In my work I've met women who deliverd a stillborn baby 40 or more years ago. Sometimes I discover this through simple conversation, perhaps when they ask me how many children I've had, and I include Sarah. They are always amazed that we spent so much time with her and took so many pictures. They weren't allowed to do that.
Back then women were told that it would be easier for them to never see the baby. The babies were taken away without being held, memorialized, or photographed. Sometimes husbands were told to go home and take down the whole nursery. So these women just suffered a major loss and returned to a world that ignored it completely, with no actual reminder of their child at all. I don't believe for a second that it was for their own good, but was more comfortable for others.
The modern world has cut itself off from death. Especially childhood and infant death. Even now, when grief is better understood, people have so little understanding of what it's like to live through. Once again on my message board the issue of stillborn pictures has come up. A number of us have a picture of our lost baby in our avatar or signature. I've always found them precious and the sweet tasteful pictures chosen to display are not something I could have ever called disturbing and don't understand how any feeling woman could tell a mother that a picture of her baby is!
You can guess which side I'm on with this issue. I'm sorry if a picture of my daughter reminds someone that life isn't perfect. But I guarantee it was harder for me to lose her than it is for someone to see her picture. And I don't think anyone has the right to tell me which picture of which of my children I display.
I started talking to a couple of other loss moms who posted, and learned their stories. It's amazing that even when the situation is radically different from the one we found ourselves in with Sarah, so much is shared. From the devastation of getting the news, to leaving the hospital with empty arms. And sometimes when I hear someone else's story, it just brings my own back, along with all the feelings.
I'm so grateful for those who are willing to share their stories and their pictures. I carry them with me in a way I can't explain. We're not supposed to bury our children, but too many of us do. And while I don't believe we are required to crawl into a hole and bury ourselves in our grief, I also don't think I'm required to pretend that my daughter never existed just to make someone else more comfortable.