StoryCorps and Stillbirth–Your Story Matters
Stories matter. Your story, and your child’s story, may not resonate with everyone, but it might contain in it an element that makes someone else feel less alone or less crazy, it might nudge someone to help a friend they’d overlooked before.
About a year ago, my wife and I had a unique chance to share with others our story, to share a little of what it’s like to experience a stillbirth. StoryCorps–who invites regular people to interview each other, and turns those stories into radio segments–partnered with the National Institutes of Health, where my wife works. Genevieve submitted a request, and before we knew it we were sitting in one of their Airstream “MobileBooths” in front of microphones talking about the excitement of the pregnancy, the shocking loss when Simon passed, and the deepening love we’ve experienced since.
The story was titled “All the books we read…never could have prepared us for that.” It was published at this site, including the transcript below.
Admittedly, when we signed up our motivation was roughly 5% to do the nice-sounding things above, and 95% to satisfy a self-serving desire to talk about our favorite little guy. But either way, I’m glad we shared. There are a lot of things we wished we’d said, or said better; and, of course, much of the nuance was lost in shortening the last two and a half years into a 45 minute interview and then into a 4-minute segment, but we’re glad we did it. Also, Simon’s name will forever be officially listed in the Library of Congress (with whom StoryCorps partners); having him formally documented somewhere feels oddly comforting, since he had such precious little time here.
It hurts, but also feels good to tell his story; I hope you have chances to tell yours, too.
Related: Why Your Birth Story Matters
Andy Gillette: You told me on Father’s Day that we were pregnant.
Genevieve Gillette: Mmhmm. Yeah, that was just perfect.
Andy Gillette: I know, timing was great.
Genevieve Gillette: Oh yeah.
Andy Gillette: I remember just being so excited and looking forward to all the stuff that we’d be doing together. Learning if you’d be a boy or a girl or all that stuff, come up with names and all that.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah. I remember being so excited and putting your hands on my belly, watching our baby move around and kick and the counting down the weeks.
Andy Gillette: When do you remember that something was wrong?
Genevieve Gillette: It was Valentine’s Day, a Friday, and I had just had on Wednesday an ultrasound and biophysical profile and everything was perfect. But that Friday I noticed the baby wasn’t moving as much as normal. I remember I told you that I was a little worried and you immediately asked whether we should call the doctor and ah, I said no right away because I just thought that it was normal. That I was just about one week and two days from my due date and I knew that the baby moves less as time progresses because they’re running out of room a little bit.
Andy Gillette: No space.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah, he was getting so big. On Sunday I called the doctor because I still wasn’t feeling him move so much. I really wasn’t worried, but then when we got in the car to drive to the hospital I started to feel much more concerned, and I think that was the first time I let myself think that something really could be wrong.
Andy Gillette: And they took us back to that room and did an ultrasound like they’ve done a million times and–
Genevieve Gillette: It was such a shock to find out that he had no heartbeat.
Andy Gillette: Yeah. I remember the look on your face and just being helpless, you know.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah.
Andy Gillette: I was really surprised when they said that you would just deliver Simon like a normal baby and realizing, like, not we’re going to have to go through the whole labor, that was going to be this great experience and now it’s going to be really sad.
Genevieve Gillette: Yeah, everything that we had planned and all the books we read and all the preparations we made never could have prepared us for that, never made mention of anything like that happening. It’s hard now to even drive that same route to the hospital.
Andy Gillette: Do you remember the labor very much?
Genevieve Gillette: Oh I remember, yes. I’m thankful that it was very fast, but I have so many regrets. The doctor said, “We don’t know why it happened but we know it’s not your fault,” and I was thankful that she said that ‘cause I feel like if I had called sooner or if I had done something differently, maybe we would be okay.
I wish I had asked them to give him to me right away instead of cleaning him up and putting him in those donated clothes that weren’t ours. I wish we had given him a bath and just held him longer, stayed longer, asked our families to come. I try harder to remember holding him, but I’m so glad we did hold him and we have pictures of him and his perfect face, wavy brown hair. I’m glad we named him.
Andy Gillette: Simon Alexander Gillette.
Genevieve Gillette: Uh huh. We never saw him open his eyes or take a breath, but he’s changed our lives so much.
Andy Gillette: I think we’ve really grown so much closer together through this and there have been so many times when I’ve been down and you’ve been able to help pick me up and vice versa. We’re always there for each other and just feel so fortunate that we found each other.
Genevieve Gillette: I know, isn’t is strange to feel, like, so lucky–
Andy Gillette: I know.
Genevieve Gillette: –to have each other and say I feel so lucky when really, you know, in one respect we’re not at all lucky.
Andy Gillette: The worst.
Genevieve Gillette: But still feel so grateful to have you in my life.
Andy Gillette: Yeah, me too.