Other > A Different Kind Of Parenting
One day when in college, I came across a brand new magazine called Hip Mama. The founder was a young, single mom going to college who wanted to create a parenting magazine that spoke to parents like her. I was so impressed with this mom, named Ariel Gore, that I clipped an interview out of a magazine and have carried it around in my papers for all these year.
In the late 90's, with my college degree finished and having just married my husband Hawk, we discovered I was very pregnant. Along with attending prenatal yoga, going to parenting classes, sharing the news with anyone who would listen, we also began reading every parenting magazine on the planet. I was voracious in my appetite for those magazines. We prepared Hawk's two young children from his first marriage. The house was fixed up, baby furniture bought, and my mother when insane buying clothes from newborn to 12 month size because she was so excited to be a grandma. We had a shower, celebrated with friends, made our "birth plan" so that it included using hypno-therapy to manage labor pains during our natural birth. All the while, reading reading reading those magazines.
Then on March 11, 1999, my son was born. Dead. Cord accident.
Well, this was not the life for which we had planned. Heck, it wasn't even any version of any life we could have remotely imagined. I mean, come on, since when are babies stillborn?! That doesn't happen anymore!? That only happened back in the dark ages of my great grandmothers day! Yeah, right, sure.
How overwhelmed I was with my own grief, let alone discovering that stillbirth happens every single day in the US and around the world. Home births, hospital births, preemies, those past due date, those right at due date, those with perfectly healthy pregnancies up to that point, those with complications. All in all, about 29,000 babies born dead each year in the US alone. That's 3.5 dead babies each and every single hour of each and every day. Right here in the United States. Let me tell you something: ****Not a single article in any one of those parenting magazine ever mentioned stillbirth!*** In fact, they rarely mentioned anything about the deaths of children.
And suddenly, I completely and totally understood Ariel Gore and her motivations for starting Hip Mama all those years ago. Suddenly, I was the mom that every parenting magazine on the planet ignored. I was a childless mother. I have my son's footprints to prove it. I have a lock of his hair. I have his baby blanket. I have his sticky, cremated ashes in a marble jar. And, yet, there was no mention of moms like me anywhere.
So my husband and I decided to start our own zine called, A Different Kind of Parenting: a zine for parents whose children have died. We started KotaPress to publish it and began production immediately on a quarterly schedule. And we've been publishing ever since. Our magazine explores topics like what it means to "celebrate" Mothers Day and Fathers Day when your child is dead. We look at how various cultures and religions treat the honor and memory of the dead, how bereaved parents are supported here and around the world. We advocate good self-care for the initial grief journey, but also for the long term, for looking at how to feel supported throughout the balance of your life. We share healing art ideas, post memorials, share Kindness Project stories.
We try to make the zine equally valuable for parents who have no living children, parents who have older surviving siblings, and parents who go on to have subsequent children either by birth or adoption. And we emphasize that ALL of us are parents, that ALL our children -- living and dead -- are equally our children. Of course our parenting styles will be different with living children compared to what we do to maintain the expression of our role as parent to our dead children. But nevertheless, it is ALL a type of parenting.
With any child, we spend the balance of our lives giving them love, support, help, time, energy, money, guidance. For our living children, obviously, we are giving these things to them directly. For our dead children, these things express themselves in different ways. Sometimes we volunteer to help others in need, giving the time, love, energy, and money that we would have given the dead child if he or she were here. Sometimes we write or offer in-person support to other bereaved parents, again finding an expression for that love, time, energy, money. Sometimes we make time to be with each child individually. Just like living children benefit from one on one time with parents, we can also set aside time for our dead child. Maybe we visit a gravesite. Maybe we attend a silent meditation. Maybe we write letters in a journal. Whatever the form of expression, it is time set aside specifically for maintaining our relationship to the dead child, retaining our role as parent.
There is no single, perfect way to do this. Grief, at first, is very hard work. Much like a living infant takes up every moment 24/7 at first, grief gobbles up our energy, mind space, sleep, everything. After those initial, all consuming rounds, we come to a place where true integration starts. Just as living children begin to find their place in the family dynamic, so too does the grief, the different kind of parenting, the memory of the dead child. In our Different Kind of Parenting zine, we explore all of this. The moment of crisis, the long term, the ups and downs, the evolution of ourselves as parents. We hope that we're creating a safe-space magazine that speaks to the parents who are so left out of traditional parenting magazines.
If you are interested in finding out more about A Different Kind of Parenting, the magazine, please click here.
About the Author
Kara has been using poetry and other expressive arts tools on the grief journey since the death of her son in 1999. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. She is a Carnegie Mellon graduate who co-founded KotaPress with her husband Hawk Jones. Her books "Mrs. Duck and the Woman" as well as "Flash of Life" have both been released thru KotaPress. She is currently in an apprenticeship working toward Master level of Reiki. And she founded HennaHealing.com where she is exploring the ancient art of henna and its uses for ritual and healing.