Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss

ABBEY WEDGEWORTH|GUEST

“Was it my fault?”

Prenatal-care instructions draw a straight line from our bodies and decisions to the health of our babies. We’re told to avoid eating soft cheeses and drinking alcohol. We’re instructed not to exercise too rigorously and to stay hydrated. We’re counseled to take a daily prenatal vitamin with plenty of folic acid.

The burden of responsibility that accompanies motherhood starts long before a baby is born. So, when the death of a baby occurs within a mother’s body, this is the sort of question that haunts us as we mull over things we did or didn’t do, or feelings we did or didn’t have.

A Common Offer of Comfort

I remember so clearly my doctor placing his hand on mine, looking into my tear-filled eyes, and saying, “This is not your fault.” His intention was to offer comfort, but I remember wondering how he could say those words with such certainty when he knew so little about me, my past, or my actions during this pregnancy.

Just as my doctor couldn’t tell me the reason behind my miscarriage, I cannot possibly know the reason behind yours. Yet whether or not my doctor’s statement was true, the sentiment behind it was absolutely correct. There is no point in being consumed by guilt over your miscarriage.

Of greater comfort than these scripted words from a physician with limited knowledge are the words of Scripture—the word of the God who does know all things, who is in control of all things, and who actually has the authority to forgive and to offer full assurance of pardon.

Greater Comfort in God’s Sovereignty

David’s declaration in Psalm 139 v 16 tell us that God knows all the days of a baby’s life before he or she is even formed in the womb:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

He alone is sovereign over life. So you can let yourself off the hook. There is nothing you could have done to lengthen or shorten the number of days that God ordained for your baby in his sovereign wisdom. Though this life came to be within you, you did not create it. You are not all-powerful. But your completely good and infinitely wise God is. And his goodness and wisdom mean that his supreme power is a great relief as we consider the death of our unborn babies.

Relief for Your Guilt

Even if your pregnancy came sooner than you expected or before you felt ready, even if you didn’t intend to have children or to have any more children or to have more children quite yet, even if you were secretly afraid of what pregnancy might do to your body—your thoughts and feelings are not powerful enough to change the days that the God of the universe numbered for your baby. And neither are your actions.

Perhaps you suspect that your miscarriage is some sort of punishment for past sin. Maybe you suspect that God is withholding motherhood from you now because you had an abortion as a teen, or you didn’t wait until you were married to have sex. If this is you, hear this assurance of pardon: your Savior bore the full weight of your sin on the cross. If you are in Christ, there is no punishment left for any sin you commit—past, present, or future.

Punishment aside, if you believe that your miscarriage was a direct consequence of a sinful decision you made, God’s word offers relief for you too. My dear guilt-ridden sister, regardless of whether or not you are at fault, you can find full and complete forgiveness in Christ. For any guilt you feel—if upon careful thought you conclude that you are right to feel it—you can experience the relief that comes from repentance. Tell it to Jesus and rest in his extravagant grace. There is no need to harbor guilt over something for which the Judge of all the earth has promised to forgive you.

A Better Question and Answer 

There is no reason to sit in shame when you are fully accepted by the God who knows all your actions and has also searched and known all the thoughts and intentions of your heart (Psalm 139 v 1-4).

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples encounter a blind man, and the disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v 2). They assume, in accordance with the popular belief of their day, that his blindness is the direct result of wrongdoing.

But Jesus directly refutes this view: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v 3). For the blind man, “the works of God” meant the miracle work of Jesus; for us, it could mean any number of things. The point is that God uses tragedy in the lives of his people—even tragedies that do arise from their own sinful decisions—to display his glory. The disciples’ question was concerned with responsibility and fault, but Jesus’ response reveals the more important question and more relevant answer: what is the purpose of God, and how will his works be displayed in your experience of miscarriage?

God’s Comfort and Care in Your Loss

When you are tempted to claim responsibility for the death of your baby, you can give God glory by acknowledging his sovereignty over life, praying and proclaiming verse 16 of Psalm 139.

When you feel bitterness and confusion over the mystery of suffering, you can give God glory by trusting that his plans are perfect and his ways are higher than yours, even if they are incomprehensible to you (Psalm 139 v 6).

And when you feel despondent and sorrowful, you can give God glory by hoping in Christ. He suffered for the sins of his people so that his Father might receive glory, and so that as you consider the life of your baby, and the events and days of your own life, you might clearly perceive that the actions and glory of God are inextricably linked to your good.

This is an extract from Held: 31 Biblical Reflections on God’s Comfort and Care in the Sorrow of Miscarriage by Abbey Wedgeworth. The 31 biblical reflections in this beautiful and comforting book remind grieving women that God sees them, knows them, loves them, and is actively caring for them.

About the Author:

Abbey Wedgeworth

Abbey Wedgeworth a wife, mother, writer, and speaker located on the South Carolina coastline. She is passionate about bible literacy and discipleship and loves to see how the gospel transforms how people think and live. Abbey is the author of Held: 31 Biblical Reflections on God’s Comfort and Care in the Sorrow of Miscarriage, the host of the Held podcast, and the curator of the annual Gentle Leading Advent Devotional for Moms. You can find more from Abbey at abbeywedgeworth.com.

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