The Silent Suffering of Miscarriage

There was an eerie stillness in the exam room as the technician and doctor firmly moved the ultrasound transducer against my distended abdomen.  The duo pressed and prodded before exchanging a knowing look.  The doctor gently told me to get dressed Paton in Dumfries and Torthorwald (40) and that they would get my husband who was in the waiting room.

This is no longer a viable pregnancy

 “I’m so sorry but we can’t find the baby’s heartbeat. This is no longer a viable pregnancy.”  Surely this doctor was mistaken.  Wasn’t this the little boy we had prayed and hoped for?

But deep in my soul I knew.  I was 20 weeks into my pregnancy but something seemed wrong; I had not felt the little fluttering movements of the baby for several days now.

Like countless other women before and after me, I had suffered a miscarriage.

I was sent home for a few days to see if my body would expel the baby on its own, but it didn’t.  I was not given the choice of delivering the baby but was scheduled for a D & C.  God must have blocked my understanding of what that involved for it wasn’t until years later, when the sorrow was less acute, that I understood that I could have delivered the baby and maybe even held him.

Silent suffering of miscarriage

A number of friends and family have recently miscarried.  In my child-bearing years miscarriage was a topic people rarely spoke about.  A woman’s suffering was silent and personal and few dared to cross those barriers to speak with her about her loss.

But I was blessed.  My miscarriage occurred when another family was spending a few days with us.  The wife had suffered both miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.  She shared her grief and experiences and allowed me to share mine.  She encouraged me with kindness, sympathy, prayer and with scriptures that had helped her.

A dear friend and sister in Christ lost a daughter halfway through the pregnancy and twins later the same year.  I asked her if she would share with me things that were both helpful and not so helpful as people learned of her sorrow.  I have combined her suggestions with my own to hopefully give a few ways of ministering to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage.

Helpful things

  • Both my friend and I went to hospital alone; she delivered her daughter and I had a D & C.  I would have liked to have someone with me during that time.  I felt very alone and was still coming to grips with my loss.
  • Ask if your friend she wants company.  Some will need a time of quiet reflection to grow accustomed to no longer being pregnant while others want someone there right away so they do not isolate themselves and mentally plunge into ‘a dark place.’
  • Remember we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do is hold your friend’s hand while she cries.
  • Reading the Psalms and crying as I read was therapeutic for me.  Gentle hymns playing quietly in the background helped keep my mind fixed on eternal things.
  • The book Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur is a good resource for those who lose a child through miscarriage or untimely death.  In 1 Samuel 12 King David says that he will go to his child who died.  We understand that to mean that young children go to heaven when they die and we will meet them there someday.
  • Offer to take any older children overnight so the couple can spend some time grieving together.
  • Give your friend a journal so she can record her thoughts, prayers, poems, and comforting Scriptures and hymns as she progresses through the grieving process.
  • Just because someone is a strong Christian doesn’t mean there is no pain.  We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.
  • Remember that it takes time for the woman to return to her pre-pregnancy hormones.  Tears, sadness (but not suicidal thoughts,) extra sensitivity and soreness may be expected as the hormones regulate.  Call your doctor and ask for help if there is concern about depression, prolonged discharge, or other signs that the body is not returning to normalcy or if you have any other medical concerns.
  • Send flowers, a card, an e-card, or a note expressing your genuine sorrow for the loss.
  • Prepare a meal and ask if you can bring it by today.   Or tell them you are thinking of them and you will be stopping by at a convenient time for them with their favorite coffee etc. Arrange for some friends to clean house or run errands if your friend is supposed to be on rest for a while.  When you stop by to leave something ask if they want company then.
  • Be careful when you remind your friend of Scriptural promises.  While it is true that all things do work together for good to them that love God, your use of this or similar scriptures can come across as trite or flippant if you are not careful.

Not-so-helpful things

  • Don’t assume that the wife is the only one who feels the pain of miscarriage. Husbands grieve over miscarriage too.  They may have had hopes or dreams for the little one or begun to plan for all that’s involved in adding another member to the family.  Men may or may not want to share how the miscarriage has impacted them, but it’s good to give them an opportunity to talk out it.
  • Don’t ignore the fact that the family has suffered loss.  Platitudes such as, “You’ll get over this.” “Cheer up! You’re young and can have more.” “You already have (blank) children so it doesn’t really matter.” “You should be over this by now.”  “Well that’s not so bad.  My sister (friend, mother, etc.) had something far worse happen to her!” “Whose fault was it, yours or your husband’s?” are NOT helpful and show an insensitive spirit.
  • Don’t say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”  Rarely does the person feel the liberty to take you upon such a vague offer.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s need for rest.  Don’t stay for an hour if she’s only up to a 10 minute visit.
  • Let the bereaved talk about the baby.  Use the baby’s name if the family had picked a name.  Don’t act as if the baby never existed.
  • Don’t take it personally if you learn the sad news from someone other than your friend.  This is not a popularity contest to see who gets the news first.  This is no time for hurt feelings, idle curiosity, or insensitive comments.

Gaping wounds and scars

Losing a child is like receiving a gaping wound.  At first the wound is swollen, red and tender.  You can barely touch it without pain.  Slowly the wound heals and is not as sensitive.  As time passes the pain of miscarriage subsides, but as with a wound, there will always be a scar to remind you of the painful experience.

It is well with my soul

I love the sentiment of my friend who has chosen to see the loving hand of God in the midst of her sorrow.  “The bottom line is that I’m so thankful that despite this (loss of three babies in a year) I can still have hope because of all that I have in Christ. It certainly doesn’t mean that there’s no pain. Quite the contrary is true… but it is well with my soul because I trust in His unwavering love and in His perfect plan for my life. In this world are many trials and tribulations but Christ has overcome the world. And praise God that I am in Him!!”

Being Before Doing

In my last post I shared that I had been struggling with physical problems which have caused some mental, emotional and spiritual Yard friend May 2013upheavals also.

Purifying and Refining Faith

I want to be clear:  this has not been a time of abandoning faith, or even doubting, but of purifying and refining…a type of clarifying borne through the instrument of pain and bringing me to a greater understanding of my own mortality.

Contrast Between Being and Doing

So what have I been learning?  The contrast between being and doing in my walk with God.

When you have been in ministry for a long time, it is easy to evaluate your worthiness by what you do.  That mental checklist of ways that you serve God, others and your community can be the measure of personal spirituality.

But as we all know, these ‘things’ can be done with absolutely no heart for God.  A poignant reminder of this type of ‘doing’ is illustrated in Matthew 7:22.  These people who have done many wonderful works are not even genuine believers!

‘Be’ Before ‘Do”

When the ability to ‘do’ much has been removed because of illness, we are forced to look at how important that aspect of our Christian lives really is.  Yes, it’s important to be doing what God directs us to do, but it’s most important to ‘be’ what God wants us to be BEFORE we do.

The most striking biblical example of this for me is the interaction of Christ with Mary and Martha.  Martha stayed busy preparing the meal while Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet listening to the Master.   Jesus commended Mary as taking care of the most important thing, even though what Martha was doing was necessary.

What Does It Mean to ‘Be’?

So what does it mean, practically, to ‘be’? It means taking time to read God’s Word and let the thoughts roll around in your mind throughout the day.  Sometimes in our weakened state we can only grasp a word or a phrase to meditate on throughout the day.  How much better it is to think about on of God’s attributes than focus on our own weakness!

Rehearsing hymn texts – the ones full of biblical doctrine – helps us to focus on the Lord throughout the day.  My childhood pastor used to distinguish between good doctrinal hymns and the 7-11 variety  – seven words repeated eleven times with no substance to the song!  I try and avoid the ‘junk food’ texts and fasten on the spiritually uplifting ones.

God has been teaching me that as long as I have mental capacity I can be praying – praying for peace, grace and contentment in my pain, praying for the needs and salvation of others, praying for God to strengthen and bless my family – and more.  I find as I go throughout the day that I comment to the Lord about situations and concerns much more than I used to.

Struggles Have Lead to Spiritual Growth

All of this is helping to grow me as a believer.  As Christians we have a relationship with a person – a personal relationship with Christ.  Sometimes in our busyness we can become robotic – dragging our eyeballs across the page as my former pastor’s wife used to say – in order to check off a list of spiritual duties.  Learning to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ has helped put those priorities in order.

Next time I’ll share more of what God has been teaching me through my struggles.