Stripped naked below the waist, I am lying on the doctor’s bench, legs spread beneath the crisp white sheet, unceremoniously poked and prodded by the doctor with an ultrasound wand. It is confronting. But modesty has given way for exquisite anticipation of seeing my baby’s heartbeat on the monitor for the very first time.
'Oh, this doesn’t look good.’ She shifts position, straining to see a clearer view. ‘This isn’t good. Oh dear, I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat there. It looks like you have miscarried.'
I am not sure I have heard her correctly; I am sure the doctor must have been mistaken. I lie there in a daze, body in shock, head swimming in disbelief, dizzy, not sure what to do next. She pats me on the knees, looks me in the face for the briefest moment, making an effort at consoling us against the blow of this terrible news.
‘I’m so sorry. It happens. It’ll be okay. Pop your clothes on and come and take a seat. Take as long as you need.’
For the longest moment I cannot move. I am stuck to the bench. Then I vacantly and obediently proceed to do as I am told. I struggle up off the bench, wobbly on my legs, fumbling as I pull on my clothes, feeling the lifeblood leach out of me as I sink into the floor.
It takes a moment for things to sink in. How could this be happening? This cannot be possible, not after everything we have been through. They told me I was the star patient! I had defied the odds with my brilliant blood-test results and outstanding response to the treatment. I am, quite literally, in a state of stunned disbelief. This must be what shock feels like.
FromThe Year of Medical Thinkingby SK Reid.
And so began my descent into unthinkable heartache. The heartache of losing my precious IVF baby. The heartache of having my long-held and cherished hopes and dreams of a family dashed. The heartache of coming to terms with no longer being pregnant. The heartache of the killing of gentle joy and anticipation I had incrementally allowed into my heart as I prepared myself for finally becoming a mother. The heartache of learning I would never hold my baby in my arms. Never hear my baby call me Mama. Of never having her in my life. The heartache of letting her go, of saying goodbye.
I am not alone in my excruciating grief. Globally, there are millions of women who experience this heartache every year.
Every day of every week, every month of every year, a woman’s heart will shatter with the devastation of the loss of a baby, either through miscarriage, the complications of preterm delivery, stillbirth or the sudden death of an infant.
Sometimes this devastation derives from a pregnancy that does not eventuate, or from repeated attempts at IVF, or perhaps as a consequence of unexplained infertility and the anguish of the loss of one’s hopes and dreams and the promise of family.
This brutal reality leaves the griever feeling alone, alienated, isolated, disenfranchised from her community.
In my own case, it has been a long road out of this place of emotional hell. Part of my journey toward healing (not that we even heal fully from our loss, but we do find strength eventually) has involved connecting with others who understand what it’s like to experience this kind of heartache.
Here, I found a sisterhood of shared experience. We share a grief over the loss of our babies, born and unborn, and this shared grief is a silent bond that unites us.
The Perinatal Loss and Involuntary Childlessness Alliance (PLICA) was born from this experience.
Our grief is precious. Our grief is our teacher. It is as much a part of what it is to be human as love. Just as our grief unites us in a sisterhood, it also is an expression of the bond of love we have for our precious babies. Two sides of the one coin, grief is the other side of the love a mother has for her baby. We carry this grief in our hearts alongside this sacred love.
In honouring our grief and our love, healing is made possible.
Whether you have given birth to sleeping babies yet have other babies and children, or your babies were never born, the love and the grief is the golden thread that binds us. This is the essence of what the Perinatal Loss and Involuntary Childlessness Alliance stands for.
No woman should ever feel alone, alienated, isolated, invisible. We should never have to hide our grief because our pain makes others uncomfortable. We should never have to suffer in silence. PLICA is the shoulder to lean on, the loving arms of support, and stands by you so you need not walk alone.
For more about blogger, author and Founder of PLICA, SK Reid, please visit SK Reid
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