Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written January 14, 2008
Five of Five

For me, there is some shame associated with the very word, "miscarriage." The word implies someone missed, messed, mistakenly carried the child. And the only person carrying this child was me.

Miscarriage sounds like I mis-carried our child, like I dropped or crushed them, that somehow my body was not a safe place for them, that my womb was inhospitable to life. It feels like there is a failure in me. I KNOW there isn't failure in me, but I FEEL like there was. And the dictionary backs me up on this one.

“Miscarriage” in Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language means

- “to be unsuccessful, to fail, to bring forth prematurely”

“Mis”

- “a misdeed, includes a sense of ‘wrong’, to send away, the verb 'to miss', other forms mis-take, mis-become, mis-give, mis-lay, mis-lead, mis-like, mis-name, mis-shape, mis-time, mis-understand, mis-apply, mis-apprehend, mis-appropriate, mis-call, mis-hap, mi-take.”

“Carry”

- to convey on a car, cart

I think we need a new word, and somehow the new PC "spontaneous abortion" does not work. The process is neither fun or lighthearted as “spontaneous” conveys nor is it wise to associate the loss of life with a word that is often used when we intend to end life, as "abortion" does. Perhaps “incomplete pregnancy” or “truncated pregnancy” or “premature fetal death” . . .

It’s strange how something as brief as 1 month and 2 weeks of my life, something like this premature baby’s death would give me the credentials to be more respected. All of a sudden, I'm a mother. I can never say, “I’ve never had a child”, now. It’s baffling and incommensurate to me how a surprise pregnancy, out of which I can claim no pre-mediation or planning and then 6 weeks after that another surprise event of losing the child endows me with credentials, how could it make me “more of a woman”? I suppose I’m such a firm believer in our will to choose the shaping of our souls that when an event such as this is thrust on me, I feel I can claim no credit.

Yet it is these unforeseen, unchosen events that do change us—the death of a beloved friend, the death of a child, the death of a parent, always thrust on us most unwillingly.

I know more this side of my first pregnancy, I see more clearly what "life and death", "life-bearing" and "miscarriage" mean, how pregnancy is interwoven with joy and pain, and what woman and man can and cannot share. And I see the stark need for women to share more of their experiences as we develop a bigger, more vulnerable theology of our bodies.

Yes, in a way, a miscarriage feels shameful, but it's more, too. Next to the shame is a more substantial feeling. I feel privileged to be able to live this step of life and death, to have had a chance to have a child. Perhaps I can take Christ’s life as a model in this, too, "the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." (Heb. 12:2).

13 comments:

Mandi said...

Jonalyn-

I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your willingness to so openly share your story and feelings/thoughts. I know that when we were experiencing infertility and then prematurity, it helped somehow to hear of others who had struggled and been comforted by God and friends/family. You have been and will continue to be in my prayers during my early morning walk- for both physical and emotional healing.
Love,
Mandi Twisselmann

Anonymous said...

Jonalyn,
thank you for the beautiful gift of your voice, to be willing to share your experiences in a way that is shaping how we women think about the bodies God gave us! When I read your first post I thought to myself about how you were giving language and voice to things for ME, a woman who has been on the road far longer! I have cried for you and I will continue to pray for you, and at the same time I rejoice for what a resource I know you are being for others. "With that I dipped deep into the living water and began to work." I look forward to meeting your first child in heaven, and meanwhile I'm very thankful to be shaped by your experiences.
Love you,
Robin Moore

Marlo said...

I'm so sorry to read this. You and Dale will be in our prayers.
Thank you for sharing this so honestly and pointing others to the great Comforter.

Sincerely,
Marlo Burdge

Jen said...

Jonalyn,
I'm so sorry to learn of your loss. My husband and I have been married for six months, and have been crushed by two miscarriages already, both at 5 1/2 weeks. The first, we see now, was not only the loss of our baby (JO, for Just Ours), but also a loss of our innocence when it comes to pregnancy. That loss was October 15. On December 21, 9 days after my last "period," I was in the ER because I woke up to a pool of blood. We were told that we were pregnant, and in danger of losing it, all at once. I was put on bed rest for two days. I was numb with shock. I wanted to be excited about this new life, but I feared this little one too, would be taken from me. And it was. D&C wasn't explained to me as well as it was to you, so I declined in both times. The first miscarriage was extraordinarly physically painful. I was on hard core meds to ease the labor pains. But the baby passed quickly and my recovery began. The second miscarriage was fraught with complications and lasted for over a month. Constant bleeding and I felt life pour out of me as the young life pass through me. I missed the window for D&C and instead had to have injections of a chemical cocktail used for chemo. It made me sick and tired. Finally, on January 20, the flow stopped. The first miscarriage was devastating because we lost someone we wanted. The second miscarriage was devasting because we lost hope that we can birth a child. Your posts were beautiful and gave birth to wonderful insights. One of the most helpful things for me is reading about other women's experiences. Reading your story, with faith intact, is just what I needed to hear in my season of waiting before we try again.

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Jen,
I grieve with you. I love your openness to share, your willingness to read more about other's journey, to enter into my own. Thank you for being a woman of transparency, vulnerability and courage! Grace to you,
Jonalyn

chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris said...

Jonalyn,

I was happy to stumble across your blog through another blog, but I was deeply saddened to hear about your loss. I can't imagine what it's like, but I'm confident that God will continue to bring healing. We have walking through a similar grieving process with some good friends here in Missouri.

It's great to see how your book project turned out!

-- Chris Gadsden

Anonymous said...

Continue to allow yourselves to grieve and talk to others who have experienced the loss of a child through a miscarriage. My 20 year old beautiful daughter who attends Biola and was in the audience when you spoke at chapel time on March 17th is the child I had after my miscarriage. I found "I'll hold you in Heaven" a helpful book for myself and others. God bless you. Sue

Melissa said...

Jonalyn, You put into words exactly how I felt. Thank you. I also miscarried (we must find a new term!) in November 2007. I have been struggling with my identity as a woman ever since. It is healing to hear you echo my heart cries of "What did I do wrong?" "Why do I feel such shame?" and "Can I be fully woman without children?" Reading Ruby Slippers along with my own study of what God has to say about women plus consistent love and acceptance from my husband has gone a long way to help me feel whole. Thank you again for your transparency. ~Melissa

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Chris- thank you for writing and encouraging

Sue- thank you for this freedom. That is good

Melissa- Thank YOU for being transparent and sharing how you did struggle with your identity as a woman through this. When will we begin to share a new word for this?

Ernesto Tinajero said...

Dear Jonalyn,

I found your blog after I started my blog beingandfaith.blogspot.com about my wife and I pregnancy. I am sorry to have learned about you loss. I want to thank you for sharing. I have been thinking about the incarnation and how God out of love chose to be vulnerable

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Ernesto,
This example of Jesus' vulnerability never fails to comfort me. Thank you for writing!
Grace for your journey,
Jonalyn

daniell said...

I have been blessed to meet you. Thank you for sharing your story. I have had a similar experience... oh so similar. and I appreciate your frank and honest sharing! I am excited for the new life you carry. I WILL pray for you!

Danielle Doan