A lot can happen in three days. Rome was burnt in less than three days.
Three days was all it took to go from being excited at the prospect of being parents, to grieving the loss of pregnancy.
Three days was all it took from having a stereotypically healthy pregnancy to one that was life threatening with zero possibility of a viable infant being born.
Three days was the difference between our daughter being seen as medical waste or a beautiful, worthy baby.
Three days granted her a right between life and death.
Had she been born three days (or more) earlier she would been classified and treated as medical waste, unworthy of a burial on her passing. Our hospital had assured us that if she were born three days (or more) earlier, they would do everything to try and save her. Our medical aid, on the other hand, ensured us that should she be born before 26 weeks she would not qualify for cover.
Three days. 72 hours. 4320 minutes. The difference between life and death.
Every day mothers, fathers and families are faced with similar unspeakable odds stacked against their unborn children. Different countries recognize life as viable as different gestations. In South African this is somewhat of a grey area. There is no statutory definition of viability in South Africa. Should one be faced with a situation where your child will be born before 26 weeks, a government hospital has no legal or ethical obligation to save your infant. Should you be fortunate enough to be in the care of a privately funded hospital, your medical aid is under no obligation to cover the cost of care for your newborn. You are left with a choice of paying yourself, or transferring to a government hospital, who will seldom care for an infant born under 26 weeks, weighing less than 1000g or measuring less than 35cm in length.
On a day such as today, 15th October, a day of remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss, I am acutely aware of how uniquely fortunate we are to be able to hold our daughter in our arms. It’s a gift that isn’t lost on me, for one moment.
Pregnancy loss and infant is merciless, it doesn’t discriminate, you can do everything ‘right’ and still suffer unimaginable loss.
I lost my first before I even knew that I was expecting. I had no idea how far along I was. I had no idea how to tell my boyfriend what had happened. I was terrified and sought professional, medical guidance. The response was cold and lacking any form of sympathy. I was told to come back if the bleeding didn’t subside after a few days. I was told that if I hadn’t planned the pregnancy then I should be relieved that it had ended early. I was told that I’d be ‘a smart girly’ if I went onto contraceptives immediately to prevent any additional unwanted pregnancies. I was lectured about safe sex, the use of contraceptives and birth control as though I were a young teenager, not a women in her twenties. My questions and concerns regarding contraceptives were scoffed and mocked. I had a patch placed on my shoulder without my consent, ‘for your own good’ and less than 30 minutes later I was left with a body full of angry welts and rashes which started at the patch itself. I left feeling shamed and belittled. The experience haunted me for many years.
When I experienced the second loss I couldn’t help recount the disdain and callous attitude I’d been given the first time. After the initial shock of confirming my pregnancy, we were excited at the prospect of becoming parents. When we were given the news that the pregnancy was not viable and required a D&C I was devastated. After our diagnosis, it became a simple business transaction of filling in forms, ensuring pre-admissions were arranged and I was admitted for the procedure. All that was offered in the form of support, guidance or counselling was the recommendation to wait three months before trying again.
Pregnancy and infant loss is something that needs to be openly discussed. It needs to be given the attention it deserves. Mothers, fathers, families need to be given the guidance, care, respect and support that they deserve.
The stigma regarding the topic of publicly speaking about loss is slowly being broken down. Mothers are sharing their stories publicly in the hopes that their journey will help someone else.
A lot can happen in three days.
You can go from a perfectly healthy and viable pregnancy to an unimaginable loss just as quickly as you can go from hopelessness and despair to hope.
Support loved ones experiencing loss. Speak their childrens names. Recognise that even though they aren’t of this earth any longer, that they were loved, wanted and are mourned, every single day. Embrace them, allow them to grieve and process what has happened. Never put them in a position where they feel as though their loss will inconvenience you or make you feel uncomfortable. It’s not about your discomfort.