Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021
by Beth Parkinson
Presenter, CBN Europe
This week, as we remember Baby Loss Awareness Week, Beth Parkinson (CBN Europe presenter) shares her very personal experience of this kind of tragic loss.
1 in 4
Sat in front of a hospital consultant I found a new stat roll off my tongue, and with it, tears down my cheeks. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, but what happens when you are not just the 1 in 4, you are 4 out of 5. 5 pregnancies. 1 beautiful miracle baby.
I didn’t consciously tell myself I would no longer struggle with miscarriage after we had our darling girl, but I hoped it. I hoped that pre-natal loss was a chapter of my life that was complete. That I could use our struggle to bring hope to people, but that the struggle, for me, was ultimately over now.
Telling close family that we were expecting, that Rebekah was going to be a big sister, brought so many sweet moments of surprise, shock and joy. Having a little secret growing inside me as we then unexpectedly lost Phil’s dad, gave us a quiet hope of joy yet to come.
And then the scans showed a loss. A new type of loss. A blighted ovum. Even the term itself doesn’t exactly reek of happiness. Strangely common, a blighted ovum is a type of miscarriage where the body starts working all the infrastructure of a pregnancy, the gestational/amniotic sac, even the start of a placenta, but with no baby ever present there.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, but what happens when you are not just the 1 in 4, you are 4 out of 5. 5 pregnancies. 1 beautiful miracle baby.
Grieving the Hope Lost
A simplified metaphor is that if pregnancy is like boiling an egg. A blighted ovum is like the egg in the pan having no yolk, but the pan/your body still cooking up a storm. And if your body continues not to realise that this isn’t a ‘proper egg’, medical intervention is required to get the rest of the egg out of the pan.
So, 4 days before my father-in-law’s funeral, I spent a day in hospital, distracting myself with macrame and trying to make people smile, going under general anaesthetic and saying goodbye to a baby that was never there.
For some people, you may wonder why I share this, why I share these details still so raw, personal, and so horribly real. But it’s for the one. It’s for the mother reading this who feels she can’t grieve. Because no-one ever knew she was expecting, or because their pregnancy wasn’t far enough along to ‘count’.
How do you even grieve a baby that never existed? You grieve the hope lost.
The conversations about rearranging the house, whether we’d need a bigger car, the tentative conversations about names we like for this little one.
Where the hope is real, the loss is real. Whether you’ve carried it for days, or for months. No miscarriage for us has been the same. The first, at 13 weeks, showed a baby who had stopped growing at 6. The second was in a far-off country with no medical help, but a deep knowledge that something had happened, even if we didn’t know details.
How do you even grieve a baby that never existed? You grieve the hope lost.
The third, we lost at 9 weeks. As we didn’t have an early scan, we had to be investigated as possibly ectopic, adding to the lengthy hospital consultations and tests. A successful full-term pregnancy resulting in our miracle girl, had me almost thinking we wouldn’t face this again – only for us to be faced with yet another loss.
Your journey may be something like mine. It may be nothing like mine. And while any loss hurts like hell, I want to tell you today that you’re not alone. Your grief doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s okay to have days that are happy and wonderful and cheery, and others where you feel like the bottom has fallen out of your world and you can barely get out of bed.
It’s okay to want to name that lost baby, it’s okay to not. It’s okay to light a candle or remember what would have been their birthday… it’s okay to want to try again. To know that a successful pregnancy doesn’t wipe away the value of those precious ones lost before. I’ve held my girl in my arms and cried over the siblings she won’t meet this side of heaven. Joy and loss mingled inexplicably and inseparably.
I’ve had many people ask me what to do. What helps? I wish there were a magic wand of an answer – three simple steps that, if we each followed, all our pain would dissipate. But just as each of us are so very different – so is our grief and how we journey it. But I can tell you some of what has helped me…
It’s okay to want to name that lost baby, it’s okay to not. It’s okay to light a candle or remember what would have been their birthday… it’s okay to want to try again.
Find Your Tribe
From our first pregnancy and loss I had a couple of close trusted friends who sat with me and helped me process.
The words of one friend who had experienced some of the same losses have stayed with me over the years: ‘It’s okay to sit here and cry, it’s okay to feel this deeply. But down the line, if I find you in the exact spot on the sofa, I’ll be telling you it’s time to move’.
Over the years, this circle of closest, trusted friends has changed – just as each loss has looked different, we’ve shared our journey with different people as each season calls for it.
Let me encourage you – find your tribe. The people you can lean on when you’re hurting, and in turn can support in their seasons too. This looks for me like a group of women I’ve let know when I’ve found out that I’m expecting. Women who will stay in touch, but not smother, who will check in, or I can fire off quick updates to. It also looks like one or maybe two people that on a rough day, pregnant or not, I can send a voice note to or call.
Not to get sympathy, or for a quick ‘feel better soon’ reply, but who will acknowledge with me that some days just suck, and then pray with me and/or bring doughnuts.
These people may not always say exactly the right thing, but you know that they love you and want the best for you.
If I can encourage you too – even in your grief, be kind. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel things deeply, both joy and sorrow, and be kind to others. Don’t expect people to read your mind and just ‘know’ what you need. If you can’t face going to a friends’ baby shower, but can send them a loving note, do the kindest thing you can manage in that moment.
If I can encourage you too – even in your grief, be kind. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself feel things deeply, both joy and sorrow, and be kind to others.
Love and Loss
For me, reaching out in love to others, even in the middle of pain, has helped me take a step out of the storm I’m in. I may still get alarmed at people who announce pregnancies super early, I may struggle with those that liken their journey of ‘trying’ for a baby for a couple of months with our 8-year journey… but I’m learning to be kind.
And when that moment comes – through prayer, treatment, adoption, changing vocations – however it comes – allow yourself to feel joy. Lean on those friends when fear rises, but more than anything, lean on the one who will never fail you.
Dig deep into Psalm 23 and remind yourself that He is with you, whatever you walk through. Remind yourself that you can eat – synonymous with celebration – with joy in the face of your enemy – fear, because God has laid that table of abundance for you.
A lot will be said this week about 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage. And it can bring hurting hearts closer together knowing you are not alone, but it doesn’t reduce the pain you’re in.
By the time this piece is published in 2021, we will have welcomed our 2nd miracle babe into the world… 2 out of 6.
We loved, and we lost. But we choose to hope in love again.
I’m praying that you are able to choose hope and love again.