The month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month with October 15th being a special remembrance day. Deanna Roy, a local mom of two, author, photographer and teacher, has traveled down the road of pregnancy loss more than once. She’s recently written a novel, Baby Dust, and she serves as a great resource for other moms who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or child.
LM: Are you originally from Austin? If not, where are you from?
DR: I grew up in North Texas, near Wichita Falls. I was one of only a few classmates who decided to dash out of our small town and go to college in the “big city.” So I moved to Austin to go to UT.
LM: You are a local photographer as well as an author and professor at UT. How do you balance working on several projects and taking care of a family?
DR: I have found that each part of my life has a new emphasis. When my children were little, I mainly took photographs in my home studio so I could be near them. They often helped! As they went to school, I began teaching more, as that interaction with grownups was sorely needed. But now that writing is taking the center stage, I’ve mostly stopped teaching and focus on the books and a few favorite photography clients. Since my eldest is in middle school, the Mom’s Taxi Service means I’m running around a lot more to events. I ALWAYS keep work in the car for unexpected delays or waiting in car rider lines so I can use that time.
LM: You have recently released Baby Dust, a novel of pregnancy loss. Can you tell us about the book?
DR: Baby Dust is the account of five women who befriend each other through a pregnancy loss support group. Each of them has a unique voice, with the characters varying in age and wealth and reactions to this life-changing event. They find their entire worlds have realigned, and often the only people who can understand are the unusual friends they’ve made due to their losses.
LM: How long did it take you to write?
DR: Baby Dust began as a series of blog questions in 2006. I asked my readers to tell me stories on specific topics, including how they managed step-children when they lost their babies, and how family supported or didn’t support them. Their real-life experiences shaped the five characters.
I wrote the first draft that same year. After a round of submissions to agents in 2007, I found the book was changing into something more commercial so that it could be marketable, away from my original intent. I shelved it for a couple years so I could decide what I wanted to do. I rewrote it from scratch in 2009 to make it exactly the sort of book I would have needed as I went through my losses.
LM: What served as your inspiration for writing the book?
DR: My inspiration is undoubtedly my children, all of them. Two are with me, and I pray they never go through this themselves. Three did not survive to be born.
LM: The topic of pregnancy loss is a tough one. Even writing these questions, I am torn between asking too much and too little about your personal experience. Can you tell us about your journey to motherhood and the factors that led you to start a pregnancy loss website?
DR: My whole life has been public since all this began! I first got pregnant in 1998. Everything seemed to be going well until we arrived at the 20-week sonogram to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl. But he didn’t have a heartbeat anymore. The decisions I made during that time truly haunted me. I wished I had done labor and delivery to see the baby rather than allowed a surgical procedure. I wrote letters to my doctors to let them know we mothers need more information before making such a big decision.
I was a teacher and had already resigned my job to be a full-time mom. I found myself that summer without a job or a baby, so I learned HTML and put of the first fledgling web site, one that would help women make an informed decision when they are in this situation. I had no idea it would grow to be so large. Over 100,000 visitors arrive each month. The all-time sites are staggering, some 10 million people.
LM: In your experience, what is the best way to talk to someone when they have lost a baby? Are there things one should never say?
DR: Never downplay the loss. Never tell them it was God’s will, or suggest it could have been their fault, or a blessing in disguise, or that they should be “over it” by now. The best thing to say is, “I’m so sorry. Please let me know if I can do anything.” And send a card. You have no idea how precious physical objects are. They will be kept forever. Seriously, forever.
LM: What resources, both locally in Austin and nationwide, are out there to help women and families cope with the loss of a baby?
DR: Robyn Bear is the most amazing leader. She got all 50 states to recognize Oct. 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I am in awe of her! Her site is the base for Oct. 15 events and she has a store to stock up on all things loss-related for candle lightings and walks.
We have a huge line-up of events planned here in Austin this Oct. 15, and I have scheduled the book’s official launch for that day.
Kristin Cook came on the scene last year with her beautiful Faces of Loss web site. It is her goal to put a face to the 1 in 4 women who will experience pregnancy loss. She has organized women to start local “coffee” support groups all over the US, something less structured than traditional support groups, more mom-friendly chats.
LM: If a woman is feeling isolated in her emotions after losing a child, are there any support groups or online forums that she can join to help her feel less alone?
DR: She should absolutely check to see if there is a Face2Face group near her through Kristin’s site. You can also call the biggest hospital near you, and the chaplain will know of them.
Online, there are many of them on Facebook. I have my own facebook.com/miscarriagememorials where women share mementos of their pregnancies.
I also have a secret group for women who are waiting to find out if their baby is going to survive or not, one that doesn’t show in your Facebook feed, at http://www.facebook.com/groups/116338485123086 We have moderators in all the time zones to help women.
Other great forums exist at Babycenter.com and many of the big pregnancy sites. There is almost always a loss forum in addition to the pregnancy ones.
LM: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom that you can share with mothers who are recently experiencing the loss of a child?
DR: Don’t go it alone. You need support. Often family and friends are not going to be helpful to you. In fact, they can often be even more upsetting. No matter where you were in your pregnancy, five weeks or full term, your attachment to the baby is fierce. You may think or act in ways you never expected. You’re a survivor now, and survivors don’t have the luxury of acting like regular people. We do what we have to do to get through it.
Would you like to win an autographed copy of Baby Dust? If so, fill out the form below or leave a comment. A random winner will be chosen on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at Noon. The winner will be notified via email and given 24 hours to respond. Must be 18 years of age to enter and a resident of the United States.
This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!