Public or private?

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are not for publication.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
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.

Old Eggs

It was a Tuesday. I remember the walk across the car park and back to my car, the slow drip of blood between my legs.

I remember squeezing my pelvis, as if by this simple movement of my body I could hold on, hold onto my little Horatio.
Horatio, I said under my breath. Horatio, hold the bridge.

The doctor had told me it was too soon to know.
It’s not unusual to bleed in these first few weeks, she said.
It might not spell the inevitable.
The inevitable, she said, was not inevitable, though to hold my grief, or to help me to focus on something else, some greater grief perhaps, she offered her own story:
How she, at forty-two years, had stopped IVF, and finally made the decision to accept her fate.
‘You already have three children,’ she said.
‘Think on it. Even if the inevitable happens, you have something to fall back on.’

And I was thrown back in time.

A ten-year-old girl, I stood beside my mother in the front garden of our house.
The geraniums had wilted under the summer heat, and my mother picked at them carelessly.
She plucked off the dead ones and threw them away.

Mrs Bruyn from up the street stopped at our fence.
‘I was sorry to hear about your baby,’ she said, and my mother’s eyes filled with tears.
‘But you still you have your other children,’ Mrs Bruyn said. ‘They must be a comfort to you.’
My mother nodded and Mrs Bruyn walked away. I watched her floral dress billow in the breeze. I heard the clip clop of her heels on the concrete path.
Mrs Bruyn also came from Holland, the land of babies, my mother told me, the land where people wanted big families, but there was no room.

Mrs Bruyn had room for babies but she had not made any.
It was not her fault. My mother told me, something to do with her eggs.
Eggs, I thought, like chicken eggs, eggs that sit under the warmth of a hen for days and then one day crack open and out pops a chicken.

I thought again of my own eggs. Old eggs, the doctor told me.
‘You must not leave it too late to have your babies. Once you reach forty, your chances halve.’

But I had waited too long for this last one, as she had waited too long for her first. Our eggs were old.
The lottery of pregnancy, the doctor said. The later you leave it the less chance of success.

I did not tell my mother about my miscarriage.
She did not tell me of her still born until later, years later when we could share our grief.

My mother had another miscarriage, years before I was born, she told me. She had lost the baby in the toilet, like a penny doll. She could see its arms and legs, its little eyes.

Horatio did not hold the bridge. Ten weeks into the world and he was gone.

No matter what we do we cannot save them, these lost babies.
My husband has white lumpy bits on both his ankles. That’s where the babies were attached in utero, he tells me, or so his mother once told him.
All the dead babies that he managed to out live, as if his life cost theirs.

And Mrs Bruyn who lived up the street had wished my mother well.

The dead ones do not count as long as there are lives to take their place.
Even in Australia, where we have plenty of room, there is not room for everyone.

Someone has to go.