Article May 5, 2016

Mother's Day and miscarriages: An interview with Jessalyn Hutto

My first pregnancy didn’t end the way I would have hoped or desired. I entered the doctor’s office, prepared to hear the heartbeat of my growing child, only to be told that our child had stopped growing, and there was no heartbeat to be found. That was a devastating day. What I couldn’t have been prepared for at that time was that I would experience the pain of miscarriage three additional times. After having four miscarriages, I understand that Mother’s Day may be a painful experience for many women.

Author and blogger, Jessalyn Hutto, also understands the pain of miscarriage and has written a book to help encourage the faith of those who have experienced it. In this interview, she gives insight for how she’s cared for others, encouragement to those struggling and wisdom for how we can remember those mothers who have lost their children.

Trillia Newbell: You have, unfortunately, endured miscarriages. Could you tell us about that?

Jessalyn Hutto: My husband and I have lost two children through miscarriage. Our first pregnancy (in 2008) ended in an early miscarriage at eight weeks gestation, and a second miscarriage (a late miscarriage at 17 weeks gestation) took the life of our fourth baby in 2011.

TN: What made you decide to write about your experience in Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb?

JH: I began blogging about miscarriage shortly after we lost our daughter, Anastasia. At that point, we had been blessed with two darling little boys, but had also endured the painful loss of two babies in the womb. It had become obvious that healthy, uneventful pregnancies were not things that I could take for granted. Having a deep passion for theology and how it applies to my everyday life, I began writing about my own struggle to trust God in the midst of such great loss, and most specifically, how to trust him with the possibility of losing more babies in the future. My hope was that these posts would bless other women out there who were experiencing similar trials—women who were forced to deal with their view of God’s sovereignty and goodness in the midst of such terrible providences.

Time and time again, women would write in to me, explaining that they had stumbled upon my blog as they were searching for hope in the midst of their miscarriages. Of course, in a sense, the popularity of these posts did not surprise me. After losing babies myself, I became aware of the startling frequency at which miscarriages occur among women. It seemed as though everywhere I looked, women were suffering from the pain of losing their unborn babies, infertility and even stillbirths.

What did surprise me, however, was the silence that seemed to surround these topics on the part of the church. Rarely were these particular tragedies—which are so strikingly common—being addressed by pastors or women’s ministries. Suffering women simply were not getting the biblical counsel they desperately need. Instead, as they suffered in isolation, they would often turn to the internet for answers and comfort. But much of what they would find there focused on the emotional aspects of losing a baby rather than on how the truth of God’s Word applied to their loss. They were receiving empathy from the articles they were reading, but not necessarily the hope that could be found in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rather than being put off by the theological explanations I was offering on my blog, women were being encouraged and finding greater peace in the midst of their suffering. I became convinced that the church was in desperate need of a theologically driven—yet at the same time sensitive—work on the topic of miscarriage, both for the women who suffer and for those who desire to minister well to them. When Cruciform offered me that exact opportunity, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

TN: Miscarriage seems more common than we think. Have you found this to be true?

JH: One of the greatest blessings God has given to me as a result of my miscarriages has been the opportunity to minister to the many women who are called to walk through this same terrible trial. Because of my own experiences of loss, I’ve had the privilege of being allowed to grieve alongside dear friends, church members and even family as they’ve had to walk the same path of suffering. In fact, while I was in the process of writing Inheritance of Tears, three of my close friends were affected by miscarriage. Truthfully, it seems that with this particular trial there are always opportunities to share the hope of the gospel with those who are suffering. Miscarriages are common, and the women who suffer from them need their friends and family members to be equipped to serve them in their time of need.

TN: Do you find that many women have a difficult time talking about their experience?

JH: Yes and no. In a sense, miscarriage is a very intimate topic and therefore, one that is difficult to speak about. It can be hard for a woman to express the debilitating grief she feels for the death of her child when the ones seeking to comfort her may not have even known that the child existed. Often, you have to inform others about your baby’s existence as you simultaneously inform them about his or her death. This can be a very difficult thing to do.

Women can also find it hard to share with others how deeply they are impacted by the loss of their unborn children. Because of the “invisible” nature of her loss to the outside world, a woman who miscarries can be tempted to feel guilty for making such a big deal about it. While others may think that she is healing and coping well after her loss, in reality she may still be experiencing profound grief and even depression. Often these women are tempted to feel guilty or ashamed for bringing up their continuing pain, assuming that others don’t want to hear about her ongoing struggle.

In reality, however, I believe that women who suffer from miscarriage are desperate for a kind, listening ear. They long to be able to have their loss validated by someone who will recognize their miscarriage for what it truly is: the death of a child. Having someone who will do that, and then walk alongside them in their grief as they seek to trust the Lord with such a difficult providence, is an incredible gift.

TN: You have kids now. How did you fight the temptation to fear another loss once you were pregnant again?

JH: We have been incredibly blessed to have four children (three boys and one girl). With each of their pregnancies, I encountered the debilitating fear of losing them. Having experienced a miscarriage with my first pregnancy, I knew with great clarity just how fragile each of the tiny lives I carried within my womb were. Then, after miscarrying again in the second trimester (the point in your pregnancy when everything is “supposed” to be smooth sailing), I was confronted with the complete unpredictability of God’s providence.

Each and every time I carried a child within me, I had to make a conscious decision to submit myself to his will, no matter what that would be. This does not mean that I did not fear. To the contrary: this was a huge struggle for me, especially after our second trimester miscarriage. But the Lord was gracious to me during those times, teaching me to be open with him about my fears (as though he couldn’t see them already!), confessing them and asking him to replace them with the faith to trust his goodness, even when I did not understand his purposes.

I also found Jesus to be all the sweeter to me in those moments (days and weeks, even!) of fear. I experienced great comfort in recounting the terrible moments our Savior spent in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. There in the garden, Jesus sweat great droplets of blood at the mere thought of the tortures before him. He even asked his Father to remove the cup of suffering he was sent to endure, but in the end submitted himself to his Father’s perfect will. This account from God’s Word was a continual reminder of his ability to tenderly care for me in my moments of fear. He knew the struggle I was going through; he knew what it was like to dread the next day.

What a glorious blessing to know that the one who created the heavens and the earth understood the complicated emotions surging through me. What an example I had in him as I sought to submit myself to my heavenly Father’s will—whether that meant a healthy pregnancy or another miscarriage.

TN: There’s an unexpected gift in trials—we get to comfort with the comfort we’ve received. If you were sitting across the table from a woman who has just experienced a miscarriage, how might you comfort her?

JH: Initially, the most important thing I want to convey to a woman who has miscarried is that her pain has merit. What I mean by this is that I want her to know that what has happened to her truly is as terrible as it feels. I don’t want her to feel burdened to “get over” her loss quickly simply because it is hard for those around her to understand. She has lost a child—death has robbed her of one of the sweetest gifts we can experience in this life! —and that is worth mourning. The pain she is experiencing is justified, and I want her to know that I am willing to walk through those dark valleys with her.

However, we will not do that without hope, because even in the valley of death, we have a good Shepherd, who loves us and cares for us. This good Shepherd sacrificed his life for us, so that such terrible experiences of suffering, like miscarriage, would one day be done away with. Through his substitutionary death on the cross and victorious resurrection, we are assured of a day when pain and suffering will be no more.

Because of this wonderful truth, I will never be afraid to acknowledge the real and deep suffering a woman encounters when she miscarries, but I will also confidently and joyfully point her to the One who came to earth to wage war against the root of all her suffering: sin. He came and he conquered. Hallelujah!

TN: How might you comfort a woman who has experienced several miscarriages?

JH: I think the most important thing to remember when ministering to a woman who continues to struggle with miscarriages and/or infertility is to not forget about her. It can be so easy to become numb to her pain when you are not the one experiencing it—especially when it continues to happen time and again.

Each miscarriage must be treated with the same gravity as the first, and there must be an understanding of the emotional trauma that is building in her soul each time she loses a child or the pregnancy test comes back negative. It isn’t routine for her; it is heart breaking, each and every time. She needs your constant support and prayers.

In a similar vein, I would add that there is a great temptation to become fearful for a woman when she has miscarried several times and then becomes pregnant again. This is completely understandable because it is a scary thing to know how fragile the gift of pregnancy is. However, you must endeavor to be joyful with her when she becomes pregnant, welcoming the new life as you would any other child, praying for his or her safety, and caring for her as she develops the usual pregnancy symptoms. She needs to know that people love her children and do not feel as though she is burdening them when she announces each new pregnancy.

It is not wrong to acknowledge the very real “risk” of miscarriage. In fact, it is good to understand the fears that are surely surging through her heart. Acknowledge them and pray for courage, but at the same time offer thanks to God with her, for the new life blossoming within her womb. Be the person she looks forward to sharing the news with every time because she knows you will be happy for her.

TN: What are ways that we can encourage and comfort husbands who endure this trial?

JH: I think it is important to understand that husbands are in a very difficult position when their wives miscarry. They, too, experience intense grief when their babies die, but at the same time, they know that their wives are grappling with the loss on a whole other level. These men need to grieve themselves, but are simultaneously seeking to comfort their distraught wives. They need good, faithful friends who will walk alongside them, check in on them consistently, pray with them and simply listen to them as they grapple with the deep emotions and questions they are confronted with at the loss of their children.

God gives us a call to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We have an opportunity this week to rightly rejoice with those mothers who serve their children day and night. Let us also remember the ones who long for the day they will get to hold a child and call them their own. This Mother’s Day, let’s appropriately rejoice with all mothers while also remembering the ones who have lost their children.