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Why we should change the way we speak about miscarriage

Recognizing the value of life during pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

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October 13, 2020

Sitting in the exam room, my heart was shattered by the news of my miscarriage. In an effort to bring comfort, the midwife declared, “You’ll have another baby!”

I didn’t want another child, I wanted this one. The one I’d carried for nine weeks and deeply loved.

Her words haunted me as I labored our baby in the hallway of our home that night. They whispered again and again as I went on to lose two more precious babies. 

Words reveal our beliefs

Since facing recurrent miscarriages, I’ve had the opportunity to encourage other women struggling with this loss. I’ve become familiar with the comments said to those who lose babies in the womb. These comments, spoken from loved ones, church friends, and even strangers are said to comfort the sufferer, but instead leave them feeling unseen in their grief. 

More heartbreakingly, when reading between the lines, we may find underlying misunderstandings about unborn children. It’s helpful to think through what we’ve said about miscarriage in order to comfort those around us and uphold the value of life.

At least . . . 

Spoken with good intentions, comments like “at least it was early” or “at least you can get pregnant” or “at least you have children,” not only belittle the pain of a woman facing miscarriage, but unknowingly challenge the value of life in the womb. 

Though everyone grieves differently, whether a woman loses her baby at five or 20 weeks, whether she has children or not, she lost her baby. A real person—an image-bearer of God. “At least” statements are rarely helpful. Instead, let’s say “I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby.” This acknowledges the pain of the mother and the valuable life of the child.

Another baby

Just as the midwife declared I’d have another baby, many women hear the same words spoken over them. Comments like this are unhelpful because they point the sufferer to fix her eyes on the gift rather than the Giver. It’s also hurtful to women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss or face infertility after losing their baby. It’s possible she may not have another child. More than that, it diminishes the value of the life that was lost. Babies aren’t band-aids. Babies don’t replace babies. 

Instead, let’s acknowledge the loss of their child and seek to gently point their eyes to Jesus. Let’s we weep with them over the loss of their unborn baby and as the Spirit leads, share the beautiful truth of how God is near to the broken-hearted—how in grief, he gives more of himself (Psa. 34:18; 147:3). Let’s remind them that he is their Good Shepherd, walking with them down this painful path that leads to greater joy (Psa. 23). 

God protected you

I recently asked women to share comments said to them by fellow believers regarding their miscarriage. One of the most common responses was this: “God was protecting you from a baby with a disability.” How heartbreaking.

Let’s learn a better, more compassionate way of approaching pregnancy loss for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the sake of the unborn.

Of all people, Christians should be advocating for the value of every life—including the lives of unborn babies with disabilities. Is it better that a mother would lose her baby rather than getting to know and kiss and raise her child with disabilities? What does this preach to the culture that advocates for the brutal abortion of disabled children? 

Every person, whether they have special needs or not, is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139:13-16).

The “12-Week Rule”

There’s a rule regarding pregnancy announcements that tells women to keep their pregnancy a secret until the greater risk of miscarriage passes. The purpose is to “protect” them from having to share the news of the death of their baby. 

The decision to share about your pregnancy or miscarriage is highly personal, and there isn’t a right answer. But telling a woman not to share further adds to the shame surrounding pregnancy loss. The death of a baby before 12 weeks is still the death of a baby. One that deserves to be rejoiced over and grieved as the image-bearer he or she is. 

What would it look like to unbelievers if instead of encouraging secrecy, more Christians rejoiced in a woman’s decision to share about the youngest of lives in the womb?

Cultural influences

I wonder how many of these things stem from how our culture champions abortion. As Christians, we would be wise to ponder whether or not the statements we make regarding babies lost in the womb line up with how God views them. 

Would he say, “at least it was early” or “I spared you from a child with disabilities”? Perish the thought! Every human life is a wonderful work of God, created to bring him glory, even the most fragile of lives.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psa. 139:13-14a ESV)

Grace for our lack of understanding

Before experiencing pregnancy loss, I misunderstood it. When a friend lost her baby I thought it was sad, but I viewed it as a loss of a dream, not her beloved child. I’m grieved at my indifference. Yet, there’s grace for those of us who have been insensitive or who haven’t upheld the value of the unborn as we should.

If you’re heartbroken over the way you’ve handled the suffering of your sisters in Christ or the way you’ve spoken of babies lost in the womb, bask in the grace of Christ. He’s taken upon himself all our sin and shame so that we don’t have to wallow in our mistakes (1 Pet. 2:24). 

For those who’ve been hurt by comments of others, I pray you would seek to have grace for them, with a heart of forgiveness (Col. 3:13).

Let’s learn a better, more compassionate way of approaching pregnancy loss for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the sake of the unborn.

Brittany Allen

Brittany Allen is a wife to James and a mother to Theo and three babies lost through miscarriage. She’s a writer, occasional speaker, and theology lover. You can read more of her writing on her blog at https://brittleeallen.com/. Read More by this Author