Surviving Stillbirth: Living with “Nevers”

I have a silver necklace that I never wear. It’s a double-layered cylinder on a thin silver chain. Embedded in the center are two simple, tiny footprints surrounded by the names “Isaac” and “John.” My necklace is a reminder of my sons: beautiful identical twin boys who I never saw, never kissed, and never even held. Boys I never knew in this life.

My sons were born at 4:50 a.m. on June 29, 2010. Both were stillborn. Both were so deformed that the doctors could not distinguish their gender without an autopsy. Both were my sons ““ my precious, beautiful babies.

I miss them both. I think about them every single day.

As a mother to stillborn children, I live with a lot of “nevers.” Never felt them kick. Never heard them cry. Never kissed a scraped knee. Never heard a first word. Never walked them to school. Never grounded them for staying out late. Never. Never. Never. My life with these children is full of nevers. But there is one never that I am finding more difficulty with as of late: I never talk about them.

This never is not as uncommon as I thought, even though, statistically speaking, 1 out of every 150-200 pregnancies ends as a stillbirth. This is a startlingly high statistic, especially considering how little I hear about stillbirths and the women who survive them.

How many, do you think, live with the same nevers that I do? How many never speak of their babies, afraid that they will seem ungrateful for those who lived? How can we remove the stigma from stillbirths, opening the door for women to grieve publicly, to acknowledge the precious lives that were replaced with never-ending nevers?

For me, this process began by replacing at least one never with an always.

3 months after my sons were born, I crawled in my bed, hoping to escape the real world for an hour or two. Hogwarts seemed to be an acceptable venture, so I slowly began to reread the last book in the Harry Potter series. This series is one that I have always wanted to read to my children. In fact, for years I dreamed of the nights that my kids would take baths, put on their jammies, brush their teeth, and jump on my bed for a bedtime story. Even now, I can almost see us taking a year or two to make our way through the whole series, and I plan on reading it slowly and carefully, accentuating every syllable and every wand-wave.

That night as I read, I got the strangest feeling. It was as if I was piled under covers, sitting between two blonde little boys who wanted me to read Harry Potter with the voices. And strangely enough, I did. Quietly and to myself, I began to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows out loud to my sons. It was like they were there, with me, hearing the story of bravery and family, of love and war, of hope, of death, of resurrection. And for a moment, I got a chance to do something that I never thought I would do: I got to read a story to my boys.

That moment brought me hope.  It reminded me, and reminds me still, that my sons lived, that their lives were precious, that they are worth remembering.

And so I write this remembrance to honor my boys. But I also do it to remind you. October is a month dedicated to more than breast cancer awareness. It is also focused on remembering those who have suffered a miscarriage and/or a stillbirth. So this month, I will wear my necklace. And in doing so, I will remember my sons.  And I will remember the thousands of women who never speak of their children.  I hear your nevers and I wish you a lifetime filled with more than one always.

By Elisabeth

I am a woman, a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a writer and a musician. Living in the greater Seattle area, I am working to continue my education, grow my family and nurture my students.

12 replies on “Surviving Stillbirth: Living with “Nevers””

My son was stillborn in 2003 and I was stunned by the deafening silence that followed his death. Still does. A few, a very few, people “get it” and remember him with me, but not necessarily the people I thought would. Since he died I’ve learned that about 4 million babies are stillborn around the world, every year. And I can’t believe that before Ben died, I had no clue.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. One of my coworkers delivered her first child stillborn. When she does (rarely) talk about it, she expresses her sadness at not getting to see the child, but also, her belief that she may not have had her two other children afterwards without that… that everything happened the way it was meant to for her.

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