This video couldn’t possibly make my heart ache more as I watched the loving tenderness of Chris Picco singing Blackbird to his baby, Lennon James Picco, in the NICU.
Lennon was delivered by emergency C-section at 24 weeks gestation after Chris’ wife unexpectedly and tragically passed away in her sleep.
Lennon passed away just one day after this video was taken, but the moment between father and son will live much longer in the hearts of over 8 million viewers as they watched this father honor the life of his son. Lennon’s short life was not in vain. He is a witness to many about the sacredness of life.
With 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriages (occurring during the first 20 weeks) and another 26,000 ending in stillbirth (after 20 weeks) each year, it is more than likely that you will somehow be affected by the loss of an unborn baby. It is difficult to know what to say and how to minister to a loved one as they go through a tragedy like this. It is even more difficult and painful to go through a miscarriage or stillbirth yourself.
It was a typically busy day at our house when I felt God telling me to get to daily Mass. This is no easy feat with 3 kids under four and feeling sick while pregnant with your fourth. I dragged myself there out of obedience but lacked a joyful heart. The first reading began, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Tears were streaming down my face. I immediately knew this was why God wanted me at Mass. He was giving me the verse to pray for our unborn baby. For each of our children, I have always been given a very specific verse to pray for them as I awaited their arrival. I was only 7 weeks along at the time and I began to pray Jeremiah 1:5 each day for our baby.
At 14 weeks, I went into my doctor for a routine check-up. They couldn’t find a heartbeat, but I wasn’t worried. Nothing had ever gone wrong before with my pregnancies and I hadn’t had any pain or anything abnormal since my last visit. As I sat there waiting for the doctor to do an ultrasound, I knew everything was fine. Then I saw my baby on the screen in front of me not moving and no heartbeat. We had lost our baby. It was a silent miscarriage, meaning there were no outward signs. Through tears, I called my husband and we prayed Jeremiah 1:5 together.
My doctor asked me to wait a week before I could have a D&C ( a surgical procedure to deliver the baby). I was beside myself carrying that lifeless child inside me all week knowing that I would never hear my baby cry or laugh or say Mama. I was praying for a miracle.
The night before I was scheduled to go in for my D&C, I delivered the baby at home and I held our 14-week gestation baby in my hands. It wasn’t the miracle I wanted, but it was a miracle. The baby fit in the palm of my hand. Perfectly formed arms, hands, fingers, legs, and toes. If I could do it again, I would hold on much longer, but in the moment I was scared and had no idea what to do. Of course, I again prayed Jeremiah 1:5. My doctor had never told me what to do if this happened. We searched online and found nothing. We called our priest, but he didn’t have an answer for us either. We packed our small baby in a shoe box and went to the hospital. Looking back there are so many things I would have done differently, but we just didn’t know.
It took months to recover and my heart still hurts at times. When I see videos like little Lennon’s or hear stories of other parents losing babies, the pain becomes very real again. It takes my breath away. When we go places it often feels like someone is missing. When I look at family pictures, I sometimes envision what our baby would look like or how old he or she would be now. I can’t forget and I don’t want to forget because though that baby’s life was short, it was valuable. God had a purpose, as He always does.
If you are experiencing a miscarriage, don’t lose hope. There are a few things you can do to get through this trial.
1. Don’t be afraid to grieve and to express your sorrow. You (or your spouse) had a life growing inside you. The connection was a strong and powerful bond that has now been lost. It is a natural response to feel the depth of this sadness. Take time for yourself and to allow for healing. Don’t fight the pain, but rather lift it up in prayer. Ask God to help you. Cling to Mary and ask for her intercession. She also knows the pain of losing a Child.
2. Communicate with and care for your spouse. A tragedy such as this has the power to bring the two of you closer than ever before. Walk with one another and support one another through this part of your journey. Be open to discussions and be considerate of the different ways each of you may be feeling. Read your Bible together and find scriptures that will bring hope to your family.
3. Allow others to help you. This is the time when you need to accept the help of others. Let them run errands for you, make you dinner or clean your house. Take the extra time to spend at Mass or Adoration or just in silence reflecting on the loss of your baby and seeking peace from God.
4. Find a way to remember your baby. Many decide to give the baby a name. For me it has helped to call the baby by name because it makes it more “real”. Others may decide to plant a tree or buy a piece of jewelry to remember the life that was lost. My Saint My Hero offers beautiful blessing bracelets that can help remind you of the blessing that your baby has been to your family. Remember the important dates (due date, miscarriage date) each year. Celebrate the life of your baby in some way by going to Mass, saying a rosary or lighting a blessed candle.
5. Don’t be afraid to speak up to your doctors. This is a painful and scary time for your family and it can be a whirlwind of unexpected medical care. If you ask, you can find out how to have a Catholic burial for your baby. Many funeral homes will offer this service for free. Contact your doctor, a funeral home, and your priest to find out more about the options you have. No matter how far along you were in your pregnancy, you have a right to decide what will be done with your baby’s body.
If you are ministering to someone who has gone through the loss of a baby, the most important thing is to remain present to them. Give them the support that they need. If they want to talk, listen. If they want to cry, cry with them. If they want to sit in silence, silently pray for them while you sit together. There are a few practical things you can do as well.
1. Be of service to them through babysitting other children, running errands, or making meals. This will give them time to focus on healing.
2. Commit to praying for them, but don’t tell them “this is part of God’s plan”. No one wants to hear that God’s plan was for their child to die. Keep the preaching and advice for another time. Scripture verses full of hope and prayer cards will be much more enriching for them. Be a prayer warrior for the family by lifting them up each day.
3. Remember the important dates in the short life of the baby, such as the due date and the date of the loss. You can celebrate the life through a donation to a pregnancy center, having a Mass said for the baby, or a small comforting gift to the family.
4. As Catholics, we are a pro-life people. One of the ways we can express this value is to honor the lives of these babies and support their grieving parents. So many of us stand against abortion, yet fail to offer support to these moms and dads facing the death of their baby. Let us pray that as the millions of people watch the father of baby Lennon singing that they are convicted of the miracle of life and that they will be moved to action.
O heavenly Father, You know what is best for us always. Perhaps my child would have suffered greatly in life, or wasn’t ready yet to come into the world. I ask you, dear God, to please send Your mercy on all parents who are experiencing the loss and pain of a miscarriage and console them with the sure certainty that they will see their little treasure again. I admit I feel some fear for the future, an apprehension that this could happen again. Nevertheless, O Lord, I put my trust in You. You are the God who heals me; You are the Good Shepherd who will neither leave me nor forsake me, so I am at peace. Please kiss my little angel, and tell my child I yearn for the day we will be together again, with You, in the Kingdom of heaven.
O Lord, grant my husband and me the grace according to Your Will to conceive again. Help us continue to make our home a welcoming place for all life. Jesus, Comforter of all who mourn, we put our trust in You. Amen. Dear Mother Mary, I come before you today with a heavy heart. I have lost the beautiful child from within my womb, the child God gave me. I do not want to accept this, yet I bring my sorrow to you, O Mother of Sorrows, because you understand. I am filled with a deep sadness, O Mary, and I cry sometimes silently for this my beloved little one, now with you. O Mary, I feel so alone, although my family and friends do their best to comfort me. Still, I trust God, even when I don’t understand.
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