My wife, Tania, was lying back with her tummy exposed at our appointment for the twelve week scan. A grainy image of our new baby appeared on the computer screen and as I made a point to mention that we’d like a photo to take home with us I noticed the lack of activity in the arms and legs and before the ultrasonographer said, ‘I don’t think this is good news’ I knew it was dead. When she moved the probe and shook it across Tania’s stomach our baby floated lifelessly to the bottom of the womb. That image (which my mind stubbornly clings to) signaled the beginning of some surprisingly intense grieving.
I reached out and held Tania’s hand. She was asking questions about appointments, when exactly the baby might have died, the procedure that was needed to remove it. She was upset but she was handling it so well that I was almost angry at what was happening inside me. I was just about ready to fall apart but the thought of crying in front of other people had me fighting hard. I attempted to rationalize myself to a ‘stronger’ position; ‘It’s not even a real baby yet,’ I told myself, ‘Just a collection of cells.’ But my rational mind continued to be overwhelmed by that image. I saw my real baby there – the slope of his forehead, the promise of warmth in the chub of his cheeks, the limbs that should have been reaching and kicking.
Even though it was not logical I felt that I had let him die alone. That I wasn’t there to help him as he died. And to let him down even more, to completely abandon him, I was just going to let them throw him away.
Days of grief became weeks but to most people around me I was handling it well. Only Tania really saw moments of the raw emotion but even then I had a blanket over it. My main concern, right from the word go, had been to ensure that she was looked after – physically as well as emotionally. I set up a bed in the lounge room, dealt with condolences and most enquiries into her welfare, took care of all the household and child related chores. Keeping busy and focusing on Tania steadied me and took the focus away from my own grief. When things quieted down the emotions became overwhelming, their intensity disturbed and confused me, and I was left to battle myself again – it wasn’t even a real baby, I had never held it, I didn’t experience it physically like Tania.
This week marks the start of Never Forgotten: Mamamia’s Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week.
The questions and concerns were generally directed towards me but in nearly all cases were about Tania. And even though I appreciated the enquires into her welfare I began to feel as if I wasn’t entirely involved. It was as if this was only Tania’s experience. I’d already done enough to talk myself out of the grief I was feeling but every time someone skirted passed me to enquire about Tania an underlying belief was reaffirmed – as a man I wasn’t supposed to be feeling this way.
Months later through a series of coincidences I met Sally and Simon Heppleston and learnt about their own story of loss. In 2008 they were prepared for their world to change when they attended a routine ante-natal appointment late in their pregnancy. They had created space in their lives – a new baby seat in the car, a new cot in the decorated nursery, a collection of infant jumpsuits and beanies. All of it awaiting animation through a new life.