Stillbirth: Something Left Unseen
Writing my baby’s name in the sand was something I’ve been wanting to do since he died. After more than two years, I had not forgotten this desire and I found myself at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. I picked a spot and began crafting it carefully, focusing, pulling chunks of sand to sharpen the clarity of the letters. I picked apart the lei my husband had gifted me, plucking them through the string they were on. Kneeling in, careful not to make extra marks in the sand, I sprinkled white and blue flowers all around the letters. I set brilliant white pieces of coral in with the flowers. A halo over his “R” denoted his death. My little Reecer-man. People were milling about, some walking in the water just feet away. They paid me no mind and let me work.
A wave came in and I eyed it carefully, lifting my camera, feeling an urgency. A second big swell came in and surged over my work. Water splashed against my feet. The tide pulled out, smearing the letters, dragging the flowers away in a floppy roll. This close to the water I should have known better. I sat down in frustration. Then it occurred to me.
This was stillbirth.
Something that was there but is now erased. A deep irreversible shift of tectonic proportions happens inside you that no one can see.
The sand was so smooth, you’d never know what I wrote there. Who had been there. The sand had forgotten Reece.
I sat for a long while thinking about his little life and how it has impacted mine. It often seems that the rest of the world has moved on, focused on new worries, forgotten our son. I feel him every day, like a little warm hum in the air around me. I could never forget him. He is alive in me and drives how I feel and think about the world now.
I moved away from the water and started writing his name again. Maybe the night tide would carry it away, but I was compelled to do it again. Leave his name here for people to see, to read, for him to hold a minute in their brains as their eyes skimmed the beach.
I found myself writing another name in the sand, a friend’s baby. Little Cora Grace. It was almost her 3rd birthday in Heaven and I knew her Mama was in pain. Soon, I was writing all my friend’s babies’ names. I covered the beach in angel names and flowers.
Being forgotten is the deepest fear I have for my dead son. For my living sons, I worry about them running into the street or pinching their fingers. For Reece, it’s only being forgotten. Just as the sand had pulled his name smooth, so Nature had taken his human body. What cannot be seen is often forgotten. A baby whose life was lived only inside my body seems all the more forgettable. Stillbirth seems to make that baby forgettable. Erasable. So I will do what I can to be open about him. I will write his name everywhere. Help him be seen. To talk of him often.
It was hours later after lunch, I wandered back down to the beach. There where I had set his name, I noticed people had taken care to walk around. Perhaps tomorrow it would be erased, but for today, people would know someone loved had been lost. And that his name was Reece.
Photos by Arica Carlson.