Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Five Days.

February 21, 2013

photoThis morning, during my retreat here in Maui, we were talking about the ways in which we stop ourselves from having what we want. Our excuses, if you will. One of the girls here, an incredibly beautiful and inspiring woman named Melissa from South Dakota, shared with us a whole bunch of her excuses. (We all have so many, don’t we?) One of them was that she didn’t want to take up other people’s time and another was that what she said didn’t matter.

She had written something apparently that she wanted to share but (insert excuse here.)  I asked her to read it aloud, telling her we had all the time in the world. (We did. We do!) There were a few other excuses of hers that I won’t bother to share because, quite frankly, they don’t matter. What matters is that she got the courage and read this letter she had sent her friend who’d been having a hard time and didn’t think she could make it through. She read this piece aloud and I will spare you the emotion that took place in the room but what I won’t spare you is the piece. I asked her to send it. She is a gifted writer. To hear her read this out loud was a moment I will never forget and I wanted to share because I think it is by far, one of the most stunning things I have ever witnessed. I want you to read this raw and brave and awe-inspiring piece. Please connect with her or leave comments at bottom. I bow to you, Melissa Shattuck from South Dakota. 

Five Days by Melissa Shattuck.

I lived in hell for five days once.

At least it felt that way.

It started when they told me my baby was dead at a routine appointment. And it began to end when they finally removed her from me.

Five days later.

Why they thought it would be more beneficial to see if my body would naturally deliver has remained a mystery to me. I’m sure there is some logical reason. But, it was as though it was not odd to ask me to carry a dead body within me.

The first night I slept well from the exhaustion of it all. But I don’t think I slept after that. The nightmares that they had made a mistake and were going to steal my healthy, live baby from me were more than my mind could handle. And so I would lay there for hours at a time deciding who was to blame. Lack of sleep makes me crazy. Lack of sleep for days on end makes me into a monster.

My husband. My husband is to blame because we had a fight the night before the doctor appointment and it must have been too much stress on me. Wait. It’s the dogs’ fault. The fight had started when I told him it was overwhelming taking care of the two dogs when I was so exhausted from the pregnancy. Ok. That’s absurd. Fine. It’s my fault. I should have handled my emotions better, should have been tougher and sucked it up, should have rested more, should have eaten better, should have taken better care of myself, should have loved everyone more, shouldn’t have bought all those maternity clothes (jinxed it), shouldn’t have allowed myself to feel stress, shouldn’t have been angry ever, shouldn’t have made so many mistakes in my life. This had to be karma for something.

Yes. Me. I am to blame. I am the reason my baby is dead.

God. God is to blame. Nothing happens without God’s permission or ok. I hate God for causing me all this pain.

And on and on it goes. The patterns play in my mind for all these days. And noone it seems can understand. The people are all to blame. They keep saying well-meaning but seemingly stupid things like, “There was probably something wrong with the baby, so it is for the best this way.” “You will be able to try again.” “We can never know God’s plan.” “At least you have Alex. Think of all the peopel that are never able to have any children.” “The baby’s soul has already served it’s purpose.” “When you have another baby someday, this will be the soul that will come back.” The people drive me crazy. So now I hate me, my husband, the dogs, God, and all the people.

And all this time I have a dead body in me. A baby I had felt move once. We don’t tell Alex, who is 6, that any of this is going on yet. If I can’t bear the idea that I have a dead child within me, how could he handle knowing this? And so, in all his sweetness, he comes up to me several times and hugs me so he can hug the new baby that is one the way.


I can’t stay in the house the entire five days. It’s become my prison. And so I escape and am not prepared for people to touch my belly and tell me how adorable it is. I want to scream at them, “The baby is dead!” Instead I say “thank you.” I go back to my prison and want to die. Five days is an eternity.

My body does not naturally got into labor. So they will have to take her from me.


A funeral home offered to cremate the body for free. We have to buy the urn. We do this hoping it will bring us some comfort in light of the fact we will never hold her. After the procedure I get a call that the tiny urn we bought is not big enough for all the remains and would we like to purchase something else. It seems incomprehensible to allow any part of my baby to go anywhere but with me, so I say yes. I will buy the small silver cross I saw that sits in the pretty glass case as well. Looking back that call seems very strange to me. But then it was all so surreal. The same with the small ceremony we held at a church. Our attempt at closure.

My body reflected the state of my mind. I couldn’t let go and looked pregnant still over a year later. People asked me all the time if I was expecting. “No,” I would laugh. “I just haven’t been doing my sit-ups lately.” And then I would go back home and cry. I believe I will never recover from this. Never say never.

One day it seemed as I kept moving through my days, my blaming began to let up. It had to. It felt poisonous to hate. And so, instead I just felt empty. Which for me was a step up from the pain. And it was in the emptiness I think that I opened to healing.

Looking back, I wonder if that’s forgiveness for me. And my body reacted in kind and began to let go too. I didn’t look as pregnant anymore. What or who did I forgive? All of it I guess. And I have no words for how it happened.

I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t recall trying to forgive anyone or anything specifically. That didn’t work for me because I thought I was failing when I was still angry. I just remember opening in the quiet emptiness to another way….

Some people seem to think they know where she is now or what the purpose of it all was. I don’t have a clue. And I don’t need to anymore. There are things that are much bigger than me and my limited mind at work. And so to me, my precious angel, Gabrielle, will be 10 this year. Somewhere out there.

Or maybe just in my thoughts and in my heart.


Connect with Melissa by leaving a comment below. Melissa is the editor of The Manifest-Station. 

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (sold out) as well as Other Voices Querétaro with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

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  • Reply barbarapotter February 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    So beautiful made me cry.

  • Reply kittycat1208 February 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I am happy to hear I’m not the only one who still has these awful terrible nightmares about my miscarriage, to think I’m flawed, I’m wrong, I’m oversensitive, I grieve too much. But, how do I move forward through that fear and try again?

  • Reply Rachel Pastiloff February 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    My breath has just left my body. I am speechless. Her writing is haunting and beautiful. My heart is beating so sat as if I was there with her.

  • Reply kittycat1208 February 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I’m stunned. Stunned that somebody else feels these feelings and can talk about them like they aren’t somehow flawed or wrong in how they feel. I miscarried two years ago. I had two surgeries over the period of two weeks to take care of the “tissue” that was left behind. There was no body to bury. I went to a Tarot reader to try to purge the pain. She told me the baby didn’t have a soul yet. I still feel haunted and damaged and RAW from the experience. Like there is something wrong with me. People tell me to just move ahead and get pregnant again. The fear of doing that is overwhelming and scary as hell. So I don’t. I wait, I wonder, I grieve. I compare myself to other women.

  • Reply Jeanie February 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    So very brave. I am struck by it all but mostly by how hard you have been on yourself. Touched by your strength and vulnerability. Blessed be.

  • Reply jamesvincentknowles February 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Powerfully moving from the bottom of my heart & straight through all of my soul. What courage & compassion & love you are full of~!

  • Reply marika February 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Beautiful Melissa I’m holding you in my heart reading your words…….your words are a catalyst for healing….. for yourself and for others. Even through the loss of her, Gabrielle lives through your words……. you have written these words…. these words that came from your pain and loss- these words that will heal you and those that read your words….. these comments are already testament that by sharing your pain, others are healing….. women with experiences like yours that has broken them beyond repair….. we can heal each other when we are brave enough to share our pain, our loss, our worst nightmares. you are beautiful beyond words, Melissa. thank you for touching my heart

  • Reply Sara February 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    That was beautiful and devastating. I can’t even imagine. Thank you for opening up and sharing this story.

  • Reply meagan McCrary February 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Wow. The sheer courage it must have taken to write these words down AND read them aloud blows my mind wide open. You are an amazing writer, woman and soul. My heart aches, my bones aches, I’m sobbing (but that started from the moment I woke up) and I am grateful to you for sharing your pain with me. What a blessing this post is, you will never know how many lives you touch with your words. I find such comfort in this, I can only imagine what a gift this must be for women who have had a similar experience. We perceive ourselves to be so separate and alone when really we all experience the same sadness and deep, humbling pain, they just manifest in different ways.

  • Reply Carrie February 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    The words fall from the page like tiny shards of shattered mirror that have been polished smooth by time. Ella would be 20 today, sandwiched in between brothers 23 and 19, and and snuggled next to a sister who is 21. When I delivered her, I was sure the doctors were wrong, and she would slip from me, tiny, wiggly and alive. I was wrong.

    I heard babies crying through the maternity ward, but mine was still. The nurse brought her to me in a makeshift diaper and cap. So tiny. When it was over, I stared out the window, as the fresh snow softly fell and glowed under the streetlights, and wondered if I would ever see beauty again.

    I remember running out of the doctors office crying, six months later, when my next ultrasound showed a baby boy. I only cried now, when my two toddlers took naps. I occasionally took her ashes from the coat closet and examined the tiny bone fragments, wondering if I would ever be whole again. I was angry at my husband 10 years later because he didn’t cry.

    You do heal, open, and love again. Time, depth, and growth are diverse.

  • Reply marion February 21, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Your words reflect my feelings even now 20 years after I suffered something similar to you.I’m still haunted with questions.Was everything thing possible done to save my baby?I’ll never know, it doesn’t feel like it with my empty arms. You are so brave to share this.
    Best wishes

  • Reply Mary B Murphy February 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    God such touching writing. My daughter Jamie died, cot death…what the hell is that..after 3 days, while still in Hospital. Yeah can completely go along with the blame game and the meaningful comments, one of which I will never forget..”better luck next time”. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Kelly February 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Yes. I had to wait only 3 days. But I was terrified that I would go into labor during that time and be expected to deliver my dead baby. After the surgery, my first moment of regaining consciousness in the recovery room was the realization that I was crying out, sobbing uncontrollably. Right about the worst moment. The most terrifying, most painful moment of my life. Thank you.

  • Reply Kathy February 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Melissa – you are so brave to have read your raw and beautiful words out, words that speak to me directly because I have written these words too, in my own way, and hide the away in my shame, sadness, whatever it is. I had 72 hours, 2 days less to lose a baby that was just an embryo that went into the wrong place during our first IVF cycle. I had no pregnant bump, no baby to bury. They stuck me in a maternity ward too after the operation to remove the ectopic pregnancy and my fallopian tube. And it was the only time I fell pregnant – we went through 8 more IVF cycles – I didn’t lose babies, just my dream, hope, all sense of self – slowly, incidiously. And now we have adopted our two beautiful children, but the tears well when I read your powerful words and when I think of my own pain and guilt and sorrow expressed on a page that I haven’t been brave enough to share. At least now I’m sharing in this comment, in my empathy. Thank you.

  • Reply yinyangmother February 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Melissa – you are so brave to have read your raw and beautiful words out, words that speak to me directly because I have written these words too, in my own way, and hide the away in my shame, sadness, whatever it is. I had 72 hours, 2 days less to lose a baby that was just an embryo that went into the wrong place during our first IVF cycle. I had no pregnant bump, no baby to bury. They stuck me in a maternity ward too after the operation to remove the ectopic pregnancy and my fallopian tube. And it was the only time I fell pregnant – we went through 8 more IVF cycles – I didn’t lose babies, just my dream, hope, all sense of self – slowly, incidiously. And now we have adopted our two beautiful children, but the tears well when I read your powerful words and when I think of my own pain and guilt and sorrow expressed on a page that I haven’t been brave enough to share. At least now I’m sharing in this comment, in my empathy. Thank you.

  • Reply writeryogi February 22, 2013 at 8:06 am

    What bravery and courage. My love and thanks for sharing your story

  • Reply Melissa Shattuck February 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you all so much for letting me share and for sharing back with me. Your words of support or of your own pain through similar struggles meant the world to me. I am open to continuing a dialog for anyone who would like to….it is so very healing and helps us to know we are not alone. ~m

  • Reply Diana March 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Melissa – I went through the same eperience 18 years ago. They induced me and left me alone. Nothing was happening so my husband left and the nurses unplugged me and I was left with my thoughts. In the middle of the night my little boy slid out of my body silently. I was alone looking at my dead, purple baby. It was terrifying and sad. The nurses came when I started to scream. I don’t remember doing that but I must have. They cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket and let me hold him. I wailed and cried and begged God for an answer. None came. But 5 days later I had a vivid dream. It was a vision. It was my Christian – tall, beautiful, glorious with fiery green eyes and flowing hair. He said “Mom. It’s me. I am fine.” I awoke with a start! But from that moment on I felt comforted and somewhat at peace. Eerily at peace.
    Thank you for reminding me of that experience. I understand you and know that the pain subsides. Never goes away but does subside. I am glad it does not go away because then I might forget. I don’t want to forget.
    BTW – after this event, my mother – who had stopped speaking to me for 6 years – spoke to me and we renewed a relationship. Perhaps that was his job. I like to think so.

  • Reply Me February 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us. That was a powerful thing to do. I hate that word “at least” too – “At least you have Alex”. People have no idea, and I am so sorry you went through having to hear those likely well-meaning but devastating comments during this time.

  • Reply James Claffey February 12, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Jesus wept. This pierced me in the center of my heart. So goddamned fearless to bring this into the light of day and to share the experience. Can only imagine the reaction of the people listening to this at the retreat.

  • Reply Amy Ferris September 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

    i am in awe of your heart.
    and your courage.
    and your words, your truth.
    i think if we all just keep sharing our stories, our pain, our suffering, our messy lives…maybe, maybe…oh, just maybe… the world would heal a bit faster.
    thank you for your gorgeous life.
    it cracked mine open today.
    thank you so much.

  • Reply Selena September 12, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    I lived this same trauma….and after many years have been able to point to the parts of me that have healed…I lived this while simultaneously the country was being attacked by airplanes crashing into the twin towers. Im reminded every year…its not something I will ever forget or heal completely from….my angel Ava ….♡

  • Reply Laurie Morgan September 12, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    This hits me hard. My son would be 18 now. In a different twist I have always regretted that I let them take him from me. I wish I had delivered him myself. I wish I had that experience and maybe the pain to be ours. Mine and his. Instead I waited in thex waiting room with everyone else and knew soon my child would be gone. I was put to sleep for the procedure. No one ever understood my intense love for my child. People said have him removed because it was like I was a walking coffin. But to me I was his mother. To me I wanted to complete that process. Eighteen years later and there are still tears and a hole in my soul.
    I think I responded because I wanted to say for me the experience was different but women have the right to feel what they feel and experience it in there own way and be supported by that. I completely understand and accept the way the author felt and my heart just breaks for her pain. My heart is still breaking as well.

  • Reply Sharad September 14, 2014 at 1:52 am

    BLESS you and the others you have assisted for sharing your pain with the Universe. Lots of hugs!

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