UN­SPO­KEN TRAGEDY

Still­birth can feel too ter­ri­ble to speak about, but these sto­ries need to be shared

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS - words NIKKI OS­MAN pho­tog­ra­phy TOM WATKINS

Some things feel too ter­ri­ble to talk about. Things like a stranger say­ing ‘we can’t find a heart­beat’, like giv­ing birth to a baby who will never take a first breath. One of the tragedies of still­birth is that it’s mis­un­der­stood, un­com­fort­able and – for most – un­speak­able. But, for the sake of the women (and men) who bear it, sto­ries need to be shared and their chil­dren re­mem­bered

Just imag­ine, for a mo­ment, that you are preg­nant. Your week­ends, once filled with brunches and crunches, now in­volve trips to Mother­care that bring their own fun and won­der. You paint a bed­room. You google the ety­mol­ogy of names, and ‘is it true you shit your­self in labour?’. You’re ex­pec­tant, in ev­ery sense of the word. In quiet mo­ments, you imag­ine the kind of mother you will make, think about your val­ues and how they will in­form how you raise this child, try­ing to wrap your brain around the con­cept of un­con­di­tional love. You could swear you al­ready feel it. As your due date ap­proaches, col­leagues send you off with a card and a cake, ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion with friends be­gins ‘this time next year…’ and you count down to the mo­ment when you (and your part­ner, if you have one) will meet your child. But for one in ev­ery 200 moth­ers, that meet­ing doesn’t go as planned. Still­birth is a tragedy too in­com­pre­hen­si­ble for the av­er­age per­son to wrap their head around. It’s all but im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine be­ing told that your child has died; to give birth only to spend the start of your ma­ter­nity leave plan­ning a fu­neral; to qui­etly leave the ‘NCT mums’ What­sapp thread be­cause it’s too painful to watch their lives mov­ing on when your own will never be the same again. So what about those who have to live it? Here, three women share, in raw, dif­fi­cult-to-read de­tail, what it’s like to lose a child to still­birth.

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