Monday, April 22, 2013

Why I Don't Usually Talk About My Miscarried Child

Stephanie Gray suggests that miscarried siblings be referred to in conversation.

Personally, I'm not really keen on that tactic.

When people ask me how many children I have, I tell them: four.

Because that's what they want to know: how many living children do I have.

They don't care about my miscarried child.

Even when doctors ask me about my reproductive history, I'm reluctant to mention it.

My baby was miscarried at only twenty-three days of pregnancy.

That's not even a blip on their radar.

I'm almost embarrassed to mention it, but I do, just in case.

I fully believe that my miscarried child was an equal human being.

And sometimes I feel a little teary thinking about him.

But my miscarriage doesn't upset me that much.

I was somewhat upset at the time. And I had a memorial Mass said for him. Althought I was quite consoled by the fact that the priest held the Mass on the Feast of the Visitation, the day we mark the Blessed Mother's visit to her Cousin Elizabeth, during which the unborn John the Baptist witnessed to the Unborn Christ. During the Mass, the priest used the opportunity to preach that abortion is murder. Too bad there were only eight people attending. But who knows? Perhaps someone in the crowd needed to hear that.

I was upset that I never got to meet my baby, and that I would never experience his childhood, but my grief was not very intense and I got over it.

That's not to say that I don't experience some tightness in the throat when I sit down and thinking about him-- like now.

And it doesn't mean I never think about him.

But it was simply not that painful an incident.

When people hear the word "miscarriage" they often think of intense grief and mourning.

And I don't want to reference that. I don't want to have to go through the whole story of how my kid was only alive for 23 days (or so) and that he died, and that yes it was a miscarriage, and yes I'm sorry I lost the baby, and no, I'm fine, it's not that big a deal.

And people don't want the discomfort of talking about death, a dead baby, a miscarriage or valued embryo. These are all hot button issues.

Talking about the embryo you miscarried at twenty-three days opens up a potential Pandora's Box.

So I don't talk about him a lot.

In Catholic circles, I mention him. People are comfortable with the idea of recalling miscarried babies, in certain contexts.

Otherwise, most people don't know about my child.

I know that people wonder how I, a pro-lifer, could think a miscarriage is not a big deal: Doesn't this involve the death of my own child?

It is sad, and my child should be remembered, but on an emotional level, I cannot produce intense feelings about an embryo I barely knew. I had known I was pregnant for about a week. Then I started to bleed. And my embryo was no more. I hardly had the time to get used to the idea of another pregnancy and another child. I was quite acquainted with embryonic development, and it's difficult to have a strong emotional attachment to an embryo whose spinal cord was barely formed and who possessed a rudimentary cardiovascular system.

It doesn't mean I didn't love my child. Feelings are not obligatory for love.

But it wasn't a big deal psychologically. All human beings are valuable and my kid was important. But I never really bonded with him, I didn't know him, and so when he died, I didn't really know WHO I was losing. And not knowing the identity of your kid makes a big difference, psychologically.

So I never really had an intense reaction to his death.

I love him, I look forward to seeing him in the afterlife, but in this world we were like two ships in the night. We never got to know each other, and I never really invested in him, emotionally.

I bring this up because while we try to uphold the personhood of the unborn, we should also be realistic about the unborn. It would be poltically self-serving of me to stoke my own emotions and create this intense reaction to my child's death and testify to it in order to bolster the case for the personhood of the unborn. But real life doesn't work that way.

People react to death in different ways, and their reactions -- or lack thereof-- doesn't mean they didn't value the people they lost.

I'm sure many readers have experienced the death of a love one with some sadness, but not profound grief, because they sense that their loved one had lived a good life and it was time to go.

Part of my reason for writing this is to prevent two situations.

1) Making emotional reaction to miscarriage a litmus test of sincerity towards the unborn. I know a lot of cynics might doubt my commitment to the unborn and accuse me of hypocrisy for my relative lack of sadness. Except that emotional reactions don't determine reality.

2) I want to prevent is the feeling that pro-life women have to be really sad about their miscarriages because they think they need to provide ammunition for the personhood movement. (E.G. "I was so sad when my baby died how dare you deny his personhood...")

If you have a miscarriage and you feel sad, then feel it. If you don't feel sad, if you don't muster up the feelings, then don't.

It doesn't make you a bad pro-lifer, a bad Catholic or a bad anything else.

People have different ways of reacting to death and they're perfectly valid.

It should be no different with miscarriage.

If you don't want to politicize your miscarriage by mentioning your dead unborn child, you don't have to.

[And I don't want to suggest that Stephanie Gray was trying to make this obligatory.]

But mentioning miscarried children is a lot more complicated than it sounds. It may underscore the personhood of the unborn, but politicizing miscarriage and making people feel uncomfortable isn't always the best tactic. It's makes me think of people who have to pepper their conversations with Jesus at every turn. Sure, Jesus is important, Jesus should be preached, but when you push Jesus at every turn so that people feel he's foisted on to them, it doesn't make people like him any more. I think it's the same with miscarriage and the unborn.