Excerpt from Untitled Novel-in-Progress

More Guidance

There were many websites in existence to provide support and information to parents who suffered stillbirth. Bobbi visited them from time to time, but never left a comment. She felt like her situation was different, like she had done something – was doing something – that made her unworthy of communion with the bereaved mother’s on the message boards. Like she was carrying a toxin that might reveal itself if she typed so much as the phrase “still grieving” in a subject line.

My loneliness is a sin, she thought.

The websites provided bits of information, facts that were not useful except as facts to the mothers of the dead. One in every one-hundred and sixteen babies is stillborn. There are 26,000 stillborn Americans each year. These statistics felt unrelated to Bobbi’s situation. She realized they existed to make her feel normal, as if she were part of a group. But she was skeptical that reading them made anyone feel less alone.

The websites had names like Angel Baby and Still Grace, Born Too Soon and Be Not Afraid. They featured whorls of lavender forget-me-nots and wisps of grey seedlings that sailed across the screen. They featured blue and pink ribbons, typography ripped from the hospital gift shop. The websites always told her not to be afraid. They said things like: Don’t be afraid to name your baby. Don’t be afraid to take photographs, make a video.  Don’t be afraid to dress your baby if there were special outfits you wished to see your baby wear. Don’t be afraid of life because you are still alive and must live it. Don’t be afraid to cry.

Bobbi thought the websites should be altogether different. They should feature crushed flowerbeds and animal carcasses. Molestation. They should drip from the screen in black puddles on your lap. They should be written in a code, black letters on a black screen, that only the mothers of the dead could read. They should fill the room with cold and stink of putrefaction and the perfume of bad fruit. They should turn your muscles to pus. Instead of telling you not to ask yourself “Why did this happen?” the websites should confront you with the answer.

Life is full of dead things, they should say. It is your fault for participating.

You are not a mother, they should tell you. You are all alone.


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