SpeakThursday, August 25, 2011
Most people have only come into limited contact with someone whose baby has died. Often it’s a story in the family tree, or gossip about what happened to “so and so”. Most of us who lose babies, aren’t encouraged to talk about our babies. So we stay silent.
Thirty years ago, the common consensus was that in order for healing to take place, a mother should never be forced to acknowledge the child she had lost. Therapy was having another “replacement” child as soon as possible. At the time, doctors and psychologists believed they were doing the best they could for their patients. Women were not allowed to view stillborn or very premature babies because it was thought to be too traumatic. There was no acknowledgement of the necessity of grieving. Memories of the lost child were swept under the rug, to be forgotten by everyone except for the mother who suffered the loss. Because those mothers were never going to forget a child they lost.
More recently the taboo subject of pregnancy, neonatal and infant loss has become a little less taboo. But it’s still frowned upon. Baby loss brings down the mood at a party. No one wants to hear about your dead child. So slowly, as the months go by, you become quieter. You don’t say your baby’s name so often.
This is ok, if it’s a normal part of your healing process. But more often, it’s more of a societal expectation.
Isolated, trying to carry on with life- trying to find some normalcy, when a part of your heart is gone. When the one thing that may help the situation- getting your feelings out, is the one thing that’s denied you.
There are many, many moms- even someone you may know, who have silently suffered the same loss. The bank teller, your coffee shop barista, your child’s teacher. Because we have all experienced people’s negative reactions to stories of our losses, we have become the same as those silent women from 30 years ago- living our losses alone.
And we’re doing this in a society which encourages everyone else to talk everything out- to work through their feelings. The vilest things are shown on television. Books and art portray a world of emotion that surpasses anything previously known to man. Yet here we sit, in our small baby loss mothers club. Quiet to all but each other.
This is unacceptable.
This blog is the place where my daughter lives. Where I can talk about her freely, without censure. The reason I began, wasn’t to get loads of people to read what I had to write- it was to give myself permission to talk freely about her. My daughter lived, and my life was enriched by the short time I spent with her. There is nothing shameful in choosing to honor her by remembering her. Every day. Sometimes, the grief is overwhelming and I can’t think straight for wanting her. Other times, I am joyful at heart for what I was given. But always I would like my loss acknowledged.
A couple of last things-
Yes, I do expect you to remember her birthday, and to remember her at Christmas time- because you remember my other children on those occasions. You (obviously) don’t need to buy a gift- make a donation to charity in her name. A charity that helps people suffering from a similar loss would be great. I know them all; just ask me, I’ll get the right one for you.
Please also remember, I have 5 children-not 4. And there is no such thing as “step” or “half” in my house. Just sisters and brothers. These are all my kids.
If you have photos of my other children up- I’d like hers along with them. She lived. I would be glad to give you a photo from her short time with us. My children are a packaged deal. I would be hurt if you took down photos of my other children if they passed away.
Lastly, from now on, when you ask me how I am, expect an answer. Because I’ve got one. I have decided that I am not going to be quiet any longer. Suffering in silence is not something I’m willing to do. If that’s a problem for you, then it’s your problem. Not mine- you aren’t the one who lost the baby, I am. So if I feel like talking about her- it’s ok. If it makes you feel awful to hear it, imagine how it makes me feel to live it.
My daughter was beautiful. She was quiet and tiny, and soft. She had perfect hands, and tiny feet. She was everything I could have imagined her being. Most importantly, she was well-loved.
How could I not want to tell the world all about what I found in her?