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Stillbirth: May Her Memory be for a Blessing

Rachel’s Story:

May her memory be for a blessing

In early spring, it wasn’t just my unborn baby who was pronounced dead; a part of me died as well. I went into hospital as a tired, naïve, second time mummy-to-be gearing up to bring home a precious neshama (soul) to love. Instead, no precious neshama but a heap of insight.

I learnt that every child is a miracle. That every conception, every pregnancy, every labour, every birth, every child is a miracle. I learnt that Dovid*, our gorgeous Dovid, is our biggest blessing. When people offered to look after him for a few hours I would tell them, ‘no, I need him’. He is my ultimate comfort, my biggest therapy. He will be the reason I get through this.

‘I’m sorry. The baby has no heartbeat.’

And with that everything changed. I remember covering my head with my jumper. There I was a moment before and there I was a moment after. What does that mean if my baby died inside me? What sort of a woman does that make me, if my baby dies inside me? That I can’t even sustain my own foetus? I recall telling the doctor he must be joking, and telling my husband how I had been so excited for the baby. And yet I was so angry at the baby. She felt like an intruder that I needed to be rid of. Me, the naturalist-obsessive, she who hates the idea of drugs during labour, was sitting there begging the doctor for a caesarean. He assured me I didn’t want the physical pain too. But the thought of going through a labour with no baby at the end… We should never know such things.

Hashem’s (God’s) kindness knows no bounds. The labour was so quick, and I was fully dilated far quicker than I ever might have dreamed. I told the midwives I wanted to push, they checked that I was ready, and I did one push. Just one. And collapsed on the bed. It was the sheer pain, both in my heart and from pushing. It was psychologically the hardest thing I have ever had to do. To push out a dead baby. To be in the throngs of the most amount of physical pain that Hashem has put in this world.

I told the midwives that I couldn’t do it, and lay in a heap on the bed. I felt like a kid myself, having a tantrum, saying ‘NO NO NO!’ It was as if the fact my baby had died was starting to hit me. At that moment, by Hashem’s kindness, my labour coach walked in. She showed me what to do, and with two short pushes the baby was out. I asked them to take her away. I never saw her.

My husband yelped, and ran into the bathroom crying. I could see my labour coach silently sobbing. The midwives were stabbing me to get the placenta out. A horror show like no other. I don’t remember anything after. The placenta must have come out, the midwives must have tried to say something comforting, they must have been terribly sad by what they had just witnessed.

A horror show.

I learnt that if you don’t know what to say then say, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ Acknowledge that it happened. Some part of me died as well. I have felt such anger at my ‘friends’ who haven’t said something when they’ve heard. Just tell me how sorry you are! Just say something. Sadly, people have said some dumb things. Twenty-four hours after the whole sad experience someone cruelly said, ‘These things happen.’ I couldn’t even bring myself to answer.

Six and a half short-but-terribly-long weeks later I still can’t believe it happened. I can’t believe that I was ever even pregnant. And that makes it sometimes even sadder. It’s like it never happened. Like the last year has been wiped away. At times it feels like I’m going through a phantom grief. No-one knew her. No-one but me feels a loss like a giant hole in their heart. She had her whole life ahead of her, quite literally. She was going to be Dovid’s best friend. She was going to be the best dressed kid in London. But in fact she was never going to be on this earth at all. She was too good for all of us.

I never knew her. But I think about her often. She is with me in my thoughts.

Most of all I learnt that Hashem plans. And Hashem knows best.

May her memory be for a blessing.


*All names have been changed

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