originally written up for publication in the Miscarriage Association newsletter, autumn 2000
We were on holiday at Easter with our two daughters, Anna (3) and Abigail (1). At 16 weeks pregnant I had just begun to feel better again, having lived through three months of tiredness and sickness.
We had already experienced miscarriage, having lost a baby at 12 weeks before Anna, and then another at 12 weeks before Abigail. I also had two very early miscarriages before falling pregnant with Joel. We were elated when our 12 week scan showed a healthy baby, and felt that we’d passed the ‘danger zone’.
However I began to feel concerned when by 18 weeks I had not felt recognisable foetal movements, and so at my next antenatal check I spoke to the consultant, who happened to be visiting my surgery. There and then he did a scan from a portable scan machine, and it was clear to me straight away that there was no heartbeat. I waited for what seemed like hours as he continued to scan the baby, but he had died. I then had to go home and tell Steve, my husband.
Later that afternoon, having made arrangements for the girls, we were admitted to the Labour Ward at the hospital. A more detailed scan dated Joel at around 16 weeks gestation. We went to a private room where we were really well cared for – the hospital staff bent over backwards to make us feel at home which was very touching.
I then had to have blood taken for all sorts of tests, and then labour was induced. It was fairly painful and after a few hours I opted for all the painkillers available. These helped and I passed through the remaining 4 hours of labour without remembering too much about it. In the middle of the night, Joel was born. He fitted into the palm of my hand, and was perfectly formed, weighing only 90g. The placenta was also delivered whole, a great relief as I did not want to undergo any further trauma.
In the following few days I cried a lot. Thankfully we had very good friends who supported us with meals on our doorstep and looking after our girls. I had the usual physical after- effects of giving birth but these were much harder to cope with without the joy of a new baby to outweigh them. It was particularly hard to have full breasts with no baby to feed.
It is now the week in which Joel would have been born, had he lived to term. The past four months have been really hard, for me in particular. My husband is very understanding, but has not felt the same loss that I have felt. My eldest daughter has talked about her brother a lot, as we told her everything from the beginning of the pregnancy, and she understands what happened – it is both helpful and painful at the same time to talk about the experience in simplistic, matter of fact language, so that Anna can express her feelings. Having two beautiful daughters is a constant blessing, although the loss of our son still hurts. The blood tests and Joel’s postmortem showed nothing, and although in some ways this is good as it has no implications for the future, it is even harder not to have a reason for his death.
Joel means ‘The Lord is God’. As Christians, even though we don’t understand what happens in our lives, and in some ways knowing God doesn’t make life easier, the meaning of Joel’s name sums up our experience, and is the hope that we have for the future.