TFMR (terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons) is the type of baby loss no one talks about. Here, one woman shares her story
“It was only after the medical aspect was over that I started grieving for our baby and for the joyful experience we should have had as first-time parents to be. We never had any doubt that we’d made the right decision but it still didn’t stop me from feeling like I needed to apologise to my baby; to wonder if he was OK now. I would think about all the things we would have done together and would now never get to do. I was angry that this had happened to us, on top of everything that 2020 had thrown at us all with the pandemic, it felt like we were being punished for something.”
Lauren’s story is one of bravery, immense love and heartbreak. It is the story of a mother who made the best choice for her unborn child, and her family, by making a decision that no one ever wants to make. And she isn’t alone.
“We don’t have accurate statistics on how many TFMRs there are each year as they are not all signed off under ‘Ground E’ of the abortion law,” says Jane Fisher, director at ARC. “The Department of Health and Social Care’s stats tell us there were 3083 terminations under Ground E but we can add at least 2000 to that number. In fact, over 20,000 expectant parents a year are told that their baby may have a genetic or structural condition.”
Many of these women are reluctant to share their experience of TFMR, Jane explains. “In an online survey we carried out last year with the charities Petals and Tommy’s, 54% of respondents said they had only been open about their TFMR with ‘some people’,” she says. “The comments suggest that it’s the fear of judgement, and possible reactions of other people that influenced their decision about who to tell. 72% of those surveyed felt that TFMR was not considered equally by the baby loss community.”
Despite baby loss gradually becoming less taboo, with more and more women sharing their experiences of miscarriage and stillbirth, Jane explains that there still remains extra stigma around TFMR: “Parents can feel implicated in the loss of their baby because they made a decision to end the pregnancy. Many parents we speak to don’t feel they belong with those who have experienced stillbirth because they made an active decision that resulted in the loss.”
Lauren echos this: “I guess I felt that because there is an element of control, a decision that has been made with TFMR, I didn’t consider it to be on par with miscarriage and stillbirth until [a close friend] made me understand that I had lost my baby and the loss was no less significant or traumatic because of how it had happened.”
Luckily, charities like ARC are on hand to support parents going through TFMR. “We have supported thousands of women and couples through TFMR, so we can reassure people that although it is one of the most agonising experiences they will go through, they will come out the other side,” Jane says. “Parents can judge themselves very harshly for making the decision to end the pregnancy and some will feel that a ‘better’ parent would have continued. There is no inherently ‘better’ decision; it’s about individual circumstances and parents being supported to work out what they can cope with and what they want for their prospective child and family.”
In the aftermath of baby loss, Lauren bled heavily for a couple of weeks: “I experienced intense cramping sometimes, especially after physical activity like going for a walk. But gradually it all got less and less until I was back to normal. I think because I was only 14 weeks pregnant when it happened the physical recovery was not as prolonged or intense as it might have been further along.