Appreciating Life: Musings on Conception and Miscarriage
There has been a great deal of talk on Truth and Charity lately about babies. I attribute this to the long, very cold winter that most of us here in the US have experienced. Think about it: long, cold nights, lots of snow making it hard to get out of the house…just do the math and remember that there is always a bump in births nine months after a major power outage and the same is true for particularly harsh winters. Suffice it to say, there will be a lot of little babies entering the world this Fall. God willing, ours will be one of them.
I say “God willing” because I know how delicate and fragile life is. I’ve experienced firsthand both the joys of childbirth (via c-section) and the almost despair that accompanies the lost of a child before he or she is even born. And I know just how little there is that I or any parents can actually do to affect the outcome of a pregnancy. Of course, we as mothers can eat better, we can rest, we can take our vitamins and follow to the letter every bit of advice our doctors give us. But, in the end, it is, as is all life, in God’s hands.
When we consider this, the preciousness of every life should become automatically more evident. To take it even further, remember that, while most experts say that there is a 25% chance of conception for an average, healthy, young couple each month. However, they are only including the conceptions that result in pregnancies that survive the first eight weeks. The thing that they don’t usually talk about is how 70% of conceptions end in miscarriage within six days after conception. And although the most dangerous time for miscarriage is between four and six weeks after conception, the risk of loss remains, albeit slim (5-6%) throughout the entire pregnancy.
Considering all of this information, I am always in awe of the amazing fertility that my husband and I have enjoyed. I know that my fertility is linked with his, and that, while we two are blessed with an ability to conceive and bear children with a fair amount of ease, each of us, having been paired with anyone else, might have had (and most likely would have had) a completely different outcome. I know personally more than one couple who, not through lack of wanting, planning, or trying, are unable to conceive, or if they can conceive, are unable to bring a child, alive, to term. Fertility is a product of two people, and sometimes, there is no amount of planning that can either prevent or bring about a child.
My upbringing in a large family where mom and dad planned only on being open to God’s plan and to each other’s needs has obviously influenced my own attitude towards family planning. But, in all honesty, so have the numbers I mentioned above. Each time I consider how likely it is that a pregnancy can end before one even is even aware of it, each time I consider how being able to easily conceive and bear a healthy child is statistically unlikely, I think about my own six healthy children, as well as the two we have buried, and the countless others I will not know until the end of my life, I am struck by how fragile life is. I am also struck by how precious it is, and how all life is a gift from God. I’ve never been one to turn away from a gift.