Day 4: My Favorite Photo of You

August 4, 2017

By Sanda Rathamone

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 4

"We were going to have a baby. But we had an angel instead."
My husband took this photo of Elijah about forty minutes after he was born. It is the only photo of him that reveals his features more clearly.

One of the first things you would notice is that yes, he has not developed a well formed chest, his eyes were fused shut, he has no hair on his head, he has not yet grown into his skin, and he is very, very small. All of that is true.

What is also true is that his nose is mine and that is why I love this photo so much. I love it because for those who are not accustomed to seeing a premature 20 week and 4 day, 10 inches and 9.9 ounces of a human baby, reveals so much. It reveals the miracle of growing a life, the vulnerability of new life, and the need for acceptance and compassion. This is what 20 weeks and 4 days looks like in the womb and I love him without any judgments. I love the way he looks, without any shame.


You can see that I have watermarked this photo and honestly, I didn't want to. About a month or so after loss, I posted another photo of Elijah on social media. A young woman messaged me that she recognized a photo of Elijah from my page and that this girl had used Elijah's photo without my consent. What this young girl did made me flare up with fear and anger.

She used Elijah's photo and pretended that he was her son and lost him - for sympathy. While posting and privately messaging random people about "her loss", she happened to message the wrong person who turns out to be following me.

She got what she deserved. I reported her and publicly posted that she was a fake profile and that she had done this. While she had angered me, I also felt pity. Who would do this and why? Did she really think it was "cool" to receive sympathy for a loss? As someone who believes in mental health awareness, I wouldn't deem her as a sad, psychological or "messed up" girl. She must've really been through some things in her life that caused her to do this. She even pleaded for me to delete the post about her. She never apologized either.

Then, lo and behold, I had karma in my hands. I did what I thought was right. I didn't take down the post because she deserved to feel shame and embarrassment. She distorted Elijah's memory, so why should she getaway without any consequences? She knew what she did was wrong. She also brought me fear that what if this happened again or is happening right now and I don't even know about it?! I was going to delete my photo of Elijah, but why should I? People should know better. Yet, I have heard of many other stories of women doing this on a much bigger scale - for money, for GoFundMe accounts.

From then on, I have watermarked Elijah's photos before posting them. I hate it because they ruin the photos, but this is what life is like when you want to share photos of your stillborn child, while everyone else gets to post and share photos of their children without a problem.

Even my mother refuses to look at this photo and I am sure that many of the other family members may find it difficult to see as well. That is one of the hardest things I have ever had to understand, yet, it will not stop me from publicly sharing.

Why should I hide my child. Do you hide yours. Would you hide yours?

Life's not easy being a stillbirth mom. Many think that "it shouldn't take long to grieve over a child you never met." Trust me, that is the most false belief and horrendous thing to ever say. There are so many unreasonable issues and complications about pregnancy loss and taboos about stillborns. There are even many shaming loss moms for sharing photos and their stories and telling them to stop posting things about their babies. You would be amazed at what we have had to face.

But just so you know, loss has made me a much more compassionate soul and it will empower me to do so much more.

To read more about my 30 Day Writing Challenge For Stillbirth Mothers, click here.
Please let me know if you would like to join and I will include you in my final thoughts about this writing challenge in a blog post on Aug 31, 2017

Don't forget to hashtag: #30DayWritingChallengeForStillbirthMothers

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