Death does not break the bond between parent and child. God is the one who created this bond. And stillbirth does not, and cannot, sever it………ever. You don’t have to change a diaper to be a parent. You don’t have to be awoken at night to a crying baby to be a parent. You don’t have to suffer through a “Walmart fiasco” when your child can’t have their favorite toy. You don’t need to read stories to your little ones at night to qualify as a parent. You don’t need to have tons of cute pictures and videos to upload on social media to qualify as a parent either. Those things happen for most parents, but they are not an option for parents of stillborn babies. But, you know what, we are still parents. And nothing will ever change that.
As we continue on in this series of posts dealing with stillborn baby loss, we come to this vital piece of the puzzle for those who have lost stillborn babies. It is crucial for us as the parents, and others who are part of our lives, to know that we really are parents. And it is so important to us that everyone clearly acknowledges this. Otherwise, we suffer needless heartache. When people don’t have this understanding for parents of stillborn babies, it makes things so much more difficult than they have to be. As weird as it sounds, we feel like we have to accommodate you. We feel like we have to make you emotionally comfortable in talking to us. Like we have to offer the perfect explanation so as to remove all the awkwardness from you. Like we have to justify calling ourselves parents, or referring to our baby. Strange, but unfortunately true.
With that said, we come to #8. Parents of stillborn babies want you to acknowledge………
#8 We want you to acknowledge the powerful bond that we have with our babies, and want you to refer to us as their parents.
Yes…….We Really Are Parents
Should be obvious, ha? I mean, doesn’t a stillborn baby have the mother and father’s genetics? Isn’t a stillborn baby comprised of sperm and egg? Doesn’t a stillborn baby grow in the mommy’s tummy? Isn’t a stillborn baby created in God’s image? If you really think about it, why would we be referred to as anything else besides the baby’s parents? But parents of stillborn babies know exactly why I mention all of this. Sadly, many people don’t think of us as parents, at least not in any meaningful, life-changing way. Well, unless of course, we have other children…….then most folks will boldly pronounce us as “Class A” Parents. Top of the line, real, living, “just like us” kind of parents. But even then, an odd distinction is made between living children and stillborn babies. People don’t want to engage you as much regarding your stillborn. Somehow they miss the fact that your eyes just lit up with the mere thought of being able to talk about your baby! They just blow right by the opportunity. And it never gets easy. It is always frustrating beyond belief. Your baby’s memory gets sideswiped like a car on a hit and run that just drives away like nothing serious even happened.
No Bedtime Bible Stories
I don’t have any living children, but the sense I get from people is that a stillborn baby just isn’t as deserving of all the conversation as other kids are. Why is this? Most people make no favorable comparison between a living child and a stillborn baby. What a crying shame this is. It’s almost like the real reason someone is considered a parent is because they have ongoing celebrations and hardships that parents of stillborns do not have. For example, we can never talk about our stillborn baby as being a 2 year old toddler who is out of control, or a 10 year old who made the honor roll again this year, or how long it’s taking to potty train them, or how enjoyable it is to read them the Bible every night. Parents of stillborns do not have these particular joys, heartaches and stresses. We have different ones. We don’t have an experience that the majority of parents can relate to. And because of that, they do not typically acknowledge us as being like them.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
If you haven’t gotten your hands dirty (so to speak), and you haven’t dealt with all the things parents normally deal with, then you just simply fall short. Even worse, it feels to us like our precious little baby is the one who falls short. If you’ve had a lot of experience (diapers, crying fits at night, cute pics, sports, discipline issues, etc.), then you get acknowledged by others as being real parents. And your baby is acknowledged as a real baby. Otherwise, for the most part, you and baby get overlooked. Yes, there are compassionate people out there who are the exceptions. But sadly, those people are few and far between. Achievement and experience should not be the deciding factor in whether someone qualifies as a parent or a baby. Because if that is the case, then all miscarried, aborted, and stillborn babies have nothing to show. And that is tragic.
The Not-So-Terrible 2’s
But what if you were not dealing with the difficulty of child rearing? What if you were only dealing with the difficulty of not being able to rear a child, because your only baby is dead? What then? Is it your lack of experience in raising children that determines whether or not you should be called a parent? Is it somehow an easier burden to deal with a baby’s death than it is to go through the struggles of parenting? I don’t remember where I saw it, but there is a saying out there that goes something like this: “A new mommy can’t sleep at night because of her crying baby. But a mommy of a stillborn can’t sleep at night because she doesn’t hear her baby cry.” Parents of stillborns would do anything for our baby to be with us, even if that means they would have a screaming fit inside Target when they turned 5 years old. We would do anything to have seen their first poopy diaper. We would have loved for our baby to go through the “Terrible 2’s.” But they never made it to 2 years of age. We would have savored even 2 hours with our baby. This is reality for most parents of stillborn babies. Even parents who have other children rarely hear their stillborn acknowledged in the same way as their other kids. This should not be.
So, How Many Kids Do You Have?
This is one of the hardest, most dreaded questions a parent of a stillborn baby ever has to answer. You might be thinking that this should really be easy for us. But is isn’t. We have to be thinking before we answer. And we only have a few seconds to contemplate how we answer. We don’t have a straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer for every person who asks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve agonized over the fact that I did not acknowledge my daughter when people have asked me “The Question.” I can’t understand why I even do it. That is the most difficult part. I know I should say something like “Yes, I am a dad. And I have a beloved, beautiful baby girl named Ariana who died as a stillborn. I love her and miss her very much!” But most of the time, I do not say this. And even though I can’t pinpoint exactly why, I suppose it is mostly fear. Fear of the type of response I am going to receive from others. Fear of really awkward silences. Fear of people looking at me like I’m crazy for thinking I’m a father when my baby never even took a breath outside the womb. Yes, all these possible outcomes can dart through the mind at lightning speed when you are the parent of a stillborn baby.
So please remember this: God formed our stillborn baby’s inward parts. And just because those parts were stillborn, God still formed them inside mommy’s tummy. Nothing will ever change that. Not even the most awkward conversation. And not even the failure of a father to acknowledge his beloved baby girl, all because of the social fear and awkwardness involved. If death itself cannot break the parental bond we have with our stillborn baby, then it is absurd to think anything else will. God is the One who creates this powerful bond. It is His design alone. And no one can ever undo what He has done.
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