Thursday, January 29, 2009

The fight to love

My daughter is doing a jump rope for heart thing, and she gets to color a heart in memory of someone. Of course, the little dear wanted to put Myles' name on it and it will hang in her gym, which is so bittersweet. She had put glitter glue on the heart so they needed to dry, so this morning I cut it out for her and she took it to school.

On the way there, she did something she hasn't done before. She said that she can see Myles, he's not just in my heart, that he is right next to her in the back seat. Well, these are the things that I don't want to react to until I process it. I asked her what he looked like and she said, just like he did when he was born, except alive. (wince) I know she didn't mean anything by it, she's just a kid who says what she thinks, and the one thing she KNOWS is that Myles was dead; he looked dead, he felt dead.

I thought a lot about what she said in the car, we live in the country now so it's a good 10 minute drive to get to her school, and then I'm alone on the way back. I guess, what struck me, not for the first time, but for the first time this clearly, is how hard we have to fight to love our dead babies.

Stillbirth is such a unique and tragic situation. It's not like losing a child any other way, because we never get to see our loved one alive. I was arguing on this message board where people were saying those 'real babies' are creepy. I don't have one or want one, but it made me mad that this was their reaction knowing that some moms cherish those dolls. I was told I shouldn't be mad because that's how the majority of people think, but I don't think that's a good reason not be mad at all. Basically, the argument was that these babies didn't look quite alive, and that made them creepy. When I discussed bereaved parents, somebody even argued that bereaved parents are wrong to buy these dolls, one poster said it would be like having his brother die, and then getting a doll replica of him dead. GRRRRR.

The point I made to him, is that analogy is stupid. Unlike him and his brother, I NEVER SAW MY SON ALIVE. He had purple lips, and a bruised face. And even if those dolls were unsatisfactory in those people's eyes, they looked WAAAAY more alive than my son did.

So, I don't know if I was barking up the wrong tree, or maybe just beating my head against it? But one thing is true about stillbirth, we have to fight to love our dead babies. That's the one thing that has stayed with me from An Exact Replica, the idea that it's okay to love them, it's not morbid or macabre. Even though we never got to see them smile, or the color of their eyes, even though we've ONLY seen them dead and lifeless, we love them just the same.

I birthed a dead baby. I held and swaddled a dead baby. I love a dead baby. And in every other way he was a perfect baby, my Myles. He just wasn't alive.

And I have to fight for it, damn it. Because it makes people uncomfortable, grossed out. We have to fight because others combat their awkwardness by believing there is something wrong with us. They want us to move on because they can't deal with it, they aren't comfortable looking death in the face. But when you've experienced a stillbirth, you carry death in your womb, you birth death, then you hold death in your arms and you sing death a lullaby. It's not creepy, it's not gross, it's tragic.

So I guess I have a new sense of vigilence, thanks to a stupid people on a message board and a long commute. People who have lost a child to stillbirth deal with the guilt and shame of losing their child unexpectedly, why the hell should we be shamed into hiding our love and our grief?


Anonymous said...

I was just reading an on-line discussion about those dolls, and I had a similar reaction as you. I haven't experienced a stillbirth, but I have other issues that I deal with in ways that make people highly uncomfortable. So when I read all this judgment being forced upon these women? Well, the blood, it began to boil.

And this was a very moving post. The "perfect, just not alive" description of your son sounds like one of those terribly beautiful images that are difficult to express. Thank you for sharing it.

(An aside, I hope you don't mind comments from a stranger. I just really appreciate your writing and wanted to let you know. If that's not cool, just let me know. I understand.)

anarchist mom said...

totally cool, thanks for the comments!

Ebe said...

Trish, the attitude from that message board makes me furious.

You are so right. Unfortunately, we DO have to fight to love our children, to hang their pictures on our walls and not be shamed into hiding them away, to speak of them and the happiness we knew with them instead of fearing to speak even their names...
So true- it is tragic, not creepy or gross.

mama said...

oh, it's those people who make most angry! luckily i haven't met too many of them in real life, but if i did i would tell them where they could go. i really appreciate your writing about this. i remember after Birdie our daughter was stillborn finding out about those dolls, for us we just didn't want to have something like that. but, i do understand why some parents do want them.