A children’s book explaining early pregnancy loss to young children
By: Cori Baill, MD
As an OB/GYN, a mother of two and now as a new children’s picture book author, I am deeply appreciative of this opportunity to write for Sharing Magazine. We as women know that grief shared is grief lessened. Yet in American society, all too often, a vast and stifling silence surrounds early pregnancy loss. It is my profound hope that this picture book explains early pregnancy loss to children as young as three, and that it will help to lift the silence. This book can serve to console those in grief and promote healing for the family’s youngest members, and for all those who love them including older siblings, parents, extended family, friends, and community.
As an OB/GYN physician, I am probably more comfortable with a fetal heart monitor or stethoscopes than with a keyboard. But as the decades of my practice experience whizzed by, I always kept my eye out for a nondenominational, inclusive children’s book to help young families explain an early pregnancy loss to their children. Recently, a welcome trend in children’s picture books is to address difficult topics with creative age-appropriate language and art including grief. Though, to my profound disappointment, none appeared specific to early pregnancy loss. So, about the time my youngest entered medical school, I dusted off a long lingering story from my desk drawer and decided to write it myself.
Accompanied by his ever-expressive stuffed monkey, Max treks across the house to his parents’ bed where it is always nice and warm. But on his way, Max finds Mommy rocking alone. Prompted by his mother’s loving explanation, Max uses his unique and vivid imagination to compassionately frame early pregnancy loss in an easy-to-understand story. Heather, through her amazing art engages the young listener.
The mother refers to God in a way that comforts and consoles children who may need help to manage their fears after a traumatic event. Because God reflects how young children view their parent’s love and omnipotence, they both benefit from the explanation used in the story while also helping to explain the refences to God likely overheard as the family receives condolences. Intentionally, there are no allusions to any specific spiritual practice in the art or language of the book. To my surprise, some early reviewers suggested the book would only appeal to religious families. I think Why is Mommy Crying? need not be pigeonholed and I hope it helps all who have known the sadness of an early pregnancy loss.
Max and his family are multiethnic and while Max has a Mom and Dad, I chose story language that is inclusive with respect to what constitutes parents and family. The mother asks, “ Do you remember what Daddy and I told you about how babies come to people who love one another?” She does not specify their gender. Why is Mommy Crying? can offer a gentle springboard for families to discuss broad concepts surrounding grief and recovery. Additional resources are listed on the last page. I hope that this beautifully illustrated, inclusive picture book helps recipients of every age feel that the door is open, and a caring person is on the other side.
I had a lot of help in the creation and improvement of this book. Thankfully, in the search for an illustrator I found the portfolio of the talented, amazing young artist, Heather Bell. She added immeasurably to the accessibility, energy and emotions of this story. I am in awe of her creativity. The book’s beauty is all to her credit. The story passed through the hands of many readers, artists, professionals, friends and fellow writers. I am deeply appreciative to the many who have supported and improved my story. Perhaps most of all I am indebted to my oldest, who late one night, still in pull ups, wearing his Dad’s old tee shirt for pajamas, came looking for his mother and asked me why I was crying.
About Cori Baill, MD
Cori Baill, MD is a board-certified OB/GYN. She completed her OB/GYN residency at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, then practiced for many years. She is now an Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida, College of Medicine. In addition to many years of caring for women and their families, she is an award-winning short story author, and mother of two. She hopes she has written a story comforting to those who have known the grief of miscarriage, especially the family’s youngest members.
Heather Bell, SCWBI illustrator, https://heatherbellbooks.com, added immeasurably to this project. She holds BFA in Painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, is a member of SCBWI, a participant in the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and a Children’s Book Academy graduate. When not illustrating and writing, she searches out story ideas as an undercover school bus driver. Heather Bell is an author/illustrator represented by Kaitlyn Sanchez at Olswanger Literary Agency.