Post Author: Charlotte LaForest
This August, we are presenting a series of articles introducing our newest cohort of Writers in Residence. These young clergy women are gifted writers from a variety of backgrounds, denominations, and ministry settings, who will share their voices on Fidelia regularly over the next two years. We are so delighted to have the opportunity to share their work with you.
I was in a church meeting when I found out I was having a miscarriage. I had stepped out of the conference room at our diocesan offices when my phone rang, assuming it was the fertility clinic calling to give instructions for starting the next round of medications. We had been told that the last round had failed, and we were hoping to try again as soon as possible.
I went into a small meeting room for some privacy while I spoke with the nurse and, as she began to talk, her words made no sense. She didn’t give instructions for when to start the medication or the the dosage I should take. She explained that the blood work I’d had that morning showed I was pregnant. Or I had been pregnant. Well, I was technically still pregnant. But I wouldn’t be for much longer. I needed to return for more blood work to be sure.
So I got more blood work. The results were unclear. It might not be a miscarriage.
Maybe an ectopic pregnancy. I had to come back again immediately. My life and future childbearing at risk.
“Well we don’t see anything. So it’s not ectopic. Guess it’s ‘just,’ a miscarriage after all.”
I hadn’t even known I was pregnant.
I bled for eight weeks.
When the initial shock started to lift, and I gradually felt able to tell people what had happened, I was amazed by the stories that flooded out of others, of their own experiences of losing loved ones they’d never known. Several people spoke about their difficulty setting foot in church after this kind of loss. Certainly not at Christmas when church is all about expecting a baby, but other times too. It’s so easy to talk about God when pregnancy is going well. “What a blessing!” “A gift from God!” But when that gift, that blessing, is gone before it’s even visible to the people in the pews, the silence is staggering.
I felt this same silence. From the people who had no idea what I was losing as I led them in worship each of those long weeks. Week after week, I consecrated the body and blood of Christ, and I bled.
I went through the necessary motions as I led the people in prayer, but I laughed the first time I tried to pray on my own. An ironic reversal of the aged Sarah’s laugh when the angel told her she would bear a son. But I wasn’t laughing in shock and disbelief, for I had all the evidence I could need. I laughed because the idea of praying seemed so ridiculous.
What was I supposed to say?
I thought about the writing of Anne Lamott, who said the three essential prayers are Help, Thanks, Wow. But I certainly couldn’t pray any of those.
I decided she’d left one out, the only prayer I could muster. So I prayed instead:
And that is the prayer that carried me through the eight long weeks, the fading of something I’d never even known to exist.
One prayer that expressed my anger, my confusion, my grief, my frustration. One prayer that I could laugh or cry while praying. One prayer that kept me talking to God when all other words failed. One prayer that came anywhere close to expressing what was on my mind and in my heart.
In time, I came to recognize in this prayer the simple profoundness of all prayers of lament, the prayer uttered by so many when they are hanging by a thread in the midst of life’s sorrows. But in turning to God in lament, I remained connected by that thread, instead of cutting it off.
And so I prayed, again and again and again, WTF, God?
In the many weeks of praying this prayer, I never got a straightforward answer. I’m not sure I even wanted one. But I continued to ask the question. It felt different from simply asking, “Why?” My prayer held within it both my question and my outrage. And, in time, it was the pounding of my fists and the screaming of my prayer of protest that helped me to feel like that God was, in fact, still there despite the silence. It was like God was just there, waiting until I was ready for my cries to subside.
So, I kept praying my prayer, until I didn’t need to quite so often. And gradually the awareness that God had stayed with me in the midst of my lament helped me to realize that God had no plans to abandon me. That realization allowed the tiniest sliver of hope to break through. I didn’t know how to direct that hope, or what I was hoping for. But I knew I wasn’t alone. And that was enough for now.
The Rev. Charlotte LaForest is an Episcopal priest serving at St. James’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. She grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and attended college at Georgetown University before moving to Boston to pursue graduate degrees in Social Work and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. Charlotte spent several years working as a hospice chaplain before pursuing her MDiv at Yale Divinity School, and was ordained a priest in 2015.
Charlotte and her husband Eric live on campus at the boarding school where Eric works, and have three children, August (born in 2014) and twins Rowan and Evelyn (born in 2017), as well as a slobbery dog named Whitman. Charlotte loves reading, knitting, fancy coffee, and going on family walks.
Image by: Counselling
Used with permission