By: Anna L. Griffiths
As I go through this process, I search for books and people who understand my pain. All of these books seem to say, “this is what you could be feeling.” They don’t always know what you actually are feeling, they guess and lump together possible feelings of situations that are all so unique and individual.
When I first found out that my child had an underdeveloped heart and lung and would not survive outside the womb, I was in such shock, my brain tried everything it could to cope.
It started thinking of positive things, even in such a horrible situation. “I will be able to drink beer and eat sushi again.” “It would be really hard to take care of two babies so close together, maybe it is better this way.” “Maybe I can go back to work now.” “Maybe we shouldn’t even have two kids.” “Maybe it will be easier to move overseas with only one child.” “Maybe I’ll run that marathon I have always thought about doing.”
This was the optimism I experienced interspersed with waves of pain, where none of these thoughts could actually comfort me. The fact was there. My child would not survive. It was my decision to stop it early, or allow it to happen after birth. I chose to stop it early.
What I find in books and forums is not about me; it is about parents who decided to take their babies full-term even though they knew there was going to be a terminal illness or little to no chance of survival. It is about parents who wanted, needed to see their babies faces and bodies in order to say “goodbye.” One book I found even discusses how stigmatized death is because death used to occur in the home and people would sit around and stare at the bodies, and now we don’t anymore.
Well I am sorry, but I admit it; I am uncomfortable with death. I am uncomfortable, beyond uncomfortable, with the fact that my child is going to die in a surgery that I chose to do.
I don’t want to remember my little boy as being half-formed and dead. I want to remember Arthur as that cute little boy in the ultrasound, putting his hand up to his face, over his face, turning around with life. I want to remember him as being safe and comforted in the womb; remember him by his kicks and flutters. I want to know that while he had life, it was a comforting one—one where he could hear the giggles of his big sister murmuring through the amniotic fluid. One where he could hear me singing to her, hear what the sound of love is truly like. I don’t want his last memories to be those of traumatic birth, being exposed to the light and harsh medical tools. He has heard me and my husband, he knows that we love him, that is all I want and all that I need, personally, as a mother.
This is not meant to be a piece about judgment. I respect, with all of my heart, those who make the choices that I have personally been uncomfortable with. In some ways, I wish I could be comfortable with them, but I am not.
I am me, and this is my child, and this is my decision—and there should be support out there no matter what decisions we, as mothers and guardians of our babies, make.
I know that people talk about celebrating the baby’s life. I want so badly to celebrate his life openly, acknowledge it. My mother talked about having a ceremony—she is a life-cycle celebrant—but I am not ready for that outward acknowledgement yet, and maybe I never will be. Some people want others to acknowledge that baby’s presence, continually say his or her name. I am choosing at this time to honor him more privately—in the signs I see that I take are from the Universe, God, whatever you want to call It, if you even believe in an It. Not releasing balloons or talking about him to every person that I meet does not mean, by my mother’s suggestion, that I am “[sweeping] things under the rug”, it simply means that I choose to acknowledge the bond that I had with my baby in the way I experienced it during his short life; privately and full of inner love.
So I sit here alone at this time of great grief and confusion and comfort myself and my unborn, unformed baby, as mothers often do. Shh, shh, It is okay. I am okay. We are okay. Everything will be okay.
About Anna L. Griffiths
Anna currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two daughters (3 and 1). She is sharing this story because she wants others who have experienced this kind of traumatic loss to know that they are not alone.
These are controversial topics and many that people don’t realize other families face.
Share’s mission is to support those whose lives are touched by the tragic death of a baby through pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or in the first few months of life. Share does not take a political stand on these issues. Share is not responsible for guiding or counseling families in their decision-making process. We all grieve and mourn for our babies. Some of our parents have had to choose the day that they were going to lose their baby. But the truth is still: each family wanted and love their babies. We all search for support, healing and hope. All grieving parents deserve that.
As a support organization it is always our goal to provide a safe and compassionate place for every family who has suffered the great loss of their baby.
We hope this conversation allows for continued healing and an understanding from others of the great need for long-term support for every family making difficult decisions. If you are in need of support after making the decision to terminate for medical reasons, please reach out to our Bereavement Care Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-821-6819.