Children born after a stillbirth--are they affected?
Well, my uneducated response to a question like this would be, "Duh." But, I have to admit, I would have no idea just how they'd be affected. A new study in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has tried to come up with some answers, though. British researchers followed 52 mothers who'd had children after a stillbirth, to see if they could discern any effect. Basically, the kids were alright--but the researchers did report "less than optimal" mother-child interaction, and comment on the fact that these mothers tended to report more problems with their kids, and to be more critical of them. Here's a write-up of the study. These findings makes me sad. It's not that I don't feel for the mothers. I can't even imagine what it must be like to give birth to a stillborn baby. It's just so sad for the kids who come next, and have no idea what they're being born into. It's that actor-coming-into-a-play-without-a-script phenomenon I talk about in my book. I hope studies like this make it possible to help these moms early on, so that the loss doesn't get transmitted in this way.
Not long ago, I got off a plane in Phoenix and confronted the words “Ted is Here,” painted on a pillar in bright orange. I almost cried. Ted, I realized, was the name of a budget airline. But it was also my older brother’s name.
My Ted died of an immune disorder 27 years ago, when I was 14 and he was 17. His story, along with that of another boy in Texas, were merged in the movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” (Which my family did not authorize.)
Like most people who’ve lost someone they love, I’ve always wanted him back, or at least present, in some way. As a kid, I wished for a spectral sighting. As a young adult, I sought out psychics and mediums, one of whom once instructed me to ask Ted to give me signs that he was still present. Once, I asked Ted to show me a clown. Two days later, at a coffee shop, I looked up and realized I was sitting under a clown mural. My elation was short-lived, however. Had Ted contrived it, or had I unconsciously found myself a clown?
I’m not making a case for the supernatural here. But seeing that “Ted is Here” sign gave me the old I-see-the-clown feeling again.
This blog, which I’m launching on May 27th, the anniversary of Ted’s death, is an invitation to those who knew him—and those who didn’t—to share their thoughts and memories about the Ted they knew, or the Ted they imagined. Hearing about him, knowing that others are carrying a bit of him around with them, is another way of keeping him present. Honestly, I’d like that much better than seeing a clown.
I’ll also be posting thoughts and commentaries on siblings, sibling loss, families and grief—subjects I have, not surprisingly, become interested in. And for those of you who’ve read my book, The Empty Room, which tells my story and those of others who’ve lost siblings, I welcome your thoughts and messages.