For the baby loss community – yes, there is such a thing – October marks a month of awareness and remembrance. President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988, a mere 25 years ago. Yet, the experience of miscarriage and infant loss has prevailed throughout human history. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that as many as 31 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. There is certainly more discussion and recognition of the experience than ever before.
Despite the prevalence of loss and the progress made in terms of awareness and support, isolation –feeling as though “I’m the only one” – is a key characteristic of women’s experiences with miscarriage and infant loss. Today, families throughout the world will publicly acknowledge the lives of their little ones who were gone too soon in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Communities will rally support and for a brief moment families will experience a sense of solidarity in the midst of their unique, yet often disenfranchised, grief. As Christ followers, shouldn’t our support extend beyond a designated month? How can we incorporate an awareness and sensitivity to this very real and prevalent issue?
There are a plethora of Biblical reasons as to why this all matters and how it’s relevant for each and every one of us, whether or not we’ve personally experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Below, are just a few
Woven Together, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
The words of King David in Psalm 139 give great insight, hope and encouragement as we discover God’s loving involvement in our lives, long before birth. Specifically, verses 13-16 state:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16, NIV).
These words – God’s Word – give us a glimpse of His glory as we see His Creative work in action. These words are true for each of our lives, as well as the lives of the unborn, newborn, stillborn…you name it. He knows the extent of our earthly lives and continues to knit, weave, and create us in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Thus, each and every life is precious to Him, regardless of when that life ends on earth. While the lives of those who died by miscarriage or infant loss may be brief, their legacy has the potential to live on and reach lives for eternity. Let’s not fail to acknowledge, validate, and affirm the significance of these precious lives.
Carry Each Other’s Burdens
In a previously published article as a part of a Crosswalk series on healing from pregnancy loss, I provide some very practical suggestions for individuals and the Church to minister to those who’ve endured miscarriage. I stated in the article, “The response of those surrounding the bereaved has the potential to lift up or tear down.” When we lift each other up in word and deed, we are carrying out the second greatest commandment – to love our neighbor. This must always be an extension of the greatest command, to “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and all your soul and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NIV). When we show love because of the love that He first showed us, we are collectively carrying the burden and therefore fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Advance the Gospel
The apostle Paul writes his letter to the Philippians in the midst of being imprisoned for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. With eyes fixed on eternity, he assures the Philippians by saying, “…what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12, NIV).” Paul’s chains were literal. The figurative chains of grief, however, can be just as debilitating in some ways.
As a part of the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity to reach out and meet a felt need in the lives of those impacted by pregnancy and infant loss by offering support. We can come alongside, comfort, listen, take meals, remember with and share in their grief as much as humanly possible. These things are all great and wonderful and ways that we can live out the gospel. On their own, however, they pale in comparison to the hope found in the gospel. Our actions must always be an overflow of the hope we have as Jesus followers. Through our actions, we advance the gospel.
For those who’ve experienced the pain and heartache of miscarriage or infant loss, the sharing of your story may be just one way that you can exude the hope you have in Jesus and the heavenly reunion that awaits. Breaking the chains of isolation gives you the opportunity to enter in to the stories of others with whom you are now bonded through a shared experience of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:7) and point them to Christ, who is the ultimate source of hope. Then, you too may echo the words of Paul and declare with a humble, holy confidence, “Now, I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, NIV).
Share your story. Enter into the stories of others. And do so continually, not merely one month out of the year.
Teske Drake is a mommy to three babies in heaven, mother to two on earth, and wife to her one and only, Justin. Inspired by her own loss experiences, Teske serves as co-founder and President of Mommies with Hope, a biblically-based support group ministry for women who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Teske is the author of Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow: Finding Light Beyond the Shadow of Miscarriage or Infant Loss (Kregel, 2012) and she leads women to live in hope at www.mommieswithhope.com.
Publication date: October 15, 2013