Stillbirth > Poetry & Prose
KotaPress Editor's Note
This article includes many pieces of poetry and prose from authors like Barbara Crooker, Lisa Kunkel, Poppy Hullings, Brian Mayer and more. Please surf the entire length of the page to see all that is offered.
This first pieces comes from Yo'Mama! a one act play set in a post-natal yoga class. Each monologue explores some aspect of new motherhood. The extraordinary thing about this play is that it includes a monologue about new motherhood after stillbirth. Ms. Arnet has given equal weight and voice to the parenthood of all mothers -- regardless of the outcome of birth, live or still. That's pretty amazing considering how most stillbirth parents are simply ignored to shoved into silence. If you like what you see here, check out the Yo'MamaThePlay.com website and find out how you can arrange a reading in your city!
by Heather Arnet
Someone asked earlier if Hope had had her baby yet? I know some of you know her from the pre-natal class. I did get a call a few days ago from Hope and she asked me to share with you her birth story. She had a little girl, Nevada, last week. Hope was about one week over her due date. This was her first child. Like most of you she was anticipating going into labor, looking forward to it, feeling like she couldn't possibly get any bigger. She could barely fit into any of her maternity clothes anymore, and she and Steven had finished painting and decorating the baby's room. Even the crib had arrived so they were all set. Like most first time moms she found the waiting unbearable. Each braxton hicks contraction brought images of a mad rush to the hospital. But she never did go into labor herself. On Thursday she went in for a routine stress test before work. They wrapped her tummy with a heart rate monitor for the baby and put that cold jelly on her stomach in preparation for the ultrasound. The doctor started to roll the ultrasound paddle over Hope's tummy. After several minutes she asked when the last time was that Hope felt the baby move. She said it had been a pretty quiet morning, but she remembered feeling kicks the night before. The doctor said, “I'm sorry, Hope, but your baby has no heartbeat.” They called Steve and the doctor gave Hope a choice of having a C-section or vaginal birth. She chose to bear her baby without surgery. She said that she had come so far she wanted to know what it felt like to bear a baby into this world. So, they induced with pitocin and twelve hours later Nevada was born still. She was 6 lbs. 10 oz., 19 inches long. Steve said that the silence that filled the delivery room as they handed Nevada to Hope to hold a first and final time was deafening. The baby had evidently gotten wrapped up in her umbilical chord, perhaps as she was preparing to enter the birth canal. Something they couldn't have predicted or stopped. Hope wanted me to share her story, the way I have told all of your birth stories in class, because she had been looking forward to joining this class after Nevada was born. I told her of course she was still welcome, her body has just gone through nine months of pregnancy and birth just as we did, and it too will need a way to heal itself, but she said hearing your stories of your children, would be too difficult for her. I visited with her yesterday at her home. She has been spending a lot of time in Nevada's lavender nursery. It is heartbreaking to see her sit in that rocking chair with empty arms surrounded by the bunny rabbits and teddy bears that she and Steve had painted on the walls to welcome their little girl home. Hope is now a mother too. A mother who will never get to hold her baby or sing to her or hear her first words but still she will always be Nevada's mother. I am telling you this because Hope wanted me to, but also because we talk so much in this class about our struggles with motherhood and our fatigue and confusion and our terror at being swallowed whole into motherhood and Hope has reminded me that indeed we are changed immediately from the moment we decide to become mothers. Whether we bear our children, outlive our children, adopt our children, or welcome a partner's children, we become mother's immediately when these children enter our lives. From that moment we are changed. I hope it doesn't mean we can never again be who we were before, or listen to loud music, or curse, or fit into a favorite pair of jeans, or stay out all night, or make wild love to our partners, or decide to have more children, or become famous. But it does mean that we are permanently changed. Our children are a part of us forever just as Nevada will always be a part of Hope and Steven's life. (pause) So, our hour is almost up. It's time to close our class with some toning. As always we will chant a round of Ohm, and then the primal sounds Ah and Ma and then conclude with another round of Ohm.
About the Author
Heather Arnet, the playwright and director of Yo' Mama! was honored in May 2003 with an award for "Art and Activism" from the Thomas Merton Center. Recently, she directed the world premiere of Yo' Mama! at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in June 2003, for which she was awarded a PA Partners grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to direct it again at the Center for Creative Play (where it will run from April 28 - May 16, 2004). Arnet also received support for this production from a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund. Other Pittsburgh credits include her direction of Beth Amsbary's Priestess of Plenty at the Frick Historical Museum, and the writing and direction of her play Superheroes, Artists, and Other Fly Things which she performed at Ground Zero's Making A Scene, UnBlurred 2002, and at the Gist Street Reading Series. She has directed for the NYC International Fringe Festival, New York New Playwrights Festival, NYC Shakespeare Festival and MOMA Stage to Screen Festival. Most recently in NYC, Arnet collaborated with Joyce Carol Oates, on a new stage adaptation of Oates' I Stand Before You Naked, produced by Women's Expressive Theatre at the Harold Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street. Heather is currently preparing to direct a new play by Sallie Patrick, Twelve, about population restrictions and resulting gender discrimination in China for the Half The Sky Foundation timed for the 2005 Chinese New Year. Arnet is a member of the executive staff of City Theatre and has a Bachelor's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in English and Drama.
Still Birth & Stillbirth
by Barbara Crooker
In night's shelter, beneath the crust
Do you sleep, child of sightless eyes,
Is there comfort in the covered earth,
In the frozen ground, maples bud
They brought me flowers: iris, a rose
Never having seen your face,
Previously published in Bereavement, 1989
She said, "Your daughters
Ten years later
In the hospital,
They wouldn't let me hold her:
Previously published in Conections, 1981
She has written several collections including The White
Poems (reviewed here at KotaPress in September 2002), The Lost Children,
and Ordinary Life.
by Lisa Kunkel
You can imagine--they are undone.
It took all this time for anyone to name the loss,
And spoken it
And certainly none of us, out here,
Lise Kunkel, 45, is a mother, wife, registered nurse & volunteer coordinator for Compassionate Care in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. She has been reading and writing poetry off and on for 30 years.
by Poppy Hullings
Is a baby
To preface Death,
All I want is recognition
because I am without, within.
Poppy, mother of an angel on earth (T. K., 9 y/o) and an angel in heaven (Samantha, b/d on July 23, 1999), loves writing poetry.
To a Stillborn Niece
by Jane Carlson
Oh, my Girl. You are not mine.
But we would have gone
to Disneyland, you and I.
About the Author
Jane Carlson lives in Illinois and works in scholarly publishing. Her niece, Emma Jane Harper, was stillborn on Februrary 8, 2003.
by Brian Mayer
It could have been yesterday
Yet it was decades ago
My collective self refuses to forget
That is was a spring day
If only it was like another other day
Yet Nancy had an appointment to keep
That would never need to be
I remember standing in the kitchen
Or was it the living room
I remember being somewhere in the house
The same one I was born and raised in
The Brooklyn home we could have lived in forever
When the phone rang
Just the usual ring and I took the call that
Changed our lives in ways I cannot even begin to explain
We never discuss that day
Words of healing or sorrow are not exchanged
But I clearly remember sitting on the hallway floor
Leaning up against the closed French doors
Head in my hands crying for my wife, for myself
For our still born son
I still think about those French doors from time to time
About the Author
Brian Mayer is a stillbirth dad who lives with his wife Nancy, four beautiful children, and twelve guitars. Brian's son was stillborn 17 years ago and is remembered everyday.