Miscarriage: A Secret Sorrow
by Virginia A. Johnson
“Ten, nine, eight . . . ,” recited the dispassionate voice.
What’s ahead for me? Could all this be a mistake? What if the baby . . . the baby. . . . The questions screamed inside me.
My frightened thoughts tried to hold on to something safe, trusting, and secure. “Seven, six . . . ,” the anesthesiologist continued to count down. Such professional calm was in jagged contrast to my stifling panic. Only yesterday afternoon I sat in the doctor’s office, hoping to hear that all was well with the baby.
“Five, four. . . .”
Suddenly my mind found its anchor. God? — a sincere heart’s cry.
I remembered that God was my support, that He was with me and would remain throughout this terrifying experience.
My whole being plunged into a black, mindless state. I didn’t hear the count reach zero. What events had brought me to this place?
All my life the word miscarriage had held no personal meaning. I’d known few women who had “lost” a baby. Seldom did anyone mention when a woman miscarried but rather acted as though nothing had happened. I assumed that a miscarriage during pregnancy, though sad, rarely occurred. Certainly nothing like that would ever happen to me.
Nice tidy thoughts — until the day I had to decide about my unborn child.
Approaching thirty, I was pregnant again. My husband and I wanted this baby. This was to be the final child, the child to round out our family. My first pregnancy had complications but resulted in a surprise set of healthy twin girls. My husband and I quickly adjusted to two babies instead of one. We loved children and felt it was God’s will to have another child.
This second pregnancy progressed smoothly. To counteract my continual nausea, my doctor (at my request) gave me a “safe” anti-nausea drug. In common use then, the drug cured my nausea, and I resumed a full load of activities. Gardening, preserving food, housework, a trip to Southern California, and children made me push myself to the edge.
Just keep going; the work must get done, I constantly told myself. I was both proud of my ability to work hard and scornful when other pregnant women “took it easy.”
In my fourth month of pregnancy, I started bleeding vaginally. My doctor advised me to not worry, take it easy, lay down a lot so the bleeding would stop. Not easy to do with three-year-old twins.
But the bleeding didn’t stop. My mother traveled 200 miles to be with me and to help out with the twins. When the doctor briefed me on what to expect if a spontaneous miscarriage occurred, I became frightened. This baby can’t die! I told myself.
Ordered by my doctor to lay down, I suddenly had plenty of time on my hands. Flat on my back I replayed events and activities that, despite exhaustion, I’d stubbornly finished. I thought of the unrelenting hard work I had let myself to do, like lifting heavy rocks. I thought of the massive doses of pain killer I’d taken for an injured neck and the anti-nausea drug. All of these unwise actions could have been deadly to the unborn child.
I unleashed a litany of self-rebuke: Why had I been so foolish? Why did I keep working, doing things no pregnant woman should do? Now look at the cost of my pride. Guilt swiftly slid inside the edges of my mind.
At the end of three weeks of almost continuous, mild bleeding, the doctor tested my hormonal level twice to determine if the fetus had died. The readings indicated that my uterus probably contained a dead baby.
There was an additional complication: My body wouldn’t voluntarily flush out the dead tissue. Like a mother tree unwilling to release her fruit, my body wouldn’t release the tiny infant.
A painful decision
I sat in the doctor’s office as if in a dream. My doctor thought the dead infant should be surgically removed as soon as possible. Hearing him tell the staff to phone the hospital for emergency surgery the next morning shocked me out of my fog. This “person” being booked for immediate surgery was me!
A horrible fear gripped me. “What if the baby is still alive?” I asked the doctor. “We’d be killing the baby. I can’t do this!”
My doctor didn’t believe in abortion. He patiently reviewed the facts. Due to the prolonged bleeding, the baby was dying, if not already dead. The tests had supported the medical assessment. However, for some reason my body would not spontaneously release the dead baby. The doctor had methodically and carefully considered these things and expressed his concern for me. He advised that if the surgery didn’t occur immediately, an infection could set in with serious consequences. I could refuse the surgery and continue to wait, hoping my body would naturally flush out the “tissue.” Or I could trust the doctor’s judgment.
I decided on the surgery. I knew this was the only real decision I could make. Grief now joined fear and guilt.
After surgery the pathologist’s report came back. The fetus had died some time earlier and was so decomposed, the sex of the child couldn’t be determined. My fear that we were accidentally killing a live baby quietly slipped away.
What was not stilled was my swirling, turbulent grief, self-guilt, and concern; my mind was not at peace. However, God wasn’t silent or inactive. He was busy using people to nudge me toward inner healing.
Noticing my false cheerfulness, my doctor gently confronted me about my lack of honesty. He encouraged me to feel sad about this death. His advice forced me to begin facing my loss.
A close friend wrote me a beautiful, comforting letter. She urged me to believe that this miscarriage was the loss of a real child and that the only healthy course was to express grief. I must acknowledge this child’s life, however brief.
Women friends, neighbors, and even relatives quietly shared with me that they too had miscarried. They had been devastated but moved on with their lives.
My husband, despite his loss and sadness, loved and supported me. We helped each other maintain our mutual hope and trust in God’s wisdom and goodness.
But what about my feelings of guilt from not wisely taking care myself, possibly causing the baby’s death? What did God have to say?
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Like the first fall rain, the tears came, cleansing my guilt. Grief didn’t entirely disappear but was slowly bleached to insignificance by Jesus’ healing love.
Precious to God
I also had a real concern for the soul of this baby. Was this a real child or just a clump of human tissue? Did it have a living soul, recognized by God in eternity? Would we see each other in the resurrection?
At first I could find no answers to these disturbing questions — even from my compassionate pastor. But soon I found what the Bible said about this child and all unborn children. David, one of the writers of the Psalms, wrote:
For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).
I realized each unborn baby, no matter how tiny or large, is a real person to God. That child’s length of life is known by God even before creation.
Will we see our little one again? I trust we will, because unborn infants also are souls before God. Christ, my salvation and redeemer, has paid the price for this one to have eternal life as well.
The comfort of God
In the few seconds before the surgery’s anesthesia took effect, my choice was to grab hold of God. Did I know what all that meant? Would God keep me from walking through this valley of pain and grief?
The answer to both questions was “no.” God didn’t remove me from the situation or answer all my questions, but He didn’t leave me either. I am a living example of this promise: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
Through the comfort of others, God showed His love and concern. It is enough to know that someday I will see this baby again and that the unanswered questions won’t matter anymore.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New King James Version.