I know that I posted this on facebook already, but we do have some friends/family that we keep up with in ways other than facebook, so I wanted to express it here also.  Thank you all for your prayers.  We are overwhelmingly grateful for your love, support, and care for us at this time.  Please continue praying for us as we still have some difficult days ahead of us.

So many of you have walked this road too (as have we, 5 years ago, though this is a bit different), and you know well what we are experiencing.  The following article was sent to me and I thought it was excellent.  I understand that it is hard to know what to say or do when someone is going through this, especially if you have not personally experienced it.  This article gives (what I feel is) an accurate portrayal of some of the things that go through your mind.  

THIS IS IMPORTANT -- we have found ourselves humbly grateful for the ways in which everyone has shown us love and support, and I want to emphasize that as parts of this article are very direct.

It is long.  But it is so worth the read.

written by Dr. Daniel M. Doriani
Associate Professor of New Testament
Covenant Theological Seminary

Miscarriage:  A Death in the Family

            Our two daughters were playing in the next room when my wife told me the pregnancy test was positive.  Suddenly I knew that this time I wanted a son:  someone who would rather score points than cheer for them...someone who would destroy the family budget with his appetite for food instead of matching Barbie accessories.

            To be honest, we didn't know he was a boy.  But I thought of him as male simply because I knew I wanted a boy this time.  I love my two daughters dearly; now I wanted to love a son.

            My wife never shared my enthusiasm for this pregnancy.  "Something is wrong"...she'd say, then her words drifted.  Two months later, suspicions were confirmed.  When bleeding began our doctor lectured us, "You need complete bed rest.  If you can't do it at home, I'll put you in the hospital!" 

            Thirty-four hours later, at bedtime, contractions started.  Our trusted physician was away and an alien voice gave indefinite advice over the phone.  Hours spun by in a haze of pain, anxiety and exhaustion "worse than childbirth," my wife observed.  Wave after wave of pain, with no progress, only vain labor.  I thought of our child.  What is happening to him?  Is there any hope?  The doctor seemed maddeningly vague.  Should we go to the hospital?  What would be the point?  Who would watch our daughters?  And the clock propelled red numbers that measured nothing, signified nothing, into the darkness:  1:54...3:07...5:27.

            Near sunrise, friends took our daughters and we drove to the hospital.  There we waited for the disembodied voice of the other doctor to take flesh.

            By the time he arrived my wife's spirit had withdrawn to an inner space where she battled to control pain and despair.  The nurse was "gone" too, it seemed, a mindless appendage to the physician she assisted.  The doctor, the baby and I remained.  I needed to ask, for myself, for my son, for the entire family, "Is the baby dead?"  I knew the answer but I craved certainty, finality.  I longed to speak but was mute.  "Surely the doctor will explain things shortly," I told myself.

            But the doctor uttered only terse commands and grunts.  Something restrained me.  I wondered, "Why can't I ask him: 'Is the baby dead?'"  With effort my lips broke loose with something imprecise.  The doctor techno-babbled: "Incomplete spontaneous abortion...remove the product of conception...there is some tissue here."

            Tissue!  Horror and anger stilled by numbness welled up.  "That's not tissue, that's my baby!"  I shouted within, "Why can't he say, 'I'm sorry Mr. and Mrs. Doriani, your baby is dead?'  He won't even call it a fetus!  Doesn't he know what's happening here— that we have witnessed a death?"  Though I said nothing, I began to see that the evangelical view on abortion has a neglected implication:  if abortion is murder, then miscarriage ("spontaneous abortion") is a death, untimely and tragic, a death in the family.

Groping for understanding
            At home the phone became a howling electric snake.  Old friends and relatives not knowing our sorrow chanced to call, as did a number of informed friends.  Together they
unwittingly robbed us of what we needed most:  silence and solitude.  That night, after tending to my confused daughters and weary wife, I crept into bed knowing that I had not paused one minute to consider what had happened. 

            I was teaching at a Christian college and had to work the next morning.  Word of our loss reached there long before I arrived, and soon the simplest question "How are you doing?" grew into a riddle, a conundrum and a trial.  At first, I answered, "Debbie is alright physically.  Otherwise, I don't know how we are doing."  It satisfied no one.  Soon I said as little as possible.

            Silence...Gazes lock and break...Silence...Eyes waited and probed for more.  "Is that all you're going to say?"  My silence replied, "Can't you see that I don't want to talk, that I'm not ready to talk?"

            In the quieter moments of the next two days, very different questions troubled me — intellectual questions contradicting my convictions about the unborn and my feelings about our child.  I wondered, is heaven populated with the unborn?  Are all the unborn there?  If so, are the Soviets, who are said to perform three abortions for every live birth, filling heaven with their monstrous practice?  Or are only the progeny of believers there?  Even so there must be billions, since miscarriage is so common.  How does that affect their eternity?  Or perhaps...(the Bible says so little about these matters) — perhaps the orthodox doctrine is wrong.  Perhaps my child was not yet a person, not yet "my child."  It is hard to imagine the life of a former fetus in heaven.

            More painfully, I wondered, how did my son, so small, so undeveloped, die?  Like a higher animal, feeling but without self-consciousness?  Like a worm, all but insensitive?  Like a man, carried off by angels, rejoicing?  Our defense of the unborn, our speeches and sermons and "silent scream" videos force these questions.  If abortion is murder, miscarriage is a death in the family. 

            But it is a strange kind of a death.  Where is the funeral, the gathering of family?  It is the death of someone whom no one knew, except perhaps the mother.

            There were other questions.  Why was I in more pain than my wife?  Why did one daughter act as if nothing had happened?  And most troubling, why did I feel polluted, almost guilty?

            The next night I went jogging.  Alone in the darkness with God, answers came.  I began to understand my wife's subdued response.  She felt something was amiss, and had never attached herself to one she would never hold. 

            The answer to my feeling of defilement hit like a hammer:  I had observed an event that sounded and felt like an abortion — the abortion of my own child — and I said nothing.  The doctor's cool, detached talk of 'tissue' and 'product of conception,' his manner as he threw that 'tissue' on the floor must be what abortion is like.  At an abortion it would be psychologically impossible to say words such as "baby," "dead," or "fetus."  Yes, the life had left my child many hours earlier; it wasn't an abortion.  But I failed to defend life's dignity.  By my silence I sinned against my conscience.  I needed to repent.

A Path for Healing
            Several years have now passed.  The laughter and chatter of our eighteen month old child fills our house.  The anguish has receded (each day has enough trouble of its own), but the need to reflect endures.  Our second daughter, stricken as deeply by the miscarriage as a 2 1/2 year old can be, still speaks freely of dying babies.  Most adults find such openness difficult.  Common as it is, we rarely discuss miscarriage and hardly know what to do or say.

            But what do you say to a woman who loses her daughter before she ever holds her?  How do you comfort a man who cradles a son whose life is measured in minutes?

            In speaking to ten Christian couples who have each experienced miscarriage, I found agreement that the Christian community has much to learn.  All of us found friends who shared our burdens but we also endured miserable comforters who intensified our pain.  I asked two simple questions, "What helped?  What didn't help?"  We agreed remarkably.

            It helps, we felt, when friends bring meals, send cards, take care of older children, provide a warm embrace, or a calming, silent presence.  My boss (skipping Sunday school!) came to the hospital, waiting 90 minutes to see me for 90 seconds.  He said little, but his presence shouted, "We love you."  Initially, we found, the simplest expressions of basic truths bring the most healing.  We still remember people saying "Even now, God loves you...He will be faithful to you...We love you very much."

            These ways of comforting have common ground:  giving the grieving family time to be alone.  They give psychological breathing room (cards convey compassion without invading privacy).  When a friend brings a meal or takes the children for a few hours, they give a high gift of solitude.  Alone with each other the couple grows closer; alone with the Lord they learn anew why Jesus called the Holy Spirit "the Comforter."

            On the other hand, almost everyone railed against varied innocuous remarks.  First, "I know how you feel" rouses anger because the knife of miscarriage never cuts the same way twice.  Did my friends know how we felt when our pro-life doctor was substituted by someone comfortable with the slaughter of the unborn?  Two women told me the hospital kept them overnight — in the maternity ward!  One had a nurse bounce up asking, "Do you want your baby now?"  Another who bore twins entered labor in the twenty-first week of pregnancy.  As soon as the process of delivering a perfect boy and girl was finished, the process of dying began.  Named and loved, they lay in their parents' arms until no breath remained.  Another couple wondered why they were stoical, almost unfeeling about their loss.  Was something wrong with them?

            When someone says, "We know how you feel," we are skeptical.  We wonder; do you?  Do you know what the doctor said?  That this was our last chance to have a girl?  That my in-laws are glad the baby is dead? 

            Demanding to know how people feel is also offensive, forcing parents either to express or deny their feelings.  Should we speak before we are ready?  Or should we lie and smile, choking back the tears?

            Speaking of another baby invades privacy.  Perhaps the doctor has forbidden it; perhaps there has been infertility.  Above all, it implies that the lost child is easily replaced, that the parents shouldn't grieve.

            Unsolicited advice often touches raw nerves too.  One woman had three preschool children when she lost her fourth.  "You should be glad," several people dared to say!  "Why would you want a fourth?"

            Unsolicited advice set off a chain of doubt in me.  Someone volunteered, "Perhaps God allowed your miscarriage so you can minister to others with similar losses."  Perhaps, I thought.  But could not God, who is all powerful, have taught me in another way?  Would God, my loving father, take away my child (just) to teach me a lesson?

            "Maybe there was a birth defect...Maybe you weren't ready for another child."  Maybe, I thought.  But why did God, who opens and closes the womb, allow the pregnancy to begin?  As a result I began to question God's wisdom, love, and power at the worst possible time.

            Indeed, in times of distress we must recall that our Lord indeed reigns, but unwanted counsel has a fatal flaw:  it interprets someone's experience before they even know what that experience is.  Like steak in the mouth of an infant, it chokes.

            The wise comforter lets the grieved set the agenda, asking questions that refrain from probing, or suggesting false insight.  Simple words are amazingly helpful, "Can I do anything?" or "I'm available if you want to talk."

            A few are ready to talk at once.  Men typically delay for months.  But whenever the time comes, the wise friend is quick to listen and slow to speak, letting the one who has lost the child lead.  One woman captured the thoughts of many, "My friend helped me the most when she just listened, let me talk and cry."  The wise friend knows that miscarriage is a death in the family, that grieving is right. 

            In time, it becomes easier to talk.  The tears slowly dry.  Good friends can help or hinder the healing process.  The comforting friend helps by affirming two aspects of the life of the mourning parents.  First, he affirms the present, the reality, the finality of the loss of this child.  Second, he gives his friend space and time to be alone with our Lord, our Counselor.  Ultimately He must answer our questions, wipe away our tears and comfort us with His love. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...