And this is how I deal with that loss ...
I sat quietly in a shapeless hospital gown on the crinkly sheets of the ER bed, my hand clinging tightly to my husband’s. After hours of heavy bleeding and a very uncomfortable ultrasound, we knew there was slim chance I was still pregnant with our first child. So we weren’t surprised when the young doctor parted the curtain, sat at the foot of the bed, and confirmed that yes, I had miscarried.
“It happens all the time when women go off the Pill,” she said. “It even happened to me.”
She went on to explain that the hormonal birth control I had so recently taken had thinned the lining of my uterus, making it an inhospitable home for the growing embryo. Since I was young and healthy, there was no reason to suspect any other cause for the loss of my child. “That’s why they usually tell you to wait a few months before trying to conceive,” she remarked as she whisked away to her next patient.
Over the next few weeks, my husband and I cried together, hugged a lot, and (except for almost-daily Dairy Queen runs) stayed home watching movies. My friends brought me flowers. I took a few days off of work, grieving, but holding out hope that I would still become a mother someday. Sure enough, I soon became pregnant again. The joy of this new life pushed the sorrow of my miscarriage out of my mind. After a textbook pregnancy, our first son was born completely healthy.
Two years later, through a series of events I now know could have only been divinely ordained, I found myself enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), preparing to become Catholic—and pregnant again. One evening’s session covered the Church’s position on contraception. In great detail, our speaker explained the mechanism of hormonal birth control—how it not only prevents ovulation, but can even function as an abortifacient.
As I listened, an unexpected grief began to creep over me. With another child now tumbling joyfully in my womb, the realization stole into my heart that, had I not willingly worked my way through that little pink circle of pills month after month, I might have carried my first baby to term. Though I, of course, had no intention of causing my miscarriage and was uninformed about the lingering effects of the Pill, I still felt a sense of responsibility and guilt.
The more I learned about the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of unborn life, the more I identified my miscarried “embryo” as a child—just as much mine as my toddler at home or the baby I now carried. This fuller understanding of the truth began a new cycle of regret—and, for awhile, self-recrimination. I felt I had no one to blame but myself for the loss of my first baby. I had chosen an easy “solution” in order to live life on my own terms, and it seemed like we had all paid the price for doing so.
Thankfully, I didn’t stay long in that low place. The God I know and serve is a loving and forgiving father. Gradually, through prayer and Scripture reading, He reminded me that His grace covers every transgression—especially those committed unknowingly. Though I had been a Christian all my life, at the time of my miscarriage I had no sense of the moral problems (or the physical after-effects) of hormonal birth control. I can now say I stand in the mercy of His forgiveness. And if God has forgiven me, I know I can’t continue to accuse myself.
In the years since my experience, one concept has stuck with me from that night when I first learned the truth about birth control and its effects on my body. “The Pill is the only medication we take to stop a healthy bodily function,” said the speaker. I can’t think of a better summation of my feelings about it now. The female body is meant to nurture, comfort, and give life. I’ve decided to never again willingly take those beautiful purposes away from myself—or my family.