Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Episode 29: "A Religion of Compassion" — Amber and Her Miscarriages

Right click here to download the mp3.

Amber has traveled a path through Mormonism where she tried to follow every commandment, suggestion, and piece of advice that the church had to offer. She married and had two children in short order. What followed were three babies lost within a year after priesthood blessings assuring that they would live. These experiences, combined with other factors in her life, have led Amber on a path of finding what she truly believes, which is to reach out to those around her with compassion.

Amber will be watching the comments to respond  to her story.

As you leave comments, remember that Daughters of Mormonism seeks to provide a safe place for women to share their stories. This is a real story from a real person. Please see the Comment Policy for further details.

Universe Embryo by fresco-child
Posts from Amber's Blog

First Miscarriage
Third Miscarriage
Resources & References


  1. Amber may not know it, but she was one of the people who helped me get through my tough early teen years in the very cliquish ward that we were in together. She's a beautiful person and I'm so grateful that she's told her story here. Thank you Amber!

  2. thank you for sharing your story, amber. it seems like it takes a lot of guts to talk about being disaffected. and i really empathize with that feeling of being betrayed by the church ... it hurts. and i'm so sorry about the miscarriages.

  3. I feel like I understand your story a lot better now, and I found the podcast very interesting to listen to. I wish you the best in your journey and I'm glad you're happy. :)

  4. Wow, the guilt is amazing. I relate a little (in wanting to be perfect, do everything you should, be super obedient), but the degree of guilt you felt Amber is I think a really good example of one of the biggest flaws with church policy. Obedience is good, but perfectionism is unrealistic. I think that President Hinckley's "try a little harder to be a little better" is so much more realistic than "be ye therefore perfect." Attempting perfectionism--and the associated failure and guilt--is a serious cause of depression among church members I think.

  5. I am SO glad that you recorded this podcast Amber. I relate so much (Sybil and I had talked about recording on this topic actually). Miscarriage is so hard anyway, but the church has so much focus on "multiply and replenish" that it is exponentially worse.

    I miscarried my first pregnancy at 15wks.

    10 months later I got pregnant, and was so excited but also so scared. I had a blessing that told me that God wanted me and my husband to raise this baby. And then I miscarried again (13wks).
    Then I tried making deals with God--if I will never carry to term, don't let me even get pregnant again--that kind of thing. I was depressed, I was obsessed with babies and pregnancy and birth. I was a mess.

    Three months later I got pregnant again. This time I knew all would be well because I had made a deal with God!! But I miscarried again. I felt betrayed. I went through an emotional roller coaster with that, and ultimately found some degree of peace... After that miscarriage it took me 11 months to get pregnant again, and I finally had a totally uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy baby.

  6. (Sorry, I'm taking over the comments here...I've been commenting as I listen and I just relate SO MUCH!)

    I wanted a big family, but I have three (one adopted), and I think that's all it's going to be. It took me some time to adjust to that idea, although I did come to the realization that no more babies also means no more miscarriages, and that is comforting to a degree.

    I often think about how my family would have been different--how the dynamics would have been different--if one or more of those angels had lived.

    I agree, the gospel does not provide satisfactory answers about miscarriage. I don't know of anyone or anything that does.

  7. I was married in the temple to a RM and all that good stuff you're supposed to do.
    After 7+ years of marriage, one day my husband tore up his temple recommend and announced that he didn't believe anymore. (We had had some conversations, it was not totally out of the blue...but I was surprised that he had reached that drastic of a conclusion.)
    I also went through the 'do I stay with an unbeliever' question. Ultimately I realized that we were a good couple. Would I marry him all over now? I'm not sure. I don't know if I would sign up for this. But I'm not going to leave him over it. We have kids, we have a good relationship, we're best friends, and I have found that I can respect him for who and what he is, even if it's not the same as he used to be. The church sure doesn't support that, but I think that family togetherness is more important to Jesus than which church you go to (or whether you go at all).

  8. I really resonated with what you said about not feeling as though you could trust yourself, because what you felt was right was ridiculed or dismissed by those around you. That has been my experience for a large part of my life; it's only been in the last few years where I've decided I needed to trust myself of be really unhappy. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has had that experience.

    I also really loved what you said near the end of the podcast, about using the our time on earth to improve it and making that as much or more of a goal compared to getting to heaven. Such a wonderful perspective! Thanks for your positive view of leaving the church. I often feel guilty in my exiting the church, wondering if I should stay and try to change it. Thanks for pointing out that staying and leaving are both valid, and for reminding me that there are good things to do in and out of the church!

  9. I hope it's not totally out of place to mention this here, but my experiences with miscarriage--and the lack of understanding and support that I felt--led me to eventually create a nonprofit organization with the intention to support mothers who miscarry. Healing can be a very long road, at least it has been for me, but finding a way to reach out and help others in similar situations has been cathartic. Like you said, about making the world a better place, I feel like my experiences have prepared me to serve this way.

  10. @Alycia: Thank you for your support. I believe the cliquish ward you and I were in together was an impetus for me to change how I viewed the world--what with all the nonsense that I viewed there than inherently went against the Christian method. You, too, are a beautiful person.

    @Anonymous: Thank you for your support. Being betrayed by the church is an awful feeling to come to terms with, I would love to talk with you more. My e-mail is if you ever want to contact me.

  11. @Kristen--Thank you for your continuous support. Sybil is an amazing woman who has let many of us within the church share our stories in a safe setting. It is far easier to get into details in speaking than just in writing.

  12. @Jenni (I am going to respond to all of your wonderful comments at once, kind of like an extended conversation : ) ): I have never heard that quote by President Hinckley and would agree it is much more realistic than trying to be perfect.

    I once heard on a Mormon Expression podcast that certain personalities tend to question and take issue with things in the church more than other personalities, and I would agree. It doesn't make those of us in this category better, it just makes us different in how we view the church --and the world in general--and how much we can handle when questioning begins. I believe this is something that is true in my case. My high strung personality (mixed with the mental illness) made doctrines within the church almost impossible to continue to live under. I needed to break away from the intense angst and guilt associated with them before I could become the full person I am--caring, compassionate, empathetic--and allow myself to embark on my life's journey.

    I remember listening to your story and also relating more than I would have liked to (because the pain and grief I felt in your voice) but feeling grateful that other women have had "answers to prayers" that don't go exactly as you thought they would. I think, for me, it almost feels like I am tempting fate by trying to get pregnant again as I already have 2 healthy babies. I have considered adoption and fostering and it is not possible for our family right now--as my husband is incredibly busy and can't go to the classes with me, which he must or we can't become foster/adoptive parents--but I am so glad that it worked for your family.

    I relate to your feelings of how things would be if the pregnancies had actually continued. All the if's and but's add up to make the pain that much more confusing, right? Yet when it comes to not handling another miscarriage, I get it. It is a major impediment in trying again.

    It is not out of place to mention your non-profit organization. I have looked at it a bit on your blog and should probably peruse it more to get the gist of what you are doing. I admire you for creating an network for women who have experienced miscarriages, it is something that is not talked about enough in public (although that is changing) and also greatly misunderstood. Women need support through the trials associated with miscarriage.

    Thank you for ALL your comments, Jenni. I greatly respect you and hope we can have a podcast on miscarriages soon. : )

  13. @RubyJ: It is hard to be in that situation when you are trying to work out whether you should stay in a relationship in which you are both going in different directions, or remain faithful to each other (which, imo, is putting God first) and attempt to patch the marriage together from a different direction. My heart goes out to you as you and your husband go through this trial.

    I know that, for me, much of what my husband brought up were things that I had already questioned but hadn't felt comfortable saying out loud. After I had my own faith crisis, it was much easier for me to hear what he had to say. I am not saying that is what will or should happen for/to you, as you sound very comfortable in your beliefs, but it's how things went for us. On the other hand, I know several couples who have part-believing families and it works out tremendously well for them. Have you listened to John Dehlin's podcast on this subject? It might give you some insight/ideas: I hope that is not presumptuous.

  14. @DefyGravity: Thank you for your thoughts. I just poked around on your blog and can relate to what you have written (I hope it doesn't scare you if I comment on a few of your posts). I think that my positiveness has come from looking deep inside and recognizing the good that has come from my activity within the church, but this has taken a few months for me to see. I mean, I have my good and bad moments, you know? General conference is a tough thing to listen to (except for when its summarized on Mormon Expressions); however, I am very grateful that i developed certain traits in the church, like compassion.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and I wish you the best in your own journey.

  15. Amber,

    I appreciate how you responded to your mental illness and how you are responding to your life in an authentic and compassionate way. I have to differ with your opinion that you learned compassion in the church. I listened to how the church's doctrine actually worked against your inate compassion - almost turning you judgmental of those not living the standards of the gospel. I have felt much more free and, heard in your comments, how you are much more free to express our inate compassion for those around us in the ways that make sense for our talents and experiences and are not dictated by a church system that we feel compelled to obey. I actually feel that any way of thinking that denies us our own agency creates the pathways for mental illness to manifest or worsen. I would love for everyone to be truly free of harmful rhetoric. Thank you for your eloquence.

  16. Hi Stacey,

    I understand your disagreement as I have talked about this very thing with my husband. I do think I was more judgmental as a LDS, but there were key experiences I had that helped fine tune my compassion. In my last calling before leaving the church, I was the secretary in the RS presidency. The ward I was living in at the time was very poor. We had our mixture, of course, but generally people were on the verge of losing their house and other things. Getting to know these people, through my very liberal-mind, helped shape what I wanted to accomplish in the world later on. So because I got to know them, and because I chose to not pass judgments onto their decisions (which, as you mentioned, was difficult because so much of that was happening in the rest of the presidency), I became very good friends with many. Although the church was very antagonistic toward compassion--as it focused on "saving" those around us rather than serving completely out of love, and not just in the ward capacity--I learned how to help those in need which has been very useful in my current job. I hope that is a better explanation.

  17. Amber, no that's not presumptuous. I've been in some degree of crisis of faith too, but my conclusions have been fairly different from my husband, which has been hard (I want to stay in, he wants to go out). I have not listened to that podcast, thanks for recommending it.

  18. Amber, I did record a podcast with Mormon Stories about miscarriage in the mormon context (with Natasha Helfer Parker, who has seen a lot of it from a family therapist's perspective). I'm not sure when they will have it done, but I think the plan is to double post it at MoSto and here at DOM. We just have to make sure that all the powers that be sign off on it ;)

  19. Just wanted to say I loved listening to this Amber!

  20. Amber, I'd love comments on my blog!

  21. OMG!!! Amber I can very much relate to you and your miscarriages. I also had 3 miscarriages two second trimester and one first trimester and all these feelings that you've described I've had them. Especially when you talk about wondering why God wanted you to have them and yet took them away. I felt that after my final one where I just didn't understand what was going on with me and I often felt like God was toying with me. I have been able to come to terms since but it still hurts sometimes. I feel your pain for sure. {{{HUGZ!!!}}} (a book that helped me was called Gone Too Soon and it's a book that helped me through mine and it's written from an LDS perspective)

  22. Here is the book

  23. Thanks for your podcasts! I Have loved them. I'm sure it's a lot of work. I don't always comment but I just want say thanks for all the work. I really appreciate it!

  24. While I've only had one miscarriage, it was also after a blessing that specified health for my baby... I completely understand the disconnect that creates. Priesthood blessings were always my rock--I could always believe in them, and my dad used to remark on my strong faith. Now I flounder, trying to decide if staying in the church is the right thing, or if I'm just to terrified of the consequences of leaving. I hate it because deep down, I believe in the actual doctrines of the gospel--the doctrines unfiltered by culture. I have compassion on the history of the church because of my studies in anthropology and culture, so that doesn't really bug me. But the patriarchal institution makes going to church every week either an acrobatic dance to make everything sound better to myself or quiet time to sit and seethe and then feel massively guilty over it. I'm pretty sure the combination of the church and my family's love affair with guilt is what has triggered the severe depression of which I sometimes feel I will never be free.
    So thank you for sharing that. You spoke so many of my feelings. I even have the convert husband who changed his mind and the social expectation to divorce him. I should join your church!


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