May 15, 2014

Return to Zero

I got an email this week from a woman who lost her daughter just days shy of her due date. Days. It's so heartbreaking to hear of new loses and to know that this tragedy still happens and sometimes when I do hear of a new loss I think, "I can't even imagine..." And obviously that's silly for a few reasons. Because of course I can image. I lived it. I know exactly what it's like to lose your child. To be so close and have your dreams and your plans shattered. To have to deliver a lifeless baby you so desperately want to bring home. Of course I can imagine it. It's a horrific reality I know all too well.

Often when we hear of other people's tragedies we say "I can't imagine," in response to their experience - I've heard that many times when people learn of Cale, and I'm sure I've said it many times in response to others stories. But really, what we should say is "I don't understand your pain, but I'd like to try to understand it a little better." Because we want people to imagine. We want them to be willing to try and imagine what it's like (whatever "it" is). Because in doing so you show your humanity and your compassion.

The people who haven't walked in our shoes, but try to imagine what it must be like - they are true gems. They are the people you grab hold of and surround yourself with. They are the people who deserve to share in your joy because they don't shy away from your pain.

Awhile back I heard about a movie that was in the works called Return to Zero. It's based on the the director's true story of losing his son when his wife was pregnant and their journey as they navigate life after loss.

I pledged $35 through Kickstarter when the film was raising the funds necessary for production and as a result would receive frequent updates during the filming and production. The day before filming, the director, Sean Hannish, sent out an email welcoming people from the baby loss community to share their thoughts with the cast and crew. He wanted to read them aloud before filming took place. I thought it was a powerful thing to do and so I sent him this email:

Dear Cast and Crew of Return to Zero -
Thank you for giving your time, energy and part of your hearts to the making of Return to Zero. You are doing so much more than making a movie. You are giving a voice to a community of grieving families, to a tragedy that isn't spoken about as often as it should, and most importantly, you are giving a voice to those who are not here. Our children.

Cale Harrison Hidalgo is one of those children. He was seven pounds even with dark brown hair. He looked like his Daddy. He had big chubby hands was perfect in every way except the most important one. He passed away as I went into labor. Our much wanted, much loved first child. So much hope, so many dreams, so much love.

The hope and dreams for his future died with him. But the love. . .our love for Cale will always be there. I wish I got to share him with the world, but I do what I can to still be his mother. To tell others about him. To be his advocate and share his story and his brief, but beautiful, life. 

Thank you for also being my son's advocate. Thank you for your willingness to tell this story. 

Wishing you the best of luck - may this be a successful and meaningful journey for you all.

Cale's Mom

 And sure enough, I got a response back from the director thanking me for my words and offering his condolences over the loss of Cale. I have no doubts that he wrote everyone back and no doubts that he took to heart each and every message he received.

The movie, and independent film, went on to get enough funds (I suspect in large thanks to the baby loss community), but could not get a distribution deal in theaters. Minnie Driver (who I've loved since Circle of Friends and now love even more) stars at the mother to the stillborn baby and has done some wonderful interviews raising awareness of and promoting the film. She mentioned in an interview recently that part of the reason the movie could not get a distribution deal was because it's too sad. No one wants to see such a sad movie, no one wants to talk about such a sad subject. Fortunately, Lifetime picked it up, and this Saturday at 7pm central, Return to Zero will air for the first time. I'm thankful that the people at Lifetime were willing to take on a sad movie and willing to show something so that maybe others can imagine what it's like. Viewership is important for films like this as the more people that watch, the more times it will get replayed. The more times it is aired, more awareness will be raised.

I have see clips of the movie (the trailer can be seen here), and while I'm sure it will bring up lots of emotions, I'm excited to see it. I'm excited that there will be people talking about stillbirth and excited that this will help break the silence that surrounds far too many infant loses.

If you've never experienced the loss of a child, especially if you've never experienced the loss of a child, I encourage you to watch the film. Help break the silence.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I remember seeing this in the works but forgot about it--reminder set for Saturday! What an incredible response from the director.

    And I think I am guilty of saying "I can't imagine" pretty often, so I'm glad you brought it up...I think what is most frustrating is feeling the ache and wanting to understand, but realizing that there are so many parts of the day that are completely unaffected in ways we just never think of. At least, until you share and make us aware. So thanks for helping people like me understand more and know how to approach others in a way that can help more than hurt.

  2. I'm excited too. Weird feeling to have about a film somewhat documenting the worst part of my life. But I am. It wasn't something that was around when I lost Alexander, and I feel it if was, I might not have felt so utterly out casted.

    Help break the silence indeed. It's one of the hardest parts of having your baby die. And that's the deafening silence that surrounds you regarding your child and your experience.

  3. Did you watch? I Tivoed. I'm kind of scared to watch. But I know I will. Either way I'm so so happy that this film was made and aired. It's so important. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. I DVRed this over the weekend and am going to find a quiet night to watch it. I'm not sure if my husband will watch it with me, but we'll see...

  5. As someone who hopes to try to understand a little better I watched. Of the whole movie, the scene that keeps replaying in my mind is them putting her baby on her chest, after he was born sleeping. I have not been through this life changing and hard experience, I had never imagined such an ending to my pregnancies. But to know there are mothers every day who go through this- all the joys and celebrations of pregnancy only to be met with an angel rather than a live baby at the end, I have no words. I am so sorry. sending so much love.