The closest person to me that has died is my daughter, Samantha. I could have softened that by saying she passed away but there is nothing soft about losing a child. I’d also love to say she was the apple of her daddy’s eye or I remember how much she liked to dance, but she was stillborn just before my due date so I never had a chance to collect those kinds of memories. I never even saw her blink.
Samantha died close to 12 years ago and even though I have two other very alive children and a blessed life, the pain of missing her never goes away.
As time goes on it feels less accepted that I mourn. Now grieving comes with looks and whispers “time heals all wounds,” “everything happens for a reason” and “maybe it’s time to move on.” It feels like the more time goes on the more society seems to think I should get over it. I felt the same expectation of closure when I gave birth to her. The nurse handed Samantha’s warm but limp body to me and said “hold her as long as you like. Tell me when you’re done.” Tears swell in my eyes when I think about that suggestion of being done with her. I’ll never be done. I’ll never stop remembering, loving, grieving. Just like every child conceived, we are never done with them. Our children are forever a piece of us and we are a piece of them.
Babies that are stillborn are different though. Different because not enough people talk about them. The CDC reports that there are 10 times more babies that are stillborn than infants that die from SIDS. Yet every family is given SIDS information and statistics and not given the same attention to stillbirth information. It’s scary to think about your baby having a risk of anything going wrong before or after birth. Yet it seems common knowledge to know SIDS could happen. The more common occurrence of stillborn babies remains relatively under studied and under discussed. As a nation we are under educated and unaware of the real possibility of a pregnancy ending with a stillbirth. I know there wasn’t a brochure that could have changed Samantha’s delivery but the simple hush to not say anything until it happens made me want to be someone that would start that conversation.
The lack of discussion during pregnancy leads to the widely excepted tone that this is private, uncomfortable for others and something that parents can and should “work through.” This implies that there’s an end and point when you’re done. A point in time when you’re silent and it’s all over.
It is this expectation of silence that makes me really sad. Why is society’s answer to this kind of pain to pretend like it never happened? Anyone that has suffered this kind of loss knows that remembering is all you have. There’s no baby cooing in the nursery, no decision of soccer or music lessons or both. No prom pictures or wedding. All you have is remembering and talking about the fact that your baby was real and your baby passed away.
Remembering and reliving the tiniest details like sonogram images and baby shower pictures helps keep a piece of our very loved children alive. Holding on doesn’t mean I haven’t moved forward. It just means I’ll never stop loving her. I’ve always talked about Samantha. I often tell people I’m a mother of three even though there are only two boys at my side because she’s worth remembering. Samantha was real and she was my baby. I’ll never be done.
If you or someone you know has had a still born baby some of the resources I found most helpful are;
Ash, L. (2004) Life Touches Life.
Davis, D. L. (1996) Empty Cradle Broken Heart.
MISSingangelsbill.org passed in NE
April 17, 2008 Bill LB 1048