Tragedies happen every day. But the death of a child must surely rank among the worst events a person could ever endure. It is a loss both personal in the emotional heartbreak, but also offensive to the instinctual design of all creatures to pass on their genetic material for future generations.
Our brain is programmed to fear and resist all things that jeopardise our ability to survive and pass on our genes. It bundles those fears into a complex emotional construct of primal instincts and responses. Similarly we are attracted physically to the structural manifestation of genetics which demonstrate their capacity for producing successful progeny with is.
I’m sorry to take the romance out of love, but you are designed to seek out a compatible breeding partner with whom to produce successful offspring who in turn will produce successful offspring of their own, eventually.
So if that offspring dies before adulthood, the programming and design of countless generations of successful genetic inheritance comes to an end. It isn’t merely a loss of someone we care about, but a loss of the potential of our genes to keep passing on through future generations.
Our entire purpose is for naught. At least within that lost individual.
So whether that child is 15, 10, 5 or yet to be born, the death is never an event which is easily recovered from.
For the stale eyes of the unrelated, it can be hard to fathom such a loss, and our scientific curiosity can cause us to view the remarkable aspects of the death of some foetuses with detached amazement. Which is certainly forgivable in some instances. The following gallery is dedicated to one such scenario which although tragic, is an inspiring quirk of the body to defend itself and survive, to breed another day.
Abdominal pregnancies are a very rare and usually fatal condition when untreated. An embryo may on occasion find itself outside the uterus and can attach and begin developing on any number of organ surfaces. Such pregnancies are clearly problematic. First of all, the organ that is now host to the embryo is not designed for such a task as supplying blood to a rapidly growing new organism. Second, without the benefit of the muscles around the uterus to push out the baby during labour, the baby is going nowhere. And third, there is no direct route out of the body anyway.
Once a human foetus passes the 12 week gestation point, it is at such a size that if it dies, it cannot be readily reabsorbed by the body. If the pregnancy is abdominal, it cannot be expelled as a miscarriage. The mother’s body needs to do something to protect itself from the decaying foetus so begins to coat it in calcium to encase it inside an impermeable sac. This produces a lithopedium, or stone baby. It is the mother’s only chance of survival without medical intervention. But given the mother may not have shown any signs of pregnancy, depending on the length of gestation, she will potentially be unaware she was pregnant and therefore the presence of a lithopedium may never be detected.
There have been around 300 documented casesof lithopedium in the past 400 years globally. Clearly many, many more have gone undocumented. Often the presence of one is detected years or decades after the fact during X-rays for other conditions. There have been cases of women being diagnosed after successfully giving birth to other children despite the presence of the bunk buddy.
Here are a few images of specimens removed from the bodies of women. I wonder how many of our female readers will now be paranoid and squishing around for hard lumps in their abdomen. If anyone finds one, please let us know.