Miscarriage: The Pro-Life Movement’s Inconsistency

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Has the pro-life movement fully embraced what it espouses? This is a question I am left pondering in the wake of my most recent miscarriage. I have sensed for some time that there is indeed serious cognitive dissonance going on within the movement of which I am a member. My miscarriages have taught me that while we preach to the world that a child is  murdered through abortion, we do not fully live that message in our response to families who have experienced a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriage.

As we pray in front of Planned Parenthood, we are so sure that a child is being torn apart, limb-from-limb with each abortion. We even believe this about a child aborted at 7 weeks, which was the age of my child who died a week ago in a miscarriage. Our hearts ache, we grieve, we pray fervently. I know from personal experience that surgical abortion day is truly tragic. It is not only heart-breaking because a child has been murdered, but it is painful to watch these women stagger out of the clinic. I have watched women unable to get home, who were either too sick, hopped up on medications, or too emotional to leave. I can’t approach them or offer them comfort lest I be arrested, although, the compulsion has occurred more than once in me. There may come a day when I say “the hell with it” and walk over to check on those women regardless of the consequences. This desire grows in me after each of my losses. They may not know that they have killed their own child, but I do, and the denial of their motherhood will have long term consequences. I weep for them and greatly desire to console them.

I have never questioned, even before I lost a child in miscarriage, that a child dies in an abortion or miscarriage no matter the gestational age. When I found out that I had lost my daughter’s twin, I mourned the loss of a child. With my third miscarriage the child died days after conception, and yet, I knew that I had lost my child and I grieved as one who has lost a child. My grief has compounded over the years as I have now lost four babies.

So what is the disconnect I see? People within the movement far too often do not show the same care, concern, or understanding of those families who have lost a child to miscarriage as they do to an abortion. Now it is understandable that abortion is truly horrendous and it is the great moral and human rights issue of our day. There is no doubt of this fact, but a miscarriage is also the loss of a child. Why is it then that rather than allow or encourage the grieving process we tell people who have suffered miscarriages some of the following: You can always have another child (can I really?!), they are in a better place, how disappointing for you (I just experienced this one), something was clearly wrong with the child, a miscarriage is just a hiccup on the road to parenthood, and the list goes on and on. If we truly believe what we say, then why are we treating families grieving a miscarriage in this manner?

Life is sacred. All human life is worthy of great dignity because all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. The image is no less at the moment of conception when full potentiality has entered the human being or in a person who is 107 years old. When a woman finds out that she is pregnant, she isn’t rejoicing over tissue. We constantly state this argument to the pro-choice side, and yet, we don’t fully embrace it ourselves. If we truly understood these words then we would be grieving with miscarried families. We would be reaching out to them with support and resources and we would be learning from their experiences.

The available resources are sparse. I’ve looked and only recently has miscarriage become a more open topic of discussion in social media. We should be recognizing that they, that I, have lost a child or children. We certainly should not tell them that they can always have another child or that a miscarriage is disappointing. A miscarriage is agony and comes with profound grief. While we all grieve differently, a person who truly understands when life begins, knows they have lost a child in a miscarriage. A child they will never hold.  Would we go to a funeral and tell someone that the loss of their loved one is a great disappointment?

The reality is that many times we are not fully aware of the philosophies within our culture that influence us. It took me taking an entire graduate course that focused on the philosophy of nihilism for me to understand how I too have been shaped by false philosophies. The advent of medical technology in the area of fertility and sexuality has completely reshaped how our culture understands children. Even within the pro-life movement, the lie that we are in control of our own fertility is believed. This blog post is not meant to address the contraceptive mentality, but that is an issue I plan to address at a later date. While it may not be intended, this influence is betrayed in words which imply that a family can control whether or not they have a child or more children. We do not know if we can have more children, if any. It isn’t up to us, it is up to God. This erroneous thinking is largely subconscious and unintended, but it can do damage to those who are suffering from the real pain of miscarriage and infertility.

Tied to the on demand fertility of our culture, is the belief that each pregnancy is a part of the journey to having a child. In some cases the desire to become a parent supersedes everything else and miscarried babies are disposed of and not even recognized as lost children. They are dehumanized. This understanding that miscarriage is a part of the process points to a disconnect within a movement that argues the sacred nature of all unborn children in the case of abortion. This is precisely why implying that the loss of a child in miscarriage is merely a disappointment betrays the errors of our culture. Pregnancy is not a trial and error presupposition. I do not get pregnant as if I am playing Russian roulette. I get pregnant in the belief that I will give birth to each unique child I carry. My immediate response to a pregnancy test is one of love. When that child dies, no matter what age, the loss is devastating precisely because it is the death of a child. I am not test driving a car. I am a co-creator in an “embodied spirit.” Each unique baby is a gift and many of us can forget this fact, even if we do not mean to forget.

When an individual said that I must be disappointed in my loss, I was taken aback. Disappointed is not a word I would use to describe my emotional state at the moment. I didn’t just lose my job or the house of my dreams. I lost my fourth child. The bleeding of this miscarriage has only begun to let up. Grief-stricken, agonized, in anguish, angry, sorrowful, suffering, these are words that describe how I feel right now. I am not disappointed. I am suffering tremendously from the loss of my fourth child. And, no, it does not appear that I can just have another child. While I know this person meant well, it is crucial for us to understand that words matter. If we want to win this fight and end abortion, then we need to truly live the pro-life message. We need to celebrate each human life as sacred and discard any part of the “throw away” culture or erroneous philosophies which may have infected us. We need to stop telling people that they can always have more children, that a miscarriage is only a stumbling block on the road to parenthood, or that parents who have lost children in miscarriage should not grieve as if they lost a child. These are all lies. They are lies that we have mistakenly taken on from the culture of death.

I understand and I have learned that people do not know how to respond to grief. It’s awkward for people, which I understand to a point; however,  if we are truly going to bring a Culture of Life to the world then we need to stop ignoring the very real grief families suffer from with miscarriage. We need to stop using accolades and partial truths in response to their pain, to my pain. After four miscarriages, I pray at Planned Parenthood precisely because I understand, better than most, a child is being lost, as well as motherhood. A mother who has miscarried understands abortion in a completely different light. No, we don’t know the trauma and horror of abortion, but we certainly know what it is like to bleed out our beloved child. We know intimately that life begins at conception. We know it in our very being.

Compassion for the grieving goes a long way. Movement towards the grieving and tangible support can in some way lessen the burden of grief. We cannot take away another’s suffering, but we can walk alongside those suffering from miscarriage. I have learned from relief work during the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history, as well as in my own suffering, that the grieving are not looking for great gestures, profound thoughts or answers, or for someone to fix their pain. The grieving only desire a recognition of their pain and the understanding that it is warranted.  They are looking for a human response from the people around them. “I am sorry for your loss” is enough, because, quite frankly, it is all that can be said. This type of response recognizes the child lost and does not minimize or dehumanize the unborn child. In the case of miscarriage, people are also looking for guidance. They need to know how to respond to a miscarriage, especially Catholics. There is no reason why the pro-life movement cannot devote some time and effort into resources and ministries for those bereaved by miscarriage.

The pro-life movement cannot be fully effective while ignoring its members and countless families who have experienced miscarriage. We cannot continue to treat miscarriage like an “unfortunate” event. This type of approach is patronizing and insensitive and it is completely contradictory to the arguments, the true arguments, we use to fight abortion. It flies in the face of the very mission we have all signed up for, which is the protection of children, women, and men. It is incoherent to fight abortion in one breath while remaining silent or responding hardheartedly to the pain of miscarriage. Either life begins at conception or it does not. We don’t get to hold onto abortion as a great horror while ignoring the anguish of miscarriage. Both result in the tragic loss of a child. The pro-life movement needs to fully embrace the message found in the Culture of Life and that means responding to the great sorrow of families grieving the loss of a child to miscarriage. If life does begin at conception, which it does, then miscarriage should be recognized as the great tragedy it is, which is the loss of a child that comes with profound grief.

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Small Success Thursday: Protecting Our Children Edition

It is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Come share this week’s small successes with us.

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This week was a travel week for my husband.  Thankfully he is home for a while, but things get a little topsy-turvy when he is on the road.  I managed to actually get some sleep while he was gone.  I slept fine for years in my own apartment alone, but now I am a restless sleeper when he travels, even though I am packing heat if necessary.  I guess a lot of wives get used to the security of their husbands.
Our daughter gets irritable when he is gone too.  She did pretty well until yesterday afternoon.  By the time he got home, she was in full blown defiant toddler mode.  Today she is back to her happy go-lucky self.  She did not even fight me when I put her down for a nap.
So even with this crazy week, here are some successes.
1.  We did our “Biggest Loser” weigh-in and I am down 6lbs.  Only 24 to go to my goal.  I have not been as strict about my diet as I need to be.  My husband has been doing great and I keep praying for the grace to be more disciplined.  I have started adding exercise back in, which should help.  Plus, my daughter always wants me to dance with her to The Wiggles.  How can I say no to that?!
2.I have been avoiding TV for the most part.  I occasionally watch re-reruns of The Middle, which I think is ridiculous and hysterical, while I cook dinner at 5pm.  Other than that I have been reading.  I finished The Walk series and now I am reading a book about protecting our daughters (and really our sons) for a CatholicMom.com book review.  Look for the review and a book giveaway in the coming weeks!
3. Speaking of protecting daughters and sons, I wrote a letter to all daughters this morning on my blog.  The link is below this post.  Reading this book has reminded me of a lot of experiences of my teen years and twenties that I have blocked out as I focused on marriage and my daughter.  However, those experiences came flying back with a vengeance and have convicted me that we must fight the culture with everything we have in order to protect our children.  We as Catholics cannot become comfortable or complacent in our homes, especially if our children are in public schools.  Do you know what your kids are taught in sex ed?  Have you asked?  Have you looked at the materials?  Does your child’s school hand out birth control?  Has your child witnessed or heard about domestic violence?  Is pornography “normalized” in school?  Is masturbation? What is a good age for your kids to date?  Are your children reading books they shouldn’t? Have you read your school’s recommended reading list?  It might surprise you!  Why do I bring this up?  Have you discussed dating violence and abuse with your child? I say this  because a lot of us are either blind or willfully ignorant about what is going on in the culture around us.  Let me tell you a story.
I served in the US Navy for 6 years, but even before that, my first experience of meeting a girl who was being beaten by her boyfriend was when I was 15 years old.  We were in gym class together.  I saw her black eye and bloody lip and knew what was going on.  Her track star boyfriend was beating her.  I asked her about it.  She knew that she needed to get away from him, but her own mother was in an abusive relationship.  I did not have the knowledge or understanding to help her.  I should have gone to a counselor or teacher, but I didn’t.  I did not know what to do.  I pray she is okay.
While in the Navy, I was introduced to a sexually amoral culture.  It is the same in college, don’t kid yourself, especially public schools.  Pornography is rampant and is considered acceptable.  In fact, my Marine friends would compete over who had the largest porn collection.  Promiscuity, rampant, to include orgies.  I was living chastely, which made dating extremely difficult.  I had at least 3 roommates who had either been sexually abused or raped.  They were all acting out their pain in a promiscuous and risky manner.  I tried to help where I could.  I had a roommate who had slept with enough men to fill a platoon.  That is over 40 men.  She was deeply hurting.  I still pray for her.  There were women who had been with so many guys in one weekend they did not know who the father of their child was.  These women are someone’s daughter and need our love and help.
In the last 15 years, at least 5 women have confided in me that they were assaulted or sexually abused.  That is what I know of.  I suspect more, but have not asked.  I wait for them to come to me. These women believed that it was normal for men to use them and that hook ups were okay, healthy even.  They were miserable.  Binge drinking was also common place.  I thank God that the few times I binge drank that someone kept me safe from harm.  I had good friends.
Our culture has put it in men’s and women’s minds that sex is required in dating, or even a given.  I have had countless men tell me that I needed to put out.  I didn’t and made it through the Navy unscathed.  I did not cave until I was 26 and lived with a boyfriend.  The biggest regret of my life.  Thankfully God is merciful, loving, and forgiving.  I am vehemently opposed to cohabitation because of my own experiences, and my understanding of marriage.
What is my point?  My point is that the culture at large wants the hearts and minds of our children.  The pressure to engage in sexual activity, even risky sexual activity is immense.  Sex ed classes are touting sexual freedom as liberating and bringing happiness.  All I have seen is pain and despair.  Have you taught your children the Church’s beautiful teaching on human sexuality: the Truth? Are you talking to your kids about this?  Are you monitoring what your kids read or do on the Internet? 50 Shades of Grey is going through high schools like wildfire. It is pornography and normalizes S&M.  Men are looking at pornography, even violent pornography, at staggering rates.  Have you spoken to your sons and daughters about porn? This is dangerous for both sexes, but especially women.  It can create violent men.  In fact, almost all violent offenders report being addicted to violent pornography.  Do you monitor what shows your children watch?  Shows like How I Met Your Mother glamorize promiscuity and the abuse of women.  Our children see this and start to believe that they should live this way too.  After all, everyone else is doing it.  Most shows these days believe that teenagers having sex is a given.  This should horrify parents.  Shut these shows off and show your kids real love.
I feel am very passionate about this if you cannot tell.  Not just because of my own mistakes, but because of what I have witnessed.  These threats are very real, whether you live in a rural area, suburbs, or a city.  Talk to your children.  Be open!  The antidote to a culture that has gone mad is Theology of the Body.  Check it out.  Arm yourself with the weapons of Truth and Joy that is in Christ Jesus.
To bring a Culture of Life to the world, we must first bring it to our own families, starting with our children.
Please take the time to read my letter to our daughters here and share it.  I will write a letter to sons very soon.
Dear Daughters (the iPad would not let me hyperlink) https://swimmingthedepths.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/dear-daughters-a-letter-to-girls-teens-and-young-women-in-their-dating-years/
Theology of the Body: http://www.tobinstitute.org