Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stillborn is Still Death

Guest post today by Nora's Awesome Aunt Kristi.  


The other day I was showing a coworker a tattoo I wanted to get in honor of my niece, Nora.  When I told her that she looked confused, so I asked her if I had told her that my niece died.  She said I hadn't and looked horror-struck. I briefly told her when it happened and that she was stillborn.

At the word stillborn, my coworker gave a nod and went, "Ohhh."  Her complete demeanor changed and went from one of horror and sadness, to a look of, "Oh, she was just stillborn."  As if she never really lived so she never really died either.  

The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.  I know my coworker wasn't being insensitive, and most likely didn't even realize her response had changed once she found out my niece was stillborn.   But it still bothers me how this world thinks of stillbirth.

Stillbirth is still death.  

Whatever way you cut it.  My niece was alive and then she died.  The fact that she died in my sister's belly, right before she should meet the world, is irrelevant.  Yet, I feel like most people who haven't been touched by this type of tragedy don't really think of it in that way.  For most people, they think that in order for a person to be a person they have to have gasped a breath in this world.  Would people think differently about this loss if my niece had breathed outside of my sister's womb for 1 minute, 5 minutes, hours or days?  It wouldn't have made a difference to our family and our grief, so it shouldn't make a difference for the rest of the world.  Viewing stillbirth as something "other" than death, or not quite as "real" as death is unfair and undercuts the grief that the parents and extended family feel from this loss.  

My niece was completely perfect, but a fluke infection took her tiny life before she was granted that gift of breath.  She still existed, despite not getting the chance to do so outside of my sister's womb.  I, her awesome aunt, got to feel her kick!  I got to see pictures of her as she grew, not only from sonograms, but from watching my sister grow too.  I saw two people flourish and plan for their baby, changing in their habits and ways as they anxiously and excitedly awaited to be parents.  Lindsey and Nick had hopes and dreams of being parents, just like Zach and I, and the rest of her family had hopes and dreams of being Nora's relatives.  To me, and the rest of my family, she was real and we were ready to share our lives with her.  She had already taken up a sweet spot in our hearts, and with her stillbirth a part of our hearts became hollow.

I truly believe that everything my niece was and would have been was already within her.  All her personality traits, her likes and dislikes, her aspirations and dreams, they were all a part of her and she was ready to leave her mark on this world (this I believe wholeheartedly since she was the daughter of my sister!).  I know she would inevitably learn and grow as she got older.  Some things may have changed about her, but the point is that a baby's birth is full of possibilities, of hope and happiness, of new beginnings.  With her death, all of that died too.  And that is what makes stillbirth so bittersweet and so painful.

I am not going to try to quantify this loss versus other losses.  All losses and death suck, at whatever point.  I just wish the rest of the world would realize that and treat stillbirth the same as any other.

Nora's life was shorter than most, but that doesn't make her life any less significant.

My niece may have been stillborn, but she still lived.


  1. Beautifully said Kristi. Thank you. Love you--Mom

  2. She is a very lucky little girl to belong to a family like yours. You all continue to inspire and amaze me with your strength and love and the way you simply "put it all out there" - no excuses - just truths. Hugs to all of you.

  3. Thank you for your reflection, and for being such a good aunt to Nora. I also have a sister who is a wonderful aunt to my stillborn baby boy. I'm glad you all are out there.
    -Burning Eye

  4. This blog post should be shouted out loud so that everyone hears and understands about still born babies. You said it all... and Nora definitely has an amazing family. Love, expectations, hope, loss, pain, tears, healing, hope, love.
    Somebody asked my daughter if she had given her stillborn baby a name!!

    Thank you for writing this Awesome Aunt Kristi.


  5. When my daughter was 18 months old her cousin Amber was full-term still born. When my daughter was 6 years old her cousin Emily, age 11 years old, was hit & killed by a Chicago Commuter Train as she crossed the tracks on her bike on her way to school on May 8th. When my daughter was 16 years old her cousin, Collin, was born on May 8th. When my daughter was just 31 years old she also lost her life force suddenly to a large brain aneurysm. One month after my daughter lost her life force her cousin Collin was struggling to survive over a course of the next year + from a rare G.I. condition in his bowels and also her cousin Rick was struggling to survive acceptence of just trying to cope to stay alive. Each with a uniqueness, each a living soul whether in or outside the womb~Thanks kindly for reading/understanding with my wish for healing for you~Anny Schepp of DeForest, WI.

    1. Anny,

      I am deeply saddened to hear about so much loss in your life. Even with all the loss you have experienced you leave me with kind words and thoughts. Your strength is beautiful. My thoughts are with you for much love and blessings ahead of for you.



    2. Anny, I think often of sweet Emily. I was her 3rd grade teacher and was heartsick when I heard the news. She was so sweet and adorable, and I will never forget her smiling face! I'm sure she is smiling down on all of us right now


  6. I'm a little behind with commenting on this post but it's comforting to read this. My sister lost her little girl last thursday (6 June 2013) at 41 weeks and 2 days. It was the most devastating 3 minutes of my life listening to my mum take the call. It was all supposed to go right and this was not meant to happen. Like above, I had felt my niece kick from 24 weeks right to just over a week ago. I loved her from that first moment and will love her forever. The death of this little star is unbearable to think of and I cannot imagine anyone thinking this is different to a person dying. It's tragic as everything was planned for her arrival. I had a beautiful hamper ready and a gorgeous teddy for her to love but she never got the chance to meet this teddy and I never got the chance to meet my first niece. The funeral has not been planned yet but I know it will be sooner rather than later. My sister and her partner will try for another one when they can but this little girl can never be forgotten or replaced. I have written her a letter which will be placed in her coffin. Our family will miss her every second. She is loved even though we will never see her smile, or hear her laugh. Life can be too cruel sometimes.
    Chloe Louise - born sleeping 8 June 2013

  7. How did you deal with it? how do you deal with it? I too lost my niece Layla, who was stillborn. Im seventeen. I was with my sister in virgina (i live in CA) 3 weeks before and had felt her in my sister. I saw her move and imagined the future she would live. She was due on the 28th of July and on the 26th of july my mom walked in and told me the docter said there was no heartbeat. I know that none of my family members understand what i am going through since they hadnt spent that time with my sister and Layla. I didnt have my sister who i knew felt what i was feeling plus more. I kept the text she sent me with Layla's weight and height and have memorized it. i constantly look at the picture that was sent plus the ones i had gotten from their house this past trip. i listen to the same songs everynight to remember but i never feel like it does justice. I dont want to forget and i feel guilty i dont think of her more. Its coming up to her 1st Birthday and i dont know what im going to do without having my sister there. I dont know if i want peple there with me while i struggle or if i should be alone. I dont know how to bring it up to my sister and ask for more picture. Its just hard to have those nights where you dont sleep because you want things to be different and have her back. I have regrets and know you cant change what has happened, but i dont know what else i can do to hold on to her, or if thats even ok for me to do. Im alone on this and i choose to be because i dont want to bring others down with me. I know they wont understand.


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