Because We Could Not Stop for Death: Miscarriage and the Believer

This is a guest post by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. 


It happened during a painful meeting after a week of painful meetings at the end of months of painful meetings. I ran downstairs to the women’s bathroom and it was full. I hobbled over to the men’s, praying no one would come in. This wasn’t my first and I knew there was nothing I could do at this point. Nothing.  

. . .

My husband and I had moved immediately following our spring wedding to a new city where I was coming on staff at a new church in a new community. Everything was new and we felt ripe for it. We bought a house from which you could see the majestic Rocky Mountains. We walked every night around the lake by our house. We threw ourselves into life in this new place, life in a new marriage, breathing it in. Within two months of being there, though, the crumbling began. We, unbeknownst, had come into a church about to undergo a leadership crisis. My husband’s stable work contract let him know they were cutting back and, because he was working remotely, he was the first to go, effective almost immediately. We encountered gun violence up close and personal in a way my counselor said months later, “Just wasn’t normal.” It felt like from every direction we were being crushed into nothingness.

Around Christmas, though, when all else felt too much to bear, we began to suspect the new life within, talk about names, parenting, the world we’d be bringing this baby into. We were tender with it, we’d already had one miscarriage, but we were surer and surer of it. This one little space we could protect and care for. A few weeks later, though, after a week of difficult meetings at work for me, in the middle of a meeting where we were delivering painful news to our local church, and still no job on the horizon for my husband, the second miscarriage began.

I left the meeting as early as I could excuse myself and came home, hobbling in our back door, running to the bathroom. I knew what to expect but nothing prepares you for the emotional and physical toll of blood loss, hormone loss, and the tiny baby loss in the moment.

Before I got married I thought, at times, women could be dramatic about their infertility or miscarriages. I thought: “Children are a blessing, but they’re not an idol. Why is your world falling apart because of this?” As I lay sobbing on our bed that day, I hiccupped through the words, “I just want it to stop.” I wanted the pain to stop, life to stop, the blood to stop, the baby to stop, to hold everything up, like a policeman on a street-corner holding up traffic, acknowledging the danger ahead. Could we just stop everything for a moment, acknowledge the injustice of all of this and prevent bystanders and rubber-neckers? Could we just attend to just one broken thing at a time? I wanted it to stop. It wasn’t that I wasn’t prepared to walk into a hard thing, but I wanted it to slow down, to not feel so suffocating. This was the first day.

By the last day every reminder of what we were losing sent one thought to my head: “I just want it to be over.”

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. . .

It has not been lost on me that when we suffer, these two prevailing responses come, either in tandem or apart, but they both come. I just want it to stop. I just want it to be over. All of us, in some way, have said them regarding our own suffering or another’s. Emily Dickinson, the poet from Amherst, penned these words,

 

Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

 

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labor, and my leisure too,

For his civility.

 

Emily wove into a poem what none of us want to acknowledge outright. We are in too much of a rush sometimes to get through suffering, that we don’t stop. Death must stop us. We have to put away the things of life that siren call to us for attention, trusting there is something in this slow drive we must learn.

The Psalmist David knew this slow drive too. He said the words, “How long, O Lord?” nine times in the book of Psalms. He was desperate for the Lord to relent, to show up, to release, and to end David’s suffering. We, like David, are not good in the middle of things. We don’t like it. We can anticipate the danger or suffering ahead, even know the right theology to regard it, but when the gushing pain begins, where is our hope then?

Our hope is in the permission to say, with David, “How long, O Lord?” And then to keep saying it, for as long as we are still waiting for it to relent.

The cultural stigmas attached to miscarriage (and unexplained infertility—which we have faced since that last miscarriage) do not allow for us to ask this question. Our world is burgeoning with answers, quick fixes, remedies, cheap hopes—we do not exist in the middle very well. We want to control the outcome and the time by which the outcome happens. Any waiting, any middling, any in-betweening we do seems to come at a greater cost. We are unaccustomed to our own waiting and uncomfortable with another’s. But waiting is the whole story of Scripture.

For the Old Testament believers, waiting for their Messiah, for what God had promised them, this was their story. For the New Testament believer (this is us), we are waiting for the second coming of our Groom. The whole story of Scripture is the middle, the wait. We know the beginning and the end, but we exist in that hollow space, that “How long, O Lord,” of which David sung.

This is how I want to regard my own miscarriages and those of my friends. We are all in the throes of painful, unexpected, life-altering suffering in some way, every one of us. But what a good and faithful God to allow us to ask the difficult questions, to not try to shush us up, or ridicule us for our mourning. Our Father knows the searing loss of losing a child. Our Savior said these words on the cross, “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” Our Spirit groans with us in our weakness with words too deep for us to even understand. Surely there is permission to sit, ache, mourn, and weep in this middle place?

Whether you have already experienced a miscarriage or whether you will someday or whether, in God’s grace, he will spare you from a miscarriage, we all know what it is like to feel the pregnant groans of a woman who wants this all to be over. This simultaneous cries of “Make it stop!” and “Make it over!” We cannot have both, not now, not yet. The moment the Spirit hovered over the waters it all began and it will not all end until our Savior rules the New Heaven and New Earth. Until then, we wait, groaning, knowing we are wildly, deeply, profoundly loved by the God of the universe, and the child we have lost has not been lost to him.

 


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Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at sayable.net, and you can follow her on Twitter or on Instagram. She has a husband named Nathan and lives in Flower Mound, Texas.