Miscarriage and the Surprising Solidarity of the Church

News Miscarriage Surprising Solidarity

I rushed to Target to purchase the most expensive pregnancy test I could find. After rummaging through the myriad of options, I thought to myself, the expensive ones are probably the most accurate…right? And just like that, the eight dollar test ended up in my buggy. I skipped over the cashier lines and headed straight for the self-checkout like a woman on a mission, because I was.

One by one the infamous double lines lit up on the overpriced test and so did my whole being. I sat on the floor of our small apartment bathroom as a smile stretched across my face.

I am going to be a mom.

With this thought came a tidal wave of emotion, adrenaline in my chest, and the spark of something new within my imagination. Who is this child? I thought, I think I will call you little bean.

It was a few weeks later on a Tuesday afternoon when suddenly I began experiencing some health problems. At first I was not concerned, but as the day went on my symptoms became increasingly worse. I returned home early to be with my husband, and later that evening we called the doctor and barely made it in for an appointment the next morning.

When I think about Tuesday night, I remember calling my seminary professors having to explain why I would be absent from a presentation in the morning. I remember the tightness in my chest because I was afraid. I remember clutching my husbands’ hands before falling asleep, and I remember the uncertainty in his eyes as he reassured me that everything was going to be alright.

Wednesday morning came and so did the sharp stomach pain, so we headed to the appointment early. The florescent lights of the exam room were bright, the pinch of the needle for blood work was painful, and the sympathetic stares from the nurses and the hours of sitting in the waiting room were unbearable.

If I was once on a mountaintop, if I was ever on higher ground, I was not anymore. I was falling hard for the valley, and I remember the moment I hit the floor. It was the final stage of our appointment in the ultrasound room, and it was here I was told and shown that I had miscarried, and our baby was gone. Just like that, our little bean was gone. And I’ve never in my life had more solidarity with Jesus on the cross than I did in that moment because I too wondered, My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me? Why has Thou forsaken my little bean?

Forsakenness, emptiness, and grief comprised my reality for the coming months. The harshness of a New Jersey winter stripped the surrounding foliage of all forms of life and this was a surprising comfort to me. I was glad to stare out of my apartment window and see the cold, barren trees for this was how I felt inside. What was once a place for life was now just a reminder of death. I had experienced a death and yet was still somehow living.

Entering back into normal life proved to be quite difficult. I felt ghostlike walking amidst the seminary community as if my world hadn’t changed on the flip of a dime. Nobody knew my story, and I hadn’t a clue how to tell them. One of the most difficult consequences of miscarriage is determining how to tell the people in your community. According to the Mayo Clinic and Medical News today, 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and of these, 80% occur within the first trimester. My story fell within these statistics, which meant I was not yet physically showing and had only shared the news with a few trusted family and friends. It was burdensome to carry around the unspoken trauma of miscarriage and not feel comfortable to tell my community. Perhaps this was a symptom of private grief, or perhaps the taboo-ness of miscarriage in our culture was pervasive enough to keep me silent.

During this season, I had just begun working for a Presbyterian church as an intern. It was a visible role leading liturgy on Sunday mornings, teaching adult education courses, and preaching. In fact, my very first sermon was scheduled one month after the miscarriage at our Longest Night service, an event for those in the community grieving during the holidays. In preparing for the sermon, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to share my story of miscarriage.

This was shocking to me. Why would God want me to preach about miscarriage in church? The church was the very last place I felt comfortable speaking about my body. You see, growing up I was taught a gospel that split the sacred and secular. This meant we rarely spoke about the body in church unless, of course, it was related to sex. Therefore, the only meaningful connection I made between my body and spirituality were through initiatives like the Purity movement. The Purity movement connected my identity as Christian fundamentally to the way I engaged my body. In this black and white model, anything outside of these hard boundaries produced a cycle of deep shame in my life when I didn’t measure up. Because of this, it had always felt awkward and difficult speaking about bodies in the church due to the dominant rhetoric of purity and for me, its counterpart shame.

The truth is there is nothing pure about miscarriage. It is a graphic, traumatic, and bodily loss. I felt stuck trying to make meaning of the loss because I didn’t know how to invite God into my bodily pain without feeling inklings of embarrassing shame. Maybe I didn’t eat the right food. Maybe I pushed it too hard at the gym the other day. Maybe that one night I drank a glass of wine before I knew I was pregnant was what caused the miscarriage. These were the shameful thoughts that cycled over and over again once we lost little bean. It was black and white, and always my fault. Never once did I consider the statistics that 80% of miscarriages happen within the first trimester, and that I was walking a road many women had traveled before me.

After the Longest Night sermon, countless women of all ages came up to share their stories of miscarriage with me. These brave women had been carrying scars of child loss for years and had never once spoken about it in the church. The unwelcoming atmosphere of churches puts countless women at a disadvantage because the only people in a position to pastorally care for them during a miscarriage are doctors or planned parenthood; health professionals who are neither trained nor primarily interested in helping women make meaning of loss.

Through my experience of speaking about miscarriage in the church, I found healing in two ways. The first was the countless number of women who welcomed my story with compassion and solidarity. To all of you, thank you for your bravery and trusting me with your stories too. The second point of healing was looking to the story of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ story we witness a life thought to have ended in death on Friday to then emerge alive on Sunday. Jesus Christ speaks into the pain of miscarriage with a promise that our stories do not end in death and neither do our unborn childrens’. For me, this was a promise that little bean’s life did not end in a sterile doctor’s office. Rather, the first face my baby saw was that of the risen Christ in whose arms she now rests.

This is the enduring hope and healing the church has to offer women, for the hinge of our Christian proclamation rests upon a messy cross. The rhetoric of shame in relation to female bodies is overcome by the gospel, for the Christian salvation story is indeed a bodily one. In the introduction of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Paul claims he is not ashamed of the gospel, he is not ashamed to proclaim the good news localized in a crucified Messiah. The cross is not a cheap sentiment, but it is a source of deep solidarity for the God-forsakenness of those who have experienced the trauma of miscarriage. May we find the courage to be communities that welcome the stories of miscarriage and proclaim deep words of hope among them.

Posey Caitlyn

Caitlyn Posey, MA(TS) '19, is the assistant coordinator of the Missing Voices Project, providing administrative support to the director and coordinator managing the logistics of the project, alongside executing the research interests with the lead researcher.

Posey graduated from Flagler College in 2016 with a BA in sport management, minoring in religion and youth ministry. Following graduation, she moved to West Palm Beach, Florida with her husband where she spent the next year working for International Management Group running The Honda Classic, a professional golf tournament on the PGA Tour.

In 2017, Posey decided to pursue her religious studies further by attending Princeton Theological Seminary. During her two years in New Jersey, Posey created and taught adult education courses for a local Presbyterian church and was involved in a Teaching Ministry cohort that explored Christian formation of adults within the context of a congregation. Upon graduation from Princeton, she was awarded The John Havran award for Excellence in Christian Education. Posey is thrilled to be back in sunny St. Augustine with her husband, Matt, as they are expecting their first child, Oliver, in November!

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