October 9th-16th was Baby Loss Awareness Week in Ireland, with Saturday 15th being a International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day. I had been wondering why the profusion of news items: UK MPs sharing their stories of loss in the House of Commons; an item about a Garden of Stones in County Armagh featured several times on my Facebook feed; and I turned on the radio on Saturday to hear a series of heartfelt stories. Interviewers and newsreaders alike were empathetic and sensitive, gentle and gracious.
And I was confused. Not simply because I didn’t know it was Baby Loss Awareness week. Not because I don’t know something of that intense pain of losing children to miscarriage and watching someone you love deal with a level of sorrow that, as a man, I can’t fully enter into, nor fathom its terrible depths. I know that pain—and it deserves all the tenderness and empathy and sensitivity we can muster.
I was confused, or more accurately, baffled. Baffled by the ability of the media to portray so sensitively, deal so tenderly, and acknowledge one week that what resides in the womb is a baby, while the previous week, and this succeeding week they will argue for the purposes of Repealing the 8th Amendment that it is a clump of cells.
Suzi spoke of Eli, “We found out at 21 weeks that Eli was sick, he was stillborn at 31 weeks.” She has had beautiful imprints made of his tiny chubby hands and feet, cast in metal and framed. “I felt, and still do feel numb, I have come home from the hospital with empty arms and don't know what to do with myself.”
Sarah lost her baby, Grace, only 14 weeks into her pregnancy. “I had already bought a comforter to bring her home from the hospital and was so excited to have her… the pain of grief was excruciating.”
Not once, did an interviewer say, “Sure it was only a clump of cells”—thankfully they had more humanity. No-one challenged the title “Baby loss week”, yet that is the very thing that is being denied day in day out in the abortion discussion—that it is a baby that is being lost.
UK MP Will Quince spoke of his son who was diagnosed with the rare chromosomal disorder, Edwards’ syndrome, at his 20-week scan. He told the Commons that his son was “an incredible little fighter” who eventually lost his life in the last moments of labour.
I love the way he spoke of ‘his son’—something all the accounts have in common—the absolute recognition that they lost a son or daughter. And not once did a reporter, or presenter ‘correct’ this—deep down we know that’s what we’re dealing with, a real human being.
Yet the same House of Commons, which was moved to tears, also legislates for the termination of such ‘incredible little fighters’. And this same son could have been aborted under the guise of the criminally misnamed ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’ provision currently being considered here in Ireland. I wonder if the MPs saw the incongruity of their tears? Their hearts are better than their heads; but tragically their heads made the laws.
The sensitivity with which baby loss week was handled was utterly commendable, but how quickly will we see a return to the denial of life in the womb? Was all that sensitivity simply crocodile tears, or is there a tragic disconnect in our minds? We need to keep the dots joined up. We can’t be a nation that grieves the loss of babies in the womb and simultaneously denies that what is in the womb is a baby. Yet that is what we are in danger of doing.
(Originally a column for the newspaper—written as Ireland contemplates removing the constitutional recognition of the unborn child's right to life)