According to the World Health Organization, enduring intimate partner violence during pregnancy can contribute or result in a plethora of non-fatal outcomes, including reproductive health and obstetric complications, challenges to the psychological wellness of both mother and child, and physical injury.
But, it also can have fatal outcomes.
- It can predicate the decision of elective abortion.
- It can lead to coerced or forced *”elective” abortion.
- It can directly cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
- It can initiate such injury that results in *”miscarriage or stillbirth.”
- It can result in maternal suicide.
- It can lead to homicide.
*These words are in quotes due to the incongruent nature of their wording.
Being a certified Birth & Bereavement Doula® gives me an extraordinarily humbling gift in serving families in the most vulnerable of times in their lives. It allows me to carry legacies forward, to draw paths together to steward healing.
My role of bearing witness allows families to reap the treasures that others before them have unearthed on this impossible journey of healing after pregnancy and infant loss.
So I want to share with you, how just a few such family stories wove together with love, dignity, and redemption.
Mother Two became pregnant in her teenage years. She endured miscarriage. Years later, she was happily married and was growing her family, when she invited me to serve her as a doula in what she was expecting to be an uneventful, live birth outcome. I had the tremendous honor of being one of the first people on this planet to meet her beloved baby, born alive. Weeks later, as our relationship continued into postpartum care, she shared with me that she and her husband were struggling.
This narrative is almost identical to a family I served two years earlier, and that family had such tender insight into their relationship and created such a thoughtful resolution. They wondered if perhaps, there was a disconnect in their family, that somehow, her husband wasn’t able to claim his paternal love in any formal way, for the beloved baby that his dear wife had given birth to so many years before, the baby born through miscarriage, when she was a teenager. And that husband of Mother One, he constructed a very formal document, declaring his intention to adopt that baby. A celebratory family adoption ceremony and party commenced, marking the occasion. Tremendous healing, appropriate closure, deep connection and beautiful newness ensued. “Postmortem adoption” is not legal, official, or real in any sense except for what the family imbues in its gesture.
So, of course, I recalled this story and conveyed it to Mother Two.
But then, was Mother Three.
She became a young mother, and she struggled to remain with her boyfriend, and raise their daughter.
Mother Three–she hadn’t experienced a miscarriage.
But she did get pregnant.
And her boyfriend did rape her, and her boyfriend did beat her.
And her baby – her babies – did die.
Mother Three, she chose elective abortion. Not because she was afraid for her life, but because she thought it was the quickest way to get her child out of the situation she was in. Adoption seemed wildly unrealistic when she was already in over her head. She was already rearing one child in the situation and barely holding on, and she just wanted to get her newest child out of the situation as quietly and quickly as possible. And so she did – each time. After experiencing elective abortion multiple times, after enduring abuse for so long, she, with her daughter, finally fled safely from that situation. I will also make mention, that to mention that a mother’s story includes elective abortion is simply that and is not to advocate for or against elective abortion.
After years of healing and finding her feet, she, Mother Three, found herself in love.
“When he beat me, I lost everything.” These are her words.
The incredible husband of Mother Three pursued legal adoption of his step-daughter, and, he heard about the families before them who have chosen to adopt babies not alive prior to the relationship. They are currently pursuing adoption in a more traditional sense as well to continue to grow their family.
Spouse of Bereaved Mother: Adopting Her Babies
may be an Option For You to Consider
Do you want to honor your spouse and demonstrate to her that her parenthood journey impacts you? That her babies count? That you want to share in this journey together in a deeper way? Perhaps now that you know of this option, this might be something for you to consider for your own family. It is not legal, it is not official, but it is deeply loving. All it takes is your own commitment and creativity.
Honoring Fathers on Fathers Day: Not All Fathers
It is true that in the traditional sense of Fathers day, not all fathers are honored. Not all are worthy to be honored. Ask Mother Three’s daughter and she’ll tell you that she gives her Fathers day to her stepdad, not her biological father.
And it is true that in the healing community, we advocate very much for bereaved and healing fathers to be recognized, counted, cherished and celebrated.
It is also true, that just because a person is the father of a child not alive, that does not mean we have to grandfather them in for the sake of growing numbers for the cause of honoring fathers of babies not alive.
Mothers – if the father of your baby who is not alive is not worth honoring, you are not obligated to honor him.
Domestic Violence in Pregnancy: There is Help to Get Out
Pregnant mothers in unsafe situations, know that domestic violence increases in pregnancy.
It can lead to damaging nonfatal outcomes, but it can have fatal outcomes, too.
If you are pregnant, are experiencing pregnancy and infant loss, and domestic violence – or a sense of unsafety in any way – is a component in your story, you can visit stillbirthday for validation, resources, and support.
Heidi Faith is the founder of stillbirthday and its headquarters The M0M Center. Stillbirthday is the developer of the Birth & Bereavement Doula® certification and free, printable birth plans for mothers experiencing birth in any trimester, because a pregnancy loss is still a birth, and is still a birthday.