Three years into making a movie about pregnancy loss and infertility, I realize I had no idea. Dozens of interviews with doctors, specialists and grieving families later, I realize I had no clue.
I’ve learned a lot while making Don’t Talk About the Baby, and as we wrap up production and enter post, I find myself reflecting on the many things I never knew before beginning this film.
1. There’s no normal in loss.
When a woman loses a pregnancy, she’s sad, end of story. That’s what I used to think. Now I realize there are many, many shades of grey when it comes to pregnancy loss, and every one of them is valid.
Some women cry for weeks and never get over their lost children. Some never shed a tear, and bottle it up inside for the rest of their lives. Some don’t grieve their loss at all, and find the silver lining.
There is no right and no wrong, just feeling and reaction after something so powerful. It steals our control and our future, and there’s no single way to handle something like that.
2. Men’s voices matter, too.
When I started this project, I knew that I wanted it to be all encompassing, and that meant including men’s stories. I thought it would be a welcome new perspective for the women in the audience. What I didn’t realize was there’s a quiet but growing group of men out there who want their voices to be heard, too.
They’re not just passive participants in loss and infertility; they’re feeling it all. In fact, they’re often the most overlooked, and most underestimated in these stigmatized battles, but this is their movement, too.
3. Stillbirth mothers birth in silence.
I never thought about this. I bet most people haven’t. We’re inundated in popular media with babies being born red and screaming, so we don’t think about the sounds of the delivery room after a stillbirth.
In one of our public filming events, a mother was telling her story and she said that the staff put her in a room on the L&D floor at the end of a dark hallway, away from all the other birthing rooms full of healthy newborns.
When I heard that, I was filled with righteous indignation on her behalf. I wanted to rage at the people who had taken this beautiful, grieving woman and stashed her away at the back of a hospital.
But then I realized, it may have been a mercy. Many, many women have told me how much it hurt them to hear the cries of other babies in nearby delivery rooms, and I realized a room at the end of a dark hall might be a refuge.
I’ve realized since that we simply need more and better options for loss parents. There’s got to be a more compassionate option than shuffling a woman with a silent womb down a dark, empty hallway to give birth.
4. Tradition runs deep and it runs hard.
One of the things we explore in this film is how family traditions and historical trends affect how we talk about loss today. We’ve always realized that the way we do things now is heavily influenced by the way they did things before.
Just this past weekend, in an interview with an L&D nurse, I realized how much.
We were talking about a program that provides free kits to grieving parents in the hospital. The kits have resources for local support groups and counseling, ceramic footprint kits and jewelry for the parents and the baby. It’s an incredible program, and one that should be in every hospital.
And yet, the creators struggle to get it even in local hospitals. When we asked the nurse why she thought her hospital refused to take part in a program that could only be win/win, she said that their county was an old one.
For generations and generations, people simply didn’t talk about these things, and it was taboo to even cry after a stillbirth. Joining a program that comforts bereaved parents admits that there’s a problem with the way things are now, and an old establishment steeped in tradition was wary about admitting a problem like that.