I’m not stupid. Of course, I know my baby is ugly. I know from the way you sit uncomfortably in your seat when I show his picture. From the way you pause as you try to think of something nice to say…. maybe about how he has so much hair!

I know my baby is ugly which is why I never post pictures of him online, the way I do with my other kids. I know that in the anonymity of the internet, people won’t be as kind as you are. They’ll say what they really think: “OMG! What is wrong with him!” or “You sicko, why would you post pictures of THAT!” In real life, you have to pretend to be interested. Social niceties mean you at least have to pretend that my son is beautiful. No one ever does that online.

I have eyes, of course, so I know my son is ugly. Not sharing his picture with you, either in person or online, makes me sad. So very, very sad. Because even though my son is ugly, my heart is filled with love for him. I don’t love him more, or less, than my other children. But when I share the pictures of my other kids, it can feel that way. It feels like I have one son I am ashamed of. Even though I’m not.

The truth is that I can’t cope with your harsh words, or even your uncomfortable looks. I am scared that people will steal his image, use it for their own sick purposes. I’ve seen that before you know, galleries of freak shows and even so-called pro-life protesters, stealing pictures of boys like my son to protest in front of clinics to try and shame women into changing their minds.

He wasn’t ugly

Maybe the saddest part is that I know you weren’t really ugly. After all, I have your identical twin’s picture too, and no one says that about him. The only reason you looked different was because your trauma was different. You died first, so your skin had more time to fall off a bit. You were lower in my pelvis, causing blood to pool in your face. Your fingernails are the deep red of someone who went without oxygen for far too long, prompting people to ask me if I painted your nails. And you had two hemangiomas on your right eyelid, that probably would have been fixed with surgery had you lived.

But the nurses did their best with the photos while I was in shock and unable to process what was going on. They carefully placed your hand on your chest, to cover the worst of the skin slippage. They used knitted hats and strategically placed baby bunnies to hide things they knew would likely upset others. I never saw you without a diaper, an unnecessary accessory, except it meant that I only found out when I read the autopsy report that you had an undescended testicle. Just one more thing that set you apart from your otherwise identical brother.

So please try to see my son through a mother’s eyes. He may be ugly, but he is my precious baby boy. And he means the world to me.