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July 5, 2009

Grief from miscarriage turns into special ministry

By Michelle Martin


Karen Novak was 23 weeks and two days pregnant with twin girls when she miscarried in April 2008.

The Lockport woman had been getting prenatal care at Loyola University Medical Center because the twins, named Abigail and Danielle, were sharing a single amniotic sac, which put them at high risk. When they died, she had a chance to see and to mourn them before they were buried at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Orland Hills.

“It was terrible,” she said.

By last summer, she felt ready to go to a HUGS meeting at Loyola. HUGS is a group for parents who have lost a child from conception through age 1. Her husband, Pete, wasn’t so sure at first, but became more enthusiastic.

“I wanted to hear other people’s stories,” she said. “I wanted to know we weren’t the only ones. And I felt like I was in a place where I could help people. In April I was a wreck.”

Part of the reason she felt ready to go was because she felt she had something to offer. By that time, she had started working with a group based in Iowa called “Diana’s Angels” that supplies parents with clothes to bury their stillborn babies, so they don’t have to buy doll clothes or go to a baby store to shop for preemie clothes.

A member of the group in Iowa — the mother of one of her co-workers — sent clothes to Novak when her daughters died, and after several weeks, Novak called and asked how to start a similar group in the Chicago area.

Now Novak coordinates a group of people, mostly relatives and friends, who do the sewing, while she buys fabric and cuts out patterns. “The fabric has to be super soft, because their skin is so delicate,” she said. “And all the patterns have Velcro closures, so they are easy to put on.”

Every family gets to choose from among the styles, which include a dress, an overall and a kimono.

That choice is important, Novak said.

“At that point [when the girls died], I felt that everything was my fault. I felt like they died because I didn’t do something right,” she said. “It was like the one thing I could do for them. It was important to me to do that one last thing.”

Now the clothes are available at Loyola University Medical Center and through several funeral homes. They soon will be available at Stroger Hospital, and other hospitals have also contacted Novak.

In the meantime, she became pregnant with twins again, a boy and a girl this time. They are due in August.