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Remembering Michael: Rewriting my Story of Stillbirth is now available on Amazon! See above button to purchase in ebook or print format.
To support other women and babies in my province, 15% of my own earnings from Remembering Michael ebook and print book sales will be donated to BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, an organization whose main goal is to improve the health of women and newborns in British Columbia. See the below link for more information about this cause.
About Remembering Michael
The Purpose of the Book
Remembering Michael reads as my own emotional tapestry of healing from the trauma of stillbirth through different forms of writing, including research writing, personal essay work, poetry, and journaling. Throughout this ode to healing, I bring you, the reader, along with me through my healing process, describing the unique benefits of the different forms of writing and my own experiences in writing these pieces. Moreover, my narrative is grounded in the research on healing through writing, including guidance on replacing a dispiriting story with an uplifting one (Meijers & Lengelle, 2012), research on the psychology behind writing for healing purposes (MacCurdy, 2000), information on healing through poetry (Kooser, 2005), and more.
Remembering Michael is split into six sections that follow the chronological order of my experience with stillbirth, as follows. Section One: Losing Michael outlines my experience of finding out that Michael had passed away and coming to terms with the imminent labour and birth with this new lens. Section Two: Labour & Delivery follows the labour process, complications that we faced, and the birth. Section Three: Healing Pains outlines the first few months following the birth, including returning home, getting Michael cremated, and planning Michael’s memorial. Section Four: A New Story describes the way in which writing strengthened me to heal and grow in the months following the stillbirth; it also describes how this shocking and tragic story turned into one of appreciative remembrance of a son we never took home. Section Five: His Perspective includes an interview with my partner, Nigel, as he outlines his own trauma experience as the father of a son lost to stillbirth and his own process of healing through writing. The final section, Section Six: Process, Readiness, & Revision, provides a discussion on my process of utilizing writing for healing purposes, including a contemplation on my experience with (and readiness for) embarking on a healing through writing project after such a traumatic life event, as well as a note about the importance of the revision process in writing for healing.
Who Should Read Remembering Michael?
Individuals Experiencing Pregnancy and/or Neonatal Loss
Foremostly, I hope that this book reaches other individuals who have experienced or will experience miscarriage, stillbirth, and/or neonatal loss (either first- or second-hand). Personally, story has always held a lot of weight in my life. I have always enjoyed stories, ever since my mom started reading to me as a young child. I attended the Summer Reading Programs at our local library as a school-age child; I found companionship in the stories of others as I went through my troublesome teens; and in college and university, I studied and wrote stories throughout my degree in English. I have always been attuned to the nuances of story, and for years I have paid careful attention to the suggestions made through language within the stories I read and write.
Following my attraction to story, after Michael’s birth, I searched for a story about stillbirth in which I could find hope or companionship. I found stories both online (via YouTube, loss websites, blogs, and more) and in-print (in adult book and storybook forms); a few of these stories resided with how I was feeling, but I also felt that those stories were not “mine.” As such, I felt a drive to put my own story to paper to join the other stories of pregnancy and neonatal loss in the world. Furthermore, though some of these stories moved toward a more positive place, I also found many of the stories were ridden with trauma and fear from the loss; this could be because the authors remained in a fearful place for a while after the loss, or because they wrote the story when they were still in a fearful place and had since found growth. Either way, I, as the reader, was not exposed to the growth and healing portions of their stories, if such portions existed. After reading some of these stories, I knew that I did not want to remain in such a fearful place. To quote Meijers & Lengelle (2012), the authors of these stories struggled to move from the “first story,” in which they are “stuck [or] suffering,” to a “second story” of gained “acceptance [and] meaning” (p. 170). As such, my goal with Remembering Michael is to write the story that I believe would have helped me after the stillbirth – one that moves from the shocking and devastating first story into a more uplifting second story – and that also allows me to honour my son in a positive way.
My hope is that this story will help others experiencing pregnancy and/or neonatal loss by exposing them to the possibility of growth through hardship and introducing them to writing as a potential form of healing. I hope that others find companionship and likeness in my own story; at the same time, I hope they feel inspired to write their own stories to find growth and empowerment by using their own voices. If you are interested in using writing for your own healing purposes, please see the Disclaimer, Closing Remarks, and Resources sections on pages 11, 103, and 105, respectively, in Remembering Michael: Rewriting my Story of Stillbirth. For those who are interested in writing, yet questioning if they have anything important to say, I offer the following: “It is interesting that true poetic beauty emerges when the poet is absolutely faithful to the uniqueness of her own voice” (O’Donohue, 2004, p. 80-81).
My secondary audience includes health professionals who are interested in learning more about the personal experience of pregnancy loss, such as maternity nurses, maternity doctors, obstetricians, and/or any other health professionals who may come across mothers experiencing loss. Although my stories in Remembering Michael will be specific to my own experience, I believe that they will also provide insight into the feelings of mothers experiencing pregnancy loss at a universal level, as so many mothers report similar feelings of guilt, anger, and grief (Coping with grief after the loss of a baby, 2017). In a study on the use of reflective writing in medical training programs, Schaff (2006) describes medical students’ concerns about “‘losing [their] capacity for empathy’” (p. 15); in response, Schaff suggests the use of reflective writing to encourage narrative competence in medical students. Alongside writing, I would also argue that reading strengthens narrative competency and aids in the process of maintaining and/or developing empathy. As such, by reading about patient experiences of common medical events within their professions (such as maternity nurses reading my account of stillbirth), health professionals and health professionals-in-training can prepare to treat patients within these scenarios in an empathetic and informed manner. For those professionals who read this story and still don’t know how to care for a mother experiencing loss, I offer the following from Pamela Schaff (2000), pediatrician and USC Keck School of Medicine faculty member: “Now I see that even when you feel as though you are failing as a doctor because you cannot fix your patients’ problems, you may be helping them by simply caring” (p. 10).
Coping with grief after the loss of a baby [Webpage]. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/baby-loss/stillbirth/coping-grief-after-loss-baby---parents
Meijers, F. & Lengelle, R. (2012). Narratives at work: the development of a career identity. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 40, 157-177. Retrieved from http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.aupac.lib.athabascau.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=9e881e01-df78-4a39-90e0-5aff32f1c108%40sessionmgr4008
O’Donohue, J. (2004). The voice of the poet. In Beauty: The invisible embrace, 80-81. New York, NY: Harper Collins. Retrieved from https://mais.lms.athabascau.ca/file.php/843/readings/odonohue.pdf
Schaff, P. (2006). Donning the white coat: The narrative threads of professional development. Journal for Learning through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration, 2(1), 1-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.21977/D92110065