The elation of a positive home pregnancy test. The calculated due date. Thoughts of friends who can give you hand-me downs. Waiting to hear the drumming of a tiny heart on the monitor. Just the thought that this pregnancy will end without a baby is crushing; more crushing still is when it does. You’ve miscarried.
Maybe worse is the loss later in the pregnancy or after birth. Showers, nurseries, ultrasounds and a name have prepared a happy path for his or her arrival. Something went horribly wrong and in addition to the shock of the baby’s death is a funeral, burial and the storing away of little diapers.
There is no bouncing back. Death is avoided, unknown and the heaviest of human experiences. Its early thieving of the crib is death at its hardest. Some want an explanation while others wish it to be nothing more than the luck of life; if it is not chance then there exists a vile and guilty party. Even though we can’t solve the “why” we still seek to understand. Amidst the mystery of miscarriage and infant death are a few certainties: death comes to all, God grieves death and babies are with Jesus.
An unchanging statistic is that one out of one people will die. The penalty for sin is death, effective in the garden after Adam and Eve rebelled: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19).” The curse reached beyond the first couple: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12).” Our bodies are broken by sin and prone to disease, abnormality and accident. We cannot reproduce perfectly every time. Ten to 20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage. In 2005, 11% of U.S. pregnancies between 20 and 37 weeks gestation ended in death and in 2006 six out of 1,000 babies born alive died. Consider also the curse given to women in Genesis: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;with painful labor you will give birth to children (3:16).” Not only did the physical pain of actual childbirth increase, but the entirety of parenthood, from conception to rearing, was rendered difficult. Death is not for a certain age or circumstances and is no less a death if it occurs in the womb. It could be at 8 weeks, 10 months or 16 years, but death will come to all and the timing never seems right to us.
As we grieve lost babies, so does our Lord. Because He knows the time and means by which all die does not discount His genuine grief. Jesus famously wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, fully aware He would be the One to restore Lazarus to life only minutes later. His crying was not shallow or for show; there is no deception in our Savior. In addition to personal grief, He was perfectly living out Romans 12:15: “…mourn with those who mourn.” God is still in the business of mourning with us. Why is this comforting? Christians do not worship an impersonal, detached task-master. The Father gave His Son over to death for wretched sinners. Not only did He send Him to die and resurrect, but also to identify with us by experiencing our joys and sorrows, struggles and temptations as prophesied in Isaiah: “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…(53:4).” God wholly grieves the loss of a baby.
Lastly, we remain confident in the heavenly destiny for those who die in infancy and the womb. Christian parents who have lost children to miscarriage and infant death can eagerly anticipate meeting them in heaven. Among their ranks is King David who, when his son died as a young child, said to his servants, “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me (2 Samuel 12:23).” David, author of countless Psalms praising God for His character, believed he would meet his child in eternity. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14).” The Son of God affirms that His kingdom contains and welcomes children. Death cannot hinder these precious ones from the hand of the Father who wills them home. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2, we were dead in our sins before God alone made us alive with Christ. The implication? The dead (spiritually and physically) cannot help themselves and are in need of a Savior. The business of giving the gift of salvation is His alone. Scripture points to the election of the unborn and infants.
The complexity and pain of an actual loss is not squelched with words. Images aren’t forgotten. Trying to conceive post-loss brings conflicting emotions and stress. Fears of future losses weigh heavy. Could God prevent miscarriage and infant death? Yes. Just as He does not intervene to prevent every tragedy, He will not always prevent these. While losing a baby is a deep wound, it’s not an eternal one. After Job lost everything (including all children), his declaration was stunning: “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him (Job 13:15).”
13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Excellent book for parents grieving a lost baby:
I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. Broadman and Holman Publishers 2010.
Ministry for infertility, miscarriage, infant death and post-abortion:
Al Mohler’s theological defense for the election of infants: