Trending on social media these days is the story Emily and Richard Staley, the California couple whose stillborn daughter was photographed by photographer Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro. These photos are heart-wrenching yet beautiful, and they magically capture the silent grief that accompanies stillbirth. As with everything on social media, people have their opinions, and, as I was gleaning through some of the comments on Facebook, I was pleased and disappointed all at once.
At first so many people offered support for the Staleys, for parents of stillborn babies in general, that I grew optimistic that stillbirth might actually gain a voice. Perhaps we’ve finally entered a time where parents can talk about losing a child without feeling like pariahs. Maybe the world is ready to recognize that stillbirth happens A LOT, that it’s not a dirty little secret that belongs locked away.
Then I read a few of the negative comments. (Granted, the comments were far more positive than negative, but there were still a few that stung.) I read of the inappropriateness of sharing the photos, of how “no one wants to see that.” I’m a member of a number of stillbirth-related groups, and I’ve seen many pictures of stillborn babies. While I firmly believe every baby is beautiful, the Staley’s photos are quite possibly the most amazing stillbirth pictures I’ve laid eyes on. I wholeheartedly disagree that no one wants to see that. We easily celebrate the lives of those who have walked this earth upon their deaths. What’s so horrifying about celebrating the life of a little one never given the chance to put their tiny feet on the ground?
When my daughter was stillborn six years ago, a nurse took pictures. I’m so happy to have them, but the majority are painfully awkward. None match the raw emotion of the Staleys, and they aren’t the least bit artistic. I’ve always been uncomfortable sharing them, primarily because I’ve clung to the fear that no one wants to see that.
But as time passes, I’m not sure why I’ve been so afraid. My story, Avery’s story, is a full-fledged book. I’ve showed the world my daughter through my words. I’ve shared my darkest times, my depression, my fears…Yet I’m still terrified to share a picture of the beautiful child that changed my life? All because no one wants to see that.
A few weeks ago an acquaintance told me she wasn’t going to read Holding Avery because she’d rather not think about me having a stillbirth. It’s too depressing for her, and she’d like to pretend it never happened. Fair enough. There are lots of people that would prefer to ignore the fact that there are around 30,000 stillbirths in the United States every year, and I suppose that’s their choice. But today my choice is to share a picture of my daughter, even if no one wants to see that. I apologize if you find it offensive, but it happened. And it’s not something I can ignore.