Grieving For A Person Who Was Never Born   Leave a comment

On Christmas morning, my wife Erica took a home pregnancy test which showed a positive result. A few days later her doctor confirmed that result: we were expecting a baby. A very much planned and hoped-for baby.

We had two weeks of great joy and excitement, and we fell deeply in love with the little life growing inside Erica. We imagined spending the rest of our lives with her (while we recognized there was no rationality to the assignment of gender, we both had a strong sense of her as female, so the pronoun stuck despite our initial attempts to avoid it).

We told only three people: each of our mothers, and Erica’s best friend. Our silence was largely because we’ve been taught that one doesn’t announce a pregnancy until at least a heartbeat has been heard, or until the first trimester has passed, because there is a significant risk of miscarriage before those milestones.

Which is exactly what happened. At about 6 weeks of pregnancy, there were some signs that potentially indicated miscarriage. Unfortunately, it took several days of tests and finally an ultrasound to confirm that the pregnancy that had been was no more.

Two weeks of pure joy, one week of agonized uncertainty, and then deep grief.

In time, we will try again, and all medical signs indicate we can hope for another pregnancy—God willing, one brought to full term. But we are mourning the uniqueness of this child—one who will never be replicated. God willing, we will have other children who are happy and healthy and deeply beloved. But they won’t be this child.

Even now, a couple of weeks into our grief, we have found moments of being excited by the possibilities of the next pregnancy—only to find ourselves in tears again for the lost first.

At the births of each of my nieces and nephews, I’ve been struck by the thought that here is a new life—previously non-existent—who is suddenly one of the most important people in my life. A child who will from now on be present at every family gathering, appear in every family picture.

The miscarried baby is something different: a child who never got to appear in those photos or be part of those gatherings, and yet still remains one of the most important people in our lives. We suspect that in she may be ever so. I don’t know if a six week-old fetus has a soul—and I don’t care to wade too deeply in that theological morass. But we had a strong sense of both our own love and God’s love for her. We are grieving for a person who was never born.

We so desperately want to parent her; we so desperately want to hold her in our arms; we must be content that she is in God’s arms.

It’s been difficult to know how to address this publicly: the “rule” that says you don’t tell friends about a pregnancy early on because you don’t want to have to share the bad news if something goes wrong turns out to be not very useful: we have longed for the love, support, and prayers of our family and friends, and yet struggle for the right way, the right time, the right words with which to ask for it in this seemingly-taboo situation. Miscarriage is one of those things our culture doesn’t talk about. The awkwardness mingles with the grief, and silence has been our unfortunate solution.

We have only shared this with a few close family members. And while all have responded with love, one or two have shown as much discomfort as love: perhaps it is discomfort with what is at essence a female reproductive problem; perhaps it’s related to our culture’s fear of death. The bravest and most comforting of those whom we’ve told are the ones who have themselves experienced miscarriage, or the death of a child.

The Episcopal Church has created a series of liturgies—part of its “Enriching Our Worship” series—specifically around pregnancy: Enriching Our Worship 5: Liturgies and Prayers Related to Childbearing, Childbirth, and Loss. Included are prayers and a short Rite for Mourning the Loss of a Pregnancy. We have been grateful for the prayers and the rite, but perhaps even more, we’ve appreciated the introduction to the rite, which acknowledges both the validity of our grief and our culture’s difficulty understanding it:

The loss of a pregnancy is often experienced as the loss of a child. The parents’ grief may be compounded by the sadness of not having seen or held the child to whom they were committed. Since the loss of a pregnancy in our culture and even in the Church is seldom acknowledged as a death, the parents have too often been left to mourn in isolation.

Grief for the loss of an unborn child should be honored. Healing may be facilitated through the ministry of the Church.

We share this sad news so that you may grieve with us, and also in hopes that our society may find a way to talk more openly about the subject.

Written with the help of Erica Hein Pomerenk 

Posted 3 February 2017 by Br. Scott Michael Pomerenk, BSG in Uncategorized

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