(This post is very religious in nature - specifically my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - but is my opinion only and is not indicative of official doctrine of the Church.)
After my third child was born, I had an IUD fitted. My husband and I decided that we wanted a longer pause between children and, for a short time, even considered fostering as an alternative to having more of our own children.
In the end, however, we decided to try for our fourth (and at that point, what we thought would be our last) child and put the idea of fostering on hold.
Around the beginning of August I had the IUD removed, and less than four weeks later I woke up with extreme nausea and a positive pregnancy test.
I was incredibly surprised at the quick work my body seemed capable of, but gratified by it as well. No waiting, no charting, easy peasy.
Two days later, I started cramping and bleeding, and by the time my husband and I made it to A&E, their pregnancy test came back negative. I was pregnant, and then I wasn't. It was over.
It was a hard time for me. Physically, I was basically going through a miniature labour and delivery process, and mentally I had to stop those thoughts that had already etched themselves in my mind of "when the baby comes" and "this time next year" and "I can't eat that anymore", etc.
Even though I was only 4 or 5 weeks pregnant at the time of the miscarriage, and I had only really known about it for a couple of days before the loss, in my mind, I already had a child. I was preparing for the change and looking ahead to a new future as a mother of four children.
All of that was gone, and there was no way for me to quantify that life that never was. It was as substantial as a puff of smoke, but it left an indelible imprint in my heart.
My husband recovered faster than I did, and came to his own conclusions about the miscarriage. The age-old questions of when life begins and where do those spirits belong had been settled in his mind and his hurt was assuaged.
I wasn't so sure.
After the miscarriage, my body recovered quickly. The bleeding lasted about as long as a period would, and I bounced back enough to get pregnant again just a few short weeks later.
Mentally, I was not prepared to get pregnant so quickly. I was determined to do so, and went about it in an almost clinical manner, but it left me with such ferocious ambivalence that I ended up with morning sickness for the entire nine months.
As a perfect example of my feelings during those ten months (including the month of the miscarriage), I once had a vivid dream of being hugely pregnant and holding a newborn infant in my arms. The baby was mine, but I couldn't remember his name. In the dream, I knew I couldn't have both the pregnancy and the baby, and I woke up terribly sad. I woke up sad a lot of the time back then.
For a long time, I viewed the pregnancy lost and the baby growing within me as two separate entities. Of course I would, right? That is logical, and anyone would tell you that I have been pregnant five times, with four live children.
But my interpretation of my religious beliefs, which include a knowledge of the pre-existence and the idea that our souls have eternal permanence and significance, leads me to a different conclusion.
What if, instead of life beginning and ending at a specific and certain moment, there is fluidity between the two states of being? What if life and death are in fact twin states of being, mirror images of the same path, instead of extreme opposites? What if there is no beginning and no end?
My spirit was not formed alongside my body. I existed before entering mortality, and will continue to exist after death. Of this I am certain, and it brings me great comfort.
And what of my children? What of those spirits who have yet to be born into fleshy tabernacles? Do they inhabit their bodies the moment conception occurs? When do they become permanently tethered to their mortal bodies?
In the months after the miscarriage, and in the early weeks of my subsequent pregnancy, I couldn't get a firm grasp in my mind of what that interrupted embryo actually meant to me. Was it a child lost? Was it someone I would get to meet in the next life, his or her mortality - abrupt as it was - already achieved?
Many women who suffer pregnancy loss name the child. They often have a firm idea of what the sex was, even before it would have been possible to find out via medical means.
This was not the case for me. As time went by, and as I entered my 8th month of pregnancy (and the month of my previous due date), I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Perhaps it was time healing my wounds, and the anticipation of the living baby about to be born, but I think I was finally accepting what my husband felt all along. Our fourth child was already here. The pregnancy I lost didn't mean I lost the chance to raise a spirit child of God. For whatever reason, the timing wasn't right, or the embryo didn't develop correctly, and she waited for another chance.
Life is precious. It is not to be created and thrown away; we are given this almost unfathomable gift of creation, but have not been given the right to decide where and when it ends. God decides the outcome of our mortality. Although I believe that our entrance into mortality is a gradual process, and that there is a certain amount of fluidity between the mortal and spirit worlds, I also believe that each person has a different experience with this. A child could be stillborn at 22 weeks, while another could survive and (eventually) thrive after 22 weeks gestation. I do not claim to have the answers for everyone's situation, but I have come to terms with mine.
I am not missing a child. I have been pregnant five times, and have four living children, but we are all here. She was there all along, but it just didn't work out the first time.
This brings me peace. It takes away my fear of future pregnancies and possible miscarriages, and helps me to understand the Plan of Salvation that little bit better. I love the idea that birth and death are sacred ordinances that should not be treated lightly, and that are not fully understood at this point in our existence.
I think one of the reasons my church has no official stance on miscarriage is that each situation is undoubtedly unique. I take comfort from the scripture quoted in the above link:
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:3–5.)May the comfort of the Holy Ghost and the love of God help us all to glory in our tribulations, whatever they may be.