Friday, 22 February 2013

When To Drop The "Dead Baby" Bomb

I've been blogging since a few months after my son died and was born. Along the way I have connected with other bloggers who share my story. There is a special bond between us, we are sisters in grief. Many of us have gone on to have our rainbow babies. Some have stopped blogging, but a few of us have continued. It's been nice to be able to see how other BLM's are dealing with life after our rainbows are born.

I was particularly touched by something Laura Jane wrote recently. She wrote an amazing post about living in the everyday after losing a baby.  So much of what she said hit home with me. How do you live each day for the rest of your life where your first baby died? I won't try to recreate her thoughts here because she did it so well, so make sure you click the link and read it for yourself.

The part that really got me thinking was about how everything in her current life is the way it is because her firstborn son died. It's so true. Everything about my current life is the way it is because my son died. Nothing in my life now would be exactly the same if he had lived.

Yes, I have my rainbow baby now and to the outside world I'm sure I look just like every other new mother. Only I'm not. For the longest time I surrounded myself with familiar friends. Friends who know my story. Friends who don't ever need an explanation for why things are the way they are. Safe friends.

Now that Frostina is in the world I'm doing lots of new things. I've entered the world of "Mommies and Daddies." I'm in a playgroup and have even joined a Gymboree class. All the things I dreamed of doing with my son but never had the chance to do. I'm finally living the life of a parent who has a living baby,,, and I'm loving it.

The issue though is this. None of these people know my story. So within the course of the normal "getting to know you" conversation I have lots of landmines to step over. Sometimes I catch myself telling a pregnancy story and about halfway through I realize I'm talking about my first pregnancy, not my second. When people find out Frostina was born via C-section and was early and they ask why I still struggle with the answer. Sometimes I say it's because she was transverse (which she was). Sometimes I say it's because my pregnancy was high risk but I don't elaborate. And in very rare instances I tell the truth.

I just never know how much to tell. How much to disclose about my personal tragedy. After all, new friendships are fragile. If you come on too strong, or too fragile, or "too much drama," you can be written off before you have a chance to get to know someone. But if you wait too long then you can seem fake or insincere. So what to say, and when to say it is a struggle for me. 

I mean, when is the right time to drop the "dead baby" bomb?

When is it the right time to start seeing those looks of pity and relief that it's your story and not theirs written on the faces of people you hardly know?

When is it the right time to freak out and scare off people that you may want to build a friendship with?

When is it the right time to be reminded that once again, you are "that women" and not just another normal new mother?

When will there be a time when I don't feel the stigma, and taboo, and silence that surrounds stillbirth?

When will I ever get used to this new normal that I'm living?


  1. I'm at a place in life now where I just tell people. This is me and if you don't like it and it's too much for you, then go away. Possibly not the best way to deal with it, but I haven't yet had a rainbow, and it's too much effort to try and manage everybody else's reactions on top of dealing with my own feelings.

    I don't know if we ever get used to it. Just know that there are lots of us who abide with you xo

  2. Nothing substantive to say, just thank you for your candor. ~ Paula

  3. I am having significant issues with this. No easy answers of course.

  4. That's why I love the title of your blog.

    This is something I am struggling with in a different context. Having been treated for breast cancer in the US (and puh-lease don't call me a survivor - hate that word), we've now moved back to the UK, and are in a new sphere of being. No-one need know, unless I tell them. Very different to you, and I realise that (and I really hope I'm not being insensitive in comparing). My back story comes up overtly very seldom. It's not that relevant to everyday life. I don't discuss breasts with my friends, as you and your circle of friends discuss pregnancy and birth! It can remain hidden. But... I am making good new friendships. And at some point, it will feel odd when the topic comes up and I mention "oh yeah, I had breast cancer once". It's such a big part of my life, and I am who I am now because of it. I want people to know, but I don't talk about it - yet - because I don't want to be defined by it.

    I do love the title of your blog. I think it encapsulates a great deal of wisdom and truth. Is part of it, maybe, that really there isn't "a normal"? Just "my normal". None of us knows what's behind other people's daily life. The unhappy childhoods, the bereavements, the illnesses, the abuses, the sorrows.

    I think the best thing is just to trust your gut instinct. Some times you will feel more like sharing, other times not so much. You sense that some people will react in a way that's more difficult for you than other people. Perhaps it will be a way of finding out who, of the many mums you meet, will become your good friends.

  5. Also, I wonder if you could write a post about what is a sensitive response, when someone does "drop the dead baby bomb", as you describe it. You don't want pity, but do you want sympathy? Or is it so time-and-place-specific, that you can't generalise? Do you just want the person to pick up the cues from you?

  6. I'm one of those BLMs who has a rainbow and is now unable to update her blog. :(

    But I wanted to weigh in on this post that you wrote. And I apologize in advance for the long comment.

    The truth of the matter is - we are not just another normal new mother. And we are never going to be that normal new mother. Try as we might to fit in among these normal new mothers, we really can't. Unlike their smooth edges, ours have been frayed and jagged by the death of our babies. We are now forever different. And I don't mean that in a bad way like we're choosing to be defined by our grief or our loss. For me, living this new normal (the 'other' normal) means accepting that it is what it is. That this is me now, a mother with children both living and dead. And if that new "friend" or "friends" can't handle who I have become, then that friendship is not worth building. They can just stay as acquaintances and that's fine, too.

    Friendships need trust and in order to gain that trust you have to be honest, right? If you feel trepidation about being honest of the precious baby who died but changed your life to that person then how in the world can it be called a friendship?

    So mama, don't think about the right time. Don't think about the looks of pity or of people freaking out (but really if I encounter anyone who freaks out after I shared with him/her what happened to my beloved firstborn will get punched in the throat, but that's just me) or getting scared away because of the dead baby bomb you dropped on them. It may be that the opposite things might happen - that they sympathize with you, that they don't freak out, that they choose to stay or to at least try to understand what you've gone through. But there will be opportunities for you to share your loss with the people you truly want to be friends with and they will come not just in the right time but also in the proper context.

    As I see it, it's not in the timing, it's in the delivery. How you share the stillbirth of your beloved son to these new "friends" (who are worthy) has more weight because it shows how much his life, albeit short, matters to you and sharing it with them matters to you. It shows that they will gain a friend who is a mother who fiercely love her children and is not afraid to say that the one she holds in her arms now has brought her joy and healing, but the one who died will never, ever be forgotten and will always be thought of with love.

  7. What Jennifer wrote above is exactly it. I think it's in the delivery of the message, and in the sharing of the facts. Letting them know the details and then if they ask questions and you feel comfortable, sharing more. I've only shared it with people who I would like to have a closer relationship with, and in all honesty an unacceptable response complete dictates whether I bother to try to deepen the relationship.

  8. I find it frustrating interacting with people who don't know. I have tried waiting for the right moment and then when I think it is right and blurt it out it all comes out so quickly just tumbling out of my mouth because its been on the tip for so long and comes out so oddly. It's something I really need people to know, that I'm not their normal... I'm a different kind. So I've decided from now on not wait, to make it known sooner.

  9. Wonderful post and so many great comments already. Thanks so much for taking the time to post on this, because it is something so many people relate to but often don't take the time to talk about. We just included your post on our weekly round-up of grief posts on our site. Thanks for a great site.

  10. I haven't been through what you have, but I understand to some extent how you feel due to other experiences I've had. I haven't read your blog before, but I certainly will do so again. Thank you for sharing with such honesty.

  11. The loss of my son was much earlier, at 21 weeks, and I have found that there is just no right way. For me it depends on many factors: the person, the situation, how I'm feeling etc. I have yet to find an easy way and have discovered that a lot of people just don't get it- but the ones who do are the ones that matter.

    Wishing you the strength & grace to get through those moments.

  12. Great post. I think you and Laura were right on the money. So many of us deal with this in our daily lives. Its enough to make you want to scream! Not even meeting new people is as simple as it once was. I mean, lets face it, meeting new people us always awkward...but we're carrying the motherload of all emotional baggage here!

    For me, I almost have to put it all out there in a take it it leave it kind of way. Its just too much a part of who I am and too difficult for me to hold it back. I know that my approach isn't appropriate for everyone. But I kind of feel like if I just put it out there, and they're strong enough (mature enough, nice enough, what have you) to handle the situation gracefully, then they're worth my time and effort. (I sound kind of crappy here, but I promise I'm nice!!!!) I guess I don't want to hold back and build any friendship at all only to share and have them hurt me by their reaction. Kind of a band-aid removal approach - quick and less painful. Or that's my plan anyway!