My personal journey from stillbirth to writing Life Touches Life
I started to write when I was still in the hospital, on morphine, and not sure I would live. A Group B Strep infection killed my daughter silently, and after the C-section, I had a fever that raged at 104 degrees (F) for almost two weeks. Doctors had me hooked up intravenously to several families of antibiotics in an attempt to kill the infection.
Writing to process life comes so naturally to me that, even in a fevered stupor, I reached for the notebook on my hospital table in the middle of the night. I remember the room was barely lit. The New York skyline was visible in the distance and my husband was sleeping on two chairs in the corner of the room. I scribbled words, phrases, and little questions, such as “What should I be mad at?” Or a nurse’s name, or a smell or if flowers arrived that day.
After I knew I would live, and I was home, I searched the Internet for the story of a mother who had been through what I was going through. I found none and felt very alone. The hospital, on my way out, had given me a single sheet of paper on which was typed five contact names and phone numbers to find support. I called each one. All were defunct.
I felt the siege of silence that wraps itself around stillbirth enclosing me, and it was cold.
Time went on, and I kept writing what I felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sentences grew into pages and chapter breaks suggested themselves. Months went by, then a year, and I noticed that people who once had been close to me had stopped calling, or said horrible or thoughtless things. I was told to get over the loss because I’d surely have other children (which I did not). I was told to keep the pictures of my baby to myself because to show them made people sick. One person even suggested that if I killed myself I could be with my daughter.
All those relationships fell away, although they had strengthened my resolve to write good and useful language about what had happened to meand 26,000 other American stillbirth mothers every year. I wanted to create language that would illuminate stillbirth, an unspoken corner of existence, and language that would help heal those who shared my fate.
I wanted to write words of understanding for those who did not share my fate, and more to excite and inspire lawmakers and doctors to spend research dollars to stop this pain wherever it could be stopped and to change monitoring protocols to save as many babies as possible. Words are power and, as a writer, I felt I somehow had been entrusted with this experience for the purpose of witnessing it for the larger population. That is what we do as reporters every day. The difference here is that this is my story, and so I could honestly tell it in first person from an inner place, in all its nuances, from my heart. It feels extraordinarily good to have birthed this book. I now nurture it, and its message, lavishing on the topic of stillbirth and public awareness the attention and love I would have given my daughter had she lived. The book is a way to honor her memory, and have her brief life make a large difference for the good.