When my daughter died, I asked myself so many questions

Shana lives in Greater Manchester with her husband, Subhan, and their son Idrees. When their second round of IVF was successful, Shana and Subhan were over the moon – but at 18 weeks, they were heartbroken to find out their daughter had passed away. This is Shana’s story.

“I’ll be back quick – I just want someone to reassure me that everything is ok.” And with that, I left for the hospital. Less than an hour later, a doctor was holding my hand and telling me he was so sorry for my loss. This was not the way things were supposed to go. 
Our second IVF miracle at 40 years of age, our baby was conceived with so much love and desperately wanted. We were nearly at the halfway stage – I was way past 12 weeks. How could this happen?

A scan confirmed our baby had died

After the confirmation scan that officially recorded her death, there were many difficult decisions to make in a short space of time. Investigations to help us understand what might have happened and burial arrangements had to be made.

It was overwhelming and we were making decisions we never thought we would have to think about. Everything was happening so quickly.

While I waited to be induced, we found out that we were having a girl – and, for some reason, this was really hard to learn and upset us very much. A little girl would have been the perfect addition to our lives. A cute sister for her caring big brother, Idrees, and a cherished daughter for us that would complete our family.

We prayed as we waited for labour to start

I was given medication to start labour, and my husband and I took the opportunity to pray together and ask God to provide ease in the moments that were to follow. We asked for physical and emotional strength, for patience and forgiveness and for us to be reunited with our daughter in heaven. 

In the Muslim faith, a lost fetus is given the power of intercession on the day of resurrection – this means miscarried babies go straight to heaven but plead with God to enable their parents to enter heaven with them. People kept saying to us, “Your daughter has given you a beautiful gift – she will take you to heaven with her.”

I had been researching girl’s names and had settled on the Arabic name ‘Shafia’, which meant intercessor. Shafia – our intercessor in heaven, waiting for us to take us by the hand through the gates of heaven with her. 

I was worried about the birth, but she was perfect

The birth was quick, and I was nervous about what my baby would look like. I shouldn’t have been anxious because Shafia was perfectly formed.

As I held her, I noticed every amazing detail about her body. The image of her beautiful little hands and feet are permanently etched in my heart.

When I said goodbye to her for the final time, it was hard. We had never physically met but I had envisioned the rest of our lives together. I said goodbye to the dreams, hopes and aspirations I had for my Shafia – she had different plans in heaven now. 

I asked myself so many questions after our loss

As I grieved, I replayed every moment of the 2-week window in which my daughter’s heartbeat stopped. Maybe throwing that 3rd birthday party for my son wasn’t a good idea, and perhaps I shouldn’t have built that snowman with him. Could I have taken it easier with work? 

What was I meant to do with all this love I had for her? 

At home, there were so many reminders of our baby

When we got home, there were memories of her everywhere. The props we had bought to make our social media announcement of the arrival of a new baby were still by the door. In our bedroom, empty storage we had organised to put her clothes stood bare. A maternity TENs machine from Boots to help me during the birth was on the dining table.

All my pregnancy vitamins that I had been taking daily for months were on the kitchen counter. A cute little grey t-shirt which said ‘Promoted to big brother, May 2022’ was folded neatly on top of the washing machine.

It felt like some people didn't really understand

Muslims believe that God puts the soul into a baby’s body at 120 days gestation – our baby had reached this milestone but not everyone treated Shafia’s passing as a human loss.

I didn’t have a baby to show for my effort this time, but I had given birth and was fragile physically as well as emotionally. 

We decided to have a small, private funeral. 

Other acts of kindness and organisations helped us through

Over time, I learnt more about dealing with baby loss, dealing with people and managing my expectations. Organisations like Tommy’s and a faith-based organisation dealing with child loss guided us and we got some counselling. We set up a project in partnership with a local charity to help parents like us to deal with baby loss at our hospital and spoke to religious figures in our community for words of comfort.

We experienced some lovely acts of kindness, thoughtful messages and visits which pulled us through the initial weeks following our loss.

A friend brought over some comfy loungewear which was very sweet. A baby scan picture of Shafia in a personalised frame acknowledging her name and date of birth became my new prized possession and our living room was full of colourful flowers. Many people donated to our charity projects which made me proud.

I’m learning to manage my grief, but I know it will stay with me

For the day of the funeral, I prepared a heart-shaped flower wreath to lay on the grave. Watching my husband carry her small casket was hardest part. 
Until we reunite in the gardens of heaven, rest in peace my beautiful Shafia – and know that mummy and daddy will never forget you and will love you for the rest of our lives.