What I Mean When I Say "Stillborn" (applies to miscarriages too)

January 24, 2014

This article/essay was written by a mom who experienced a stillborn; it is by Beth Morey and you can read it here http://stillstandingmag.com/2013/04/what-i-mean-when-i-say-my-daughter-was-stillborn/. (I also copied/pasted it below) It is the most clear and powerful thing I have read that explains this type of death physically involves the mommy.  I've mentioned this before but Jude's death (his perfect little feet on left) was especially hard because he was alive inside while I was in labor but I knew that the impact of labor would kill him on the way out-a true true death trap.  This essay  is hauntingly beautiful, crystal clear, and 100% truth.

What I mean When I Say "My Daughter Was a Stillborn"
by Beth Morey
"I don’t think that most people understand me when I say that my daughter was stillborn.
That phrasing makes it sound passive, like it was something that just happened to me, externally.

But that’s not what a stillbirth is, and I imagine that’s not what a miscarriage is either.
A stillbirth isn’t something that happened to me, or my daughter, or my family.

It’s something that happened inside me. That I was forced to participate in.

I keep trying to think of an analogy to explain how devastatingly non-passive enduring a stillbirth or miscarriage is, but nothing seems adequate. Perhaps it comes close to say that it’s like having cancer or another horrible, soul-draining, body-emaciating disease . . . only that the cancer that is within you is slowly killing someone else. Someone precious to you. And you are forced to come along for the ride, to participate in the killing.

But then, I’ve never had cancer or watched a loved one go through cancer, so maybe that’s way off, too.

The simple fact is – there is nothing like stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital to check on your baby, only to have the incredibly sweet joy of pregnancy replaced in an instant with the dull, moaning emptiness of knowing that you are still going to have to endure labor and birth and filling breasts and the weeks of bleeding.

Only your baby will be dead. Your labor pains will produce nothing but a shell of this most precious person. Your arms will be empty, and there will be no way to soothe your aching breasts.

And that doesn’t even factor in the grief, or the guilt, or the wondering of who or what in this wide world you are now that death has crept into your life, into your body, in such an insidious way.
I think it’s the not-understanding that enables people to tell me, not even a year and a half after my daughter’s stillbirth as I write this, to get over it. To move on.

But my question to those people is – how long did it take you to “get over” the death of a loved one, if you’ve ever had to endure such a thing? How long did it take you to “move on” (whatever that means)?

Now ask yourself: what if you had to participate in the death of your loved one, to help bring their ending of breath into being? Then how long would it take you to heal?
Stillbirth didn’t just happen to me. It doesn’t just happen to anyone. Your baby dies, and then you give birth . . . to your dead child.

It’s not passive. You participate, even though you don’t want to. Even though it makes you want to scream and scream and scream in horror.

You participate, and it keeps you up at night for weeks and months and years.

It’s been one year and four months since I birthed my daughter’s dead body, and that is still what blooms large in my mind every night as I wait for sleep to descend. I don’t ask for the memories to come – they are just there. I can’t escape. I birth her again and again in my mind, hold her again and again for the first and last time, feel the lingering ache of afterbirth that prevents me forgetting even for a moment the nauseating reality of what just took place.

Stillbirth does not just happen. It’s not clean and surgical. Instead, it is messy and active, and it opens a wound whose pain throbs on long past you wish it would. And it changes you.

So when I say, “My daughter was stillborn,” please know that I am not describing something that happened to me. I am describing a traumatic and pivotal event in which I was an active, unwilling participant, an event that I participate in the echoes of still."

-Beth Morey


  1. Thank you for sharing that! I was worried before I started reading that It didn't apply to me as I have not had a still birth but I have had a recent miscarriage. I appreciate that she included miscarriages and I really identified with her perspective.

  2. My heart just aches for you and the journey you have gone through. This story really touched me and I do feel it applied to me and the loss I had with my first baby at 12 weeks.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. She has written out what I've struggled to say so many times.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have had one early miscarriage and can only imaging how hard losing a baby later would be. If only others recognized how hard it is for a mother to go through this. This I think captures it well!

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Holly. Even after having gone through this myself it made some things clear. Perhaps we should say "I still-birthed my baby", to clarify that we, our bodies, were involved in this. But then I might feel terribly guilty, as if I'd had a choice to do something else instead.

  6. Yes.. thank you for sharing this. I try to explain "stillbirth" to people all the time (when asked, which is often) and they just don't get it. It's been nine years as of this past Thursday and I'm still struggling to understand how/why/what happened to me. How my precious baby could be okay only HOURS before his "demise" and then so tragically slip away. It may take me an entire lifetime to understand or figure it out--

  7. This is written beautifully! I have endured 2 miscarriages and explaining them to others (and myself) is never easy. I like how she wrote that it doesn't "just happen" yet it involves the mother physically...people don't understand when I can't do things because I am physically recovering from my loss. But after having a "take home baby" they completely understand that swimming is not an option. Thanks for posting. Prayers for all who go through this!

  8. Thank you for sharing this article.

  9. Thank you for sharing this. It's heartbreaking, but beautifully written.

  10. I can't even begin to imagine. I've had a miscarriage, and it was very painful, but being an unwilling participant in a still birth is on a whole different level. My heart aches for anyone having had to endure it.

  11. I'm so glad you found Beth. She understands. ....Debbie Johanesen

  12. I feel so guilty for allowing life to be created in my belly, and then not being able to sustain it. Thank you for posting this. It is gut wrenching to read, but it helps me to understand my feelings. Thank you for everything, actually. I'll say a prayer for you, Holly.

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