In contrast to many of my posts, today I wanted to write a little bit about privilege. I want to be clear that there is nothing privileged about having a stillborn baby. It is a horrendous earth-shattering event of which the horrors cannot adequately be captured by words. But in the 15 weeks since Sidney died, I have also been thinking about ways in which i am privileged, and notions of privilege more generally.
-I am able to engage in practices of self-care because I have the time and the money to do so, both of which are privileges. I can talk to a therapist, get acupuncture, eat healthy foods (or at least afford to if I were to want to), and even get the very occasional massage. Even with all of this self-care, I still wonder how I am going to get through each day. But there are many who can’t afford these things, who cannot access the help they need even if they want to.
-We were able to afford to bury our son. Some people cannot afford a casket or tombstone, were they to want to choose this option. Along the same lines, we could afford an autopsy. Again, some families turn down autopsies because of financial reasons.
-I have a flexible work schedule for the next few months. I think most of my readers are US-based, but for those of you who are not, parental leave in this country is basically non-existent, even in the case of live babies. Add a dead baby into the mix and you are legally entitled to very little. My husband’s boss also said he could take as much time off as he needed, and not to worry. He was able to be home with me for three weeks.
-I have a supportive partner (I am not implying you have to have a partner to be privileged here. However, if you do have one, it’s better that s/he be a supportive one. 🙂 ) While it continues to be hard for us to figure out how to navigate our grief, my husband has actively tried to make space for me to engage in the self-care practices listed above. He also took care of everything those first few weeks, making funeral arrangements and telling our parents, Eli, and friends that Sidney had died.
-Despite our lack of established community here, we had meals brought or sent for over 30 days. And a few people continue to check in to take walks or see how I am doing.
A few weeks after Sidney died, I had a horrendous thought, that I am even debating typing for public viewing, that’s how fucked up it was. I thought to myself, “Well, people in Syria and other parts of the world have to deal with so much more, sometimes trauma after trauma, and they survive.” Now here is where the fucked up thought comes in. Then I thought, “Yeah, but they expect it, and have a whole community experiencing it. I didn’t expect anything like this. No one in my world did, so it’s that much harder.” How fucked up is that. I know that 1) grief should not be compared and 2) who am I kidding? That I even had that thought is a key example of privilege, that I had a reasonable expectation that my kids would outlive me. Living surrounded by more wide-scale horror does not make it okay, does not make the pain better.
I feel more vulnerable writing this post than my others, that I will in some way be judged. I would trade my middle-class security away in a heartbeat if it meant that Sidney could have his heartbeat back, if I could have a loving supportive community around me. That said, I do think there are ways in which it could still be so much worse.