Archives

Happy Holidays! (link round up)

I’ve already offered a holiday greeting from Talk Birth:

cropDecember 2013 019And, here’s one from my family:

postcard

 

I’d also like to share this quick post round-up on relevant posts from prior years. The first is one of the most popular guest posts on this blog: Guest Post: Alcohol and Breastmilk

The second is a guest post about toddlers and Christmas: Guest Post: 8 Toddler Pitfalls to Avoid on Christmas Morning

And, a related post on Top 10 Kid Gadgets for Holiday Road Trips

The third is my own little ditty, the Twelve Days of Birth Activist Christmas

I’ve also written about Last Minute Gift Idea: Rescue Gifts

While not specifically holiday in nature, I also wanted to share that the winter edition of the Friends of Missouri Midwives newsletter is available online. Lots of great birth stories in this issue! This is my last issue as the newsletter editor and I’m stepping down after seven years of volunteer work in this role.

I want to take a moment too in acknowledgement of those whose grief is fresh, current, and raw at this time of year and for whom the holiday plans and dinners and parties may feel frivolous and painful. I will never forget that the holidays may hold memories of loss and suffering or current experiences of loss for many people (see: Holidays After Loss). I spent a very painful Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day myself following my miscarriage-birth in 2009 and I always remember those feelings at this time of year, even though the grief is no longer fresh and urgent. Mark’s dad died on Dec. 18th in 1998 and a part of us will always associate this time of year with weeping in that frozen cemetery, rather than making plans for Christmas dinner. My grandma often visited us for Thanksgiving and the passing of October also marked the passing of an entire year since we last saw her in person. We unpacked a lot of Christmas ornaments this year that she made for us and my mom and my aunt both shared similar experiences—there are many signs of her busy, creative hands on all of our trees. Thanks to my mom’s courier services, I also have this massive holiday penny rug on my kitchen wall that I couldn’t stand leaving behind in California. We’re not 100% sure that my grandma actually made it, since it doesn’t quite look like her style. However, she did make a lot of different things, including several regular sized penny rugs. And, there is are unfinished elements to this piece that make me think she did make it. Regardless though, someone put a lot of work into this enormous masterpiece!

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Guest Post: Infertility Doula

Infertility Doula:  Infertility and the Natural Birth Community

by Kristen Hurst

Okay, so you’ve wanted to have kids since you emerged from the womb. You had your dolls enact your birth plan before you could write it down. At some point, you adopted the title birth junkie, no shame attached. You studied to become a midwife or a doula. You finally get to the age at which you could conceivably conceive…and then you can’t. November 2013 019

For some women suffering from infertility, waiting the year before they can have access to IVF and other medical interventions isn’t the answer. It’s not that they don’t want to wait that long, it’s just that some women don’t feel comfortable with pumping your body full of hormones in order to conceive when you have made an effort to rid your home of hormone-altering plastics and chemicals. Yet when it comes to natural “solutions” it can be just as frustrating to be handed a garden full of herbs and told to wait. You’ve been waiting your whole life—the wait was supposed to be over.

In my experience, natural birth communities tend to do an excellent job supporting mothers who have experienced miscarriages, but are less certain about the role of would-be mothers who can’t conceive. It’s not that we don’t welcome them, especially if they are midwives and doulas, but we assume that they have another place to go: there are a significant number of infertility support groups in the world that even have their own lingo! Nevertheless, midwives and doulas that have experienced infertility are an integral part of our community, and their needs—and perspectives— shouldn’t be ignored.

For women who have only recently discovered their infertility, we can support them through natural treatments and even more conventional fertility treatments. We can offer acupuncture, fertility massage, and a variety of herbs and dietary changes.  We can accompany these women to difficult appointments. We can offer to be an infertility doula, a concept that, as far as I can tell, was coined by Ebru B. Halper to describe the profession she created as a result of her struggles with infertility. Halper guides women through the overwhelming maze of fertility treatments, providing whatever kind of support they may need. I’m not sure why this concept hasn’t caught on, but I think it’s a helpful frame for how we can approach infertility in our communities.

Since training to become a doula, I’ve often thought about how we can be doulas for the women in our communities no matter what they’re experiencing. I often feel as though I am a doula to my children, helping them birth their best selves. But that process has to extend beyond the treatment process into whatever grief or celebration might follow. Ultimately, there is no one “right” thing to say to a birth worker who cannot have her own babies. What we need to do is to listen and be present because we know that birth is a gift. I can’t know what it feels like to be denied that gift, but there are many women who can share their perspective.

The point of this conversation isn’t to make me feel grateful for the fact that I have been able to give birth—it is to celebrate grief as an end in itself. “Grief is neither a disorder nor a healing process: it is a sign of health itself, a whole and natural gesture of love,” says Dr. Gerald May. He continues, “[n]or must we see grief as a step towards something better. No matter how much it hurts–and it may be the greatest pain in life–grief can be an end in itself, a pure expression of love–“  As a birthing community, we must bear witness to this painful love rather than assure the woman that it’s “meant to be.” We can’t stop being infertility doulas once the treatment is over. Making space for both the love within birth and the love within grief can only make our lives richer.

Kristen Hurst is a mother, a writer, a yogi, and a doula. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing, and writes often about pregnancy and maternity fashion for Seraphine Maternity.   When she’s not trying to juggle the lives of  her sons, she enjoys painting and catching up with a great Jane Austen novel.

Mothers of Sorrow and Change

I woke up this morning thinking about the blog post I would write today. I thought of opening it with, “it has been four years since the worst day of my life.” But, then I realized that November 7th was not the worst day of my life. It may have been the hardest, the most grief-stricken, the most wrenching, and the most raw, the most sorrowful, but with the tincture of time, I cannot call it the worst, because I know what I gained from loss. It was four years ago today that I experienced the miscarriage-birth of my third baby. When I went out to his memorial tree this morning, I told him that he will always be a part of me and will always be a hinge upon which my life pivoted in a deep way. This is what today is an anniversary of—it is an opportunity to remember and to honor what his short life and tiny footprints gave to my world, and, through the posts and stories of other women today, to the worlds of others. While somehow it doesn’t feel quite appropriate to say, “Happy Birthday,” I said it anyway: Happy Birthday, tiny baby Noah. You changed my life! As I do with all my kids on their birthdays, I shared the link to his birth story:

…I woke at 1:00 a.m. (November 7) with contractions. I got up to use the bathroom and then walked around in the kitchen briefly, rubbing my belly, talking to the baby and telling him it was time for us to let go of each other—“I need to let go of you and you need to let go of me.” I looked at the clock and said to go ahead and come out at 3:00—“let’s get this done by 3:00.” I had woken every night at 3:00 a.m. throughout my pregnancy for no discernible reason and had said several times previously, “I’ll bet this means the baby is going to be born at 3:00!” (but in MAY, not November). I knelt on the futon by the bathroom door in child’s pose. I said again that I didn’t know HOW I was going to do this, but my body does…

via Noah’s Birth Story (Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss) | Talk Birth.

And, as I replied to my caring doula-friend when she posted on my Facebook wall today, I had to count on my fingers twice to make sure it really was four years. Four years!!! OMG. I thought the rawness would never fade and now I have to consciously reach back in time to touch that onslaught of emotion and experience.

Today I feel thankful for the healing power of time, memory, friendship, writing, nature, and family.

The wheel of life keeps turning.

When I got up this morning, with the tightness of too many to-dos in my chest and the plans for what I wanted to write skittering around in my brain, I had to think: do I want to write a blog post about this, or do I want to actually DO THIS? I voted for the doing and the partially planned blog post and the time in which to write it slipped away. I went outside still in my pajamas and put my hand on his memorial plaque the way I used to do every day in the first year after he was born. I remembered the feeling of peace that used to settle on me when doing so. I saw how the sun was rising right next to the tree and it felt like a living metaphor for what this tiny baby was to me. I walked my little labyrinth and sang my post-miscarriage mantra song from the Rise Up and Call Her Name curriculum CD: I’m so glad, trouble don’t last always…oh, my mothers what shall I do? They said…take care of yourself…live free or die…speak the truth…and let your light shine…

Then, I went down to the woods and took some pictures. I’ve been drumming in the woods in the morning lately with my little hand drum and I found myself making up and singing a little song. (It sounds better with a drumbeat)

I drum today to remember my baby
I drum today to remember my baby
I drum today to remember myself
I drum today to remember myself
I drum today to remember the mothers
I drum today to remember the mothers

Mothers who cry
mothers who mourn
mothers who pick up and try again

Mothers who cry
mothers who mourn
mothers who don’t get to try again

Mothers of angels
mothers of rainbows
mothers of butterflies
mothers of sorrow

Mothers of angels
mothers of rainbows
mothers of butterflies
mothers of sorrow

I drum today to remember my baby
I drum today to remember my baby
I drum today to remember myself
I drum today to remember myself
I drum today to remember the mothers
I drum today to remember the mothers…

Tuesday Tidbits: Life and Death

October 2013 041

A nice fresh October rose in the back yard.

“Here’s what I know about the other side: women carry the doorway to this place within the womb. The womb is the connection to the spirit realm from which all spirits enter.” –Tami Lynn Kent (Wild Feminine)

After my grandma died, I read an article that paralleled good birth care with good death care. I saved a quote from it to share, but didn’t post it because I didn’t really have anything else to go with it at the time. This month marks the six-month point since my grandma died and I found myself writing about her and making my own birth-song, death-song parallel for my most recent essay for Feminism and Religion and I knew the time for this current post had also come. (Note: the FAR post doesn’t come out until Wednesday, so the link won’t work until then.) Here is the quote I saved:

My Oma was completely cared for. She was bathed in her bed. My mom made homemade applesauce for her. My uncle gave her drops of wine. Her clothes were changed to housedresses she loved. We whispered love notes in her ears. We stroked her arms and held her hands. Nothing existed besides her.

A woman in labor, with the best support, is completely loved up. Taken care of so that she can focus on following her body and natural rhythms. She is massaged, sung to, whispered words of power and praise. All to fill her up so that she can remember her strength, courage, and beauty.

via Life and Death. Miracles Abound. | Naturally Prosperous.

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My grandma’s perpetual calendar. Made by my dad and painted by my mom in the 80’s or so, it was passed along to me. When I finally changed the tiles to September, it prompted another bout of crying because I had to put away the tiles from March–the last time my grandma touched and set up this calendar herself. It was both sad and painful and also beautiful and generative to be setting it up myself and now…the wheel of the year continues to turn and I really should be taking out September and setting up October…

My mom doula’ed my grandmother through her dying process and it was hard, but she did it. This week, my aunt sent out some pictures from my grandma’s doll collection so that we could pick which dolls we might like to have. My grandma loved Shirley Temple and had a Shirley collection, among quite a few other dolls. I’ve written before that I guess this love of dolls is genetic and I definitely got it from both my grandmas. Anyway, I was looking through the doll pictures and feeling impressed with the effort and love my aunt had put into captioning and describing each doll, as well as deciding which one was my favorite and then my eyes were filled with tears. I thought about my own dolls, there on the shelves and in nooks and corners of the house and pictured my little daughter going through them and taking pictures after I die and it was just really flipping sad.

And, so to continue to the theme of today’s post I remembered marking this poem in my 2013 We’Moon datebook (I’m getting ready to order my 2014 edition and so I’m going back through the things I’ve marked this year).

 We All Become Small

…Above the hospital bed
hangs a photo of you:
black lingerie, red curls,
mouth alive with laughter.

You were flamboyance
boasting bold jewelry
and flowered baseball caps.
Everyone called you Mom.

Now you are thin and still…
…You are the end of my journey
the final portrait.

No matter how red our curls,
how bright our rings
we all become small.

We all grow silent,
ease out of our feet,
slip away from our hands,
rise beyond our body
and fill the room with goodbye.

Natascha Bruckner (in We’Moon 2013)

I’d also marked a poem about miscarriage:

Sept 2013 021

I recently added new miscarriage memorial charms to my Etsy shop.

Miscarriage
I won’t forget
how cold that summer turned
after
or how my days developed
sharp edges or how
with time passing,
you still grow older.

You’re the girl I wasn’t
convinced I wanted,
and there’s no name
for the landscape I stand on.

–Joyce Hayden in We’Moon 2013

I really identified with the sentence, there’s no name for the landscape I stand on, feeling reminded of my own post-miscarriage drawing in which I tried to capture the sensation of having to walk over the bridge alone…

miscarriagedrawingOne of my friends does Prayer Paintings for mothers who’ve experience pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or stillbirth (she also does Birth Blessing painting to celebrate pregnant women). She asked me if she could paint one for me and as we talked it over, I realized I didn’t feel like I needed a loss painting OR one that was about pregnancy or birth, but rather something “integrative.” And, she created something beautiful for me that felt perfect. She titled it Empowering Circle of Reflection and I love the rich, red, surprising sky. It is perfect.

October 2013 020Returning to my grandma as well as thinking about the purpose of writing and exploring feelings in writing and so forth, I also want to share this quote from We’Moon 2013:

“I see beauty in all faces, all women, near and far. All  winds blow, all ferns and grasses grow, all cello weep, all hands write. In writing move the body, the memory in the bones. Lift me up into these trees and into these women’s arms, all branches intertwining..Get those stories down. The moon, the Milky Way, the cream smear of falling stars, the bats and frogs and wood chips, racoons on a log. My jacket hangs on a tree stump every night, and I wear a spiderweb each dawn. Remember this: preserve. Pass on, embellish, enliven and unfold. All winds will blow this history into dust—unless we write it down, and name it holy…” Bonnie J. Morris (in We’Moon 2013)

One of the realizations I had after my trip to the Gaea Goddess Gathering this year was that not everything has to be a story. There doesn’t have to be a blog post around every corner. However, after reading the above, I thought that maybe it isn’t so bad/annoying that I look for the story everywhere and that I try to write it down and name it holy.

And, one last We’Moon transcription:

A Meditation by Mia Howell (in We’Moon 2013)

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New mother-blessing tree of life pendants.

The Japanese say that even the other side
has another side. We need to keep turning
things over in our minds until we can see
them in circles of motion, in spirals, in
the complete roundness of their being, through
all the cycles of becoming, undoing, renewing.

We need to understand how we got to this point
and then we need to remember it is just a point.
We feel each beat as a beat but also as part
pf the rhythm of the greater dance of greater things.
We need to turn ourselves around, in order to
see our journey in its full-spiraled progression,
to see our self in its many iterations
of age, development, understanding,
to see how the layers peel away one by one
and yet each is part of the other,
to see how the edges blur, to see how sometimes
there are no sides at all…

Day of Hope and Healing (Plus Amethyst Network Birthday Giveaway)

A Birth Healing Blessing

Blessed sister, beautiful one
with broken wings.
Your journey is a difficult one…
that no mother should have to endure.
Your path is steep, rocky and slippery
and your tender heart is in need of gentle healing.

Breathe deeply and know that you are loved.
You are not alone,
though at times, you will feel like a
desolate island of grief
untouchable
distant.
Close your eyes.
Seek the wisdom of women who have walked this well-worn path before you,
before,
and before,
and before you yourself were born.
These beautiful ones
with eyes like yours
have shared your pain, and
weathered the storms of loss.

You are not alone (breathe in)
You will go on (breathe out)
Your wings will mend (breathe in)
You are loved (breathe out)
~ Mary Burgess (Mending Invisible Wings)

Today is the Day of Hope and Healing, a national remembrance day for families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, infant or child loss. Tonight, one of my friends is having a Day of Hope event for local families. I’m happy to participate and I picked out the poem above to read. I also made a prayer flag as part of the prayer flag project. I included lines from a song that spoke to me deeply during my second miscarriage. I left the mama’s arms unglued so that they can close, open, or wave in the breeze. Unfortunately, the glue I used leaked through, which gives her a “weeping Madonna” quality. I was bugged by it at first and almost didn’t show a picture, but then I decided I actually like it like that!

August 2013 027 August 2013 028

This week is also The Amethyst Network’s third birthday. I helped co-found this organization as a direct result of my own in-the-midst-of-miscarriage-realization about the need for miscarriage doulas in the world, and I’m proud of the resources we’ve collected and the services we offer to women around the country. As TAN posted on our Facebook page:

We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this week by doing random acts of kindness or paying it forward and then coming back here and telling us about what you did. Whether it’s related to your baby’s memory or not, what goes around comes around, and TAN believes in being a force for good in the world. We hope you will join us in celebrating our birthday by giving gifts to those around us.

***Giveaway now closed. Ravenna was the winner!***

So, I decided to offer a pendant giveaway in honor of TAN’s birthday! (I also reached 500,000 hits last week and I often do a giveaway for things like that, so it is doubly time to do one!) I made this pendant last night specifically for TAN’s birthday. It has a footprints charm like the one that was so meaningful to me, a howlite stone, and also a tiny amethyst heart (and a freshwater pearl). It comes on a simple ribbon, but can easily be taken off and added to your favorite chain instead. You don’t have to do anything fancy to enter, just leave a comment. If you’d like to share The Amethyst Network’s page or website with your Facebook friends or followers, then you can earn a bonus entry! (just make sure to leave another comment telling me you did so)

August 2013 011

(classy twig not included 😉 )

The giveaway will close next Monday night.

I also made a diverse assortment of birth art goddesses last night and I decided to make a miscarriage mama with a footprints charm too. She is purple and is holding an amethyst crystal, in honor of The Amethyst Network’s birthday too! I haven’t decided what to do with her yet…keep her…sell her…do another giveaway…

August 2013 048Here are the rest of the mamas who came to life in my hands last night:

August 2013 043There are some VBAC mamas, a river mama, a laboring mama, a birthing mama, a moon mama, and a loss mama. I’m working on adding them to my etsy shop along with some more new pendants! 🙂

August 2013 020

Other past posts about miscarriage may be found here.

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care

66112_618725968151055_156983473_nFor ages, I’ve had the following quote about miscarriage and doctors saved in my drafts folder:

“The only person who can really tell you what is happening to you is your own doctor, who peers into you with a light and a speculum, who samples your blood or urine, or who presses a sonogram paddle into your belly. If you are in trouble, bleeding, scared, or more depressed than you think you can handle on your own, you must find help. Read and research all you can, but remember that the one-on-one assistance of a real doctor is the only thing that will give you answers that count. If you don’t like or trust your doctor, then find one you can…”

I Will Carry You

I saved it because it bothered me so much to read. One-on-one assistance of a real doctor is the ONLY thing that will give you answers that count?! I disagree so much with this and it saddens me to know that women turn to doctors for support that they are unlikely to be able to provide, particularly if women are looking for compassion. My own ER doctor experience was horrendous and involved quotes like: “this is very common, it is just natural selection” and, “this wouldn’t hurt so much if you would just stay still,” as well as leaving bloody handprints streaked across the bed and blood on the floor (specifically after being told how very disturbed I was by all the blood). In contrast, I was treated with beautiful compassion (and actual, genuine, useful help) by every midwife I talked to. In defense of doctors though, I also went to my own family practice doctor for a follow-up visit and she said one of the best things I heard from anyone, doctor or not: “some women find comfort in knowing that love was all their babies ever knew.” And, before I left, she asked if she could give me a hug. That mattered more and lasted longer than any “advice” that she gave me about possible causes, trying, again, etc.

So, this week, related miscarriage articles and stories started catching my eye, such as this one that touches on the various dehumanizing ways many women are treated in medical care environments:

Rush of blood to my brain. Pounding in my ears. Breathing comes in short bursts. And I’m ushered out into the waiting area where I’m told to go home to wait for it to ‘come away’. And there I find myself, blinking in the sun, shaking like a leaf. So I waited. And waited. One week later the tiny form within still clung on. I saw it in my minds eye, not wanting to let go of me, its mother. Perish the thought. Instead I spent the week overly busy whilst somehow trying to recalibrate a defeated dream and birth date that would never occur. Finally, I just booked in for the D&C, and signed for an “excavation of contents.”

I am a psychotherapist and counsellor. I focus mainly on fertility in all its guises. From pre pregnancy to birth and beyond I am struck as women and their partners endure dehumanising experience after dehumanising experience, just like this one…

via The heartbreak of miscarriage

And, that reminds me of what Ina May said in her Birth Story documentary that the number one rule of maternity care should be Be Nice and she asks us to consider how just those two words could change maternity wards. While not miscarriage-specific, of course The Neighborhood Doula’s status on Facebook tonight jumped out at me:

“We need to treat women tenderly in labor. This may be the first time she has ever been treated that way. She will pass that on to her baby. If mom has a traumatic birth, filled with interventions she may be afraid of her baby. Fear of baby = disempowerment. A new mother should never feel that way. We need to treat dad with tenderness during labor too. If we treat him well, he will treat mom and baby well.”

Wise words from Ina May Gaskin at the 2012 Joyful Birth and Breastfeeding expo, Asheville, NC

Over the weekend, I was touched to see a photo from Stillbirthday on Facebook with a caption that almost made me cry because I think this perspective is SO important:

Supporting Birth Diversity means…

…Honoring that birth can occur, at any point in pregnancy.

The word “birth” is not reserved for full term, neither is it exclusively for live babies.

(Share your photo and what Supporting Birth Diversity means to you.)

And, of course I’ve already shared my thoughts on miscarriage as a birth event: 421806_605009189522733_1988490402_n

“Miscarriages are labor, miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonors the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly.” –Kathryn Miller Ridiman

via Miscarriage and Birth | Talk Birth.

I also read several articles about other women’s experiences with miscarriage as a birth event such as this moving exploration of “missing” when your expectation was of carrying:

Instead I was overwhelmed by pain that felt like the worst wrenching of labor, contractions that came so fast I could barely breathe, shaking and numbness in my limbs that finally made me crawl to the phone and call the nurse who told me to get to the ER as fast as we could. I’d never heard stories of the real, raw truth of what it means to miscarry, so I had no idea what to expect.

But just because a death comes early does not mean it is lighter to bear or let go…

on carrying and missing | mothering spirit.

And this article that touches on the birth event concept, as well as issues of guilt and blame, as well as the idea of miscarriage as a rite of passage:

That is why there is no doubt in my mind that any woman – and indeed any family – who goes through a miscarriage should see it as a rite of passage. The more that miscarriage is seen as horrific, as something which somehow could have been preventable, and is therefore blamed on the woman’s health, fitness or diet, the more we are denying ourselves as fallible animals. We are making women responsible somehow for these acts of nature. We are instilling guilt and fear, layer upon layer. The result is a woman, and by extension her family, who no longer trusts her body to do what is right. It must be faulty – it miscarried. Her body was not healthy enough, not experienced enough or somehow not adequately formed to be able to carry the pregnancy to full term.

This is not a healthy attitude to have, and can only result in more negative birth outcomes. One of the reasons I do not have a black tinge around my memories of my son’s birth is that, through it all, I trusted in my body. I did what I could, and although I couldn’t understand WHY it had happened, I came to accept that this time was just not meant to be. I am an animal, and I am fallible. This time I fell into the statistics of 1 in 7 pregnancies failing. There’s really no more to it – no guilt, no shame, no fear for future pregnancies; it’s just not appropriate.

Having gone through this whole process I now feel more of a woman. Yes, really. Not only have I experienced the horror myself, but I have had countless other women suddenly willing to share their own story with me. In a sad way I feel as if I have entered a secret club, something taboo and a bit shameful. I’m not really sure why nobody wants to discuss miscarriage, when it affects so many of us. If it were accepted as a rite of passage for any woman, as much as childbirth itself, I feel we’d all have a more positive outlook on all births, whatever the outcome.

via Guest Post: Miscarriage as a Rite of Passage | The Happy Womb.

I also finished reading a quick book that was offered free on Kindle last week (now back to a regular, reasonable price) and saved these two quotes:

In the days that followed, the bleeding continued. Every time I would see the blood, I couldn’t help but think I was losing my child slowly bit by bit. It wasn’t just ordinary bleeding; it was the end of my baby’s life. It was the end of my dream to become a mom. I was devastated. I felt so lost and alone. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t seem to understand or be able to comfort me. To him, the baby was not even real yet. And since he was actually afraid of becoming a dad, I think in some ways he was relieved that it didn’t work out. In my mind, I had lost a child. Someone important to me had died, and I was grieving. The hard part is that I was grieving alone with no one to share my sorrow. This is often a problem for women who miscarry. You feel so sad and devastated, but many times your friends and family don’t get it. They don’t realize how much love you can feel for a baby you never saw, met or held. You try to turn to those you love for comfort and support, but they have little to offer you during the time when you need someone to lean on the most. It’s not that they don’t want to help or that they don’t care. No one wants to see you sad or hurting. They just don’t understand what you are feeling and the intensity of your emotions. Even the words they say to you can come across as insensitive or hurtful. They often dismiss your grief and trivialize your pain, all the while thinking they are being encouraging and supportive.

(Amazon.com: From Pain to Parenthood: A Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption eBook: Deanna Kahler: Kindle Store)

The author also touches on the depth of the grief following miscarriage and how very, very real it is (I’ve written before that one of the things I kept saying to my parents when they came to my house following Noah’s miscarriage-birth was, “this was real. I want you to know it was real.” (I honestly think I didn’t think miscarriages were “real” before, in the sense that I categorized them as something other than birth or death.)

According to The Women’s Encyclopedia of Health and Emotional Healing, “the length of the pregnancy is not as significant as how emotionally linked a woman feels to her baby.” The book goes on to say that if you felt your child was real very early in the pregnancy, then you may experience as much grief as someone who has lost a newborn. If the love for your unborn child was already there, you will be heart-broken and devastated. Your loss can affect you in many different ways, some emotional and some physical. You may notice muscle tension, have trouble sleeping, have difficulty concentrating, suffer from frequent headaches, cry a lot or even notice unusual sensations in your body.

(Amazon.com: From Pain to Parenthood: A Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption eBook: Deanna Kahler: Kindle Store)

And, these quotes made me remember a brief post from The Amethyst Network regarding early losses and the validity of feelings:

I felt very conflicted over this. I HAD grieved before, but if I was grieving over not-an-actual-miscarriage then did it count? If my loss wasn’t actually a loss, then was my grief valid?

I was talking with a friend (who happens to also be involved with TAN) and explained to her how I was feeling confused and upset over this. She taught me something important.
“You grieved” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether the physical experience was a miscarriage or not, because the grief was real, you experienced the emotional process, and that is valid.”

And so I would say to all mothers who have had an early loss, or a loss that they felt in their gut even though there was no proof. Your feelings–no matter what they are–are valid feelings. We each have different experiences, and we each have different feelings. But what you feel is legitimate, regardless of the circumstances.

Did It Count?

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(and, really, there is no “shame” in not acknowledging how it changes us either, the shame rests in the lack of acknowledgment from so many around us)

This last photo (for some reason it refuses to let me caption it?!) is of some “hope” baubles created by members of the Rainbow Group (local loss support group) at our recent MamaFest event (more about this soon, I hope!).

August 2013 028

Vacation Phase 4: Mamoorials

Today is my grandma’s birthday and so it seems fitting that I’ve coincidentally reached the point in my vacation recap of writing about her memorial services. We called my grandma Mamoo and so I refer to her committal and Celebration of Life events as her Mamoorials and these were the real reason we went to California in the first place. When I tell people that my grandma died, I’ve noticed two common responses: “How old was she?” and “Were you close?” It is as if people are evaluating how “sorry” to be or much condolences to offer, with the older the person, the more appropriate the loss, or something like that. Anyway, she would have been 84 today. She has a beautifully long and vibrant life that was full of activity and experiences right up until the end. However, I had great-grandmas of my own until my late teen years and I fully and completely expected my kids to have the same experience. I heard from my mom that my grandma’s life insurance company still had her life expectancy at 15 more years, so forget the “how old” question and believe me when I say that her death came as an unexpected shock, even if it was in the “right” generational order and even though she was “old enough” that it doesn’t count as tragic. Since we always lived far away from each other and thus often went six months without seeing her, it is easy to forget that she’s gone and not at her home in California volunteering at the zoo and working in her sewing room. There is a definite sense of her life being “cut short,” regardless of her actual age. When we were at the beach following her Mamoorials, Zander found a whole tiny crab. He saved it and took it back to the condo saying as we walked, “I’m saving this for Mamoo! She’s going to love it!” (She did the children’s program at the zoo and she often carted strange artifacts of the natural world back to California from her visits to Missouri, including a whole donkey skull, but also things like a turtle shell and a hummingbird’s nest, and a whole well-preserved stag beetle. My dad often saved weird, dead things for her and she was always happy to receive them and add to the zoo’s demo collection.)

When I left off my vacation recapping last we had finished a fab stint at Legoland and were still in Carlsbad, California, which is about a six hour drive from Fresno, where my grandma lived. We opted, perhaps bizarrely perhaps geniusly, to fly to Fresno from San Diego, rather than making a long car trip. Tickets were only $60 each between the two and it seemed worth it to us. However, in my frenzy before leaving, I neglected to notice the difference between AM and PM on the tickets and accidentally booked a 10:00 PM flight to Fresno. After some intense lamenting that actually involved flinging myself on the bed and sobbing hysterically and then yelling about my own stupidity and what kind of IDIOT does that?!?! Someone who is too busy and MUST QUIT EVERYTHING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, I decided to then, again perhaps bizarrely and perhaps geniusly, to buy new plane tickets for the correct AM flight, thus completely wasting $300, but restoring the “rightful” order of my plans. I tried to never think about it again, though as we enjoyed pizza with our extended family that evening in Fresno and rehearsed for the Mamoorial, I wondered if they were paging us for our PM flight back in San Diego…(why not switch tickets you ask, because there was a $200 penalty per ticket for doing so? I may not be a genius, but I can do enough math to realize that paying $200 to change a $60 ticket is not a realistic option).

The San Diego flight was awesome and easy and we got to Fresno right at 11:00 (a.m. 😉 ) and my dad picked us up at the airport in my grandma’s car. I knew as we started to descend into the Fresno airport and saw those so familiar flat, flat, flat squares of irrigated desert farmland, but without my grandma waiting there to meet us for the first time in my entire life, that I had significantly underestimated how difficult this was going to be. Getting into her familiar boat of a car that smelled like her and that had her sunglasses under the seat and her water bottle in the console with her name tidily written on it with Sharpie was hideous. Pulling into her little condo was even worse, but going inside was the worsest. My aunt and mom and sister were already there and had been there since the night before and they had a sort of rhythm and plan going on with sorting through my grandma’s things. The “bandaid had already been ripped off” in their case, as my aunt put it. I, however, was a complete mess. I could NOT believe how awful it was to be there and see her home without her in it. Again, there was that sense of her life cut short—her mousepad by the computer, her zoo jacket hanging on the door, her calendar on the wall with her writing on it, her exercise video in the VCR. So familiar and so over. I cried and cried and felt sort of stupid and also “drama queenish,” because everyone else was so busy and methodical and I felt like I was all like, “but look at me, I’m totally sad!” My aunt sat with me and then suggested I go ahead and keep ripping the bandaid by advance-watching the memorial slideshow for the Celebration of Life luncheon the next day. This was a spectacularly good idea and really helped. Her house was so full of things familiar to me from my childhood and it was also remarkably and beautifully full of us, pictures of my kids all over, things I made for her on walls and shelves. It was a mirror experience of what I already observed at my own home on the day that she died:

…it is amazing to think about all the ways her presence is woven through my days even though she lives 2000 miles away–the sweater I put on every morning is one she knit for me, her quilts are on my kids’ bedroom walls and on all our beds, magazine subscriptions she gifts us with are in the car and bathroom…we’re connected in many ways and I don’t know what life will look like without her in it.

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Dinner with cousins/siblings.

via Goodbye | Talk Birth.

After losing it with all the pictures and memories, I then sort of helped my mom, sister, aunt, and sister-in-law go through my grandma’s things. Later we checked into our hotel and Mark took the kids down to the pool while I rehearsed for my Mamoorial speeches/service. I cried and cried as I practiced my speech until my eyes were horribly puffy and I looked awful. “At least I’m getting this out before tomorrow!” I thought optimistically. I texted my mom that my plan for the next day was “teary-eyed and with a tasteful catch in my voice” rather than the wreck I was today. We had a family dinner that night at a cousin’s house and while there, I enlisted my cousins in a plan for a grandchild responsive reading of a version of “Song of the Open Road” at the first Mamoorial. We actually had a really fun time laughing and rehearsing our poem.

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At least the kids hitched a ride on a luggage cart.

We stayed a horrible hotel with the worst breakfast in the history of hotel breakfasts. We so missed our beloved Drury Inns on this trip!

We headed over to the Chapel of the Light where Mamoo’s ashes were to be placed in the above-ground chamber in which my grandpa is interred. I was asked to officiate at a brief committal service before we placed the ashes and this ceremony was attended by only close relatives. After my grandpa died in 1989, my grandma remarried so my step-grandfather and most of his children and their children were there. Mamoo always kept our families kind of separate, even though she was married for more than 20 years to this “new” husband. It was easy for me to forget that she had another life with a whole set of other local grandchildren that I didn’t have a lot of contact with, but for whom she was the only grandmother, the only Mamoo, they’d ever known too. I quickly enlisted the aid of these grandchildren as well for my Song of the Open Road plan. The service I planned went well, but the grandchildren piece was the highlight, in my opinion. I’m not sure if other people specifically liked it, but it was so important to me that each grandchild’s voice be represented during the ceremony. While I don’t know that she liked Walt Whitman at all, my grandma was a traveler and so this poem felt absolutely perfect to me. My grandpa loved his boat and they used to go on boat trips together as well and so the section about taking to the seas, to me, felt like this perfect tie-in to our return of the remains of her body to his:

Song of the Open Road (responsive)

(modified from Walt Whitman)

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Riding an elephant in Africa

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before me.

Henceforth, I ask not good fortune—
I myself am good-forturne
Strong and content
I travel the open road.

I inhale great draughts of space;
the east and the west are mine,
and the north and the south are mine.

All seems beautiful to me;
I can repeat over to men and women,
You have done such good to me,
I would do the same to you.

Lyla

Ready to hit the road!

Whoever you are, come travel with me!
However sweet these laid-up stores—
however convenient this dwelling,
we cannot remain here;

However sheltered this port,
And however calm these waters,
We must not anchor here;

Together! The inducements shall be greater;
We will sail pathless and wild seas;

We will go where winds blow,
Waves dash, and the Yankee clipper
Speeds by under full sail.

Forward! After the great companions!
And to belong to them!
They too are on the road!

Onward! To that which is endless,
As it was beginningless,
To undergo much, journeys of days,
Rests of nights,

To look up or down no road

As I made Mamoo's name, I thought about how I hadn't had any "signs" from her. Then, in the middle of that thought, I looked down and right by the "M" in her name was this rock. I held it all through the memorial service I did at the internment of her ashes and all through my speech at her Celebration of Life luncheon.

I held this stone all through the memorial service I did at the internment of her ashes and all through my speech at her Celebration of Life luncheon.

But it stretches and waits for you—

To know the universe itself as a road—
As many roads—
As roads for traveling souls…

It was a lot of pressure to be responsible for this ceremony. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be what she deserved. I wanted it to “speak” to every person there. I wanted it to be worthy of her. I hope it was enough.

Before she died, Mamoo got some details l all planned out with my aunt. She wanted a specific banquet center for a celebration of life lunch with chicken salad, no traditional funeral. She wanted the theme music from Out of Africa played and she wanted chocolate chip ice cream bon bons (which was the only thing that couldn’t be worked out–we had chocolate chip cookies instead and the rest was just like she asked for). After the committal service, we went to Tornino’s banquet center for the Celebration of Life. People came and came and came. We exceeded the capacity of the banquet room and emergency additional food had to be prepared. She didn’t want a “funeral service” type of feeling and it wasn’t. The slideshow played, the theme music from Out of Africa played, we ate chicken salad and visited with distant relatives and friends. My aunt spoke briefly and explained the planning of the event. She did a beautiful job honoring my grandma’s wishes and planning an special, lovely lunch in her honor. My grandma’s stepson read a poem written by my step-grandpa about “My Lyla, My Lyla.” It was heart-rending and I suddenly realized I might have made a huge mistake in saying I’d be the last speaker. My grandma’s stepdaughter spoke. My uncle spoke. And, then it was my turn. I was speaking on behalf of all the grandkids, each had sent me a favorite Mamoo memory to share. Remember my plan for the tasteful, teary-eyes? Yeah, that. Instead, I failed to even see the handy Kleenex on the podium and instead wiped my nose with my hand while I was talking. There were 260 people there, which is a much larger group than I’ve spoken before in the past. I didn’t feel nervous really, but I did feel sad and I cried much more than I’d wanted to or expected to. People afterward told me they’d never experienced anything like what I’d said at a memorial before and they hoped someone would do the same for them someday. I apparently talked really fast, but that is not a big surprise. It was hard, but I did it.

For the story from my boys for the speech, they had this to say: Mamoo was really epic.

And, she was.

For my own memory contribution I shared that I picture her in a little jacket and jaunty scarf and zoo necklace and her ball ring, with slightly bent knees and open arms ready for a hug of greeting and she’d smile in that welcoming way. We got too big to be greeted in that way, but I saw her do it again with my own kids. And, I shared what I wrote in my last card to her:

I’ve always been proud of you—your smart, creative, adeventuresome self. Best. Grandma. Ever. You’ve been a beautiful example to us of how to live, both in the practical sense in terms of being frugal and in the more esoteric sense of how to be of service to the community, to take risks, to be productive, and to age gracefully and with a neverending zest for new experiences. We’re grateful to you also for her generosity over the years, particularly for the gift of my college education and the debt-free legacy that left for us and our children. I don’t know that I can ever explain in full what a potent gift that was—one that lasts our lifetime.


I closed with a slightly edited version of a poem I originally shared here:

Last Words

We learned from you
we loved with you
we heard you
we saw you
we hugged you
and held you
we mourned with you July 2013 035
we mourned for you
we have been dazzled by your radiance
inspired by your adventures
and touched by your generosity.

Three generations of people
sat in your lap as children
were covered by your quilts
and zipped into your sweaters
you carried each of us on your hip
and held us each in your heart

We respect you
we cherish you
we appreciate you
we’ve learned so much from you
we’ve laughed with you
and lived with you
and traveled with you

and now
we open up our hands
we open up our hearts July 2013 036
and we let you go.
Be free.
Continue your travels
on the currents of time and space…

Go in peace
go in love
and go knowing that you have left behind
something beautiful
something marvelous
something that matters
The fabric of a life well-lived
the hearth of a family well-tended
the heart of a community strengthened
and a never-ending chain of generations
unbroken.

You’re our Mamoo

June 3, 1979

You’re our grandmother
and we say goodbye
and thank you.

Sink deeply
and gently
into the arms and lap
of time
the great mother of us all

She holds you now.
We let go

Then, we left the Mamoorial and headed out for the beach, a little over three-hour drive. We drove her car…

June 2013 002

When we got home from California, the Mamoorial blue hydrangea we’d planted was blooming beautifully!

One of my earliest memories of Mamoo is of sitting on her lap and playing with a gold ball ring on her finger. I don’t know the story behind that ring, I feel as if I should, but from the time I was a tiny girl she always wore it when she visited her grandchildren and we all liked to play with it. I imagine it was a coincidence that she wore it around a grandchild in the first place, but then it became a thing that she did and that all of us associated with her. When my aunt and mom were going through her jewelry they asked if there was something I wanted and I asked for the ring. Later, my two sisters both mentioned it as well and I feel guilty or selfish for being the one to get it. At this point, I can’t wear it. It makes me feel awful to see it on my own hand. Its hers. It belongs on her hand. The whole reason I wanted it was because it was something that reminds me very concretely of her, but that is the exact same reason that I can’t wear it right now. I hope my own grandchildren will play with it though when I wear it to meet them. It fits on the same finger on my hand that it fit on hers.

June 2013 007

They also gave me her Hitty doll. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is a classic children’s novel by Rachel Field. It was published in 1929 and wasJune 2013 005 one of my grandma’s favorite books. Hitty is a small ashwood doll who travels the world. In 1997, my grandma bought her own Hitty replica and did, in fact, take Hitty with her on some travels as her travel doll. My dad made replicas of Hitty’s key furniture pieces for my grandma and they were all set up as a display in her house, along with a tiny wooden peg person Hitty I’d made for my grandma, but completely forgotten about. I sat the ball ring on a Hitty’s lap for a while and then ended up putting it into a little shadow box with her on the replica of Hitty’s bench that my dad made for my grandma and a set of my grandma’s Dionne Quintuplet dolls. Those who know me in real life may puzzle somewhat over my extensive and non-frugal American Girl doll collection, but I come by this doll thing genetically, I swear. It is in my blood! I remember the Dionne Quintuplet dolls from when I was a little girl. They were my grandma’s when she was a girl herself and she was fascinated by the story of the Quints.

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Last month, I took the ring to the woods and wrote a sort of “poem” about it, excerpted below. After doing so, I became obsessed with finding a picture of her wearing the ring, because suddenly I worried that I’d imagined or exaggerated that she always wore it to see us. Indeed, I don’t know if she ever wore at other times, but around the grandchildren, it was a fixture. And, I did readily locate pictures from her eightieth birthday party in which you can see the ring on her hand where it belongs and pictures from when I was younger and pictures from when she came to meet Alaina.

…Ball ring
has been a lot of places
told a lot of stories
seen a lot of things
and it is still here
a reminder
of what has gone before.

Thank you.

(6/6/13)

Bill's Beach Pix 03620130715-140057.jpgSANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI had to include this picture even though I, personally, look like a mutant, because Mamoo is so cute in it!

0070She passed along her smile to my whole family! 🙂

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Baby

This is the kind of picture that really twists my heart, because she looks like Alaina in it and the world spins so fast…

Happy birthday, Mamoo! My mom sent me a text to tell me that your birthday club friends went out to lunch for your birthday. They’ve been going out to lunch on birthdays for 50 years.

And, today the investment statements came from the college funds you set up for my kids. Thank you.

Addressing Unexpected Outcomes in Birth Classes

“Birth brings powerful and painful sensations to the most intimate spaces of the female body…I stood transfixed by the life-giving strength found in her feminine power.” –Amy Wright Glenn writing about attending her sister’s birth (Birth, Breath, & Death)

What About Unexpected Outcomes?

If one factor contributing significantly to a woman’s satisfaction with her birth experience is having better than expected outcomes, how then can birth educators prepare women for unexpected outcomes? As Pam England notes, “Many women are conditioned to believe that if they have lots of information, then they will ‘pass the test’ or be able to control their birth outcome” (England, 2007). molly37weeks 018

Is it possible to truly prepare couples for unexpected outcomes? Though others may disagree with me, I have to wonder if the answer is “no.” (I confess to also wondering the same thing about truly preparing for giving birth!) I used to spend a whole class session on complications/unexpected outcomes, but suddenly awoke to the realization that most people’s whole lives have been a “class” in “birth complications.” Do they really need to hear it from me too or am I undermining the very confidence I seek to build? Undoing the new messages and competencies I’ve tried to instill?

Instead of a whole class on complications, I switched to spending a short section of class asking couples what they were worried about or if they had fears about specific complications. (Since I usually taught classes one-to-one, there was a certain sense of security with sharing vulnerable emotions that may not be present with larger class settings.) Bringing fears out into the open to “look at” helps shift the perspective from “frozen” fears to coping strategies. After they share their concerns, I usually mention maternal or fetal death because I believe it is important to acknowledge this most scary of fears. I also encourage them to include options for unexpected events during labor or with mother or baby on their birth plans (based on the birth planning worksheet in the book Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin). I share that most births—if not all—involve some element of surprise, the unexpected, loss, or grief. It could be as “small” as disappointment with the baby’s appearance or a sense of loss/grief of the specialness of being pregnant or as a big of a surprise as a baby in the NICU or even death of the newborn. It is normal and okay to experience feelings of grief and loss whether the unexpected event is “big” or “small.” It is helpful to have an understanding of the possibility of the unexpected and the emotions that follow.

I believe this acknowledgment and recognition as well as asking for their personal fears is more helpful as reviewing each and every complication of birth (which is how many CBE programs train their educators!), especially given the widely stated observation that couples dismiss and forget information shared during class that feels—consciously or unconsciously—irrelevant to them (this often includes complications or even postpartum and newborn care). I believe that a generally stated recognition of loss in all its forms is more likely to “stick” because it brings it into the couple’s personal sphere instead of being a more academic exploration.

For possible questions for exploring worries see: Worry is the Work of Pregnancy | Talk Birth.

This post is modified from a sidebar originally published in the International Journal of Childbirth Education accompanying my article about Satisfaction with Birth. I re-post it now in anticipation of a planned post about rituals for coping with unexpected outcomes…

Goodbye

My grandma, Lyla, was a beautifully active, vibrant woman and her quick devolution due to advanced and very aggressive pancreatic cancer was a 537883_10200265639095993_78320575_ntremendous shock to our family. I’ve always admired and respected her and been proud of her for all of her accomplishments and activities. She was not a particularly emotionally demonstrative woman, but it is amazing to think about all the ways her presence is woven through my days even though she lives 2000 miles away–the sweater I put on every morning is one she knit for me, her quilts are on my kids’ bedroom walls and on all our beds, magazine subscriptions she gifts us with are in the car and bathroom…we’re connected in many ways and I don’t know what life will look like without her in it. She died early this morning and I can’t quite believe it. I remember when my great-grandmother died (at 88) my grandma told my mom: “now, I’m an orphan.” It is a moment that always stuck with me because I realized that no matter how old you get, you still feel like someone’s daughter. When I started packing for our craft camp this afternoon, I packed quilts to take for our beds that she made for us, I looked at Christmas pillowcases she made for my kids, and I was so impressed with how she managed to be such a part of our lives from such a distance.

I’ve cried so much in the last week. I honestly didn’t know I would feel this loss so keenly–it is in the “right” order, she lived a full and beautiful life, and etc., etc. One of the things that will totally set me off is to look at my own little girl and think, “but Mamoo used to be someone’s little girl!” And, then I think, but isn’t this what I WANT for my own little children? To grow up and have grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Yes, duh. And, I got to be almost 34 still having her as a part of my life. The other thing that gets me going is the thought that my kids are the only kids in this side of the family who get to have a Mamoo, who get to have this amazing great-grandmother. When my brother and sister have kids, they won’t have a Mamoo. And, then I have to laugh a little at myself that one of the things that has made me cry the hardest during this whole experience is based on these imaginary future people who may never even exist. I told my dad about it this morning, laughing while crying and crying at the same time, and he said, “it is because you feel the break in the chain.” I do.

I’ve written more about this on my other blog, but on Sunday, we thought we’d reached my grandma’s final day on earth. I spent the day thinking about her, crying, talking to my husband, and fanatically checking my phone for texts from my mom (side note to those people who write critical blog posts about “distracted” people “glued” to their phones, you may do well to remember that some of those distracted-looking people might be looking for texts about dying grandmothers from their own distraught mothers and that this phone-based link in fact represents connection and not disconnection or distraction). I went to the woods and I sat on the rocks and sang Woman Am I. My mom told me she’d been singing it to my grandma as she listened to the erratic sounds of her breaths, thinking each was the last. My letter did make it in time to be read to my grandma while she was still conscious enough to indicate she heard it. And, on Friday I did a FaceTime call with my mom and she took it to my grandma’s bed so that I could talk to her. She didn’t open her eyes, but she murmured a greeting and she smiled when she heard little Alaina say, “hi, Mamoo!” So, we were able to say some final words and goodbye “in person,” which was really, really difficult, but also a gift. There is something I feel really poignantly in the mother to daughter to mother to daughter to mother to daughter connection in this life and loss experience. I know that little boys are part of the generations as well, but not in as direct a line as this particular chain of girls—I’m the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter (and my own daughter is an “only daughter,” so while she’s my youngest child she continues a line as the first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter of a first daughter). So, I made a new sculpture trying to capture that feeling of the three generations of little girls who’ve sat on her lap:

April 2013 007

I also made one using a rock I found in the woods that day and another about grief:

April 2013 013April 2013 016I poked around on my computer and plucked out a semi-odd assortment of random pictures that capture my grandma’s spirit and relationships:

Ipad Pix 090

Four generations pic from my brother’s wedding in October.

478397_10200265613655357_366752492_oAnd on my other blog, I wrote a poem:

Go in peace
go in love
and go knowing that you have left behind
something beautiful
something marvelous
something that matters
The fabric of a life well-lived
the hearth of a family well-tended
the heart of a community strengthened
and a never-ending chain of women
unbroken.

You’re our Mamoo
You’re our grandmother
and we say goodbye
and thank you.

Sink deeply
and gently
into the arms and lap
of time
the great mother of us all

She holds you now.
We let go.

I have more things to say, more thoughts about connection, and more thoughts about having watched–from a distance–my mom so tenderly and compassionately holding the space for her mother. She worked so hard and went through a lot to be there for her mom and it was really heroic and loving. I also wish this post wasn’t so “me”-based and was more about my grandma herself, but it is what it is. I can write more later—I really, really want to get something posted before it hits midnight, so it is really published on the same day we lost her.