Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I just sent off this letter to Cookie magazine ( in response to an article they published in their November 2008 issue, which reviewed Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination and Jessica Berger Gross' anthology About What Was Lost: 20 Writers on Miscarriage, Healing and Hope. My opinions on the article are revealed in the letter below... it was a bit of a let down to finally see something pertaining to babyloss in print, only to feel pretty much totally unsatisfied with the content. It occurred to me that almost everything I've ever seen that's been printed about this subject has been as a memoir, and that this might just be the first time that somebody who (obviously) has no personal experience with loss (stillbirth, to be specific) has written the piece.

Dear Cookie,

A friend just lent me your Nov. 2008 issue, so that I could read the article "The Quiet Club" by Nell Casey. I am a leader in my area for supporting families who have suffered through infant and pregnancy loss, and I applaud you for daring to cover this topic in your magazine. Many women, myself as an example having lost my first daughter at term, suffer in silence, and each step in the direction of recognition is worthy in an of itself.
I would, however, like to comment on two areas that struck me as very misleading and wrong about Casey's article. The first area is two incorrect facts: one, that there is not statistical information available on the number of stillbirths, and the second is that there is no standard definition of stillbirth. In fact, while there are several states that vary on the number of weeks gestation that divide miscarriages from stillbirths, nearly every state will define a stillbirth as death in utero of a fetus over 20 weeks gestation. Furthermore, regardless of the state-by-state differences (of which there are very few to begin with) the statistics are out there and they are the same everywhere you look: 29,000 stillbirths annually, which means that each day in the US an average of 80 families will experience this tragedy. I can't help but think this information was omitted intentionally to "spare" the fears of readers. This lack of statistics further isolates those of us who have suffered alone, continuing to shelve us as "unique" and unspeakable. I would beg you to correct this.Secondly, I personally took great offense to Casey's comment that McCracken's friend's question "'Was he a beautiful baby?'" reads as an almost shocking question without the emotional context of this friendship." This is the blow that hits hardest, beneath the waist, and leaves us breathless, us babylost mothers and fathers. Not only are we robbed of the rest of our lives with our children, but we are shunned from even mentioning their names, from describing their adorable faces and miniature toes, from sharing our babies as best we can through memories and photos. Would it be shocking to ask a mother of a live baby if her baby was beautiful? I challenge you to find a mother of a stillborn baby who did not find her baby to be beautiful. What Casey should have instead relayed, perhaps, is that while this question might sound surprising, a stillborn baby can often resemble a sleeping infant in color and by touch, and that it is quite normal (and encouraged) for families to spend many hours with their deceased children to get to know them as well as they can in their brief time. Indicating that inquiring after the baby would be shocking, without qualifying it as the best possible thing one can do, is very misleading. For a babylost mother to have a friend legitimize her baby for what he is: an actual baby who had an adorable, elfin face and long limbs, is a gift beyond value.Thank you for your time, and again, I truly appreciate your bravery in addressing this "taboo" subject area that simply must come out of the closet, so to speak.

I signed it as my name with the title, Director, Empty Arms Western Massachusetts


Hope's Mama said...

Do you have a link to the actual article, Carol?

Shannon said...

It took some doing as I was curious to read the article, but I finally tracked it down on the mess that is that website.

I agree with you Carol, it seems like a very careless article, poorly researched and insensitively written.

I recently showed my ultrasound picture of Isabella to someone and they told me "she was very pretty". It was the first time anyone had ever said that. So when you admonished the author about their comment that it was shocking to ask if the baby was beautiful I couldn't help but agree.

What will happen to the letter you wrote? Will they print it in their magazine under “letters to the editor”? Will they write a retraction? Have you heard back from them? I think it’s wonderful that you wrote that letter, I hope it provides them with something of a slap in the face. I just wonder what they’ll do with it.

Gretchen said...

Thank you so much for representing "us" so well in your response. I almost dread reading the article now.

Hennifer said...

I hope they take your words to heart. I'll be checking for an update...

mama said...


Thank you for writing this letter. Everything you said they need to hear.