A Jewish Perspective on Miscarriage and Stillbirth

A Jewish Perspective on Miscarriage and Stillbirth

By hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence) the deadline for this article was around the time of the anniversary of my own miscarriage three years ago.  I planned it and wrote and rewrote the article in my head, revising it for months.  As the deadline loomed near, I found that I couldn’t write; there was a barrier: the emotions buried under the surface that I didn’t want to release and feel.  I waited until the time of year passed that marked the anniversaries of the dates I found out the pregnancy wasn’t viable, the date the bleeding started, the date the labor began and I delivered my empty egg sac, the date the after-“birth” contractions ended.  It wasn’t until after that time had passed that I finally felt ready to unearth the words I had long ago written to assuage my own feelings along with the pain of others’ deep emotional wounds.

Healing is an ongoing process.  Even when we feel we are finished with our mourning and our acceptance, there can still be times when we revisit the deep pains of our loss.  Indeed, one of my friends, who has also experienced miscarriage, said that she was told that women have “wells of tears” and sometimes they overflow and that they need to do so.  I can certainly attest to that!

May you never need to know this information, but if you do, may it bring you comfort or help you comfort a friend.

When G-d created the world, He left some things for us to do in order to complete creation.  Every person – in fact, every soul—in the world has its own special mission to do in order to fulfill its purpose in the world and to help complete it.  We do not always know what our mission is; rarely do we know for sure.  Yet, everyone has their own special mission.  For some it may be a dramatic contribution to the world of medicine, such as discovering the cure for a disease, or a major contribution to the field of education, or an artist’s great masterpiece, or a moment of quiet and serenity as someone restores peace and order to chaos.

For some, their special mission may be relatively undramatic but nevertheless essential to the interconnectedness of the world.  It could be as simple as passing a tissue to someone in tears, helping someone cross the street, listening to someone cry, applauding the lecturer who needs recognition, smiling at someone who has no smiles of their own.

All the special missions are essential for the completion of G-d’s plan for the world.  Some special missions take a lifetime to fulfill; some are actually fulfilled while in utero and the soul need not even enter the physical world. Our tradition teaches us that not all souls have bodies.  Every time a married couple unites together, they create a soul.  Some souls enter the world in a physical form; others are so pure and righteous that their mission is fulfilled just by being created or during a short duration in the womb.  While in the Womb, the soul is taught Torah with his/her own special teacher, an angel of G-d.  The womb is a private house of study for special learning.  Just before birth, the soul forgets the Torah learned and endeavors to relearn it after birth. 

A soul who completes its mission in utero or soon after birth is a very pure soul and it is a special merit for the couple that they were chosen to bring this soul into the world.  When our righteous Moshiach comes, these souls will recognize and reunite with their parents.  Even though the parents endure real pain and loss, it is a blessing to have merited to have such a pure soul within one’s womb for however short or long a time.

But this explanation feels incomplete to me.  My husband and I suffered a loss.  Every parent who conceives a child who does not live to be born feels a tremendous sense of loss and pain and feels a strong sense of something missing.  I miss the pregnancy, I miss the baby, I miss the baby’s Torah learning within my womb, I miss the angel, and I miss the cherished dream of birthing that baby in September and raising him or her lovingly with my husband.  I miss being treated like a pregnant, expectant mother, I miss the treasured sharing of the expectation with my husband I miss the staff at the fertility clinic, I miss confiding in my mom and sisters and close friends, I miss being able to tell everyone that I was pregnant.  I miss the baby.

Knowing what I do about Jewish wisdom comforts me and encourages me.  I still feel the pain, I still feel the loss. Yet I know that this was G-d’s will.  The little soul who learned Torah within my womb is a special soul and I was blessed to have that soul within me – and how I miss that soul.

Acknowledging someone’s pain and letting them cry is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.  It helps the missing not hurt as much.

Within a year after my miscarriage—indeed, before our original due date-   I became pregnant again.  Even though my healing and acceptance had begun well before I became pregnant again, the hope of a new baby certainly helped heal the emotional wounds.

I gave birth very happily and healthfully to a baby boy, whom we named Tuvia, which means goodness of G-d, or G-d is good.  He is named symbolically for my father and my husband’s father, may their memories be for a blessing; also in honor of several rabbis; and to give appreciation to Hashem for all of His blessings, and for all the challenges and seeming obstacles on our path towards the blessings.  We are grateful to Hashem not only for the blessings, but also for the journey.  I can let go of the pain of the past as I embrace the future with love, hope, prayer and thanks.


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