“So, what are the results looking like?” I finally built up enough courage to ask. And I did so slowly and cautiously— bracing the side of the examine table for his words.
He paused. He looked at the screen again and then typed something on it. I waited, but my stomach started to turn. It was as if a dark cloud immediately developed and started circling around my head. I had a feeling he was about to give me bad news. And as optimistic as I wanted to be, I just knew.
He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, dear. But there wasn’t a heartbeat this time.”
When I learned of Michelle Duggar’s (of 19 Kids and Counting) tragic miscarriage, my heart sank. I immediately wanted to hug her. After having experienced multiple pregnancy losses, I could identify with her. In fact, while researching for my memoir, I learned that many women could. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage, with 80 percent of them happening in the first trimester. The statistics are heartbreaking. After my own losses, I knew I wouldn’t wish something like that on my worst enemy. But I also learned of God’s immeasurable grace for those of us who have miscarried and that He gives us the strength to pull through. I was sad for Michelle, especially as her family must have relived the pain when it was covered in the show’s recent finale, but when I read over comments from many online readers, I cringed. The comments were disrespectful and insensitive.
“I think her uterus is saying, enough is enough …”
“I think they’re child hoarders.”
“One must understand the difference between being a parent and being a collector. The latter becomes compulsive.”
Those comments were initially shocking, but they were not completely surprising. It proves exactly what I thought. Unfortunately, many people in our culture beg to differ that the life that was lost didn’t have any value.
How our culture responds to miscarriage
One prime example of this is a recent blog post written on a popular online pregnancy resource center and community, Babycenter.com. There, the blogger stated her opinion about the difference between mourning a miscarriage and mourning the death of a baby who survived the pregnancy but died after he was born. She claims, “Miscarriages are NOT baby deaths.”
Many women were completely outraged and hurt by her insensitive comments. In her article she says,”We’ve probably all had miscarriages—many of them happen before we even know we’re pregnant. When we mourn, we mourn what could have been, but we don’t mourn an actual person.” She also said of her own miscarriages, “What I lost was the idea of a baby. It was hope for the future. Losing that pregnancy was the death of something, but it was not the death of a baby."
Initially, I couldn’t understand her logic. Typically, many mothers grieve the loss of their babies for years and years—some women often need extensive counseling to help them through it. When we grieve the loss of a baby by miscarriage, are we really saying we are grieving the loss of a “hope” or an “idea"? And, more importantly, does a “hope” and “idea” have a heartbeat on the screen at six weeks’ gestation? Does a beating heart not prove it was a human life? If our heart stops, as humans, we die. So, if the heart of an unborn baby in the first trimester stops, what do we call it?
How the Church should respond to miscarriages
We are already well aware that the mere fact abortions take place proves the way many people in our culture devalue life in the womb. And it’s a tragedy when people begin to discount the life that was loss by a miscarriage. But as the Church, I believe our response to such a tragedy should be one filled with compassion and grace—regardless of what our personal opinions may be.
It’s true that very many people can’t relate to what it feels like to have suffered a miscarriage. However, the life that was lost, by all accounts, was a real human life that now rests in the arms of Jesus. Regardless of when we think he/she became a baby, the seed that was growing was one that was handcrafted and thought of by our Creator long before conception. We don’t understand why certain losses occur, but God in all of His glory can comfort, restore and heal the wounds of those who silently suffer.
Those of us who cling to Christ should already have an idea of what He says about life in the womb. If you don’t know, here are the facts. All throughout the Bible, God shows us His glorious strength by reminding us we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); that He formed and shaped us in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5); that He, our Redeemer, is the maker of all things (Isaiah 44:24) and that it was He who perfectly knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13), all for His glory.
When I looked on the Doppler and saw those tiny heartbeats, I knew there was a life there. But, by faith, I also believed it was a life that existed long before we saw tangible evidence of the heartbeat on screen. The exact moment when God decided to breathe breath into our lungs and give our hearts permission to beat is one that we may never know. But there is no way we can deny the fact that He knew, saw, predestined and spoke each life long before we existed in the womb. I personally believe God allows us to see sonograms during our pregnancies so we can marvel at His handiwork. How else could we see the beauty of His creation so early and not instantly believe in His glorious power?
The second miscarriage my husband and I had was equally as devastating as the first. I could sympathize with Michelle Duggar because I know what it feels like to see a tiny flickering heartbeat on the screen one day and not see it there the next. Instead of that thumping little dot, I saw a tiny, lifeless shell. Seven years and three children later, that image still quiets me. It still reminds me of a tiny life that once was but is now back in the hands of a sovereign and gracious God. And although Michelle and I both have beautiful children, it doesn’t make the loss of a baby in our womb hurt any less.
Life in the womb is precious. It is amazing how a life can grow so perfectly in a woman. But how incredibly awesome it is to know that this is a life that was already fearfully and wonderfully made to the praise of God’s glorious grace. It is my hope that our culture can understand the value that many women who’ve suffered a miscarriage have. To a mother who sat paralyzed in her doctor’s office by the news that her baby no longer has a heartbeat, there is no question when life begins or of its value.
Kennisha Hill is the author of the memoir Once Upon a Child, where she chronicles her journey after experiencing multiple pregnancy losses and shares how God provided grace and rest for her heart. Learn more by visiting www.onceuponachildbook.com. Follow Kennisha on Twitter at @kennishahill.