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A Cleveland playwright lost his unborn child. He hopes the film about his loss will help others

After Cleveland playwright David Hansen and his wife lost their unborn son to stillbirth, he wrote a play. That play has become a film that will premiere Saturday on 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 Playhouse Square.

Hansen’s one-man show, “I Hate This (a play without the baby),” explains his experiences as the father of a stillborn baby, the release said.

"My wife and I were expecting our first child and at a routine checkup, we were surprised and shocked to discover that the child had died at 30 weeks," Hansen said. "It was devastating. It was unexpected. The very first thing that needed to happen was that she needed to be induced and to give birth, which occurred over the course of 36 hours."

To help him cope, he wrote constantly, he said.

"It was not very long before I realized that I had a story to tell," Hansen said. "I wanted to share with an audience, not just what my wife and I had been through but also the experience we had interacting with our friends and families."

Data from 2021 shows that one in 160 babies in the United States are stillbirths, according to Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg, clinical psychologist and the chief of OB/GYN Behavioral Medicine at UH.

"There are about 24,000 cases of perinatal loss in the U.S. every year," she said. "At UH alone, there were 45 in 2021."

Hansen's film will be used at UH's McDonald Women's Hospital for all obstetrics training, both inpatient and outpatient, and in the neonatal intensive care unit, Kingsberg said. UH officials want to make sure that anybody who is going to have a connection with parents is 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 grieving alone," Kingsberg said. "There aren't the same social proprietary issues that we would expect with any other kind of loss. There may not be a funeral. There may not even be a death certificate. There may not be a social acknowledgment 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's Vice President of Education David Hahn, who produced the film.

"There's an underpinning truth that unites folks who've had this experience," Hahn said. "Being able to share that and process, that is theater at its best. You have an opportunity to tell a story that encourages us as human beings to be the best versions of ourselves and to be reflective and to heal and to come together and to help each other."

One actor plays over a dozen characters in the play, including friends, family members and medical officials.

“I Hate This (a play without the baby)” will premiere in the Westfield Studio Theatre on Oct. 15. After the screening, there will be a live conversation with Hansen, his wife Toni, the play’s director and a UH representative.

"There will be tears at the film," said Hansen, " and I'm ready for that."

Tickets are available here.

Tyisha is a reporter/producer for Ideastream Public Media’s health team.
Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.