I have long believed that there is spiritual warfare in pregnancy. Satan cannot create life, and so why wouldn’t he be jealous of pregnancy? It just seems to make sense. He reveals this jealousy by making pregnancy competitive, making mothers feel superior to other women, to other mothers, and even to their husbands, making pregnancy about the woman’s achievement instead of a gift, making birth itself something to fear, making birth itself competitive, obscuring information, using the hearts of selfish people to spread dangerous and biased information to unsuspecting or gullible mothers, working in the hearts of leaders to create medical, legal and religious differences in terminology, perception and value of life in the womb, and, after the birth, feeding like mold off of the tensions, sleep deprivation and hormonal changes in the new mother, causing anger, bitterness, pride, envy, and divisiveness between friends and relationships.
I never would have thought that the same would be true for pregnancy loss. Isn’t grief enough?
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. – Ephesians 6:12 KJV
The fact that there is so much confusion and disarray in pregnancy loss confirms one extremely important fact to me: satan is attempting – struggling – to win. The fact that there is even any sense of conflict whatsoever tells me that he didn’t win. No, he did not have one ounce of control over when my baby died. God, and God alone, permitted my baby to die. And he did not have one ounce of control over where my baby went. God, and God alone, carried my baby Home. If satan had control over any part of this, he wouldn’t care about whatever else he could disturb, break or destroy in the aftermath. No, instead, satan uses pregnancy loss as a prime time to orchestrate disharmony. Why? Because of the incredible threat it is to him when families experience the deaths of their children but still love the God who permits it. If you are not sure if satan really lost or not, just consider a few of these verses: 2 Chron. 20:6; Job 41:10; 42:2; Jer. 32:17; Luke 10:17-18; Rev. 20:1-3; Rev. 20:7-9.
So, what wrestling do we do? What does it look like? And how can we prepare for it?
Here are just some of the attempts satan uses through pregnancy loss:
- Distance the mother from other pregnant mothers.
- Distance the mother from recognizing the value of her baby.
- Distance the mother from friends, family and loved ones.
- Distance the mother from other mothers who’ve experienced loss.
- Distance the mother from her spouse.
- Distance the mother from herself.
- Distance the mother from God.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these attempts:
Distance the mother from other pregnant mothers. The stories of countless mothers reveal this: as soon as a pregnancy loss is confirmed, she doesn’t feel welcome. She feels like a foreigner in the obstetrician’s office, she feels like she doesn’t belong in pregnant circles or groups, she feels foolish for having anything related to pregnancy in her home. She feels envious toward other pregnant mothers, and other pregnant mothers feel uncomfortable toward her and feel as though they should distance themselves and their pregnancy from their friend. The cunning of this is that satan takes what is genuinely a good thing – friends wanting to minimize unnecessary pain for a hurting friend – into something destructive and dividing. To conquer this attempt, we need to raise awareness of what friends should do for a mother experiencing pregnancy loss.
Distance the mother from recognizing the value of her baby. Political, medical and religious differences in terminology of life in the womb serve to confuse mothers and challenge aspects of themselves they never would have thought impacted by the loss of their child by pregnancy loss. Those who support the freedom of elective abortion feel torn between their general principles and their personal experience of loss. These mothers might worry that they may seem hypocritical. Those who do not support the freedom of elective abortion can seem too pushy or unapproachable to the hurting mother who doesn’t share those same beliefs. Those who believe in the reality of life and personhood from conception may worry that they may seem overly dramatic. These societal pressures serve to thwart open communication about pregnancy loss. Additional aspects that impact this attempt by satan include any feelings of less than enthusiasm about the pregnancy to begin with or any fears or concerns the mother had about childbearing. To conquer this attempt, we need to allow mothers to learn about their pregnancy loss experience in compassionate but accurate terms, and allow the mother to view images of babies from every week of pregnancy so she can determine how she bonds, relates, or feels about her baby for herself.
Distance the mother from friends, family and loved ones. Mothers face this obstacle in a number of ways. The role of pregnancy in her family, in her culture, and in her religion impact how she interprets her pregnancy and her loss, and how others around her interpret her pregnancy and her loss. Because of the lack of open dialogue as a society about pregnancy loss, our loved ones, who are just as uninformed and ill prepared to handle pregnancy loss as we are, are forced to resort to platitudes – expressions that are intended to bring comfort and love but instead often strike with judgement, unsolicited advice, and avoidable offense. These words can fill the mother’s heart with a sense of isolation as she realizes how different her interpretation of her loss is from those around her, and resentment and anger as she sees how quickly others attempt to fill her with their interpretations of what she is experiencing. To conquer this attempt, we need to have information for family and friends about pregnancy loss so that they can respond appropriately.
Distance the mother from other mothers who’ve experienced loss. One would think that two survivors of the same kind of hurt would automatically have a deeper understanding of what the other is going through simply because they have both endured it, and that because of this deeper understanding, communication between the two of them would be clearer than communication with others who have not experienced the same kind of hurt. This is not always the case. Grief is not a linear process, but is one that is continually reevaluated throughout an entire lifetime. Whatever aspect of grief a mother is in, is often the lens she uses to perceive the rest of the world, and the language she speaks when communicating to the rest of the world. If one mother, for example, is experiencing the blame aspect of grief, and encounters another mother who is experiencing the denial aspect of grief, the two can frustrate and hurt each other with misunderstanding. One person’s perception of their loss and their place in grief can serve to belittle, shame, challenge or attack the other’s. It can be a lifelong challenge to learn how to communicate with others who also grieve, but it can be extremely rewarding for those who persevere and work at it. To conquer this attack, we need to intentionally participate in individual, partner, and group relationships with other loss mothers, in environments that facilitate positive expression and that are familiar with the different aspects, lenses, and languages of grief.
Distance the mother from her spouse. Because pregnancy is under spiritual attack, great work has already been done to distance fathers from the gestation experience as a whole. Pregnancy is already considered a womanly experience, instead of a parental experience that includes the husband too, so steps have already likely been put in place during the pregnancy – regardless of its duration – to divide the mother from her spouse. Additionally, pregnancy loss is something that parents are totally ill prepared for – even if they’ve had losses before. Each parent becomes so consumed in their own reaction, that it becomes nearly impossible to extend grace to the one who we likely depend the most on. Our spouses words, behavior and reactions can quickly and easily become the source of our greatest disappointments and deepest offenses. Miscommunication and different grieving styles and patterns can exhaust efforts to communicate and can break apart relationships. To conquer this attempt, we need to intentionally learn about our own grief, the grief of our partner, the ways they are different, the ways they are similar, and the ways for them to work together.
Distance the mother from herself. Our pregnancy loss can serve to challenge everything we thought about the simplicity and certainty of our lifelong dreams of marriage and parenting. Aspects of grief can magnify from sadness to guilt to condemnation, or from disappointment to blame to violence. Pregnancy loss alters a woman, in a way that will not be undone in this lifetime. This alteration, if not cared for, supervised, and shaped with love, also has the capacity to destroy her, to fuel the deepest, darkest aspects of humanity within her. It can manifest into the most hollow depression, the most volatile rage, and can tempt a mother to intentionally take a life – her own, or someone else’s. To conquer this attempt, we need to value the significance and worth of ourselves, our pregnancy loss experiences, learn the stories of others, see that others have struggled through what we are also struggling through, and we need to take our feelings and temptations seriously and seek immediate counsel to work through them.
Distance the mother from God. Of course it wouldn’t be true spiritual warfare if satan’s attempts didn’t serve to divide us from God. Pregnancy is often experienced as an extremely spiritual time, even by those who do not believe in God. It is a time of feeling the wonder and sensing the magic of creation. Pregnancy is a gift. Pregnancy is a promise – but unfortunately it is a promise that is terribly misunderstood and filled instead with expectation and naivety, even among the strongest Christians. Pregnancy loss can feel like rejection, and can fill the mother with complicated feelings like shame, embarassment, foolishness, and resentment. It can cause a mother to distrust God. It can cause a mother to take her anger out on God. It can cause a mother to reject God. This stronghold that satan wishes to have on the grieving mother is especially unique in that it can single-handedly impact every other attempt he uses to strike against her. It is for this reason that the spiritual health of the grieving mother must become a priority in care. To conquer this attempt, we need to intentionally seek God through our loss, to speak to us regarding every aspect, every situation, every part of our experience, and we need to share His truths with other grieving mothers.
“Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” – Matthew 16:23