By Catholic Saskatoon News, with files from Novalis
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month – an opportune time for release of a new book of reflections and resources addressing the heart-breaking loss of miscarriage.
The new Novalis publication Never-ending Love, edited by Anne Louise Mahoney, features a range of voices offering their perspectives “on how faith can be a source of support, hope, and healing for those grieving the loss of a child before, during or soon after birth.”
The Novalis description of the publication adds: “Words of experience and wisdom from various perspectives – several women, a married couple, a medical doctor, a pastor, a theologian, a team of liturgists offering rituals to mark the loss, and approaches parishes and dioceses can take – are complemented by prayers and resources for working with grieving couples.”
Contributors include Ryan and Monique LeBlanc of Saskatoon; author and speaker Leah Perrault; and Shannon Granger of Holy Spirit Parish, who played a key role in a Miscarriage Awareness Committee in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
“For too long, miscarriage and infant loss have been relegated to the shadows,” notes the publisher’s description of the book. “Catholic couples and families who experience these heartbreaking losses greatly benefit when they are supported by their faith community – pastors and pastoral teams, fellow parishioners, families and friends.”
The description concludes: “St. Paul tells us that ‘Love never ends’ (1 Corinthians 13:8). As a Christian community, we can help couples express and remember their never-ending love for their beloved child, who will always have a cherished place in their hearts and their lives.”
A chapter entitled “All the Love Needed” by Ryan and Monique LeBlanc of Saskatoon is included in a section of the book featuring personal stories about miscarriage and infant loss.
Excerpt by Monique LeBlanc from the chapter “All the Love Needed”
“I knew something was wrong the moment the ultrasound tech said she would be right back. I was at my 20-week structural ultrasound for my fifth child. I had done this before and knew the routine. An ultrasound tech walking out so soon – before even showing me a picture of the baby – was definitely out of the normal routine.
“So, I sat waiting, alone, knowing that in a few minutes when she returned, my life would be forever changed. I just did not know how. As my thoughts raced to all the imagined possibilities, I did the one thing I knew would help. I prayed.
“Prayer was and still is a big part of my life. At different times in my life, the Rosary, the Daily Office and other set prayers have been a comfort and routine, but in that moment it was none of those that came to me. It was just a desperate plea to God, almost wordless. I just knew God was there, and I needed him. I knew that in the next few minutes, God was going to give me a gift, and I was pretty sure I did not want it. I had an image of Christmas morning, with all these presents under the tree. I am sitting there with a present from my old but loving aunt. I don’t know what is in it, but I know that it is not the toy I really want. It is probably ugly socks or a book I would rather not read. But I have a choice to make. When I open the gift, do I say thank you, even though it is hard to be grateful for a gift that I can’t see why I would want, or do I complain and sulk because I did not get what I want?
“I knew that at that moment, waiting for the radiologist to come and tell me that my son had died in my womb, I had a choice to make. Was I going to accept this gift that God was giving me, a gift I did not want, knowing that in his infinite mercy, it was a gift? Or was I going to complain and sulk to God?
“So, I prayed: God, help me accept this gift, this ugly gift that I do not want, because I know that it is a gift of love. I don’t understand why I got this gift, and I may never know why this gift was for me, but help me accept it with grace…..”
[Ryan and Monique LeBlanc have been married more than 20 years; they make their home in Saskatoon, which is in Treaty Six Territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis. They have five children with them on Earth and one – Hilary – in heaven. Monique home-schools their three youngest children and previously contributed to the anthology Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood. Ryan serves the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools system as a Teacher Chaplain and is in formation toward ordination to the Permanent Diaconate with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.]
In addition to the chapter by Ryan and Monique LeBlanc, the new book also includes a number of other personal stories – “Gifts and Graces: Reflecting on Loss” by Brenda Merk Hildebrand; “Remembering Mercy” by Josephine Lombardi; “Bittersweet and Imperfect Joy” by Leah Perrault; “Reflections from a Doctor and Mother” by Julia Cataudella, MD; and “A Flurry of Stardust: How Poetry Helped Me Heal from Loss” by Anna Eastland.
A section on pastoral responses includes “Offering Slivers of Light: A Pastoral Response” by Kathy Hendricks; “Walking Together through Listening: A Parish Priest’s Perspective” by Fr. Mark Gatto; “Signposts: Creating and Celebrating Rituals for Those Grieving Miscarriage or Infant Loss” by Fr. Bill Burke and Bernadette Gasslein; and “Connecting, Sharing, Supporting: Creating a Diocesan Miscarriage Awareness Committee” by Shannon Granger.
Never-ending Love is available at en.novalis.ca