Friday, November 5, 2010


I have been misunderstood.
I need a thicker skin.
I take my blog seriously and am honoured that so many women have written to me, saying how much I have helped them.
I try to blog responsibly, respectfully and diplomatically.
At the same time, I try to say how I really feel about things.
At the end of the day, although I appear strong and that I am coping, I am a grieving mother, who cries all night as I remember my daughter's blonde eyelashes. Some days, all I can think about is the creases on the palms of her little hands.
I am soft inside and the smallest things will bring me undone, even now.
I have been misunderstood and that makes me sad.

In light of Lily Allen's stillbirth, there has been debate over the difference between stillbirth and miscarriage.
Airing my thoughts on the difference between the two has prompted some feelings amongst others. I am going to explain my position on the difference between miscarriage and stillbirth one more time, as clearly as I can. Remember: you do not have to take this on board. I am not an expert. I am simply using the medium of writing to process my still very palpable grief.

My friend Haidee is newly pregnant after 3 years of trying to conceive and 3 cycles of IVF. If she miscarries her baby (and you wont, Haidee, I can see him in your arms) I am not going to say to her "my grief was worse." You know why? Because I dont know if my grief is worse. I am not Haidee. Haidee's situation is unique and if she were to miscarry, I would cry for her, for her hopes, her dreams, her efforts and all that goes with it. The journey that Haidee has travelled to get where she would make the event of her having a miscarriage (which she wont) an utter tragedy.

That is the same for everyone. Every woman's experience of loss, whatever the gestational age, is unique. Every woman has connected with, and bonded with her child, even in the embryonic stages.

I would never presume to tell anyone that their grief is wrong or invalid. I would never say "my pain was worse because my baby was older." I am not one to play games of one-up-man-ship. I dont want to "win" at grief. I am not a grief hog. It is not who I am.

That said, I have to put it forward that stillbirth and miscarriage are very different experiences.
In my opinion, (but of course, I have no bearing or influence over this) there should be four stages of pregnancy/infant loss. Miscarriage, Second Trimester Loss, Stillbirth and Neonatal Death.
Language is important to give each stage the recognition and acknowledgement it deserves and is the first step to understanding the gravity of what it means to lose a child.

I will say one more time: Pain is personal and I am not measuring grief.

However, this is what I think of when Sybella's stillbirth is referred to as a miscarriage, or when someone tells me they know how I feel because they had a miscarriage.

I think of Sybella being wheeled away. Not to the nursery. To the morgue.
I think of her limbs swishing in the water of her first and last bath, as if she were alive and just floating.
I think of the early days, weeping milk and tears.
I think of the midwife handing me her birth certificate. That may as well have been a death certificate.
I think of Kelvin and I choosing a coffin. A tiny white coffin.
I think of handing over Sybella's funeral gown to the director in a white bag.
I think of doing up the buttons of her gown the day before her funeral.
I think of explaining to Jack that his sister isnt coming home.
I think of Jack asking the parent of every newborn female baby he sees in the shops if that baby is Sybella.
I think of the hours spent howling like an animal over the gaping hole in my life that will be there forever.

That is my pain, I own it. I dont know if it is worse than anyone else's. But it is mine and it is personal.
I must say though, that if Sybella were miscarried in the early days, my life would be extremely different right now. It is my subjective belief that although one cannot measure pain or grief, that what Kelvin and I went through, and what other parents of stillborn babies have to endure is very different to the experience of a miscarriage. It just is.
I think perhaps that much of the pain accompanying a miscarriage is the lack of acknowledgement of a much loved baby. That could be why women who have miscarriages want the same rituals that stillbirth sufferers "get." So they feel their grief is justified, so they dont feel silly for mourning what others think is just a bunch of cells or tissue.
To the women who have had miscarriages or second trimester losses and have been upset by anything I might have expressed in the past: I am not dismissing your grief. I do think your child is real. I respect your pain, your experience and your baby, however old it was.

Please respect mine.

I hope I have no longer been misunderstood.

I have tried my best to be gentle. Please be gentle with your responses.


  1. That's really beautiful Steph, very moving, and incredibly brave. Sybella is so lucky to have you as a mum xx

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Steph - your words are so thoughtful & honest & I think it takes so much courage for you to share such private & personal things with others. I totally agree with your thoughts on this - as someone who has suffered an early miscarriage I know the pain that comes from that experience but I agree it is totally different to that of a still birth. Every time I read stories of stillbirths I sob uncontrollably just trying to comprehend the immense pain & grief that must be felt by people who have been unfortunate enough to go through it, and I would never wish that type of loss on anyone. Picturing you with Sybella just breaks my heart and I am just so full of admiration for your strength and I can tell how much you love her & always will. xx

  3. stillbirth is when a baby dies in the mothers womb , pregnancy loss is when you miscarry. In my opinion, doesn't matter if it was second or third trimester, when your baby dies inside you & you have to give birth to him/her its stillbirth. Your words are honest & passionate. God bless you & your precious angel.

  4. In my opinion, you didn't need to post this. I heard you loud and clear the first time and still support you 110 per cent of the way.
    The loss of any baby at any age or gestation is tragic. But miscarriage and stillbirth, as horrible as both words are, are not the same.

  5. Dear Steph..I don't think you have been misunderstood..I think you have provided a forum for women to talk about their experiences with miscarriage and miscarriage was 26 years ago but I will never forget it despite having 2 healthy babies who are now in their 20's. I think women were sharing their raised an issue that is full of emotion and that was very brave of you....the blog is brilliant!xxx

  6. I ran into this same issue on my blog. It's a touchy, delicate subject. I heard you the first time around, but this post is beautiful too.

  7. Oh I hope you didnt take my comment on your lily allen post the wrong way :(

  8. Followers/Commenters (Cat!)...none of you made me feel misunderstood at all. The issue was that I got a bunch of private emails from a fair few people telling me that I was insensitive. I felt hurt because I like to think Born Still helps people and I was upset at the thought that I had been disrespectful. So I wanted to clear the air and try my point again. Everyone's support here has been wonderful and all have the freedom to say what they think. I dont want to stifle anyone. But thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Love to all.

  9. I think you explained it well ... we are all unique in our grief journey.I can't see how anyone can sit in judgement of you for explaining it as you see it.