- Warning: This post is about baby loss and may be upsetting to some readers.
I’ve wanted to write this post for such a long time, but have never felt ‘qualified’ to do so. What do I know about baby loss? Child loss? Do I even have a right to speak about it? But that fear is part of what makes me want to write about it. I was asked this week to write a poem for a mother who lost her baby. It sparked so many thoughts for me. Here’s the culmination of those thoughts:
Losing a child. I cannot even begin to imagine what that must feel like. For the first twenty weeks of my pregnancy, I bled. At three weeks the doctor told me my body was preparing to miscarry and I just had to let it happen and for 17 weeks I cried when I went to the loo. I begged my baby to cling to life. She did.
At the same time an old school friend and his wife were due for their first baby, but there were problems. The baby had developed Edwards syndrome, and as far as I know, she miscarried. It was with a sense of guilt that I added photos to Facebook in those early days, knowing they had been due around they same time.
Three months later, a mother from my pregnancy group had a stillbirth at 42 weeks.
Last year, friends of ours chose to have an abortion when their baby was diagnosed with another syndrome.
Two weeks ago a reader of this blog lost her baby at six months pregnant.
It is devastating. It is devastating to the families, and it is devastating to watch.
The babyloss research charity, Tommy’s, sent me an email a while back with the following information:
Britain has the highest rate of premature birth in Western Europe and sadly this and other pregnancy complications – such as miscarriage and stillbirth – are more common than people think:
- 1 in 4 UK women lose a baby at pregnancy or birth
- Every day in England and Wales alone, around 290 women experience a miscarriage, approximately 149 babies are born prematurely and 10 babies are stillborn.
- In Scotland, about 25 women experience a miscarriage and 2 babies are born preterm every day, and one baby is stillborn every second day.
Those are phenomenally high statistics, really and it makes me wonder why baby loss is such a taboo subject? I never knew that people lost babies so often, until I was in fear of losing a baby myself. I wonder if ‘not talking’ about it also means that those it happens to aren’t aware, aren’t prepared and don’t know, both that they’re not alone, that it’s not something strange and unusual that has befallen ‘only’ them, or even how to go about healing. I didn’t know, for example, that in a stillbirth, milk still comes in! I only realised it when my friend had a stillbirth and told me how her milk coming in was one of the hardest parts for her to cope with. Prior to that, I’d not even have known that there are ways of stopping lactation.
Years ago, when women had miscarriages or stillbirths, the babies were whisked away and ‘disposed’ of, like a disease, or something horrible. Thankfully, in most places, that practice has changed and mothers are now given the opportunity to say goodbye. Mothers. Because you become a mother the moment there is life â€“ a heart beat, a bounce, fingers, toes.
If – and I feel sick at the thought – if I were to lose Ameli today, or my mother were to lose me, people would rally around. There would be a service, a funeral, people would bring food, say they understood my pain, say I was allowed to be angry, sad, or devastated. People would let me talk about it, share about my little girl that I love. There would be support groups, counselling, help.
So why is there so little of that available if your child dies before it is born? Is the trauma any less? As one such mother said to me, â€œAt least you get to hold your baby. I loved mine too, and I wasn’t even given that.â€
What astounds me is how we never talk about the loss of a baby. We’ll talk about our dear departed grandfather, our beloved uncle, but we become uncomfortable when someone talks of the loss of a new life.
Does it show us something we don’t like to think about? The cruelty of life. The fact that despite doing our best, we are actually not in control? Is it because it shows us our fallibility, mortality and actual helplessness?
I honestly believe that mothers (and fathers) who have lost a child before or at birth should be given a voice too. They should know the same compassion, the same support, the same love as any other parent. This is not a subject that should be taboo.
While I can’t even begin to pretend what it would be like, I do encourage mothers and fathers affected by such a loss to seek professional help, and to use journalling therapy – writing, be it a diary, letters to the child, or simply just writing whatever comes to mind. There is power in journalling – in whatever form it takes, blogging, poetry, or in a book.
But most importantly, know you are not alone. There are others who have gone through it, and there is help available.
Healing Hearts – Comfort After Baby Loss – a space to find resources, honour grief and express loss.
Glow In The Woods- Helping A Friend Through Babyloss – I cried may way through this entire article. Incredible, indispensable advice from mothers who’ve been there.
A Babyloss Blog directory -To connect with others who have been there, are going through it, and are writing about it