The grief of losing a child in early pregnancy is one of the most alienating and lonely experiences that I, and many others, have gone through. How can we publicly talk about and grieve for a life that is spoken about in such cold terms by medical staff and a life that society does not recognise? Someone once said to me what is, I am sure, a common thought in some circles, “I know this will upset you, but I don’t view foetuses as a life.” So, my daughter, whom I lost at 20 weeks, and my more recent loss at 10 weeks were what, nothing? Not living? So in other words, inside me was conceived death, because society does not view it as life? No! I conceived life, which then died.
In early pregnancy loss we hear, amongst others, those awful words, “We can’t find a heartbeat” and are sent away with the ‘reassurance’, “This is very common and it is most likely that there was a chromosomal problem. This is very unlikely to happen in your next pregnancy and there is no reason why you can’t try again.”
Is this supposed to be comforting?
Yes, our bodies are incredibly clever at recognising when something is wrong and going about trying to put it to right. Sometimes it is unable to put it to right and nothing that the doctors do can halt it. Just like my father dying of cancer, just like losing the two precious lives my husband and I conceived. There was nothing to be done but enjoy the time we had and mourn the loss.
It doesn’t matter at what point we learn of the exciting news, 5 weeks or 3 months, we celebrate the news of conception. New life!
Life is a process of becoming. From the moment a life is conceived in the womb, we never stop changing, not until our hearts give out. We are a wondrous creation. But no matter how wondrous we are, we are also fragile and it is no different in the womb. A newly conceived life is no safer from the dangers that afflict a newborn, toddler, a teenager or an adult. Sometimes things go wrong and whilst that new life’s heart beats frantically to survive, it gives out, and at merely weeks or a few short months, dies.
Whatever struggles are faced by a newly conceived life, they are no less valid than a newborn. They have just come face to face with their fragility from the get go and their loss is a heavy burden on the hearts of parents who have had to come to terms with losing them. That is why the language used by practitioners is so incongruous with our emotions, because we understand in our hearts that a life and all its potential has been lost, but yet they do not speak of it as such.
All life, from the time it is conceived, is precious and we must acknowledge it as such and fully support both women and men in their grief, should that life be lost so soon.