What my Miscarriage Taught me about Abortion

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…or, why I hate being pro-life.

 

It is not too often I speak on my own very personal feeling about elective abortion, because it is just that – my own, very personal feeling.  I am the founder of stillbirthday, but it is a place for all of us to come to heal.

Still, I am often asked if stillbirthday, which is run under Christian Childbirth Services LLC, is a religious organization or, more specifically, if it is pro-life.

And still, I am often coached, or, what is even more hurtful, ignored, by pro-life individuals and organizations because my feeling is not as intentionally legalistic and divisive as some would like it to be.

Most days, I sweep these rejections and pressures into the box of drama that contains other requests including that I exclude African Americans, Muslims, Lesbians or even, to my confusion, Christians.  Yes, I get these kinds of requests.  And more.

Stillbirthday has been here over two years and in that time has grown in our inclusion and we continue to expand and reach more mothers and families.

In Christian terms, inclusionary often translates to a weakened religion.  Unitarianism.  Humanism.

Let me take you back to that fateful day, in that ultrasound room, when I learned that my baby was not alive.  When I knew, just knew, that God was going to breathe life, speak life back into my baby.  And finally, when the ultrasound screen went black.

One of the most sudden and pervasive thoughts plunged into my mind when the doctor started talking about “Call it what you want but we need to get that debris out of there.”

And it was this: D&C is murder.

I had been a birth professional for several years.  A Christian for several years.  I studied my baby on the monitor long enough that I knew that I knew my baby was not alive.  And yet, this is what I believed.

It was what I was taught.

And you probably were too.

The photos.  You know what I’m talking about – the photos of the tiniest, broken bodies of babies.

The blood.

Don’t do it.  Don’t do this to your baby.  It’s horrifying, isn’t it?  It’s dreadful, isn’t it?  It’s inhumane, isn’t it?

And we’ve had it all wrong.

How dare we attempt to strip the dignity away from our tiniest of humans.

How dare we attempt to portray a baby, fragile, helpless, as horrendous, horrific, disgusting, and haunting.

This is what we’ve done to our young.  We’ve strategically placed their body parts around objects like dimes and quarters, finding value – real value, haven’t we? – in demonstrating how their physical form is not intact.

For a photo such as this, the more blood, the better.  The more brokenness, the better.  The more disturbing, the better.

Because it is done with the intention of saving lives, is it not?

Let me tell you about those lives.

They wear the face of the person next to you in the pew.  The older woman, the dignified woman, who wears gloves and a purse that matches her shoes.  Statistics.  Math.  Numbers.  These things tell us that she is the one who gave birth via D&C, electing abortion because she already has people to take care of.

In my own, personal life?  I have a house full of toddlers.  I cannot pee by myself.  I go to bed last and wake up first and scramble all day long to accomplish 10 different times what looks at the end of the day as if was never done.  And sometimes in my weariness I dream of the day when I can take a long, hot bath, or eat a warm meal.

Someday, my toddlers will be older.  Everyone in the house will know how to pee by themselves and will know to let mom pee by herself.  Someday, right? And when that day comes?

Will I become pregnant again, unintentionally?

And, would I be enthralled?  To do – this – all over again?

I know the answer to that, but let’s back up just a second before you tell me that I am softening the Christian message and making it look easy for mothers to give birth in which they also elect abortion murder their babies.

Before you rush to tell me that I need to be open to what God has in store for me – which, I am and always will be – after all, I did give birth to a baby via miscarriage – let me clarify – I have a dead baby – and – I still praise His mighty name – let me ask you –

Go back to church.  Remember the older woman next to you?  With her gracefulness and accessories?

What have you done to show her that you are open to what God has in store for her?

Isn’t her pale pink face much prettier to look at than those tiny red hands placed strategically over President Washington’s silvery face of the American quarter?

What impact does the fear-based divisive pr0-life propaganda have?

The photos and the messages are intended to be terrifying – so, the question should be asked: who, precisely, is terrified?

I’ll tell you who is terrified.

->Mothers enduring miscarriage.

->Mothers whose babies have already died, who are pressured by doctors that a D&C will hurry up and clean up the mess, will discard the debris, will remove the products of conception.

->Mothers who legitimately do need medical assistance in the birth of their young baby.

->Mothers who give birth and elected abortion – not because they didn’t know of the label of murder – but simply because they, as all individuals, have a right to interpret their own experience to the best of their ability.  Mothers who now, bereaved, often feel forced into lying about their experience – coerced – in order to receive any support for their loss.  Yes, that’s right.  Mothers who’ve told you they’ve endured miscarriage may in fact be harboring a secret that is torturing them, while they are racing with weary hopefulness that the support offered for their miscarriage can possibly spread thin enough to cover the depths of their wounds.  There is a dishonesty in the bereaved community, and it is proliferated by the belief that somehow the pious among us have authority to decide who has permission to enter into healing.  You have a right to decide where your own moral and ethical bounds are – but so does each mother – and you do not have a right to determine the worth of a mother based on where or why she has placed her bounds.

->Mothers who have given birth and endured elective abortion under life-threatening pressure or who were manipulated, forced, or bullied through the experience.  What happens when they beg justice be done for the horrific ill intent of someone in a powerful position of authority?  We tell this mother that we won’t call her a murderer, but only as long as she calls her doctor or her spouse one.  And we say of the entire experience “Her baby was murdered.”  If every gun resulted in murder, it wouldn’t matter who fired one or for what reason – every gun would mean murder.  But not every fired gun results in murder – even if someone dies.  This means, we always need to look at what the true variable is, and the true variable is intent.  A mother who has endured horrific manipulation into the death of her baby still has every right to say that her baby was born.  Born under frightful circumstances, born with the pressure that the baby would not live, but born he still is.  And being born does not in any ounce discredit her own interpretation, of which she has a right, to define the intent which coupled the birth. Birth, you see, automatically assumes personhood.  When we audaciously believe we have the authority to define each situation uniquely according to our own drawn lines, we are sending mothers out to attack one another as they defend their own experiences and their own worth.  D&C is birth. 

->Mothers who elected abortion for any number of reasons who are trying to make sense of God.  Because D&C the birth method comes with a host of immediate and long term challenges, including the possibility of Asherman’s Syndrome, a mother who elected abortion for any reason who then endures miscarriages later is led to believe – because we Christians reflect a legalistic version of God – that God is killing her babies for justice for her elective abortion.  In fact, because of our demonization of D&C, many mothers enduring inevitable miscarriage, miscarriage through any birth method, and mothers enduring elective abortion for any reason are faced with this.

The demonization of the D&C is a direct attack against an open relationship with a mother and her Creator, and an attack against an open bridge between a bereaved mother and her path toward healing.  Your discrimination is dangerous.

->Young mothers like me.  Your response to miscarriage with platitudes and your response to elective abortion with inaccurate labels places young mothers like me at risk of someday becoming that seemingly well-put-together older woman standing stoically beside you, clutching her purse on Sunday morning.  The woman with the right shade of lipstick and the secret just behind it, forcing herself from trembling and holding herself up with sheer determination.

Preventing or ending elective abortion should never have been the only voice of the pro-life movement.  It should have always been – and should be now – inclusive of bereavement and the mourning of all babies – unconditionally and inherently.

And now, even as we still deal with the long term effects of years of horror-intended messages and photos, what have we now?  We have pro-life organizations seeking out the stories and photos of babies born through miscarriage – babies, whole, of course, not born via D&C.  Babies, cradled, in birth stories with the very specific, expressed message that says that it is through their miscarriage they honor life prior to birth.  A message that is, ironically, quite similar to the title of this very article – “what my miscarriage taught me about abortion” – and Christian mothers are only invited to share about our birth stories if they specifically include such a comparison.  Because babies born via miscarriage from Christian mothers aren’t inherently worthy to be seen or heard about.  They only count with a message proliferating division attached.

So let’s get a few things straight.

D&C is a birth method.

D&C is a birth method, that only when coupled with the intent not to preserve life or delay death, is a birth method resulting in elective abortion.

And you have the moral and ethical right to define that intent, however is right for you.

But the pro-life propaganda message of decreasing elective abortion should never have been on showing the birth method of D&C in a horrific and frightful way.

D&C has immediate and has long term very painful and potentially dangerous implications.  Just D&C.  Just the birth method.

It’s already not easy.  It’s already not pretty.

But the woman in the pew next to you – she is pretty, isn’t she?

What about her?  Have you really studied her lately?  Meditated on the scriptures and felt convicted to help your neighbor?

What about young mothers, like me?  I don’t even have a mother.  My children are without a grandmother, to bake warm cookies with while mommy takes a nap.  I am blessed to have a strong, providing man, but what about the morning when my two year old found a red permanent marker and thought it’d be lovely to write his love for me on the hallway wall?  Or how about the mess when my one year old slipped her diaper off, onto the living room carpet, after she poo-pooed?  What about when I take my crew grocery shopping, with one in the basket, one in a carrier, and another toddling along – and one spots the cookie aisle and starts whimpering to have them, one drops his Spider Man under the aisle and bellows as if he’s dying, and the other is trying with all her might to wriggle out of her papoose because she’s bored?  Or when I take my children to the park, and as I’m helping – beckoning – my daughter to slide, it requires me to take my eyes off of one of my crew, the one who is particularly adventurous, the one who I sometimes think is shopping for a new mommy?  I’d really like to keep him, actually.  And I worry when he strays.

Wait, wait.  You’re reading this and it’s getting personal and you might be thinking ahead.  “What,” you’re thinking, “do you need me to come over and babysit for you?”

I’d love it if my mom could come over and sit with me, and just, fold socks with me.  That’s not going to happen and that’s not even the point.

What do I want?  Let me jump ahead with you and I’ll answer that.  I want you to know that D&C is a birth method.  I want you to understand the gift of time, of presence, that you can but are not giving.  And the consequences because of it.

The intentionally horrific portrayals of broken bits of babies intended to depict elective abortion are actually depicting nothing more than babies born via D&C.

The legalistic Christian cautions me that I can’t water down the message or try to make it look pretty, because it’s less effective.  We want to save lives, after all.

They scream – STOP IT – because now it looks like I’m making elective abortion more accessible.

Scaring people into thinking that D&C itself is murder certainly has saved lives.  But it has done so artificially.

And it has had horrendous – live endangering – consequences.

If you want to save lives, you do need to be softer – to ripen.  I was once afraid to be anywhere near elective abortion, afraid that as others studied my spiritual fruit, it would look like it was rotting by being anywhere near it.  But the truth is, your abandoning people and fleeing to cover your bushels is causing a plague of shame, loneliness and spiritual starvation.

Because when you respond to miscarriage with:
You’ve already got children, you’re still blessed – this is flat insufficient.  This is a shrug to get over it.

God rescued your baby – when I’m frantically searching the playground, huffing with the weight of my wriggling daughter in my arms, peeking into slide tunnels looking for my wandering toddler, a panic strikes me, and I’m terrified this is true.

Something was wrong with your baby – this is denying the inherent value of life.  I do not dare minimize the struggles of rearing a baby with special needs, but implying that God (or nature) eradicated His (or its) mistake through miscarriage, challenges the omnipotence of our Creator and reduces the value of humanity to that of simply reducing inconveniences – sound familiar?

Take a look around you.

An American mother endures a miscarriage every minute.

In the quest to preserve life, so many have neglected life.

You don’t need to come over and fold socks with me.  But you need to remember that our fight is never with flesh – and that includes flesh placed on quarters.

It is with spiritual forces.  It is with intention.

If you want to prevent elective abortion, you need to speak to the intention behind it.  Not the birth method.

So let’s define elective abortion, to get to the intention behind it.

Elective abortion includes a birth method, coupled with the intent to refrain from life sustaining or death delaying measures.

And that intent can include any of the following:

  • a knowledge that medical support cannot or will not sustain the baby’s life
  • a use of any foreign object, including instrument, intended as a death method

The intent can come from the mother, from someone involved in assisting the birth, or both.

The intent might be labeled as premeditated murder, or it might be labeled as pre-emptive humanity.  As a choice or as a right.

And when you don’t speak to that intent, when you slap a label on a birth method, the label you place haunts mothers – it actually feeds the spiritual forces already against us.

And let us all be clear;  one cannot dilute the magnitude of the outcome by clouding the reality involved.  Just as much as I am admonishing the pro-life community to articulate clearly between birth and murder, so too those who feel they are pro-choice need to express a clear distinction of the words fertility v. pregnancy, woman v. mother, menstruation v. lochia, and self rights v. parenting decisions.

So when you label your own Christian Sister’s miscarriage as “God was fixing His mistake” or “Aren’t you blessed?”  or “Can’t you get over it?” it is haunting.  When I’m running to the frightful cries of my child, wondering if just a tantrum or if a serious injury awaits my panicked discovery – I am faced with the label, the haunting wondering if one of my children is dead because he was rescued from my failings – and I know more than anyone, that I have many.  And I secretly face these fears, more often than you know.

It is through my personal, facing, of my own life, it is through sitting, folding socks with Jesus Himself, that I hear the message finally, that no matter what, I am worthy.  And I become strong enough.  I become a warrior who is armored to fight the untruths planted by platitudes and festered into rotted weeds, watered by the enemy’s salivating drool.

So, to the conclusion, and it is this.

When you do not validate birth as the intrinsic reality that it is, when you label it according to what fits your own agenda instead of taking time to really sit with it and be present with those who are hurting, you are responsible for feeding division, for gashing hope, for slicing dignity to shreds, and for putting individuals at risk of losing faith and losing life.

Every day, the messages of terror, of a lack of worth, of legalism, permeate places in every day lives that they have no business being.

Labels and platitudes strip us raw on our journey, at a time we’d simply love (when we may be silently begging for) a companion.

Let me ask you again.

To the beautiful woman in the sanctuary.

To the mother who gave birth to her miscarried baby via D&C.

To the mother who gave birth to her electively aborted baby via D&C.

What have you really done to show her that you are open to what God has in store for her?

Lest you think my question is an unbiblical one, Jonah too, smelled of fear and legalism.

His own people suffered because of his procrastination, and Jonah was willing to deny his own people the great blessing of praising God.

The sailors suffered because of his selfish thinking that he could defend God rather than serve God.

The fish endured because of his lack of trust in the Lord – who actually enjoys vomiting, right?  Interesting, the parallel there, to God’s expectation of Jonah bringing forth life, to pregnant mothers enduring nausea with the hope that their child too, will bring forth life.

Finally, then, after Jonah delivered the Lord’s message, he did so still with condition in his heart.  Still with a need to defend God rather than serve God.  And so Jonah sat, hiding his light under a bushel, resting in the shade of a tree.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.  And the Lord asked Jonah,  “Is it right for you to be angry?” -Jonah 3:10, 4:4

Jonah should have been well on his way back to relate the message of mercy to his people.  But I believe he was more afraid to do that than to head to Nineveh to begin with.

May we all be reminded of the Pharisee in Luke 18:14.

May we all learn to offer God rather than protect God.  To obey the call to offer the gift of presence.  Because to cast out others casts out us, and it casts out God.

Pro-healing means that each individual is inherently worthy of receiving healing:

stillbirthday is pro-healing.

yesthis

Because a subject of such enormity could never be fully covered in one blog post (even a long one!) I will be writing a series of smaller articles to touch on a few specific examples and a few practical ways to check your heart and to serve others, entirely within your own ethical and moral bounds, wherever they may be, while still bringing hope and healing to others, wherever they may be.  Those links will appear here below, as they are published.

  • Pro-Eternal-Life: thoughts on Omnipotence & Conflict (Matthew 18:15-17, Jonah 3:10) (in drafts)
  • Choice Words: is dying always killing, and is killing always murder? (in drafts)
  • The Gift of Presence: real life application when pro-life meets pro-choice (in drafts)
  • The Gift of Presence: real life application when pro-life meets bereavement (in drafts)

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. This is a topic that hits me very hard, because I have lived it. I lost twin sisters because they had to be delivered to save my mother’s life due to placenta previa. I have experienced the loss of a child through both elective loss, and a miscarriage. I have through my experience in the Nicu watched parents make the choice to withdraw life support so that they can have a couple minutes with their child without tubes and wires, I have felt survivors guilt as my baby thrived and another’s did not make it. It can be so very uncomfortable to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, to acknowledge grey when you would prefer to see black and white. It is so much easier to judge and feel superior when you have not been put in that situation. To most who even know about my first pregnancy I tell them I miscarried. It is so much easier to just bury the pain, to get condolences and be told “well it was probably for the best, you were not in a good situation at the time” than to admit the truth. Because somehow by them thinking it happened naturally it is “good” I lost a child, whereas the truth would be abhorrent.
    When you have an elective abortion you understand there will be no compassion, nowhere to turn, that you are not allowed to mourn… you do not deserve to mourn. You know what you have done. You carry the weight of the decision, and any comfort you might find will almost assuredly be secular. It is understandable to not want to be associated with it at all, that association somehow contaminates you. How can you show empathy to the woman and not degrade the message? If you remain wholly above it, then no one can say you are not clean. This decision is often made out of extreme fear and bad situations, and a group standing there with horrible images and accusatory statements does nothing to change that fear, or the conditions surrounding why someone would consider doing this. It does create a nice divide though. It does cement to the woman suffering with fear and doubt that she will find no compassion from you. She will not approach you for alternative options, for help. She “knows” you will not understand her pain. You make it clear you do not actually care about her, her situation, or even her baby. In using those images you show very little respect for the lives you claim to want to save. You seem to only want to use someone else’s pain to further an agenda. You seem to care only about the black and white.
    I wonder how many abortions would be prevented if women felt they could go somewhere to talk about why they are afraid, to know they could go somewhere to get help with no judgment. I do not think it would take much sometimes. I often wonder if I had felt like there was somewhere I could have gone to get some nonjudgmental love, what might have happened. I was unmarried, poor, in school and very very sick. Literally the only place I found compassion was from the doctors at the clinic. The only problem was they could do nothing for my fears, they could do nothing to help my circumstances, the only thing they could offer was a painful way out. I have gone on to marry, graduate, become financially stable, lose my second child, and nearly lose my third. I mourn my decision quietly in my heart, I am “not allowed to” mourn openly. I can only shake my head at the pictures and the protestors. Especially the protests at clinics that do not even perform abortions, not all of them do. I shake my head because without supporting the mom, without reaching her with something other than more fear and judgement, there can be no end to it just more pain.

  2. In my career as a perinatal bereavement specialist I have cared for the remains of more than 4,000 babies of every gestational age, often not knowing the circumstances of the ways they were born (appx half came from other facilities). From the beginning, I had a passion for the care of these little ones’remains and dispostion, most of them not recognizable—and an aversion to counting them for their burials. Why? It wasn’t the number of losses–they would occur whether I was there to bury and provide support or not. What I couldn’t bear was the number of mothers and whatever they might be going through at home. Alone. Mothers that we might not be able to reach out to. Who might be suffering in the ways you describe. Your posting drove that home and explained what I didn’t have words for. I am pro life. Period. (faith and belief). I help bereaved mothers. Period. And this is what I know: That life is life. And death is death. And love is love. That is all I need to know. Waht I can’t fix I pray for. Thank you so much for writing this.

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