The singer Pink and I were pregnant for the first time, at the same time. I have always liked her music, and my unborn baby used to kick up a storm when I played Pink’s songs to her. Originally from the Philadelphia area like me, I had this fantasy of her coming home to visit family and our paths crossing and our babies meeting and how amazing that would have been.
Less than two months before Pink delivered her baby, I delivered mine. The only difference was that my baby was born still.
The technical term was “fetal demise,” and it happened when my daughter was 37 weeks and one day old. She died on a Thursday, and I delivered her the next day. Earlier that week, we heard her heartbeat, and it was strong and mighty. And then it was gone. She was gone.
I labored for close to a day before we all decided that a C-section would be in my best interest.
With a hospital lobby full of friends and family, I said hello and goodbye to my daughter that Friday. It was the saddest day of my life.
Two days later, I went home. My husband carried our daughter’s memory box which contained pictures, the blanket she used after she was born and the outfit the nurses dressed her in to meet us. The duffel bag on my lap contained the going home outfit she never got to wear, the nursing bras I would not need, and many other items that seemed to be packed by a stranger in another lifetime.
I went home and started the process of healing. My husband stayed with me for as long as he could, but eventually, he had to go back to work.
So I was home alone on my maternity leave when I read that Pink had her baby.
I wish I could say I was happy for her, but I wasn’t. Why did she get to have a baby when I could not have one? I added the unrealistic idea of ever having our girls meet to the list of very realistic things that my daughter would never get to do.
There was a moment back then, a flash in time, that I wished her baby did not survive. Not because I wanted her to grieve or be in pain or suffer what was surely the worst agony that I have ever lived through, but because if a major recording artist suffered a loss like mine, maybe it would start a conversation about stillbirth.
Before my daughter died, I thought that you were “safe” after 12 weeks. I knew a few women who miscarried a bit later, but I naively thought that the more the baby grew, the safer you were. Especially in 2011.
Stillbirth, if it happened, did not happen in modern-day America.
Boy was I wrong.
If I had to be grateful for anything, it would be that the conversation has finally started. Singer Lily Allen lost a child at six months gestation and was very vocal about it. Actress Katey Segal recently published a memoir, and in it, she writes about delivering her daughter still during her seventh month of pregnancy. Just last month, another singer, Charlotte Church, announced that her baby had died, just weeks after she announced to the world that she was expecting her third child.
The more people talk about child loss, the more informed people become. The more posts on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, the better. Child loss does not discriminate. When I suffered my loss, I felt so alone. I also felt like it was my fault.
It turns out I was not alone, and it was not my fault.
For some reason in our society, celebrities are revered. When I learned that someone famous went through something that I went through, I was oddly comforted. I think of these woman as my “sisters in grief.” I also reference them every once in a while when I have to explain stillbirth to someone who thinks it does not happen in this day and age.
I still encounter people who find it hard to believe I carried and delivered a daughter that is not here with me. They look at my other daughter and try to make sense of it, and I have to say, “No, not that one! There was one before her.” It’s so difficult for people to wrap their heard around.
The conversation is starting. My hope is that it never ends.
For all of the moms and dads who know the eerie quiet of the delivery room, the heavy weight of the memory box and the grief that encompasses your entire soul.