the hardest thing I have ever written: my stillbirth story

When I was six I decided I wanted to write a book.

I became fixated on the idea and began by copying other authors’ works in preparation for my own childhood manifesto. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein was painstakingly transcribed word for word into my notebook and I dreamed up stories of my own to tell the world. I filled out an application for the Institute of Children’s Literature and waited anxiously for their reply. When their rejection letter came, I couldn’t understand the reasoning of their denial. I was “too young” they said.  Who better to write children’s books than a child?

I never imagined the story of my book would be stillbirth, grief, hope and healing.

Years passed and I tucked my writing dream into an inner pocket of my heart. From time to time I would pull it out and stroke it gently through journaling and later blogging. Then an event happened that was bigger than I had ever faced. My 3rd pregnancy train wrecked in the 37th week and my son Sawyer was stillborn. This grief required something new of me; something raw and deep and painful that demanded to be dealt with. I pulled out my electronic notebook and began to write. This time the story was my own. The words, the thoughts, the emotions were mine. I wasn’t writing to make a book, I was writing to examine my heart of grief from angle that I could understand it better. There was a lot to process and 200+ pages later I had finally flushed out the topic of loss to a degree that I could lay down the notebook and prayerfully reflect. In doing so, the Lord prompted me to share my stillbirth story to show others what the process of loss can look like when we are sustained by our Savior.

Writing my stillbirth story

Up to this point in my life, the idea of writing a book was a flowery notion in my mind. It was something rare and beautiful and reserved for the specially chosen few. I had thoughts of a quiet cabin retreat, sipping a hot drink on a covered porch with my laptop serenely transcribing brilliant thoughts. This my friends is not writing a book. Writing a book is so not that. Perhaps it’s best that I was delusionally unaware of the reality or else I may never have begun. How do I explain the process to the degree that you can understand? Think of something that you enjoy doing. Something that makes you smile and look forward to with anticipation. Now take that thing and take a picture of it and set the framed photo on the shelf and begin instead to do work that you don’t necessarily enjoy or even know how to do. Now continue working hard on this job you don’t have a clue how to do while longingly gazing at your framed photo for the next 8 years. This is me writing a book.

Now maybe it is different for others, but my love of writing has never leaked over into a love for editing or God forbid, formatting documents. Surprisingly, both elements are evidently hugely important in the process of book writing. And it further turns out that once the actual story is written the only thing left to do is edit and format, like forever. Some of it can almost be fun. Seeing your document slowly transform into something that looks like it deserves to be on a printed page is strangely rewarding. But mostly it’s an endless learning curve in a self-taught class on how to add page numbers and drop caps and a table of contents. And then there is this annoyingly perfectionistic tendency that has a very hard time saying, “it’s good enough”. I’ve lost count of the number of times that the project simply overwhelmed me to the point of shelving the whole thing until I forgot how hard or brain-numbingly boring it was (hence the before mentioned 8 years) and got back to work.


my stillbirth storyBut then the moment came when I held a proof in my hand and I was able to touch the pages of my own story. In that moment the frustration and tears were forgotten and I was a little girl again with a story in my hand. My story.

Sharing my story with you

And now comes the moment when my story ceases to be my own. This is the day I offer my story to you dear reader with trepidation. You see I have the equally strong desire to shout from the hilltops, “It is here, I finished! Read!” and hide under my pillow. Once you hold my book its becomes our story. Our lives intertwine on the pages and your memories are triggered by the words I have written. Scariest of all is that you now have the power to form an opinion about my words. Maybe you don’t like what I wrote or how I wrote it. Maybe you disagree with my perspective on grief. Maybe you start it but never bother to finish it. And I can stand here on this side of the screen and say it won’t matter, say I don’t care what you think. But that would be a lie. I can’t help but care because this is my heart and it’s been painfully exposed through this process. However, I can also say with confidence that who I am is not defined by readers or reviews or a lack thereof. Who I am was decided long ago before the world was spoken into existence. God didn’t ask me to write something that others would like. He asked me to write my story. So with that I now offer it to you: Finding Joy in the Mourning: A Mother’s Journey through Grief to Hope & Healing by Heather J Ledeboer.

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