21 November 2011

Loss & Advertising

One of the things I didn't know to expect when I was pregnant with Ewan was how I would get inundated with the snail mail version of spam for all manner of baby products: coupons, samples, and other mailings all screaming: Buy our product! BUY OUR PRODUCT NOW! If you love your baby, you will BUY OUR PRODUCT! And just so you can find out how much you've been missing out on, here is a massive box of samples for you to try for your newborn! And COUPONS so you can go out and BUY IT!

I remember after picking up the mail that we had stopped while we were at Children's Hospital overseeing Ewan's care that among the piles of bills, credit card offers, and the coupons we never used, we came home to a couple of large boxes of formula samples. Great. While the mail itself didn't make me feel anything I wasn't feeling already, I knew some people for whom this kind of mail might trigger additional depression, anger, or stress. Reasoning that these companies could not have known that just days before, I had held my dying baby in my arms, I numbly set aside the boxes of samples to be donated later.


Just a couple of days before Ewan's first birthday, the formula companies struck again. In the mail, I received a small package of samples of toddler formula amidst advertising emblazoned with the slogan "I am not a baby," and providing some bullet-point style education on how a toddler's nutritional needs vary from that of a baby. More coupons were included.

I threw the samples away and recycled the mailers.

In the two months since Ewan's birthday, I've received two additional mailers reminding me that my toddler's nutritional needs are different than a baby's. The most recent arrived last week. It is still sitting out on the counter, reminding me to write them. While it is still the case for me that these marketing mailers don't trigger any stressful or depressive emotions, they are becoming irritating, and I do wish they would stop. Ignoring for the moment the fact that my would-be toddler is not among the earthly living and clearly not in need of formula, the sheer insistence and persistence with which various companies use one of life's most joyous events (the birth of a baby) to try and turn a dime is off-putting for me.

I know many mothers have written to these companies asking them to stop. And whereas I've been satisfied in the past simply to toss the mailers, samples, and coupons and move on with life, I'm finally at that point where being repeatedly confronted with this advertising is an emotional drain. I find it concerning me more than it should. So I'm going to let them know -- I'm sending the mailers back to them with a note of my own:

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To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to request that my name be removed from future mailings.

The boy who would be a toddler now died in my arms when he was 16 days old. While his date of birth is a matter of public record and, I imagine, particularly handy for constructing mailing lists targeting new parents who might be in need of samples of your products and the coupons you provide, we have no need for them.

I have been satisfied in the past simply to ignore these mailings and toss them into recycling. But imagine my surprise when (after several months of advertising silence) I receive more samples -- this time for toddler formula -- just days before what would have been my son's first birthday. It was a day of celebration and joy for us, but the boy who turned one was conspicuously absent.

I have looked high and low for simpler ways to be removed from your mailing list, and after finding nothing online that answers my particular query, writing to you seems to be my only option. Might I suggest that you provide an easy way for those of us who have no need of or desire for your mailings a way of making that request? Mothers like me might be in the statistical minority of those to whom you advertise, but I can assure you I am far from being alone in this category. I can safely promise you that there are thousands of parents on your mailing lists who no longer have a baby or toddler in their care.

I probably should have sent something to you much sooner making this request. But life after burying your baby can make even the most mundane and benign tasks feel insurmountable. And while a parent who has lost a child is never in need of a reminder of what they have lost (trust me -- not a moment goes by where we forget), being confronted repeatedly with advertising that serves to point out one of the many "would have beens" we will never get to experience with our children can be emotionally draining.


Maybe I am just a name on a mailing list -- another potential customer. But for me, this is personal. I lost my child -- a beautiful boy named Ewan, and I thought maybe you should know that -- and see his face in the program from his funeral.

Please remove me from your mailing list.

Kirsten Petermann
Proud mama to Ewan Eliezer (September 18, 2010 - October 4, 2010)

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Tell me, Team Ewan mamas (especially those of you who are in the same boat) -- how have you handled these advertisements and mailers? Toss and ignore? Call? Write? How did these make you feel?

The conversation is happening on the Team Ewan Community page on Facebook.