It’s a story that is unique to each, yet it connects thousands of women and men who know “exactly what that feels like”. That is so many things: having an ultrasound technician get a doctor with no explanation, having a doctor tell you there is no heartbeat, hearing that it is all unexplainable, having to choose how to proceed with delivering the baby, leaving the hospital empty-handed, dealing with torturous depression and anxiety, hearing insensitive (no matter how well-meaning) comments from loved ones and strangers alike, digging deep to find joy in others’ baby showers (and often drowning in the self-pity instead), supporting or falling apart from ones’ spouse, finding a way to move on, finding a way to beat the fear of future pregnancies. Return to Zero isn’t our story, as our baby was born alive. It isn’t our story in that our baby was 20 weeks along when we found out something was wrong. It isn’t our story in that our marriage flourished and thrived instead of crumbling and withering to a shell of a relationship. Regardless, the two-and-a-half hour movie had us both in tears, both enthralled with empathic sadness, both holding hands as if we were reliving our own story.
Return to Zero has power to touch those who have lived the Hanish’s story. Arguably more importantly, Return to Zero has the power to touch those who have not. In this club of pregnancy loss survivors, we have each other. We have blogs, discussion boards, support groups, Facebook pages, organizations to support. For those denied membership (mercifully), there is speculation, questions, doubt, fear, worry, awkward condolences, silence. Connecting these two groups will fill the gaps where empathy is needed, thoughtful comforting is cherished, understanding how grief changes everything, and ultimately aid in healing. There is no shame is losing a baby; there should be no shame in talking about it. There is no shame in knowing someone who lost a baby; there should be no shame in wanting to understand, wanting to help.
Highlighting how Maggie’s (Minnie Driver) best friend could still find joy in having her baby–how life continues despite the complete crash of our world–serves as a gentle reminder to us survivors that the world does not end. Life is not over. Grieving is important, and may take over our emotions for longer than we would like, but it is the ongoing pull of life around us that drags us along, willing or not. Feelings can be dichotomous. Sadness for ourselves can co-exist with happiness for others. Anxiety about our own lives can co-exist with excitement for our family and friends. In this dichotomy, we found our sanity. We lost a baby, but welcomed our niece. We suffered a second loss and welcomed our nephew. We will always mourn what could have been, but we will not give up what we have gained. The innocence of babies provides us the indulgence we cannot otherwise allow ourselves to have. Embracing these babies allows us to embrace life once again.
Return to Zero is the epitome of what I dream of achieving with my writing in Sophia’s Story. I love talking about her; it keeps her alive. I love hearing others’ stories; it grounds me. I love knowing it provides a solace to some; it makes her life (and our grief) worth the pain. This movie is a beautiful representation of pregnancy loss, providing a raw visualization (albeit sometimes rushed and shortened) of each painful step us survivors know too well. While watching, my husband and I openly talked about the parallels to our situation, the memories it invoked, the harrowing feelings it lured from the depths of our souls. Using our voices to be heard is paramount in opening this dialogue to everyone. After all, how can a topic that leaves no life unscathed–through experience or knowing others who live with the experience–be taboo any longer?