Grieving baby loss after termination for medical reasons

3 months into their first pregnancy, 27 year-old Lucy and her partner Scott from Leicester were heartbroken to be told their baby was incompatible with life. In this blog, Lucy discusses the baby loss taboo and the impact of Covid-19 on her care and support.

No mama ever wants to be the 1 in 4 who has lost a baby, a member of the club nobody wants to be in or talk about. We assume the journey to motherhood is full of magic and sparkles, as the adverts would have you believe, but the reality is that so many of us go through this sh*t storm. I’m not here to wallow in grief or ask for sympathy; I want to connect with others going through similar.

Baby loss is a frightening and isolating journey, and people should know that they are never alone. 

On 8 November 2020 we lost our daughter, Florence Grace, due to termination for medical reasons. Nothing could have prepared me sonographer's words: "There are several things wrong with your baby." At my first scan, in my first pregnancy, I was told my daughter was incompatible with this world – as unlucky as being struck by lightning, they said.

But I feel lucky to have been able to conceive and carry Florence, gone through the morning sickness and experienced the excitement of planning our future together. I’m working to be at peace with not knowing what happened to Florence during the 13 weeks and 4 days we had together.  

Love and loss

Every baby loss creates a grief that is indescribable. Termination for medical reasons is incomprehensible, inexplainable and pretty damn sh*t. You can see and hear a heartbeat, yet your baby will never be able to explore its new world with you.

I should be choosing Florence’s nursery, not her funeral.

I’m never good at waiting – but nothing will ever compare to waiting for our scheduled appointment to deliver my baby, going to hospital knowing that I am responsible for keeping her alive and that I will be taking medication that will end her life.

I was in the maternity unit, seeing new families together with their baby, and I was leaving with a memory box. If anyone has any answers to how on earth my mind and heart are meant to process that, please send them on a post card.

Finding a support network

We had an incredible team of midwives who supported us through our darkest of days. I was fortunate enough that Covid-19 restrictions were lifted slightly, so I was able to have my partner Scott by my side throughout our time in hospital; I couldn’t have faced that alone.  Our family and friends have been amazing too, even in the middle of a global pandemic.

Not many of us openly talk about loss and bereavement - it’s a taboo subject - but add the word baby into it and people run a mile. What are you meant to say to a mother who has lost their baby? What can you do to help? There’s no right or wrong answer, you need to just be there – and if 2020 has taught us anything, that doesn't mean just physically.

Coping with grief

Me and Scott planned to start a family and have an exciting new adventure. We’re now riding the bereavement rollercoaster, with loop-the-loops and tracks that separate and come back together; it's exhausting, and I can't get off when I want to. I’m in a daze and have to keep reminding myself to just take a step at a time while everything is so recent and raw. 

My world stopped turning for a little while, but now it’s slowing spinning again, with a whirlwind of physical and emotional recovery. 

I have good days: creating my interior business, crafting, walking my dogs Bertie and Harry… But mostly I want to scream from the top of a hill (the dogs don't seem to mind too much!) Sometimes I struggle just trying to get through my daily routine – I cried at the supermarket in the cheese aisle, because I was overwhelmed that I can now eat all of the cheese again, and a wave of grief smacked me in the face when I saw a mummy and her baby exploring their world together. 

What not to say to someone who’s lost a baby

Something I’ve learnt very quickly is that you can’t teach or expect others to show empathy, particularly when they don't understand what happens next – which I don’t either! I just need to get to tomorrow, not to next year. If someone asks what we’re going to do next and when we’re going to try again, it fills me with dread and makes me want to hide away because I truly don’t know. 

“When are you going to start family? If you’re trying, you must stop doing XYZ…” People mean well but these questions we’re so often asked can touch on such intensely personal and emotional experiences that can have a really painful impact; they should be asked with more awareness and empathy, not as a casual conversation. 

One day we’ll be lucky enough to hold our rainbow baby in our arms. Until that day comes, we’re lucky enough to have Florence Grace, our baby in the sky.