April 5, 2001
11:06 AM   Subscribe

"I love my stillborn daughter so much, I'm putting her picture on my site for all the world to see!" Am I wrong to be somewhat disturbed by this? She even had to have "the bruises" photoshopped out!
posted by aaron (42 comments total)
It's a highly disturbing picture. People grieve in their own ways, and should do so privately. I'm not sure what you hoped to accomplish by posting this link. It's not the kind of thing that should have attention drawn to it.
posted by anapestic at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2001

It's so very sad.
posted by dancu at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2001

You're not wrong to be disturbed by this - everybody is disturbed by different things. And anapestic, you're right, people grieve in their own ways, but if this is how this person chooses to deal with her grief, then that is her right. Not everybody can deal with grief privately - they feel they have to share it with anyone who will listen. You can't take that away from her just because you don't want to look at that picture. No one's holding a gun to your head.
posted by starvingartist at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2001

I hoped to accomplish a discussion, the same purpose as every other link posted on MeFi. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
posted by aaron at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2001

I had a young friend who lost her son to SIDS. At his funeral, she wanted nothing more than to hold him. She hadn't been able to touch him since before his death. Her parents and friends and even the funeral director told her she could not--that it would be inappropriate. Her son went under the ground that day, never to be held again by his mom.
I ask you: What would have been so terribly wrong with this young mother cradling her son?

There is nothing at all wrong with the picture posted at the web site.
posted by brittney at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2001

starvingartist, I certainly don't want to take away this woman's ability to grieve however she wishes. That's why I said that people grieve in their own ways. I do question whether posting that picture is the best way to accomplish what she's after, and I think that in time she'll probably come to regret having posted it. And, recognizing that, I don't think we do her any favors by sending more strangers to see it.

And aaron, I wasn't accusing you of any sort of agenda in posting the picture. It just struck me as somewhat voyeuristic. Like "this car wreck really grossed me out, let me show it to you to see if it grosses you out, too." I just don't see what kind of insight is to be gained by discussing it. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong.
posted by anapestic at 11:30 AM on April 5, 2001

It's not the kind of thing that should have attention drawn to it.

It was posted on the web, wasn't it? The parents have decided to grieve in a very public manner.
posted by dithered at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2001

This really isn't much different from 100-150 years ago when people routinely posed dead children and relatives for photographs which were then prominently displayed in their parlors. This was a way for them to confront death and come to grips with it, it was also a way of keeping that person's memory alive for them.

As for photoshopping the bruises out, this is no different than having the the embalmer apply makeup to the corpse in order to present it at the funeral.
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2001

Grief is a powerful thing, and the best thing that uninvolved individuals like ourselves can do is get out of the way of the grievers and let them do whatever they need to do to cope.

This is one of those times where you just need to suck it up for the sake of someone else, as challenging as that seems to be for so many people these days.
posted by briank at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2001

exactly, dithered. MeFi is a free community. Aaron has every right to post whatever the hell he wants. if you don't like it, don't click on it.

What's especially disturbing about this is that child was stillborn over 3 years ago. I have experience with a similar story, and I understand that the pain can linger forever, but it seems especially morbid to grieve so publicly for so long.

Also, am I the only one who finds the "fund" a little suspect?
posted by jpoulos at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2001

Aaron: it was not Freud but Monica Lewinsky who remarked that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And, she added, sometimes that is sufficient.
posted by Postroad at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2001

Ummm yeah I find that disturbing too. I don't know. It just makes me kinda queasy! It's very sad though - poor baby! :(
posted by FAB4GIRL at 12:07 PM on April 5, 2001

My fiance works with premature babies. Many don't make it. If one dies, they take away all the machines and tubes attached to the baby, put the baby in a white dress, and take pictures of the baby for the mother. They do this every time.

Seems so morbid to me, yet she says it's very important to most of the mothers.

We had this discussion yesterday, and today I see this. Strange.
posted by justgary at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2001

FAB4GIRL, thanks for adding that amazingly deep perspective. Really, thanks. You're adding to the signal here, really.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2001

Didn't they have -- or still do -- open caskets at some funeral services? Think of this as a big funeral services that wants to include more than just the immediate family.

Maybe this picture is disturbing to us (or the idea of posting it, repugnant) because we don't know this particular family. We don't know a lot of people we interact with here on MetaFilter every day, yet we engage in passionate discussions with them .... So, although my first reaction to the picture was "uh, yuck" ... thinking about it, I thought that it is OK... Who am I to judge this woman when she is trying to reach out
posted by poorhouse at 12:37 PM on April 5, 2001

while that is one of the more nauseating things i have seen recently, there is no reason that they shouldn't have posted it if that is what they feel is a proper way for them to grieve. i don't think, though, that it is something that should necessarily be brought to the attention of anonymous web gawkers. it is a public site with a relatively private audience: those who knew the family involved, or who are looking for resources to help themselves deal with a similar loss. not to say you absolutely should not have posted it, but to suggest that maybe everything on the net does not need to be so widely disseminated.

that said, on to other, better for my lunch links.
posted by whoshotwho at 12:43 PM on April 5, 2001

Like this woman, I've lost two children before birth and one shortly after. My heart breaks for her because I know all too well that the pain is present every day, no matter how much time passes. It diminishes, but it is still very real.

If the website and the work that this woman does to reach out to other parents brings comfort and peace to her life, G-d bless her. If you find the whole thing odd or off-putting, fine, don't go back to the site and continue on with your life, and believe me when I say that I hope you'll never know what it's like from firsthand experience.
posted by Dreama at 12:57 PM on April 5, 2001

I'd actually like to thank aaron for posting with such a clear description of the link. I really hate it when people post links so inscrutable that you have to click on them to find out if you want to click on them.
posted by nicwolff at 1:03 PM on April 5, 2001

Mr balihigh: here is what you might be sort of thinking of:

posted by Postroad at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2001

I think the danger here is that a site like this will be seen as a sideshow oddity, passed around the office for a few "Oh my god, look at the dead baby, isn't that sick" moments of entertainment. The people who've posted here on MeFi seem to be relatively compassionate and caring about it, and are viewing it for what it is. I'm pretty sure, however, that you guys are in the minority.
posted by Doug at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2001

This site and the pictures, have been online for quite some time now. I was doing a project that required lots of sunflower information probably 2 or 3 years ago, so naturally, I visited the site. I was a little freaked out when I noticed the stillborn images, as I've never heard of or seen anything like what justgary wrote above. But the more I read the woman's words and looked around her site, it made me feel very sad for anyone who has had to deal with that unfortunate situation.

This site has a lot of information, support, and various resources intended to help people who have been through this situation. Though a picture of a stillborn baby may not be pleasant to you, I'm sure it is the most beautifully precious thing to her mother. Anyone visiting the site for support would realize and understand this.

As for the fund, I don't understand how you can call it "suspect." She clearly has a site devoted to helping ease the pain of people in unfortunate situations. It is not as if there is mIxEd CaS3 text and porn banners asking people to contribute to a warez fund. Her fund, set up to send care packages to individuals dealing with perinatal loss looks no more illegitimate than the MeFi fund or the Blogger fund.
posted by Hankins at 1:11 PM on April 5, 2001

Risking the Wrath o' Matt, I will say, "Yeah, me, too," nicwolff. Mefi-ers have gotten better about noting when a link might be inappropriate for, say, viewing in your office, but some days we still end up looking like the sometimes-interesting, always-annoyingly-inscrutable Memepool.
posted by m.polo at 1:13 PM on April 5, 2001

It's not how I would grieve, but that hardly enters into things. And I don't think aaron was trying to be provocative by posting it (at least not in the pejorative sense--only in the sense that he was trying to "provoke" discussion).

And Doug, well, yeah, that will probably happen, but I don't know what the "danger" is. Some people will trivialize it, others will ignore it, others will be moved. I imagine that if this were an issue with the family, they would remove the site. But as it is, she continues to prominently display her email address. They've probably become quite used to assholes flaming them for the site and random acts of unkindness.
posted by Skot at 1:23 PM on April 5, 2001

"FAB4GIRL, thanks for adding that amazingly deep perspective. Really, thanks. You're adding to the signal here, really.
posted by mathowie at 12:28 PM PST on April 5 "

Um - what did I do wrong? I just posted a comment. Now I feel bad. I didn't mean to upset anyone. I was just agreeing with the person who posted the link. Hmmmph! :(
posted by FAB4GIRL at 1:33 PM on April 5, 2001

FAB4, in case you didn't know, simply posting a "me too" comment with a smiley after it doesn't add much to a conversation.

The site referenced in the thread is a very serious and sensitive subject, and if you can't see that posting a me too message isn't just pointless in every other thread, but *especially* this one, then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by mathowie at 1:40 PM on April 5, 2001

I didn't put a smiley! I wasn't happy about it. It's sad. I know maybe my comment didn't add a lot to the conversation, I couldn't say much more on the subject other than just saying yes it is disturbing and awfully sad. Sometimes it's hard to find the words and to know what to say - esp about this type of subject. I didn't think it would upset anyone.
posted by FAB4GIRL at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2001

Skot, maybe dangerous wasn't the right word, but I think, perhaps, we have to be careful about passing it along. I don't know why Aaron posted it, but apparently it sparked an interesting conversation, and maybe that's worth it. I suppose I'm just seeing a trend toward degrading meanness on the web. Rotten.com has been getting a lot of publicity lately, and I personally can think of few things as damaging to the human spirit as a site like that. But I don't know, I guess this is something I have to think about.
posted by Doug at 1:50 PM on April 5, 2001

Yeah, Doug, I do know what you mean, and don't want to sound like I was pretending not to. Sites like Rotten, StileProject, Something Awful, etc. would likely be more than happy to link this site with a charming "Haw Haw Haw Dead Fucking Baby" comment or such. In fact, I'd be surprised if it hadn't already happened.

It's what sometimes gives me a queer sense of dislocation while on the web. I mean, if in "real life" you want to obtain a porn mag or rent "Faces of Death" or peek at autopsy photos, you have to make an effort to find an outlet for such things, deal with probably at least one human in obtaining them, and then go home to "consume" it. Even if you do mail-order, there is effort both in locating the source and communicating an intent to purchase the "whatever."

Not so the web. A link is a link. Click, goth poetry. Click, stillborn baby. Click, naked chicks. Click, Mulder/Scully fanfic. Click, GodHatesFags.com. Click, MetaFilter. As usual, one of the greatest features of a piece of "new" technology also turns out to be its most disquieting.
posted by Skot at 2:02 PM on April 5, 2001

I don't think FAB4GIRL meant to make light of the subject. It's a touching (albeit slightly disturbing) link. Agreement without additional insight can also be a form of information. It just means she was touched, as I'm sure many of us were.
posted by Loudmax at 2:03 PM on April 5, 2001

I have a friend who lost her 2-year-old daughter to SIDS probably 10 years ago. She still has a web page up dedicated to her daughter, with the story of what happened, support resources for people in similar situations, etc, etc. I have another friend who has gone through the experience of having a not-quite-stillborn baby; her daughter was breathing when she was born, but the nurses knew she wouldn't make it and never let my friend hold her. That friend still has the story on a web page. They don't have pictures or anything, but I think their need to tell the story and offer support to others is the same. I've never had a child so I can't imagine what it would be like to lose one, except through these friends. I don't see anything wrong with the page; I'm quite sure the "fund" is legit, too.

And as far as photoshopping out the bruises, well, wouldn't you rather remember your daughter as being perfect?
posted by binkin at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2001

You know, regarding the subject of photographing stillborn babies - my youngest sister was stillborn, when I was eleven. The doctors dressed her up and took two polaroids of her prior to her cremation. Had they not done that, my other sisters and I would never have been able to know that she had my eyes, my sister Bobbi's hair, and that all four of us had the same mouth. That simple act made her that much closer to us, and I can honestly say it did help with the grieving process.

I haven't seen those pictures in ten years, and even if I had them in my possession I would not post them on the web, but I can sort of understand the impulse, and I'm glad that this medium has opened up an avenue for women to provide support for each other when they lose a baby.
posted by annathea at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2001

There was a time (not so long ago) that parents of stillborn children were not allowed to see the child ... it was whisked away and the parents (esp. the mothers) were advised to "put it out of your mind". This was pretty common at least up 'till the mid-1970's and perhaps beyond.

Many of these men and women (my own mother included) have been left forever wondering what their child looked like. Was the child so deformed that it couldn't have been viewed? What was so horrible that the doctor wouldn't let them see?

I'm very, very sure that for thousands of people out there, the image of Baby Megan's face can somehow take the place of their own child's face, and that many, many people find comfort in this.

As justgary notes above, we are fortunate that the times have changed, and that today parents of stillborn children are encouraged to hold the child, photograph it, love it and grieve for it as you would for any other member of the family ... and not hide from the fact of the birth or the death.

I grieve for this mother, for her loss of child after child. But I also applaud her for sharing her story and her love for her child with others who might not know for sure where to turn.
posted by anastasia at 2:30 PM on April 5, 2001 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of these types of sites out there - This is a collection of children's photos and stories, and there are several webrings out there for parents who do this. This isn't a one shot thing.

I can't look, personally, but I don't know that I would want to pass any sort of judgement on the way other people choose to grieve a death in the family.
posted by kristin at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2001

me too. i couldn't help but notice how much valuable signal matthowies toast added to the site. you too? anyone else too?
posted by quonsar at 3:18 PM on April 5, 2001

LOL @ Quonsar!
posted by FAB4GIRL at 3:45 PM on April 5, 2001

MrBaliHai writes:

This really isn't much different from 100-150 years ago when people routinely posed dead children and relatives for photographs which were then prominently displayed in their parlors.

Post-mortem photography was still done to some extent into the first part of the 20th century. Two books that I recommend you get from your library: Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America and Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America.

Both include some really nice (and haunting) prints as well as a good overview/history of memorial photography.
posted by gluechunk at 4:03 PM on April 5, 2001

quonsar, if you can't tell the difference between still born babies starting a thread, and me joking about toast (and people seemingly taking it seriously), and how that might affect how commenting people should act... again, I don't know what to say.
posted by mathowie at 4:03 PM on April 5, 2001

Matt: lighten up. :)
posted by Bootcut at 4:18 PM on April 5, 2001

I think the initial problem many of us are having with this website is the particularly public way this family has chosen to deal with their personal tragedy. Let me start off by saying that the picture disturbed me profoundly at first, and I thought it was in bad taste. At first. Reading the genuine sympathy on this thread and hearing the stories of the other community members who have had personal experience with similar situations has helped me to understand it better. Which may not have been Aaron's purpose in posting the link, but what a great by-product.

Part of the problem is the way we (as a society, maybe narrowed down even further to Americans, but I digress) deal with, or refuse to deal with, death. 100-150 years ago, when photos of dead relatives were taken, people often dealt personally with death fairly early in life; a sibling, parent, or grandparent died while most people were children, usually more than one. Medical technology has advanced to a point where infant mortality is extremely low, and life expectancy is extremely high. It is conceivable that someone may not have their first experience with death until they reach their late teens or even until they are adults. And children are shielded from death, not taught to deal with it. Without belaboring it, my point is maybe the reason some of us were disturbed by this is because death is no longer public, is no longer an appropriate topic of conversation. Just a thought, feel free to discuss.

ps - the toast thing was a (funny!) joke; the "me too" was completely useless, even if we've all done it; and y'all might want to do a little research before you start flaming mathowie.
posted by jennaratrix at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2001

if this is how a mother wishes to deal with her pain, then so be it.

is the image disturbing? yes. and no.

yes - because you know the child is dead.

it's very sad. i particularly feel for the mother, as that was the only time she will ever get a chance to see the child that she carried in her body, that at one time was living inside her. i say let he deal with her loss in her own way. i shall not judge her harshly for it.

no - because it helps us all appreciate the value of one human being, in a day when fewer and fewer people seem to care.

i care. why? because when people stop caring, horrific things happen. besides, the net is filled with far more disturbing things than this.

i believe this woman may in fact be helping other parents that have lost a baby in a similar manner.

in some small way, maybe it helps us all.
posted by bwg at 10:03 PM on April 5, 2001

Looking back, I think my originating post came off more coldly than I intended. I was just very surprised that anyone would want to publicize such a photo of their stillborn child. The discussion has been quite eyeopening as to why. Thanks, everyone.
posted by aaron at 11:07 PM on April 5, 2001

I'm crying right now. I can not for one second comprehend the pain. My daughters are so precious to me; I have no idea what I would do if I ever lost them, but nobody had better tell me what I "should" or "shouldn't" do about it. As referenced above, if this is how the mother handles her pain and loss, power to her.
posted by davidmsc at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2002

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