In the BBC drama Banished, a way of seeing a deeper and positive purpose behind an event which we usually see as deeply sad is proposed. Rather than understanding miscarriages and stillbirths as negative or tragic, Anne – an Irish convict in an Australian penal colony in the eighteenth century – reassures vicar’s wife Mrs Johnson, who has lost many babies after giving birth:
Anne: Tell me what you want to know?
Mrs Johnson: Everything that might help me.
Anne: There are not just the living and the dead, Mrs Johnson. There is the world of the unborn. Millions of souls waiting millions of years to pass on to the Kingdom of Heaven. To them, the unborn, this life is nothing. It is a river they must cross to reach the other side, to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. So they want this life, this river to be as short as possible. To the unborn, a woman like you is heaven-sent. You give birth to them, they die within minutes, and before they know, they are with the angels in Heaven. For the unborn you are the ideal mother, Mrs Johnson, and your children are eternally grateful. Do not grieve or blame yourself in any way. Instead, Mrs Johnson, rejoice! Is that not comforting?
Mrs Johnson: Yes. But it is heresy Anne.
Anne: To say the Earth is round was heresy once.
I’m aware this is an extremely sensitive issue, and ‘cold’ on the page it seems less powerful, but when viewed on television as a conversation between two women, Stephanie and I found it deeply moving – perhaps because it radically reframes an event which is so upsetting. It’s a provocative idea, and may raise more questions than it answers, but if reframing comforts, does it need to be ‘True’?