Editor’s note: As a reminder – Still Standing is a place for all grieving parents. If you grieve the loss of your child, no matter the circumstances, you are welcome here. We ask that all conversation be kept respectful and civil.
On an unremarkable (or psychologically buried) spring day in 1994 I lost my second child at about 16 weeks gestation. I was 19, a high school drop-out, and trying to extricate myself from an abusive relationship.
The final straw was when my partner shoved me out of the car and attempted to run me over.
Shortly after this event, I found myself pregnant and alone, the mother of a toddler.
In addition to being a pregnant teen mom, I was also a high school drop-out, a former teenage runaway, a childhood, long-term, sexual abuse survivor, and the product of a one-night stand whose mom continued to make poor choices long after the encounter which created me.
Suffice to say life had not been kind to me thus far.
Despite my status as an already mom, but also because of it, I chose to let go of my unborn child.
The decision was immensely difficult; however, ultimately — I did not want my child to suffer. I could not see clear to bringing another child into a situation where the chances of remaining impoverished would be heightened precisely because of their life.
Adoption was out of the question, as it would not be fair to ask my toddler to witness the miracle of his sibling growing within the confines of my womb only to lose said sibling, in addition to the unlikelihood the baby’s father would allow me to place his child for adoption.
Because of the abuse I was suffering, continuing my pregnancy would have ultimately threatened my life as well, by prolonging my dependence on a man who was uninterested in seeing me as more than a punching bag.
The process was lengthily, and for the sake of brevity, I won’t go into detail regarding most of the interactions I had with medical staff at the facility where I let my baby go. I was denied the option to view my baby in the ultrasound suite, and when I expressed reservations about following through with everything, I was already being anesthetized, so my protestations lacked enough force to cause a pause in the proceedings.
I fell asleep pregnant and awoke empty.
In the aftermath my grief became unbearable.
After sharing with a family member that I had lost a baby, I was told stories of other women in my family who had no choice but to let go of babies they were carrying: the second cousin with the abusive, drug-addicted boyfriend, the aunt of “advanced maternal age” who didn’t want to risk a baby with Down syndrome before testing became widespread.
So many children our family were missing – our collective grief over those losses just as valid as the grief we felt at the loss of babies to SIDS and stillbirth.
I was connected to a long line of suffering women, all who’d been forced by circumstances outside of their control, to let go of babies they would never meet this side of heaven.
Over the years, just like all women who’ve lost a child, I’ve had to come to terms with missed birthdays — all of the milestones my second child should have met: first lost tooth, mastering algebra, dating, marriage – maybe grandchildren by now.
I’ve had to live my life devoid of the child I lost, well as dealing with those who believe my grief after 24 years is misplaced.
Losing my baby is one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever gone through. The only comforts I have are that because of my loss I was able to assure my son did not have to experience the process of losing a sibling through adoption. I was able to sever the relationship with my abuser completely, and most importantly I was able to save my baby from a lifetime of pain and suffering lived through a life of poverty.
As a parent sometimes we have to make choices about our children’s lives which may not be accepted by the world at large – one day in 1994 I had to make that kind of choice.
I had to choose between giving my baby the life s/he deserved or letting that baby go to avoid causing him/her immense suffering. I made the sacrificial choice— the one in my baby’s best interests.
I will always regret the lost years.
My grief will last for the rest of my life, but in the end, my baby’s potential life was worth more than me forcing them to live in substandard conditions: impoverished, fathered by an abusive individual, and not given the life s/he deserved.
Linda is the mother of five children here, two in heaven. She spends her time building fairy gardens with her youngest daughter and wishing her eldest son called more often. She also works in an office similar to The Office, and occasionally enjoys getting to bed before midnight.
Photo by Riccardo Mion on Unsplash