Awhile back at church, we sang a song that had the line, “The cross is the way to joy.”
The first verse talks about Mary, and asks whether she was thankful for being pregnant with Jesus even though she knew she would have to lose him to death. This got me thinking for the days that followed: Am I grateful I was pregnant even though they ended in loss? Would it have been better if I had not been pregnant?
I have hesitated to ask anything resembling this question because I did not want to enter the terrible theology that comes with responses to loss like “It was God’s will” (then God’s will sucks) or “Blessing in disguise” (wtf) or “God had other plans” (I prefer the first plan—I thought God was pro-life) or “God wanted to bring me closer” (surely God is smarter than thinking that killing the thing I love will make me want to hang out with God) or “God needed another angel” (God is God—make an angel out of something else) or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (what doesn’t kill you immediately can still kill you slowly, daily, with each new pregnancy announcement, negative pregnancy test, and fruitless trip to the doctor) or any of that other garbage. I say this lovingly. Theology that points to dead babies and says “God is in control!” as a first response is not good theology. I cannot stress this enough. But I am getting away from my question.
Am I thankful that I was pregnant even though the pregnancies ended in death?
Am I a masochist if I say yes? Am I faithless if I say no?
Well, I am grateful for the sojourn that has resulted from the fruitless pregnancies.
I am grateful for the depth that has come from grief’s deep cut.
I am grateful for the strength that has come from weakness and despair.
I am grateful for experiencing the mystery and wonder that comes from a sonogram and morning sickness and two pink lines. It’s like a part of the universe has just been illuminated and opened up, and though I don’t get to walk in that part right now, I have seen it.
I am grateful for the way that pregnancy and subsequent loss have made me think about the transcendent.
I am grateful for the way that pregnancy and subsequent loss shuffled things into different perspectives, though the shuffle was bloody and painful and not the dance I envisioned.
I am grateful for the way that pregnancy made me desire both motherhood and a career. I am grateful for the way loss has expanded my view of both of those desires.
I am grateful for the way that pregnancy has made me think about God’s womb, God as a mother, too, and God as a grieving parent. I read a piece of theology this semester that described the suffering of the cross as not just the suffering of Jesus, but also the suffering of God, a parent who lost a child.
I am grateful for the way loss has made me ask questions about providence, doubt, faith, and the meaning of life. The change and loss of an existence tends to prompt existential questions.
I can’t imagine pregnancy without loss at this point. I simply do not know it. That experience has not been opened to me, so it is hard for me to say simply, “I am grateful that I was pregnant.” And I still cannot say, “I am grateful for my miscarriages,” and I’m not sure I need to.
But I do think that I can be grateful that beauty has come out the dark, formless void. When I was in Europe last spring, the phrase “watery grave” kept coming to my mind in regards to my womb. I held not only death inside me, but also a tomb, a deathbed, a haunted place.
As God’s Spirit hovered over the waters of the earth, so, too, God hovers over the empty, lifeless waters of my womb, my life, and is creating, is teaching me to create. Perhaps we are creating something different than I had always planned. I read somewhere that creating is “making something beautiful out of shit.” Maybe that’s what we’re doing.
God, having lost a child, comes beside me, and says, “This is how we do this, reckoning with loss.”
I am grateful for a suffering God, a mothering God, a God for those who leave and those left behind.
I am grateful for a nuanced understanding of loss and grief and God’s (lack of?) role in it. I am grateful for the dissatisfaction that came with answers I previously thought were sufficient.
I am grateful for the cross of pregnancy and loss, for liminal space, for waiting room vibes.
So I suppose I am grateful I was pregnant.*
I wrote the following a few months ago as I was sitting in a church that was not my own, listening to a sermon about this passage in Philippians, a verse so often appropriated by sports teams and people who do not know what “all things” means, and I was grateful for the perspective that Christ is not so much an empowerer but a companion. Christ does not tell us to “Man up” or “rub some dirt on it” but rather gets underneath the cross we carry and helps us carry it and sits alongside us in the dirt when we get tired.
“I know what it’s like to be pregnant, and I know what it’s like to be not pregnant anymore. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I know what it is to desire pregnancy; I know what it is to fear it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I know what it’s like to see the heartbeat on an ultrasound, and I know what it’s like to hear the words, ‘There is no heartbeat.’ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I know what it’s like to feel joy when a friend announces her pregnancy, and I know what it’s like to feel envy, resentment, and sorrow. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I know what it’s like to barely get through the day because I have the ultimate secret, and I know what it’s like to barely get through the day because I carry the ultimate grief. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:12-13, my application
*This is my own personal experience and reflection. I do not believe that one woman’s experience with reproductive loss is prescriptive for all women. If a woman has a different response to miscarriage, that is completely okay, healthy, and welcomed. We are all just trying to navigate life with empty wombs. There is no one right way to do so.