Miscarriage & Pregnancy Loss: Your Anguish is Worthy of Tears
Hannah cried. She wept. Month after month. Year after year. Weeping. Sobbing. Tears spilled from her eyes. She couldn’t eat; her appetite vanished. Her heart grieved. The life-giving part of her body: her womb-was closed.
Elkanah, her husband didn’t understand her suffering. What’s the matter, Hannah? Why aren’t you eating?” (Samuel 1:8) He continually questioned why she was so sad and why she couldn’t eat. He didn’t understand the yearning that couldn’t be quenched.
A mother. That is what Hannah wanted more than anything to be. Although her husband dotted on her and loved her, his culture dictated that he must marry another woman so that he could have a family. Hannah was unable to provide children, so he took an additional wife. Humiliating. Shame. Jealousy. Then, as if her bareness was not punishment enough, as if seeing her husband’s new wife give birth after birth to precious babies was not anguish enough, the new wife provoked Hannah. She made fun of her and relentlessly teased her. But Peninnah made fun of Hannah because the Lord had closed her womb (1 Samuel 1:6).
Sweet, sweet Hannah-whose heart was already in such despair was now beyond tormented. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10) No wonder she couldn’t eat. She cried out to God for help. Psalms 13:12 tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Hannah had a sick heart; her longing for a baby to cradle in her arms had not yet been fulfilled.
Her story is like so many of ours. Those of us who have had miscarriages, late-term loss, or battled infertility can understand the longing of Hannah. Just like Hannah our hearts have ached, our lives have changed, and we find that others don’t quite understand our pain. Sweet Hannah, who lived over 900 years before Christ, could probably sit with us and cry over a cup of tea as we recount our stories. I imagine we would have much in common with this female biblical great-who at one time was full of great anguish and sorrow, but after many years of longing was able to give birth to a child and praised God saying My heart rejoices in the Lord! Oh, how the Lord has blessed me! (Samuel 2:1).
I cried, too. The disease of infertility was not my reason for sadness; I instead struggled with two miscarriages that occurred within three months of each other. Miscarriage is common. At least 15% to 20% of all known pregnancies end in the loss of an unborn child before 20 weeks. Miscarriage is the number one pregnancy complication. Contrary to popular belief that a miscarriage is the effect of stress, heavy lifting, or something one controls such as caffeine consumption- a miscarriage is most often the effect of a chromosomal abnormality. Jenny, one of the brave women who shared her story with me, described a miscarriage as a life that was lost. Even though I never held those babies they were mine and I acknowledge them. Over one million women in the United States have a miscarriage each year. Although it’s widespread, miscarriage is a life event often shrouded in secrecy, seeped in misinformation, and brings much sadness to a family.
After my miscarriages I, like many other women, vacillated between periods of depression and anxiety. Women are at an increased risk of these two psychological disorders after pregnancy loss. I mourned the loss of two babies that I wanted to hold, embrace, and comfort. I felt guilty- as if I were solely to blame for not being able to bring my child to term and then I felt intense confusion over whether or not I had the right to feel sad. Un-desired pregnancy loss is greatly minimized, but yet the sanctity of life is celebrated in our Christian communities. People would tritely say, “well you can always try again” but I was mourning the loss of a specific baby- a baby whose life began at conception.
Some women who shared their stories with me, such as Lynda- a devoted Christian- tried for years and years to have a baby. Following Lynda’s diagnosis and struggle with infertility, she had two miscarriages. Lynda wrongly thought, God must not want me to have a child. I must not be good enough to be a mom. Each day, for four years, Lynda would fall to her knees, cry tears, and beg God for a child. Throughout her turmoil she put her faith in the Lord and realized that he had a specific story for her life. For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order (Samuel 2: 8).
Reading the account of Hannah in Samuel 1, and seeing how much space is devoted in the bible to chronicle Hannah’s sadness over not being able to provide a child for herself and her husband offered me relief and gave me permission to grieve. The verses showed me that God recognizes this unmet longing for a child as a reason worthy of tears and anguish. Hannah’s despair is featured in the bible. To me, this makes our sadness authenticated, makes it real, and gives us permission to grieve. It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to cry.
Over the course of a year, 30 women, of varying ages, have shared with me their miscarriage stories. They are stories of loss and longing and of hope and comfort. These strong women have shared how they trusted in God through this period of mayhem in their lives. Trusting in God doesn’t mean they didn’t mourn- oh they did mourn and continue to mourn the loss of a loved baby. Debra says of having a miscarriage, those were the darkest times of my life and my marriage.
But, their common sanctuary is that they struggled with the turmoil by reminding themselves that God is in control; they prayed for the peace that passes understanding. These women are prayerful that by sharing their stories you can be comforted.
The book I am writing is to walk you through our collective experiences with our miscarriages and in some situations- our late term losses. It is filled with narratives where you can read how we coped and how we felt the days, weeks, and years after our losses. Alix says that after her miscarriage it felt like nobody cared. Grace says that I felt so alone when I had my miscarriage. The book is to make you to understand that we care and that you are not alone. We are your sisters in Christ and we have felt pain similar you are now experiencing. Researchers say “grief reactions to miscarriage are common and similar in intensity to grief following other types of losses” (Brier, 460). Throughout the book we will invite you to mourn with us, as we mourn with you. As God’s followers we are called upon to rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Likewise, we hope that you soon find joy and peace. Sadness, anger, and anguish are the season of life you are now in, but please remember, “that though weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalms 30:5). Though it may not seem possible now, please remember that the American College of Gynecology (2010) says, “most women who have gone through a miscarriage later go on to have, healthy, successful pregnancies.”
Loved Baby Journal Prompts:
Read Samuel 1. Underline the words in the chapter that describe how you feel. For example, 1 Samuel 1:10 says, “In her deep anguish” Do you feel anguish? Have you “poured out your soul to the Lord? (1 Samuel 1:13). Look back over the words you have underlined. Isn’t it remarkable how grief and sadness over an unborn child are universal feelings that transcend time?
Give yourself permission to pour out your soul to God. The priest, who watched Hannah cry, thought she was drunk she was so distraught. It’s okay to be distraught. Grief must be grieved.
Re-read Samuel 1: 5. The bible says that Elkanah loved Hannah even though her womb was closed. God doesn’t love us any less if we don’t have children. Don’t love yourself less. Likewise, your spouse doesn’t love you any less if you didn’t bear forth a child. Don’t mistake disappointment for lack of love. Invite your spouse or a trusted confidant to read Samuel 1 with you so they can better understand the thoughts that are permeating your mind. Mourn together.
Best wishes & Much love,
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“Loved Baby: Helping you Survive the Silent Turmoil of Miscarriage”