You may not know it (I didn’t), but on July 27th of 2005, Congress proclaimed October 15th Stillbirth Remembrance Day, also sometimes called Stillbirth and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Though you might not know it, today is a hard day for many.
It may sound like a gigantic exaggeration, but almost every couple Megan and I know has experienced the pain of losing a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Almost every one. Several have lost multiple babies interspersed between having multiple healthy ones; others are still trying to have their first after losing those once conceived.
For whatever reason, we have never experienced this kind of loss. We’ve had some scary moments – our first-born had serious surgery when she was four after a lung collapsed because of pneumonia; our third-born came out blue from having the cord wrapped around her neck during the end of her delivery – but we’ve never lost a child through miscarriage, stillborn birth, or SIDS. This, of course, has nothing to do with us, just as losing a child has nothing to do with those parents who have.
Though I use the language because it’s familiar in our vernacular, I’m no fan of the phrase “losing a child” or of the word “miscarriage,” as both imply blame that is wrongly placed on expectant parents. The idea that a pregnant woman has “lost” or “miscarried” a baby implies she once had total and complete power to keep and carry it to term. Which of our female friends misused that power during her pregnancy? None. Which of our male friends was party to such misuse? Not one.
For those who want to cast blame, our biology – or more accurately, our fallen biology – is the culprit, not God. God does not cause loss; God restores. God is not evil; God is good. For those who have recently lost a child or are still struggling with pain from years ago, Romans 8:28 (despite the cheeseball greeting cards misapplying the verse to any and every audience) offers hope to soothe heartache:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The Scriptures tell us that even in the loss of a child, God somehow brings good out of the worst of pain; even when he is often blamed for it, he is at work redeeming these most heart-breaking experiences brought on by the sin of our representative parents, Adam and Eve. We lose our children because we lost our true humanity; each of us is fallen from the glory of perfection in which our parents were first made.
My friend and ethics co-teacher, Larry Hughes, and his wife lost their second child to stillbirth. They named him Sean and had a memorial service in his honor. This morning, I asked Larry what his thoughts were on that day and how he processed the grief he and Nancy felt years ago. He said this:
“To my mind, a key Scripture passage is David’s response when Bathsheba loses their child in 2 Samuel 12. Because of David’s many psalms reflecting his belief of being with God always, I think the response ‘…he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped…I will go to him, but he will not return to me‘ is encouraging not only theologically but personally. I think and believe that this, when coupled with the character of God, reassures those who lose their children in childbirth, SIDS, abortions, or in whatever way, that God does indeed take those on to Glory.”
David speaks of going to his son in heaven, but recognizes his son will not return to him on earth. He resigns himself to this reality (as evidenced later in chapter 12), but not before having resigned himself to the hope of reunion with his child. The Scripture is a bittersweet but beautiful passage of promise, one that records both David’s loss as well as his hope.
Many couples we know have gone through this same double-resignation. Our role as those who support believing parents in their grief should not be to rush them through the pursuit of the second (resigning themselves to the fact), nor to question the legitimacy of the first (resigning themselves to hope of a reunion). It’s a fine line to walk, but maybe there’s a couple who needs you to try with them today.