On The Morrow Come I Into the World
Guest Post by Anonymous. The author is a returned missionary and BYU alum. She is currently a writer and SAHM.
A few years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to have our second child. A few months later, the eagerly anticipated second pink line appeared in my bathroom, and I anticipated the same rush of joy that accompanied a positive pregnancy test with my first child. Instead, my heart dropped into my shoes. I plastered a smile on my face and hurried to tell my husband, hoping his enthusiasm would ignite my own. Instead, for the next few weeks I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper into a black void, until the very concept of the future no longer seemed to exist. I didn’t feel unsafe — it was a different feeling than that kind of mental health crisis — but even the prospect of making a grocery list felt impossible, as though the existence of the next week was beyond my comprehension.
When I told my husband how I was feeling, his answer surprised me. “Do you want to have an abortion?” We prayed about it, he gave me a priesthood blessing, and I felt the spirit confirm that this was God’s solution to the perplexing pit I had found myself in. I booked an appointment for the next week, but couldn’t make myself go. “I know myself, and I know the people in my life,” I prayed. “I couldn’t keep this a secret for the rest of my life, but it’s not something I could ever share with anyone. If not continuing this pregnancy is truly thy solution to this problem, you are going to need to make me have a miscarriage.”
I didn’t actually expect to have a miscarriage. I was raised on stories of Jonah fleeing Ninevah, Nephi going to get the plates, and admonitions against being a slothful servant. If God gave you a solution to your problem, and you refused to follow it because you feared the judgment of others, He wasn’t going to just do it Himself instead. So I set about trying to capture the feeling of wanting this wanted pregnancy. I tried to plan for a future that no longer seemed to exist. Instead, the black void only seemed to grow deeper.
A month later, I arrived at my first prenatal appointment. The OB-GYN squinted at the ultrasound monitor and frowned. “Your uterus is pretty far back there. Let me send you downstairs to imaging where they have a better machine.” So I went downstairs, and the ultrasound tech frowned. “I’m very sorry, but the fetus seems to have stopped growing four weeks ago.” My OB scheduled me for a followup appointment to confirm, and a D&C to remove the tissue.
My first reaction was relief. I was sad, of course — I had wanted this pregnancy, and then worked hard to want to want this pregnancy. I felt all the expected emotions in response to a miscarriage. But I also felt relieved. The future existed again. I could buy groceries, or plan what to buy my daughter for Christmas. The black void was gone.
Since then, I’ve learned more about other spiritual approaches to abortion. I learned that in many branches of Judaism, for the first 40 days the fetus is considered “mere water,” and that because the spirit is believed to enter the body at birth, abortion at any point is permissible based on a wide range of possible hardships to the mother. I learned that 19th century Latter-day Saints followed most Americans in believing the fetus entered the body at “quickening,” around the start of the second trimester when movement is felt, and that first trimester attempts at abortion were relatively common despite the medical limitations of the era. I pondered on the verses in 3 Nephi where Jesus speaks directly to Nephi the night before he is born — an event that would seem incompatible with Jesus’s spirit being securely ensconced in Mary’s womb across the ocean.
For a while, I hesitated to share my experience because I didn’t want it to be weaponized against abortion. I could imagine someone saying, “Well if that’s the case, why can’t God simply give every woman a miscarriage when it’s His will, and we won’t have abortion in the other cases?” To me, that would be like saying, “why do we have to feed the hungry when God can cause manna to appear,” or “why do we have to minister to the sick when God can heal them instantaneously.” I believe we were sent to earth to grapple with the complexities and ambiguities of mortal life, to learn to trust each other and ourselves to make difficult decisions in concert with the Spirit. This lesson was so important for us to learn that we teach God even allows us to hurt one another, in order to learn when we should not.
I don’t claim to know when the spirit enters the body, or to know the full mind of God on the matter. But I do know that a culture that simplifies the issue by creating one size fits all rules, minimizing the well-being and moral agency of pregnant members, and disempowering those members from following the personal revelation they receive from the Lord because of the strength of the social stigma we’ve created is not from our Heavenly Parents.