Far as the Curse is Found by Abigail Waldron; WIPF and Stock Publishers
Of all the sorrows and trials I’ve experienced as a wife and mother, getting pregnant was never one of them. The little plus signs on the sticks displayed with matter of fact regularity each time my husband and I decided we were ready to have a child. But I have known the particular heartache of a pregnancy ending in loss, instead of new life. I miscarried my second child at 8 weeks, shortly after my first daughter’s first birthday. The passage of time, and subsequent blessing of two more event-free pregnancies and births, has certainly served to soften the sorrow. But the memories of that one dark day, and of the grief that felt like it might tear my soul in two, have never left me. It’s because my season of suffering was so relatively short that I’ve felt a particular burden for women who suffer from protracted infertility or miscarriages – wanting to learn how to pray and love and speak (and not speak). But it’s also because my season was so short that attempting much more than better informed prayers felt beyond my abilities, and even my rights to attempt.
Abigail Waldron knows the fellowship of suffering infertility and pre-term loss in a deep and personal way. In “Far as the Curse Is Found”, she invites readers into that fellowship by recounting the stories of twelve different couples that have fought to walk faithfully with God and one another through the fear, questions, unimaginable pain and unexpected blessings that come through infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. One of the couples is herself and her husband, and it is her story that is the narrative thread that binds the others together. Waldron describes the frustration and increasing disappointment as she waits month after month to conceive their first child. Fear turns to joy when Waldron discovers she is pregnant the day after her thirtieth birthday, and subsequently gives birth to a healthy baby girl. But the redoubled joy she experiences when she is soon pregnant again, is replaced by the heartbreak of a miscarriage at fifteen weeks, a tragedy with few medical answers as to the cause. Bereft of closure (she is not told of the option to have the daughter they later name Avaleen induced and delivered), she channels her grief into writing. Waldron begins a pilgrimage of sorts – reaching out to different couples she learns of who have walked through their own journeys of suffering in the midst of building families. In hearing and documenting their stories, and how God worked in and through them, she sees how God is working in her own.
The 11 stories Waldron recounts nearly every facet of the struggles so many couples face as they walk through fertility and pregnancy trials – domestic and international adoption, when to pursue fertility treatments, when to stop pursuing anything. Through each story’s ups and downs, the constant is the way each couple’s faith was challenged to its core, but ultimately centered and strengthened by hope in the gospel, and in the God who knows what it is like for a child to die. The thread that ties these stories together is the story of Waldron’s subsequent third pregnancy. The journey she takes to visit and learn from each couple is intermingled beautifully with the journey she and her little family take together as they worry and wait with faith for the arrival of another baby girl.
In reflecting on one couple’s story, Waldron writes that …”the giving and the taking are so intertwined that you can’t see one without the other. In our finite, boundaried lives, the gifts of children precludes other gifts, and the loss of children often leads to gifts that wouldn’t be possible in their presence.”(pg. 122) The bittersweet irony of this thought is that Waldron, who has an M.FA in creative nonfiction writing from George Mason University, is as qualified to write this story by her education and gifting, as she is by her personal experience. Her skill with prose and structure serve both her own story, and the others she tells, tremendously well. By letting the story of her own third pregnancy be intermingled with the others and permitting the narrative tension to build, we are drawn into the growing mix of anxious hope and uncertainty she experiences as she prays and waits for her third daughter’s safe arrival. The recent announcement on her website that the book’s publication coincides, not with the welcoming of another new daughter, but with a second tragic miscarriage at twenty weeks, makes her point all the more heartbreakingly poignant. In gifting her with such writing ability, God was equipping her with a unique ability to both process her own coming grief, and bring others into it.
Whether this particular suffering is one with which you have no experience, or all too much, this is a book that will minister to your own soul, and greatly help you minister to and love others. I recommend it highly, and pray that as it is used to help others, Waldron will indeed feel the blessing of what she has been given in her writing gifts, and what she has given to us in this book. With her, we mourn what was taken, and wait for the curse of death to once and forever be no more, for her, and so many others.
(WIPF and Stock Publishers is currently offering a 40% discount off the usual retail price on this book to our readers; simply enter the word “Searching” into the coupon code box to purchase this book at the discounted price of $14.40 plus shipping.)
-review by Rachael Starke