Radio Show

Navigating Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss With Abigail Jorgenson

Editorial note: The following article and podcast contains a discussion of pregnancy/infant loss.

We cling to our faith in times of joy and sorrow, and Father Dave welcomes Dr. Abigail Jorgenson to discuss her new book “A Catholic Guide to Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss: Compassionate Answers to Difficult Questions.” Abigail is an assistant professor of sociology and healthcare ethics at Saint Louis University, as well as a certified doula and childbirth educator.

Abigail explains her role as a doula and how it differs from a midwife. “I walk with families, providing informational support, advocacy, and emotional support throughout the whole transition through pregnancy and childbirth,” she says. “While a midwife might be the one making sure somebody is physically safe during a pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum, I’m the one who gets to be there and make sure that they’re feeling heard, feeling loved, and that they have the support they need around them.”

RELATED: Jesus in the Delivery Room

“I walk with families through all of this, even when the outcome is really, really negative, and isn’t what anyone wants to hear, talk about, or experience,” she continues. “We’re whole people, we’re not just bodies, and having someone who can walk with you as a whole person while you have your other care team taking care of your body – that’s the goal of a doula.”

Abigail explains that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, a statistic that helped influence her to write this book. “[Pregnancy loss] is way more common than most people think it is. [The book] comes from my experience of working with families; It also comes from my own experience as a loss mom.” She notes how grieving families struggle to find answers on this topic in standard Church resources like the Catechism.

“It just became very clear, very quickly that we didn’t have a compassionate, central location where people could find the answers to these kinds of questions,” Abigail says. “All the work in the book comes from real questions that real families asked me, or that I have asked the Church myself.” The questions range from practical matters like honoring physical remains to more faith-based, such as the state of a baby’s soul.

This resource is for those grieving a loss, but also for their support systems. Krista reflects on the miscarriage statistics, and how most couples don’t publicly announce their pregnancies until the second trimester when the risk of loss decreases. “It has to be incredibly isolating,” Krista says. “What are some good ways we can accompany those who are going through loss, even if [the pregnancy] was only a couple of weeks, but they still have a loss to mourn?”

RELATED: 9 Ways to Help a Grieving Friend (That Aren’t Bringing a Meal)

Abigail responds, “I love this question because it gets right at the heart of what we all want to do, which is be there for the other person…I think there’s this understandable nervousness about like, ‘society hasn’t told me what I’m supposed to do in this scenario.’ So what I really want to encourage folks to do is get what I call grief informed.”

“If we know that somebody has experienced a loss, and they trust us with that information…then I would say that I’m so sorry for your loss, just right off the bat. It doesn’t matter if the baby was six weeks gestation, or six weeks old on the outside, or 60 years old; ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ can always be our default and then asking, ‘Do you want to tell me about it?’ I think we undervalue listening as a support strategy,” she continues.

Abigail notes how people often focus on saying the right thing instead of being present for a person. She says, “It should be, ‘how can I listen? How can I receive? How can I honor the story of your child?’”

Abigail reiterates the importance of talking about issues around pregnancy and infant loss, even though they can be difficult. “It makes a lot of sense that people don’t want to talk about it when society doesn’t know how to handle it when they do. But if people don’t talk about it, then society will never learn to handle it. So it’s a catch-22,” Abigail says. “The more that all of us talk about perinatal loss, whether it’s our stories, or just talking about the reality that it exists; that is so valuable and such a gift to families.”