Through the Valley of Miscarriage

Sobs shook my body. Nurses couldn’t help but squeeze a shoulder, hand, or foot whenever they entered the hospital room. Eventually, I’d cried so hard for so long that one felt the need to say, “You’re going to be okay, honey.” She must have thought it was the abdominal pain, or the bleeding, or the impending surgery.

“I know,” I whispered. “But I miss our baby.”

Considerate as they were, the staff struggled to understand my sadness. Perhaps no one who refers to an unborn child as “remaining fetal tissue” really can. They seemed to look away in discomfort whenever my husband and I called our baby what our baby was: our baby.

But now our baby was gone, as were deep breaths and clear thoughts. Did I cause this? I should have gone easier on my body. Was it my sin? I’ve been so impatient lately, even harsh. Maybe if I hadn’t — maybe if I had . . .

Never had I entered a valley quite like this.

Our Greatest Need in the Valley

The mysterious sorrow, the frantic questions, the lingering pregnancy hormones. In the days and weeks surrounding miscarriage, a mother’s faith often sits under fire, as we ache in ways we so little understand. We lost our child — but who was that child? Girl or boy? Mom’s nose or dad’s eyes? We’ll never hear her first word, or know his favorite food, or teach her to read, or watch him run. Much of our pain is the pain of receiving a gift along with so little time to unwrap, hold, and love it.

In its place stand questions that, left unanswered (or answered only by our pain), can distance us from who God is for us in Christ. Instead of clinging to him as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4), we can begin to wonder who he is, where he is, what he’s doing — and why it had to involve our baby never taking a breath. He whom we beheld as sovereign, good, and near to us the day we grasped a positive pregnancy test suddenly feels out of reach. We begin to cast him sidelong glances from afar. We had thought he was our good gift-Giver. Is he actually a cosmic and cool gift-Taker?

But the God whom we are so quick to doubt — he is quicker to respond. Throughout the ages, he put together a Book brimming with words not only true, but satisfying and strengthening. That is, a Book about himself. No matter how many our tears, mothers who take hold of its words can hold fast to God, eternal life, and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Indeed, there is no other way through the valley of miscarriage.

When You Cannot See, Read

Like the mother who miscarries, the author of Lamentations was no stranger to loss. Babylon laid waste to Jerusalem before his very eyes. He saw attackers drag away children. He watched Israel’s rulers flee. He looked on as young and old groped for bread yet rose empty-handed, covered in the city’s ashes. When his eyes could take no more, he wept.

But even as his vision blurs and stomach churns, his mind holds fast to something far sturdier than Solomon’s temple: this.

But this I call to mind,
     and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
     his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
     great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21–23)

Though he swims in a sea of unthinkable grief, still he is able to reasonably say, “I have hope.” How? Because he has “this” — the truth of God’s unending love, mercy, and faithfulness — and because he calls that truth to mind. Whenever his pain rises up and shouts about who God appears to be in the moment, he directs his thoughts toward who God has revealed himself to be “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2).

“If we are not careful, wondering about God without talking with God can lead to wandering from God.”

Grieving mothers, how much greater is our access to truth and, through it, to our God? In the Bible, we can read the words God “breathed out” (2 Timothy 3:16) for us, each of which “proves true” (Proverbs 30:5) and “gives light” (Psalm 119:130). In his many sufferings, can you imagine the lengths to which Lamentations’ author might have gone to possess a single copy of the full Scriptures we have? Yet “this” was sufficient for his time of need. Might the entirety of the Bible be sufficient for us?

Though tears cloud our eyes, hormones our emotions, and sorrow our thoughts, we can arrive at truth and its only source, our God. For what we cannot see through the fog of loss and grief, we can read. Because of the Bible, there is no shortage of hope-restoring words to choose from (Romans 15:4).

At the same time, we are wise to spend what time and energy we have reading (and rereading) passages that address our darkest questions. Is God sovereign over miscarriage? If he is, what is he doing through it — and can he still be good in it? I wish I had space to respond. For now, I’ll leave you with the texts to which I turned (along with links to other resources that may serve you): Job 1, Isaiah 48, Psalm 91, Psalm 119, and Romans 8.

When You Cannot Pray, Repeat

Grief affects more than our ability to get truth into our minds; it can also keep us from getting truth out of our mouths in prayer. Upon parting with children we never cradled, fed, or dressed yet inexpressibly loved, we may feel little desire to address the One who either “didn’t spare them” or “couldn’t save them.” We tend to curl into ourselves, as we believe one of a hundred lies about God’s lack of interest or power.

Despite our unbelief, God stands ready to help through the Scriptures once more. In our most clouded moments, not only can we speak his word to ourselves, but we can repeat his word to him. When we do not have the words to talk to our Father, we have only to open the Book with a thousand pages’ worth of ways we might pray.

Lamentations 3:21–23 remains a fitting guide. The author, upon telling himself that God’s mercies “are new every morning,” turns immediately to address God: “Great is your faithfulness.” In the same breath, he draws truth in and then lets truth out and up as he turns it into prayer. And lest we think this was an easy task for him, consider the stanza he pens just before:

[God] has made my teeth grind on gravel,
     and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
     I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
     so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:16–18)

No, he feels pain’s pull away from God and toward hopelessness just as we do. For despair often prefers to talk about God than to God, a habit suffering Christians must learn to resist. If we are not careful, wondering about God without talking to God can lead to wandering from God.

Scripture can return us to the tender speaking terms we once knew and now need, perhaps more than ever. Whether we turn a passage into prayer, as Lamentations’ author does, or pray a psalm word for word, or use one of the New Testament’s many petitions, God went to great lengths to ensure that grieving mothers could weep yet still speak to him. What love is this, that when we lack the words to say, he offers us his own.

Ever with Us

As we walk through the valley of miscarriage, our pain, when left to itself, will not be so kind as to reinforce a biblical view of God and suffering. Rather, sorrow will try to seize the upper hand on reality, bending our hearts into a posture of doubt, mistrust, or resentment.

But praise God, we need not feel, think, or even reason our own way back into his grip. His word open before us, we can read and pray a path across the valley. Though our stomachs will stop growing, and we’ll schedule no more ultrasounds for now, there is a way for us not only to withstand the loss, but to grow because of it: “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The valley we walk is not so low that God cannot get to us. Indeed, if we are in Christ, we need only open his word, and we will find that he is with us already: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Together, mothers, we can push past what our anguish might want to what we know our anguish needs: communion with God through his word.

works from home as a wife, mother, and editor. She and her husband, T.J., live in Denver, Colorado, with their sons.