Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Stillbirth Speech

I recently told you all about a tribute speech that I have to give on Thursday. I was debating on whether or not to talk about stillbirth and I'm really worried that I wont be able to make it through without breaking down but I decided to go ahead & do it. They need to know. I wish I'd known. I wanted to let you all read what I'll be saying Thursday. I know it's long, it had to be. It has to be 8 minutes long, so I'm sorry for that, but if you decide to read it all the way through, let me know what you think. And please, please, please pray for me Thursday! My class starts at noon & I go fourth so I should probably be speaking between 12:20 and 1:30ish. I'm really going to need some backup to get through this w/o tears!

The man I chose to pay tribute to might make you a bit uncomfortable, and that’s okay, he stands 4 a pretty taboo subject. So taboo in fact, that I wasn’t sure that I could go through w/ talking to you about it. But what someone recently told me really struck a cord, she said, “you know, 15 years ago people didn’t talk about interracial couples but now; we don’t even blink an eye when the subject is broached.” And that is what I hope to accomplish today, and it’s what the man I will be talking to you about is actively working towards. Usually I try to get up here and make you laugh, but not today. There’s nothing funny about what I’m going to talk to you about.

The man is Richard K. Olsen. Richard is the founder and Executive Director of the National Stillbirth Society and the Missing Angels Foundation. Richard and his wife experienced stillbirth firsthand when their daughter Camille was born still full term in August of 2000. Stillbirth is defined as the death of baby in the mother’s womb after 20 weeks gestation. Olsen formed the 2 organizations when he was unable to find any advocacy groups that were working to force medical & government agencies to use their resources 2 eliminate stillbirth worldwide.

Richard say’s he formed the National Stillbirth Society to Educate, Agitate, and Legislate for greater stillbirth awareness, funding for research, and legislation to recognize these babies’ births by requiring states 2 issue a Birth Certificate. Only 23 states offer parents a birth certificate, only one of our surrounding states does this, Missouri. Most, including Iowa & Nebraska offer parents only a death certificate, even with the hours of labor these mother’s go through only to deliver a dead child. The National Stillbirth Society offers the public information, a means of support, research, and a forum on which parents can actively discuss their babies, as well as fund raising opportunities. The Missing Angel Foundation is the fund raising arm of the National Stillbirth Society and operates a memorial site for the babies.

Stillbirth can happen to anyone at any age. In fact all you have to do to be at risk, is get pregnant. Annually there are 26,000 stillbirths a year. For the majority of Americans the term stillbirth is a thing of the past. Most believe that if the pregnancy survives the 1st trimester that the danger has passed. But that’s just not true. The sad fact is, that stillbirth is still very common and the chances that you yourself one day be a victim of it or know someone dealing with the harsh reality, is pretty good. The topic of pregnancy loss, stillbirth and infant death isn’t something people talk about very often. It’s a sad topic, one that most people don’t know how to respond to. Olsen seeks to take the shame & secrecy out of stillbirth.

Did you know that stillbirth is ten times more likely than SIDS? For every 1 case of SIDS there are 10 cases of stillbirth. And yet, you don’t hear a lot about stillbirth. Raise your hands if you knew that any of the following people had experienced a stillbirth: The poet Alfred Tennyson, Christie Brinkley, Henry the 8th, Keanu Reeves, Oprah, Jacquie Kennedy Onassis, Barbra Bush, or Michael Jackson & Elvis Presley’s mothers? How about Jennifer Davison?

My son, Bryston, was born still July 24th, 2009. I was 7 months pregnant when we found out that our son’s heart had stopped beating. I labored for 56 hours to deliver our son only to walk out that hospital with empty arms and a broken heart. We got a death certificate instead of birth certificate. I didn’t get to plan a baby shower; I get to design his headstone.

Stillbirth is unpredictable and random. Richard says it’s like the lightning strikes in a thunderstorm. There is no way to know when or where it will strike next. And what’s most frustrating is that ½ to 2/3’s of all stillbirth cases happen because of unknown reasons. Autopsies if done, rarely uncover any cause.

When the public first became nationally aware of SIDS there was a public outcry for research. Because of that public outcry we now have more information than ever before on SIDS. Now we have the back 2 Sleep Campaign and a list of warnings of what not to do. To date, there is no such list for stillbirth. Most people don’t even know what it is. Olsen is working to change that. The death of a baby is isolating and lonely and confusing. People are uncomfortable bringing up your child’s name so they avoid the topic. They hear about the tragedy and then carefully tread around the family to avoid causing them pain. Through Richards organization’s families are able to openly talk about their children in a time when they desperately need to share.

Because of its randomness and in most cases, lack of any warning, Olsen calls stillbirth, “An Equal Opportunity Destroyer of Dreams.” It can happen in all economic classes, races, body types, religions, and any maternal age group. No woman is immune to stillbirth, even women who’ve had successful pregnancies before. Stillbirths can happen to a crack addict or a step ford wife. A woman can do everything right and recommended and still experience a stillbirth. There is virtually nothing a woman can do or not do for that matter to cause a stillbirth.

Olsen also advocates for legislation on insurance companies to pay for additional testing that might give Dr’s a hint that something might be wrong. My doctor didn’t offer any of those tests to me because my insurance wouldn’t cover it and the tests are very expensive. Had I had those tests, my son might have had a fighting chance. American Insurance companies dictate how a woman’s pregnancy is managed, not the doctors. And why would the insurance companies offer voluntarily to add those tests to the list of allowed treatments? A few years ago, women everywhere fought to have birth control covered by their insurance companies, and won; costing them millions. I ask you, what’s a human life worth to you? Is that enough of a reason why we should let them ignore our health and the health of your future children?

If it’s so common, then why the secrecy? It was surreal the amount of women who crawled out of the woodwork to tell me about their experiences with it. Sometimes I wonder if all of those things were happening all the time and I just didn’t notice before or if they only felt comfortable telling me after I joined the club that no one wants to be a part of. Women, especially in older generations were told to just move on as quickly as possible, to forget their baby and to try as soon as possible for another one. The problem with that, is that it’s just not that easy. We lost a child, not a fetus. These babies are a part of us, they were loved and wanted and are very missed. Our babies are not replaceable. My biggest fear is that Bryston will be forgotten, that he didn’t count to people when he’s the most important thing that ever happened in my life.

That’s why organizations like Richards are so important. They make our babies count and worth remembering. Think of your parents, brother, sister, and the few of you with kids, think about them for a minute. What would your life be like right now without them in it? What if they’d been born still? Would you be able to move on so easily without them? Would you ever be able to replace them? Wouldn’t you want someone like Richard to stand up and try his damndest to make sure that these things don’t ever happen again? How important would it be to you that your future child never has to bury their own? Because that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Don’t let stillbirth be a dirty little secret. Join Richard and demand that something be done like with SIDS. Join Richard and I in the fight against stillbirth, at www.stillnomore.org. Thank you.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened."
Take Courage
1 Peter 3:14

Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it."
Ezra 10:4


Jody said...

Jen, this sounds really good. Very informative yet touching too- in all the right places.
I will be praying that you have a peace surrounding you Thursday as you speak to these people. Don't worry if you get a little emotional-- it makes you real and it makes you human.
xoxo Jody

Sarita Boyette said...

I think this is a wonderful speech and I will pray you get through it OK, but like the other commenter,I think emotions make it real. This is very informative and tugs at the heartstrings, too. I think you did a great job of getting the audience's attention. Prayers for a great delivery of the speech....

Allison (Ali) said...

i think it's perfect. if they are willing to listen you will have that many more people that arent afraid to say im sorry instead of ignoring it if someone in their lives suffers a loss like we did and educating them on how common it is.

until we lost cadynce last year i had absolutely no idea.

good luck, you will do great.

i will pray for peace and that you are able to make it through.

Shandrea said...

I think it's a great speech. Good luck on thursday.

Lareina said...

Beautiful speech. I will be thinking of you and sending all my strength.

PB&J said...

Simply perfect. You will deliver a great message to your class.

Daddy's Dream ~Mommy's Miracle said...

I am proud of you Jennifer. Praying that God covers you with strength on Thursday!

DeniFay said...

Beautifully written Jennifer! I'll be praying you through this and I KNOW you can do it without getting too emotional to finish! You may share your emotion when you're done! You are brave and strong to do this and to continue to advocate for these babies and their families!

Marie W said...

Your speech brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful way to educate others while earning a good grade. Kudos to you for choosing this topic.

Holly said...

I think it is a fabulous speech and I give you a standing ovation. I hope that someone is impacted by it. I will def be praying for your delivery tomorrow!

Lisette said...

Your speech is great, emotional and very informative. I will be thinking and praying that you do well but most importantly really touch someone and get your point across. Something more has to be done.

Giggles said...

Great speech. I agree that if you happen to become emotional, it will help make it real for others. Our son was stillborn at 25 weeks. I never thought that it would happen to me but it did. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with others and being a voice for those who are not as brave as you.
Good luck tomorrow as you give your speech. You will have my thoughts and prayers with you tomorrow.

Jenn said...

This is excellent writing & I just know that you will do a powerful job delivering it. Thanking you for your courage & praying for you as you give your speech.

Sheri Anderson said...

Right on! Don't worry about making it through, you will. You are speaking about something that is so important to you. You will find the strength. Bryston will be looking over you to give you the strength.

Ebe said...

This was great. I think it was very well written. Have you given the speech yet? If so, I'm sure you did a fantastic job.