When the Lord permits suffering, He does so because He sees a greater good down the road. In fact, if we could see that good in advance, we would beg for the suffering.
The past two years, I ‘ve come face to face with this reality and the fact that my greatest sufferings are actually my biggest blessings.
Talking about two of the most painful experiences of my life on a public format is not something I decided to do on a whim. Its something that’s come after much discernment and in recognition that it is not just my story but it tells the story of the culture we live in. This is true of your suffering too. While it is unique, its a product of your environment which is formed by the time, place, and people you are surrounded by. We all belong to each other and the smallest of actions contributes to the bigger picture of our era and the spirit that defines it. It is in this light I’ve decided to write the following.
March 18, 2020 is a date that brings tears to my eyes at its very mention. Not only was it less than a week before our county went on lockdown at the very beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but it was the date that I had emergency surgery after discovering I was carrying an ectopic pregnancy in my fallopian tube.
I knew what having an ectopic pregnancy meant. But I didn’t understand the treatments completely. I knew that if I didn’t receive treatment, and treatment soon, the bleeding I was experiencing could become life-threatening as the little life inside me potentially grew. The juxtaposition of life and destruction that was occurring inside of me was incomprehensible. However, my faith reminded me that this destruction did not destroy the value and beauty of the life I carried. And how I needed that reminder.
As a Catholic I knew that any treatment that directly attacked the life of an unborn child was morally unacceptable. Working for an organization that happens to have a Catholic bioethicist gave me an advantage that most women in this situation do not have. I was able to reach out for advice to wonderful colleagues and priests who reminded me of what the Church teaches and pointed me to resources that aided my discernment process. With their help, my husband and I advocated for a specific treatment which my conscience told me was morally safe and honored the dignity of both me and my child.
However, when we left the hospital that night I felt absolutely numb in every way possible. I felt the death that had just occurred within me. I couldn’t comprehend everything that had just happened. I wanted to feel the embrace and support of those I loved most. But in all honestly- we had no idea who to turn to. Because we don’t talk about things like this in our society. My faith and reason told me that what I had just experienced was quite traumatic. But our culture and social norms told me it was nothing or it would offend people. Our cultural norms told me to shut up and quiet my grief. The emotional reality I began to experience because of this felt strangely familiar.
The bleak reality I experienced in the weeks after March 18, 2020 was an inability to properly grieve what had just happened. There are no established norms for this type of loss. When a relative or friend dies- we know what to do. We have a funeral and remember the life that was lost. But when an unborn child dies, silence. There were very few outlets in our lives for us to talk about what had just happened with, even amongst Catholic circles who understood the gravity of the loss that had just occurred. Nobody knew how to talk about it or perhaps were afraid to.
To top it all off, things were happening in my physical body that I was not prepared for following the loss of pregnancy. I received what seemed like conflicting and very limited discharge instructions following the pregnancy loss. And when I called out for clarification from my medical providers, it seemed like I was inconveniencing them. It’s as if even the medical field didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to acknowledge the gravity of what occurred.
About a week after the surgery, I went to my follow-up appointment alone due to COVID. At this appointment my surgeon explained to me that he was surprised to see how much internal bleeding had actually taken place and proceeded to very nonchalantly show me graphic pictures of my fallopian tube with my unborn child inside — all with a grin on his face. It was as if he considered what he was showing me was some sort of experiment or science fair presentation. It was clear he did not see this as a loss although everything in my body and soul told me I was in grieving. I was in shock at the lack of humanity in it all.
I now know that what I experienced was a form of grief known as “disenfranchised grief.” My grief did not match societal attitude surrounding the value of unborn children. In turn, I didn’t have a proper environment to feel or express it. And I began to feel very real rage.
I struggled with so much anger rooted in feeling utterly abandoned by a society that claimed to advocate for women’s reproductive health. The reality I experienced was quite the opposite.
In March of 2021, a year later, my anger became so intense that my ability to function in daily life was declining. What was interesting is that what was on the forefront of my mind was not the ectopic loss- and the aftermath, but memories the sexual abuse I experienced as a minor and the event of coming forward-Another time in my life when I was told by many to shut up about my grief because it did not fit with the narrative they wanted to believe or it protected those inflicting abuse.
In both of these events the dignity of innocent life was under attack. The dignity of my body and soul as a young women who needed love during an extremely vulnerable season -but who’s naivety was manipulated for personal gain . Similarly, the dignity of my unborn child and respect for my family’s healing, was left unrecognized in many ways, because our culture of healthcare is grossly invested in the abortion industry and the corresponding narrative that promotes misplaced oppression in the name of women’s freedom. There was nothing free or liberating about what I felt.
As we build a Post-Roe America, I plead with you to see those who have been victimized most by the culture of death. –those who have no voices or were groomed to believe they don’t. And perhaps you yourself fit into one of these categories in some way. If that is the case, I want you to know that your voice matters too. Your grief matters. And Christ desires to give you the voice you are capable of using through His healing love. This is what He did for me.
In March of 2021, after many weeks of fighting Him, I made the decision to invite Christ into my memories and anger. And He transformed all of it into love. And the unlikely catalyst for all of this, what brought all of this repressed grief and compounded anger into the light, was the ectopic pregnancy and the sweet little life in heaven who I have no doubt is praying for us every day.
God be praised!