Enough With The Silence–We Need To Talk About Stillbirth

Enough with the silence--let's talk about stillbirth.It was almost 9:00 at night when I was admitted to the hospital.  An hour later and I had been visited by doctors from at least four different departments. 

There was the doctor from Maternal-Fetal Medicine who was there to give me the Cliff-Notes on preeclampsia and explain how shitty I was going to feel on the magnesium drip.  There was the anesthesiologist who had me sign cryptic papers as he explained what it would be like to have an epidural.  The most terrifying was the pediatrician from the NICU who stopped by with her vague assurances and confusing statistics about giving birth to a baby before 30 weeks.

At the time, each of these doctors seemed like the world’s worst game show hosts standing next to Mystery Doors that held undesirable outcomes.  But, just like on most game shows there was a twist.  There was a secret door that no one was mentioning.  I imagine it being in the shadows, not yet illuminated by the spotlight.  Opening that door meant going home with no baby at all. 

Behind that secret door was stillbirth.

Looking back on that time, I almost feel embarrassed that I didn’t know it was a possibility for Dorothy to die.  I was terrified of having a preemie.  I was stressed about having to take so much time off of work.  I was frightened to consider the strain that having a baby in the NICU would put on the sanity of Mike and myself.  The thought of such scenarios had me in tears.  These possibilities invoked thoughts of “Why me?” and “Why is this so hard?”  Now, I would give anything for a chance to face those challenges.

I always wonder what it would have been like to know that stillbirth was a possibility. 

While I understand that there was nothing I did wrong, I will always fantasize that we could have done better.  I don’t spend a lot of time in the what-ifs anymore, but sometimes I go there.  Sometimes I think “What if I had known she could die.  Would I have done more?”  There are a lot of questions behind the door where stillbirth lies.

I know the reason that door stays in the dark–because that door is scary.  Stillbirth is terrifying. The fact that babies die is devastating.  We draw a curtain over that door because we want to protect, but the outcome has the opposite effect. 

Keeping the possibility of stillbirth all locked up doesn’t stop it from happening. 

It just means that when it happens, it’s incredibly isolating for the families that have to experience it.  They feel locked away from a world that doesn’t want to hear their sad story.

Enough with the silence. 

Enough with the closed doors. 

Enough with the secrecy.

We need to talk about stillbirth.

Maybe then, we can start to do something about lowering the number of families who have to cross that threshold.  We can’t help an issue that we won’t even look at.

Let’s not close the door marked stillbirth because we’re scared to see what might happen.  Let’s open that door wide because we’re hopeful in changing outcomes.

For information and resources about stillbirth visit Star Legacy Foundation and Still Aware

Photo by Claudia on Unsplash



9 thoughts on “Enough With The Silence–We Need To Talk About Stillbirth

  1. I knew my son would probably died. He was diagnosed with a fatal chromosome disorder st 15 weeks. He was born alive at 37 weeks and died shortly after birth. Even though I knew there are so many things I would’ve done differently. No one knows how to prepare for that when they are in it. My grief was so heavy during my pregnancy it felt impossible to make decisions or even anticipate anything. We tried to prepare the best we could….but I still didn’t get a lock of hair or clay impressions of his hands and feet….and I was in such shock after he died I had no concept of time. The hospital rushed us through everything to get us out of there. I didn’t realize they were taking time from me I could’ve had with him. I don’t think knowing or not knowing makes it any easier. Knowing during my whole pregnancy was a terrible burden. I wish I had memories being pregnant with my son that weren’t traumatic. I think it’s just all terrible and hard. We all have regrets and things we would’ve done more or differently. I do think there should be bereavement doulas for situations of possible stillbirth or death after birth. People that can advocate for you while you are in shock…to make sure you get your time and all the memories made.

    1. Hi Kristina, I’m so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. Carrying a baby towards a fatal end is a pain that no mother should know. How difficult that must have been. I agree that there should be more bereavement doulas on staff at hospitals and birthing centers to help those in their time of need. I wish someone had been there to share options and give us some insight. We were so lost. I want to thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. I am thinking of you.

  2. Stillbirth is no longer in the closet or forced into silence most of the time thanks to the efforts of grieving parents in the 80s and 90s. This is not a “new” clarion call. This call was made long ago. A simple internet search reveals that no one is silent about stillbirth anymore.

    1. Hi Donna, I’m glad that you feel the conversation on stillbirth is an open and ongoing one. Unfortunately, for many families this is not their experience. My family is one of those families who felt the silence that followed the stillbirth of our daughter. The call to speak out on stillbirth and pregnancy loss was made long ago and it’s a call that needs to be carried by each generation of women and men who endure such loss.

      1. My experience has been that stillbirth is taboo. No medical professional ever told me that it was possible. No medical professional ever told me to monitor my baby’s movements. Friends dropped me after my baby died. People (who know of my loss) refer to my oldest as an only child. A family member who was in the delivery room, who saw my dead baby, made a comment the other day that completely disregarded my baby. Yes, we need to speak out and yes we need to ensure that people realize that our babies existed.

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