My child ex­ists: Break­ing the si­lence over in­fant loss

Kuwait Times - - Health & Science -

MADRID: Ev­ery year, 2.6 mil­lion chil­dren around the world die in the womb or shortly af­ter birth but par­ents say their grief is all too of­ten avoided as a taboo sub­ject. “You don’t get over a child, a child is for life, alive or not,” Paloma CostaJimenez, 38, told AFP dur­ing a memo­rial cer­e­mony in Madrid ahead of Mon­day’s in­ter­na­tional preg­nancy and in­fant loss aware­ness day. Her daugh­ter An­drea died on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2014, right at the end of her preg­nancy. Since then, she has had two other chil­dren.

“If your hus­band dies, no one will tell you: ‘Don’t worry, you’re young, you’ll find an­other’. So why say that about my child?,” she asks. “For me An­drea is just as real as Inigo and Ma­teo,” her other two chil­dren. “Since peo­ple didn’t see her and she was only with me nine months, some peo­ple think ‘it doesn’t count’. But it does, it re­ally does, she’s my daugh­ter.” Bro­ken by their loss, par­ents of­ten strug­gle to find the nec­es­sary sup­port.

That was the case of Jil­lian Cas­sidy, who lost her first daugh­ter Uma in 2007 in her third trimester of preg­nancy. “Out­side Spain, there were lots of re­sources-in­for­ma­tion, sup­port, as­so­ci­a­tions, train­ing of health work­ers. But here, noth­ing,” said the 42-year-old, who is Ir­ish and lives in Spain. So it was that in 2009, she de­cided to cre­ate Uma­manita, Spain’s first as­so­ci­a­tion to help griev­ing par­ents.

Speak­ing out “Death makes us un­com­fort­able,” said Cas­sidy. “Given all the joy that a baby brings, when he or she dies, it’s even more prob­lem­atic and taboo.” Yet speak­ing about it is cru­cial, just like any other griev­ing process, she added. “If par­ents talk about their baby, talk to them about their baby. If the baby has a name and the par­ents have told you, use the baby’s name,” she said.

“Many peo­ple are scared of hurt­ing them more if they talk about the baby and ac­tu­ally it’s not the case, on the con­trary.” Be­yond this, spend­ing time with the de­ceased child to cre­ate mem­o­ries-how­ever short-lived-is es­sen­tial for griev­ing par­ents, spe­cial­ists say. Pi­lar Gomez-Ulla, a psy­chol­o­gist and co-founder of an as­so­ci­a­tion called “The hol­low in my belly” that sup­ports them, has ex­pe­ri­enced that grief as she her­self lost three chil­dren.

She has since spe­cial­ized in sup­port­ing peo­ple suf­fer­ing from peri­na­tal grief and ad­vis­ing health work­ers on the is­sue. “It’s not just about of­fer­ing them to see their child,” she said. It’s about pre­par­ing “par­ents to prop­erly take the de­ci­sions they want: see their baby, touch him or her, dis­cover them, get them dressed, give them a bath, in­vite other im­por­tant peo­ple in the fam­ily to come see the baby, meet him or her, kiss them, and take pho­tos.”

Every­one is dif­fer­ent Marie-Jose Sou­bieux, a Paris­based child and ado­les­cent psy­chi­a­trist and psy­cho-an­a­lyst, said it was cru­cial to let par­ents choose what they want to do. “It’s very del­i­cate and per­sonal as it’s also ex­tremely vi­o­lent to force some­one to see their dead baby,” she said. “But it’s im­por­tant that the par­ents know what can be done.” Not all par­ents have been able to make that de­ci­sion. Cas­sidy wanted to see her daugh­ter but “we were ad­vised against it,” she re­called.

For her part, Jemmy Car­de­nas left her hus­band to rec­og­nize their son Paul, alone. He died dur­ing birth and his twin sis­ter Natalia, who has since also passed away, was in in­ten­sive care with cere­bral palsy. “I was un­der anes­the­sia and I wasn’t able to say: ‘I’ll go’.” “When we moth­ers are so be­wil­dered, so lost, all I ask for is a mo­ment,” a pause to di­gest what is go­ing on and “start see­ing your harsh re­al­ity maybe a lit­tle dif­fer­ently,” she said. “Be­cause this is some­thing that will last all our lives, it’s tran­scen­den­tal in the life of a mother.”

It’s only thanks to a photo taken by her hus­band that Jemmy was able to dis­cover her son. “It’s a photo that I won’t ever tire of look­ing at, I am go­ing to dis­play it with that of his sis­ter,” said Paulo Za­p­ata, the fa­ther of the twins. A photo they hope to show their third child, due next year.


MADRID: Hand­made keep­sakes made in mem­ory of de­ceased ba­bies hang from a wire dur­ing a memo­rial cer­e­mony held in Madrid, ahead of the in­ter­na­tional preg­nancy and in­fant loss aware­ness day.

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