Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Don't mention the DEAD BABY

Last night Michael and I were discussing the arrival of the new dining table we have bought in memory of our daughter. A strange memorial, but I'll explain. We received the baby bonus, not because we had a baby, but because our baby died. If her birth had been as it should have been, if our lives were as they should be, then we would probably have been just over the cut off. Being handed a great sum of money is usually fun. We could really use a holiday right now, but for us, it felt wrong to squander it on something that would have no significance to Olidea. We have been living wiithout a dining table since Michael stole my cute old 50s laminate one and turned it into a potting table, about a year and a half ago, so it was a definite must have when we listed what we had to do before Olidea was born.
Anyway, when we were still naive, we went looking at tables, and we both fell in love with a great big slab of timber turned into a table, but it was way above budget...we kept dreaming. It was 2.7 metres long, 1.3 metres wide, and had benches down each side. I dreamed about filling the benches with friends and family, having a table full of food to share. I dreamed we would have a dozen kids crowded around, all sharing fairy bread, cocktail franks and chocolate crackles. I dreamed I would sit at the table, with my morning coffee, or cutting vegetables for dinner, with my baby strapped into a bouncy chair up on the table, watching me, talking to me, smiling, sleeping.
Then we didn't need a table anymore. I stopped dreaming.

As April approached, my feelings toward making her room ready changed. Now I know it will never be her room, It will sit and wait until we need to get ready again, if we ever do.
We talked it over, we could put the cash toward paying off loans, we could buy the oven, dishwasher or other electronic appliances that would make life easier for us. It isn't our money though, it's her money. I needed whatever we bought to reflect that. In the end, we decided to buy the table we had dreamed of raising our family around. (Although it's a slightly different table because when I went to buy it, I found out the one we had seen was an import, not WA made. The one we are getting is still enormous, a slab of marri polished and crafted here in Perth, with chairs not benches, but Michael's going to make them for me.)
It will always be with us, wherever we go. It will be part of our daily lives. Every time we sit at that table, every meal we share, it will be a reminder that she was here, and in a weird way, it will be like having her in our lives again. It's not a painting to sit on the wall and be admired, it will acquire marks and scratches over time, as we use it, just as a person acquires scars and reminders of the life they have lived.
As I lay in the bath thinking about the table we had ordered, it struck me that of all the tables we had seen, we bought the only one with curved edges - it's an 'O'. Then, I thought that it might be nice to engrave the centre, or inlay it, with a small 'O', just because I want to make it Olidea's Table.
Last night, Michael got angry at me about that. He doesn't want to 'ruin' the surface. Neither do I, if we do put the 'O' into it, it will be a carpenter who does it properly. . But more importantly, he doesn't want me to mark the table with anything that will tell other people that it's Olidea's Table. I can put the plaque from her coffin underneath the table, where no-one can see, but I can't tell anyone why we have bought a dining suite that costs the same as a second hand car.
He tells me that he doesn't want me to tell people, because he doesn't want to share our daughter.
He told me I can't tell my family, because they would be uncomfortable sitting at a table our dead daughter bought for us.

I can't tell my best friend, because according to him, she would also be too uncomfortable. These people and other friends already know, and it's not a problem for them.

I'm really angry that he tries to project his own opinions onto other people, to manipulate me. He has done it before, and he will do it again. I don't know why he can't just fight fair.

He says his best friend would refuse to sit at the table if he knew. His mum isn't to be told, because she will refuse to sit at the table.

My respone to that is:

Anybody who does not want to sit at Olidea's Table, to share a meal with her family that includes her memory is not welcome in the home where she should be living.

According to him, that isn't fair. It might make people uncomfortable. I'm not allowed to make other people uncomfortable, and dead babies make people uncomfortable. If I am asked, I have to say I have no children, I haven't carried a baby in my body, I have not felt the confusion and pain of her body coming out of mine. I haven't washed and dressed my child for a blessing and naming ceremony. I haven't carried my baby's cold body to the path lab for autopsy. I haven't cried as I laid flowers and photos around my baby girl, before screwing down the lid on her coffin. I haven't cried, looking at an empty crib with only her ashes to lie in it.

I am not a mother, because saying I am night make you uncomfortable.


  1. Oh Michelle, big (((Hugs))). I'm sorry that Michael is doing this and saying this. It may be just his way of coping with O's birth/death. But one day he won't be able to deny her or his feelings about her ... I'm glad that you are able to tell us about O's table. It sounds gorgeous. It sounds like a beautiful thing that will always be a real reminder to you ... it will be a part of your life and is something that O has contributed to her family.

  2. You are a mother. You are Olidea's mother.
    Thank you for telling us about her table. Whether it has an engraving or not, you will always think of her when you see it.

  3. Oh Michelle. So much of what you say rings so painfully true. Other people so often don't know what to say or how to deal with what happened to you. I am so sorry about your precious little girl. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. I run "Whispered Support" with Carly. Please feel free to visit our site and if we can do anything to support you let us know. Lots of love. sarah xxx

  4. Michele - just came across your blog and yours and Olidea's story. I am so, so sorry that you have joined us on this horrendous journey.

    PS. I had a similar experience.

    Strength to you.

  5. i am so sorry for your loss.
    my friend started a memory campaign called Treasured Memories to help grieving mothers and fathers. please check out

  6. I am very sorry for your loss. Take care ~

  7. I just came over from the Lost & Found, and this is such a beautiful post. I love the idea of the table as a memorial to your daughter, and while I haven't lost a child myself, I can relate to the different places you find yourself in with your husband. There have been many times where we have had different instincts about disclosing our story to people, and a big part of it is that he fears making people uncomfortable and having to deal with the consequences of that, whereas I am more like you - I feel like the truth is sometimes uncomfortable, and people need to learn to accept that. To me, it's the start of compassion to realize that my discomfort with someone else's grief is only a drop in the ocean compared to what they have to go through, dealing with it every day. And only by being able to sit with the discomfort and abide with others can we really reach out to them and be present for them.

    I am so sorry for your loss of Olidea, and just want you to know that reading this post, I am honouring you as her mother, in all the ways you have cared for her and continue to feel her presence in her life. Wishing you peace.

  8. The table sounds beautiful, and truly, is a perfect memorial of your daughter. I too experienced a moment this past weekend when meeting someone new- they inquired of me if my daughter was an only child- and I said no, I have a son as well, my daughter piped up to explain that he was "upstairs with God".

    Yes, other people may be uncomfortable- but they can stuff it- I can assure you, that it's a lot less uncomfortable hearing about a dead baby than it is to HAVE one.

  9. Sending prayers....

    And I think you should shout it to the rooftop! It's your daughter's table and you are right- if people dont want to sit there, then they dont want to come to your home.

  10. I think the table is a glorious reminder of Olidea. I would be ~honored~ if I ever had the opportunity to sit at such a table. It makes my heart all pissed off that anyone, especially those closest to you, wouldn't want to share in such an honor.

    Screw anyone who is uncomfortable. You are a mother. Olidea was loved and will be missed every single day. Being uncomfortable doesn't erase that.

    I'm sorry for your loss and I'm thinking of Olidea with you.

  11. I actually love this idea of a table, too. It's v. symbolic; reminds me of both the "empty chair at the table" metaphor, as well as the whole "family gathering around the table" -- that she'll always be at your table, so to speak. I find that lovely.

    The early stages of this mess are really odd, and you're still v. much in the early stages. I'm not an enormous believer of men/women grieving differently, as much as I am them grieving at different times for a number of reasons, so that what you feel at any given moment -- especially in the early going -- is probably antithetical to what your husband is feeling. Anyway, point being: he may just need some time to come around to this. He very well may, in a few months or a year, be ok with telling people, or even putting her name at a place on the table. Sometimes permanent things like this (or gravestones or tattoos) are difficult because they really finalize the end, the death. (My husband, two years later, has yet to get his tattoo, and he's confessed it's for this very reason -- that then he puts it down that it happened.) I have a feeling his worry for others really stems from his worry about saying things out loud. 'Twere me, I'd give him a bit of time to come to grips with the table itself, and go from there.

    I hear you, though. I wish I had more nerve to speak and not care what others thought -- it's been a big problem of mine.

    I found you from LFCA; I'm so sorry for your loss.

  12. I would humbly sit at Olidea's table with you. I would not be uncomfortable.

    Some day, Michael may feel very differently. It's just all getting used to the "new normal".


    Sending you gentle good wishes.

    here from LFCA

  13. I have no words that don't seem trite, but I am so sorry for your loss. and I would be honored to sit at Olidea's table.

  14. so sorry for your loss. also joining you at the table. SO many are with you.

  15. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm here with you, holding your hand.

  16. We are here. You did nothing wrong. Your table is a wonderful memorial-- and tribute to the life that will come. I wish there was more we could do-- so, so sorry.

  17. I'm so sorry that Olidea died. Words fail me, yet I have been there. Words are so inadequate at this time.

    You ARE a mother. All of us whose babies have died are mothers. Just because our children are carried in our heavy hearts and not in a baby sling doesn't make us any less so.

    Michael (my hubby is also a Michael!) sounds like my DH did when we first found out our daughter Janaki died at 21 weeks from IUFD (no reason). I wanted to have a small funeral service with her after she was cremated. He didn't want any family around because he would "get upset" and "everyone would sit around and cry" - well, f#ck me dead, our firstborn daughter just died, isn't that the whole point of grieving?? In the end, I was so tired, miserable and exhausted, I consented to an in house service with just Michael and I, and I regret it, because it wasn't fair to Janaki.

    Likewise, Olidea's memorial table sounds beautiful, bittersweet with memories of her but still beautiful. I hope Michael comes around and sees that. She is to be remembered with love and honor and even tears - and I'm sorry about the language but f#ck making people uncomfortable. There are huger issues right now.

    Sending you some hugs from Queensland.

    Take care of yourselves.. xx

  18. I'm so sorry that this happened to you, and that you are struggling through this time. I LOVE the idea of the Olidea table, and hopefully with time, your husband will deal with his grief in a way that is more compatible with your way of grieving. People deal with grief so differently, especially in those first months, and sometimes it can be so hurtful. Try to take good care of yourself, and take comfort in the fact that there is nothing about the way that you are grieving that isn't normal or appropriate (and for god's sake, tell YOUR friends whatever you wish! Just tell them not to tell your husband--if you need their support, your mental health comes first!). Peace to you.

  19. I would be honored to sit at Olidea's table.

  20. I would be love to sit at Olidea's table, what a beautiful idea


  21. I'm so sorry for your loss. Olidea is a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl.

    I think the table sounds wonderful. Perfect. I wouldn't hesitate to sit at this table. I would feel proud to be invited to such a place.

    I just asked my husband for his opinion on this. We had a kind of similar argument a month or so after my little girl passed. Aaron says that your husband is just 'not ready'. He thinks he would have baulked at this too at first but come around later.

    What your husband doesn't realise yet is that people are going to be uncomfortable no matter what. I think you should do what YOU need to do in order to memorialise your little girl. Your focus should not be other people, but yourselves.

    I hope he realises that soon. It took a massive argument with my husband before he got it. I hope it's gentler for you.

  22. I have come in here from Mirne's blog.

    Just wishing your heart peace.

  23. wow....I thought if I didn't look at this blog, if I didn't write on it, it would just sort of float, invisible, unread...I can't belive so many of you have cared enough to come in here and leave such lovely thoughts. Thankyou so very very much.