It is not common knowledge, but my first pregnancy was unplanned… Yet that didn’t matter; we were excited about having our first little one.
I remember an early ultrasound. The baby was 8½ weeks old. I recall the cold stony look on the face of the sonographer when, emotionless, she turned to me and said, “there is no heartbeat”. How does the medical staff avoid absorbing all the human misery and to cut off their emotions? But for me, in an instance, I lost all hope and became deeply upset. I wanted this baby, but the baby had died. I cried for days. Quickly I was booked in for a D&C, the procedure to remove ‘tissue from the womb’; I was told that they must perform the procedure without delay because the longer the deceased baby stayed in utero, the more increased risk of depression for me. But I was already heading that way.
The same day I spoke to one of my bosses on the phone, a surgeon himself, who tried to comfort me in his own way. He gave me the stats on failed pregnancies; he also said he was amazed with all the optimum conditions required for pregnancy to occur; he wondered how women were able to conceive at all. Simply put, conception/pregnancy, is a miracle. He also said that he was glad to have me at work for at least another nine months and I took that as a compliment.
Some days later, with tears still streaming down my face, I was wheeled into the operating theatre to have my dear baby removed. I wanted to stop them and ask if they could just check again if they had somehow made a mistake, to see if there was in fact a heartbeat; but I let that thought go resolving to hopelessness, not wanting to draw out the anguish.
When I told people about my loss, many asked how far along in the pregnancy I was; I said 8½ weeks and I received a mixed response. To be frank, that question always seemed to surprise and bother me at the same time. Because, I thought, “does it matter how pregnant I was”? I was pregnant, AND I LOST MY BABY!” Like somehow it was thought to be a greater loss for the 13-week pregnancies or the full term; the baby, in my mind, would eventually grow to full term. Who really knows what to say when given news like that? Of course, I also realised the risks for pregnancy loss is increased in the first term of pregnancy yet still the knowledge of this risk was, to me, irrelevant and did nothing to comfort me.
The point to my sorrow was, my baby was still my (and our) baby at 8½ weeks. I had already started dreaming about what our baby would look like; whether a boy or girl; did the baby have dark blonde hair like me or black hair like their Dad. Were the baby’s eyes green or brown? Who would the baby take after? I knew the baby’s DNA was already mapped and potential a sure thing. My questions were never answered.
What do I mean by potential? I’ll explain it this way: When a student is granted a full scholarship, they have already shown signs of great potential for a particular career pathway. So why not give them the job then and there? I suppose because they need to learn, they need to ‘cook’ away in the university/ college, which is not unlike a baby needing to cook away in the Mum’s belly. The potential is already there; growing time, however, is required to be ready for the big wide world. A student may not survive unless they learn the skills, just as a baby couldn’t naturally live outside the womb without full development.
I remember the day, in the early 90’s when I was living in the US, when someone told me the colleges in the US were scratching their heads about a significant drop in admissions from the year before. Somehow someone drew the link between the passing of Roe Vs Wade, (The beginnings of abortion laws being passed in the U S) and 18 years on, the babies that would have otherwise been born, were lost to D & C’s, enacted from unwanted pregnancies and never saw the light of day, let alone attend college.
My child who passed away, would have been 17 now. Sadly, the earthly potential of this child has died too. In a world that sometimes has a throw-away mentality, the thought comes to people that, “oh, just have another one and then you’ll forget all about the lost one.” Yet the thing is, one can never do away with the memory of a child, regardless of whether the baby has reached full development.
Occasionally we hear of a child killed in tragic circumstances; in fact, I think all circumstances where a child dies is tragic; but then we might hear of a 95-year-old person passing away… So, let me ask a question: What is more tragic, the loss of the 5-year-old or the 95-year-old? Almost everyone would agree, the 5-year-old, because the 95-year-old has lived a full life having had the time to make their mark on the world, and lived, hopefully, to their full potential. And so, when a baby is lost, even younger than five years, the loss of potential is far greater.
Some East Asia cultures count the development time in the womb as part of the actual age of a person; The child is already considered to be a 1 year old at birth. It’s called ‘age reckoning’. (2) This recognises the child is a growing human with all the potential from the moment of conception.
As for me and my husband, we now have a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter; so, blessed. Though never forgotten, I often wonder about their older sibling, our first child.
What I am hoping to convey to you, our reader, is this fundamental understanding of the value of the life of an unborn child. No matter the age or stage of development of a baby, this has formed a strong basis for why I have stuck with Rise Up Australia, even after we transitioned from a political party to an action/advocacy group. Currently we are in the planning stages of a new initiative in our ‘Options Plus Care’ arm of Rise Up. Options Plus Care gives pregnancy crisis counselling to women(and their partners if needed). This new initiative is to ‘sponsor an unborn child’, which is supporting the mother with an unplanned pregnancy. We hear about sponsoring a child overseas, which of course is important too. The need to support our little ones, our little Aussies is also right under our noses. How cool is that: To sponsor an unborn child and be part of supporting the mother in the journey to give birth, sometimes the most vulnerable part of a women and her baby’s time of life.
More details to come.
Keep a look out for Part 2 in this series of articles titled ‘Unplanned Potential’.
Above is a planned poster by Rise Up Australia (RUA) promoting the health and value of a baby in the womb. (22 weeks gestation)