After Cleveland playwright David Hansen and his wife lost their stillborn unborn son, he wrote a play. This play has become a movie that will premiere on Saturday in Playhouse Square. It will also be used as an educational resource for parents and caregivers at University Hospitals (UH) to promote support and healing after stillbirths, according to Theater house square.
Hansen’s one-man show, “I Hate It (A Babyless Play),” explains his experiences as the father of a stillborn baby, according to the statement.
“My wife and I were expecting our first child and during a routine checkup we were surprised and shocked to find that the child had died at 30 weeks,” Hansen said. “It was devastating. It was unexpected. The very first thing that had to happen was that she had to be induced and give birth, which happened in 36 hours.”
To help him cope, he wrote constantly, he says.
“It wasn’t very long before I realized I had a story to tell,” Hansen said. “I wanted to share with an audience, not only what my wife and I had been through, but also the experience we had had interacting with our friends and families.”
Data from 2021 shows that one in 160 babies in the United States is stillborn, according to Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg, clinical psychologist and chief of behavioral medicine OB/GYN at UH.
“There are approximately 24,000 cases of perinatal loss in the United States each year,” she said. “At UH alone, there were 45 in 2021.”
Hansen’s film will be used at UH McDonald’s Women’s Hospital for all midwifery training, both inpatient and outpatient, and in the neonatal intensive care unit, Kingsberg said. UH officials want to make sure anyone who has a connection to the parents will be able to see this film so they can provide better support.
“Our culture, our society doesn’t really know how to have a cultural perspective around loss. So many parents are sort of left alone to mourn,” Kingsberg said. “There are not the same social ownership issues that we would expect with any other type of loss. There may not be a burial. There may not even be a death certificate. There may not be there should be social recognition of the loss.”
UH’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital has long been a sponsor of Playhouse Square’s children’s theater series, said Playhouse Square vice president of education David Hahn, who produced the film.
“There is an underlying truth that unites people who have gone through this experience,” Hahn said. “Being able to share this and process is theater at its best. You have the opportunity to tell a story that encourages us as human beings to be the best versions of ourselves and to reflect and to heal and to come together and help each other.”
An actor plays more than a dozen characters in the play, including friends, family members, and medical officials.
“I Hate This (a play without the baby)” will premiere at the Westfield Studio Theater on October 15. After the screening, there will be a live chat with Hansen, his wife Toni, the play’s director, and a UH representative.
“There will be tears in the movie,” Hansen said, “and I’m ready for that.”
Tickets are available here.
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