After 6,000 years of accumulating disease and degradation, the Curse of Genesis 3:16 is particularly poignant among the millions of women who have experienced miscarriage. It is estimated that up to one in four known pregnancies end in miscarriage, with the majority happening in the first eight weeks.1 And the risk of miscarriage or genetic/developmental abnormality increases greatly with maternal age.2
Suffering in Silence
Those that have experienced it rarely talk about it, and sometimes no one else even knows. And there is often a good reason for that. Observing many others and having experienced it myself, along with the sorrows of infertility, the joy of adoption, and even ultimately the joy of a blessing in my own womb, it is clear that there is often a problem in how we view burgeoning life and the many variations of how that eventually plays out. Additionally, even well-meaning friends, relatives, and medical workers can make the pain worse by saying the wrong thing.
How can we avoid saying and thinking the wrong things about this difficult issue? We have to start with our worldview. What is this discernable life in the womb? Is it a mass of cells, a fetus, an embryo, a lifeform with or without sentience or sensory ability? If you are a believer in the sanctity of life from conception and at all stages of life, based on Scriptures such as Psalm 139:14, Genesis 1:26–27, Jeremiah 1:4–5, Leviticus 19:32, Luke 14:12–14, Isaiah 35:3–4, you must conclude that every human, thus every miscarried child, is made in the image of God, and is deserving of respect and care.
No Matter How Small
Additional to the unpleasantness of miscarriage, there remains a stigma about the age of the mother or the gestation of the pregnancy that ends in miscarriage. Mothers have reported others, trying to be helpful, saying things such as, “It would have probably been deformed anyway,” “At least it wasn’t really a baby yet,” “It’s for the best,” or “The baby probably would have had Down syndrome.” Though, certainly, the longer a woman is pregnant, the larger the baby, the more apparent the loss, and the greater the physical strain on the mother, that does not address the inherent humanness of even the earliest lost child. Nor does the increased risk of miscarriage due to the age of the mother or a discovered abnormality lessen the humanness of the baby or the sorrow when it happens. If those friends who were brave enough to try to be helpful (and I’ll admit, that’s hard on such a delicate topic!) would have thought through the implications of what they are saying in regards to proper biblical principles (and on the feelings of the grieving parents), many of these sad scenes need not have occurred. Many couples choose to suffer in silence rather than deal with comments from others that did not see their child as fully human or defective in some way—or worse, that they are somehow to blame.
If you know a couple experiencing this sorrow in childbearing, be sensitive to not diminish the gravity of an early miscarriage.
If you know a couple experiencing this sorrow in childbearing, be sensitive to not diminish the gravity of an early miscarriage. Yet these parents, particularly the woman who may experience physical discomfort for days on top of the mental strain, do need people to care enough to say or do something—and this is scriptural. Think of the choruses of congratulations that a newly announced pregnancy brings, and the offers of help to new mothers who are recovering from delivery. Yet Romans 12:15 says we are to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
What Can I Do?
Now that we’ve discussed some things not to say and do, what can you do? Pray for—and with!—your friends, send cards, offer to bring meals—particularly during the painful phase. Remind them that our God sees (Genesis 16:13), finds our tears precious (Psalm 56:8), and that we can trust him (Proverbs 3:5) because he is good (Mark 10:18). Let them know you’re grieving with them, and treat death as the enemy it is (1 Corinthians 15:26) with the assurances of Christ conquering it and restoring a world where there will be no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). With the proper biblical mindset of why there’s death to begin with, knowing it’s our duty to share in their sorrow, and acknowledging the loss of a child that bears the very image of God, you will likely say healing things and can be an instrument of mercy for God to those suffering.
Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. . . . And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:40–42)
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (Proverbs 16:24)