I dedicated my novella, The Disappearing Key to my friend from college. Years ago, I could not stop bawling when I heard Erin’s story. Her loss settled so deeply inside me I felt compelled to write about it. So began the first scene in The Disappearing Key.
Recently Erin agreed to answer a few questions for my readers…
1. Erin, I’m moved you’re willing to visit with me to share about your experience. What would you like people to know about your loss and what life has been like for you since?
First of all, I am so very touched that my experience helped to inspire The Disappearing Key. I appreciate the opportunity to share a little more about it. Hopefully it will enhance your readers’ experience with the novella as well as in their own lives, as so many of us have been impacted by pregnancy or infant loss in some way.
I never imagined that after an uneventful almost 39 weeks of pregnancy that I would have to say hello and goodbye to my first born child at the same time. My son Colin was born still on March 1, 2008. He was a beautiful, healthy 7 lb, 6 oz little boy, the spitting image of his daddy. Colin's death was completely unexpected and I was utterly unprepared. I was fortunate to have some amazing support right from the start, but the grief process was long and hard. I don't think it is something that I have ever "gotten over," but I have learned to live with it, made room for it in my life, and moved forward. It changed me in so many ways and I hope mostly for the better.
Colin's little brother and sister entered our lives 16 months after he was born. They bring so much joy and love to our home. I thank their big brother for them because, without him, they would not be here. They know about their big brother and ask questions at unexpected times like 4-year-olds do. It is so bittersweet when they talk about him and wonder why they can’t play with him. It brings me so much peace that Colin is not forgotten in our home. I think that is important for anyone who knows someone who lost a child during or shortly after pregnancy. The loss is real and it never goes away but the pain does diminish and is replaced by the life lessons and unexpected gifts that the experience brings.
2. I’m grateful you sent me a poignant letter about what it was like to deliver a stillborn child. It truly helped shape my first chapter. What was your reaction when you read the first chapter of The Disappearing Key? And your response to the novella as a whole?
Knowing a little about the novella's subject matter and story, I was not sure how I would react to reading it or even if I would be able to read it. Oriana's birth brought back memories of my experience giving birth to Colin (along with a slight pit in my stomach). I related to Roy and Gabrielle’s panic and desire to fix things. I would have done anything to bring my son back to me.
Once I started reading, I had a hard time putting it down. I quickly became engrossed in the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen next. It stopped being about the stillbirth itself and had me thinking about our role as parents, medicine, the effects of grief…loved it. I am ready for your next book, Wendy!
3. Thank you for letting me know that October 15th (today) is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (& that October is the Awareness Month). This topic is close to my heart. Why do you think it helps for people to gain a greater understanding regarding infant and pregnancy loss?
I had the opportunity to connect with others who experienced a similar loss after Colin died and I know that is what got me through it. I have also had the opportunity to serve as a resource to families beginning their journey with loss. Although the stories and details are different, we are connected in a way that only those who have experienced this loss truly understand. Pregnancy and infant loss are more common than people realize (or want to realize) and it is not commonly talked about (by myself included).
Pregnancies are celebrated and honored in so many ways, with so much anticipation and excitement. Yet when they do not go as planned, often people do not know what to do or say. Since it is not something that is commonly talked about, it can be a very isolating and lonely experience. By better understanding it, we are better able to support those around us who are touched by the experience. Importantly, a greater understanding honors and remembers the children that were so highly anticipated, desired, and loved. And hopefully, it will bring increased focus and resources within the medical community to better understand the causes of stillbirth and other forms of loss to reduce the instances in possibly preventable situations.
Readers, how did Erin’s responses move your thoughts today?
Erin always takes pinwheels to the cemetery and has them at her house
as a reminder of Colin.
as a reminder of Colin.
Here’s an updated picture depicting the numerous book clubs already participating in
The winner of Spreading the Key Chain Love Contest is Beth Vogt (with the creative vote going to Heather Day Gilbert). Beth, I’ll send you the key chain & Heather gets a coffee treat!