NewSage Press, Inc.
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Troutdale, OR 97060
Toll Free 877-695-2211
- Chapter One
The Joy of Anticipation
- Chapter Two
A Heartbeat Away
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
In the Grip of the Fever
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
I Am Not Alone
- Chapter Seven
The Question of God and the Great Beyond
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
Insensitive People and Extraordinary Kindness
- Chapter Ten
Re-entering the World
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Twelve
A Virtual Memorial
- Chapter Thirteen
Getting Through the Holidays
- Chapter Fourteen
Let the Healing Begin
- Chapter Fifteen
The Difficult Land of Love and Grief
- Chapter Sixteen
Four Years Later
A Mothers Story of Stillbirth and Healing
by Christiane Northrup, MD
Although 26,000 babies are stillborn
in the United States every year, stillbirth continues to be a taboo
subject. Life Touches Life shatters the silence that has
hidden a bane as old as humankind.
Lorraine Ash met that silence head-on
when, after a trouble-free pregnancy, her daughter, Victoria, was
declared dead on what was to be her date of delivery, June 2, 1999.
After a C-section, Ash fought a fever that raged at 104 degrees
and almost succumbed to the silent B-strep infection that had robbed
her daughter of life.
by the experience, which was to change her forever, Ash sought solace
and perspective in all the old places and found little relief. In
Life Touches Life she tears down the walls of misunderstanding
that isolated her in her hourindeed yearsof need. Shattering
the silence is essential if mothers are to integrate their loss
into their daily lives, Ash writes. A child who only
existed inside her mother can continue to spiritually exist there
and the two can remain close.
Ash discusses the inner changes she
faced after the stillbirth of her daughter and delves into spiritual
questions that shook her soul: Why did God let this happen? Is there
justice in the world? What does this death mean in terms of what
to believe and how to move forward?
Ash also reveals the erratic social
landscape she encountered and what it felt like to be faced with
people who emotionally misunderstood her loss and gave her little,
if any, time for recovery. A mother facing stillbirth is often urged
to get over it already and have another child. People
offer a grieving mother platitudes that trivialize her pain. Worse,
she can be abandoned by old friends used to her old self, which
died with her baby. Or she is avoided because people see her as
a physical manifestation of their own worst fears of how life can
The mother holding a stillbirth in
her heart must navigate holidays, including Mothers Day and
the anniversary of her babys death. Like a veteran of any
trauma, she can flash back when some small thing once again triggers
the memory of being in that delivery room with its awful silence
Its a long road to a new life
that feels good and right again, but Ash reassures her readers that
it is a wondrous road and that recovery is possible. The new
life will be different, she writes. Not like the old.
In many ways, the new life will be richer filled with people
who know how to care for a grieving mother, even as she finds new
ways to empathize, love and meet others in their places of pain.
The new life will include looking at things with eyes stripped of
innocence. Acceptance of fate brings wisdom and uncommonly fierce
and loving bonds with othersbonds that only come from surviving
Ash offers a legacy of stillbirth
that can bring a profound relaxation in living. Common losses in
life seem so much smaller. Lose a job, lose a fortunenothing
rivals the loss of a child. When things in life go awry, they pale
in intensity and consequence when framed within the pain of a mother
who has walked through a stillbirth.
Whats more, the fate of a stillbirth
mother gives her a particular presence in the worldone of
value and peace, which Ash discusses in a chapter that explores
how she lives as a stillbirth mother four years after her daughter
The message of Life Touches Life
is this: Hope is ahead. Hope is here. For every hurtful word or
action a stillbirth mother bears, there is something of uncommon
beauty right down the roadsomething she may never have seen
or understood before. Epiphanies emerge from the stuff of everyday
experience. True, old friends still stand with her while new ones
arrive, as if drawn by some cosmic pull.
Soon all these things become a new
emotional landscape for the stillbirth mother as she sets out on
the journey of the rest of her life. Life Touches Life is
for those mothers and everyone who wants to understand their pain
and love them well.
HELEN ASH/GLEN ROC PHOTOGRAPHY
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Lorraine Ash has been working as a newspaper journalist
since 1982, currently for the Daily Record in Parsippany,
New Jersey. Her feature articles and series, particularly on health
and womens issues, have won national, state, and regional
awards and have been published nationally.
She continues to explore the themes of stillbirth,
childlessness, midlife, and mortality in published essays. In addition
to her work in journalism and essay writing, Ash is a playwright.
Each of her three plays, published by The History Project in Virginia,
is about a U.S. president, including James Monroe, Andrew Jackson
and John Tyler.
Since earning a masters degree in Communications
from Fordham University, Ash has studied writing at various venues,
including the Wesleyan Writers Conference in Connecticut, the Fine
Arts Work Center in Massachusetts, and the American Society of Journalists
and Authors in New York. She has taught writing on the college level
and is a member of The International Womens Writing Guild.
Ash lives in Allendale, New Jersey, with her trumpeter
husband, Bill Ash. She enjoys yoga, Hindu philosophy, and traveling
the state of Maine. As a peer grief counselor, she works one-on-one
with stillbirth mothers.
PHOTO: BOB KARP
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The following is an excerpt from Life
Touches Life by Lorraine Ash to be published by NewSage Press Spring
2004. All material copyrighted and may not be used without prior
permission from the publisher.
On our first vacation after Victoria died, Bill
and I walked the beach at Cape Cod every day at sunset. Even the
beach taught me something. Bill walked barefoot, the sand between
his toes, and went off to photograph seals and surfs. I took in
the wind, felt it in my hair, in my lungs, and on my skin as my
mind unraveled. That day the beach taught me how its possible
for Victoria to be here and not be here. The sun sprinkled gold
dust on the sandan imaginary gold that glowed orange-yellow.
The ocean reflected the lavender light in the sky and the waters
surface shimmered with a strange and heavenly patina. Victoria is
the gold, the lavender, the light, the beauty that is breathtaking
but cannot be held or contained.
Reality, I got to thinking months later, also
includes relationships that take a different turn than we expectdifferent
than, perhaps, we would have them take. Relationships dont
all fit into the usual prescribed social guidelines. I thought of
the teachers who taught me how to find whats inside mea
wrangler in Arizona, an ambulance worker in New Jersey. I thought
of a boy in Bangkok with whom I had exchanged no more than a glance.
What names did I have for these relationships?
Who were these people? Would I choose to live without even one of
My Victoria was one of them. I could think of
her as my dead daughter, and the relationship would end, leaving
at least a part of me for the rest of my life in a cold stasis.
Or I could think of her as someone with whom I could continue to
share a spiritual relationship that I had never before fathomed.
I chose the latter. There was more joy in it, more warmth, too.
I chose the latter just as I chose to commit myself to my marriage,
to my friends. I simply made a decision. In the end, thats
what it came down to. The decision brings me peace. It allows me
not only to live life again, but to love it with a kind of hope
that wasnt there before.
One day my cousin Kathy talked to me about Meaghan,
her first daughter who had died of a heart malady after living only
days. There are times, she said, when she feelsno, she knowsthat
her daughter is with her. There are days when the sense she has
an otherworldly guardian is as palpable as running her fingers through
Then Kathy, a scientist, told me a ghost story.
Her bravery in sharing this story touched me. Five years after Meaghans
death, shortly after settling into a new home, Kathy awoke in the
middle of the night. In the darkness she saw an apparition of a
curly-haired girl who looked under the bed, into the closet and
then vanished. The girl was about the age her daughter would have
been. She was sure it was Meaghan.
One thought ran through my mind, Kathy
said. I thought, My God, Meaghans been with us
all along. We had moved and she was checking out the new digs.
Did Kathy really see the ghost? I think she did,
yet I dont know. But Ill tell you this: In the middle
of the night, I watch.
Life Touches Life is the most
hauntingly beautiful, honest and inspiring story of loss, grief,
and transformation that Ive ever read. I couldnt put
it down and read it in one sitting. Within these pages, I found
good and powerful medicine for anyone who is in the crucible of
grief, experiencing their hopes and dreams being burned away by
forces they cannot control. It will give you solace. It will give
you hope. It is, ultimately, a celebration of life with all its
pain, poignancy, and mystery.
Christiane Northrup, M.D., Author,
The Wisdom of Menopause
Love unifies us, inseparably, with each other.
Perhaps the most majestic expression of this union is the connection
of mother and child. No one has described this better than Lorraine
Ash in her moving testament of her daughters stillbirth. Life
Touches Life is a tribute to love and life everywhere. Never
have we needed such a vision as now.
Larry Dossey, M.D.
Author, Healing Beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite
Reach of the Mind
In my own life, I have been surrounded by women
who have experienced the devastating loss of a child. I have seen
how the excruciating pain can twist a woman's soul. I have also
seen, in the pages of this book, how it can melt the walls of a
Mother's heart, exposing the rarest kind of beauty and grace. Life
Touches Life is an exquisitely beautiful story that carries
the reader through the darkest of hours into the brilliant light
of faith, hope and eternal love.
Author, Gifts of Grace
The Mother and Child is perhaps the greatest icon
of tenderness and intimacy that we have. The mother carries the
child under her heart. The womb of the mother is the childs
first world. Lorraine Ash has written a most poignant account of
her daughters life in that first world and the tragedy that
stopped her at the threshold to the outside world. There is immense
pain here, huge loss and a searing loneliness. Yet the beauty of
her account shows how hope, healing and new possibility can be harvested
from the terrain of sorrow. Eventually, the sore of grief becomes
a well of presence.
Author, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
Lorraine Ashs book is important, insightful
and moving. It will touch the heart of anyone who has ever had to
cope with stillbirth, of course, but it will also deeply affect
any reader who has suffered profound loss of any kind.
Author, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming
In Life Touches Life, Lorraine Ash gives
us an intimate glimpse into an aspect of the human experience most
of us might have otherwise never known. And she has done so with
such eloquence, elegance, and grace that I truly couldnt put
it down. The writing is beautiful simple and direct, but
flowing with the warmth and music of great poetry. Lorraines
sharing of one of lifes most devastating and least talked-about
experiences is brilliant. She paints a glorious portrayal of the
opening and flowering of her own soul in response to her grief.
It is a beautiful tale of one womans struggle to come to terms
with an experience which to most of us would seem incomprehensible
and totally unacceptable. Yet she shows us how she turned it into
a path to the deepest realms of her heart and soul. I highly recommend
this superbly written, enlightening and inspirational story to everyone,
no matter what their age, gender, or life circumstance. It is a
deeply touching story of the boundless depth, resilience, love and
wisdom of the human spirit.
John E. Welshons
Author, Awakening from Grief: Finding the Road Back to Joy
This memoir holds particular value for the 1,000,000
American women who suffer unsuccessful pregnancies every year. In
a larger sense, though, this is another real-life instance of the
human spirit put on trial, and that must involve us all. No reader
will walk away having turned the last page without pride in Lorraine
Ash as our champion in this struggle.
Author, Heroes or Something
Life Touches Life is a beautiful book. Told
with gut-level honesty, it is a journey from love to loss and back
into the light. It’s simply a must-read memoir.
Pat Carr, Author, If We Must Die