Foetal remains

Three weeks after Fr Ray Blake wrote this post on Thursday 3 September, we discovered that our unborn baby Raphael had died in utero at my 12 week scan, at around 11 weeks gestation.

Raphael was provisionally scheduled to be born tomorrow, 25 March 2014 via elective c-section. It felt like a fortuitous date, not only being the feast of the Annunciation, but it’s also the tenth birthday of my eldest daughter. Our Lady has manifested herself in one way or another in all of my pregnancies – for example, I discovered that I was expecting another of my daughters on the Feast of the Assumption.

No doubt I shall find tonight’s Channel 4, Despatches, difficult viewing, both in terms of content and timing.

As I have written about previously, we were given the remains of our baby to take home and store in the fridge, following medical management of miscarriage. Their body was fully and perfectly formed, only in miniature, which can be verified by a simple internet image search of what a foetus of 11 weeks gestation might look like.

Earlier on this year, I did an interview with the national press as to the horrific circumstances surrounding our miscarriage. Robin had worked in the funeral industry and therefore knew that the hospital could store the baby’s remains, prior to the funeral directors picking them up for burial or cremation. He had done this previously for clients, reputable funeral directors will not charge for the basic cost of children’s funerals (obviously flowers and other disbursements such as a headstone are chargeable) and thought that this would be the normal procedure.

According to a leaflet that can be downloaded  here  issued by the Royal Sussex County Hospital you need to sign a P2 form in order for the mortuary to keep the remains. We therefore asked for this option when I was presented with a P1 form to sign which gives consent for mass cremation, prior to the procedure to induce delivery. Although we were not aware of the disgusting abuses which will be highlighted in tonight’s programme, that babies’ remains could be used to generate heat for hospitals, we knew that there was the possibility for error and that they could potentially be disposed of as clinical waste. Hospital procedure seems to be to shepherd parents into signing the P1 form for mass cremation if they have suffered an early loss.

It was important for us to mark the loss of our baby correctly for a number of reasons;  to acknowledge their humanity, to grieve for him or her, mark his/her brief existence here on earth, accord him/her the dignity and respect s/he deserved as a human being and to pray for Raphael. We felt it was our duty as parents, the one thing we could do to mark our love. Robin in particular felt that it was his duty – it was the one thing that he could do for his baby, ensure that he or she had a proper, dignified and holy funeral and he wanted to accompany the baby to their final resting place.

As the experience bore similarity to the medical abortion I had undergone back in 1997, albeit at an earlier stage, as can be imagined, things had a particular and awful resonance, bringing home in painfully sharp and vivid detail, the lack of respect, dignity and love that had been shown to a previous child who deserved so much more. This dreadful issue of how babies’ bodies have been mistreated throws what happens in abortion clinics and what they do with their remains, into sharp and terrible relief.

When we told the staff of our wish to make private arrangements for our baby they seemed nonplussed, this was obviously an unusual request, but said that they would sort it out. The nurse later returned to us and told us that it wasn’t possible for them to store the remains and we would have to organise matters ourselves, which would mean taking them home with us.

Thus it was, that on the morning of 3 October 2013, I was discharged from the gynaecology ward, clinging to Robin for dear life, following a horrific night in which the process of miscarrying the baby brought about a terrific blood loss, requiring some ad-hoc surgery at 1am on the ward as no theatre was available and for a few hours of IV fluids. Therefore as they gave me the form to sign from the previous day which they had amended to state that we wanted to take the remains home, I didn’t think to quibble or query. I was exhausted, could barely stand, emotionally overwrought and just wanted to go home to my own bed and sleep.

It didn’t occur to me to say “Hang on, can I have the P2 form, you’ve just crossed out the details on the P1” or “why can’t you look after my baby”? I was tired, vulnerable and was doing as I was told. The hospital said that they wouldn’t store the remains, I wasn’t in the mood to fight with them over it, or ask why not. Maybe it’s a uniquely British trait, a class thing or a mixture of the two but like so many,  meekly accepted what I was told and fell in line with procedure.

I’ve blurred out my personal identity details, but here is the form I signed. You can see it is a modified P1, not the P2 specified on the leaflet. How many women dealing with the aftermath of a miscarriage, really think to quibble over paperwork. Robin thought it odd that the hospital wouldn’t help us by keeping the baby – but I was too tired to quibble over this wording which they had written in – “couple has requested to take remains home” and just signed what was put in front of me.

Baby Raphael Release form
We didn’t ask to take home our ‘products of conception’.

So it was, we found ourselves leaving the ward, taking the cramped tiny lift down from level 11 of the Thomas Kemp tower, so familiar to us and any families or women who have had a baby in Brighton. It was one of the most painful experiences of our married life. The lift had so many previous happy associations with pregnancy, maternity and newborns, we had carried three of our newborn children down to the car, their tiny bodies bundled in a blanket and strapped into the carseat, ready to face the world, and this time there was nothing to show for the familiar trek, aside from a tiny body in a jar in Robin’s pocket. As we were leaving the ward they apologised that they had nothing more appropriate than a sample jar, to which a generic printed label was affixed advising that the remains ought to be refrigerated.

Just as we’d stepped in the lift, another couple with their beautiful newborn in a carseat sprouting a full head of hair and a healthy pink bloom joined us. The air was heavy with anticipation and excitement. They were wearing the exhausted but happy look, intermingled with a pinch of panic and disbelief, which is the exclusive preserve of parents. We were probably the first strangers they had met since leaving the ward. What a lovely baby you have, I said, trying not to let the words catch in my throat or let on any hint of tragedy lest I should cast any hint of sadness on their special day, or spoil their big moment, trying not to think of the lifeless pallid corpse in my husband’s pocket.

So we got home, I went to bed and Robin did what the label told him to and placed the baby in the spare inbuilt  fridge we use for beakers of drinks and snacks, where they remained for the next week, before we obtained a casket and buried the baby in the grounds of our parish church. Looking back on it, I can’t quite believe that we actually did that, we put our baby in our drinks fridge! I guess we were in a state of shock and so it was easier just to mindlessly follow instructions. We stopped the children from going into the kitchen and helping themselves during that period for obvious reasons, but every time I open the fridge door, I have to rid myself of the image in my head.

The press pulled the story for legal reasons as the Royal Sussex County hospital denied that they would ever treat anyone in such a way and that we must have definitely requested to take the remains home ourselves. When you compare our story with Fr Ray’s parishioner and other testimonies about the Royal Sussex, it definitely raises questions about their attitude, especially when one sees the disrespect with which the bodies of other babies were treated around the country. Both of us have been left angered by the implication by the Royal Sussex that we are lying. No grieving parents would wish to have to take home their baby’s remains.

At least we have the comfort of knowing that we did the right thing by our baby. Our mistrust that they may not treat the remains with the respect they deserve was not unmerited. How awful for any parent who miscarried at those particular hospitals, knowing what may have happened to their babies.

This is what happens in a society with such a disrespect for the life of the unborn. I wonder what those who advocate for abortion up until birth, or at a much later stage would make of this? It takes the concept of green energy to a new level.

Babies in the fridge

I’m in two minds over the effectiveness of online petitions, one the one hand they can be extremely useful in terms of raising public awareness of a particular issue, on the other, there is no guarantee of them getting to debate stage and even if they do, overwhelming public opinion seems to be ignored when MPs are voting on legislative issues. The petition against the redefinition of marriage serves as useful illustration; despite garnering over 668,000 signatures, an unprecedented number in contrast to the 66,203 signatures in favour of the redefinition, the measure comes into force on the 29th March, with my home city Brighton and Hove, likely to offer the very first ceremony, taking place in the Royal Pavillion at one minute past midnight, for a selected winner of a competition. (One of the comments on this is very telling, stating that same-sex couples have not previously had the opportunity to ‘try’ marriage).

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of same-sex marriage, democracy and public opinion do not seem to have been served well by online petitions which seem to be little more than a gimmick designed to present the illusion of democracy in action.

With that in mind, I have come across an extremely worthy online petition which due to its unsensational nature will probably receive very little support. It is unlikely that even 100,000 signatures will take this to debate stage, but it will nonetheless trigger a response and hopefully a legislative change.

The Mariposa Trust, who are responsible for the Saying GoodBye organisation who organise services of remembrance for those unborn babies lost to miscarriage in Cathedrals spread throughout the UK, are wishing to campaign to legislate for the treatment of women who are experiencing miscarriage.

Saying Goodbye offers Anglican Services, which unsurprisingly are often customised with secular elements, nonetheless their ministry is an important one, contributing to  and consolidating a pro-life ethos in the UK, because they recognise that parents lose a baby and grieve no matter what stage in pregnancy they were in. These services give parents a formal opportunity to mark and mourn the loss of their child, which is often denied to them, thanks to the way that miscarriage is dealt with by hospitals.

While it is not right to attempt to claim Saying Goodbye for the pro-life movement, I have no idea where the founders stand on the subject of abortion and would not wish their organisation to be leveraged, they exist purely to help bereaved parents and not to judge, nevertheless their very existence makes life uncomfortable for those who would promote early stage abortion. The issue of bereavement is a complex one, it is undoubtedly true that parents who experience miscarriage do suffer very profoundly. As do many women who have been through the process of abortion, even if it was what they believed to be the right option. This young woman describes how she cried and grieved for her baby after an early stage abortion – fortunately the medication did not work, her baby is due later this year and she bitterly regrets opting for an abortion in the first place.

Not every women who experiences an abortion will suffer from grief, however Saying Goodbye would not disbar post-abortive women from attending their services which are open to all and therefore it is highly likely that they could prove a source of comfort both to women and extended family alike. Their sensitively worded blurb, invites anyone who has experienced any type of infant loss to attend the services, no matter how historic, although they are not a specific ministry for post-abortive mothers.  We shouldn’t adopt a partisan attitude – an organisation that seeks to acknowledge and recognise the humanity inherent in the unborn child, by accepting and marking a loss, deserves our full support and makes a valuable contribution to the dignity and protection of the unborn.

Anyway, the petition itself wishes to end the practice of women being instructed by hospitals to keep the bodies of their miscarried babies in their fridge, until such time as the hospital is ready to accept the baby. This is common practice, especially at weekends and is particularly barbaric. When we lost Raphael a few months ago and were waiting to see if a miscarriage may occur spontaneously, this is what we were instructed to do and I was dreading the process of having to retrieve his or her tiny body. Woman are reporting being instructed to buy tupperware containers precisely for the purpose of storing the baby, indeed we had an ice cream tub at the ready.

The internet was a tremendous source of help and practical information which was not given to us by the hospital and upon reading various Mumsnet threads, I was horrified to discover that women are by and large expected to miscarry at home if they opt for a medical management of the procedure. I read numerous terrifying tales of women having to be blue-lighted into hospital due to excessive blood loss, as well as of incomplete procedures. Coincidentally a woman privately hooked up with me in the Brighton area who had also discovered that her baby had died. As her pregnancy was not as far as advanced as mine, she was not admitted into hospital, being given the medication to administer at home, which had not worked. She frantically messaged me to ask about bedspace and staff on the ward as she was desperate for medical attention, support and reassurance. Following repeated attempts to induce the miscarriage with medication, a process that involved several hospital trips and being what she felt was ‘fobbed off’, she ended up needing surgery six weeks later. As far as the stretched department at our local hospital was concerned, she was not in any immediate danger, her baby had died and while her distress was unfortunate, she was not a priority.

No petition is going to ease the pressure on the over-burdened NHS, however I was left with the impression that overall the standards of care for women who suffer a miscarriage are very patchy. We were fortunate to receive excellent and compassionate care, although there was a brief crisis due to a lack of available doctors and theatre at 2am, but judging by Mumsnet threads, I seem to be in the minority.

Woman are routinely encouraged not to request remains of a 13 week baby, standard procedure is that they are kept by the hospital and sent to the crematorium to be sensitively dealt with en masse with your baby’s name or details being added to a book of remembrance. Most mothers are in too much of a fug to want to think about ‘foetal remains’ as they are called and so this often seems like the easiest and most straightforward option, although from our perspective we felt a duty and responsibility to our baby to accompany them on their last journey and accord Christian burial rites and so we requested the remains.

The hospital were quite flummoxed, there were the inevitable paperwork snafus as this was an unusual request and upon leaving we were given a container with the foetus inside, they were unwilling and unable to store this for us until such time as we could arrange for burial.

And so it was that as I left the hospital in which I had given birth to three live children, leaving the floor and the lift forever associated with newborns in carseats and ante-natal appointments, clinging on to Robin feebly due to having lost almost 2 litres of blood, instead of the newborn in the carseat, Robin had the foetus in a jar in his oversized coat pocket.

We weren’t able to bury the baby for another 10 days, so for that time they remained in the fridge, which was tricky and distressing with four children in the house. It was only thanks to Robin’s contacts in the funeral industry that we knew that a tiny wicker casket could be sourced and again thanks to the support of our parish priest that we were able to lay Raphael to rest in the memorial garden/flowerbed of the church. It’s enormously comforting having a resting place.

(Trolls who suggested that I was faking or simulating my pregnancy ought to come and have a word with my husband. Likewise while you were hectoring me and writing letters in green ink to my employers because you were annoyed by some petty account for which I was not responsible and would not engage with or acknowledge, digital engagement was not a priority for me at this time, perhaps you ought to rethink that with our baby in the fridge we had other more pressing matters to think about). 

At time of writing I should be into my third trimester of pregnancy and Christmas was difficult at times – there will always be a missing stocking. The comfort of our religious faith has made this an easier time than for many, both in terms of accessing available support and the logistics of organising a burial.

No mother should be instructed to keep her baby in the fridge at any stage in gestation or for any period of time and neither should she be treated as inconvenience if she finds herself needing to access counselling services weeks later, for which there are often long NHS waiting lists. Which is why I believe that this petition is worth signing.

Trust in God & Scripture in Schools

Taken from the Catholic Universe 13 October 2013

pietro-perugino-tobias-with-the-angel-raphaelHaving shared my pregnancy news with Universe readers in order to advocate breaking the taboo and stigma of early pregnancy, I am now reaping the downside of being upfront following the discovery during a routine scan that our unborn child had died in utero, right at the end of the first trimester.

As we were unable to verify the sex of our baby, born on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, we therefore chose the name Raphael in honour of the Archangel, who in common with all angels is pure spirit and therefore neither male nor female in the earthly sense. Furthermore Raphael is also associated with the healing ministry of God.

When explaining the reason for our choice of name, I was taken aback by the amount of Christians who while aware of the name of the archangel, associated it more with the Renaissance artist and knew nothing of the Biblical connotations.

 Raphael makes an appearance in the Book of Tobit, one of the books of the Apocrypha, in which he is sent by God to heal, protect and guide Tobit and his son and daughter-in-law Tobias and Sarah. The story of Tobit’s family is one of the hidden gems of the Bible, the message of which is that God is just. Tobit, Tobias and Sarah suffer many trials and difficulties but yet remain steadfast in faith during their time of testing and enjoy God’s blessings and mercy, with St Raphael being sent to them as answer to their prayers for deliverance and making the longest recorded speech of an angel in the entire Bible!

Like Tobit we are called to trust in God and live in accordance to his plan. Suffering is not a punishment but a test, it is not our struggles that define us, but our response to them – do we rail Job-like against God, or put our faith in him, trusting that though he has not willed terrible things to happen, he will work to bring good out of our pain.

 The book of Tobit is a great guide to Catholic spirituality, presenting the sanctity of marriage, angelic intercession, a reward for good works as well as emphasising the importance of prayer, almsgiving and fasting in our daily lives.

Upon re-reading it this week and explaining its significance in the choice of our baby’s name, it once again struck me as what a tragedy it is that so many of us Catholics don’t seem to know our bible as well as we ought. Not only does this mean that we are often left floundering especially when in conversation with our evangelical brethren, but that our faith and knowledge can lack richness and depth. Christianity is a revealed religion, about what God has shown and told us, most of which can be found in scripture.

If our knowledge of the bible is sketchy, as well as hindering and impairing our faith, it also means that we are missing out on a wealth of cultural richness. As a former English literature student, I was frequently taken aback at how much my fellow students were missing out on, by having almost no knowledge of the basic Old and New Testament stories which were a staple of basic education only a few generations ago. Without a good grip on the bible, it is impossible to appreciate staples of the English canon such as Beowulf, Chaucer, Blake and DH Lawrence to name but a few.

 This week the schools watchdog Ofsted have reported that more than half of England’s schools are failing pupils on religious education. A great deal of this has to do with the manner in which RE is now taught, in an impartial and objective fashion, laying out the tenets of different faiths from which children are taught to take a pick and mix approach, drawing out strands of truths from various religions, without being equipped with the basic knowledge to be able to make such critical decisions.

I was lucky enough to have old-fashioned scripture lessons at primary school, which was akin to a period of story-telling, music, art and drama. I remember the class sitting with rapt concentration to tales of King David, singing songs about the walls of Jericho tumbling and drawing vivid pictures of Elijah being taken up to heaven in a chariot, the memories of those lessons remaining with me today, almost thirty years later. Despite attending a Catholic secondary school, my knowledge of the Apocrypha was until quite recently, limited to being purely theoretical, even though it is a key part of our Catholic cultural inheritance.

If Religious Education teaching is lacking, it is time to reintroduce unashamed scripture lessons, which as my experience shows does not need to be an exercise in aridity, in order that all children are not denied the richness of their country’s spiritual heritage, regardless of whether or not they are adherents to what is still, our national religion.

 We cannot be surprised or shocked by the current proposals that the Bible should be removed from courtrooms, how can we swear a serious oath of truth upon it, or how can grieving parents or those suffering with the burdens and trials of life, absorb the messages of  consolation and hope from the Bible, if we don’t know what is contained therein?

Formed and fully human

I based a previous post about Sarah Ewart based on a misconception of the severity of her baby’s condition which had been misreported in the press, with even Melanie McDonagh stating that the baby ‘had no head’. While I did not quite believe this to be true, my visualisation of the condition was something infinitely more graphic and gruesome than the reality.

Peter Saunders has sensitively and scientifically outlined the reality here, in a must-read piece for anyone wanting to know the reality of the condition. Had the case been as I believed, I still don’t believe that would have been a good enough reason to abort the baby, but I would not have been rushing to demand prosecution of someone who assisted her and would have wanted some compromise found, which did not implicitly endorse abortion, but also would offer some relief for the mother if necessary, such as early delivery at point of viability.

I still believe that pro-lifers need to exercise due care and compassion nonetheless in these situations, rushing to quote the Catechism, which is couched in philosophical and theological language at a frightened mother, who may or may not be a Catholic, is not the most pastoral, compassionate or necessarily convincing approach.

If we are to change society’s consciousness on this, then we need to reach out beyond our own religious circle. One isn’t going to convince a pagan or committed atheist as to the compelling philosophy, logic and science that supports a pro-life mindset by referencing the Bible, the Didache or Magisterium, although my experience is that very often the pro-life cause is what attracts people to re-examine, revert or convert to Catholicism as they begin to explore why it is that we are so uncompromising on this.

LIFE charity are currently running an extremely effective ‘not blinkered’ campaign, which de-bunks the whole ‘religious nut jobs on the right’ stereotype very nicely. While we cannot divert from Catholic principles, a recourse to theism is not a necessary when it comes to explaining why the most vulnerable, from the unborn, to the disabled, terminally ill and elderly should be protected from abortion, assisted dying and euthanasia.

When I discovered that our unborn baby had died, I chose to undergo a procedure similar to a medical abortion in order to deliver our baby after waiting to see whether or not matters would resolve naturally. It was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to face and even though we knew that the baby had died, there was still some guilt in taking action that would literally force the baby out of the womb. Despite having had the diagnosis confirmed by 3 separate doctors I still needed confirmation that no heartbeat was present, before I allowed intervention to proceed.

Ending a pregnancy is a traumatic and violent affair, regardless of the method one chooses even armed with the knowledge that there is little other choice,  as there was in our situation. For a while I was too physically battered by what had taken place to begin the process of grieving and it was only yesterday, following the burial of Rafael’s remains that the loss really ‘hit’ the pair of us.

I cannot imagine the trauma  experienced by grieving parents who have felt compelled by a baby’s disability to take steps to end their life. Several priests have recounted heartbreaking tales of parents bringing their aborted children for funeral services, their grief compounded and complicated by the dissonant knowledge that they terminated their babies lives, often due to medical coercion, themselves.

It has not been definitively confirmed, but upon talking to the doctors and sonographers involved, the cause of death was likely to have been Downs Syndrome as many markers were present. People come out with the most ridiculous platitudes, implying that your baby’s death was ‘for the best’, ‘a blessing in disguise’ and it was probably ‘just as well’.

Downs Syndrome has an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or neo-natal death, though not as great as anencephaly, but as we laid our baby to rest yesterday (fully formed with limbs, fingers and toes) had we experienced stillbirth or a neo-natal death, both of us would have given anything to be able to have held our baby, even just for a short while. Which is what convinces me that Peter Saunders is right.

But at least we have the knowledge that despite being denied the privilege of holding our child, we did whatever we could to look after them, both in life and death. We accorded our baby the dignity and respect that every unborn child deserves. It was not only the right thing to do, but is already a source of enormous comfort.  Being pro-life sometimes means needing to bear witness in death. Treating a baby as a human being from the moment of conception until moment of death is the compassionate, decent and humane response, for mother and baby alike.

One of life’s ‘lemons’

Those who keep up with my Facebook and Twitter account will have read the news of the loss of our baby.

As I’ve frequently stated on this blog, a life of pro-life witness means walking the walk as well as talking the talk. So a few weeks ago, I confidently shared the news about my pregnancy in the pages of the Catholic press, genuinely believing that it was in women’s best interests if the taboo of early pregnancy was broken. The aim was not to compel women to share their news before they feel ready, rather to empower women who may be suffering in the early stages of pregnancy to ask for the help that they may need, especially if they are experiencing a crisis pregnancy.

The flipside of that means that women who suffer an early loss also then have to make that public, which is the hard part. Because frankly I don’t feel like sharing my grief or raw emotions with the world and every single message of condolence, hammers home the hurt and loss. We have the consolation of Christian hope, we know that the baby is without sin, we trust in the mercy of God and yet still there is terrible pain and a lot of tears.

I also feel like a prize wally for naively thinking that just because I was pregnant, I would definitely be carrying a baby to term. Not to mention terrified of the usual trolls. Shortly after announcing my pregnancy, one woman tweeted some dreadful stuff in response, namely that I was making things up, that the most ‘natural thing in the world would be for me to announce a miscarriage’, followed up by a stream of (later deleted) musings about an obviously mentally ill woman in America who had simulated pregnancy for 7 months,  with links to the story as well as a site where one could buy a prosthetic stomach.

I have no need to prove anything, I’m not tweeting the scan photograph which will probably be all that we have to remind us of our baby, it’s too private, too personal, I don’t want to share him or her with the world.

The day began so auspiciously. We’ve had a friend staying with us for a few nights so they could attend the Labour conference events, after a few nights up late drinking red wine and chewing the Catholic fat, I woke up this morning and managed to finish an extra long Universe column dealing with last week’s papal interview. Feeing particularly smug at having submitted a piece early, I then nipped next door to pick up a parcel containing my copy of the new Father Robert Barron series on DVD, together with associated study material. Part of my excitement was that due to wholly chance encounter last year, it appears from the trailer that I make an appearance in the film, when they followed me across London to film a radio segment at the now defunct Bush House.

After a lovely lunch at a restaurant in the late summer sunshine overlooking the sea with Robin, the children and our friend, I skipped off excitedly for the scan at the Royal Sussex at 4pm. This was the first one of our baby’s ultrasounds that I had been to on my own, the time of the appointment meant that it would be impossible to do the school run and besides which, Robin needed to look after the children, as the unit is keen to discourage young babies and toddlers from attending.

As I bustled my way through throngs of frighteningly young-looking delegates at the Labour conference, clutching my plastic Bounty wallet containing pregnancy notes and with the hint of a protruding belly, I smiled benignly at various familiar faces.  Suddenly a bumptious young man asked me whether or not I fancied catching Ed’s speech with him followed by a bite to eat. ‘Sorry, I’ve got a pregnancy scan appointment”, I sniggered. Bounding up the steep hill towards the hospital, I giggled at his presumption and mused that despite having greasy hair, not a scrap of make-up, manky toe-nails caught unaware of the unexpected turn of weather and wearing a scruffy Mothercare top that was probably about 10 years old, and not far off the dreaded 4-0, obviously I still ‘had it’. Either that or more likely he’d had too much at lunchtime and was clearly blind! I mused as to whether or not certain feminists would quote this as an example of Labour misogynist sexism and that the conference was obviously a hotbed of dastardly sexual predators!

But all in all, life was good, though still sick, the worst part of the pregnancy was behind me, I’d just entered into the blissful second trimester, was feeling like I was beginning to glow, things were coming together for us as a family and soon there would be a snuggly new baby whom we were looking forward to. Just before arriving at the hospital I realised that I didn’t have any cash with which to pay for the scan pictures, something that I’ve always considered a cynical piece of exploitation and stopped at a cash machine, which proceeded to fail, meaning that I then had to waste precious minutes queuing at the next one, whilst muttering under my breath and worrying that I would be late.

Running into ultrasound reception, at 4.05 pm, the velociraptor on the desk snapped at me that I had just made it and ushered me through. Just as I was fiddling with the change machine, I was called into the sonography room, whereupon I panicked that I didn’t have the right amount of change for the photograph and they assured me that they could give me some. Lying down on the couch, I settled into the familiar routine, unbuttoning jeans, feeling the cold jelly on my stomach and enjoying the cool air-conditioning blasting onto me, by contrast with the scorching heat outside. ‘There’s your little one’ said the sonographer, putting the scanner on my belly. I was too busy marvelling at the little hands and feet, noticing that the baby seemed to be lying in the perfect transverse position for a photo and wondering whether or not I could spy a willy, or was it the umbilical cord, to realise the uncharacteristic silence.

“Sorry, there’s no heartbeat” came a voice, completely out of the blue. It was a bolt from the blue, it had never occurred to me to be concerned that the baby might have died. I’m still sick, growing larger and have had no indications that anything might be wrong. The primary purpose of the scan as far as I was concerned was to check on the size of the baby and due date. I am the fertile baby-maker,  I am Mrs Fecund, the person who falls pregnant at the drop of a hat, who goes on to produce healthy  babies, nothing else was on my radar. Besides at 12 weeks plus 2, I was out of the danger-zone surely?

The staff were exceptionally kind.  They volunteered to remove my pregnancy notes, provided tissues, left the room while I called Robin and made sure that I could get home safely. They also didn’t charge me for the photo, and didn’t think I was macabre for asking for one. They called for someone else to come and confirm the diagnosis, there was a brief flicker of hope when she thought she might have seen something, but no it was bone, the baby died approximately a week and a half ago at 10 weeks and 5 days. Apparently there is a lot of fluid, an indication that there could be chromosomal problems, and according to the sonographer the baby ‘didn’t look right’. They didn’t elaborate and neither did I want to know. The sac has continued to grow, but not the baby.

I don’t really know what happens next and it’s better that I don’t speculate, although I’ve read through the leaflet. The priority now is attempting to ensure that the baby is not treated like another piece of hospital waste, but if possible given some sort of funeral. I’ve a job interview tomorrow to take my mind off things and a further appointment on Thursday to discuss possible options. I don’t want to contemplate what lies ahead.

I said at the beginning being pro-life means walking the walk. Being open to life entails the heartbreak that can accompany that, a few weeks ago someone was telling me about how they suddenly understood the sorrows of Mary and that’s something that I can now sharply identify with.

Looking at my twitter feed earlier, I saw the pro-choice protestors out in force at the start of 40 days for life outside the Stratford clinic and felt a jolt of sharp anger that these women were campaigning for their right to kill their babies whilst mine is dead. Certain pro-lifers don’t get off  lightly either. Quite frankly if I saw a photo of a dead or dismembered foetus in my sightline right now, knowing what could be in store for my baby, I’d struggle to restrain my anger.

I look at my four beautiful girls and am grateful that they are safe and well, but that doesn’t somehow magically alleviate the sadness that one of our babies has died. We are just so immeasurably sad that this little one didn’t get the same chance.

On the print-out I’ve been given to take with me on Thursday it says “missed miscarriage”, but somehow that noun seems inadequate. It wasn’t the passive of a verb, but a human being whose life has come to an end and who was and is and will always be loved and whose loss we miss keenly.

RIP little baby. Thank you so much everyone for the prayers, intentions and Masses offered, which are sustaining us.

In the words of the children’s favourite American pachyderm:

A person’s a person no matter how small.