Still, I look at you

by Claudia Ravaldi

We miss having nothing of you. Still missing today, that there is almost no more pain, there is almost no more mourning. We lack an image to caress with our eyes, to touch with the words of your story, which is ours. We miss being able to tell you and we miss not being able to make you manifest. In your mysterious beauty as a traveler.

The common denominator of all photos is always time, the time that slips away between the fingers, between the eyes, the time of things, of people, the time of lights and emotions, a time that will never be the same again. .
(Jeanloup Sieff)

Still, I look at you.

You were born after dying, after a small labor, a breath away from the term of pregnancy.

You were born elsewhere.

You left here, in my belly, in your only home, your beautiful body, which we built together, molecule by molecule, cell by cell, in nine exciting and project-filled months.

You left your body, your name, our love.

That, my child, I still hear it.

I will feel it, forever.

Under this deep love, apparently short-lived, but enveloping like a mantle, the power of a gaze remained, a fleeting encounter remained: a finger passed over your beautiful nose.

Under this love there is a face.

A face imagined for months, dreamed of, yearned for.

A face that is branded in my mind and in your father’s.

A face that is a privilege.

A privilege I had to fight for.

In 2006, in Italy, in fact, “it was better not to see them, children like you”

In 2006, perinatal bereavement was a “painful road accident”, to be quickly forgotten.

A ferocious taboo.

An oddity, feeling in mourning for someone who hadn’t even known each other, and whom it was preferable not to know at all.

You didn’t matter.

Your face should have remained “anonymous”.

To protect me, they said.

But I needed your face.

I needed to know you again, to understand that it was YOU, my second acrobat child.

My navigator of parallel spaces and times.

My anarchist child, first dead, and then born.

After I saw you, incredulous and grateful, I was afraid to ask for more. To ALSO ask for a photo.

I did not yet know that this desire of mine would be lawful, normal, maternal.

I did not yet know that your space and time stunts would soon become mine, mine and your father’s, and ours, thousands of Italian parents. I learned, a few nights later, when the mothers of the American forums started asking us your name, to honor and remember you with respect. After a few more nights, some people writing on bereaved parent forums asked if they could see your photos. There I realized that if I was born in the United States (and also in many other places around the world) a midwife and a social worker would have proposed a professional and volunteer photographer to “seal” with a perfect image, the most perfect love.


Our love, which is and remains indestructible. Even if they tried to hide you. Even if they tried to downplay it.

Even if there is no tangible trace of your passage, which is not laden with single, unchanging, sadness: I have a death certificate. I have your APGAR score, zero and zero. Your autopsy. I have your urn.

Of you remains, imperishable, only the fact that you are dead.

Not the slightest trace of your life, prior to your death.

No birth sheets, no birth bracelets, no footprints, no photos.

You were so beautiful.

You didn’t look dead. At least, not in my eyes.

You looked like what you are, my second child, about whom brothers and grandparents still fantasize today, sometimes, the similarities.

We miss having nothing of you. Still missing today, that there is almost no more pain, there is almost no more mourning. We lack an image to caress with our eyes, to touch with the words of your story, which is ours. We miss being able to tell you and we miss not being able to make you manifest. In your mysterious beauty as a traveler.

Many have asked me, ask me and often do not understand the meaning of taking a picture of children like you.

What would he add, have a picture of you, they tell me, looking at me from a safe distance.

In the words of Gianluca Nicoletti, in his recent post , there is part of the answer to the many and pressing questions. There is in fact an intrinsic value of the photographic gaze, where nothing or little else can still be done.

“What in distant times was a privilege reserved only for the sons of kings and pharaohs, is now possible for any child grabbed by the most cowardly death. It is the greatest gift that those generous artists of regret photography can offer to afflicted parents, the only ones capable of stopping the moment of the almost never born “

The photo as a gift, as an opportunity, as an opportunity for recognition.

It is important that this topic is periodically explored also in our culture.

It is important that it is spoken of as an opportunity and as a gesture of civility.

Our first article dedicated to perinatal bereavement told in pictures was published in January 2010, in the well-known magazine Vanity Fair. In the words of Silvia Nucini, who was the first to write a long article on the taboo of perinatal mourning, telling the readers of Vanity Fair about our association and Giovanni Presutti’s photographic project , there is another important piece of the answer that I would like to give to those who asks and does not understand:

It happens to many, it happens often, but it is not said, because – come on – it is better not to think about it. And then a pat on the shoulder, a half hug, and the magic formula: “You will do another one!”. […]
Francesca, Flavia, Silvia, Gina, Claudia and Barbara, the “special mothers” I met for the report on perinatal bereavement – different stories, those with more, those with fewer pieces in hand to put back together – they wanted to tell me about their children who are no longer there, they did it with bright eyes, a smile on their lips. The tears fell thinking about people’s insensitivity, the bubble of silence in which people closed them afterwards. Since when does silence make you forget? And then, why do we always have to forget?

Parents never forget their beloved and expected children. Accepting this would allow us to look at what remains with greater respect. It would allow parents to be thought of as such and treated as such. It would allow friends, relatives, operators to understand that taking a photo, a beautiful photo, is not part of exhibitionism, it is not part of exaggeration, desperation, being out of mind. It would be enough to look at those photos, to access a very rich and indelible world, despite the pain of loss: the world of parenthood, of the bond with the child, of belonging.

In recent years, thanks to the long work I have done with families and operators, more and more parents have been able to meet their acrobatic children, smell them, hold them in their arms, photograph them. Today, more and more families proudly show me our memory booklets compiled with dedication and respect by the operators, the photos taken by themselves or by the staff, in order to tell those children, and their stories, with a wealth of life details. , and not just death.

In recent years we have cracked the taboo, we have cornered it, we have forced it to take a step back.

But it hasn’t broken yet.

Children like you, Lapo, are scary.

It happens when instead of looking at you, we just look at death.

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