Baby Shoes. Never Worn

When I came across Ernest Hemingway’s six line short story I started to cry.

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

The biggest event of my life was the death of my son Ben. He was stillborn after a very normal pregnancy and I went into labour at full term spontaneously.

He just didn’t make it. The signs were there at towards the end of the labour that he was in distress and so I was taken into theatre for an emergency c-section.

Ben never breathed outside the womb.

That’s why Ernest Hemingway’s six line short story made me cry.

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

It’s funny how six words can transport you to another world. That really difficult world of wondering what to do with all the baby stuff that we had acquired, those gifts that people had sent in anticipation of the birth, those hand-me-downs that other mothers had promised me would come in handy. That pile of cloth nappies that I’d been eco-minded and think that I’d be washing. Instead they got used as rags.


And the very strange thing about that whole time of Ben’s death, the funeral, his wee coffin, scattering the ashes in the river and the tears that would not stop flowing was the complete clarity and realization that only in the present moment was everything okay.

It was immediately apparent that the past was too painful. It was full of memory of being so happily and joyfully expectant. And the future was too daunting. It was full of empty dreams and baby shoes that had never been worn. Yet, when I could keep my mind from it’s wanderings into past or future, I found myself feeling blessed. Feeling strangely wonderful. Powerfully moved. Heartbroken with such incredible love. Sitting with that feeling of surrender and of powerlessness was so very humbling and I would not change it for the world. I was blessed by that experience.

I did get rid of all the baby stuff and baby shoes eventually. It took me a while. I remember nine months later emptying a chest of drawers and put the radio on to hear of Lady Diana’s death. Her six line story equally heartbreaking: Car crash. Princess dies. Motherless boys.

I didn’t put those baby shoes up for sale. I put my heart up for breaking again and again.


  1. What a beautifully written post. Reading the very last sentence gave me goosebumps. Well done!

  2. Kathy White says

    Thanks Nikki, it’s a heart ache that is worth every tear!

  3. A beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing….

  4. Beautiful. It’s amazing how many times we can toleratea broken heart and still manage to smile.
    I found you on Leonie’s Academy and I’m tweeting your post.

  5. Ohh, Kathy.. My heart goes out to you, reading this. I must admit that I have not experienced the pain of loss like this – tho I deal with healing trauma in pregnancy and birth on a regular basis. So many love and blessings being sent your way ~
    I am awed in how you are able to find peace in remaining open to potential heartbreak again. That is gorgeous and amazing. <3

  6. Kathy White says

    thanks Krystal, yes it was a journey I never would have chosen yet has been so full of so many gifts. I hope I can support any parents who experience loss in this way.

  7. Kathy White says

    thanks so much Fadwa, smiles and appreciation for all that life brings have been my mantras for many years (and I still have grumpy days !!)

  8. Ah Kathy, what a beautiful post… Having been part of some of the journey, I am, as ever, inspired by your being able to put something as huge as this into simple words that land straight into anyone’s heart… but more importantly having the willingness to “put your heart up to break again and again… “

  9. Kathy White says

    thank you so much Bettina – I always appreciate the circle of love that comes from friends who witness…