No One Wants to See That

photo 3Trending 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.

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Roots

1497733_10203820470048139_2427932655694320394_nI’m a Texas Michigander.  Or maybe it’s a Michigan Texan, I’m not quite sure.  Regardless of the formalities, when I moved to North Texas in 2009 I was admittedly surprised by the beauty of the area.  I’m ashamed to say that Texas has a reputation amongst Midwesterners as being, well, ugly.  So when I experienced my first spring bombarded by the beauty of bluebonnets and crepe myrtles, I fell in love.  Sure, it’s a little flat and in the summer the concrete is hotter than a habanero, but I love this place.  It’s my home.

Or is Michigan my home?  I spent the first two decades of my life, my formative years, if you will, in northern Michigan.  If you’ve never been there, imagine strolling the hills of Tyrol with your pet goat wearing a pair of lederhosen. (You can add your own yodel for extra effect.) Every summer I pack up the boys and make my annual pilgrimage to the motherland to see my family, and every year I find myself awed by the beauty of the place where I grew up.10525366_10203773628477129_4947842804342159344_n

It’s literally like stepping onto the set of The Sound of Music.  Everything is green, hilly, lush, and breathtaking.  Yards have white-picket fences and flowerbeds are overflowing with whimsical flowers that fry in Texas, the hydrangeas, the hostas, the peonies…And the water?  Don’t get me started on the water.  It’s no secret that Michigan has an abundance of lakes, and, after five years of playing in the red clay photowater of the metroplex, I’m amazed at the frigid clarity of the lakes of my youth.

Things are slower in the little town I grew up in.  Everyone knows everyone else. People gift each other pies and jam from their latest crop of raspberries. The local bookstore had a huge display for Holding Avery just because I grew up there, even though now I’m just another tourist.  Northern Michigan is a special place, a place of immense beauty, a place that takes care of its own.10527262_270245689827100_878633437366971177_n

But I eventually found myself missing my other home. Maybe it was because it got so cold one night that I had to go to Walmart and buy a pair of fleece pants to sleep in. Maybe it was because my Texas-bred boys kept complaining and shivering and turning blue every time they went for a swim. Perhaps it was because I had to run three miles up a hilly dirt road to get cell service.   But when it was time to head south, I was ready.

I’ve been “home” for two weeks now, and it’s good to be back.  I missed the sunshine, the heat, the endless blue sky, the sushi…But now that I’m home, I find myself missing northern Michigan, too. They say that home is where the heart is.  If that’s true, then I guess I just have two hearts.photo 4