Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On that whole Oprah issue

I blather on too long sometimes in people's comments. So I'm going to put some of it on my own blog. This post is in reply to this post.

Dear Catherine,

I'm not sure I'll say this right, I hope you understand what I'm trying to get at. My heart breaks for you when I read some of your posts, and all I can offer is a few thoughts. Not much, I guess.

This is my take on Oprah, for what it's worth. The difference with infant loss and Oprah as opposed to other show topics, is that she has serious personal issues around denial of her own child's death. And I feel like she is trying to say that we should ALL grieve the same way, by going on and on about "God's plan", and just "move on & forget". Well, you know my opinion on that already.

Some people think her silence on this issue because of the connection to the rape she suffered that caused the pregnancy, but I don't believe that's why Oprah can't talk about it. Twenty years ago, when she disclosed her sexual abuse and rape, she focused on the pain at first, as she needed to, then focused on creating change, by going to Congress and getting laws changed to protect kids. She talked a lot about the process of her therapy and her pain, and how she was going to use it for the better.

She left the part about her dead child out though. Never mentioned, never spoken, like the biggest secret ever. Total utter denial of its existence, until she was recently confronted in the media. And not only does she not discuss her pain, or ours Catherine, but she keeps repeating over and over again that it's "God's plan" that our babies die. This is just bad theology, and it also is something she would never have said about her sexual abuse.

Imagine Oprah standing in front of a child, and telling her it was God's plan that the girl be raped? That God purposely wanted her to be raped and abused so that she could go onto some bigger higher purpose....That would NEVER happen. It would never happen to cancer patients after they die, or the Tsunami victims, or gee, let's see, can you imagine Oprah saying it about 9/11?

In fact, if anyone ever said that the 9/11 victims had to die, that it served God's higher purpose, "all part of his plan", they would be accused of terrorism. Muslim clerics who have espoused this view have been convicted of inciting terrorist acts.

Our babies deaths rank lower on the pyramid of pain than any other deaths. You quoted a study a while back that said 31,000 babies were stillborn in the US every year. I don't even know the number in Canada, because we don't even publish it every year. (We publish the number of potatoes we grow every year, but not dead babies.) Why is it that maternal-fetal health is the lowest priority in the world? Maybe because no one gives a damn if women and babies die? Sort of like 20 years ago when no one cared about child sexual abuse or rape?

The pivotal difference in that fight, was Oprah coming out, and opening up her heart enough to work for change. The first step is awareness, which means yes, sad stories, acknowledgement of our losses, and giving us credit as legitimate grievers. Next, was figuring out where the problem was, and dealing with it. For sexual abuse victims she went to Congress and fought to help abused kids, she made it clear that they were telling the truth, not lying, that their suffering wasn't just a "nothing." For pregnancy loss, she could do the same thing. She could have researchers on her show that talk about how they can't get funding for studies to help save babies. She could talk about how cheap and easy it would be to save so many of those babies, instead of spending money on NICUs and funerals later. She could talk about the morality of a public that craps on women who have abortions, but refuses to pay for prenatal care for women who stay pregnant. About churches who believe an embryo is a life worth protecting when it's on it's way to an abortion clinic, yet refuse to hold funerals or burials when our babies die.

She could easily fill an hour, and keep us spellbound doing it.

I want her to do that for US, Catherine, for all of us who have ever lost a very much wanted pregnancy. I know it's incredibly hard, that's why in all these years she has never been able to do it. And maybe she never ever will. But in the same way that she would never tell a rape victim to "get over it" or "forget about it", I don't want her or Rev. Run to deny me my right to my legitimiate grief.

My fondest wish is for Oprah to use her righteous indignation to help us save our babies. Lori left a great quote on my blog, "Dear God, there is so much pain and anguish in your world - why don't you send help?" And God answered, "I did send help - I sent you."

Catherine, I believe God sent YOU. He sent me. He sent all of us, even Oprah.

Love your friend,



  1. Brilliant. Beautifully said. Outstanding. I am in awe of you.

  2. I always miss out on this Oprah stuff as the shows are delayed here and who knows what time of day they are on. but this sounds par for the course given that 'secret' drivel she was pushing last week.

    Your post sums it up wonderfully, Aurelia. You made me think, as usual.

  3. Since you address me specifically...

    Two things...

    It is not my place to insist that everyone mourn in the same way...Oprah included. Perhaps she doesn't grieve that child she lost. Perhaps she feels relief over its death. It is none of my business. And if she chooses to bury it forever, that is her call and I'm not about to criticize her for that decision. We all do what we have to do to survive.

    She could...she could...she could... I see a laundry list of things she COULD do. She could tackle any number of very important topics. The fact is, she doesn't. And that is my point. So why is everyone so focused on her? You know who she is...you know what she believes...and yet you insist on trying to change her viewpoint. WHY?

    Why is it so important? Why aren't we fighting the real fights instead of trying to convince Oprah to fight them for us? Why are we focusing so much energy on getting on a daytime talk show and not focusing energy on getting funding for studies to help save babies or finding ways to to pay for prenatal care for women who stay pregnant or persuading churches to hold funerals or burials when our babies die? Have we really put her on such a pedestal that we think being on the Oprah show is the end-all be-all? It's silly, really.

    (And I'm sorry...I don't think God sent you or anybody else...because then I would have to believe in some sort of plan...and I just don't.)

  4. Beautiful post Aurelia.

    Catherine, my answer to your last question is that while Oprah may not deserve her pedestal, she has one. She also has a heck of a microphone - lots of people listen to her. She's a great conduit to attention and funding, etc.

  5. We all know how legitimate the Oprah show is when, lately, she touts the "Secret", which basically says that whatever I think, it comes to me. I bring the good and the bad to myself. Tell that to the woman who lost a baby, tell that to the concentration camp victims who thought positively and still ended up brutally murdered.

    Oprah is a farce. I was glad she had Reverend Run on there, simply because he showed the world a deep and abiding faith in God in a time of tragedy. I don't believe for a minute that they just "got over" that baby's death. Hey, for all I know, it's still too hard to say her name for them. Come on, it only happened 6 months ago?! I don't think Rev Run is denying you anything. He told Oprah how HE handled it. He's not telling anyone else what they have to do. Personally, I was in awe by the way he encouraged his children to bind together as a family and praise God for the blessings they have been given, rather than focus solely on the pain and become bitter.

    Did you see his wife tear up when they were talking about their baby girl? I would bet you lots of money there isn't an hour that goes by that they don't think of her. I think it's sad they're being judged so, when they showed their vulnerability to the world.

    A shame, really. You want people to be able to grieve how they want to, but then you criticize them when they do? I don't get it.

    When I found out at 16 weeks I lost a baby in my first pregnancy (a twin pregnancy), I didn't even really give myself opportunity to think about the baby. I couldn't allow myself to - I had to be strong for the other baby. In some ways I wonder if I've still "dealt with the grief". But what does that even mean? Start sobbing every time I see twins? At the time, though, I knew if I allowed myself to melt into a puddle, I'd stay there - and Lucy needed me to be strong for her, to fight for her. I researched her birth defect (which, coincidentally, is the same one Rev. Run's daughter died from) and ways to treat it, I reached out to other parents who had been given the same prognosis. Like I said, I couldn't allow myself to melt into a puddle. There were people who said to me, "You need to grieve." For myself, I wasn't in a position to be able to do that, at that point in time. But how did they even know I WASN'T grieving, in my own way? Who is anyone else to judge me?

    I still get jealous sometimes when I see moms with twins. I wonder if that baby was identical to Lucy. I wonder why God took her. I wonder why that mom of twins wasn't me. But it's my choice whether or not I want to dwell on that, right? Just as its your choice how you want to deal with your grief.

    Everyone grieves differently. One way of grieving isn't more or less important than another.

  6. Sorry, I didn't leave my link.

  7. Catherine,

    Oprah is famous and has the power to change a lot of things. With one mention from her a book or a cause can go from nothing to overnight bestseller.

    She has been the sole reason the US cares about AIDS in Africa. No one gave a damn until she started promoting it. Same for Darfur.

    Yes, she tackles lot of subjects. Why should she do this one? She doesn't have to, I guess. It just seems odd to me that woman who would have a colonoscopy live on television and tell us every single detail of her life won't talk about this one thing.

    I just wonder what is so shameful about this subject compared to others.

    Those things I mention that she could do, I just mean that she could fill an hour with this stuff, for example. Because you had said it would not fill an hour.

    I do focus on other things, other media, other govt. lobbying, but I know that with one fell swoop, she could help wayy more than little ol' me. So yes, I wish she'd help.

    (P.S. I agree God has no plan. But he sent you to earth, and I found you somehow, and you have taught me so much. I wish it was under different circumstances, like a chance meeting on a playground with all our living kids together, but here we are. You helped me, and I'm going to help someone else, and so on...it's all I've got...)

  8. Same for Darfur.

    Don't let George Clooney hear you say that. :o)

  9. Oh...and Oprah has never shared the details of her life that she didn't want to share. The fact that she even had a child was a story sold to the tabloids by a family member. I think that speaks volumes about her willingness to talk about it. And I have to respect that privacty.

    I still don't think it would fill an hour that anybody would be willing to watch. I'm sorry. You don't tune into Oprah for anything other than feel-good drivel (love that word, Thalia). An Oprah audience is not going to watch an hour about dead babies unless it is laced with hope and sunshine.

  10. George Clooney is cute, but I don't listen to him, I just look at him, LOL.

    But actually, Oprah did reveal the details of her baby's death on A&E Biography years ago. I know the tabloids got it from a family member a few months ago, but it was out there before. I saw it live. She spoke about it briefly.

    Funny thing is you can't buy the tape anywhere.

    And you could make a show like that interesting. She isn't always about sunshine, like the story she did about the famous football coach whose son died in a plane crash. THAT was soo sad, no sunshine. But good ratings...;)

  11. Rach,

    First, I'm sorry to hear about your baby. I can't see all the details on your blog, but when they are there I'll read them.

    I may not have been clear in my post. I don't think Rev.Run was denying me specifically the right to grieve. It's just that when only one way is shown of anything on a TV show, it can make it look like it's the only way and every other way is wrong.

    If they were shown side by side with other grieving parents, an atheist couple, or a Jewish couple, or maybe a psychologist who talked about perinatal grief and it's unique characteristics, I would feel better about the way it was done.

    Perinatal grief is a very complicated subject and Rev.Run & his family are at one stage of grief. They may feel very differently later. But now the US has been told by a celebrity-Oprah that this is the optimal way.

    I worry now some parent out there who is still upset 1 or 2 years later will try to compare themselves the the Rev. & his wife and feel bad about falling short.

    That's all. I really am criticizing Oprah and her show more than Rev.Run.

    And I am sorry to hear about your lost twin. Grieving a loss while trying to be there for a live child is a very difficult thing. I have no doubt you were grieving, truly.

  12. ive seen a show at least once or twice on infertility.

    why doesnt oprah do a show on the many first parents who have lost their children?

    human life is colored by loss in so many ways. losing a child stays with you for life.

  13. I think your perspective has a lot of value, and I appreciate you sharing it.

    The only thing I would like to add is that my specific problem with the show being discussed was the very fact that Rev. Run did in essence make himself a spokesperson. One of his "jobs" apparently is that he sends out these daily positive emails everyday. He has a radio show. He specifically said that the reason they kept the "cameras rolling" throughout the loss was so that they could show America how to get through something like this. And he repeatedly said, "I want people to know" and then would express his very firm conviction that this is how loss should be handled. He did not say, this is how I have handled this but I know that other people may need to approach the death of a baby differently. He did not allow for other ways of grieving, mourning or moving forward. He told his kids how to feel, and what to think. And in fact, he quite clearly told us, the viewers, how to feel and what to think.

    THAT is my problem. If he had expressed his own personal method for coping with grief. If he had only spoken for himself. I would have never said a word.

    And just as Rev. Run is entitled to his viewpoint, I am entitled to mine. And I don't claim for a minute that my viewpoint is anything but my own.

  14. I believe that Oprah's influence WOULD cause people to pause and watch what happened. It might not be a show that wouldn't require mandatory Kleenex boxes, but then I think that the "In The Womb" shows on NGC require them, as well, because I'm a sissy... Hugs to all.

  15. I truly believe that people with as much money and power over an audience as Oprah have a moral/ethical responsibility to at least attempt to cover various human challenges and triumphs in as genuine a way as possible. I don't believe that a show focused on the painful stories of women who have lost their babies would scare away the audience. Oprah has such a following that people watch her show no matter what. Not to mention the millions of women who can relate to that tragedy.

    Honestly, Oprah is so powerful that she should tackle subjects even if they make her uncomfortable. I don't mean that she has to publicly discuss at length her own experiences. But, if she is honest about wanting to help the human race, then she needs to tackle as many issues as she can fit into a season. People who make money off of getting people's attention have an obligation... I know that this is not a popular viewpoint....

  16. We don't have Oprah here, so although I never watch it, I do know of her, that's how powerful she has become. so its a shame she doesn't add this cause to her scheduling and I do think people would watch, people watch plenty other crap on the telly, they'd watch this.

    I'd much rather see someone like Catherine deal with her pain in the way she does and for a s long as she does, then a Rev tell us how to deal with it and for how long. I don't believe for a minute he doesn't break down and cry from angst at losing his daughter, if he doesn't now, he will one day, it isn't healthy not to deal with pain, he'll work that one out one day.

    You'd have to be made of stone not to!

  17. http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/050712/d050712d.htm

  18. I saw a show where she did speak about the her stillborn son. It was a show about shame. For years she was worried that someone would find out her secret and when it finally came out it was a relief that she didn't feel the "fear" and "shame" that came with keeping the "secret."

  19. very well said and very very powerful. Thank you for saying it