Sunday, November 11, 2012

Say His Name

I have heard many bereaved parents express the desire for people to say their babies’ names out loud, to affirm not only their existence but also their uniqueness as individuals. I consider myself in this camp too. Then why is it that I so often forget to say his name when I speak of him?

Last night we were invited to dinner at our friends’ along with another couple who we have never met. Luckily, the other couple were relentless talkers. As obnoxious as that was at times, it also avoided inquiries about my 7-month-pregnant belly…at least until the end of the night.

Throughout dinner the topic changed a handful of times. I tried my best to keep a neutral, engaged look on my face as the newly introduced couple delved into their birth story and the fright of the complications throughout her pregnancy, trips to the hospital a couple times for pre-term labor and her bed rest until their daughter was born healthy at 37-weeks. She spoke of her precipitous labor and the OB group who attended the delivery. I nodded and listened but did not speak up about my own pregnancy and birth experience.

Finally, I played the sober-tired-pregnant-lady card and announced it was time for E and I to head out. At that point the new-to-us husband asked what number baby this was for us. Damn, I thought, we were so close to sneaking out. But, as usual, part of me was relieved someone else brought it up. Because I do want to talk about A and I do want to acknowledge him I just feel awkward bringing up something so devastatingly sad in social situations, especially first meetings.

So I calmly replied this was baby number two. “Oh, so how old is…” he trailed off, his inquisitive face finished the question. “Our son would be one, but he died.” I said.

Next, I resorted to years of social conditioning and yammered a few more unnecessary sentences about how we therefore don’t have any living children at home but we do have a fully stocked nursery. WTF? I wasn’t even making sense. In hindsight I realize this was a reaction to the stifling awkward silence. But really, my rambling made the whole situation more awkward. I should have stated the fact and then shut my trap. There isn’t much more to say after, “Our son would be one, but he died.” Yes there will be an uncomfortable silence as the truth of that statement sinks in; there ought to be!

We left a couple minutes later and although I was relieved to be on our way home, I chastised myself for not saying his name.

As the months have passed, it has become easier for me to state the facts; easier to say the words, “Our son died.” - “Our son was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually.” But so often I unintentionally omit his name. I should say, ““Our son, A, died.” - “Our son, A, was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually. His name is A.” 

I want others to speak of him. I want them to say his name aloud. I need to be the role model and encourage such behavior. By speaking his name I demonstrate to people that it’s ok to talk about him and talk about what happened. So why do I get so flustered that I forget to say his name?

Surely there will be plenty more opportunities like last night to speak of my son. Hopefully with more time and more practice I will be able to confidently sit through the inevitable uncomfortable silence and also remember to include his name in my description.


  1. I sometimes have trouble saying my A's name aloud, too. I'm not sure why. Your son has a beautiful name, whether you say it aloud or hold it close to yourself.

  2. I'm afraid I fall into the yammering trap as well. On the very few occasions where I have had to explain that Hugo is my second son, I catch myself saying "No, he's my second, my first son died last year..." And that is the point at which I should stop, absorb the horrified looks and just wait for the moment to pass. But instead, I find myself adding something to 'brighten the mood' or something... like, "But this little guy has me kept very busy now!" (with a smile)... Sometimes I loathe myself.

    It's as you say - the social conditioning. The discomfort with knowing you dragged the mood down, or were the drama queen or misery guts. And the need to lighten the mood again. I always end up feeling rotten.

    It's funny, I don't recall using his name either - when telling strangers. I suppose I think they just don't care. Sad really. Very sad.

    1. That's exactly it Aoife. I feel obliged to end on a positive note, to wrap things up nicely. WTF?! The truth is my healthy son died inexplicably and that catastrophe is uncomfortable for others, hell it's uncomfortable for me. And still the internal pressure to uplift the listener's feelings because I am the cause of their discomfort.

  3. Oooooo, that is a good dead baby bomb story. I am still not comfortable dropping the bomb on unsuspecting people, innocent people, but how do we move forward? How do we create new relationships, or have presence in existing relationships, if not for some way to talk about them? I've heard some people talk about not saying their names, and not talking about our dead babies, because they want to keep the baby completely to themselves. I just feel so uncomfortable and awkward, and I often stammer and start talking too much and stumble all over myself. Ugh. How to find at least some of the right words for it all?

  4. I relate so much to this

    I leave out his name all the time. I almost feel as if no one will know who I'm talking about...if all of a sudden I stop saying "the baby" and switch to saying Alexander. I get awkward, and fidget with words...and yes, slather on good things that are happening in my life to ease the heaviness of this subject matter.

    This past Sunday, I was at a baptism, and a friend of the family (the baptised child's family) took a moment when she saw me in the bathroom to give condolences and encouraged strength and love. It felt wonderful, and she did it exactly correctly. It's all I ever want from people. I on the other hand, stumbled about, and had the urge to tell her that we are now expecting our second, and are really happy to be having ANOTHER child - I compulsively needed to somehow tell her that we are moving in a good direction, and lift the heavy feeling off her. But I stopped. Nodded as she said her heartfelt words. And we somehow exited the restroom talking about other things.

    It turned in me a bit..bothered me...."why didn't I say his name? Why didn't I profess my undying love for him? Why did I so quickly want to jump to better things? ". For her sake? I think so. But also because I would have cried.

    I can only assume everyone is horrified by my I want to make to better for them. It's something I'm trying to get better at. Let it be. Let it have it's space in conversations and social environments.

    1. It's so refreshing when someone is genuine and heartfelt in their remarks.

      I think we both ought to keep on practicing talking to others about our missing boys. Love to you, Alexander and baby #2.