20 December 2008

Hiding in my room/Safe within etc?

Back to that Father Rick post from a while back. This was the thing that hit home hardest for me, even though it's a downer:
I have also been aware of my weakness in response to this new life. For weeks my sinful heart hardly dared to believe the news, but held itself in check and hid, for fear that I would have to mourn another loss, another death.
I'm always hesitant to announce we're pregnant (don't get excited, we aren't that I know of). I've never had a miscarriage, but I live my first trimesters in constant fear. I had a terrible scare with our first baby that I've never really gotten over. As excited as I always am and as much as I would love to tell all the world, I can't get past the awful prospect of having to un-tell everyone if the worst happened. So I keep it a secret.

Of course couples aren't under any obligation to tell people they're pregnant. But I detect some distrust in my own motivation for our usual course of action, not telling until we're out of the first trimester and forgoing the prayers our faithful friends would offer for us. As much as I love our yet unseen baby when we have one in the works, I'm too afraid of sharing any grief that might come my way. So I also hold my joy in check, and diminish it in the process. This vale of tears, it's lame.

13 comments:

Gauntlets said...

:(

I have nothing of consequence to say, but I know what you mean.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I know what Pr. Stuckwisch was talking about, and I know what you're saying too, Rebekah. Until we had our first miscarriage, we also kept most of our pregnancies a secret for much of the first trimesters (out of fear). We thought we could just pretend we weren't ever expecting if things went wrong before anyone could tell Heidi was pregnant. We also thought we could spare ourselves some grief if we delayed the joy until things were less risky. Looking back, I confess there was some level of subconscious denial that a life had already come into being which I now sense was involved in such an attitude.

That all changed after our first miscarriage. We decided right then that it was better to share the joy along with the potential grief.

Not only do we desire the prayers of the church; we also know from experience that we need the support of the church, our families, and our friends in the case of miscarriage. We also don't keep the knowledge of life and death in the womb from our living children. They have as much right as anyone to know they have a new sibling, and thus a right to grieve if their sibling dies.

Grief at the loss of child - especially in the first trimester - is also a very strong pro-life confession - one that is sorely missing in our world today. Perhaps there were just too few people not contracepting for there to be many miscarriages earlier in my lifetime, but in my church I don't remember ever hearing a prayer for a family who suffered a miscarriage - not until it was my family being prayed for. Most people just keep miscarriages to themselves. One family actually told us how much they appreciated the strong pro-life message that such a public sharing of our grief meant.

I also don't remember ever hearing prayers for expectant mothers previous to this, unless perhaps there were particular complications in late pregnancy. Since our first miscarriage, we have asked for the prayers of the church from the moment we know we're expecting. Now, there are consistently several expectant mothers and their babies on our prayer list (though I don't know how early in the pregnancies they are added). We pray for the safety of all pregnant mothers and their unborn children, especially ... ..., and that these children be brought safely to baptism.

My advice to young parents: Tell everyone you know, as soon as you know, and ask for the prayers of the church. And, go ahead and feel joyful and hopeful. It doesn't make the grieving process any easier just because you hold back the initial joy.

It could even harm your own pro-life convictions to keep it all between you and your doctor, as if it is just a private medical condition of the mother. Some doctors and nurses will try to convince you "it" was just a "mass of cells" - that it was probably a faulty union of chromosomes from the very beginning, etc. etc. I felt terribly abused, emotionally and spiritually, to have such doubts about the life of a beloved child thrust upon me in time of tremendous grief.

We needed (and thanks be to God, we had) the faithful words of our Pastor, loving sympathy from our parents who then shared their own experiences, and the shared tears and love of our living children who love their sainted siblings as much as we do.

Of course there is also this from Luther: "For Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage". In addition, one of our newer authors over at L&P, Vicar Matt Makela, posted this paper: "Liturgy as Instrument of Pastoral Care: Burial for a Stillborn Child or Unbaptized Child".

Pam said...

My husband started this practice quite a while ago at our congregation. As soon as he is officially told (not talking gossip grapevine here) of a couple's expectation, he asks permission to speak a blessing over the mother at the communion rail, similar to the one he gives young children who come up with their parents.

For the last couple children, he has done that for us even before we have 'told.'

And as far as when we do that, it has varied and we have had disagreement over it. Now after the fact my dh would admit that his hesitance to want folks to know (this is upwards to five and six months along) and for me to try to 'hide' it was out of his own "not wanting to deal with it," when at the time he said it was so I wouldn't have to hear the comments people would (and did) make.

I have always wanted to tell right away, for reasons you have already stated, of sharing the joy right away and of the prayers. So my response to my dh's request, to which I did submit, was that it hurt worse to feel I had to hide something of which he was ashamed or embarrassed that was in fact wonderful, than it would to field questions and barbs from ignorant people who don't understand the blessing we have in our children.

Very recently a couple in our congregation had a child with anencephaly; the family surrounded them with love during the pregnancy, called little Henry by name in the womb, and created a strong bond with him before birth. While he was due to be born the end of January, Henry came early. My husband stayed all night in the hospital with all the family during the long labor and the delivery the next morning. He was there to baptize little Henry, who was held by his father, and the tiny boy was passed around and held and loved by all the family in the room. Sometime during all the holding, Henry died.

The fact that this couple didn't abort the baby was a big deal in our congregation, sad to say, but all the moreso that there was a relationship with him even before he was born, and he wasn't just quietly baptized and forgotten. How important it was for this family to know of Henry from the beginning!

Monique said...

Erich,

Your words of wisdom are so absolutely true. We have had 9 pregnancies and 5 births. Each miscarriage was terribly difficult. We grieved just as much with the prenancies that were kept private. It is a terrible thing to grieve alone. Our Lord did not intend for it to be so.

Some may find it odd, but we had formal burials and services for all our miscarriages. We even have a cemetery plot for them that we pay to have kept up since we now live across country. It's sad, but some go thru more formalities when burying a pet than they do to bury an unborn child.

Considering our track record, our usual protocol has always been to wait and share the news. I believe we should re-think this.

MooreMama said...

My pregnancy with Callie came right on the heels of (1st "real" cycle after) my most recent loss. We were scared to death to tell anyone, but felt the need to tell someone.
We wound up telling very close friends, parents, sisters, and Bible Study Ladies. At 14 weeks, my OB pronounced the baby "Sticking", and we told the rest of the world.

Callie's baptism was wonderful, not just for the chance to baptize her, but it was also a natural place to celebrate her birth with our church family and thank them for their prayers. I know that there were a lot of people in our congregation that were praying for her/me/us individually and in the sunday school classes. I don't know what the reason is that it wasn't included in the more formal prayers or at the communion rail? It may be that our Pastor isn't real "touchy-feely-warm-fuzzy" or it may just be because I didn't ask for it.

Funny side note, my parents' priest (I was raised in the local Episcopal church) was the one who immediately put us on the prayer list and every time he saw me, he'd whisk me aside for a quick prayer/blessing. I attended an anniversary service there shortly after she was born and he asked if I would mind if he threw in a bit at the end of the service: "I promise it won't make her Episcopalian, just give us a chance to give thanks for her". :)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I have heard it said that it is only liturgically proper to give the blessing "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" to those who have already had God's holy name placed upon them in baptism. Therefore, while such a blessing is not said over babies in the womb, they are certainly commended to God's loving care, and prayers are offered for these little ones to be brought safely to the light of day, and to the saving waters of holy baptism.

What do the pastor-husbands of the Concordian Sisters of P. P. (or any other pastors within earshot) have to say on that point?

Rebekah said...

Dr H, thanks for sharing your experience. People grieve differently, and for some people grief is too personal to share, at least when it is new. Those who would be additionally burdened by having their sadness widely known are under no obligation to turn their personal sorrow into a public confession.

There is also joy in being the one person who knows that God has worked a new life, and then the two people, and then the family.

Joy said...

I hate to ride the fence, but there is so much valididty to both points. When my friend miscarried many years ago, her position was that if she hadn't shared the joy but miscarried, it'd be saying, "I was pregnant and I'm sorry I didn't share my happy news, but now I'm not and I really need your support." This made perfect sense to me until I miscarried. People supported us and cried with us even though almost none knew I'd been pregnant, but I was glad they could avoid the emotional roller coaster that had been my own: first the excitement so great that I couldn't sleep at night, then the worry and intense prayer, then the complete despair and anger and feelings of failure and worthlessness and guilt and shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

Maybe I should have prayed sooner. And maybe I should have stayed home from church that first Sunday, as no one got a thing from the service with my constant gasping and sniffling and shaking. But I needed the gifts the Lord offers in His word and sacrament.

My point is that it so deeply personal for each woman, and her reasons for telling or not telling cannot be shamed. I am a very black-and-white person, but this one is all gray.

Pam said...

Did I miss something? I didn't think we were debating "when to tell" as though we would come up with a cookie-cutter solution.

Speaking for myself, my own comment was merely to share my own experience, not to say it dictated what one 'should' do or not do.

I have no idea how I would handle a miscarriage, since I have yet to experience it, and pray I never do!

While I have balked at my own dh's suggestion of waiting to tell till after we were long the subject of idle gossip among parishioners, ie, "Is she? Or isn't she?" I still do not and would not tell everyone right away. There are a select few, okay TWO, people I want to tell immediately, since they actually rejoice with us, and the rest have to wait till we are good and ready. There are just so many people who are not rejoicing with us anymore on the seventh, eighth, etc happy occasion, so I am saving both parties the awkwardness.

If you see where I am going with this, there are those who truly rejoice and pray, and those who pay it lip service, then talk behind backs.

On the other hand, as one very honest parishioner told me, when people are suspecting, it's not as though the news will ever come as a great shock. No one is going about saying, "the F's are having another baby?! No waaaay!"

As any sister will find, this is only more the case as time goes on, and sadly, indicates that so many were not really rejoicing with the first couple blessings-- at least not in the way we understand. That's why it's good to have forums such as this one, where we all REJOICE, and there is no "you shoulda..."

Joy said...

I don't want to assume that this was in response to me, but since I am the one who used the word "shoulda"....

I must leave myself wiiide open for misinterpretation. I was only saying I think it's a gray issue due to the validity of both Rebekah's and Dr. H's positions, and that because of the hell that miscarriage is, no woman should be told how to feel or behave upon learning of her pregnancy. (Not that Rebekah or anyone else WAS telling women how to feel or behave...)

Clear as mud. Over and out.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Rebekah,

I'm sorry if it sounded like I was saying there's only one right answer here. My comments were only offered as experienced advice, not as a "thou shalt..." It has been our experience that trying to avoid additional grief by keeping our pregnancies private actually had the opposite effect. Privacy increased the grief because we were so alone in it. My advice was certainly not meant to be perceived as a law. We have freedom in these matters.

Yet, exercise this freedom with the knowledge that, as fellow members of the Body of Christ, we are called to carry each other's burdens. The heaviest burden I know of is the death of a child.

I believe we ALL benefit through the sharing of our joys and sorrows. IN MY OPINION, the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks. So, don't take this as a "thou shalt..." Your opinion might differ from mine, and we are each free to celebrate and to grieve as privately or as publicly as we wish.

Rebekah said...

10-4 to all. Everybody does what they have to do, and I appreciate the reasons everybody has given for why they do what they do.

Reb. Mary said...

Having nothing useful to say, I shall simply...agree. With everyone. :)