Lorraine Ash – 9AM PST – 12 Noon EST – January 18th

Lorraine Ash

Lorraine Ash, 46, author of Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing, has been a full-time journalist since 1982, the year she earned her master’s degree at Fordham University in the Bronx.

A native New Jerseyan, she began her newspaper career in her home state and has remained there, currently writing for the Daily Record in Parsippany, New Jersey. Her feature articles and series, particularly on women’s issues as well as physical and mental health, have won national, state, and regional awards and appeared in daily newspapers across the country.

Lorraine, a member of The International Women’s Writing Guild, also has explored other writing genres. A published essayist and playwright, she has written on topics that range from the historicala close look at the lives and characters of some American presidents, to the personal identity and intimacy.

Writers often find the stories that are truly theirs to tell in the midst of suffering and struggle, she said. Certainly it was that way for me after the stillbirth of my daughter, Victoria. My pen helped me change my view of life, justice, God and myself. The act of writing brings meaning.

As a workshop leader, she helps others shape the raw stuff of their livesexperiences, emotions and thoughtsinto compelling prose that transforms, moves and inspires.

Pain is not just to be felt, she said. It can be used to better the world, and literature is a perfect way for the transmutation to take place. There is great healing in telling our stories well and listening to those of others.

As a peer grief contact, Lorraine works one-on-one with stillbirth mothers. She also is an advisor to the Public Awareness Committee of the International Stillbirth Alliance.

Lorraine lives in Allendale, New Jersey, with her husband, Bill, a jazz trumpeter. Her passions include Hindu philosophy, bookstores and libraries, good food, fitness, and the state of Maine. Currently she is working on a book about holistic healing.

On June 1, 1999, Lorraine Ash expected to experience the best day of her life. It was the day her daughter, Victoria Helen, was to be born. This was a daughter who had been conceived on the first try and the pregnancy was flawless. Little Victoria’s arrival seemed destined.

Instead of jubilance, though, Lorraine felt the most searing anguish of her life. Her precious daughter’s heart had stopped beating and no one in the hospital — not even on the biggest, fanciest machine — could find it. Victoria had vanished. Why? Under what God’s watch could such a thing happen? What did this mean?

After a C-section, the symptomless, silent Group B Strep infection that claimed Victoria’s life then threatened Lorraine’s life. There she was in a great university hospital at the end of the 20th century fighting the childbirth fever most people associate with historical novels. For 15 days, her fever spiked to 103 and then dropped until, finally, her doctor isolated the infection and eradicated it. Lorraine knew she would live, but into what life was she delivered? Certainly not the one she knew before and during the pregnancy.

She lived in the heart of her anguish and her grief and her love, all of which spilled from her pen onto the page. Lorraine needed to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and work with them. Her relationships changed. Weak ones fell away, strong ones grew stronger, new ones grew in the changed emotional landscape of her soul. Her window on the world changed and, as she saw with different eyes, do did her view of the cosmos and her place in it. To her surprise and relief, she found she had not lost her faith in God but had instead changed her concept of God.

At the time of the stillbirth of Victoria, Lorraine had been a journalist for 18 years. She also was a published playwright and essayist and had written hundreds of stories about other people’s lives. Here, though, was her story. Instinctively, she started writing her way through grief and into a new identity, becoming a woman capable of enjoying a spiritual relationship with her daughter. On her journey Lorraine searched for a full-blown narrative account of a stillbirth mother’s travels through her experience. She wanted to know so badly that someone else had been on the terrain and made it through. But she could not find the book she needed, though she did discover that in the United States today 71 mothers a day go through what she endured. Stillbirth was no anomaly from the history books.

Lorraine’s own writings went on to become the book she could not find–Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing, published in 2004. In the past three years the book has winged its way into the hearts of thousands of stillbirth parents across the globe. Many correspond with Lorraine and even stay in close touch as they proceed into the next phases of their lives, some with subsequent babies, some not. Today Lorraine feels Life Touches Life is enough to have made this lifetime worthwhile for her. It fills a void. It calls back to the stillbirth parents of another generation that they are alone. It offers solace and perspective. It sounds the call for the medical community and the United States Congress to deem stillbirth a significant family issue worthy of attention and money and research.

Life Touches Life is the way Victoria Helen exists in this plane of existence. Through it, this angelic baby and her mother continue to live together and make a difference. Their message is clear and runs counter to the cultural wisdom of the day that a stillbirth is something to be forgotten, to put behind us. No. Stillbirth is a huge human experience with a valuable human legacy all its own and it is a legacy that needs and deserves to be honored and addressed.

Today, Lorraine teaches Wisdom of Words: Writing to Heal the Spirit, a workshop she created and continues to develop to help bereaved parents articulate their own pain and triumphs on the page. They write to discover the lights of insight contained within their experiences. The workshop features multi-layered healing exercises and drives home the point that suffering and struggle are not derailments of the lives we were supposed to live. Not at all. They are our fates and by writing through them we can even learn to love them and use them to make the world better.

Suffering and struggle are opportunities for each of us to find our highest selves — the most satisfying and blissful thing any of us can do.

Lorraine lives in Allendale, New Jersey, with her husband, Bill, a jazz trumpeter.

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  • Hi Lorraine, I am so sorry for your loss, I an honestly say I know you and your husband’s pain. Our Story is somewhat similar, except it was our 3rd daughter Hannah Noelle, who was stillborn February 3, 2003. My wife and I, along with a couple other parents who have had a loss to GBS, run a non-profit (above) dedicated to awareness and prevention of GBS. Do you have any other children? We have since had 2 healthy babies, due to our knowledge of GBS and prevention efforts. I would love to hear more about your story and your book, and possibly partnering a promotional section on our website.

    John MacDonald

  • Lorraine Ash says:

    John,
    It saddens me to hear about Hannah Noelle but cheers me that you are working in her memory to do so much to bring the GBS community together. I did Google you and saw Group B Strep International.
    You can read a lot about Life Touches Life as well as my story and work at my Web site, http://www.LorraineAsh.com. Victoria Helen is indeed our only child. You and I should talk more, the better to know each other and become a force in the world. On my Web site, you will see my email address. We can correspond more fully on that and trade phone numbers, too.
    So happy you wrote, John. It’s good to know you’re there.

    Lorraine

  • Katie says:

    Thank you Dr.Gloria and Dr Heidi for interviewing this very important guest, Lorraine Ash, who has written the definitive work on stillbirth. I too went through this experience,and “Life Touches Life” was/is a significant tool in my healing. I was so happy to hear Lorraine tell her story out loud, after having read it silently so often.

    One aspect of the stillbirth experience that I would like to comment on is the neurological aspect. Stillbirth is a traumatic experience and some stillbirth Moms,myself included,suffer the symptoms of PTSD. I’ve worked very hard to heal myself emotionally, physically, spiritually – but I know that my neurology will not ever be the same. You and Lorraine spoke about the concept of being “different” after miscarriage and stillbirth. Lorraine brought up that wonderful point (the Tufts research) about blood cells that stay with a mother after the birth of a baby,regardless of the length or outcome of the pregnancy.I would argue that if brain imaging were done pre- and post stillbirth, a neurologist would see differences.
    I thought this was an important point for other woman who may be wondering “What is wrong with me?” Nothing is wrong,just different. And part of the healing is the acceptance of a new you.

  • Clara Hinton says:

    I’m always very interested in hearing about others who have gone through stillbirth because I find that it was the most difficult experience of my life (except when my 13-year-old sister died when I was 15-years-old) and I am always looking for positive support. My stillbirth story is just a bit “different”, and it has been really hard for me to find others who share a similar experience as me. I know one thing….stillbirth is definitely something that changes us forever, and the pain is long-lasting, and can bring about all kinds of secondary griefs to surface. My stillbirth occurred 19 years ago, and I can still remember the events as though it was yesterday.

    What sets my stillbirth apart from so many others? I carried my still baby boy for 2 1/2 weeks knowing that he has died. My doctor, for whatever reason, (I still don’t know) would not induce labor. He thought it was best that I went into spontaneous labor……..little did he know that it would take so long for me to go into labor! Little did he (or anyone) know how much this would affect me in the years to come.

    My little boy (who remains unnamed to this day — another story in and of itself) died at or around 25 weeks. I went into labor the Thursday after Mother’s Day, and I was scared out of my mind about everything. I wondered what he would look like since he had died almost 3 weeks before. I wondered what size he would be. I wondered what labor would feel like. I wondered if his body would be cold and stiff. NOBODY WOULD OR COULD GIVE ME ANSWERS!!!! I searched hard to find somebody — anybody who had gone through a similar experience, but I could find no one. I search for books and information on this tyep of stillbirth, but could find nothing. I felt so very alone, and so very afraid!

    My little boy did not have a funeral service or a viewing. He was not named. I do not have one picture of him. And, I only held him for 10 minutes. I still grieve all of these things. Nobody knew what to do, and I certainly wasn’t prepared with a camera in hand to take pictures (my biggest regret of all!) I delivered my little boy naturally, and he was beautiful. I remember I touched all of his little fingers and toes. I remember I touched the peach fuzz on the top of his head. I remember looking at his eyelashes that were just beginning to form. His mouth was just perfect; his lips were beautiful. I remember kissing him and soaking him with my tears. Then, he was taken away, and I was expected to forget. I was released from the hospital a few hours later, and the cause of death was “unknown”.

    I don’t want to take up space here telling of the years of struggling, pain, and depression that followed, but it was a long, difficult journey to healing.

    I, unlike those of you who wrote, do have other living children (11) and that, in some way, seemed to make others think that I didn’t grieve the loss of this child. How very wrong that was!!!! Nobody would talk to me — partly because they didn’t know what to say, and partly because many thought that since I had a large family already, this loss wasn’t all that big.

    I wrote a book, Silent Grief, six years after my son was born still. That was the most therapeutic thing I’ve ever done, so I especially appreciate reading of Lorraine’s workshops about writing. As a spinoff of the book, I began an online grief support site for parents who have lost children, http.www.silentgrief.com . Often, grief pushes us forward into a place of wanting to help others so that they dont’ have to suffer the same kind of pain we did.

    Thank you so much for allowing me to tell some of my story. My heart is forever joined with yours. I feel as though we are all part of a special family of survivors…….it’s not a family we wanted to join, but circumstances have placed us here, and I am thankful for each of you. Thank you for having the courage to share. I truly believe when we share, and let others know we can make it through this darkness, we have done a small part to help validate the love and the special place our child will forever hold in our hearts. Love, Clara Hinton http://www.silentgrief.com