📘 Book: Still Born, Guadalupe Nettel
What a book. I binged this novel in a few hours and I couldn’t put it down. I went from loving to being a bit scared of it, because it’s genuinely one of the most silently-powerful and triggering reads I’ve gone through in a while.
The novel is about two friends in their mid thirties who never wanted children in the past, who now have had their life changed. One of the women has decided to have a child: who is very unwell and was expected to die in utero, after birth, and later at a time in her life. The second woman does not have a child, but connects with her neighbour’s son and tries to support and witness her best friend in her new family struggles.
The novel isn’t shy. It casually and realistically explores topics that are emotionally intense to say the least. It doesn’t romanticise pain, it doesn’t hide pain, it uses two intelligent, self-aware, curious and relatable women to explore such important yet every-day topics that it sheds absolutely accurate and un-filtered light on lives that could one day be our own.
With a trigger warning for pain and loss, it’s a brilliant read.
🪄 Actionable takeaways:
When wondering why we feel so vulnerable around babies, it’s probably because we are just as helpless as they are when it comes to wanting to protect them from pain in their life
It’s valuable to see children as being loaned to us - and not knowing what the length of that loan is: hours, days, months years to come. It’s also possibly valuable to see everything in life as a loan
Some things (the loss of a child or loved one) are too difficult to understand, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to. But saying out loud, accepting and admitting what has happened can make us believe it, and that’s helpful on its own
We are all living with the threat of death, some people get run over by cars on the street every day. There is value of being reminded of death, but there is also value in forgetting about it. When in chronic or serious ill health of a loved one, one possibly does best in forgetting about death
There are people who consider misfortune an infectious disease and prefer to distance themselves from those going through chronic suffering - it doesn’t mean they no longer care for you
One can feel deep emotional pain while maintaining one’s boundaries - you don’t need to give in to all your desires to endlessly take care of others, you can live with the discomfort if it starts becoming unsustainable and unreasonable
One can have the instinct to want to procreate without the instinct to want to care for one’s offspring - it’s valuable to differentiate between the two before deciding to give birth (if one does get to decide)
Some birds raise eggs of other birds who drop them in their nest. They might know that they’re not theirs, but maybe they choose to ignore that and take care of them anyways. Not everything we have is what we wanted, but we can still love and take care of it.
It’s valuable to remember that others go through our type of pain all the time, we just aren’t aware of it, but that awareness helps. There’s a story of a mum of a dead baby who was told her baby would be returned to her if she found mustard seeds from a home that had never experienced loss. After 100 days of knocking on every door she could find, she never got the seeds, but her pain lessened in knowing she wasn’t alone
Some advice from grief counselling for stillborns (maybe might be valuable in other contexts too): a. Create a playlist of songs you’d want to share with the person b. Keep a diary of your life story that you’d want to share with them c. Keep a folder of photos (pregnancy photos for example) of your time together
🧝♀️ Fave Quotes:
How can we escape from something we are afraid of when we are carrying it within us?
It is so strange, don’t you thin? Why would someone who has never lived want to do so?
Trying not to suffer, they dive headfirst towards their own suffering - Jetsun Milarepa
📘 Book: Still Born, Guadalupe Nettel
PS. If you'd like to see me talk through my (very unfiltered and rambly) thoughts, lessons and summaries of books, I host a raw-book-club video series on Nebula. The cheapest deal to get it is through Curiosity Stream, and you can get yearly access to both for under $15 a year with this link: https://curiositystream.com/elizabethfilips