Marking the beginning of human life has become unnecessarily complex. But for women who have lost a child, whether early in a pregnancy or at the cusp of birth, the definition of when life begins is clear.
BELINDA Goodwin held her ninth baby in her arms and wept.
Ignatius Gregory Jordan Goodwin was tiny, just shy of 10 weeks gestation.
He was a present, conceived on Belinda’s 40th birthday.
The family planned to welcome Ignatius to the world on February 20 this year.
But on July 24, 2015, Ignatius’ precious heart stopped beating.
“He was so loved by God that he was taken straight up there,” Belinda said.
The mother of eight and former doctor gave birth to her baby boy one month later, and took every chance to hold him in her arms for the first and last time.
Ignatius was given a special Catholic burial rite and laid to rest in a large clay pot with a white rose bush.
His mother says it is one of the few rose bushes around the family property that actually blooms.
Sometimes the younger Goodwin children will perch themselves on the small brick wall next to Ignatius and chat about life.
When Belinda dies, she has asked for her son’s body to be buried with her.
Miscarriage touched the proud mother twice.
First it took Ignatius, and then a few months later it took Rose, who never made it past four weeks gestation.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, about one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage.
“But I never thought it would happen to me,” Belinda said.
“It’s a massive journey and it changes you.
“I think any woman that’s ever lost a child, whether it’s been through
miscarriage, still birth or whatever, it’s an incredible pain and you don’t forget it.
“You deal with it and you put it in the spot, but it’s part of you – it’s the loss of a child.
“There was a life and that baby went.”
When does life really begin?
AUSTRALIAN laws on classifying human life are undergoing a rethink.
On August 29, 2014, Sarah Milosevic’s unborn baby girl died after a drunk driver collided with the mother’s car south of Brisbane.
Mrs Milosevic was six days away from meeting her daughter, whom she named Sophie.
The drunk driver was fined $950 and had his licence suspended, but the court was unable to acknowledge Sophie’s death in the sentence as unborn babies have no rights in Queensland.
The grieving mother began an online petition to enforce a law that would classify babies past 20 weeks gestation as human.
She also set up a meeting with Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath for February 4.
It follows a similar case in New South Wales known as Zoe’s Law, which pushed to give unborn children legal rights.
The law never passed the NSW’s Upper House for fears “enshrining foetal personhood” would have a severe restriction on abortion laws in the state.
The notion life does not begin at conception is not uncommon.
Belinda remembers sitting in medical school more than 20 years ago and being forced to swallow new theories to explain when life begins.
“The solid teaching that life begins at conception was beginning to move,” she said.
The understanding of contraceptives was also changing in the medical world, and women were being seen as the patient, not the baby.
“The way they’re taught is they’re almost trying to achieve the best, the best health, the most perfect,” Belinda said.
“And in that things like ultrasound which were very good and in a positive way bringing life, have also caused people to say ‘that baby has this, let’s fix things up and have another go’.
“It’s in a world where doctors have lost a lot of the values and ethics that did surround that profession.”
The area where Belinda believes the medical profession has really drowned in is abortions.
Between July 2014 and December 2015, there were 1043 government-funded second-trimester abortions in Australia, according to online Medicare statistics on item 16525.
The item covers abortions by misoprostol or prostaglandin induction as well as partial birth abortions.
“When I look especially at the abortion industry, it’s become … not so much a destruction of life but almost the picker and chooser, of being able to decide what is allowed to be and what isn’t,” Belinda said.
“When you start making value calls and doing that I think you’ve lost the true nature of what a doctor is.”
Starting to heal the pain and hurt
QUEENSLAND may not legally recognise human life outside the womb, but the government allows women to commemorate a dead child.
Babies delivered before 20 weeks gestation or weighing less than 400 grams can be recognised, with a signature from a medical practitioner or midwife, by the Queensland government.
It was the beginning of healing for Belinda.
“That is one thing the government does have which recognises life from the very early stages,” she said.
“I lost little Ignatius at nine weeks six days and I was able to have an obstetrician sign a form and get an acknowledgement that he lived and his name is on a certificate.
“And the second one we only lost at four and a half weeks, and we called her Rose, I had a sense it was a girl.
“I got both of those acknowledged by the Queensland government that I had these little human beings at nine weeks six days and four and a half weeks, had actually existed and been lost at this stage.
“They were very real.”
Acknowledging and accepting a child’s death is an important step in the healing process for women who have lost a child, both through miscarriage and abortion.
It was the key to healing for post-abortion counsellor Anne Lastman, who fought against trauma from two abortions and one miscarriage.
“After I had my abortion, ten years later I kept going,” Mrs Lastman said.
“But I kept having nightmares of my dismembered baby, though I never connected the two.
“I was on my own with two children, and had to work to survive.
“But the unconscious mind kept working.”
In 1996, the grieving mother attended a healing event in Perth and since then the nightmares have never returned.
She also believes she has heard her two aborted children speak to her.
“I heard them say, ‘Mummy, we love you’,” she said.
As the founder of post-abortion counselling ministry Victims of Abortion, Mrs Lastman has helped more than 1800 women suffering the loss of their child.
Mrs Lastman said all of her sessions start with naming the baby, which comes easily as most mothers sense their child’s gender, but it’s a method many modern counsellors dismiss. “Acknowledgement is always the beginning of healing,” she said.
“Modern psychologists fail women and the reason they fail women is they don’t help the woman to acknowledge their loss.
“Psychologists assessing women don’t acknowledge abortion as a life-changing event.
“They will never be able to help the women make a full recovery.”
Naming a dead child helps not only women who lose a child through abortion but also mothers who miscarry.
The only difference, according to Mrs Lastman, is women who have had abortions suffer from “self-accusation”.
“They say to themselves, ‘I killed my baby’,” she said.
But self-accusatory language is not healthy for women suffering post-abortion trauma.
“Even though what they’re speaking is a fact, what they’re doing is punishing themselves,” Mrs Lastman said.
“Jesus wouldn’t want them to put a knife through themselves.”
Standing up for life at all stages
AFTER holding her baby in her arms and dealing with the sudden loss of two children, Belinda is even more concerned about the rise of the abortion industry.
A supporter of the international pro-life movement, Belinda has often found herself outside abortion clinics, praying women will turn away and let their unborn child live.
“I stand outside abortion clinics on a first Friday of the month with a group of young mums and we simply pray, to be a presence,” she said.
“(My husband) David and myself, before we were married, we always prayed outside abortion clinics with my sister in-law.”
It’s not a comfortable task, but one that Belinda believes can help save lives.
“I often liken the abortion industry to being at the foot of the cross and when you’re at an abortion clinic, you are standing there and it’s not supposed to be pleasant and it’s not supposed to be fun,” she said.
“It’s supposed to be a sacrifice.”
Once a year, Belinda and husband David also sacrifice a free Saturday by gathering up all their eight children to support an annual pro-life rally in Brisbane.
This year the rally, organised by pro-life organisation Cherish Life Queensland, has become a march.
Hundreds are expected to the first-time event in Queensland, and will take the pro-life to the streets of Brisbane up to Old Parliament House.
Belinda will be thinking of her two missing children at the march.
“Not having that number nine there or that number 10 there, for me, it will touch me on a deeper note,” Belinda said.
“It’s become very personal.”
The personal experience has the busy mum determined to be a voice for the voiceless.
“We’re at a really interesting time where we have one in three pregnancies being aborted and we have one in six women who can’t fall pregnant,” Belinda said.
“We’ve got this rise of infertility but this massive abortion thing.
“Life has become, it’s almost become a right to buy, to manipulate, to create, to deal with, and to demand when and how it fits in.
“It’s time to get back to those basics of saying life is a gift, but simply let’s give a voice to those who don’t have a voice and lets bring what’s in the womb to the outside world.”
Belinda believes the upcoming march will get the conversation rolling, even if opposition arises.
“This march will be life-affirming,” she said.
“I think in a society that’s becoming very materialistic and is very self-centred and is actually losing faith in a lot of ways … I think we need to bring that presence right back into the forefront of people’s minds that the value of human life.
“For me, I suppose especially working in medicine for a short amount of time but more so having my children, it’s about bringing that sanctity of life and that uniqueness and that beauty of life that it does actually begin with conception.”
By Emilie Ng