Apr 23, 2014

Ministering to Miscarriage

By Ruth Meyer

“I’m bleeding,” I wrote in my journal six years ago.  Those two simple words carried with them a world of pain and sadness.  I wasn’t writing about a cut on my hand.  No, this was a wound that wouldn’t heal so quickly or neatly.  You see, I was pregnant.  Well, at least I had been pregnant.  I wasn’t really sure what to say anymore since the bleeding had started.  This wasn’t just a bit of spotting, either.  I knew right away what was happening, but I couldn’t even bear to write the word: miscarriage.

 Few things are more personal and more devastating to a woman than to suffer through a miscarriage. It is typical for a woman who has had a miscarriage to feel keenly a sense of failure.  After all, it was her body that somehow “caused” it.  What had she done wrong?  Let me first tell you this, dear one: miscarriage is NOT your fault.  I know your head knows that, but making the heart believe it is something else entirely.  "Yes, but it's my body," you might say.  "There must be something wrong with my womb.  If only I'd..."  And that's a dangerous path to go down, my friend.  Trust me, I've been down that path myself.  The fact is that there are a lot of early miscarriages for no apparent reason.  It's the result of living in a fallen world.  The harsh realities of sin are ugly and far-reaching.  This is not a punishment for some secret bad thing you've said or done, nor is it an indicator of some failing on your part or your body's part.  Because of the Fall, we all have to live daily with the reminder that life here will never be perfect.  It makes the promise of heaven that much sweeter to the Christian.

Next, please be assured that you are not alone.  I didn't realize until I had my miscarriage how frequent early miscarriages are.  When the topic was brought up at one of our MOPS meetings recently, over half of us indicated we had suffered at least one ourselves.  It's amazing to know how many women have experienced them.  And honestly, the number is probably higher, because for those women who have erratic periods and didn't think to take a pregnancy test, they may well have had a miscarriage without ever knowing they were pregnant.  They may have thought it was just a late period.  Does it make it easier to know it is so common?  No.  But it does give the knowledge that you are not alone in this.  There are other women out there who can support you through this.

So how do we deal emotionally with a miscarriage?  In my efforts to find comfort I looked for information on the internet about causes, support groups, etc.  What I found was quite unhelpful; calloused, even.  There seems to be a general sense out there that if you lose a child early on (first trimester), it isn't all that big a deal.  "Well," people tend to think, "at least it wasn't when you were 8 months along."  Physically speaking, yes.  That would be horrible, because it wouldn't just be a period to deal with.  But emotionally?  A life is a life no matter what stage of pregnancy!  That baby had a soul from conception, so those questions of "now what?" arise to trouble the Christian conscience.  Allow me to share some things that helped me deal with my pain.  Though it might sound counterintuitive, don't try to push your pain away.  Live through it.  It's painful and horrible, but pour out your feelings to God.  Yell at Him if you have to.  He knows how you're feeling anyhow, so why not be honest?  Don't try to fake pious platitudes of how "God knows best" and "He has His reasons."  Yes, those are true, but they aren't helpful in dealing with your raw emotions right now.  Read Psalm 13 and wrestle through the same questions David asks at the beginning of it.  Acknowledge your feelings and don't feel guilty about being angry, sad, or whatever.  Be honest with yourself and with God as to how you're feeling, and don't let others tell you how you "should" respond.

What about dealing with other people?  Depending on how far along you were and how many people know about it, you may have many or only a few people reach out to you at this time.  But something I found in Reader's Digest, of all things, helped me keep things in perspective.  An article they once ran on loss said, in effect, that people will say all sorts of things and give all sorts of advice to you, and much of it is unhelpful or even hurtful.  Just know that they mean well and are doing their best (even though it may seem otherwise!) to give you comfort.  Remember that they care about you and are showing their support, even if what they say falls short.  (And along these same lines, if you haven’t experienced a miscarriage yourself, please do check out this article, Why Miscarriage Matters if You’re Pro-Life by Rachel Lewis.  I found this to be a very helpful and well-articulated article.  It’s well worth the read.)

One important relationship to consider at this point is that with your husband.  Believe it or not, I actually got a little resentful at my husband because it seemed like he wasn't as affected or as upset as I thought he should be, and that made me mad!  I wanted him to show he cared, that he was grieving too.  He is not by nature an overly demonstrative person, but I wanted him to be in this case.  It wasn't until we had a little memorial service and he started to choke up that I knew how much this had hurt him as well.  We were finally able to be open with each other, and it was very therapeutic.  But it taught me an important lesson as well.  Different people handle grief differently.  Just because my husband wasn't dealing with it the same way I was didn't make his way wrong or bad.  Be honest with each other.  Tell your husband what you're feeling and let him tell you how he's coping with it too.  At this point, you need to be on each other's side, supporting each other unconditionally.

A miscarriage, as any pregnancy, will change your life in ways that are impossible to measure. Literally. I don't say that to sound flippant or overly dramatic, but consider this.  If I hadn't miscarried when I did, I certainly would not have gotten pregnant three months later with my now five-year old.  I would have had that baby instead.  And likely if I had carried that baby to full term the spacing would have been different between him or her and the next baby, so our youngest as we know her probably wouldn't be here either.  And here's where we can't think too much about it.  We are human.  We cannot presume to give answers from God.  Am I "glad" for my miscarriage, knowing that otherwise my two youngest wouldn't be here?  I really can't answer that.  It's dangerous territory.  All I can say is that God is God and He provides for His children even out of a bad situation.  Out of grief and loss He gives healing and new life.  That is the Gospel.  Out of our own spiritual death He granted us eternal life in His Son.  We don't understand His ways, and that's a good thing.  It keeps us from trusting too much in our own wisdom and points us instead to Him.

I've saved the best for last, dear one. The single most helpful thing for me in my healing journey when I miscarried was something my husband told me. As I mentioned above, we had our own memorial service for our baby, in which we read Scripture and prayed and cried a whole lot. My husband gave a little "homily," and he told me that even at that early phase, before the ears were formed on our baby, that child was exposed to and "heard" the Word of God. He or she was present in church with me, listened to the Bible stories we read our older kids, heard the hymns we sang and the confession of faith in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. Although with man this seems impossible, the power of the Word of God is that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) That baby heard the all-powerful, ever-living Word of God. The Holy Spirit is not confined to working faith in hearts of babies who are out of the womb. Yes, we grieve and struggle with the question of what happens to the soul that dies before baptism, and ultimately we cannot answer that question with 100% authority, but we entrust the child's soul to the mercy of a gracious God, knowing that the Holy Spirit can work through the Word to bring life and salvation even to those in the womb.

Miscarriage is awful, no doubt about it.  Pour out your emotions to God, surround yourself with people who care, and work through the pain in your own way and in your own time.  I pray that God grant you the strength and peace that only He can give, dear sister in Christ.


***

Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  She also loves to write, and has a children's book set to be published through CPH this fall.  Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

Title Image:  "The Cross Beside the Baltic" by Caspar David Friedrich, 1815

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