Sara Champi, Co-Founder
My husband Onan and I are high-school sweethearts. We met in seventh grade and started dating at 16. We married when we were 22. After a hard time conceiving and using fertility drugs we had our first baby in the summer of 2000.
We were so excited to find out we were expecting again. I never even considered we would have trouble even when the doctor told me he didn’t see a heartbeat I went home and thought must just be too early. I tried to do it on my own at home. And I so wish I could have succeeded. I ended up at the hospital having an emergency D&C because there was just too much bleeding. I remember laying there waiting to go into surgery and thinking I want to take my baby home but if I ask they will think I have lost my mind. The doctor had already told me there was nothing that resembled a baby that early. So I went in and then went home. I was really surprised by a few people who went out of their way to do something nice for us but I was even more surprised by the many people who avoided bringing it up. I didn’t think I would ever stop crying. But I had a son to take care of and that what I did.
On 4/16/03 we found out we were expecting again. I tried so hard not to even think about the horrible miscarriage we had and just know this was a new pregnancy. I again found myself in the ER bleeding very badly I knew the baby was gone the doctor said we would need another D&C. But when the doctor did the sonogram he said I am not sure why but there is a heartbeat. He asked us some questions and told us he thought we had lost a twin but do to the amount of bleeding if we wanted to go ahead with the D&C anyway that would be fine because the baby probably wouldn’t make it anyway. My husband and I both said NO. We are going home. I was so shocked he even asked. I thought for sure we had been given a miracle and was so happy even though I was sad we had lost one twin.
We were blessed to have our little miracle four more weeks and then God called that baby home too. I have to say if my husband and his family had not been so grounded I would have left the church. My faith in everything was shaken to the core. It felt like even fewer people felt our pain and it was so real and so raw. I was done trying and couldn’t even think about going through that again. We went a new direction and looked into adoption after some research we met with Infants of Prague we were in the planning stages saving money learning what we would have to do, when I found out I was pregnant again.
It was confusing I thought I was moving on why again? I was happy just very cautious. Our doctor told us to try progesterone to keep the baby. It worked and we were truly blessed by the most beautiful and healthy baby girl. She has the two biggest dimples you have ever seen. So life was good. And just like it should be two years after her came another baby. I was in the ER again and they didn’t know why after surgery I woke up and they told me it was an ovarian cyst and I thought the for sure the baby was gone but the said everything was still ok. I thought I would go home and miscarry but we were blessed with another beautiful little girl.Then four years went by before we had our third beautiful little girl.
By now my Catholic faith was really starting to grow. I knew I was bless and thought I had overcome my pain from the losses we had experienced. My girlfriend Lisa and I were talking one day in September of 2012 we wanted to start a prolife ministry in our parish. We thought we knew what we wanted to do but we had the hardest time getting it off the ground. We met for lunch one day to talk about it and ended up sharing miscarriage stories. I told her my three experiences and she shared her sister’s story with me. I sat there listening and could not believe the differences. It was the same diocese and same time frame but we were both treated completely different. Our ministry was born that day as we both felt we needed to do something to send the message that the Catholic Church is prolife in every aspect every time.Lisa’s sister had the strength to ask for her babies remains. The funeral home released the ashes to her. Her priest drove about 45 miles to hold a service and the babies remains were placed under her grandmothers grave. I felt so much remorse that I hadn’t protected my tiny babies I cried the whole drive home that day and decided I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that. If only I had known I had that right. So we started to research and through my search I found the Embrace Ministry. It was started by Nichole Hartman. We contacted her and could not believe all that we had in common. Nichole encouraged me to name our babies. It was hard but we let our children help us. Angelina, Gabriel, and Jonah became a part of our daily life. My children often talk about their siblings in heaven and that they will see them one day. To have a personal connection to heaven will help them their whole lives. And I am very glad my children know a baby is a person not just a blob of tissue. That is the prolife message all our young people need to hear. We were very excited to be the second charter of their ministry.
We held our first event in December, ornament making. In my mind I thought I would help so many people that night but it ended up only one family came. God knows what we need. That family was the Baldwins. We would come to learn so much more from them.Scott and Kristina had lost their son Easton in February. They brought their two living sons to decorate ornaments for their tree that year. Easton was born premature and only lived three days. That little boy has accomplished more in that three days than most people do in their entire lives. He brought his father into the church and his family closer to God. He also influenced our ministry to grow much stronger.
Kristina joined Lisa and I in working towards our first Embrace Memorial and Healing Mass in May near Mother’s Day. I was so touched by the people who came to the mass. There were people who had been hurting for 50+ years who came for some healing. I think hearing your babies name read in the Church is one of the most beautiful sounds. As we went forward to light our three candles I knew I would see my babies again someday.
Our next event is the Embrace Remembrance and Healing Walk in October for Infant Loss Remembrance Day. We walk from our church St. Brigids to Immaculate Heart of Mary just 1.5 miles away. There Father Lastri has given use a piece of land for our Garden of Life. There we place tiles made by each family for thier baby and place them around the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. We were t-shirts that can be personalized to remember babies. We also release butterflies in the garden.
In 2016 we lost another baby Leal Jack and through losing him at home with help from Lisa, Ann Marie, and Dr. Golez we were able to bury him at St. Peter's cemetery in Fresno. The process of having a service and a resting place for Leah brought our family much peace. Embrace uses its funds to give any family who has a loss a small casket so they can bury their baby with dignity.
We hope to add one more event next year sometime that will be a retreat in Three Rivers. I know there are many people hurting who would love to just take a few days and think about what has happened and how to move on not by trying to forget but by remembering their babies throughout the rest of their lives.
My first loss was right after my husband and I were married. A baby we weren't expecting, and lost so soon that the world said it was just "chemical, nothing worth grieving." So we didn't. When we conceived our second child together, six months later, I knew God has spoken to me and said to try that month. We felt incredibly blessed. At almost 13 weeks we had a normal OB appointment, our girl's heartbeat strong on the Doppler. She left to be with the Lord the next day and I had a medically necessary D&C the day after that. The grief I felt almost drowned me. I struggled with my faith. My marriage was rocked to its core. Two months later, while still grieving our "Firefly," we conceived and lost our third child together, our third loss in 12 months.
I felt called to the Embrace ministry because I never want anyone to feel as alone as I felt after our loss. I needed to sit with someone who had walked the path before me, to feel safe expressing my feelings, knowing I wouldn't be judged. I was the first person in my family and circle of friends to experience miscarriage and many chose silence over support. While the grief never leaves, I know God has a purpose for my story and that my babies are more safe than they ever could be here on earth.
"To think, the first thing they saw when they open their eyes is the face of Jesus."