What I Mean When I Say, “My Daughter Was Stillborn”

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I don’t think that most people understand me when I say that my daughter was stillborn.

That phrasing makes it sound passive, like it was something that just happened to me, externally.

But that’s not what a stillbirth is, and I imagine that’s not what a miscarriage is either.

A stillbirth isn’t something that happened to me, or my daughter, or my family.

It’s something that happened inside me. That I was forced to participate in.

I keep trying to think of an analogy to explain how devastatingly non-passive enduring a stillbirth or miscarriage is, but nothing seems adequate. Perhaps it comes close to say that it’s like having cancer or another horrible, soul-draining, body-emaciating disease . . . only that the cancer that is within you is slowly killing someone else. Someone precious to you. And you are forced to come along for the ride, to participate in the killing.

But then, I’ve never had cancer or watched a loved one go through cancer, so maybe that’s way off, too.

The simple fact is – there is nothing like stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital to check on your baby, only to have the incredibly sweet joy of pregnancy replaced in an instant with the dull, moaning emptiness of knowing that you are still going to have to endure labor and birth and filling breasts and the weeks of bleeding.

Only your baby will be dead. Your labor pains will produce nothing but a shell of this most precious person. Your arms will be empty, and there will be no way to soothe your aching breasts.

And that doesn’t even factor in the grief, or the guilt, or the wondering of who or what in this wide world you are now that death has crept into your life, into your body, in such an insidious way.

I think it’s the not-understanding that enables people to tell me, not even a year and a half after my daughter’s stillbirth as I write this, to get over it. To move on.

But my question to those people is – how long did it take you to “get over” the death of a loved one, if you’ve ever had to endure such a thing? How long did it take you to “move on” (whatever that means)?

Now ask yourself: what if you had to participate in the death of your loved one, to help bring their ending of breath into being? Then how long would it take you to heal?

Stillbirth didn’t just happen to me. It doesn’t just happen to anyone. Your baby dies, and then you give birth . . . to your dead child.

It’s not passive. You participate, even though you don’t want to. Even though it makes you want to scream and scream and scream in horror.

You participate, and it keeps you up at night for weeks and months and years.

It’s been one year and four months since I birthed my daughter’s dead body, and that is still what blooms large in my mind every night as I wait for sleep to descend. I don’t ask for the memories to come – they are just there. I can’t escape. I birth her again and again in my mind, hold her again and again for the first and last time, feel the lingering ache of afterbirth that prevents me forgetting even for a moment the nauseating reality of what just took place.

Stillbirth does not just happen. It’s not clean and surgical. Instead, it is messy and active, and it opens a wound whose pain throbs on long past you wish it would. And it changes you.

So when I say, “My daughter was stillborn,” please know that I am not describing something that happened to me. I am describing a traumatic and pivotal event in which I was an active, unwilling participant, an event that I participate in the echoes of still.


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Beth About Beth

Beth Morey is the mixed media artist behind Epiphany Art Studio . Her soulful and whimsical creations are born out of the griefs, joys, and not-knowings of life. She is also the founder of Made , an online course exploring the intersection of faith and art, and the author of the creative healing workbook, Life After Eating Disorder. Beth loves meeting new friends through her blog , where she writes about faith, creativity, and life after stillbirth. She lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three naughty dogs. You can find Beth at Epiphany Art Studio — www.epiphanyartstudio.etsy.com or at her blog, www.bethmorey.com. You can also see her work at
Life After Eating Disorder -- http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Eating-Disorder-Have/dp/1478105453/

Comments

  1. I’m sorry for your pain and your loss. Unfortunately, I can relate to how you feel. Today is six months since I delivered my stillborn daughter at 33 weeks. The labor still haunts me, especially since they were unable to give me an epidural and I went through it without any drugs. Not being able to remove myself from the experience makes it hurt even more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is so frustrating when people tell you to move on.

  2. Beth, I want to honor these words you’ve written, but I’m not exactly sure how to do that. Please know that my heart embraced each aching line.

    You and your precious daughter are tucked into my mind today, and I think this story is one I won’t ever forget.

    Your pain is yours- thank you for allowing us to hear what it looks like, and what it feels like for you to walk in it.

  3. Hauntingly beautiful. Our children were not stillborn, but were born very, very early (17w6d) and a miscarriage of a twin during our subsequent pregnancy at 9w. “Now ask yourself: what if you had to participate in the death of your loved one, to help bring their ending of breath into being? Then how long would it take you to heal?” really struck me, because when it was confirmed that I would birth both our kids we induced to speed up the process. Thank you for pointing out the complete trauma that we’ve all encountered as a result of the deaths of our children.

  4. I feel like you just reached into my heart and wrote what I couldn’t explain.
    Beautifully written, and heartbreakingly true.
    Katy

  5. So beautifully written. Thank you for putting into words something I hadn’t yet been able to do.

  6. Thank you for this article, really put into words many of the same feelings I’ve had. I delivered my twins at 19 weeks, which is medically considered a miscarriage. But most don’t understand that I went into labor and had to deliver them and then be rushed into surgery since one of the placentas wouldn’t deliver. It’s been 3.5 years and I still replay that day in my head.

  7. Exactly! I too have been trying, for a year and a half now, to describe exactly what still birth actually means. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your words. Those four days where I heard the worst news of my life, labored, mourned, and became numb inside haunt me every single night.

  8. It has been 18 months since at 35 weeks i was told our daughter died. I thought that they could save her like in the movies. I will not get over her death/birth ever! 4 days of horrible memories that will haunt me.

  9. Elise Gonzalez says:

    Beautifully written! I can never put into words what it feels like to go through something like this. I still relive that day in my head everyday! It’s been a year and 5 months since I lost my precious little girl and God how I miss her and think of her everyday! Thank you for writing this for those of us who can’t really put into words what giving birth to a stillborn is like and the pain we have to live with over and over again!

  10. Ah, yes. We delivered our sweet baby boy…he wasn’t stillborn but my health had deteriorated and he was not growing. Continuing the pregnancy would have meant the death of us both. So we delivered him, a few weeks before he was viable, because I was too sick to grow him…because he was dying slowly anyway….

    For some crazy reason, he survived labor. We were shocked, entirely unprepared for the short moments we had with him. But I spent an entire day laboring for my baby that I believed to already be gone. I understand. I hated the happy families giving birth to healthy babies. I still hate seeing pregnant women with healthy, living babies they will soon give birth to…

    It’s been five months. It’s only easier on the days when I’m in denial. :-) Your words are beautiful. Soothing. Thank you.

    It

  11. Stephany says:

    these words are so very true, I remember when I found out my daughter passed away, I remember the feeling of wanting to avoid giving birth at any cost during that time. I remember the desperation of wanting, wishing, and trying to find ANYthing that would bring her back to life. you really do feel helpless, especially enduring that deafening silence… there is strength in knowing we aren’t alone in this pain, thank you for sharing.

  12. My heart ache’s for you and all those who suffered and continue to suffer the agony of still birth. To address your cancer issue. I had/have cancer. It was terrible, frightening, life altering but NOTHING compared to what you endured. Please know that you have touched my heart and soul. I will keep you my thoughts and prayers.

  13. It’s is also the what-ifs both past and present that people don’t seem to understand or consider. That every day I wonder what if I did something different…would I have my precious son and daughter (twins)? And every day I wonder what if they were with me today…would they smile like their daddy, have their mommy’s laughter? Every child I see who would be their age (2 1/2), I silently wonder would my children have the same behavior.

    Thank you for your words.

    There are too many people who believe that I should “be over it by now”. It is something we experience, endure and adapt our lives around. We become those parents who are not parents. It shapes us, molds who we are now. It is not something we will ever get over.

  14. Like the other mothers on this noticeboard, I want to say thank you.

    With your eloquent words you have reminded me that I am not alone.

  15. Phyllis Grant says:

    Your words haunt me. As a mother, I never experienced what you did. As a grandmother, I did. My daughter in law’s placenta ruptured at 32 weeks. Since she had cramped throughout her pregnancy, she was unaware that this was different. There was no blood. Nothing to tell her this was bad. She never dilated. Until the cramps kept on for hours. When she got to the hospital, her OB didn’t even come. The wonderful nurse had to tell us that Jonah had died. When they did her emergency c-section, they discovered she was bleeding out. She received 2 pints of blood during surgery. Jonah almost took his mamma with him. My son was away with the Army training. Her parents were out of the country. Except for me and some extended family, this young girl (22) endured the most terrible thing that she will ever experience by herself. I think of Jonah every day. He was a beautiful baby. I loved him then and i love him today. When she became pregnant with my granddaughter, it seemed that until she passed the 32 week mark, she was hesitant to let herself be too excited. My beautiful granddaughter came into this world 6 weeks early, a fighter! She has her big brother, Jonah, in heaven watching over her. When I am asked how many grandchildren I have, I tell them I have 2 – one in heaven and one here.

  16. Your words are so very true…and I thank you for sharing them to the world..I delivered our baby boy Andrew at 38 1/2 weeks not knowing he was gone until I was in the hospital bed getting prepped…I will never ever forget that tramatic day…and no one will ever understand it unless they go thru it. Its been almost a year since I deliverd my angel and I still remember it like it just happend yesterday….time goes on…life goes on..but for Stillborn moms…especially for me its a haze…a dream…and a nightmare all in one.

    Thank you for sharing…..thank for the truth…

  17. Stephanie says:

    Our daughter would be 13 this year, had she not been born still….THIRTEEN!!!! We have 3 rainbow babies….and they have helped bandage the gaping wound that is my heart…..but every now and then, something comes along, a word, a photo, an event, that rips the bandaid off my aching heart, and drops me to my knees in pain…..this time, it was the 13th Birthday of my friend’s daughter, who was *supposed to* be MY daughter’s BFF…..only instead, my daughter was born dead. Yes, stillbirth is not just an event in my life, it’s something that happened to us, something that ripped apart our family, and left a gaping hole in the family photos, and something that changed the core of who I am forever. I will never be that same person I was before I heard the words “There is no heartbeat.”…..that person died with her baby, and this person I am now is: stronger, more compassionate, feels deeper, trusts less, and wants more…..Time has helped ease the devastating raw pain, and now it’s just a small ache in the corner of my heart.

  18. Thank you so much for what you wrote. You have put into words what it is to experience both a miscarriage and stilbirth. I lost my two little boys, Alexander nine months ago at 20 weeks and Phoenix 1 month ago at 19 weeks. I re-live those moments everyday as if it was yesterday and will be forever changed.

  19. gbemisola says:

    Hmmmm…. Having read all these, words still fail me! 11th July 2013 was the day(3 weeks ago). I had my baby sleeping at 40weeks plus 5 days via a caesarean. He was my second babe and first son. A sleeping baby, a caesarian, shattered dreams, unanswered questions, hopeless life…. Good to know am not in this alone. A part of me is forever gone. Please, tell me its just a nightmare and it would be all over soon

  20. Jennifer O. says:

    Thank you for these oh so perfectly put words. I wish I could hand out this article to everyone I know. Just so they can maybe begin to understand this pain. It has been 5 months for us since our daughter was born at 19 weeks and 4 days. Medically this is considered a miscarriage (which enrages me) but I had to go through a full labor and delivery of both her and the placenta. I had to deliver my dead baby girl. I am just now starting to let myself feel this immense pain and heartache and it just seems like every day it gets worse. I just have to hold onto hope and faith and know it will get a little “better” with time.

  21. marilyn turnley says:

    27 years ago my Daughter Courtney Bubbles and I took the horrific journey you describe. Never before have I read such an apt description of the mind sucking horror and trauma of birthing a dead loved one then being expected to “move on”. 27 years later the experience remains, albeit softened by time and subsequent births. But always my Courtney is tucked in my heart as my secret sorrow. Thank you for understanding and articulating this experience. Your raw grief and courage is a testament to your bond to your Daughter. xo

  22. Thank you Beth for writing this. This is the first article/poem/quote/etc that is very similar to how I feel. No one understands this unless they have experienced it. And as someone that watched her father die slowly for a year, I can tell you the helplessness is very similar to stillbirth. At least it was to me.

    I lost my Annie at 25 weeks in September 2013. She was my first child. Nothing will ever be worse than enduring the intense pain of childbirth to finally reach that moment of relief as she came out, I couldn’t help but be excited for a moment, I had just delivered the beautiful life that grew inside me! With my eyes still closed, the silence in the room became deafening. I opened my eyes to my husband silently crying holding our very small, very still little girl. The little girl we worked so hard to make, that I worked hard to better myself for, to protect and nurture as best I could. I had failed. It was all over. My heart shattered in a way I could never describe.

    Now whenever it is silent I can’t help but think of Annie, and I know that will never change. Part of me died with her, and I die a little more every time its silent.

  23. It’s been almost 44 years since my baby boy was stillborn, and it still hurts. You might move on, but you never get over it. I carried my baby to full term and was told that they lost his heartbeat 30-45 minutes before he was born. I never got to hold him or see him.

  24. Your article is perfect. It has been almost 19 years since the death and birth of my daughter. I think of her every day, pray for her. But I have a constant living reminder. My stillborn daughter, Meghan, was an identical twin to her living daughter, Molly. They were both beautiful little redheaded babies. Meghan died at 28 weeks gestation and I then had to carry them both, one dead, one alive for over a month. At 31 weeks, Meghan was born first. She had lost her weight of 3lb.5oz to 1lb 7oz. Her bones had become soft. Her head misshapen from being down in the birth canal. Her tiny fingers were starting to fall off. But she was absolutely beautiful. I held her for five hours. And could not bare to hand her over to the nurse. That nightmare replays over and over to me. The not seeing her ever again. My cervix closed back up right away and the doctors wanted Molly to get every hour more she could inside of me. Molly was born at 31 weeks, 3lbs11oz, and was in the NICU for a month. She is my beautiful reminder of her soulmate and twin, Meghan.
    It gets easier in the fact that the pain sits in a spot in your soul like a wellknown friend. It hurts at times. But it also brings me joy knowing I have her in heaven waiting for me. I had her come to me in a dream once about 8 years after her death.
    Another dream I had that was so vivid was of my miscarried child, I call her Marina, between Molly and my son, Connor.

    The dream was so vivid: She was living in a home, just across the street from where I was (which was in the hospital, having my 2nd son). A home for all the children that died like ours. A wonderful, kind woman was their “housemother” you could say. I can remember peering into this home. Children were playing, laughing, running around. Cooking, tending to babies, coloring, swinging, you name it. They had joyous smiles. Marina was asking this woman if she could just go across the street, this once to see her new brother and her family.
    The woman said “Yes, Marina but you MUST come back no matter how bad you want to stay” and Marina had obliged.

    Next thing I remember was Marina was peering around the corner at me from my hospital bathroom. She came in and was this beautiful girl who had blonde hair and looked like my first son. She was a tomboy. She was beautiful. She hugged me. She played with my first son, COnnor, and Molly as we held my newest child, Matt. Of course, this was a dream and the time went just like that (snaps fingers). The woman was calling her back home. I could see her standing outside the home worried.

    Marina said “I don’t want to go back. I want to stay with my family.” But we all knew she had to go back. She told us she’d be waiting for us and that she could see us all the time. She knew how much she was loved. And she said she was very happy. She gave us big hugs and snuck back around that hospital bathroom door, peeking out to wave goodbye.

    I woke up sad but very happy and content. I know our babies are safe and happy. We just have to be patient to see them again.

    Many hugs and prayers to those of you who have lost like us. It is hard.

  25. It has been a long time since you wrote this and your baby would now be well over two -years-old as we never stop counting. I am sorry for your loss. You have captured something very important here. We who write, like words and, you are right in saying that the word and action and meaning of the event of Stillbirth is so misunderstood. I remember when I lost my Margaret 16 years ago that every time it came up, people would ask me, ” How did they get the baby out?” These are intelligent people, but their minds could not get wrapped around the vision of a mother delivering a dead child. Many people do not understand the definition of stillbirth and because it is so horrific, they consider that it must be a miscarriage. It is not, I have had a miscarriage and miscarriage’s are so sad and are such losses of hope but they are not holding a dead child with her brother’s lips and her sister’s nose in your arms and knowing that you will never see the color of her eyes. Thank you for your writing this. I hope those who support people who have had a stillbirth will read this and have a better understanding. And as far as getting over, I have so many joys in my life to be thankful for but turn to my blog and you will see that in a second, you can be taken back into your gief again. Check out my website at http://www.robinlentzworgan.com

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