The law and baby loss – I’m not a fan.
When we lost our baby in a twin pregnancy at such a late stage (27 weeks), our first way of processing the loss was to view it as a late miscarriage and to focus on Eva coming home and giving her a good life. This has never wavered, nearly 2 years on, and its something I’m grateful for. Grateful may seem a strange word to use, but I mean that I do not have any regrets on how we dealt with our loss, how we intend to raise Eva, and how thankful I am that I don’t have that as another complex emotion to deal with on top of everything else.
Aside from the obvious, the biggest struggle we had was with the law. A loss before 24 weeks is considered a miscarriage, a loss after is considered a stillbirth. Until you experience this yourself, you cannot understand the sheer frustration of the law dictating how you should view your loss, and how it seems to feed into the expectations of everyone around you. We were asked ‘would you like a funeral, or just a memorial service?’, ‘what would you like us to dress her in?’, ‘have you thought about songs?’, ‘what name have you chosen?’. All assumptions of things we wanted. Because you lose a baby late, and that’s obviously how you go about dealing with it right? No!
If you have read this blog from the start, you will know that I do not like to use the name of the baby we lost (her name was Georgia) – because we didn’t want to name her. That may sound cold and may even shock people, but I do not need a name to comfort me, or to make her a person, or to validate what happened. I know it happened. I know she was real. I hate that we own that piece of paper. Not for the obvious reasons that I hate the loss happening, but for the reasons that it forced us to have something in law dictating our loss and forced us to frame it in a way that didn’t fit. I did not want to sit with Adam, signing to name and register our stillborn child. Because to us, although she was real and loved in every sense, and deserves to be respected as a life and named, she was never a living baby in the outside world. Yet we were being told to make her externally real as if she had lived outside of the pregnancy – to dress her, to have photos of her, to give her a funeral. In our very individual manner of loss, we still had Eva to fight for. In that situation, we chose life and hope to focus on. We were lucky in the sense that we had something to fight for, some ray of light that we would come home with a baby. When that is not an option for other parents, I can only imagine what we would have done. Perhaps I would be writing a very different article about how we ‘did’ grief.
Either way, I think that there is something inherently wrong with the system and the law, if a couple who lose a baby in pregnancy are told they must name that child, register it as a stillbirth, and then have it assumed that they want a service with songs and candles. It makes you not wanting any of that (as is you God damn right as a bereaved parent) seem heartless or cold, purely by default of opting against it. That’s not ok. I have always said that I am not, as I put it, an ‘angels and lilies’ mum. That may come across as crass, by this I mean I do not call myself an angel mama and fight to keep Georgia’s name alive. I do not write it in the sand or have a grave to visit. She will always be remembered without those things. For me, in my very specific very, personal situation, that works. For others, those things may be the only way they can heal. I know that those things would stop me from healing, and stop our family from moving forward and giving Eva a happy life. For some, these may be the very things that bring peace and comfort. It really is true when they say there is no right or wrong way to grieve….but there are definitely assumptions from the law and bereavement care that give you a nudge in a certain direction…which you then feel like shit about if its not for you!
I have met so many bereaved parents who passionately vow to keep speaking the names of their lost children, to act in their legacy, to keep them present in the family. And that’s ok. It‘s more than ok, it’s amazing and beautiful because it’s what works for them. Whatever heals for you and your family : do it. I’ll end on this : we are all in this together as bereaved parents, we all feel the same pain and have the same battles to get our life back on track in the best way we know how. But where we are not the same is how we lost and how we grieve – this is as individual as us and I think that needs to be very carefully thought about by bereavement services and the law. At the moment, there is an expected norm. There is enough emotional torment and guilt riding over you without this expectation. Next time a parent tells you of their loss – avoid those assumptions the law feeds into. If it was an early loss, do not assume they ‘got over it’ and moved on, that there was no name given or service held. On the other side, if it was a late loss do not assume all of those things came as standard. For the most confusing, terrifying, painful, time in a parent’s life, we are faced with nothing more than a sodding black and white cut off point of 24 weeks, and simplistic assumptions of what we will do and how we will act. This is 2019 right?
This post was written with love and respect to any bereaved parent - keep doing it your way xxx.
Thanks for the encouragement of my Insta-turned real life friend Hannah (@lifelossandlipgloss). Sometimes you need a nudge from an outside perspective! Thank you Hannah xx.
For more information on challenging and improving bereavement care, please visit my friends at @beyondbeacharity and @pine_cones_and_study_days show them some love and support xx.