Written by: Antonia Mitchell Glynn
With stillbirth there is silence. So, much silence. Where there should be screams of a baby crying, there is silence. Where there should be squeals of congratulations, there is nothing. There is the silence of the Obstetrician desperately scanning a baby, trying to see a hint of movement in a small, lifeless body.
There is a hush in the operating theatre, where the cries of a newborn child should be but instead, there are only my sobs. There is the silence from friends and family who hear the news and who never speak to us again. There is the stillness in the middle of the night, as I wake from yet another nightmare, trying to reach my daughter and once again failing. Waking to a reality that is a continuation of my nightmare. I turn to my husband and see that his usual peaceful face is haggard and strained, even in sleep, a sign of his mental anguish at the loss of his baby girl.
Three years have now passed and oddly this silence has increased. We have had a second child, Gabriel, a living son. He is 16 months old and he moves through life with a constant stream of noise. He is chatting, yelling, throwing things on the floor. He has filled our house with the noise we were missing. Yet, in doing so he brings into stark relief the silence of our daughter, Shoshana. Where he has noise she never made a sound. Where his cries are soothed by my mutterings, her silence is unable to be healed.
His presence, makes it harder for people to remember our daughter to talk about her. Nothing new has happened with her, so the conversation reduces. I have less to say, or maybe I just have nothing new to say. So we talk about Gabriel, and his sister disappears into the cracks of conversation. We tell him about her, we wave at her photo but he cannot grasp the connection, merely understanding that this is a nice picture. He almost certainly thinks it is an image of him.
I find that there is silence around how to manage mothering these two children. Loved equally, where one is in the background and the other is so far in the foreground. Where swimming classes and nap times for our son, make it hard to visit the grave of our daughter. I look for other women’s stories on this subject and I find nothing. Like so many other elements, the child that comes after and the strains this present are silent. I feel silenced.
So on International Women’s Day I choose to break that silence. To say that I am a mother to two children. Two children who are just as important. I am one of tens of thousands of women who feel this way, I want more for my daughter. I want more for my husband. I want more for my son. I want more for myself. I want the silence broken.