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Shakhnoza's story

Stillbirth
Patient Voice spoke with Shakhnoza Nasim about her family’s journey with grief following the loss of her first child, Muhubbat, who was born still.

Maple, ON

When I found out that I was pregnant and having a daughter, I immediately imagined the rest of my life with her in it. Mom and daughter days, princess dresses and fancy hairstyles, all the little things we would do together, and all the ways my love for her would shape and change my own life.

And then, when they told me there was no heartbeat, it was like that version of me — that entire life that I already felt was mine — died too. I remember how I screamed. But at the same time, I wasn’t really there. I had a completely out-of-body experience, convinced that what I was hearing and experiencing weren’t real life. They couldn’t be.

“It was the most deafening silence.”

I was 25 weeks and three days pregnant, and I still had to deliver my child. I was in labour for two days. It was unbearable. My daughter Muhabbat — Arabic for ‘love,’ since she’s our first love — was born sleeping on August 1, 2019 at 1:09 AM. She looked just like my husband.

Going through that experience on the maternity floor, surrounded by crying infants and happy mothers, was unbelievably traumatic. It was the most deafening silence. And then, leaving the hospital empty-handed after having been through the full labour process... There are no words for it.

That was four years ago, and I’ve since given birth to two incredible sons. A lot of people think that time, and the birth of my sons, should be enough. That I should be over it by now and should be grateful for the children that I have. Our extended families are among those people. When our daughter died, those relationships died also. They simply couldn’t accept the magnitude and permanence of our grief.

There’s no getting over the loss of a child. Pregnancy after loss is not a cure — it’s traumatic in its own right. And though when we’re out, we may look like a perfect, happy family — my husband, myself, our boys — that is not our whole family. Muhabbat is a part of us. We have a stuffed bear, made to her exact birth weight, that joins us in every family photo. We visit her in the cemetery every month. I bake a cake for her on her birthday. The grief does not go away. But neither does the love.”