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We think life is black and white, don’t we?

Supposedly living our ‘truth’ but actually sitting behind a keyboard, living out our (sometimes narrow-minded) lives on social media like the keyboard warriors we are.

Imparting our wisdom to the masses through memes and (hoax riddled) links and sometimes even poorly concealed bigotry dressed up as ‘social commentary.’

But what if I told you YOUR truth is not always THE truth?

What if I told you that there are so many shades between black and white that I do not have enough time to explain (and many do not have the insight to comprehend) the depth and vastness of those different shades of black and white?

What colour is the truth of a father who has just been told that he has to choose between the life of his wife and that of his unborn son?

What colour fits a mom who just heard that should she choose to continue her pregnancy, her baby will not only die a few moments after birth, but her much longed for and much-loved baby will go through unimaginable suffering - trying to gulp her first breath of air, but unable to do so?

What colour is the medical fact of a mother being told that should she continue with the pregnancy; she will lose her own life and her baby has zero chance of viability?

What colour is a truth that is repulsive to any normal human being’s senses? A truth that is revolting, abhorrent, nauseating? Certainly, black is not black enough?

I am a perinatal bereavement specialist or the more widely used term ‘baby loss professional’. I assist parents who have to face the agonizing scenarios I have just described. I also assist parents who have ‘natural’ losses; miscarriages, stillbirths and NICU deaths. Death does not discriminate. Grief does not discriminate. Loss does not discriminate. It just devours its victims without caring who they are, what their motives are and whether they are ready or not. Like an unstoppable tsunami these people’s lives are demolished. Including those who have suffered through many fertility treatments to fall pregnant. Parents who have excitedly prepared a beautiful nursery for their very much wanted baby just after they heard the words “Congratulations, you are pregnant.” Or those who had early baby showers and who were looking forward to their third trimester, only to be crushed by a doctor or specialist’s words: “I’m sorry, but a medical termination is necessary because...” And yes, this includes so-called ‘full term abortions.’

Please allow me to educate you about termination later in pregnancy: In the majority of cases later medical terminations are necessary because of severe foetal health problems that could include a malformation of the foetus or genetic abnormality that means the baby won't survive. It may also include a mother’s life being at risk. These problems often aren't diagnosed until later in the second trimester (week 13 to 26) or (rarely) into the third trimester (around 27 weeks) because the screening tests and scans don't pick up on these problems until that late in pregnancy. There are also cases where the foetus has been diagnosed with a severe condition that is clearly incompatible with life. After counselling with their medical team and specialists, some parents choose to induce labour, knowing that the baby will not survive after delivery, and offer comfort care. This is called perinatal palliative care and it's an accepted medical practice worldwide.

Sometimes people choose to induce labour rather than having a D&E procedure because they want to hold their baby or because the labour process will be therapeutic. When parents then make the agonizing choice of medical termination, it is then labelled ‘full term abortion’ by ignorant people. The truth is that less than 1.2% of abortions are performed later than 21 weeks and most certainly not at the end of a pregnancy like people (erroneously) proclaim. Inflammatory language like 'full term abortion' is used to deflect the conversation away from the safe, legal provision of compassionate medical care to patients – including access to a baby loss professional. It's a sensationalized phrase that doesn't reflect science or medicine and that should have no place in the birthing community – least of all from educators in the birthing community.

I am fully aware of the fact that medical termination is a loaded subject. That it is tremendously disturbing to some and a subject that evokes extreme emotional responses – especially from mothers. This piece is not about whether abortion is right or wrong. It’s not about being liberal or conservative. It’s not about pro-life or pro-choice. It’s not about any of that. It is about parents who are absolutely broken and who have been put in an impossible situation that they certainly did not ask for! Who would ask to be sentenced to eternal condemnation for a choice that wasn’t a ‘choice’ at all?

I besiege you to THINK before you hit ‘post’. I implore you to do your research with your head and not your heart. I beg you to please bear in mind that parents who have suffered through the unimaginable are reading your harsh words dooming them to childlessness and hell. They are already discriminated against – a recent court ruling proves this yet again: Affording parents who have lost babies before 26 weeks of gestation the right to bury their children, but not in the case of medical terminations. How utterly cruel and tragic! And how heartless and cold (hopefully unintentionally) are you? Punishing parents who have already been to hell and back – here you are sending them back there with your horrid, condemning, judgmental remarks. All in the name of ‘truth’?

As if you have even an inkling of what they are going through! Trust me, you do NOT. I can’t even fully comprehend their pain because even though I was there in the moment with them, holding and touching and photographing their precious baby, I could never understand their pain as I never had to personally deal with a medical termination. Nor do I want to, because in order for me to fully understand, I would fully need to go through what they had gone through. And I do not wish that on my worst enemy. As someone who has been there more times than I care to remember, trust me on this: You do not know THE truth and you do not know THEIR truth and with the things you are wishing on these parents, you most certainly are not being a worthy follower of the Truth.

If you are reading here and you are a parent who had to live through the medical termination of your baby, I want you to know this: I see you. And I have so much compassion for you. You are not judged, you are loved and supported and carried by more people than you realize. Don’t let the voices of those who can’t or won’t understand, drown out the irrefutable fact that you are not alone. Read that again:

You are NOT alone.

Nicci Coertze

Perinatal Bereavement Specialist

Author: When The Shadow Comes: Coping with Pregnancy & Infant loss - A Guide for Parents and Care Providers


If you need counselling, please send me an email so that I can refer you to competent, compassionate professionals:

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