If I asked if stillbirth was still a taboo the answer would be yes. Now if I asked if Dexy is a Taboo the answer becomes a lot more complicated.
Was Dexy the first stillborn baby I have seen?
In 2016 a girl I knew from when I was younger had a stillborn baby boy. I remember so clearly the way she announced it and the photos she attached. I didn’t know how to react or how I should feel about it. I wondered if I should message her or just leave it? I had never even heard of stillbirth until that moment. She never really posted much about it or said how it happened or what caused it. I didn’t feel the need to look it up because it wasnt personal to me. I never thought I would need to know what it was or how often it occurred because never in a million years did I think it would happen to me.
I regret not reaching out to her when she lost her son which was due to my naivety. I regret not looking it up and seeing how common it was. I regret not making myself aware.
I should have researched it even for 10 minutes after she posted the hardest thing she would ever write and posted the photos of her beautiful son. I never really took in her words and photos which was so arrogant of me. The thought of looking at photos of a baby that had died broke my heart and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. It wasn’t until Dexy died that I looked back on her Facebook and absorbed the beauty of her son and allowed her words to evoke emotions in me that I didn’t know was possible. I wish I realised that these were the only photos she is ever going to have of her son and I really wish at the time I understood more.
Why didn’t I know about stillbirth?
When you are in school and you learn sex education. You get taught about how a baby is made, how long a woman is pregnant for and you learn a baby is born alive. You never get told this isn’t the reality. Not once in high school did I learn that a baby can be perfectly healthy and still die at 36 weeks. But how come I got taught about STIs and abortions? 1 in 200 births are stillborn, don’t they think that is a valid piece of information. If I got taught about it in school I would have realised that when she posted that her son was stillborn I wouldn’t have just brushed it off as something not serious. I would have realised that this was her baby, a baby that is never going to grow up and have a future.
I never saw stillbirths in TV shows or in movies but I did see people having abortions and getting pregnant from a one night stand and giving birth to a healthy baby. If I saw a movie that a couple lost their baby at 36 weeks I would have realised that it does happen and it’s okay to talk to people about it.
Stillbirth was never spoken about by any family members to me nor was it a topic of conversation within my circle of friends. I now find it so hard to believe that I was blind to this.
Is Dexy a taboo?
Yes. He is unspoken about in schools and he is unspoken about in the media. Dexy’s death is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable because we are naive to it. How many of you can say that when you got pregnant the first thought was what happens if my baby dies at 24, 29 or 36 weeks? You don’t. You worry about the first 12 because once you get past that point “pregnancy is safe”.
I have been proved many times that my son Dexy is still a taboo. People shy away from the harsh reality that he is a dead baby. All the cute photos that I post of him he is dead. I know he looks asleep and very cute but he’s not. He isn’t going to wake up and cry out for me.
I done a poll on Instagram asking ” Do pictures of stillborn babies make you uncomfortable?” and 11% of people said yes. Now I know that doesn’t seem like much but If I minused my friends, family and other bereaved parents that said no then that is quite a lot. Maybe if we learnt about it and it was an everyday topic we would be more comfortable with the idea of a mother or father sharing the only photos they will have of their child.
My reality is that I worry when I talk about Dexy or post his photos because I feel I will offend people and make them feel uncomfortable. I wish I could talk about Dexy to everyone like how my friends talk about their babies. I don’t want to have to filter the details of Dexy’s short life and painful death.
I need people to be aware that most of the time when a baby is stillborn they die a few days before they are born. Not all of them die during labour or shortly after. Not all of them have intact skin. Dexy was in me for 4 days before he was born he absorbed a lot of fluid which caused his skin to blister and when he was born they burst and his skin across his body apart from his face, hands and feet was peeling off. His skin was red and raw and over time it turned into a massive scab. I didn’t know this was what happened when a baby dies. I imagined we could bathe him and dress him ourselves. Dexy’s right wrist was also dislocated from when he was born. Stillborn babies don’t move when they are born, they can’t help themselves if they are stuck and when they are born they are so floppy and heavy you can’t really cuddle them properly. Why did I not know this?
How do I want to change this?
In 2015 21 in 1000 teenage girls conceived a baby. Now if you think 1 in 200 births result in a stillbirth that’s roughly 5 of them girls that could potentially have a stillborn. So why isn’t it taught in schools. I’m not talking primary education I’m talking teenagers. If they are having sex and conceiving a child whether by accident or planned why are they not being made aware that not all births result in a healthy alive baby. If it was taught in the same way that you get taught to put on beer goggles and put a condom on a wooden penis or a banana then these girls could know the risks of reduced movements and how important it is to get it checked out.
I want it to be portrayed on TV. If it was a regular story-line like your best mate sleeping with your partner is then people would realise that these aren’t just names we are chucking about. These are our children who we have carried and brought clothes and furniture for.
I had an antenatal class on 22nd December. Dexy died on January 1st. Not once in this class was the risk of stillbirth mentioned. They need to inform parents that there are risks and having a perfect pregnancy might not mean you are guaranteed an alive baby at the end. They focused more on forcing breastfeeding down our necks then how to make sure our babies are ok. I don’t want them to scare the parents into thinking it might happen but they need to understand that it is a risk.
In midwife appointments they need to tell you why you need to get reduced movements checked out. They need to emphasise how important it is that if your baby is out of their routine and not moving as much or at all they need to inform you that your baby could have a problem or their heart might have stopped.
Pregnancy apps need to stop telling expectant mums that babies have sleep cycles. They need to talk about how if you can’t feel your baby moving then ring the hospital ASAP.
Midwives shouldn’t hide details of what the baby might look like when they are born because they don’t want to upset you. The midwives never told us his skin would be peeling off or his skull would start caving in. They never told us Dexy would bleed from his nose and mouth. They never told us that air would leave his body and make a high pitch noise. They didn’t tell us because they didn’t want to upset us.
Parents who have gone through baby loss or pregnancy loss they should be able to talk about it openly without the fear of making people uncomfortable. They should be able to post photos like any other parent with an alive child. Every parent that has gone through baby loss has a set of public photos they share and photos only them and their partner see. These photos are hard to look at because it’s when your baby is blue/green, it’s when they are just in a nappy and you see their blisters and peeling skin, it’s the dislocated wrists and smooshed faces. Believe me, as much as we want to show our babies off as sleeping babies we can’t hide the fact they weren’t “normal” skin tone for very long. After an hour or two they are bluey green. But they are the photos we have the most of.
People need to respect our babies as babies. Not just an unfortunate accident. To not brush it off as “everything happens for a reason” and not replace our babies lives with “you can do that with the next one” these babies lived for however many weeks before they died. They are a part of us. They were the reason for applying for credit cards and investing in non-bio detergent. They were the reason your bedroom went from an adult couples room to light up cloud heaven.
To raise awareness isn’t to scare, it’s to inform.