conception through keeping healthy by exercising regularly, keeping weight intact, taking vitamins like folic acid, staying away from smoking and other harmful substances, and importantly, managing your stress levels.
Miscarriages, she stressed, can affect everyone, including men. Frequently, society places emphasis on the mothers going through the trauma, underestimating the loss and helplessness males may experience as well, and their own unanswered questions of what more they could have done to have prevented it.
“Men also experience loss and just as much pain and sadness with the loss of a child. Additionally, seeing your spouse go through physical loss of a child, and watching recovery is not an easy process…” She advised that spouses keep the lines of communication open with each other, because the “best support” comes from the person with whom you are journeying through married life.
To the families who have gone through miscarriages she says: “Challenges are there for a reason; God is there for a reason…You are not damaged, nor did you fail, and you are not alone. Have faith and hope.”