It's a Fair Question - mother writes book about loss of baby daughter

A mother has written a new book about her beloved daughter who tragically died five hours after she was born.

Karen Palmer said she hoped the story of Jennifer would let people see what can happen when a pregnancy is continued despite diagnosis of a life limiting condition and help other couples going through the same traumatic experience.

Gordon Palmer
Dr Karen Palmer and her husband Rev Gordon Palmer

The retired doctor and her husband Rev Gordon Palmer, minister of Claremont Parish Church in East Kilbride, spoke to Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, in the latest episode of “It’s a Fair Question”.

They said that the assurances they had of God’s presence and his love for their first child in addition to the prayers and support of family, friends and church family helped them cope with the loss of Jennifer in August 1993.

A life precious to God

The couple learned from a scan five months into the pregnancy that something was seriously wrong with their baby and decided to carry on naturally.

Dr Palmer said she had to deal with feelings that somehow Jennifer’s death was her fault and irrational fears that people would not support her if she fell pregnant again and there were complications.

The couple went on to have two other daughters, Ruth and Sally, who are now adults.

Dr Palmer said: “I felt as if people might think I was being disloyal to Jennifer being pregnant again so soon.

“In retrospect, that seems a bit unfair on my friends who were really good and I think it's probably to do with a feeling that parents, who have lost a baby or who have a child who has got some problems, have of stigma.

“And I think that's what I was experiencing, that in some way I felt it was my fault, and in some way there was something wrong with me that made my child like that.”

Gordon and Karen with Jennifer
A precious bundle of joy who was loved by God.

During the process of writing her book, Dr Palmer engaged with members of online baby loss groups and said she is very impressed by their attitude.

“What I have been gradually learning through them, because they're a younger, bolder generation, is that our generation is guilty of keeping things hidden for our comfort and for the comfort of other people,” she explained.

“So in order to avoid your awkwardness and my awkwardness, I have often said (to people) ‘we've got two girls’ and I've talked about Ruth and I've talked about Sally.

“This younger, bolder generation are saying because we've continued to do that, baby loss hasn't been talked about and people haven't learned how to be more confident about how to support people suffering from baby loss.

“So there's a campaign at the moment called NO WORDS trying to help people to find the words.

“And I think that also involves the parents themselves like us - even though I'm going to make you uncomfortable, I'm still going to mention all three of my children because I need to learn to say that, and you need to learn how to respond.”

Baby Jennifer Palmer
Dr Palmer hopes the book will help other people going through the same trauma.

Dr Palmer said there is no right thing to say to someone who has lost a child but nothing anyone can say will take the pain away.

“I know some people might think it's maybe better to say nothing than something, but actually I think it's probably better to say something rather than nothing,” she added.

“The safe thing to do is to mention the child's name – it really is a comfort for someone to hear their child's name or to see their child's name written.”

To buy a copy of Jennifer- A Life Precious to God, email gkrspalmer@blueyonder.co.uk

For help and support–

Together for Short Lives - https://www.togetherforshortlives.org...

Antenatal Results and Choices - https://www.arc-uk.org/

No Words campaign - https://withoutottilie.com/no-words-l...