In May 2014, we had to say goodbye to the little girl that we had, but never had. We had received the heart breaking news that our unborn baby was unwell and very unlikely to survive to term. We were given the burden of choice. We ‘chose’ to ‘interrupt’ our pregnancy and met our girl too soon. She was the tiniest thing. My little butterfly.
Here’s 8 things you won’t know about what happens when you ‘interrupt a pregnancy’ at 15 weeks unless it’s happened to you and I hope it hasn’t.
- You’ll have your tiny baby sitting on a toilet using a recyclable bed pan in a hospital labour ward with no one else there. You baby will be tiny but will be capable of leaving footprints and not just on your heart.
- It will be long and painful. Just like a real labour with real contractions but no pushing.
- Professionals will use strange words to describe your baby like ‘products of conception’ and ‘incompatible with life’ and will describe what is happening as ‘interrupting the pregnancy’, ‘inducing a miscarriage’ and ‘terminating for medical reasons’.
- You’ll be allowed to have drugs that you wouldn’t normally be allowed in labour because… well… your baby has already gone.
- Within minutes of ‘giving birth’, high on the above mentioned drugs, you’ll be asked to ‘make arrangements’ for the ‘products of conception’. To you and I, that means cremation or burial.
- People will not know what to say to you and so they will say at least. A lot. At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you found out sooner rather than later. At least you can try again.
- At some point you won’t feel entitled to be sad because ‘it wasn’t a real baby’, you made ‘the decision’ and others have been through much worse.
- At some point you will think you’ll never be really happy ever again. But at some point you will find happy again.
There are 17 stillbirths every day in the UK and 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage but there are also many more women who share my own experience.
Since experiencing my ‘termination for medical reasons’, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a beautiful daughter but I’ve also experienced 1 of the 4 ending in miscarriage and I know that the loss was just as heartbreaking. It’s the loss of a dream. A future. A plan. Also, its the loss of innocence and joy that is taken from many brave women on their journey to motherhood.
The loss of a baby, whatever the circumstances, is completely devastating and is made all the more so by society’s inability to acknowledge and discuss any type of loss. It’s too unspeakable to contemplate or too terrifying to understand. Chances are you know someone who carries this unbearable sadness everyday yet the chances are they are shouldering this sadness in silence.
In the aftermath of such a devastating loss you scrabble around trying to piece life back together but life has been blown apart and the pieces no longer fit evenly. Some of the pieces are missing. Everything has changed and you must adjust to a new ‘normal’. Life doesn’t stop and if you are lucky, like me, many of your friends, family and colleagues will adjust with you. Some will not. Life becomes heavier, weighed down by a genuine hopelessness for the future and exhaustingly endless cycles of ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’.Most people want to have children and as your friends and family prepare for and announce their new pregnancies they understandably delight in the prospect of a new life; you are the reminder that sometimes the worst can happen, that sometimes babies die. Frightened to steal their joyful naivety, you stay silent. You lock away your grief, uncontrollable bitterness and unbearable sadness, and paint on your face, each and every day.
Society’s general reticence to speak about baby loss means that an underground world exists. In this world people befriend complete strangers to share their darkest, saddest moments and daily struggles. I have been so lucky to find that world and have the support of those who understand the sadness of my own story and as more and more people open up it becomes a less lonely place to be.