Monday, June 25, 2007

Hypocrisy or something else?

I looked at Steve yesterday while we watched the latest news about the discovery of Jessie Davis' nine months pregnant body and said something I was sure would sound horrible. I'm still not sure it comes out with the exact inflection necessary to get my point across. But Steve understood, so I'm going to try to type it into words and see how it looks in print.

First let me say how horrible the situation is and how sad I feel for that family. This, in no way, is intended to be a comment on their loss or the sadness they must feel. I've lost two babies but I have no idea what pain it must be to lose a grown child and a baby at the same time. My heart aches for them. At the same time, I have a question that I would really love answered.

I have watched the news reports (how could I is the lead of our local newscast every night). I know that the unborn baby had a name...Chloe. I have grown ever more resentful, as people have expressed how sad they were over Chloe's death. They talk about her lost potential. They talk about how loved Chloe was/is.

Yet when people talk with me, they are shocked if/when I mention the names of my sons. People seem perplexed at my feelings over our loss. There is a definite discomfort with recognizing my dead children as actual children...loved...lost potential...dearly missed even though we never really got to know them.

Nobody tells John Walsh to "get over it." Everyone remembers Laci Peterson and Baby Conner. But tens of thousands of mothers are told to "move on" every years. TENS of THOUSANDS. What is that?

Steve says he thinks that a good tragedy unites people. I think he might be right. If there is enough moral outrage at the WAY a baby died, then it becomes socially acceptable to mourn that loss. But if your baby just dies as the result of something so mundane as a bacterial infection, then there is a time limit on the acceptability of the grief. It's as if people need a vehicle with which to justify their grief feelings.

But what is weird to me is that women like myself, who have the vehicle of medical breach of care, are seen as grasping at somehow desperate. It is an odd thing. And as I said, I'm not sure I've expressed myself clearly. Just something I'm turning around in my brain for now. As often happens with these thoughts, clarity may or may not come later.


Aurelia said...

I think you've said it very well. I get the same response to my children's names. Funny thing is, I think this news coverage is signalling a change in the way the media and society works.

Like the Missing Angels Bill and the possiblity of birth certificates? Well, they have names on them. So maybe people will have to use them?

For years now, in NA the leading cause of death for pregnant women has been murder, usually by the spouse. But until the Laci Peterson case, no one really covered it. And now, it's huge. So maybe things are slowly changing? I hope anyway.

Shinny said...

Steve has a good point about tragedy uniting people. That gives them the "permission" to mourn the loss of that baby, plus it makes for good media topics. Your losses are tragedies but you weren't on the 10:00 news as you were going through them, therefore the rest of the world doesn't see them the same as the missing pregnant woman case. Does that make sense?
We had a case in Milwaukee a month or so ago where a woman was shot and the news people kept going on and on that she was "pregnant". It finally came out that she was 6 weeks pregnant, but according to the news her and her baby were killed. Yet for any of us who lose a baby at 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, no one considers our losses babies. I think the media has to grab onto whatever they can to sensationalize stories and that topic is a heartstopper.
Hope you are doing ok, haven't had an update in a while. ;)

Lori said...

I totally agree with what you've said. I see the irony as well.

In the case of murder, maybe people feel like they have something worth "saying" (How horrible for someone to do that!), or there is a person to whom they can direct their anger?? Just a thought. With stillbirth and miscarriage...the reason for the tragic loss of the baby is not as easily explained, and therefore, people may feel less equipped to relate to the loss. It still doesn't excuse people being idiots about it though.

I'm just guessing here. What's so sad is that people just need to be compassionate and caring...the loss of any child is horrific, no matter the circumstances. My heart aches for you and anyone else who has experienced it, and I'm still praying for you and little GB!!!

ms. G said...

Oh my goodness, Catherine, you almost took words out of my mouth. I have read your blog on and off, but had to comment on this post.

I have had very similiar thoughts. Especially because I have gotten strange responses to me counting my son as one of my children, as in, no matter how many I may end up having he is still my first. Not everyone can wrap their mind around that.

Yet, when a pregnant women is murdered, her baby is her baby, a person, with a name that is used publicly and the murderer gets charged with two deaths. There is such hypocrisy in our society. This is one reason I support the Missing Angels bill so strongly.

Now I feel like I am not expressing myself well, but I just wanted to say I totally get what you are saying.

delphi said...

We have had almost the same conversation in our house. Thankfully, we are far enough away from the situation at hand that we are not constantly inundated with the news updates on the cases. I couldn't handle it. But my husband and I both had the same gut reaction - the details of this case are gory and extraordinary, but babies die unremarked every day. Not fair to the rest of us. But I guess not all bad news is "news".

Am I saying this right? I don't know. I just agree with you, that's all.

Julia said...

Right on.

pipsylou said...

Yup. I have been watching the news wondering how you're taking it all.

Sarah said...

I think you explained it well.... and I agree... I have a few friends who say Kate's name, but most people I'm around on a daily basis don't ever refer to her, much less by name.

Connie Reagan said...

You explained it just fine to this mother and grandmother who has never experienced child loss either prenatally or postnatally.

I happen to agree with you. This makes no sense. Your sons are just as real as Chloe, just as real as my grown children, just as real as my grandson.

I think people in general are uncomfortable with other peoples' grief and don't know how to/don't WANT to deal with it. I wish people would grow up and get a clue.

niobe said...

I wonder if some part of people's mixed feelings or reluctance to acknowledge the death of a newborn or a stillbirth comes from their feelings about abortion. I'm not saying that people are right to feel this way, but in some ways it's understandable, particularly for people who haven't personally experienced a loss.

Certainly, that seems to be one of the main reasons that certificates of birth for stillborn babies are controversial. So, while I think that anyone who wants a certificate of life for their child should be able to get one, I can see the argument on the other side.

And I hadn't heard about this horrible crime. I guess I'm kind of glad I don't watch the news.

Kathy McC said...

I agree with what you said. I brought up to M today that I wondered why someone can be charged on two counts of murder when there's an unborn baby involved, yet parents cannot get a birth certificate for their stillborn child. Obviously in court, the baby is considered a live human being in this case since they can charge Cutts with two counts of murder. So why don't they extend this to all unborn children?

Sara said...

I haven't had the television on lately, but I'm sure we're inundated with news too.

But in any case, I was thinking exactly the same thing when I first heard. That doesn't mean we aren't absolutely heartbroken or Jessie Davis and Chloe.

As a cultural historian, I really ought to have some useful thoughts on this, but I don't.

Elizabeth said...

You expressed that perfectly.

I couldn't agree more.

Kim said...

I have to say that I never thought of it like that before. I am so glad you wrote this. It's so true! I am not a mother in mourning (I'm not even a mother, sadly), but I have a good family friend who is - for 15 years now. She brings her daughter up if she is left out of the list of her children. And it doesn't make me uncomfortable one bit, although I guess perhaps it does to some people. If that ever comes up, I will reference this blog post, because you summed it up perfectly.

Kath said...

Dear Catherine, I'm only getting to this now, but I agree with you completely. I wonder if there's another aspect to it too.

When the news brings a horrific story like this, the emotion is pre-packaged and spoon-fed, complete with pictures of the victims with background melodies and an emotional voice-over, presented over and over again. People feel deeply upset and deeply compassionate because they are "made to", and because it's at a safe remove from them. When those same people hear about a stillborn in their own circle, or are confronted with a grieving mother, it's no longer "safe" and they need to shut it off immediately. And the horror is turned insidiously against the parents, who are accused more or less directly of "dwelling" or "exaggerating" and encouraged to "get over it."

I don't know if this makes any sense at all.