Because Mike Pence is now the VPEOTUS (is that how you say that?), my pro-choice friends all over are posting that not-quite-accurate meme about “he wants you to have a funeral for your fetal tissue.” Fetal tissue, of course, that comes from abortion and miscarriage. I can’t speak to abortion but I’ve had three miscarriages and three different fetal tissue experiences. I’m writing from a nuanced pro-life perspective that really wants you to like me even if you’re pro-choice.
My first miscarriage happened during the first year of our marriage. It was in November, we’d gotten married in March. It was my first pregnancy. I’m still not exactly sure when/how that whole life/soul/rights thing happens in the womb. However, I know/believe that my X and Roy’s X or Y, however faulty the ones miscarried babies get, came from people made in the image of God, so whatever mess was in that small mass in my womb, the image of God was there too. And this first miscarriage, that image of God, I’m pretty sure, got flushed down the toilet. I didn’t have my glasses on at the time, and later my doctor gave me a d&c because “the pregnancy” hadn’t gotten all the way out, but I’m 87% certain that our first baby’s tiny body got flushed into the sewer. However, I’m confident her soul is in heaven with Jesus, and that’s enough. I’m not exactly comfortable with what happened, but I’ve learned to live with it.
My third pregnancy ended in miscarriage, too. I had switched OBs this time so I could attempt a VBAC, and my new doctor was content to let me wait it out. This second tiny baby body ended up in the toilet too, but I was awake and with my glasses on, and surprise! (I’m my mother’s daughter) fished it out of the toilet and stuck it in a baby food jar filled with alcohol. Yes, for a while, I kept my fetal remains in my house in an bottle. And I showed it to people I thought might be interested. At the time we were living in a house that wasn’t ours. I didn’t want to do anything that would be permanent in a place we would leave so I waited for what felt like the right time. And finally, I went back to the campus of the university where I had experienced massive soul-growth. I tucked the bottle into my bag, along with my Book of Common Prayer (I’m not Anglican, but it’s helpful) and drove off for a happy college friend reunion. And at one point, I snuck off and headed to the chapel. I found a quiet spot, burrowed a little hole into the mulch, and put his tiny body in the ground while I went through an abbreviated form of the Anglican burial service, just me and Jesus. I know that that inch and a half of used-to-be-life probably got eaten by bugs or maybe some small animal (either that or some campus landscape guy got a very awkward surprise), but I’ve been more comfortable with this “fetal matter” disposal. I put my lost-baby to rest (and/or get eaten by scavengers) in a place that meant a great deal to me, and admitted my loss to God in centuries-old language. Though I felt great sadness over that miscarriage, I never felt crushed by my grief.
My seventh pregnancy ended in miscarriage. What would have been our fifth and for sure final child. It was, I guess, now two summers ago, so my born-kids were ages say, 6, 4, about-to-be-3, and 18mos. (And yes, we do know how to use birth control, I promise.) Once you’ve had one miscarriage, the first three months of any pregnancy are fraught with anxiety and worry. There’s a constant churn of questions: “Can I really handle this many kids? Should I be feeling sicker? What if my baby is dead inside me right now? Am I not trusting Jesus enough?” In this baby’s case, though the staff did their best not to alarm me, it was clear from the first ultrasound that things might not be okay. I tried not to worry, and to live my life with hope. I cherished each instance of nausea. But then I started bleeding just a little brown blood. So I went in, and they found there was no heartbeat. I had the baby inside me but I had already lost him. We were due to go to a family reunion that weekend, a long awaited one for my husband’s family, and though it was clear my body was already working on the job of clearing the pregnancy, I decided to go ahead and schedule a D&C for the next day, so I wouldn’t be meeting my husband’s extended family at the same time as I was actively losing his baby. So you know, this last baby, they scraped and sucked out of me, and I don’t know what happened to him. Maybe I should’ve asked, but there was so much going on and I had all these other kids who needed to be fed and snuggled and reassured that mama was sad but we’d be okay. There were Things That Needed to Happen, and my future grief wasn’t really on my mind. I guess they probably incinerated the waste from my surgery. This last miscarriage has been the hardest for me to recover from in many way. I know there’s more than one reason — Four living kids don’t allow you a lot of time to sit around with sackcloth and ashes; it hurts that my childbearing years are bookended with loss instead of ending with a triumphant win of a sweet baby; our life changed drastically about six months after the loss so there’s so much more to process instead of “just” the miscarriage, a general tendency to avoid painful feelings, etc., etc. But I can’t help but think that some of it is because my baby is just gone. That life we awaited with trepidatious joy, it’s gone, even the empty shell of his short life. Grief ebbs and flows of course, as life allows, but it’s still here, far longer than with our other lost-babies, still surprising me with my feelings. In my trauma group that I was going to (ostensibly so I could help others with their trauma), they say one thing that makes it harder to grieve is when you don’t recover your loved one’s body. I only knew my loved one for six weeks and maybe it’s only the possibility of him that I loved, but I lost his body, and I’m still grieving.
So EFF YOU AND YOUR MEMES, OKAY? Sorry, I’m not trying to get all political or make decisions about what you should do with your babies, unborn and/or lost. You do you, and God be with you. But I would like to suggest that for some women — many women? — in whichever way an fetus doesn’t make it to a healthy full term birth, it is far more complicated than “let’s just trash this unwanted or unfit bunch of cells,” and every time you post that dumb — and inaccurate (I checked Snopes and everything) — meme on social media, I want to punch you in the face and ask you why you don’t care about my pain. Only, of course, I’m conflict avoidant so I wrote this instead.