The Dark Womb
Re-Conceiving Theology through Reproductive Loss
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The experience of reproductive loss raises a series of profoundly theological questions: how can God have a plan for my life? Why didn't God answer my prayers? How can I have hope after such an experience? Who am I after such a loss? Sadly, these are questions that, along with reproductive loss, have largely been ignored in theology. Karen O'Donnell tackles these questions head on, drawing on her own experiences of repeated reproductive loss as she re-conceives theology from the perspective of the miscarrying person.
Offering a fresh, original, and creative approach to theology, O'Donnell explores the complexity of the miscarrying body and its potential for theological revelation. She offers a re-conception of theologies of providence, prayer, hope, and the body as she reimagines theology out of these messy origins. This book is for those who have experiences such losses and those who minister to them. But it is also for all those who want to encounter a creative and imaginative approach to theology and the life of faith in our messy, complex world.
Foreword by Heather Walton xi
Introduction: Re-Conceiving Theology Through Reproductive Loss 1
1. The (Theological) Silence Surrounding Reproductive Loss 13
2. Reproductive Loss as a Trauma 32
3. Reimagining Miscarriage: Embodied Agents and Moral Failures 59
4. Providence, Petitionary Prayer and Pregnancy Loss 77
5. Miss-Carried Hopes 110
6. What About Hannah? 135
7. Body Theologies 143
8. Teach Us How To Pray 162
9. Aftermath: The Post-Traumatic Remaking of My Self 186
'With the publication of The Dark Womb, Karen O'Donnell inaugurates the definitive end of the taboo on discussing reproductive loss theologically. O'Donnell weaves autoethnography, feminist analysis, biblical interpretation, and cultural critical into a theological account that challenges us to rethink a providential God, given the suffering of bleeding, miscarrying bodies. No more religious platitudes. O'Donnell leads us from the darkness of reproductive trauma into the deep of an apophatic remaking of the self and of God. -- Margaret D. Kamitsuka, Oberlin College, USA
'Karen O'Donnell draws on her own embodied experience to break the silence with which theology has typically treated miscarriage and other forms of reproductive loss. She bears witness to God's presence and voice in these situations in a most profound and compelling way. In doing so, she mothers a theology capable of lifting others out of the exhaustion and invisible grief that so often follow in the wake of these traumas, and of 'un-saying' the confused theologies they so often face.' -- Siobhan Garrigan, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland