In twenty minutes, a mother who has been laboring, in pain, terror, disbelief and anguish, will give one final push, and her silent, stillborn baby will be born.
In twenty minutes, a father, shocked, in horror and in terrible amazement, will watch as his lifeless child, perfect but still, is carefully swaddled.
He will watch as the doctor awkwardly and uncomfortably asks his distraught, grief stricken wife if she wants to hold this unmoving bundle of bleach smelled blanket and lifeless form.
The mother, wet from tears, sweat and blood, will be shaking, broken, overwhelmed, and will, with uncertainty, recieve her baby in her arms. Both parents will feel ill-prepared and terribly alone.
In twenty minutes, this baby’s older brother, a surviving sibling, will face weeks, maybe months of distraction and mood swings from his parents. He will wonder why mom is crying, or shouting, or throwing things for no reason. He will wonder why dad doesn’t come home from work on time anymore or why he yells at him or his mom or why his dad retreats so often to tinker in the garage.
Yes, in fifteen minutes now, an ill-prepared loved one will soon tell this mother not to worry, because at least she has the older child.
Still another ill-prepared loved one will think to tell the parents that they can try again.
The distraught father will try to protect the mother from the mounting pain, anger, confusion and devastation. He will try to minimize his grief in an effort to minimize hers.
The baby who is born will not need a carseat. Returning home from the hospital, the birth will be unmarked by visitors bringing the family a warm meal.
Verily, in twelve minutes, a volcano of emotion, tension, and destruction will be brewing in these parents hearts.
The mother will wonder why everyone she knows and loves are demanding her to be so unloyal to her feelings of sadness and loss.
She will turn against those she loves as she retreats internally, trying to lick her own wounds while filling with resentment at being ignored and overlooked.
The surviving sibling – remember him? In ten minutes, he will not know it, but the family plan to attend church this Sunday will be vanished.
After a weekend of hiding quietly in his bedroom, listening to the sounds of wailing, hushed whispers and shouting from his parents, he will return to school on Monday, confused and lonely. He will wonder if his friends think he is weird, if his parents were bad, or if he somehow hurt his mom and killed his little sister.
He will begin to wonder if his parents love him. Or if they even should.
They will feel that others around them are rushing them to move on and forget. Forget that their child is not alive.
They will feel that others around them don’t want them to count their child. That because nobody else knew their child, that their child doesn’t count.
These parents, this mother and father, will look upon that bundle wrapped in a hospital blanket, and will wonder if they should push it away.
They will imagine – for just a moment – that pushing that bundle away, not looking, not touching, will help them move on faster.
Will help them forget. People they know will reflect this sentiment, time and time again, in the months and years to come.
But in three minutes, their hearts will be so heavy that they won’t be able to move. They will be held there, in that moment, holding their lifeless baby.
In the United States alone,
- 600,000 mothers endure pregnancy loss through miscarriage
- 26,000 mothers endure pregnancy loss through stillbirth (source)
71 mothers today will give birth to a stillborn baby. 71 families will be changed forever, their spiritual health, relational health, marital health and even physical health will all be threatened. Illness and injury manifesting as silenced grief will affect each member of the family, causing time off of work, time out of school, and time stolen from family bonding. All 71 of these families need to know that they are not alone. That there is hope. That there is healing. That there is stillbirthday.
Every twenty minutes a stillborn baby is born, in the US alone.
It is happening,
Tell your loved ones, your co-workers, your neighbors, your medical providers, your religious leaders, that pregnancy loss is still birth.
That the birth experience is only the beginning of a lifelong process of living in grief, a lifelong quest to make sense of it and to find your place within it. That even the earliest miscarriage deserves to be honored as the birth, and the death, that it is. Tell them, tell them now:
A pregnancy loss is still a birthday.
For further reading: every minute an American baby is born via miscarriage.