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.




A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore…

10492212_10203595970355787_8702093362303428279_n-1Two weeks ago I went to Old Navy to buy new clothes for my kids.  My boys are growing like those little magic capsule thingies they love to play with – one night they drink a glass of milk, the next morning their pants are three inches too short and they’re sporting belly shirts.  It’s insane.  Anyway, Old Navy happens to be next to a Barnes and Noble.  It had been a little over a week since the release of my book, and I decided to take a stroll through B&N to see if Holding Avery was on the shelves.

I knew Barnes and Noble carried my book online – tons of bookstores carry my book online – but I wasn’t 100 percent sure they’d have it in-store.  I walked in, took a deep breath, and told myself not to be disappointed if it wasn’t there. I wandered through the biographies, breathless, and came face-to-face with Hillary Clinton on more than one occasion.  Not the actual Hillary Clinton, of course, but the giant picture of her on the cover of her brand-new memoir.  (The memoir that came out the same day as Holding Avery, I might add.) I passed scores of books by famous people, but I didn’t see my own.  I headed for the self-help section. My story is a memoir – a biography – but it’s also classified as self-help.  Since I’m not exactly on the same plane as former first ladies and aging superstars, I figured it was worth a shot. As I turned down that aisle, my heart stopped.  There it was, the white feather, my name in print, Avery’s name in print…I had a faceout, too, so my book was right there for the world to see, begging to be read.

It’s hard to actually put this feeling into words – think being five years old again on Christmas morning, and then multiply that by a thousand. In short, it was amazing. I looked around; a man sat on the floor a few feet away, perusing a book.  It took all my willpower not to tap him on the shoulder ask him if I looked like the lady on the back of Holding Avery.  Instead I shamelessly took a selfie with my book, stared at it for another minute, and left.


A few days later we had a rainy Sunday.  After breakfast with my husband and boys, we took a bookstore tour through the Dallas Metroplex, and yes, I took selfies every time I found my book on the shelves.  I couldn’t help it.  It was exciting stuff.

It’s also a timely distraction for me. The last few days of June and the first few days of July are always hard for me.  At this very moment six years ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed trying to decide if I was ready to start the process of birthing my stillborn daughter.  I felt pretty lousy; I felt extremely hopeless.   Back then I couldn’t imagine the beautiful future that was waiting for me, completed by two incredible little boys who would come into my life and help me find happiness.10339637_10203315588106406_8543961783156059448_n

I also couldn’t fathom that the little girl I was mourning, a baby who graced this earth for just an instant, would have the ability to leave such a long-lasting impression on so many.  Tomorrow is Avery’s sixth birthday. While she may not be here to celebrate, her legacy lives on in print.

And that feels amazing, too.