Monday, September 27, 2010

The Silence of Stillbirth

Why is stillbirth a taboo subject? Why does it make some people uncomfortable? What is it about a dead baby that makes people clam up, avoid eye contact and avoid me?
I get that stillbirth is a sad topic, I do understand that. I know that sad topics are usually ones that people prefer to leave alone. Why focus on something sad when you can focus on something else that isnt? I also know that other people may not know how I have been, where I am in my grief, and will not bring up Sybella with me for fear of sparking something off that I may have already buried. Does that make sense? I am really trying to marry my frustration with understanding and compassion for the average person, so apologies if I sound jumbled. I know that some are trying to protect me and my feelings by not mentioning Sybella or stillbirth, for fear of upsetting me. I appreciate it, I do. It is coming from a place of consideration and kindness, I recognise that. Interestingly, though, no matter how much someone brings up Sybella, your mentioning of her is never going to upset me than I already am. I never stop thinking about her. She is on my mind one hundred times a day. Dont assume that I've forgotten her and if you bring her up you will stir up my grief. On the contrary. Talking about Sybella with me will show me your courage and bravery. It will demonstrate that she existed as a real person to you. My grief is a never ending plateau of sadness now. It has leveled out but always present. No one needs to worry about stirring it up.
Ultimately, people dont know how to act in these situations. I must respect that. I know the average person means well, but is ill equipped to deal with the situation when thrown into it. They freeze, become jittery, or avoid me altogether. I sense that I become the tragic burden on everyone's shoulders, the sad lady in the room, and Sybella's name hangs, unsaid, in the air while everyone else desperately tries to keep the otherwise jovial spirit of the social situation in question alive.

This probably sounds unfair of me.

The thing is, I cant ask people to behave in a way that makes them uncomfortable. I can only expect from people whatever they are willing to express to me. It just so happens, I have much more time and appreciation for those who speak Sybella's name with me, confidently, without squirming, without a pitiful sideways glance. I never knew that experiencing stillbirth would make me feel so embarrassed. Well, actually, I dont feel that. But there is the potential to go into overdrive to cover my grief so that others dont feel uncomfortable. I try (but NEVER succeed, because it exhausts me) to remain upbeat and smiley so the person I am speaking to doesnt need to feel awkward about how they should act or what they should say. I take control so the other person is free from their fear about how to handle me.
I dont want people to be awkward around me. I hate feeling responsible for their discomfort. I never want to bring anyone down with my experience. But my daughter did die. It happened. I am going to carry it forever. I can say I am sorry if that makes anyone feel uncomfortable, but I wont. The ideal would be for people to lose their awkwardness about stillbirth and infant loss. I cant change people, I know. But really, if anything, treat me normally. I dont always want to speak about her, I dont always want to speak about stillbirth. I am capable of talking about other stuff too. If I start talking about other stuff, engage with me, instead of fidgeting and wondering how long until I bring up Bella. And when I do bring up Bella, talk with me as if we were talking about any other child. 

I dont want to sound unfair, seriously and I hope I dont. Chances are, if you are reading this, you arent a person who is afraid of me at the moment and if I know you in "real life" you are natural and normal with me! Because those who are usually avoid anything to do with stillbirth, including my blogs. I am also not pointing any fingers...what I have just written about just seems to be a generalised reaction to a Babylost parent, epecially in the months after the death. An observation, if you will.

The question remains: WHY is stillbirth such a silenced topic?


  1. Oh Steph your words are so true and I feel every word you speak for I feel that way too...Take care of yourself I can't wait to meet you on oct 15th and we will all talk about our sweet little babies becouse they made us who we are today our sweet little Angels in heaven nothing will ever change that...Always Kim

  2. What a great post. I have been through something that relates closely to this today - huge fallout with a family member that all happened in the wake of Hope dying. I wish I could send this post to the person in question, but sadly they are so far from getting it, I'm not sure it would even make any difference.
    Thank you for writing this though.

  3. I'm so glad you wrote this Steph, because in the past I was one of those people who got jittery and uncomfortable and didn't know what to say, because no-one has ever been so honest about their grief before and I really didn't know it was okay to talk about the person who died. And I suppose it's not the same for everyone, and maybe some people would prefer if you didn't bring it up, but I'm glad you're not one of them. I think it's really important for you and Sybella and everyone else that you do think about her and talk about her and remember her everyday. After all, she'll always be your daughter. Nothing changes that.

  4. Mithra, I must say that I never picked that up from you! You always spoke openly to me. Thank you xx

  5. thanks for sharing this ...I agree.
    I speak to people who I know won't feel uncomfortable ...after 6 yrs, everyone else I can their discomfort.
    I wish for a world when we could openly talk about our angels in heaven, on earth.

    Ps I found you first on mamamia's blog, then I saw Sybella's memorial page, then I saw your name & Sybella's on BearOfHope.
    I am glad I found your blog.