dead metaphor

We are honored today to present a guest post by Romina. She is a sometimes teacher, all times mother, living with the loss of her third son. Ellis Tilde Asuro was born still on November 21, 2013.


I gave birth to death.

That is not a metaphor.

I gave birth to death

and I don’t know how to wean him.


They hint at it. It’s time to let him go.

They don’t speak his name.

I’ve been told he’s getting too old for this.

If I don’t do it now, this may go on forever.


I pushed death out of me and he stopped being mine.

I pushed death out of me and I stopped being his.


In the nine months since, I could have made a living child.

And in the nine months since, I could have learned to let him go.


But in a whole lifetime, I could not create enough life to

bring him near. I could not transform him into the living.


Has anyone told you it's time to move on? How do you respond? 

the mother, the spectre and the bargaining crone.

This post is a reflection on my sense of self before baby loss and after and the effect that Freddie's death has had on that. I was a stay at home parent of young children before I had him and my life therefore revolved around the trappings of that life. There is some mention of how I was shaped by ordinary pregnancy and birth as well as infant loss. Please bear that in mind before reading if you are in a sensitive phase of loss.

Once it defined me, my knowledge, my experience, my hoard of stories, grim and detailed.

Once I huddled in gaggles of mothers and gossiped  - heartless midwives, empty threats of dead babies. I thrashed through birth trauma, postnatal depression, botched, unsatisfactory deliveries. My ill-used body, caught in the nets of a harried medical system that sucked me in, processed my heaving body, signed me out alive, with scant regard for my soul or sanity.

Those things, the worst that could happen, consumed the centre of my wounded being. All encompassing, damaging, poisoned.

All talked out, gradually growing around and through the pain, I became something new.


Once it defined me, my knowledge, my experience, my hoard of stories, gritted teeth and battles won.

Once I huddled in flocks of mothers engrossed in motherhood - failed breastfeeding, sleepless nights, babies born with challenges (I will not call them small, not even now) to be overcome. We loaded laundry and knew not the value of the little people in our care. The minutae of the tedium was our currency of connection.

I had no idea how lucky I was. I do not hold myself responsible for that.

And, all talked out, we grew, moved on. Stories rolled and rubbed and took on the sheen of a well fumbled pebble, soft, smooth, snag-less.


I became something new; lacking nonchalant patter, I formed an armoury of parenthood, my tales the scales of my skin. A persona grew, I became the mother people love or hate, who fought the battles, won and lost and emerged confident, skilled and with all the answers I needed. I believed in me.

I do not begrudge myself that confidence. It was good while it lasted.


And it all came tumbling down. In the screaming silence of the birthing room without a cry, I lost every opinion I had ever had about birth and babies. In the humming heat of SCBU, I lost everything I knew about parenting. I couldn't help him. I didn't know the language, couldn't do the procedures, couldn't choose when to hold him, might hurt him if I did.

No time to learn.

My outer shell smashed and washed away, all my conversation, all my wrath and passion, all my innocence and ignorance. I didn't know I had that.


When I lost my son, when I crumbled him to dust, consigned him to a memory, I also lost myself, my role, my place in society. A core was left, naked and bruised.


No one wants the baby lost mother. We are not welcome. We are the spectre - festering and infectious. Who would want my knowledge? It is tainted by Freddie's death, despite the four before him. I would run a mile from me. Who would chat to me about birth and babies, fearing to see me cry,  hoping that "please god, she doesn't mention HIM again!"? Who would believe my nappy choice might be right when I let my baby die? Who would believe I had knowledge about breastfeeding when I couldn't even tell he was sick before he lived.

I see the recoil even if it never comes. I see the blank weariness as they wait for me to find a reason to mention him. I see myself, hovering in their joy and deserved naivety, spoiling the thrill of the moment. I imagine myself tainting their hope, excitement. I imagine them making the opposite choice to mine, hoping to ward off the devil.

I cannot ever re-enter that world. I will distance myself even from my daughters when their time comes, hoping - irrationally - to not remind them of the brother who died.


So, crone like, my gift is to the girl I once was, to all mothers who never walk a harder path than tired out drudgery.

I will try not curl my lip at those with no reason to know better. I will not belittle them because their path has not been strewn with ashes and they know not that ashes can arrive in a tiny box with an etched brass plate. I will not deride them for a merry life with smaller hurts and smaller mountains to climb.

I envy them. I'm glad for them. With gritted teeth I will smile for them and the rose-tinted life they lead. I do not want them to know this pain. And I will barter my forgiveness of their lack of understanding for the gift of no future grief in this family.

If I could. If only I could.

How do you feel about the person you were before loss arrived in your life? Do you miss that person? Would you have that person back? How do you feel about people who have not experienced loss and their world view? Has it changed over time, have you become  more or less tolerant about ignorance of loss?


It doesn’t snow here very often.   Once every few years will we see the kind of snow that is currently blanketing our evergreen world in dove white.  It is lovely: quiet and peaceful in a way that feels temporary and fragile.  It won’t last more than another day.  It will melt away and ordinary life will begin again.  The abandoned cars, without chains and caught unprepared for the weather, will start disappearing as their operators return from wherever they escaped to when they finally gave up on spinning their wheels.  Muddy rivulets will replace the soft white snow and the brief interlude will disappear. 

But for now…

L-O-V-E-U is written in the snow in front of our sliding glass door.   My daughter is bundled up in a pink snowsuit.  Smoke billows from a thousand chimneys.  Kids zoom down the hills with neon sleds. 

It’s idyllic. 

Other than the ambulance parked outside of a house near ours.

I’m reminded, once again, that even something as beautiful as a winter blanketing of snow also holds its ravages. 


Thanks to books/blogs/stories and murmurs of women around me, I assumed that my pregnancy would be nothing but a beautiful experience.  Yes, there would probably be some nausea and swollen ankles but those would really be small in comparison to the magnitude of the beauty it would create.  I thought I was going to have that glow pregnant women supposedly have, as if the tiny new life inside of me would radiate warm light through my entire body. Pregnancy and birth were going to transform me into an ethereal goddess of life or some crap like that. 

Someone left out the part where it could be a disfiguring sledgehammer blow to the side of my head.

I’ve grown short-tempered with the culture surrounding birth and pregnancy in my sphere of life.   There is too much talk of the beauty and not enough acknowledgements of the ravages.   There is mindset that somehow, through shear willpower and determination, pregnancy and birth can be controlled and mastered.  They can be enlightening experiences through dedication and mindfulness.  I’m pretty sure that no amount of mindfulness, meditation, or breathing exercises could have ever made giving birth to my son only to watch him die twenty odd minutes later a more enlightening experience.  It is a luxury that we live in a culture where the outcome of a living baby is taken so much for granted that things such as birth plans and birthing methods have become of such import.  

Perhaps I’ve also grown too cynical over the last four years.  I know several people in my life that would probably agree with that statement.  Most pregnancies, at least in the world I am fortunate enough to live in, are beautiful.  Few suffer through the ravages that so much of the rest of the world commonly does.  I can’t help but think that if there was more balance given to the two in our cultural mindset that for those times when the sledgehammer swings those of us in its path would not be left feeling quite as surprised by the blow. 


What do you think about the pregnancy and birth culture surrounding you?  Birth plans, birth methods… Do you feel that there is a lack of education about the negative aspects of pregnancy and birth (and I am not referring to morning sickness and hip pain here)?  Do you feel silenced by a birth culture that seemingly puts a greater emphasis on the process of pregnancy and birth rather than the outcome?