Losing A Child
Most mothers I know agree that a woman’s life changes irrevocably after she has a child. The changes in her priorities and lifestyle are so stark that it’s like a rebirth. I turn Nine years old today. Nine years back, on this day I became a mother.
Today, while reflecting back on my journey as a mother I understand that though M, my firstborn, was born Nine years back. My Motherhood began earlier. Almost two years earlier.
It was 2003. S and I had been married for Six years. Both of us were young and had dreams to chase and responsibilities to fulfill. Parenthood was the last thing on our minds. And then one day suddenly, out of the blue, we discovered I was pregnant.
I often wonder, what would have been our reaction to this news, under normal circumstances. It was certainly an ‘accident’, definitely unscheduled but was it ‘unwanted’? Would S and me have felt ‘trapped’ or tied down by the pregnancy? Would we have been resentful?’ I will never really know. Because, by the time we discovered the pregnancy we had already lost one of the fetus. Miraculously, I had been carrying not one but two lives inside me for a month without realising it.
The doctor ordered complete bed rest and riddled me with injections. I was given twenty types of pills to swallow daily. Usually, I don’t like to be confined. I love the outdoors. I hate medicines. And I had never gone anywhere near an injection since the mandatory vaccine shots I last got when I was Five. Ordinarily, I may have resented all these restrictions.
But, losing that fetus made its twin precious. It made me realise the flimsiness of life, the delicacy of the being inside me. I promptly gave up everything. Not moving an inch from my bed. I was the ideal patient. I ate every medicine the doctor wrote, took each injection unflinchingly and drank every concoction the elders advised. I wanted my baby to survive.
I spoke to her all the time. I told her I loved her. That though unknowingly, I may have been negligent till now, now that I know she exists I would care for her with all my might. I told her that together we would make her strong enough to survive. In the 48 hours I had with her I promised her the world. I sketched a picture of a perfect happy family. There are theories that believe a fetus senses acceptance or rejection. I didn’t want to leave my baby in any doubt about my acceptance of her.
But she died. The doctor said it was a routine miscarriage and that the fetus had been ‘unviable’. She said we were young and healthy and there would be many chances in the future for us. Yes there would be. But, what about her? What about my baby? This was her only chance! She wouldn’t get another!
The thought filled me with gloom. Here is an excerpt of something I scribbled on a tissue from the box at my bedside around then.
“ I know there will be many chances for me but not another for her. My first child, My first baby. In just two days I had taken to talking with her. In my mind I had started to hold her, stroke her, hug her close to me. I shared my plans with her, my hopes and my dreams. In just two days she became a part of all of them. And then, just as suddenly as she had come into my life she was gone. The doctor’s report says ‘not viable’, ‘life threatening’. – My baby – ‘not viable’? How can my baby be life threatening for me?
Now I will never know what she would have been like. I may get to know many other children in life. Maybe a couple of my own too eventually, as the doctor says. But I will never know her. What was she like? What did she think of us – her parents? After-all she knew us for longer than we did…. Maybe she lingered for a few days more because she had grown fond of me too. She may have started to like the feel of my body, the touch of my thoughts, the sound of my voice. Maybe she was tempted to stay and grow inside me. Tempted to share the life I painted for us. Maybe she didn’t have a choice. Maybe she had to go. But, Why?”
The note is dated 27 May.
Even today when I read the note, I relive the anguish I felt Eleven years back. The deep dark anguish of losing a child. I have worked as a researcher collecting information about village women’s health. I have noticed, when I asked village women about the number of children they had. Most of them would enumerate even the ones they lost in miscarriages. They were their ‘children’,’their babies’ regardless of whether they were born or not. Before my own experience I never really understood this. Clinically separating the ‘live births’ from the ‘miscarriages’ or ‘stillborns’.
But I am wiser now. I have known loss. Having perfect healthy children has taken away the sting of losing ‘the twins’. But the scar remains. I am not completely healed and will never really be. The scar has also been a blessing in a way. That first pregnancy introduced me to the mother in me. It taught me overnight to place someone else’s needs before mine at all times. It showed me I was ready. Ready to give up my ‘freedom’. Ready to love ‘unconditionally’. Ready to be mature and responsible. I believe it made me a better mother to M and K. And for that I am thankful.
Have any of you known the loss of a child? How did you deal with your sorrow? Does it ever really go?
A mom of two, Sapna is a business woman, an avid book lover, a stand in decorator for her restaurants, a movie buff, a social worker by training and a “change maker” by choice. A dreamer, like her name suggests, she says she is dangerously sentimental and an idealist at heart. Married to her childhood sweetheart she lives in a small city in Rajasthan with her kids Maya 8 yrs. and Kabir 7 yrs. She started blogging a year back and uses her blog justanotherwakeupcall to make new friends and connect with people.