*This article contains mentions of miscarriage and still birth - please read with care.*
Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place this year from 9-15 October. It’s a time to remember the babies lost during pregnancy and to raise awareness of this loss that impacts so many (it’s estimated that between one in four and one in eight pregnancies end in miscarriage).
This is a matter close to the heart of Revd Phillippa Taylor, curate of the Martyrs Church in Leicester.
Moved by her own experience of miscarriage, she has spent the last year working on her Masters dissertation looking into the Christian experience of miscarriage. Here, she tells her story and how it has inspired her to hold a Baby Loss Service for anyone who has also been affected...
On 28 December 2003, my husband and I went for a 12-week pregnancy dating scan. We faced the day with excitement, looking forward to the event without any expectation that this would be anything other than another step towards meeting our baby.
People had warned me that at 12 weeks features can still be hard to distinguish and that what we saw might not look like a baby, but the image on the screen did look like a baby and it took me a while to realise that something was wrong.
Unable to detect a heartbeat the sonographer estimated that our baby had died just a few days earlier.
At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who’d experienced pregnancy loss and while people were sympathetic, beyond condolences and platitudes I found very limited support either from my church family or wider social network, creating a wall of silence on the topic.
I was frequently offered stories about people who had had miracle babies after long periods of trying, comments such as ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’, ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or ‘at least you weren’t further along’.
These comments may have been well intended but they often felt insensitive, minimising the impact of my loss.
As a Christian I expected to feel close to God in this experience, but instead the time surrounding my miscarriage became one of the most spiritually isolating and challenging times of my life.
Western culture trains us to be goal orientated, measuring our worth in terms of production. We are taught that if we work hard enough, we can achieve anything we want to and until this point in my life I had succeeded in achieving the goals I had set for myself: completing my education, getting married, buying a house, and starting a career. With my miscarriage, circumstances were - for the first time - out of my control, and I felt ill-equipped spiritually to cope with the challenge.
Childlessness in the Bible is often perceived as an absence of God’s presence. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah and Elizabeth, are all portrayed as experiencing childlessness, but are eventually seen to be blessed by God through pregnancy. We don’t know if the experience of these women included pregnancy loss, they are simply described as being ‘barren’, a word with negative connotations indicating bleakness, desolation, and infertile emptiness - all images which assist in building a feeling of inadequacy and failure.
I strongly believe that it is important not to ignore Scripture that includes stories about women, even when they are challenging. If the Church is one body, this requires us to acknowledge life events that are difficult to face and respond to.
Hearing stories helps people to understand their own experience, to know that they are understood and not alone. Every time I have shared my story in a church setting someone has approached me afterwards to share a story of their own - sometimes a story that they have carried for decades without ever sharing it.
To this day I have only heard pregnancy loss referred to publicly by another person once in church. When such a high number of pregnancies end in miscarriage this feels like a glaring omission. Christian mission requires us to share the Good News of the Gospel and the hope found in Christ. However, to be of and alongside this world, hope must also be balanced with the reality of human suffering, and as Christian disciples it is essential that we find ways to connect with people in the good and bad times of life, creating space where all of life’s events can be acknowledged and held before God.
BABY LOSS REMEMBRANCE SERVICE
On Saturday 14 October, Martyrs Church in Westcotes Drive, Leicester, will be holding a Baby Loss Remembrance service at 4pm. This service provides an opportunity for people who have experienced pregnancy loss at any stage, including miscarriage, missed miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, TFMR and still birth, to remember those babies loved and lost, to publicly acknowledge their existence, and to raise awareness of an issue that impacts many people.
For some people this loss may be recent and for others it may have taken place many years ago. Anyone affected by baby loss is welcome at this service.
In recent years there has been some acknowledgement in wider society of the need to break the silence of pregnancy loss, with events such as ‘Wave of Light’ providing space where people can remember babies lost during pregnancy.
If you have been affected by baby loss, you can find information and support at https://babyloss-awareness.org/