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"In 2012 I was pregnant, and then I was not...": The pregnancy loss no one talks about.

15 October marked International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

When I looked it up, it is defined as being a day where “parents and families across Australia will honour their babies who passed away from miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death”.

I wrestled all day with whether to write something about this. On the one hand, I do not need some special day in the calendar to remember something I live with every day. And if I do need a special day, do I need to share it publicly?

But I decided to share my story because I feel that any sort of talk about pregnancy loss is so taboo, that when it happens, women are left feeling less alone. Maybe if I start talking about it, others will feel empowered to do the same?

But for me, there is another issue.

Because on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, my own experience does not quite fit in to that neat little box.

In 2012 I was pregnant, and then I was not.

But I did not have a miscarriage or a stillbirth – I terminated, in other words aborted, a very much wanted pregnancy.

You see, in March of that year, we found out we were expecting our first child. But in late April, we found out that there was something wrong, and that I would most likely have to terminate. I was informed I would have to wait six weeks for the baby to develop a little more before we could know for sure. From 12 weeks until 18 weeks I walked around with a fake smile and a heavy heart as people congratulated us on our big exciting news, all the while knowing this was not going to end well.

At 18 and a half weeks, I went for further testing and was given the news that the baby had Trisomy 13, a condition that is “not compatible with life”. These four words have haunted me for over six years.

Not compatible with life.

My “choice” was to terminate immediately or carry the baby until full term for him to either die in the womb or live a few short hours before dying. In my own mind, I already knew I was not going to bring a baby into this world only for him to suffer and die.

And there was not a single professional that recommended the second “option”. To them, there was no choice. We had to terminate.

And so, on Sunday June 3, 19 weeks into my pregnancy, we drove to Waverley Private Hospital and I was taken to a room where I was induced into labour.

I remember being asked where I would like to go, as my chosen hospital for the “real” delivery, Cabrini, was Catholic and was not an option “for this sort of thing”.

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I chose Waverley because I had never been there before and hoped I would never, ever see that place again. I have no idea how I got there or how I got home.

After over 25 hours waiting in a hospital room, with the sound of healthy babies being born and crying all around me, I laboured and delivered a little boy who was 230g and who was not destined to take a single breath in this world.

I could not even bring myself to look at him. I had all of these ideas in my head of what our first child might look like – would he have my husband’s skin-tone? Would he have my eyes? – and I preferred to live out the rest of my days wondering rather than having the real image stuck in my head.

My amazing OB said he was beautiful. I am sure she says that about all of the babies she has delivered, but it has always stuck in my mind.

The cot card issued by Waverley hospital. Image supplied.
The cot card issued by Waverley hospital. Image supplied.

In the days and weeks afterwards, physically I healed, and emotionally too. It sounds crazy saying it now, but I actually felt relieved. I was relieved that after six weeks of living in limbo, of not knowing, at least I had some “closure”, even if it was not the happy ending we were hoping for.

Spiritually I felt stuck. Had I done the right thing on a religious level? I have never been particularly religious, but all of a sudden I found myself desperately searching the internet for answers. I will be forever grateful for the advice I was given just when I needed it from a Rabbanit who I trust, and as I physically healed, I found a way to spiritually heal as well.

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In the six years that have passed, we have been lucky enough to have two amazing boys and we have another one on the way. I wish I can say the experience changed me or made me a better mother. But I’ll never know the sort of mother I would have been, and I am certainly no saint when it comes to parenting now. But that is a story for another day. I love my boys with every piece of my heart, even the damaged part, and I try not to dwell on what could have been.

For the most part, I rarely think about what happened in the winter of 2012.

For the most part, it is just a really shit thing that happened to us, but we grow from these things and we move on. You cannot live in the past.

But days like these are difficult. They are difficult because I lost a child that I wanted more than anything in this world. And they are also difficult because I did not have a miscarriage or a stillbirth. And people find that difficult to relate to. I chose to end a pregnancy, and for making that choice I am somehow excluded from the conversation around pregnancy loss.

But a loss is a loss. And the pain of wanting to have a child and then not having that child is still the same.

Usually when a woman finds out she is pregnant, she waits until that “safe” 12 weeks to tell people. Heaven forbid something happened before that, and then she is made to “suffer in silence”. But the truth is, if something was to happen, wouldn’t we want people around us to know so we could have some sort of support when things do not go as planned?

And if something was to happen after that 12 weeks, wouldn’t it be better if we could just talk openly about how we felt, without having to talk in hushed tones and unfinished sentences about the unspeakable?

I am telling my story today in the hope that it empowers someone else who has gone through, or is going through, something similar. You do not have to “out” yourself on Facebook or tell your story to the world. Just know that you are never, ever alone.

Wishing all of those mothers with empty arms but full hearts all the love in the world on this day. I see you.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

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