What follows after a mother loses her newborn? Swagata Majumdar, who lost her twins within two days of their birth, breaks silence over child loss and the need for more understanding.
Trigger Warning: Descriptions of child loss, grief, death and suicidal thoughts.
Kolkata’s Swagata Majumdar and Anirban Bhattacharya had always dreamt of having twins. So, in 2019, when she naturally conceived fraternal twins, the couple’s joy had no limits. They even nicknamed them Gamma and Gannu.
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The babies were growing well in their amniotic sacs until the fifth month of her pregnancy when the fluid for one of the children broke. The doctors comforted the couple saying both babies were resilient and were doing fine.
After a month of monitoring in the hospital, Swagata was discharged. “But the very same night, my umbilical cord prolapsed. This meant I had to undergo an emergency C-section,” the former journalist tells The Better India.
On 13 January, she gave birth to both her sons. Unfortunately, Gamma could not make it to more than 12 hours. Within two days, the couple also lost their second child.
“Gannu was also in pain and he had been fighting to stay alive. I told him that I would understand if he wished to go to his brother. After five minutes, he died in my arms,” she says, recalling the tragic incident.
Unlike any mother, Swagata could not immediately process the pain. In fact, she planned her baby’s funeral. She arranged printed clothes to dress Gannu, similar to the ones she used for Gamma.
By this time, she had been infected with severe maternal sepsis that spread all over her body while her breasts were full of unclaimed milk. “It was so painful that I did not have a baby to nurse,” she says.
Swagata had lost all hope to live and stopped eating. “I thought if I did not die right away, who was going to take care of my children? I had to go to them,” she adds.
For her, each day felt like a burden. “On the 12th day, my husband came to me and said that I could die if I wanted to. But there would be thousands of mothers who have lost their babies similarly and are hushed to remain silent. He advised me to help them fight. But before that, I needed to get out of bed,” adds Swagata.
“I told him to order fries for me,” she says with a smile. Finally, Swagata found a purpose to live.
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But in place of offering any comfort, the couple faced societal backlash. For instance, Swagata would not be invited to baby showers anymore. “It was so heartbreaking. People also advised me that in order to move on, I should conceive sooner. Women are not baby-producing machines and babies are not projects for mothers,” she says.
While Anirban engaged himself in music and work, Swagata looked for grief therapists and support groups. In the absence of any mental health support group, she found a few in the US and UK.
“For the first time, I opened up to anyone and shared my story. I found some comfort and there were so many women who associated with me,” she adds.
All these years, Swagata found some relief in talking about her babies, not by keeping silent about it. “There is no other way to keep my children alive,” she says.
On the 13th of every month, the couple bakes cakes and celebrates the birthdays of Gamma and Gannu. Last year, when they were blessed with a daughter, they named her Guncha – with the initials of her elder siblings.
“We celebrated Rakhi and this Durga Pujo, when we bought dresses for her, we also bought t-shirts that say ‘Big Brothers Rock’ for both Gamma and Gannu,” she smiles.
Swagata runs a support group to offer help to mothers who have lost their children to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. Every year, she also organises a wave of the light programme and lights candles for the departed souls on behalf of these mothers.
If you wish to connect with Swagata, you can join her group here.
Edited by Padmashree Pande. All photos: Swagata Majumdar.
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