Public or private?

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I saw the picture of a still born baby of twenty weeks on
someone’s blog yesterday.  The
folks at Mamamia put it up in the interests of helping people who have
suffered a miscarriage.  
It shocked
me and clearly, not only me. The editors at Mamamia equivocated about putting
up the pictures as well. 
There’s something devastating and surreal about the sight
of such a tiny underdeveloped baby, one who should still be inside his mother’s
womb and alive, not outside in the world before-term and dead.
 
I do not oppose the publication of such images on line
because something tells me the motive behind their publication is not one of inducing
gratuitous shock.  It’s more an effort to help people share the load of their grief.
So many horrible things are otherwise veiled in secrecy
and hidden from the public view.  People must bear the worst of it alone. 
My own miscarriage happened when my baby was only ten
weeks into life.  There was no
foetus to be seen.  It was no less
traumatic for me for that, but to get to twenty weeks and lose a baby would
have to be worse.  The further into
a pregnancy, the more alive that baby becomes in one’s imagination, and to lose
a baby full term must be worst of all. 
But why compare these events?   They are all ghastly in their own right.  The thing about this woman publishing
the photos from her still born baby’s brief stay in the world is meaningful in a world where many would prefer not to know the details.  While others search for them.  
 
I had an email recently from a woman who read some of my writing and
cannot understand my motives for writing about the traumatic events from my
childhood and my attempts now as an adult to understand them through my writing.  She believes my musings
belong in a diary or journal.  They
are not for publication.
 
Clearly, there’s a whole range of views about what is fit
for the public view and what should stay private.  
As one who comes from an incestuous family, I lean towards
more exposure of these things in the public view because too much secrecy can
be dangerous.  Witness Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers of renown.
 
I also recognise the wish I felt when I saw that unborn
baby not yet ready for the world, my wish to turn away, and not to see
something so disturbing, so raw, so unprocessed. 
And then
there’s all this derision for those who take selfies and put them online,
particularly, the pretty young women. 
Narcissism, the critics say. 
On the other hand, it seems it’s okay for any other person to take a
self portrait, including centuries of artists who have recreated their
self images as one of least difficult ways to get a model and so practice their
craft.
 
Narcissism or artistry?  Catharsis or gratuitous shocking of unwitting and unwilling others?  
Who knows?  As far as I can tell, the jury is still undecided.
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11 Comments on Public or private?

  1. Birdie
    January 18, 2014 at 4:20 am (3 years ago)

    I think we all have a story to tell. The worst thing we can do is keep it hidden or a secret. When we are open about the things we have had to deal with it makes it an easier burden to carry. Not only that, it will help someone going through the same thing feel more 'normal'. In my opinion, keeping secrets or keeping things to oneself opens us to shame. For instance, I have been blogging about my recent and horrendous bout with depression. People tell me that my words make them feel less alone. Their words make me feel like I have people out there that understand.
    I hope I am making sense. I am so tried tonight. Anyway, keep writing. It brings healing.

    Reply
  2. Patrinas Pencil
    January 18, 2014 at 7:25 am (3 years ago)

    Thank you for this! I had no idea. without TV or facebook…i completely missed this. What a glorious marvel to see Walter Joshua in his perfect form. Walter is in Heaven with my 8 week old baby Patrina! I feel so privileged to have been able to witness Walter's little life on earth.

    Precious!

    patrina <")>><

    Reply
  3. Jim Murdoch
    January 18, 2014 at 9:28 am (3 years ago)

    Too many things in this life still are not talked about openly. Lip service is paid to some but I do wonder for instance how many kids get an actual sex talk. And even if they do I wonder if it only covers the mechanics. I’ve no idea how old I was when I first learned the words ‘abortion’ and ‘miscarriage’; I can tell you I was a grown man before I realised that the two can mean the same thing. In Scotland we’re big on euphemisms but when it comes to bodily functions I think most countries will avoid calling a spade a spade. I probably heard, “Oh, she’s lost the wean,” or something similar when I was a wee boy but what did that mean? Mislaid? Carrie and I’ve just finished watching a series called—although for the life of me I can’t figure out why—Breathless which is set in a British hospital in the sixties and everything is geared to keeping the business end of maternity secret. And I do mean ‘secret’ as opposed to ‘private’. Privacy’s important. I value mine. But it has its limits and there are times we need to get over ourselves.

    When I was young and starting out writing poetry I found it very difficult to get anyone to explain to me how to write poetry. No one seemed to want to talk about the technicalities. And so I muddled on and wrote a lot of bad poetry until I figured out a method that works for me. Seriously, what’s so private about poetry? Granted a lot of the times our explanations are inadequate because we don’t really understand the process ourselves but why not admit that? Then at least the newbies won’t feel so stupid.

    Things need to be demystified. I remember the first birth I ever saw. It was on TV. Some woman agreed to lie there with her legs akimbo and a dirty great camera lens pointing right up her so that millions of people could see what was involved. It was messy, that’s all I can remember. The birth of my own child was even messier. That I definitely remember. I remember too sitting in the loo in tears swearing I’d never put another woman through that and so far I’ve been good to my word.

    My daughter was my wife’s second pregnancy. She lost the first. She lost it very early on but I do remember very clearly that she said there was what she described as “matter”. I never asked her to say more on the subject but that’s been my one and only encounter with a miscarriage. My wife shrugged it off. I suppose if she’d gone twenty weeks it would’ve been another thing entirely.

    There are too many things in this life we prefer not to know about: how our meat ends up in those nice polystyrene containers in the supermarket, where our bodily waste ends up, what happens to people who lose their homes. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. Carrie’s back in the States visiting and describing first-hand her mother’s mantra, “Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me. Help me,” which she repeats ad infinitum ad nausem. On and on and on and even once help has been provided within a minute she’ll start again. Carrie heard her calling out and went into her bedroom only to find her asleep and still chanting away. And then there’s the whole incontinence issue to be addressed and the simple fact is you can’t afford to be squeamish. This is what our bodies do.

    Intent is everything. I have no problems with people posting shocking, upsetting or offending images. As long as they’re doing so for the right reasons. People need to know. They won’t know unless someone is willing to share what may well be embarrassing and painful information and picture. That’s it, plain and simple. I’ve not read it but I remember being told about the book The American Way of Death and some of the information contained within it was appalling. But people needed to know; they had a right to know.

    Reply
  4. PhilipH
    January 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm (3 years ago)

    We lost our first child, a boy, who was born in 1959 in the 7th month of pregnancy.

    The doctors asked me if I wanted to see this poor child before they did whatever they do with such sad events and I said yes.

    But wished I'd not. It was so sickening to see this baby whose head seemed twice the size of his tiny body. I had to look away quickly. My wife never saw him.

    Within a year my wife was pregnant and eventually gave birth to our son, without any problem at all. Two lovely daughters later completed our family.

    Such a sad thing when things go wrong during pregnancy but it is just how things are. Life goes on.

    Reply
  5. pviljoen
    January 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm (3 years ago)

    Silence is abetting. A local (South African) radio presenter, Nancy Richards, found herself chastised by her colleagues for 'harping' about rape. 'Oh, again!' they said. Yet, again and again, daily it happens to women all over the world. It's difficult to discern between, as you said, gratuitous shocking images and essays, and needing to raise awareness and create understanding and garner support and find solutions.

    Reply
  6. Joanne Noragon
    January 18, 2014 at 3:23 pm (3 years ago)

    Secrets distort truth. I advocate for the telling, the writing, the showing. Those who cannot bear learning it now may simply, simply turn away and leave the secret secret, again.

    Reply
  7. Kirk
    January 18, 2014 at 8:01 pm (3 years ago)

    In the novel GONE WITH THE WIND, upon being told by Scarlett that she's expecting, Rhett sarcastically replies that maybe she'll have a miscarriage. In the film version, Rhett calls it an "accident".

    Scarlett, upset by the remark, loses her balance, and falls down a flight of stairs.

    Either way, it's an accident, but watching the film, you might not get that it's also a miscarriage.

    Reply
  8. Anthony Duce
    January 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm (3 years ago)

    What a boring place this would be if we kept everything to ourselves…

    Reply
  9. ellen abbott
    January 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm (3 years ago)

    why we find the processes of our bodies things to be hidden away I do not understand. or the processes of our lives. it is the keeping of things secret and hidden away that allows the dirt and nastiness and horror to accumulate. I enjoy your writings and I myself expose myself in my own blog. as Joanne above says, those who don't want to see or read can simply turn away. so there to your emailer.

    Reply
  10. R.H.
    January 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm (3 years ago)

    I'm sorry for all that: RH as the Pope. I'll be reading a lot less from here on.

    Reply
  11. who
    January 28, 2014 at 11:40 am (3 years ago)

    The thing about Truth, is that it must not be contaminated with lies. And even if the alleged mother could not pass as the twin sister to the journoterrorist pen name Kevin, it is people who veer from the truth in order to make political statements, it is they who labor to confuse

    Which is exactly what the author of the mamamia did with publishing those images, if the editor was convinced by the author that the story and images were the truth, than the editor is either an idiot, or has faith placed in journoterrorist whom they mistook for a journalist

    Reply

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