In a society where there are answers for everything how do you manage when you can find none? When one of the worst things in life happens you expect to get an answer. When your unborn child dies without warning you expect an answer. So how do you cope when you get none?
Benjamin’s pregnancy was low risk and healthy. Every check up and scan he was perfect, a beautiful specimen of an unborn child. Everything was perfect…until it wasn’t.
In the weeks after losing him I trawled the Internet for answers. I read research papers about stillbirth and educated myself on the risk factors, of which I had none. My doctor had mentioned that my cord was hyper coiled so again I left no stone unturned and read every paper I could find. I realised pretty quickly that there was shockingly little research into the causes of stillbirth. Every night I would lay awake going back through Benjamin’s last week alive in my mind. What could I have done differently? Did I eat the wrong thing? Did I move the wrong way? Should I have gone to the hospital earlier than I did? There is so little education out there for women on the risks of stillbirth and what to look out for. I felt completely adrift and a little cheated that I had no idea such a thing still happens in first world countries.
The nightmares in the days leading up to the appointment were incessant. They always ended up the same…no answer. I was so nervous the day of the post mortem results I thought that I would vomit. My worst fears were realised when our obstetrician told us that Benjamin’s death was unexplained. I cried and I cried. “It was an act of God”, he said. At that moment I felt like there was very little Devine intervention involved.
Despite this, in the weeks that followed I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Even though we had not received an answer, the “what if” chapter of Benjamin’s death could be put to bed and there was comfort in that. I always wondered, however, if the pain was any less for people who had an answer. I spoke with a few loss mums who had received an explanation for their child’s death. The pain, they said, was still unbearable. The answers they received would never bring their child back. But surely it must have helped to know why?
A few weeks ago, after 6 months of no answers, I received something that I thought would never happen – a cause of death for Benjamin. I always knew there was a reason why he died, there had to be but the doctors could just never find it. I had resigned myself to the fact that Benjamin’s death was to be added to the ever-growing pile of unexplained stillbirths. Now I had a much longed for answer but did it make me feel any better?
The honest answer is no. Benjamin is still gone. There is nothing that will bring him back. I feel now that an answer, while it may be useful for the future, does not change the pain I feel for his loss. The pain of losing your first-born child is not eased by an answer. For what answer can really make up for the unnatural and untimely taking of a life that has only begun?
If we are to make a difference for parents who come after us then post mortems and answers are critical. Research is critical. Lowering the rate of stillbirth in our lifetime is critical. But for the Mum and Dad who are sitting at home reading this now not knowing why their child died I want you to take comfort in the fact that answers are not the be all and end all for your healing. Answers will not bring your child back to you. Take solace in the love that your child brought into your life, even though it was for such a short time. Hold on to that love and let it carry you through life. For answers alone do not heal our hearts.