My wife and I lost a child during pregnancy. It was my wife’s second pregnancy. I was amazed as we talked with folks immediately after how often this happens. In my training, I learned that half of pregnancies do not go to term. It is “how nature prunes the ill fit to thrive from the herd.” Many of these pregnancies have improperly formed organs, have genetic coding that is incomplete, or just have wrong notes in the complicated developmental concert that has to be perfect to survive. But, when it is part of your branch that gets pruned, it stings.
For us, the conversation and participation in the community of parents that have suffered such loss was very healing. It is seductive to become isolated in the dark self-pity of the sorrow of a lost child. I am very proud of the Times Free Press for taking the story to the community at large. I know many will be blessed by sharing their story and being invited into others’ loss.
When my wife and I experienced the nightmare of loss, we also had the blessing of receiving a vision of our role as parents. Many of us enter parenting to “have children.” We have dreams and plans for these children. As some point in every parental experience, the dreams are undone and we realize our children were never ours. And, we grieve.
In the loss of an unborn child that grief comes sharp, striking and (graciously) complete. I see many other parents that live the experience of loss everyday in a new way. This loss is in many different packages: Autism, Diabetes, Down’s syndrome, divorce … I see others that live loss in parenting in many small cuts: a defiant three-year-old daughter, teen-ager (enough said), poor school performance, sibling rivalry…
I encourage each of you to let this article’s story of loss and sorrow weigh on your heart. Swim with it a bit.
If you have a faith, as I do, I believe this is how God teaches us to become parents and not just collectors of child decoration. Parenting is one of the greatest sacrifices of self. It is opening your heart to a unique and random blend of parental genetics that will vigorously live with chaotic free will all over everything of value in your life. Many of us enter with a birth plan, a developmental score card, an academic curriculum, a sporting training regimen and a professional development path completely and confidently drawn in permanent ink. In the end, if we are blessed, we leave this life with a broken heart that is held tenderly by our Father and the community with which He blesses us. This heart is filled and leaks through His fingers the love we have learned loving children unconditionally. Even when our heart loves a child and the child didn’t live long enough to know that love.
Allen Coffman, MD