Our First Child
I’ll never forget our first ultrasound. My wife had (finally) gotten pregnant and we were expecting to get the baby’s first picture to celebrate with our friends and family. But the woman performing the ultrasound wasn’t celebrating, in fact she spoke very little the entire time. She just stared at the monitor and later referred us back to our doctor. Perhaps, we thought, the baby was still too small to be photographed.
Back at the doctor’s office, the doctor’s assistant showed us to a waiting room and sympathetically said “I’m so sorry.” Sorry? Sorry for what? Our wait time wasn’t that long.
But it was obvious. Our doctor tried to soften the blow by telling us that the baby was still very small, just a few cells, really. He also said it was very common among first pregnancies. Our baby had died. It died before it even had a chance to live. But… why?
Neither of us knew exactly how to feel. Sure, we were sad and disappointed, but should we mourn the loss of this life? Was it even a life at all? Our church certainly made a big deal over how life begins at conception, but they weren’t treating this like a “real” death. No one suggested we name the child, or have a funeral, or buy a teeny tiny casket and a teeny tiny burial plot. Apparently, it was not that big of a deal.
Is not even the womb sacred?
Since then, I’ve learned that as many as half of all fertilized eggs will spontaneously abort. But the real question is, why did God allow the death of our child, and billions more like it?
What sets miscarriages apart from other forms of suffering is the intimate and active role that God is said to play in the development of new life.
For starters, in Genesis 1:28 He instructs us to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” As we obey God’s command, it seems self-defeating that He should run interference on His own request.
Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 tell us it is God who forms children in the womb: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” How is it that God can fail at something He has begun to build? Especially something He has ordained?
Exodus 21:22-25 teaches us the value of the life God is forming: “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman… you are to take life for life.” If the unborn life is this important, why doesn’t God protect it? Why would He order us not to harm unborn children, yet allow other forces to interfere with them?
So God instructs us to multiply, He forms a child in the womb, inserts a spirit, expresses the utmost concern for its survival, and then allows it to die. Why?
It’s as if God said, “I’m torn. On the one hand, I want humans to be fruitful and multiply, and value their unborn. But on the other hand, I don’t want them to be too fruitful, and I don’t really care to protect their unborn.”
Hell is for Children?
A common defense is to reason that God does not kill these children, but “allows” Satan to kill them. Miscarriages, then, are like any other form of suffering, God isn’t responsible, He just allows it.
But what does Satan gain from killing the unborn? If you’re Christian, you probably believe that dead babies get a free ticket to heaven, so killing them just means Satan loses his chance to steal their soul. What’s the point of sending them straight to God? Unless — perish the thought — all these children are actually sent to hell; perhaps due to some theological condition that hasn’t been met.
So unless unborn children go to hell, neither God nor Satan seem to really benefit from a miscarriage. It’s a lose/lose! If neither benefit, why allow it to happen?
The only other person who might somehow benefit is the parent(s). But some women don’t even realize they’re pregnant when they miscarry, so how do they benefit? And for most parents, it’s just an annoying speed bump on the way to having other children.
Is God sparing us from something worse?
Another defense is to reason that maybe God is being merciful by not allowing a defective baby to continue. But if God’s forming it, why is it defective? And if He is all-knowing, why would He bother forming a baby He knows won’t survive? (Does He even bother to give it a soul, because that seems a bit wasteful.) And why do so many other defective babies make it to term before dying? Why didn’t God show them mercy?
Or perhaps miscarriages are God’s way of telling us we’re not yet ready for a child. But again, why allow them to be conceived at all? I have a cousin who seems to lose every other child, but God isn’t preventing her from having children, just every other child. Is He telling her she’s only ready for every other child??
Or maybe it’s God’s way of saying, “Abortion is okay! Really, look at me, I throw away tons of these things. Kill as many as you want, I’ll just make more!”
My wife and I eventually went on to have two wonderful children, whom I would cherish with or without the miscarriage experience.
Are invisible forces of good and evil locked in an epic battle over embryos, or does nature just make mistakes?
If God is responsible for making this life, I would ask Him if He has a purpose for it. If so, why not let it live? If not, why make it at all? I see no reason why an intelligent being would want to make half-baked, dead-end creation that will never see the light of day.
Perhaps a better question is “Why does nature allow miscarriages, spontaneous abortions and still births?” If nature is responsible, I can understand her lack of intelligence and foresight. She’s not being willfully malicious, she’s just a biological machine, stuck in a endless, mindless loop of creation. She is no more concerned about making a successful life than the moon is concerned about making a successful orbit. If one of her copies fails, she scraps it and starts over. And as long as she is successful from time to time, life continues. Nature is imperfect, unfeeling, mechanical, indifferent… and amazing.