One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. But as United Methodist
pastor Elise Erikson Barrett points out, we don’t much like to talk
about miscarriage. She offers her new book to women who have
experienced miscarriage, to pastors who help couples grapple with it
and to anyone who has helped a friend, spouse or relative grieve.
Barrett tries to answer the question of “what was lost."

book tells Barrett’s story, but this doesn’t serve a distracting or
self-indulgent function. We get a glimpse into the powerful ideology of
pregnancy, especially when it is embedded in Christian contexts. For
some, the meaning of being pregnant is so overwhelming that when a
pregnancy is lost, a great deal of meaning goes with it. Yet often
women do not talk about their pain. If they do, they may be met with
unsatisfying responses like “you can have another” and “God had a

Barrett describes the long waits in hospitals. The
painful ironies of being sent to Labor and Delivery as the place to
acknowledge the death of your child. The naming of your hope as
“tissue.” She includes the voices of other women and men who've been
through the experience, and she does not try to resolve their
experiences into a set of principles.

This book is powerful and
unique because Barrett grapples with the issues of miscarriage
theologically. She really wants to know what her tradition would say
about miscarriage. She skillfully engages abortion literature, knowing
that the answers she seeks may or may not be found there, searches the
Bible and turns finally to the possibility that personhood is a mystery
known in community grounded in the love of God.

The conclusion
is shockingly nonideological. Barrett doesn’t make a final statement
about the personhood of the fetus, or about abortion, or about what
miscarriage means or doesn’t mean. Instead, she redirects the
conversation. Her book provides the framework for a discussion of
miscarriage and its aftermath.

Amy Frykholm

The Century contributing editor is the author of five books, including Wild Woman: A Footnote, the Desert, and my Quest for an Elusive Saint.

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