“Everything happens for a reason”
It is one of those phrases often offered up as reassurance that whatever devastating or stressful circumstance has occurred, is somehow justifiable. It also happens to be one of the most cruel and senseless sentences offered to someone in situations where lifes injustices just do not make any fathomable sense whatsoever.
I remember hearing these words when we had to terminate our first pregnancy with a D&C surgical procedure. I was told this when our daughter was born 14 weeks premature. And once even had this sentiment thrown at me when I discussed my daughters survival rates with someone. “Just remember, everything happens for a reason” As if this is any consolation for our fears and grief.
In a month which honours pregnancy and infant loss I have seen so many posts online where these hollow words have been offered as some form of comfort and solace. Please let it be known, these words do nothing to comfort someone experiencing a loss. It will stay in our hearts and memories for as long as we live and breathe. It will never make sense.
I knew within days that I was pregnant. I instinctively knew something was different. But I brushed it aside and went on with my life. Until a few weeks later when I knew I had to confirm my suspicions and blood tests confirmed it. I was beyond terrified and shocked. We didn’t want children. We had never planned a future which included us having to care for a little person.
But we grew excited at the prospect and opened ourselves up to the life we would now be leading. It never occurred to us that something could go wrong. Nobody in our circle of friends ever spoke of miscarriage or infant loss. So at our second ultrasound when there was no heartbeat we were blindsided. Our baby had stopped growing, but my body had not recognised it’s failure to develop further.
Our elation instantly turned to devastation. The little life we had grown excited for was over, before we had even seen a heartbeat.
The problem with the pregnancy is what is referred to as a Blighted Ovum and is when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall but fails to develop at all, or stops developing in the very early stages. The body has not recognized the failure of development and the placenta continues to grow whilst all normal pregnancy symptoms are present and HCG counts continuously increase, as would occur in a normal pregnancy.
A blighted ovum accounts for almost 50% of first trimester miscarriages and most women are not even aware that they were pregnant to begin with. While the causes are not completely known, there are studies which suggest this occurs because a woman’s body recognises abnormal chromosomes within the foetus and naturally does not allow the development to continue as the foetus is unlikely to develop into a healthy infant.
The loss we experienced changed our lives as it does for many. Over time though I have learnt that this loss is not considered real for others. I recall a woman once saying to me ‘Oh, that’s not a loss, that was a fake pregnancy, why make such a big deal about it’. I didn’t respond, but her comment was cold and cruel beyond any reasonable means. I recall sometime later that someone asked me about my daughter (who was still in NICU after being born 14 weeks premature) and the very same woman turned around and asked me if my baby was a vegetable.
The world is full of these types of people. As a fellow blogger stated this morning ‘Some people are born with compassion and empathy in their soul, I firmly believe it’s not a skill you can be taught.. it is something you either have or you don’t’ And she is 100% correct in this. Yes, we sometimes struggle to know what to say or how to offer support, but that is very different to being completely incapable of showing compassion and respect for someone else’s very real loss.
I have spoken and offered support to so many woman who have faced premature birth or infant loss over the last two and a half years and I still struggle to find the right words to offer my love and support. For each and every one of them their journey has been a struggle, many were not able to take their beautiful children home and with each loss experienced I was wracked with heartache, injustice and a terrible guilt knowing that I was one of the lucky few who were blessed with a surviving infant. I wanted to promised each and every one of them that their stories would end as ours had, but life is not fair. Life flings shit at us that makes absolutely no sense. And none of it ‘happens for a reason’.
So spare a thought this month for loved ones who have loved and lost, be it at 6 weeks, 6 months, full term or after birth. Nothing in this world is promised to us. Nothing is guaranteed. Much of what happens is beyond our control. But what we can control is our compassion and respect for everyone experiencing a loss.