I don’t have this in my About Karen information, so it may be a surprise for you to learn that at one time in my life, I gave birth to a stillborn baby. His name is Christopher and he was beautiful.
How many of you out there has lost a baby to death?
I know, this might seem like a harsh way to put things, but really isn’t that what stillbirth is?
One in every 160 births in the united states is a stillbirth. This puts the stillbirth rate at less than one percent of all births. Some may say an insignificant number…. unless you are one who has had this happen to you.
Did you know this about stillbirths?
There continues to be a stigma when talking about the subject, especially in public. Why? Death is a part of life. This sounds like an awkward statement, but it couldn’t be truer. When someone dies of old age, it’s expected. When someone dies in a tragic accident, there is no stigma. When it’s a stillbirth however, no one ever talks about it.
One reason of course is that it is such a devastating blow to the parents that people don’t talk about it out of respect for their feelings. That’s nice. But what other reason is there? It’s a hard subject, or heavy, mood darkening subject. We avoid doing many things in life because they are hard.
The fact is, I have found in my profession that the more something is talked about, the more normalized it becomes. So, if we talked about it more, we would see that stillbirth is a part of life. Hell, to get through yes, but it’s always easier to get through something when there are people standing beside us to help.
So, if you know, talk to me about it, ask me to tell my story. You can say, oh Karen, I’m so sorry if you want. I will tell you thank you for thinking of me.
If you are unsure about talking about it with me, ask me if it’s okay. I may get choked up, that’s okay. For me it was a long time ago and I still get choked up but talking about it is good.
Death is a part of life. Stillbirth is a part of life.
I’m not saying that it isn’t a profound life changer, because it is, but it isn’t a taboo subject. It needs to be talked about. The same goes for people who have had miscarriages, the loss is great and sharing the burden with others can help heal the pain.
It’s the same way for parents who have lost a child who was yet a child. They morn for what could have been, they created this beautiful person and nurtured them, only to have the life yanked away, leaving behind their toys, clothes, pictures and many other reminders. These parents need support from the rest of us. They need us to acknowledge the life that once was. We need to be strong for them, to give them some of our strength.
There are many reasons for a stillbirth, mine was that I had toxemia, or pre-eclampsia. Essentially, my baby starved to death because he wasn’t getting any nutrition from the blood clot choked placenta. It makes me so sad that my poor baby had to go through what he did, and I will cry when I talk about it, but you shouldn’t forget, the pain is always there, just because I’m crying in front of you when we talk about it, doesn’t mean you caused that pain. That pain will be with anyone who has lost a child forever. Forever. It is still better to talk about it with friends than it is to cry about it on cold lonely nights. Friends can help ease the pain, their knowing and understanding help.
This past winter, I made a stop at the cemetery where my forever little one is buried. I felt compelled to write a poem about the pain and I would like to share it with you now.
A Stop at the Cemetery
I stopped at the cemetery today, it being only a week until the anniversary of my baby’s birth/death.
I don’t know what I wanted to accomplish by that, I just knew that I had to stop.
His little headstone looked so cold and lonely.
Had I not been there in a while to add some sparkle?
I guess not.
I felt guilty.
I wished that I had insisted my name be on the stone as a parent, but I let them put Mr. and Mrs. instead of Joe and Karen because that’s what he wanted.
In some ways it feels like yesterday.
In others, so many lifetimes ago and as if it didn’t really happen at all.
It did happen.
I was fine.
I made it out of there without crying.
Other thoughts coming in and out of my consciousness.
Then it hit me.
I remember the little white coffin.
I remember standing at the grave while the preacher spoke.
I remembered the cold, bone chilling wind that day.
I sobbed as I drove.
Deep gut-wrenching sobs.
The pain they say subsides with time.
This is not true, the pain is always there, always.
It’s just that life goes on, there are children to take care of and suppers to make.
And all the other details of life.
We learn to push it away when it comes, if only to be able to survive the day.
The night is a whole other story.
Eventually we learn to put the memory in its own little compartment.
Away, where it can’t hurt so bad.
Away, where it can’t come creeping in at night wreaking havoc on the much-needed sleep.
Away, for years and years.
So that when it breaks free, it comes back with a vengeance.
This is our reality.
That is how we make it through the rest of our lives.