Living Life despite the Loss of a Child
In the top of my desk drawer I have a tiny set of booties and a tiny matching hat which were given to me when I lost my third child. They serve as a reminder of why I strive to create a society where every child is valued, cherished and acknowledged as irreplaceable.
The loss of a child by miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death is profoundly distressing for all concerned — for mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings, and of course the wider community. I have lost two babies to miscarriage. Emily and Harrison would have both been in primary school by now if they had survived. The loss of my children has had a deep impact on my life and on the lives of my family. My son has grown up as an only child due to the loss of his siblings and my mother lost two anticipated and much-loved grandchildren. We find it important to remember Emily and Harrison. Every Christmas I have ornaments with their names on them which I hang on the tree. Such rituals are small but important ways for families to initially begin the healing process and then, as time goes by, to aid in remembrance.
The loss of my children was unavoidable, as so many are. They were simply part of the fragility of human life. Others are preventable, and as we remember and mourn our lost children we must work to reduce the incidence of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death through medical research and improvements in prenatal and perinatal care. Recent research out of the US concluded that almost one in four stillbirths is preventable. This is a sobering statistic – which is of course not just a statistic — these are our children, our lost children.
Sadly, I must note that other lives are lost as a result of deliberate actions, often motivated by eugenic discrimination against children with disabilities. Genetic screening programs offered to pregnant women are often based on an inherently discriminatory approach that views virtually any disability as not just undesirable but incompatible with a life worth living. This eugenic approach continues after birth with the failure to provide care to those children who are born alive following a late-term abortion and with the selective but deliberate failure to give treatment to some newborns with disabilities. There is also a rise in gender selection abortions where many girls are identified as missing as a result of genetic screening combined with archaic views of gender preference.
Living life despite the loss of a child can be a heartbreaking existence. Today, let us pause to remember the babies we have lost. At the same time let us make a determination to create a society where every child is valued, cherished and acknowledged as irreplaceable.