Fetal Heart-beat Missing


Scan screen abstractly stated fetal heart-beat missing:

terminated tummy hugs, finished all sibling kissing.

Ten tenuous days wait, faecal-tinted waters broke,

in an isolated delivery room deathly silence spoke.

Mute cry shaped mouth, eyes showed vacant gaze,

face flattened, body floppy –  little for poet to praise.

Cooling listless limbs warmly maternal held,

pointless any prayerful pleading, only dumb tears welled.

Paternal lips didn’t linger long on fridge-frozen cheeks;

the dead cannot feel kisses, or hear what we speak.

Stoic parents sobbed, pointless now any prayer;

no nappy changes needed, a funeral to prepare.

God is not mocked, feeble faith soon rebounded:

her sibling spoke ascension hope, both parents astounded…


Holly died in the womb March 21, 1993 and was stillborn April 1st.

illustration by Neringa Normantaite https://www.instagram.com/nn_design_and_illustration/

2 thoughts on “Fetal Heart-beat Missing

  1. This is heart-wrenching. The poet lets the reader FEEL what he felt. The artist lets the viewer SEE what the poet felt. Well-said and beautifully illustrated. After reading this–and other Holly works, Louis, I can better understand the terrible loss, not only to you and Liz, but to anyone else who loses or has lost their infant–before, during, or after birth. In the way of providing a deeper felt understanding in your audience, your poetry and your rare transparency is a gift and a ministry. The bit I don’t understand, however, is “harsh natured womb”. I feel that the womb nurtured and protected throughout the pregnancy; it was something else that was harsh. Am I misunderstanding?


  2. thank you for sympathetically reading this poem. it is my first fresh attempt to capture that moment in many years. in this particular instance of stillbirth, the life-giving womb unexpectedly became a contradictory harsh environment. i admit that phrase is open to confusion. i didn’t know how else to succinctly phrase that negation…

    Liked by 1 person

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