It’s a good name for a movie about stillbirth. It’s how I feel sometimes, like I’ve gone back to zero. To nothing, to nowhere.
I know of very few novels that center on grieving a stillbirth as the main plot. Several memoirs, yes, but no novels. Baby Dust focused more on miscarriage and did not stick to one perspective (which is a good thing in its own way). The Quickening focused more on the subsequent live children born, and though the characters dealt with grief of loss, it was not the main plot.
So, it’s rare in novels. I’ve found that it’s even rarer in movies. Pregnancy and baby loss is often a plot device. It’s something that happens, and then the characters get over. The grief is rarely the story. There have been movies made of grief over the loss of children, but a miscarriage or stillbirth is glossed over, simplified, and relegated to a minor inconvenience. The grief doesn’t seem to last. I guess because no one wants to think about it, much less talk about it?
There’s a movie that’s trying to change that. “Return to Zero.” Go, read the synopsis. I’ll wait.
Honesty, right? Well, here’s some full disclosure: even though I’m happy this film is being made and the story is being told, I’m a little disappointed with it. It’s not my - our – story. In fact, it’s not like anyone’s story that I know of. It’s the story of a rich Los Angeles couple who have everything going for them, only to have everything fall apart when their first child is stillborn. They grieve, but I think the point seems to be that they grieve in isolation, which drives them apart. The synopsis just straight up tells you the marriage dissolves but that a surprise second pregnancy forces the two parents to grieve together and reunite in hope and joy for the coming of a second child.
I don’t know. I haven’t seen it (obviously, it’s still in production), and the intentions are good, and stories of stillbirth need to be told on a level that’s accessible to all, not just those who are seeking such stories or who stumble onto them accidentally. But the story I know – our own story and the stories of (most of) the babylost I’ve met online – is one of two people growing stronger together because of grief, not despite it. Yes, there are rocky moments, and if one partner closes off the other and ignores or avoids their grief, then everything only gets worse. Losing a child has to be one of – if not the greatest – stressors on a marriage, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. Grief isn’t an obstacle to overcome; it’s just an aspect of life that you have to learn to live with.
I know that anger is a part of grieving, and there are times when I am angry. It doesn’t happen often, especially now, and it’s never directed at anyone or anything. It’s just a general feeling of anger. But I’ve never once thought to turn it on Geordie. I simply can’t imagine doing that. He hurts just as much as I do. He just hurts differently. And that makes total sense. It would be impossible to expect him to grieve the way I do. I need only to accept that he hurts, that he feels the loss of Lauren as I do, just as strongly. I knew it the moment we were alone in that hospital room and he put his head in my lap and wept. How could I ever lash out at him, how could I ever cause him more pain than he’s already experienced?
Plus, I know I’ve been lucky to have him. As I have tried to be sensitive and supportive of his grief, he has been so to mine. He has held me countless hours as I have wept. He has done so much for me to make life just a little bit easier. Rather than push me away, he has brought me into his grief and shared it with me, and I have tried to be as gentle with him as he has with me. I couldn’t imagine anything else, because I love him.
But that’s us. I can’t speak for anyone else. There are 36,000 stillbirths in America every year. Each of those families has a story. Maybe I’ve just managed to find people who were like Geordie and I, who struggled together and grieved together and supported each other when we needed to. I know Geordie has grieved differently than I have, but how could I expect anything else? He’s not me, he can’t grieve the way I do. No one can. But I also know that grief is such a personal thing that we have a hard time understanding why other people don’t feel the same as us. And because we’re mourning, we just get confused and angry and lash out and destroy the relationships that are meant to strengthen us.
So, while this isn’t our story, it is someone’s story, and it’s a story I can understand. And it’s a story that should be told. Maybe seeing this movie will help another couple deal with their grief. Maybe it will help those who don’t know how it feels to lose a baby to stillbirth to understand a little bit better. It’s a story that needs to be told because it’s one that’s not told often enough.