Article Jan 20, 2017

A pro-life ethic: Miscarriages and misconceptions

“I’m calling to confirm you are miscarrying. I’m so sorry. You’ll need to take it easy the next few days and rest. We’ll schedule an appointment…” It didn’t matter what she said after that. Miscarriage. Death. Bleeding. Rest. I was not prepared for this.

I remember the excitement we experienced when we finally found out we were expecting. Tears of joy, sweet embraces and smiles filled the next few days for us as we began to plan for the next 9 months and how to tell our families the good news. We were downright giddy, and rightfully so.

But the thrill of preparing to bring a child into this world was broken by a phone call. We were devastated. Thrown into a pit of grief, we struggled with telling people our news.

By God’s grace, we had brothers and sisters around us who were a great support system, who wept with us and chose to enter into grief with us. These people breathed life into our broken hearts and lived out what it means to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. I praise God for them.

Surprised by the depth of my own grief, I recognized a missing piece in our pro-life ethic, to which I was oblivious until I experienced it. Language that is often used in hopes of bringing comfort to a couple after miscarriage can instead belittle a couple’s grief and deny the reality of the human life that once existed.

I have painfully realized this disconnect between our advocacy for unborn life facing abortion and honoring life lost in miscarriage. A recent survey conducted by Care Net, a non-profit organization, says “more than 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended pregnancy.” Unfortunately, I was not surprised by this statistic.

To see firsthand the deep sense of grief miscarriage brings, even at five weeks in the womb, can testify to the genuine belief that these babies have inherent value. Whether facing abortion or the unfortunate peril of miscarriage, every human life is valuable. Had these women witnessed the church grieve the loss of babies in miscarriage, I wonder if they might have made different decisions.

Not unlike crisis pregnancies, there is often a sense of shame that accompanies miscarriage. Many people remain silent about their loss to avoid it. Even when I receive a response that trivializes my experience, I choose to be cautious, calculated and many times silent to spare myself the unintentional hurt. Particularly regarding grief, most people are inclined to say or do something to minimize it because it’s uncomfortable. This is not, however, the example that Christ sets for us. He is, indeed, our great High Priest who can sympathize with us in every way, because he was a man acquainted with sorrow.

Responses to grief that lack sensitivity and deny honoring the life God says is valuable can effectually be to a person like a muzzle to a dog — silencing.

One such response my husband and I heard often was this: “At least you didn’t lose the baby later in pregnancy or after birth.” It was so often said, even I began to say it, but I felt in the pit of my stomach a sense of betrayal to my child each time the words crossed my lips. There is something wrong with this statement. To accept it as truth somehow denied the reality of the existence and the value of this precious baby. A person’s worth does not change from conception to his or her final breath. The pain of loss may increase with the amount of time you know a person, but pain is never removed from loss.

Another common misconception people often have is the assumption that miscarriages only affect women. Men desire to be fathers. Men get excited about being daddies. Men grieve when their babies die. Men need to be comforted. Watching my husband grieve gave me a greater appreciation for him, for fathers and even for brothers who chose to grieve with my husband. To expect a man not to grieve the loss of his baby, no matter what stage of gestation, is to suggest this child is somehow unworthy of fatherly grief. Our Heavenly Father demonstrated grief so great over the brokenness of His image bearers that He sent His only Son to redeem us.

And yet, it is because the Father sacrificed the Son that we can breathe life and hope into the depths of grief. Here are some ways we can minister well to men and women grieving over miscarriages and promote a pro-life ethic:

  1. Weep with those who weep. Following the loss of a child, a couple needs brothers and sisters willing to get into the muddied trench that is grief.
  2. Affirm the life of the baby. Words matter, so choose them wisely.
  3. Grieve together. If your church corporately celebrates the birth of babies, consider corporately grieving the loss of babies in miscarriage.* I believe this will do three things:
  • It will allow the church body to enter into grief with these brothers and sisters.
  • It will be a testimony, to members and visitors alike, to the genuine belief that every human life is valuable.
  • It will open the door for the couple to be comforted by the church body, rather than left to manage their grief alone.

*In any case, be sensitive to a couple’s wishes. They may need time before sharing corporately.

Just as life is celebrated by births and adoptions throughout the year, honoring the lives of these babies and their parents after miscarriage should be part of the way we promote the sanctity of human life all year long.

The line is subtle, faint and perhaps unnoticeable at times. It is the hairline fracture of hypocrisy. We cannot protest abortion and demand to defund Planned Parenthood if we are unwilling to honor and acknowledge the lives of precious babies destroyed by the curse in miscarriage within our own church families. Christ says,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

By honoring babies who die in miscarriage and caring for their parents, we demonstrate a love that is a testimony to Christ, and we reinforce our pro-life beliefs that all human life is valuable because every person is created in God’s image.

Only by God’s grace and mercy can we carry out a pro-life ethic. May he grant us all the more!

This was originally published here.

ERLC2018