When my oldest son was a baby, he had a love-hate relationship with bananas. Sitting in his high chair, his little body would wiggle and giggle at the prospect of holding that sweet golden treat with his chubby fingers. Teasing a bit, I would slowly peel the banana and encourage his anticipatory delight. Feet kicking, arms waving, my little cherub reached out to grab the prize only to realize a great disappointment. Banana’s break. Although his hands were tiny, a humble banana could not withstand the pressure of my son’s greedy grip. The banana broke. This was a trial he could not endure. His once joyful countenance, only seconds before, turned to wailing. The disappointment is complete. This fit was an emotional explosion of a human who hasn’t yet learned how to cope with the world not being as he imagines it should be. The irony is, that his imagination is only that: imagination. Life includes trials.
This life lesson stayed within our family as we raised our children. Through the years, when trials came to our household, ultimately, someone would say, “Well, bananas break!” There is sound wisdom in recognizing this principle as truth. We live in a broken world where things break: relationships, health, hearts, worldviews, roles, hope…they all break at some point. Jesus told us to expect it (Jn. 16:33). Peter teaches us “not to be surprised” by it (1 Peter 4:12). James instructs us to “count it all joy” when we face them (James 1:2-8). And David declares that the Lord will comfort our broken hearts and crushed spirits as we endure them (Ps. 34:17-18).
I can only guess as to why, as a young woman, I began reading stories of missionaries and those who have suffered mightily for the kingdom. Early on, I knew I wanted to prepare for the inevitability of life’s inconsistent, unpredictable, and seemingly unjust trials. But sometimes, sometimes…a trial comes out of the blue and gives you a good sucker punch. Sometimes, the hit is so hard it takes, at least initially, the prayers out of your lungs. We are bruised and bloody.
We had one such family gut-punch this week, and today, I am sore. I am weary and wounded and a little cross, if I’m honest. Maybe you are here this week, too. Perhaps you, as a helper needing to be strong for others, are also struggling personally, unable to pray but only offer, as Lilias Trotter suggests, a “dumb crying up to the skies of brass.” CS Lewis then recommends we should not “weep inwardly and get a sore throat. If [we] must weep, weep a good honest howl. I suspect we…don’t cry enough nowadays.” In this, the Lord reminds me that bananas do, in fact, break, and I do not yet live in Heaven. As a child, we learn this, and as an adult, we know it, but some trials do come to pass that utterly surprise us. In this season, Spurgeon speaks by encouraging us as a dear friend, “When grief presses you to the dust, worship there.” And my soul is restored.
My colleague, Tanya, and I travel quite a bit for work as we speak at seminars, attend conferences, and provide training. On any given flight, we are asked where and what we do, and I can tell you, it’s not always sexy for others to learn that we are reproductive grief and loss educators. Some people will tell us their precious and sacred stories, and others will not look us in the eye for the rest of the journey. On one such flight, Tanya sat beside a beautiful young woman who asked what the purpose of our trip was. Tanya quietly mentioned our travel plans, then sat back to see where the conversation would lead. Soon, the woman looked up at the air vent, hoping to find the meaning of these words there. She hesitatingly asked, “Miscarriage?” Tanya breathed out, “Yes.” After a long pause, the woman asked, “Abortion?” Again, Tanya answered, “Yes.” Finally, the woman looked up, searching for words in the sky beyond the plane, and asked, “Hysterectomy?”
The woman went on to share with Tanya how she had to have a complete hysterectomy at a young age and was now grieving the children she would never bear.
Reproductive loss is any experience of grief in a person’s life related to their reproductive health, decisions, fertility, the outcomes of a pregnancy, or the creation or care of their family. It can involve the pain of miscarriage, the agony of stillbirth, perinatal and infant loss, and the complex emotions tied to infertility, assisted reproduction, and abortion. It also extends to adoption, children born with congenital disabilities, and any loss affecting a person’s reproductive well-being.
Reproductive loss is a widespread and often unspoken part of life. Miscarriage alone accounts for a quarter of all pregnancies, resulting in about two million losses yearly in the United States. Yet, it differs from other forms of grief in that parents who have experienced reproductive loss may have limited tangible memories of their baby. Their loss is silent, and they often grieve without the support or recognition they need to heal. Additionally, when individuals form deep connections with their unborn or newborn children and experience any loss, grief inevitably follows.
Knowing that many people struggle with reproductive loss is half the battle of becoming a source of understanding and empathy for them. Because it is a private (or scary) topic, we seldom delve into these particular and painfully common tragedies. Thus, distressed women and men are not receiving the biblical guidance they desperately need. Instead, struggling with their pain in isolation, they often seek comfort and answers online, where much of the content they stumble upon focuses on the emotional dimensions of losing a child rather than applying the truths of God’s Word to their grief. While they find empathy in the articles they read, the profound hope embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ is missing.
With just a little bit of information on this topic, we can listen to these stories with empathy and offer the hope and comfort afforded us in Christ Jesus.
Tricia Lewis, Co-Founder Reproductive Loss Network
 Flores and Lewis, 2023; Earle et al., 2008; Price, 2008; Roth, 2018
Last week a friend stopped by for a visit, saw my plants, and offered some advice. The need was evident. One of my succulents sits with its overgrown stalk resting on the kitchen window, like a child smooshing its face into the glass. Across the counter sits a different plant, droopy and over-watered, looking as if trying to reach something to hold on to, only to give up. She told me the size of the pots is the problem, affecting their healthy growth. One has too much room, and the other is cramped. I had no idea!
Doing research, I found on SimplifyPlants’ website that “different species of plants have different care requirements, and each of them acts differently in a particular situation.” For example, when the pot’s size is too small, the nutrients present in the soil will be absorbed quickly by the plant, and the roots may become root bound. On the other hand, if you put a plant in a pot too big, the plant will not be able to absorb appropriate nutrients. In addition, the soil may hold too much water, leading to root rot and other pest problems in the plants. So, I learned that I have to be intentional in my pot selection for each plant, giving it the appropriate soil, water, and fertilizer it requires.
Thinking about plants reminds me of how God made us uniquely in his image, planting us strategically for growth, pruning, and harvesting (Jeremiah 17:7-8). God knows when we need a smaller space for our roots to grow deep, and he knows when we are ready for a larger area of expansion. He also gives us “fertilizer” through his Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and his church, where we encourage and support one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Unfortunately, we often want to control where we are planted, our speed of growth, and the fruit we bring. Other times, we may not want to grow but remain where we are, tired and weary from the process. Its often in grief where we feel the struggle the most. When we endure suffering, we may feel we’ve been ripped from our pot and question if we’ll ever grow again. We are challenged in our faith to trust the master gardener (John 15:1-27), who we are to abide in, through all seasons of life. He is the one who causes us to grow and prunes us when needed. He gives us Jesus, our living water and nourishment, promising through him we won’t hunger or thirst again (John 4:10, 6:35)
Let’s encourage one another not to struggle out of our pots. As it is for us and those we help, God knows where we belong, even when it feels foreign, dull, or barren. Let’s remind ourselves and them to soak in the living water of Jesus and allow him to fertilize our soil. Be intentional in the community around you, supporting, encouraging, and tending to one another. And with patience and perseverance, we look forward to the Kingdom of God…
…yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE. – Mark 4:32
Tanya Flores, Reproductive Loss Network
This submission is from a dear friend who expresses the grief of her reproductive loss journey through poetry.
It lingers in the shadows.
It remains just under the surface.
Present on every major occasion,
holiday and transition.
If we are not careful
we can miss it all together.
Like a transformer it shape shifts, heaviness, frustration,
jealousy, sadness, anger, irritation….
But when we are still, and we allow our hearts to be known,
Out of the shadows its true form is shown
It’s not a monster at all,
when you turn on the lights
In fact, we see it’s been with us all our life.
It is the little and the big ways
this life is not what I thought
The many and few ways
I regret the cards I got
It is the crushed expectations
And dreams of what could be
It is carrying a vision
That only I can see
Hope is a necessity
For a well lived life
But it requires a gap
That cuts like a knife
So, a suggestion if I may
To move us right along
Grief will linger still
But that doesn’t make it wrong
Grief simply exposes
what we know is true
We weren’t made for this world
(There is nothing wrong with you)
So we learn from its presence
We invite it to the table
We remember that were human
And accept that we are not able
Not able to control
this world that we live in
The brokenness around us
Or the story were given.
But there is one who is greater
And He is a the helm
Aware of every twist and turn
In the seen and unseen realm
The picture is so much bigger
Than the naked eye can bare
As the God of the universe
Meets us with tender loving care
Embracing our humanity
Both the highs and the lows
Is kinship with Jesus
At depths only He knows
For, why would a need a comforter,
a counselor and friend
if the American dream
was the goal at the end?
But a greater invitation
Has been issued in our name
A truly abundant life
Not void of grief and pain
It is in the midst the shadows
We discover that we’re not alone
Capture a greater vision
And remember—this is not our home.
At the beginning of April, I received an email from a jewelry retailer that surprised me. The subject line immediately caught my eyes: “Rather not receive Mother’s Day emails?” I opened it to read the full text, “we understand that this time of year isn’t easy for all. If you’d rather not receive Mother’s Day emails, just let us know.” Below the paragraph was a large button labeled “OPT OUT OF MOTHER’S DAY EMAILS.”
Ten days later, the popular online graphic design portal, Canva, sent out their email, “Want to opt-out of Mother’s Day emails?” Their content included a button to “Change my preferences” alongside the message “Mother’s Day is coming up and we know it can be a difficult day for some. That’s why we’re giving you the option to opt-out of Mother’s Day emails from us.”
If the secular world recognizes and offers relief for those hurting during the Mother’s Day season, shouldn’t the church respond as well? Is Mother’s Day even biblical? Or are the women who hurt expected to gird up strength and endure a socially constructed celebration?
I understand these questions can stir up emotion, especially for church leaders. Years ago, I asked a pastor to consider canceling the church’s annual May “Mother/Daughter Tea” to have a church-wide picnic instead. Or at least rebranding the event name to “Women’s Day Tea.” The reason being is Mother’s Day can be one of the hardest days of the year, and harder still to celebrate it in church. The church is to be a place focused on glorifying God (not ourselves), being devoted to the teaching of biblical doctrine, fellowship, observing the Lord’s supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42). And sometimes its events don’t feel glorifying.
So, should hurting people endure the holiday? The statistics demonstrate the vast numbers of reproductive loss. Annually, 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth, 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 1 out of 8 couples experience infertility, and 1 out of 4 women will have chosen abortion. Many more women and men are grieving the loss of their female family members, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other loved ones. We also need to recognize the grief of adoption placements, prenatal diagnoses, and broken dreams of family and relationships. As I type this, I wonder if Mother’s Day feels more of a day of survival for most.
The Bible doesn’t ask us to set aside special days for mothers and fathers or anyone else. But it doesn’t condemn it either. Instead, Romans 14:5-8 lays out how every day for a believer should be observed in honor of and thankfulness to the Lord. And through our hope and salvation in Christ, we look forward to the day where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Romans 21:4). We can take refuge in a God who comforts us and saves us from the broken world and broken bodies.
So, should we opt out of Mother’s Day? What about Father’s Day? Or, any other day that brings anniversary grief? Let’s remind ourselves that the Lord has appointed times for weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing (Ecclesiastes 31:4). And He also promises us a living hope and unfading inheritance through Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4). As believers, we should not mourn like those who have no future, but instead, keep our heads lifted to Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
If you’re hurting this season, we pray for you. Whatever you choose to do to protect your heart this Mother’s Day, please don’t opt-out of Jesus; He is there. And for those who can comfort others, please reach out to the hurting and remember Christ “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
by Tanya Flores, Reproductive Loss Network
It started out like any other pregnancy. A positive test. Excitement. Fatigue. Nausea. With a history of miscarriage, pregnancy for me always came with a considerable amount of anxiety as well. An early ultrasound at 7 weeks showed a heartbeat, so that helped to put my mind at ease.
My next ultrasound was at 12 weeks. This time, however, the results were far from reassuring. At a follow-up doctor’s appt., I was told that my baby had some “complications”. . . After several more scans, a meeting with a genetics counselor and eventually an amniocentesis at 18 weeks, a diagnosis was confirmed. We had a son and he had Trisomy-18 (Edwards Syndrome), a rare chromosomal abnormality. He was deemed “incompatible with life”. The news was devastating.
Though termination was recommended, I believe strongly that God alone is the giver and taker of life. He had given me this child and I was determined to carry him as long as the Lord allowed me to. God knew the number of his days and I was at peace placing my son’s life in His Sovereign hands.
Since there is a high chance of miscarriage with Trisomy babies, I woke up every morning wondering if “today” would be the day. It was a highly emotional and tumultuous time for our family and the daily strains of carrying a child that I knew would probably not survive was exhausting. But God allowed me to carry this precious child for 40 weeks. An induction was scheduled and at 7:41pm on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, Isaac Matthew Green was stillborn. Labor had proved to be too much for him.
It was one of the darkest and most difficult times of my life. I had held out hope for a miracle for so long. I was overcome by the profound disappointment of not getting to look into his eyes, even once, to tell him I loved him. The heart-breaking reality of a life cut short hit hard. I would never get to see him grow up. My older boys would never get to shower him with their affection (& wrestling!). It was unfair. The grief, all-consuming.
But amidst the overwhelming grief, God was there. He was faithful. And He was good. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction . . .” (2 Cor. 1:3-4a) Praise God the Holy Spirit helps us when we are at our weakest, interceding on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27).
And when God felt far away and we were too consumed by our grief to make our own way, He used the body of Christ to carry us. They were His hands & feet, reaching into our lives and drawing us closer to Him. There wasn’t much they could say to “make it better”, but they brought us meals, paid for a house cleaner, watched our kids and checked in on us frequently. They prayed for us and cried with us. Before Isaac was born, a group of women from our church threw a “Celebration of Life” party for me and I was given a quilt that they had each created their own unique square for. After Isaac was born, those same women came to the hospital to “meet” him and to sit with us in our grief. I will cherish these simple acts of kindness and compassion for the rest of my life.
Isaac will always be a part of our family. He is a part of me, and his brief life has changed me forever; I will never be the same. Five and a half years on, the intensity of my grief has faded, but it still hits me when I least expect it. In spite of everything, I am thankful. I am thankful to God for giving Isaac to our family. I am thankful for the many ultrasounds where we got to “see” him alive and kicking inside the womb. I am thankful for the answered prayers for strength and the Lord’s protection from having to make additional difficult decisions in regard to Isaac’s care. I am thankful for the exceptionally understanding and compassionate medical professionals who helped and guided us. I am thankful for the amazing community of believers He provided to walk beside us on our journey. But most of all, I am thankful for how God will one day turn my mourning into gladness and take the ashes of my life and turn them into something truly BEAUTIFUL.
by Rachel Green