Approaching Baby Loss Topics With Conscience

10 02 2013

Recently my friend Sammy at The Skeptical Mother opened her Wall to baby loss photos from grieving parents. The topic began when she noticed a controversial post done by Dr. Amy which only showed pictures of babies who had passed away, and their parents grieving over them. For those who know Amy, I do not have to tell you that this was not done in memorial, it was done as a propaganda piece meant to convey “Homebirth Kills Babies”.

Sammy asked the question to her fans– how do you feel about this manner of sharing? The answers were mixed but the majority was very uncomfortable with being shown– without warning– photos of babies that had died, and nothing else (no accompanying backstory, etc.). If I recall correctly, Sammy did not even expose the fact that it was a post by Dr. Amy she was referencing. It seemed a hypothetical, and still received this fairly negative response. Then she decided to delete the thread because it had turned sour for so many. She found a happy medium– she invited fans to post their baby loss photos and stories on the Wall, and gave readers the choice of whether they wanted to view and offer their support.

I want you to know something about The Skeptical Mother. She did this knowing that loss mothers felt left out. She did this under much criticism by Dr. Amy trolls. They told her she would never do something like this, having not the slightest clue what was in her heart (and their common claim, against any natural birth pages, whom they are mad only post “positive” stuff).  Her  concern was to strike a balance that is sensitive to everyone but without becoming a puppet for anyone else’s sick agenda. Sammy’s choice was carefully considered in an effort to be fair to everyone… from the mother who just miscarried whose heart could not bear to see images which reminded her, to the grieving mother who wanted the world to look at and remember her stillborn baby. She thought of women who had never lost but were terrified of the prospect and felt unready to view these images, as well as new mothers who openly said they would be more than ready to share in the memories while loss moms provided pictures. TSM’s motives are pure in an internet climate full of politics and ulterior motives.

The Wall is a place where users can submit anything they want, and the only way to view it is to go to the Wall yourself and see. This is different from Sammy directly sharing on the page herself, which becomes visible to all 40,000+ of her followers in their newsfeeds (many of whom were very sensitive and planning upcoming births, some of whom let her know they would have to unlike the page if her positive content started shifting to the shocking or the devastating). So, by opening her Wall to this, Sammy was able to accommodate a very real need for loss parents to not feel neglected, have their children acknowledged, while at the same time honoring the wants and needs of the majority who do not come to her page for such emotionally taxing photos.

Even a word such as “shocking”, used above, some would take offense to, but please remember that any image of death (regardless of who it is of and who that person was to you) is troubling to most people. “Those are not shocking, it is our sweet little baby, our only memory of her,” they might say, offended. Yes, but it is also true the picture of your baby has a sadness and heaviness that most baby pictures do not. You still deserve to celebrate, and we know that.  We still have to recognize how different it will be for those who don’t share your intense emotions. And how could they? You’ve gone through one of the worst things ever, and maybe they have not. Or, maybe they have, but they deal with their pain in a totally different way than you. Therefore, we need to take extra special care with your pictures.

But don’t you think seeing healthy babies all day can hurt, too?”
Maybe. But, people who feel that way probably didn’t “like” The Skeptical Mother. People “like” her page because they like her content, not because it causes them great anguish and they want her desperately to change her ways.

People can be especially averse to seeing babies in such a way, since they are our most precious and treasured ones. It is the ultimate human tragedy. People don’t turn away as a disrespect to your babies… they turn away because their empathy is actually much too great to bear it. I would be more concerned for the folks who weren’t stirred in the slightest at loss photos than the people who are moved too much to even look.

Babies dying is a sad topic (be it miscarriage, stillbirth, or something else entirely). It’s a reality that happens, true, and there is no woman alive who doesn’t realize this. Putting her in a position where she is forced to view one of the saddest events a human being could experience will not change this, and asking a stranger to look at a photo they feel would cause them any emotional disturbance is an ill-fitting memorial to any of our loved ones. You will not get the desired reaction, you can’t force the desired reaction, and that is nobody’s fault.

I don’t think most loss mothers would expect this, but there were many disturbed Dr. Amy fans who felt strongly that this was not anyone’s problem but the person averse to looking. I say, everything in it’s right time and place. Appropriateness is paramount. Just as you would not walk into a Lamaze class and start shoving photos in the faces of people without a word, there is a manner in which we as humans interact and share that is healthy and fair for everyone. “Appropriate” may sound like a cold word to someone feeling intense grief, but their reality is not everyone’s reality, so “normal” to them versus the outside world can change significantly. If Amy fans expect everyone to change with that to the point that the Lamaze scenario above would be the new normal, I don’t think that’s a realistic or even sane goal. No, “appropriate” is in this case just another word for being considerate to everyone at the same time. It can be done. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s about respecting the needs of everyone and trying to find how to fill those without being a knife in the heart of the other party. I feel Sammy succeeded with that.

Many demanded all people be made to look, regardless of their sensitivities or feelings, because they contended to not was a disrespect to all baby loss victims everywhere. Some said to feel uneasy about it was the same as spitting in the baby’s face. Some openly said that their feelings were the only ones that counted, and they mocked the delicate feelings of mothers-to-be. “Think of how the loss mothers feel” got repeated a lot by Amy trolls and just other women in general, but I don’t think our sorrow for anyone can negate the human emotion of wanting to avoid subjects that are painful on purpose. Nor, a human being’s right to tell you what their tolerance level is (personally) for tragedy. Our readiness towards anything is a personal matter and depends on where we are in life. If we can’t respect that, it’s the same as saying everyone else is just a player in the story of your life. If it were that easy, you could write the script yourself and give everyone the correct emotions to feel. It’s not that simple. Humans are complex and have their own stories, and we can’t force ours on others.

*** Here is the part where I tell you that we all want stories and photos shared, but we warn “with discretion” because we understand that the way a grieving mother sees her photo versus a member of the general public are very different things. This can be very hurtful to loss mothers to hear, but I implore them not to take it as society’s rejection of you or baby, but rather a reflection of our fears. Let’s face it– no one wants their baby to die, or anyone’s to die (unless you’re an Amy troll, in which case, you want mine to die).  We are not in the habit of regularly viewing things we would never want to go through ourselves. Any image of death is usually upsetting to most people. Many have called for the changing of this taboo, and it is a separate argument entirely to discuss if it is our taboo to change. People come from all different walks of life with different philosophies and customs, and I think understanding that is very important. Where you may see your little angel, others may not, and instead be triggered into a traumatic memory, for example. Some will frankly only see death. On a cheerful and positive birth page, it would seem obvious that this content would not be typical.  Sometimes this explanation still fails to suffice for a mother so deep in her own emotions. TO BE CLEAR, Sammy and I both agree with sharing things which are accompanied by WARNINGS (to alert the sensitive) or stories (so that the picture itself is not just exploited for shock value, but contains a message, or something poignant and meaningful). ***

I want you to know that even after she decided to open her Facebook page’s Wall to this, she was accused of not really meaning it, not being genuine, not doing enough (by the Amy trolls). That’s right– first they said she would never do this at all, but when that was obviously not the case, they found something new to complain about. They make it a mission to be offended unless you not only jump when they say, but ask “how high” first. I told her this would happen but she did it anyway because her heart meant it.  She was accused of doing it just for extra likes (even though she did it knowing she could actually LOSE fans). In light of this, I have watched shady loss organizations (associated with/ran by Dr. Amy fans) disregard her intentions and vilify her. I was made privy how another major birth page made posts and statements about how *they* always have a place for loss mothers, as they attempt to constantly one-up her on her every post since TSM’s popularity spiked. Loss should NOT be a platform for competition.

This outrage is a violation far worse than taking into consideration the feelings of people averse to death scenarios. It doesn’t take the topic seriously, it only seeks to gain from it.

There are tons of places for loss and remembrance, and the good thing about those places (so long as they are healthy and not run by hate groups) is that they are already aware of the subject matter and prepared to respect and grieve with you. There are tons of natural birth pages and similar topics which occasionally share your losses in a tasteful and non-exploitative way. I assure you that just because your average birth or parenting site isn’t daily sharing photos of babies who have passed away, it is not due to not caring. It is simply not the usual subject matter of the page and not the voice they are projecting. That is all. For a parent to lose a child is a very specific facet of life and birth, and not every page is going to address it on a nonstop basis. Not every page is qualified to regularly address this with the sincerity the topic warrants. When people describe being “swept under the rug” (something we hear the Amy fans say a lot), I hope it is not for this reason anyone describes it as such.

I know I speak for most when I say “we still love you, even if your issue isn’t the one discussed the most”. I don’t talk about lots of (birth and parenting) things every day, such as adoption, or c-sections, or maternal/paternal death, but I still love all families for whom these are the big issues, as well. Every page has a unique voice and they are speaking from their own life experiences, so please don’t feel left out if the type of content doesn’t constantly address the issue dearest to your heart. And if a page isn’t speaking to your heart and needs, find other pages which do. Not everyone can be everything to everyone, but there is someone out there who understands you, and no one is ever truly alone. There is a place for all of us, it just isn’t always the same place.

Due to the outpouring of support and participation her Wall inspired that day, Sammy has decided that every 8th of every month will be The Skeptical Mother Loss Remembrance Day. Please feel free to participate if this is a subject you would like to take part in. Because it shouldn’t be about homebirth, or trolls, or popularity, or moneymaking… it should be about your babies.

Getting Qualified Care: Interview With a Stillbirth Mother

14 01 2012

Joining me is Michelle, a pregnant mother of 4 who has experience with natural birth, home birth, and loss. She brings a unique perspective to the concept of what is “qualified” care.

You can read more about Michelle and her story over at My Journey to Healing Birth.  But now, here was our exchange.

Elizabeth: What role do you feel your faith or philosophies, religious or otherwise, played in the grieving and acceptance of your loss?

Michelle:  For me my religion played a huge role in my grieving process as well as accepting it. I am a Muslim convert (meaning that I was not brought up as a Muslim). Prior to getting pregnant that time I ran across a story of the Prophet Muhammad that says:

“By the One in Whose hand is my soul, truly the miscarried child will certainly drag its mother with its umbilical cord to Paradise, provided one expects recompense [for sabr (patience)].”

One of the fundamentals of faith in my religion is acceptance of the decree of the Creator. This means accepting the good and the bad because He is the one who controls what happens to us all. If I were to take the route of being angry at what happened it would equate to me being angry that my Lord allowed it to happen.

I also recently ran across a different story of the Prophet which states:

The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “When a person’s child dies, Allah the Most High asks His angels, ‘Have you taken out the life of the child of My slave?’* They reply in the affirmative. He then asks, ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’ They reply in the affirmative. Thereupon he asks, ‘What has My slave said?’ They say: ‘He has praised You and said: Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall be returned).’ Allah says: ‘Build a house for My slave in Jannah (Paradise) and name it Bait-ul-Hamd (the House of Praise).’”

 So yes my religion and my faith play a huge role in my acceptance and my ability to move forward from my loss. I see it as a blessing and as a mercy not as something worthy of anger.

And faith, in my opinion, is not knowing everything will always be good. It is knowing that no matter what happens everything will be ok.

Elizabeth:  How do you feel this differs from others who have lashed out at you in relation to your own loss?

Michelle:   I think that if you have reached a level of peace within yourself you will not find it necessary to tear down those that are at peace. I think in some ways they are still in pain over what happened to them. It could be their perspectives are different from mine. It could be that those around them have encouraged anger rather than forgiveness. I know from my own experience many in my family wanted me to be mad and if I was easily influenced by them I could have easily gone down that road instead.

Elizabeth:  Do you feel these individuals are fit to help counsel others?

Michelle:  I think it is always comforting to have people that can relate to you in terms of what it is like to lose your baby. So on one hand I think it is necessary. On the other hand there has to be a balance in that not every individual will grieve the same way. We are all different. If you take a person under your wing and try to push your own pain onto theirs as a means of making yourself feel better this isn’t healthy for either individual. Special care must be taken into account when you are dealing with emotions like grief. Especially when it is new.

Elizabeth:  What impact do you feel an individual who has not fully healed themselves would have in connecting with and mentoring those just fresh in their grief?

Michelle:  As I stated above I think this is something that has the potential to do more harm than good. Everyone is at different levels in grief, however one must try to be empathetic to others experiences and realize that theirs is their own and no two situations are equal. I think it’s good to have those who just say I understand and leave it at that. Spreading venom though based on their own loss is not healthy for anyone. I just ran across a quote today that pretty much sums it up: “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” — St. Augustine.  Being mad about something you have no control over will not harm those you are mad at it will harm you the angry one.

Elizabeth:  Discuss a little about what happened in your birth when you experienced your loss, and tell us why you do not feel the midwives were at fault.

Michelle:   First I want to state that I had a strong instinct that this baby would never make it out of my womb alive. I had this feeling long before I decided to homebirth. It was that feeling actually that drove my decision. I needed to have a peaceful pregnancy if that was all I was going to get. I also was threatened with a tubal ligation by the OBs and I knew if this baby didn’t make it I would be devastated if I would never be able to have any more kids.

As for what happened in my birth, my labor was perfect and beautiful. I progressed nicely and there was no stall of labor at all. Every time heart-tones were checked he sounded perfect. I began to feel pressure and the need to push and I was checked only to find there was still a lip of cervix left. Heart rate was checked again and he was fine. My midwife broke my water to see if that would help get rid of my cervix. There was no indication at that time that the baby had any trouble. It wasn’t long before I really needed to push. I am unsure of how long I pushed before things went wrong. I know it wasn’t a long time though (it wasn’t even an hour). I had pushed the baby down to where he was essentially crowning and at that time heart-tones were checked and not found. When I heard that I immediately pushed with all of my might to birth him. His head was born and then my contractions stopped and I could not get the rest of him out. 911 was also called before the head was born. Once they arrived I had another contraction and was able to birth the body and he was born lifeless.

I did not ever feel that my midwife was negligent. The minute there was a sign of trouble she called 911 and did everything she could to get the baby out. I want to mention that I am not convinced that shoulder dystocia was what caused his death. I truly feel that it was the other way around. There is an excerpt in the book Spiritual Midwifery that touches on how hard it was to birth a stillborn baby because the mom couldn’t feel any energy from her baby. Babies must be active participants in the birth process meaning once the head is born the baby must rotate its body for the shoulders to be born. In my case my baby had a loss of heart-tones prior to delivery of the head so once his head was born he was no longer participating.

Elizabeth:  Do you feel you had quality care? How qualified were your midwives, and what made them qualified? What were their credentials?

Michelle:  Without a doubt I had quality care. In fact the care I received from her was a million times better than the care I have received from OBs. She had been a midwife for well over 30 years. She had personal connections with Jeannine Parvati Baker, Gloria Lemay, and many other highly regarded midwives. In all honesty though I chose her because of faith. I had trusted in the Almighty to give me a sign that this was the right path for me. I knew when I contacted her she had retired. What sealed the deal for me was finding out her home she purchased to retire in was literally 2 streets away from me. She was put on my doorstep. How could I ignore that sign? She was exactly what I needed in my life at that time and exactly what I needed for that birth. I have never had a single regret about choosing her and I am still very close to her. In fact every time I see people trash a midwife that attended a birth with a negative outcome it makes me think of her. Because they are still people and whether or not people believe it or not the loss affects them too.

I have used all three types of midwifery care. My first midwife was a lay midwife, my second was a CPM, and my third was a CNM (she is still my midwife this time also). All planned homebirths. The care I have received from all three of them have been equal in terms of quality so “titles” to me mean nothing. 🙂

Elizabeth:  Do you believe that any time a baby passes away, it is due to insufficient care?

Michelle:  Not at all and this goes for whatever place of birth you choose. Are there negligent providers (both midwives and OBs)? Absolutely. Does that mean every single one of them are negligent? No it doesn’t. In fact I would even venture to say that at times it could be as simple as making the wrong choice and not necessarily negligence. I think it is important to remember that doctors and midwives are people and therefore are not perfect. They do make mistakes. Most try their best to give the care you want while keeping everyone safe. Sometimes things do happen so fast there is nothing you can do. Other times they are totally negligent. But one must have the ability to separate the two.

Elizabeth:  What brought you to natural birth in the first place ? Were you “indoctrinated” by any “cult”, and do you subscribe to any NCB “dogma”?

Michelle:   I have actually always been “natural” minded. I had planned a natural childbirth with my first baby long before I was ever on the internet or knew anything about the world of the web. It unfortunately ended in a bullied unnecessary c-section.

Elizabeth:  Exactly. That’s just like me– I didn’t need any indoctrination, it was just something I was pulled toward without regard for how anyone else felt about it. I wasn’t even aware there was a club, nevermind cult. I didn’t get an unnecessary C-section, though… I wound up getting induced and taking the epidural. How did all that affect you?

Michelle:  This only furthered my desire for natural childbirth because I had seen what the opposite was and for me it was ugly.
Elizabeth:  Same here.

Michelle:  I tried again for a natural childbirth the second time only to end up with a c-section again. My loss was my first and only un-medicated birth and it was amazing. I loved every second of my labor. My 4th and 5th baby were also planned homebirths that ended up hospital births with epidurals and I really disliked them both. It was the one thing that I was disappointed over because I missed out on what I had the first natural birth. Hopefully I will finally have that “perfect birth” this time around 🙂.

I was never coerced into natural childbirth. I was drawn to it. I don’t know that I subscribe to any NCB dogma however I will suggest and encourage natural childbirth over non natural childbirth. Only because it is better for mother and baby overall to avoid unnatural chemicals into the body. I do however respect what other people choose. Like I said I have only had one natural un-medicated birth. I know sometimes the benefit of getting pain meds may outweigh the harm.

Elizabeth:  I’ve said before how grateful I was for the epidural, but I’m like you– having been through both versions, I do not recommend the medical way.

When getting care from a doctor or midwife, mentor or counselor, how important is it to research the individual and feel like you truly know them very well beforehand? Or can we ever really know everything about our providers?

Michelle:  I think it is important to for sure ask questions not only about them to others but ask them point blank to their face. I think that the relationship between a midwife and her client may differ from an OB and client simply because of the amount of time spent together prior to the birth.  I don’t think we can know everything and I am not sure we really have the right to know every single thing about them. What I really feel about this is that we should all trust our instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I think as a society we have been somewhat trained to ignore our instincts and just do what other people tell us.

Elizabeth:  To anyone out there grieving hard, enraged, and blaming natural childbirth in general for their loss, what would you like to say to them, or what would you want them to know?

Michelle:  Honestly when I see people so full of anger over their loss I feel really sad for them. I wish they could let go of the anger and embrace what they have. I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. But being rage-filled only makes you feel worse not better. It hurts you not the one you are mad at. As I said earlier “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” — St. Augustine. I think society has made us feel like we have to blame someone/something for death rather than acknowledging that death is part of the cycle of life. There isn’t always an explanation or a reason.


Guilt is a Destroyer, Part 2

12 10 2011

I see the problem here as guilt and denial. One feels guilt in incredible ways, and then lives in a state of denial about how all these other things are at fault. The denial is also, therefore, a denial that they had the primary role in their own life events. Rather than accepting that something just occurred and everyone was there and had a choice, there is a need to blame. Rather than blame oneself and admit the guilt that is plaguing oneself, one then opts to direct all or primary responsibility onto somebody else. It’s a coping mechanism. It goes a little something like…

Natural birth is at fault– it’s not that great, medical advancements are far better, what’s so great about vaginal drug free birth anyway, you aren’t winning a medal for it, it’s killing women and babies and is archaic and stupid.

Midwives are at fault— they aren’t educated, aren’t properly licensed, mine should have known I was in trouble.

The NCB community is at faultthey indoctrinate people, it’s like a cult, they all believe in BS and not in science, they guilt mothers into making wrong choices.  ETC.

It’s never up to the woman. Do you see? You can never “blame the mother”, or use “blame the mother mentality”… which is cried if anyone tries to further examine the mother’s choices in the event in light of tragedy. If blame is going to be placed at all, these are the questions that we need to be asking. Sorry.  It’s never her choice, her responsibility, her consequences. It’s always somebody else.  She is automatically innocent (and how dare you, btw), and somebody else is most definitely guilty. You see, I’m not just saying question the “guilt” of everyone… I’m saying consider that everyone is innocent.  Blame usually doesn’t have to take place at all, but if you are pointing the finger at me or damaging other people, someone has to step in and point out the accountability here. It’s gone too far, too long. There are worse things than blaming the mother. You could be blaming people who are just as accountable, less accountable, or not accountable at all.

For example, when a practitioner does their best to provide the service you have hired them for, that’s all you can ask of them. The rest is up to you.

IF you are present at a birth and you feel something is not right, it is your duty to yourself and child and all involved to act accordingly. IF something goes wrong, and you always had the final say, you must own up to your part in things. It is an admission of the truth and the first step to moving forward in a healthy way. As I see it, all normal-intelligence adults available are responsible in a time of need. This does not all rest on the shoulders of one. When you hire a midwife as your naturally-minded caregiver, it is not so she can take the fall in the event of misfortune. If one feels that way, one should not hire a midwife. If they have committed an indisputable count of negligence or abuse, obviously I think they deserve blame. However, if you still had a choice and didn’t make it or take it, you shoulder some of that responsibility. You have a voice.

[Recently I heard a troll say that the reason midwives should be properly licensed and insured is so that if a tragedy occurs, a lawyer would be willing to take the case because there would actually be money worthwhile to come of it. Ah, I see… So, everyone, get an OB so that if your child dies, you can properly get a lawyer and sue and at least get some $$$ from it. ] Good reason to change your birth plan, natural childbirthers.

So no, I am NOT advocating blame, but when I see projections and misdirections of anger, rage, hate, and guilt, I think we need a reality check. Midwives are trained professionals, but they DON’T know everything. Neither do OBs for that matter. The most important piece they are missing is YOU and your intuition. People, no matter how educated, make mistakes. It’s not all homicide, bloodshed, and manslaughter. Sometimes no matter how much it is KILLING you inside, these mistakes are completely innocent. You are ALL accountable for your choices. No ONE single person takes the fall, and no one always has to take the blame, automatically. A death should not automatically be assumed as the fault of anyone. Investigate, ask questions, but accept reality and live in it rather than create a false one where you are less accountable. Sooner or later, no matter how skilled a person is, they are going to witness a tragedy. Sometimes, these things just happen. You hate to hear it? Yeah, it sucks, but it’s true.

No, don’t blame yourself, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t do those things to ME either. Be brave, face your problems head on. It’s cowardly to direct the hurt you feel you deserve to instead hurt others.  I would never tell a mother how accountable she was in her child’s own death… until she starts pointing the finger at others. Those who believe it’s always the other guy’s fault, those who believe that with their pain comes a sense of entitlement, those are the only folks who need a reminder that they were also an adult in that room and also capable of making a choice. It’s something that could and should go without saying most of the time, unless you keep shoving it in the world’s face in order to create suffering and remove your own accountability in the process. My theory: you don’t hate me, you hate yourself for not making the choice you knew was right. I wish I could magically take away your pain, but I can’t. You need to get serious professional help if you are trolling the internet and calling it “helping others”.

Guilt, you see… it’s a destroyer. It will change your whole world. Friends become enemies, demons become friends. Things you used to believe in become false. You lose faith in whatever God you may have previously claimed. Activities that harm others become the norm. They do things which cause more pain for themselves and those who come into contact with them.  Others who love you feel put out or neglected by you. You are withdrawn, putting on a fake face to be acceptable in society while inside you feel you are someone else. You don’t have to suffer alone, and you don’t have to live with this intense pain your whole life. Your children, living and deceased, would not want that for you. You all deserve better in life.


People reject healing when they think the hurt seems insurmountable, or they are undeserving. This comes from self-loathing. A partly aware admission of accountability which translates as guilt says, “how could I let this have happened to my baby?”, and hate and beating yourself up follows. Guilt is a real bitch, but you had it coming, or so the logic goes. So, one resigns to a life of pain and guilt and blame, because they don’t see any other path clearly. They even think it would be disrespectful to the memory of their baby to NOT feel this way. I suggest that the worse disrespect is the mistreatment of other women, mothers, and babies in the process of your rage and guilt. Even the very midwife deemed the culprit is probably not so worthy of hate. Granted, it would take a lot of forgiveness to ever feel that way. Baby steps.

I’m telling you, people, there’s an imbalance here, and it’s not healthy and it’s not right. It’s toxic– to your mind, probably your body, and your soul, and it’s affecting others. You want consideration for your feelings and it’s been given to a fault, but even through the pain, you need to offer your consideration to your fellow (wo)man, because we all have pain, and you aren’t the only one (and this includes infant loss). It does NOT have to be this way, so ugly and nasty and cruel.

In any case, hate (which guilt has produced) is not productive or conducive to goodness or healing for you, or anyone. Some think healing from baby loss is impossible– so why bother, right?  If healing is impossible, why try to “help” anyone who has lost? I hear that a lot, about reaching out to others who have lost, as if that means anything. “I’m here for you.” What comfort is that with a dead baby? If nothing can fix it, why the community? Because you are looking for understanding and looking for something to feel even a tiny ounce better than the loneliness of your grief. You are living with the unreasonable burden of guilt. And let’s be real, here– it’d needn’t be. Other women have gone through losses and not reached the same conclusions. It is possible, but you have to want it. Your pain is not reality, it’s just your reality. There are other truths out there to explore if you would only let yourself. If you can accept this as true, you can also begin to see how other realities of other people– loss moms and other moms– are their truths. The healing stories, the stories of love and overcoming pain, are the ones that are going to be of service to people. We need to spread those, promote those, give hope, and help people get better. Instead of resisting those, maybe you could listen to those and when you are ready, believe in yourself once again and your ability to let go of guilt and have peace.

Quit letting your guilt destroy you, who you were, what you want to be for your family, and who you have become. Break the chains and ties that keep you part of a destructive lifestyle. Live and let live. Find the path to end bitterness and guilt now so that when you are an old lady and preparing to leave this life, you can look back with fondness and gratitude rather than wrath, and you will be surrounded by children and grandchildren and more, who lovingly embrace who you are and their time with you. You cannot get a dead baby back, but you cannot get back lost time, either. Every hour you’ve spent persecuting strangers on the internet is lost time. Pain is an addiction, an obsession. Find the road to recovery. I may never know your pain and I hope to never have to, but I do care about your well being and want you to find peace and joy. If I were in your shoes, I’d want someone to do the same thing for me.

Guilt is a Destroyer

12 10 2011

Guilt— could anything be more damaging to the human psyche? Wise men and philosophers believe it is a useless emotion. Most of us claim to choose lives free from regret and fear. But, what do you do when the most precious thing in the world is gone, and you blame yourself?

Most of us will never know unless it happens to us.

As many of my readers are all too well-aware, there is a group of women out there who have many names who are at odds with natural birth in a serious and malicious way. I tend to call people by the names they first introduce themselves to me, so I call them Trolls. The trolls are made up of many, many women and their common bond is a hate and ridicule for women in the natural childbirth community. This comes in varying degrees as many of the women have had natural births themselves. However, the activities they partake in are the same. They are host and member to at least dozens of angry and mock sites on Facebook, blogs, and forums. This is all in the name of birth safety if you ask them, but when I watch them make fun of other people, their births, and their babies, it becomes clear that this is not all about keeping people safe… it’s about feeling okay with themselves.

Why does anyone ever make fun of anyone else? To feel better about themselves.

Why does anyone ever lash out at another for their opinions?  To feel more right about their own.

Why does anyone ever gang up on someone, bully, or threaten them?  To feel stronger about themselves.

And just like in school, you can guarantee that whenever a group of people get together to talk shit about somebody else, it’s to say to each other, “We’re okay for not being like that. In fact, we are better.” The word they use often, sanctimommy, is ridiculous to me… and no where is it more fitting than on those whose mouths and fingers it comes from.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Why are they so angry, and why do they need so desperately to feel better about themselves? Like most serious bullies, the lashing out comes from another pain they are dealing with (or running from).

Some of the so-called trolls are suffering from the loss of a child. This seems to give weight to their voice, and they are instantly influential and respected amongst those who listen. I listen to loss stories and I see their pictures and yes, I’ve cried. Who hasn’t? The worst part, for me, are the parts where they admit that they knew something wasn’t right but they did nothing. You know all that intuition you’re always telling people not to use? This was the time to use it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would not be so heartless as to point this out if it weren’t for the fact that the trolls go after every single NCBer they come across like they are the enemy, but if you ask too many questions or give a differing view, you are automatically chastised and demeaned to be some horrible person. “You have no clue what you are talking about. She lost her baby.” “How dare you argue with her! She’s lost a baby, didn’t you know!” As if that explains anyone’s rightness in a discussion? Women who we already sympathize with, we are now expected to never contradict ever, even when they may be wrong or hurtful towards others, because to do so would be the height of insensitivity and equal to “spitting on her dead baby”. Today, one of the trolls in a Facebook discussion even said that life wasn’t fair, because if it were, one person who had shared a different opinion would be the one with a dead baby.

Most of us agreed this is not something we would wish even on our worst enemy, nevermind someone with a different view.

This is what I mean about guilt, and blame. If you don’t get the healing you need to keep living healthily, if you surround yourself with people who are also in pain and lashing out for whatever reason, you become destructive. Guilt is a destroyer. It’s a vicious cycle, with the same people feeding each other the emotions it takes to keep mocking, keep attacking, keep blaming. One of the loss moms keeps blaming me for a baby death that occurred back in Spring. The mother she had referenced, by the way, had never even spoken to me for advice. Every time I bring this up after being accused, it goes uncorrected, unchecked, and people go on as if I had never said it. For me, this casts doubt on every other label they are more than likely wrongly placing on others, just for the sake of being sensational. How can that be credible, or taken seriously? Like the boy who cried wolf,  “Baby Killer” seems to be the favorite cry of those suffering intense rage/guilt, and although I feel for them in their time of pain, I and others attacked are not deserving of such negative attention.

I’m trying to save babies, I promise. If more people would listen to their instincts, more babies would survive. I don’t know about you, but if I suspect that something is wrong with my labor or my baby, I’m in the hospital or getting a second opinion, regardless of what my medical professional is telling me. That’s what autonomy is about, that’s what free will and choice is about, that’s what self-education is about, and that’s what instinct is about. No one is perfect, and even someone like me who feels confident about natural birth could one day meet with wrong choices, or tragedy. I’m aware of that. This is why I am not critical of people who make mistakes or experience tragedy.  It’s also not my place to tell people where I think they erred. However, the time has come to shed light on this sensitive topic, because it’s getting out of hand. It’s people who only seek to shift blame in dramatic and hurtful ways that need to be spoken to about accountability.

Everyone keeps dodging that bullet, though, because it makes them feel bad and they get called out for it. Well, the time has come to be a little more open and honest about what guilt has wrought, because it ain’t pretty. I am not the bad guy, the evil midwife, and I’m not even sure the midwives are the evil midwives, to be honest. Mommy bloggers are not your midwives, and water birthers, homebirthers, and UCers are not crazy, dangerous people just killing babies left and right. It just isn’t true. This comes from deep places of insecurity and self-hate.

So, prepare yourselves, because I’m “going there”, but only because it needs to be said finally.

I’ve heard time and time again how not only the mother, but other witnesses present in loss stories knew something was wrong, and did nothing. I have asked some people point blank why they didn’t enter the hospital when they and others felt very deeply that there was a problem, and I receive no responses. Still, the common trait of these loss stories seems to be that “my midwife KILLED my baby”. Or, it might just be that your midwife, despite all her training, had an error in human judgment, as did all other adults involved.  Sometimes this includes husbands, friends, doulas, paramedics… all participants, all with a voice, but none held accountable for their own choices and actions when the tragedy strikes. Only one fall guy, one scapegoat… that seems to be the midwife.  I suspect that people know their role in this, and it eats them up inside, and that in order to simply get out of bed in the morning, they need a new target for their rage and their grief. This becomes the midwife, and natural birth, and anything or anyone else that seems somehow opposed to them. The alternative would be acceptance and healing, or one’s own demise. So, enter Bully & Mob mentality, and harassing absolute strangers on the internet as if it were a full time job.

I’d say “whatever helps you sleep at night…”, but a) I still don’t think such people are very happy with this way of existing. It is not healing them, it is not making them better, it is not taking the pain away, saving anybody, and it is NOT bringing their baby back, and b) you cannot get your rocks off at the expense of hurting other innocent people. Your pain is not a free pass to be cruel and tormenting to other people, especially just on the basis of not seeing eye to eye.

Now before you say, “Damn, Elizabeth! Are you really blaming loss mothers for their loss?” No, that’s not it, and that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m not advocating blame. I’m advocating right accountability and responsibility. Human beings are human beings. Forgive each other, and forgive yourselves.


To be continued…