Sunday, February 1, 2009

Scrapbook THIS...

Where: scrapbook store

What: scrapbooking & chatting for 12 straight hours : )

When: yesterday

Who: me and six other women, including my retired coworker friend, the two store owners and a starry-eyed, thirtysomething newly engaged bride-to-be, who expressed her intention to ttc right away ("the clock is ticking!").

One of the women was working on a heritage album & had a late 19th/early 20th century funeral picture of a dead toddler in a casket. This prompted a conversation about the "bizarre" practice of funeral photography, of photos of dead family members propped up in group shots with the living, of family members gathered around caskets.

I surprised myself by speaking up: "But you know, they are starting to do things like that again. There was a documentary on CBC before Christmas about families whose children are at Sick Kids Hospital and not likely to survive. There's an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that sends volunteer photographers to hospitals to take pictures of these children and their families. They take photos of stillborn babies, too. Beautiful, Anne Geddes-type photos. And it's all free to the families."

Several of the women: "Oh, I don't think I'd want that" & other similar comments.

Bride to Be: "My uncle has MS, & I'm not going to take any more pictures of him now. I want to remember him the way he was."

Me: "But what if these were the only photographs you were ever going to have of that person?"

Silence, & looks that showed this thought had never occurred to these people. I guess I made my point. The conversation moved on.

My friend & the two store owners know about my loss. Another friend (from my pg loss support group) & I approached the store owners about donations for the Sick Kids scrapbooking program. Word has spread, & one of the owners (who has personal reasons to visit Sick Kids every few months) takes a box full of donations from the store and its customers when she goes to the hospital to our contact, the NICU bereavement coordinator, who was featured in the CBC documentary. (What sort of photos do they think these parents are taking & scrapbooking at the hospital, & why? Do they think that every one of those families gets to take their kids home with them?)

I was the first to leave that evening & am wondering whether they mentioned anything after I left. Or (more likely) whether the conversation had already been forgotten.

*** *** ***

Coincidentally, this week's issue of Newsweek includes a story about stillbirth and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, including a web-extra story about NILM. Thanks to CLC for pointing this out on her blog.


  1. My mother's brother died a few days after birth and I remember seeing professional pictures of him in his casket with a rattle in his hand.

    It really bother me when I was younger, but now I understand. I was just thinking today about my miscarriages being so early I never had anything to hold or really say goodbye to.

    What a wonderful organization. It is so great they organize this for the parents. I can imagine how overwhelmed the parents are at the time and wouldn't think to arrange it at the time. As time goes by, I know the efforts of the photographers are more and more precious to them.

  2. Beautiful post, and good for you for speaking up in the way you did. I think its wonderful you could phrase things as "what if" and hopefully allowing the women to try to put themselves in the situation for a moment. Or maybe not :) But good for you for trying!

  3. I'm so proud of you for speaking up, Loribeth. It takes a lot of courage to drop something like that into a situation like that, and it's great that you at least opened people's minds a crack. My mom used to tell me that sometimes it doesn't seem like what you're saying has any impact, but that you might have nudged something open in someone's mind, and years later they might be more receptive to an idea because of your actions. Seems like that was a pretty likely outcome of that tiny part of your scrapbooking chat.

  4. Sometimes it's tough to put that question out there - and really make people think. I'm really glad you did that. Keep doing that. This is about spreading value through your experience.

  5. That conversation would have infuriated me. I find it similar to the comments like "you are so strong, I could never deal with that." Basically, people shouldn't presume what they would or wouldn't do in situations like that. The statements tend to sound judgemental, when in reality, no one has any idea how they will react to the death of a loved one, much less a baby. You are a big person to phrase it the way you did. Hopefully, you got them thinking.

  6. I am so glad that you said something. I try whenever I can, but oh lord, the times when I have to hold back to prevent myself from exploding.

    I am sick to death of this kind of ignorance and denial.

    People die at every age. It's fact of life. How stupid is the public?

    Don't answer---I know. Very stupid.

  7. You are my hero! What a brave thing to do - I would have been absolutely shaken and you were brilliant.

    Sometimes I have wanted so much for everyone to know - not necessarily personally (I wouldn't wish that on anyone!) but to see, to have some sort of picture of what losing a child is like. I hear others who say that they would "die if anything like that ever happened to them" and I want to tell them that "no, you won't - you may want to, but you won't; you would survive." I am no different from them. But perhaps that is how they bypass the fear - if they are not as "strong as me", perhaps it is a "shield" against becoming a person with experiences like mine.

    I wish I could have been there to see you!

  8. (haha, love the title)

    Dang, you're so awesome and brave. I'd like to think I would've leveled those people and whipped out my photos and propped their eyelids open with double-stick-tape, but I'd probably just stare agape and sniffle in the corner. People amaze me with their complete stupidity, sometimes.

    Like the above, I hope someone left the room a bit more attentive than they entered.

  9. Loribeth I also think it is so fantastic you spoke up. The death of a child is so unfathomable that people just really cannot conceptualize how they might feel.
    How wonderful that woman had the family photo.

    The entire time j was in the NICU not one photo of her was taken. I mentioned in the summer at a NICU meeting that Aurelia was given a photo at women's and how much it touched me. The family fund we support decided to fund the printing of photos. It breaks my heat to imagine families whose children die unexpectedly not having photos.

  10. Maybe I need to get over myself or just be less sensitive or something but I for one am HORRIBLY offended by the way that people refuse to talk about emotionally difficult subjects. We can talk about babies being born all freaking day long but we can't talk empathetically with one another about stillbirth? Or cancer. Or chronic illness. Or even a family member's depression. WTF is wrong with people? Are they afraid your bad luck will overflow to them? Or are they so selfish that the can't not talk about bunnies and rainbows for just a few minutes? AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

  11. I thought of you when I saw that article in Newsweek (coincidentally at my RE's office for a post op appointment.) and wondered if you had seen it.

  12. Coincidentally, the week this article came out, I posted an interview of a young woman who experienced stillbirth on my blog, Aberration Nation. Here's the link: It's certainly a timely topic - and one that we should all be more open to discussing. Best wishes ...

  13. Coincidentally, the week this article came out, I posted an interview of a young woman who experienced stillbirth on my blog, Aberration Nation. Here's the link: It's certainly a timely topic - and one that we should all be more open to discussing. Best wishes ...