Thursday, August 12, 2010

Watch your language

A few weeks ago I was talking to my mom on the phone and I referred to Aidan as my 'dead baby'. My mom kind of sucked in her breath and said something a long the lines of 'dead baby' sounding very 'harsh'.


I'm sorry, but what else am I supposed to call him?

I've never been one to use euphemisms. I find them irritating in their vagueness. Why not just say what you mean? I'm a direct person. I ask truthful questions. I expect truthful answers. I don't like evasiveness. Euphemisms muddy the waters. They cover up the truth. They hide it and attempt to make it pretty or into something it's not. The closest I will go to using one when I talk about Aidan is when I describe myself and others who have dead babies as those who are 'baby lost'. I think loss and lost are okay descriptors because that's generally how I feel. I feel an intense sense of loss. I have lost out on life with my son. Without him, some days I feel lost.

I remember feeling validated in my abhorrence for euphemisms when reading a book on child development. Many developmental specialists will tell you that the best way to handle the topic of death with a child is to be direct, clear and above all accurate. You should never tell them that the person has 'gone to sleep and won't wake up', or 'passed on' or 'gone away' or other such nonsense. You are to tell them that the person has died. The reason for this is that they can misconstrue anything else. "Gone away" turns into 'gone for a little while and therefore can come back'. "Passed on" is so ridiculous in it's vagueness and serves no descriptive purpose. And, the one that I personally HATE the most is "went to sleep and did not wake up". As a child I worried a lot about death. Can you imagine making death scarier for a vulnerable child by telling them it's something that comes and steals them away in their sleep? *shudder*

When I read this advice, from a developmental psychologist no less, I felt validated. I figure if the truth is good for children to hear then why should I have to gloss over it for adults? I found out in nursing school that the best way for medical professionals to tell people that their loved one has died is just to say that "your (insert relative) has died". Anything else is just window dressing.

I think I also somewhat LIKE the term dead baby. Not for what it is, of course, but for what it conveys. The term is a slap in the face. Horrific. Dead. Baby. Two words that just shouldn't go together but in this case must, and God damn it, it just cannot be glossed over.

Sorry mom.

Okay end of rant. I'm feeling a little ranty today. Aidan's due date is Sunday and I'm not pregnant by his due date. I wasn't really PLANNING to be...but it would have been nice. I had a five minute cry about it this morning...then moved on.

I love you Aidan. My dear, sweet, dead baby. I wish you weren't, ya know...dead.

How do you refer to your dead baby? Why?


  1. The first time I heard the term "deadbabymama," I winced. Lately, though, I've been using it, at least in the blogosphere. Why not call a spade a spade?

  2. My thoughts are with you and will be this weekend. I too, was hoping to be pregnant by Wyatt's due date of 8/19, but that isn't happening. I think of you and your family often.
    With love, Megan

  3. I use "dead baby" or "my dead son," too. "Dead baby" is not delicate or designed to spare feelings, but it's clear and gets right to the truth of the matter. And the truth of the matter is so harsh that there's no way to speak of it without upsetting anyone, so we may as well be clear.

    I'll be thinking of you this weekend, Emily. These milestones are just so hard.

  4. I agree with you. I usually say the birth and death of Acacia when talkind about my daughter - because that's what happened to me. She was born alive, and 2 1/2 days later, she died. I will say "dead baby." I agree that glossing it over doesn't help anyone, especially me. My life is not glossy right now, and won't be for some time. If people shudder for a moment, they will have but a small glimpse into my daily life.

    I also strongly dislike "born sleeping". I was just thinking the other day how confusing that would be to other siblings. And like you wrote, the fear it could create for them that falling asleep can kill you. YIKES!

    Thanks for sharing, and for being real.

  5. I always love your posts. You always say it like it is and convey so much of what I'm thinking or want to say. Thank you!

    In the beginning, I think I tried to sugar coat it a little more, unsure of what to say and trying to be sensitive to those around me. Even before I usually said 'passed away' when talking about someone who died. And in someways that works when I think about elderly people dying in their sleep. But when it comes to a baby that died, there is no 'passing away.' They shouldn't have died.

    In my 3 month journey, I know just say my son died. I've used 'dead baby' when I write my posts. Like you said, dead baby is a horrific term to hear, but I too 'like' it because it conveys the tragedy that much better.

    Thinking of you this weekend.

  6. I usually refer to Jacob as dead too. That is what he is, unfortunately. Sometimes I feel like I have to soften it for other people, which is kind of ridiculous, and I say that he passed away, but I prefer just to say that he died, that he is dead, etc.

  7. i don't say 'dead baby', but only because we lost ours at 17 or 12 weeks (depends whether you mean when we found out or when it happened), and i never saw the remains, and it just doesn't feel quite accurate to call it a dead baby.

    in conversation with others i tend to say either the miscarriage, or our lost baby. which actually kind of feels more accurate. the remains were taken away immediately then put into storage for six weeks, then was cremated in a communal ceremony with other lost babies. the ashes were scattered at the crem without anything to do with the parents.

    yes, lost seems quite accurate.

    nearly nine months after my loss date, and 3.5 months after my due date, i'm still not pregnant.

    it sucks. it really does.

    sending hugs x

  8. i, too, love the fact that you tell it like it is. your directness is what keeps me coming back to your blog! the "slap in the face" is exactly what i'm going for sometimes - i don't WANT people to gloss over what happened to my son. he is DEAD - that fact is horrific, and i want people to realize it.

    i told my aunt and uncle what kristin had written on her blog about wanting a t-shirt that says something like, "be nice to me, my baby is dead," and i laughed when i told them - it's funny to me! - but they just looked mortified!