Man plans and God laughs – Yiddish proverb
I spend my professional life educating health professionals and the public about “reproductive life planning,” or, basically, helping someone articulate whether or not they want any (or any more) kids and the steps they need to take to achieve their desired number of children. As a recurrent miscarrier – 7 pregnancies, but only 1 live birth – the irony is not lost on me.
I’ve always been a planner. I used to have every facet of my life planned out with such precision it would put a 5-star general to shame. When Kirk and I decided to start trying for a baby, I knew exactly when I should get pregnant to interfere least with my current master’s program’s comp exams and summer internship. Then the first miscarriage happened. I had to tinker with my plans, but I decided I could still make it work. Then came miscarriages two, three, and four. My plans were in shambles.
During this time I was studying maternal and child health and then working with healthcare providers to improve tobacco cessation during pregnancy, meaning my whole life was thinking, reading, and talking about pregnancy. It was painful, constantly looking at the thing you most desire, but watching it move further and further away. Church started to shift from being a place of peace and comfort to one where all I could see were happy families with babies and children – children I was afraid I would never have. I started feeling further away from God.
With timing so excruciating it was almost funny, my fifth miscarriage started at a maternal & child health conference during a session on the state of the science on pregnancy loss and stillbirth. That was…a new low. My husband was several states away, I didn’t want to burden my colleagues, and I knew what was happening. I numbly made it through the rest of the afternoon and then went to bed. I’d never felt so alone. I ached to let the responsibility of my faulty plans and failing body rest on someone else’s shoulders for a while.
Some of the hardest things about miscarriage, particularly recurrent miscarriage, are the isolation – isolation from your family, your peers who are successfully bearing children, your community supports, including church, and even isolation from God – and the loss of the illusion of control. Friends and family checking in, bearing witness to the frustration and grief, showing Christ’s love through care, meals, transportation, etc. for the women and men facing these losses can help. Openness from clergy, such as Rev. Andrews-Weckerly’s offer to “journey with folks through the darkness” of infertility and loss, can help. Praying for those who are suffering pregnancy losses – both publicly in church and privately at home – can help.
May God’s love surround and hold those suffering from infertility and pregnancy loss. May they not feel so alone as they mourn the loss of their plans and their feeling of control. May they find support along the way when the burden is too heavy to carry by themselves. – Amen.