I had a great day. Wonderful. I had a fun day with best co-workers on earth, and the day before school starts is like Christmas Eve for teachers anyway. I came home happy, thinking about tomorrow–the kids I was about to meet and the fun we would have.
I went through the mail. No bills. Also wonderful.
Then, there it was. A smiling baby in unisex garb, beaming up at me. A birth announcement manufacturer–Tinyprints–was urging my daughter to “Welcome [her] Little One.” Eight different photos of babies beamed up at me. Adorable, healthy, live babies. There was even one shot of a baby’s perfect ten toes.
My daughter’s baby, Stephanie Grace, died. We held our premature, stillborn, beautiful baby granddaughter in our arms on a spring morning, not on her August due date. There was no amniotic fluid; she was ancephalic; she had other birth defects that are too much to mention because we are trying to forget. We are trying to rebuild this, our obliteration and devastation.
I was doing so well.
Then Similac samples came in the mail.
They arrived on a Saturday a few weeks ago. I was upset, but able to think charitable things like, I can give that Similac to a needy child. I posted on Similac’s Facebook wall, “The baby died, don’t send us things.” A few private messages were exchanged. I was warned that more samples were “already on the way.”
Today, though, I was outraged. I called Tinyprints.
I liked the operator too much to unleash my furious grief, so I asked for her supervisor, who wondered what was wrong with my order. I told her there was no order because my granddaughter died months ago. I said she was tiny and precious and described her birth defects. I told her that when we hung up, she needed to let her supervisor and her supervisor’s supervisor and the president of the company know.
I cried. I screamed a little. I’m sorry, Corporate America.
I’m sitting here on my sofa right now, still sobbing, Corporate America.
I guess, really, truth be told, I’m wailing. And it’s your fault.
You commoditized my daughter’s name. You paid for it. You vacuumed it up in some computer that chirped merrily. “Pregnant woman! New superconsumer!”
Corporate America, you can do better. Your same computer, with the same urgency, should learn when a baby dies. The doctors’ office staffers who cajole patients into filling out free sample cards could give them opt-out forms after babies’deaths. State databases of stillbirths could be uploaded.
If direct mail can be so precisely synchronized that it arrives within 24 hours of a baby’s due date, surely it can be unsynchronized as well, especially if that baby died months ago.
Grieving mothers could be instantaneously removed from mailing lists. They could be spared days like these.
These women are bravely trying to move forward with shattered-glass hearts.
They’ve bound their breasts, buried their babies, packed up tiny onesies, and returned borrowed bassinets. They’ve resumed work and daily routines, reclaiming their lives as best they can.
And now you, Corporate America, come along and remind them of the lives that they are missing. The smiles they will never see. The Could Have Been.
These lonely mothers have endured things that no one else understands. So, please, Corporate America, at least understand this: They don’t want your mail.
I respectfully ask that you contact Tinyprints and Similac at the links above. Ask them to figure out a way to learn when babies die and to leave grieving mothers alone.