Thursday, December 11, 2008

Did you watch?

Did you watch? What did you think?

I did (although I was bone tired -- I'm usually in bed by 10 p.m., & that's when this started!). I was teary in parts, but I did not break down in sobs. Having been part of a pregnancy & infant loss support group for 10 years, I've heard so many sad stories. :( It’s not that they don't move me anymore -- they do -- but I guess the overall shock value of talking about dead babies and seeing photos of them has diminished somewhat. (I still do hear stories that shock me, though!)

If I had any regrets or disappointment about the film (and it's a relatively small quibble), it would be that, while the film's website makes note of stillbirth & miscarriage, it wasn't even mentioned in the documentary itself. The focus was specifically on neonatal death -- on four families whose critically ill babies were cared for at the NICU at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The end result is the same, of course -- a couple without their baby -- although there are differences in how we get to this point.

On the one hand, these parents got to see & hold & care for their children while they were alive, however briefly. Some even got to take their babies home for awhile. Dh often tells parents like these who come to our support group that he envies them for the time they got to spend with their children.

On the other hand -- stillbirth moms & dads like us never have to make some of the awful decisions these parents do, like when to remove life support systems. The decision has already been made for us (often, we're unaware that there's a problem). We don't have to live in limbo, waiting for the other shoe that we know is almost certainly going to drop -- just not exactly when.

Having been to journalism school, however, I can remember my profs/advisors stressing the importance of finding a focus for your story -- of zooming in on the specific aspect of the topic you want to communicate -- and not trying to cram too much into one piece. And while I guess that the subject of critically ill babies -- caring for them, taking photos and hand & foot moulds of them, making impossible decisions about how long to keep up the fight and when to discontinue care -- is a shocking topic for the general public, one they really don't want to think about, it's slightly more palatable and tangible to "outsiders" (and more easily sold to programmers) than the idea of doing the same things with a baby that's already dead.

And I know we can't expect just one documentary to solve all the dead baby problems of the world. That's a pretty tall order. I am always grateful to see this subject get media exposure of just about any sort, but especially when it's handled so well.

So bravo to Sheona McDonald & CBC Newsworld for having the courage to tackle such a difficult subject, and doing it in such a sensitive way.

At the end of the broadcast, they invited viewer comments on the website. So far, they've been very positive, many of them from parents of NICU babies. (You might even see a familiar name & story in there.) ; )

In the sidebar on the Newsworld site (on the right-hand side of the page), you can link to a CBC radio interview with one of the parents featured in the film, and read an essay by Sheona McDonald. The link to the radio interview with her in the sidebar is wrong :( but I searched around the CBC site & found the right link, here. (Not sure how long these links will be valid.)


  1. I am with your dh on this - there was always a small bit of envy on my part for those who took pictures and held their lost babies, even buried them. I know that sounds horrible - because loss is so devastating and I know that and not something to be envied in any way! There was just so much nothing I ended up with because of the how of my losses - so little tangible proof, nothing to hold onto at all. I was afraid (still afraid?) that if my memory ever failed, they would disappear completely and there would be no bit at all of them anywhere in this world. A part of why my blog is so important to me (even if I haven't written much lately)

  2. Hi, thank you so much for taking the time to write about the film and bring attention to it.

    I agree with you on the issue of miscarriage and stillbirth (and at the end of the 54 minute version there is a reference to both and stats about miscarriage and stillbirth). It was my intention, in a perfect world, to be able to also illustrate the story of a family dealing directly with miscarriage or stillbirth.

    There were several angles to pursue, but these were the families who came forward.

    In editing we realized that viewers needed to identify with the people in the film to feel compassion and understanding of the subject...

    I hope that people understand that the feelings expressed in the film extend to those who lose a baby in utero (I myself have miscarried).

    Hopefully this will begin a dialog that allows us all more liberty to speak of loss and hopefully we can expand on these stories.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    Sheona (director CASL)

  3. Thanks, Sheona... I imagine you had way more material than you could use, and as I said, I realize there is only so much that can be done in one hour! I really did think it was an amazing film, and thank you again for making it.