After unexpectedly selling her business, Aline Poulin ended up with a nice sum of money that could have taken her on an extended cruise, or made a comfortable nest egg. But the pro-life advocate from Waterville, Maine, held on to the windfall while she pondered what to do next.
“I was at a pro-life rally one fall day,” she recalled, “when someone pointed out a woman who had recently miscarried a child and who trusted me enough to share her struggle in obtaining the remains of her child with me. Her story moved me to use the savings from the sale of my small business to begin a foundation that would spare other women from going through the same experiences. She had had a miscarriage and woke up in the hospital after a D&C and was holding an envelope that contained care instructions and information about grieving. It wasn’t until she was home that she realized she was missing something, and that it was her child.”
It took her three days, multiple calls and going through different chains of command for her to obtain her child’s remains. The reality of the story is not unlike that of all women who miscarry a child up to 19 weeks of the gestational period; it is taken to the lab for testing then taken along with medical waste to be incinerated and dumped into a landfill. But this mother’s determination ended with her being able to have her child cremated and its cremains are now with her.
“When I found out these babies were going to landfills, I was dumbfounded,” Aline said. “And I knew this was my next calling.” It has since become her passion.
Aline will be on Priests for Life’s “Gospel of Life” show on Radio Maria on Tuesday, July 10, to talk about her ministry, Precious Innocents, with Father Frank Pavone, national director. The show begins at 6 p.m. and can be heard online at http://radiomaria.us.
Aline’s friends in her prayer group came up with the name Precious Innocents, and her granddaughter designed the logo. Her mission seems simple enough: She wants hospitals to release the bodies of the miscarried babies to their parents so they can be cremated and have their ashes interred. She hired a lawyer and an accountant, and when she had everything set up, she accepted the invitation of a minister to speak to his congregation.
“I knew that the subject matter brings a lot of hurt to many women because they had no idea what was happening to their children,” Aline said. But by the end of her talk, she had 20 people willing to volunteer.
With the help of her prayer group, she began making up packets to be presented to the parents of a miscarried child. The packets hold a shroud that would fit a baby up to 19 weeks; a seed packet of Forget-Me-Nots, donated by a seed company; a lapel pin with a replica of baby feet at 10 weeks for dads; an angel on a charm bracelet for moms; a pamphlet on her ministry and how it can help grieving parents, and a bookmark with a poem.
Then using the expertise she gained as a contracting officer for the federal government, she solicited bids from cremation services to see how much they would charge to pick up a baby’s remains, cremate them and return the ashes to the parents. Bids came in ranging from $50 to $1,300 to provide the service for one child. Then she got a phone call from Victor Tessari, owner of Staples Funeral Home in Gardiner, Maine, with a very welcome message: He would do it for no charge.
Her next hurdle was to purchase a plot of land in a cemetery where the ashes would be buried. She asked the Diocese of Portland to help and six months ago found out that they had donated the use of land for her Precious Innocents.
The final barrier is to get local hospitals to change their protocol and to adopt new measures to educate and promote awareness and options for a dignified end-of-life service for a child lost through miscarriage.
“Accepting our ministry into the hospitals has hit many roadblocks but has recently been allowed, as long as the mother is aware of our ministry,”Aline said. “Requests by the parents will initiate a phone call to Precious Innocents, and we will arrive at the hospital and explain our services to the mother.”
“It hasn’t happened yet,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking, but I’m ready to tackle anyone. I have to. I know that God is pushing me.”
Certainly she has been pushed beyond her comfort zone. Aline used to be uncomfortable speaking to groups, in part because she has Parkinson’s disease and it can be hard to hold a microphone. Now she’ll go anywhere and speak to anyone about the tragedy of 500,000 babies being thrown out with medical waste every year.
“I am not going to stop until I take my last breath,” vowed the devout Catholic who attends Mass daily.
In her prayer group, the conversation sometimes centers around Father Pavone and one of his books or something he has written in an article. When his name came up recently, Aline decided to ask for his help in spreading the word about Precious Innocents.
“I wrote to him,” she said, “and he responded!” Father Pavone promised to help her tell her story through his vast social media presence and invited her to join him on the radio.
“None of this has come about without God’s assistance and a lot of prayers,” Aline said. “All these babies’ voices will now be heard.
“Our goal is to expand our ministry wherever it is requested. We are established, have the experience of anticipating the hurdles to expect, have the materials to set up chapters of Precious Innocents nationwide if God wants it to happen.”
Aline said donations to the ministry are always welcomed and that she or others are always available to make presentations about their mission to give unborn children lost to abortion the dignified burial they deserve.