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Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage and Story-Sharing

April 2014 077

As birth professionals, we are often cautioned against sharing our personal stories. We must remember that it is her birth and her story, not ours. In doula and childbirth educator trainings, trainees are taught to keep their own stories to themselves and to present evidence-based information so that women can make their own informed choices. As a breastfeeding counselor too, I must remind myself to keep my own personal experiences out of the helping relationship. My formal education is in clinical social work and in that field as well we are indoctrinated to guard against inappropriate self-disclosure in a client-helper setting. In each environment, we are taught how to be good listeners without clouding the exchange with our own “baggage.” The messages are powerful—keep your own stories out of it. Recently, I have been wondering how this caution might impact our real-life connections with women?

via The Value of Sharing Story | Talk Birth.

This week I’ve been reminded several times about the power of sharing stories in a variety of contexts. I’ve also been thinking about miscarriage and miscarriage stories and how they need to be told.

I read a touching and heart-wrenching unexpected birth story of a baby at 19 weeks while the author was traveling in Mongolia:

But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen. Sometimes, when I think about it, I still feel a dark hurt from some primal part of myself, and if I’m alone in my apartment when this happens I will hear myself making sounds that I never made before I went to Mongolia. I realize that I have turned back into a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone.

via Ariel Levy: “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” : The New Yorker.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my friends entered the miscarriage “club” that I so wish would gain no further members and wrote her Miscarriage Memories Footprints on Heart Charm, Pendant, Babylossvulnerable, visceral, story with raw intensity about the blood and grief of miscarriage:

Blood. As women we have a complex relationship with blood. The sight of our red-stained underwear can elate us, relieve us, annoy us, embarrass us, disappoint us, or devastate us depending on our life stage and intentions. The arrival of our period can bring the sweetest relief when we dread becoming pregnant. Conversely, it can lower the cruelest blow when our efforts to conceive have not been successful and we deeply long for a child. And somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, is the unfortunate experience of finding yourself ill-prepared for Aunt Flow in a public location…thank goodness for kind friends (or total strangers) who provide emergency tampons in such situations.

I have been thinking about blood a lot because I just had a terrifying, violent, and heartbreaking experience with my own blood. That sounds so hokey to say, that I “had an experience with my blood.” But I did. It was me and my blood. Doing battle. So much blood. There was no one else.

My baby died.

Three words. It only took me three words to tell you, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, what happened to me. I wonder how many more words it will take to tell myself — the MAMA, the bearer of lost life — what happened.

via Losing Susannah | Peace, Love, & Spit Up.

Miscarriage stories often bring up the question of “when to tell” about pregnancies, with mothers lamenting that they told “too soon,” OR wishing that they had told, so they wouldn’t have to bear the loss with such aloneness. I retain enough scars from pregnancy loss, despite my successful pregnancy-after-loss experience too, that my initial reaction to anyone’s new pregnancy announcement is always fear, not joy. I worry every time I see a Facebook announcement that I will then see a sad follow-up a couple of weeks later—my main thought being, “what if she has to look back on this and be so sad?” However, that does not mean I think she shouldn’t tell, I just hold such hope in my heart for her that she doesn’t end up entering the club too.

I love this article about why it is okay to tell:

I’m angry that we live in a world where talking about miscarriage and first trimester pregnancy is still taboo. Where a woman must go to great lengths to hide her fatigue, nausea, sudden diet changes and pain, both emotional and physical, just to be polite.

Staying quiet for 12 weeks while you grow a human being inside of you is nothing short of completely insane.

Thanks in large part to social media, people have no problem opening up about personal details to those they might not have shared with in the past. The curtain of privacy has been pulled back, yet this one life-changing event remains shrouded until you reach a certain threshold.

I respect any woman’s decision to keep her pregnancy or miscarriage a secret, but I don’t think we should feel ashamed if we decide to share the news with whomever we choose, whenever we choose.

Take a look around you. Chances are, if you’re sitting in a room with five women of childbearing age, one of them has had (or will have) a miscarriage. And if you’re one of them, don’t be afraid to open up. You just might find comfort in the arms of a nurse, in the knowing nod of a trusted friend, or in kind words of an Internet stranger — the war stories of unlikely heroes.

via Why We Shouldn’t Have to Keep Pregnancy A Secret For the First Trimester | xoJane.

I was also deeply touched by this heartbreaking and very honest exploration of a mother’s experience in spending time with the body of her baby Thor who was stillborn:

This was when I understood: Thor was our baby. He did not belong to the hospital. He did not belong to the funeral home. He was ours.

So began my life with Thor. Thor pulled me to him like a magnet. I craved him. I never thought he was real, if by real you mean alive or in some way sentient after death. I just wanted to be with him. Not with him in spirit. With him in body.

I’d carried his body inside me for nine months; I’d felt it kicking for the last five or six of them. That body had forced its way out of me early in the morning of Nov. 12, 2008, and along the way it had turned from a living body to a dead body, but it was still Thor. Why should the body that was Thor transmogrify from a beloved member of the family, from a familiar part of my own body, into a repellent object just because it had died? This was my child.

via My stillborn child’s life after death – Salon.com.

And, this very honest, detailed, thorough miscarriage story:

I have a folder on my computer called “1st Pregnancy” and it is full of things that still make me sad. Pictures of my growing belly, a video of us telling our family the news that we were pregnant, this story, and the pictures we took from the miscarriage that happened one year ago today. I am a student of traditional midwifery, so my take on the experience, and the details I share may be different than most miscarriage stories. It is really long, really honest, and really raw, but I wanted to share it in its entirety, both to honor my experience, to share it with others that are going through similar stories themselves, and for those that support women (friends or clients) that are experiencing a pregnancy loss. This story was written in the days after the miscarriage, and I am thankful that I took the time and energy to put it all down. I hope that this story can serve as a resource for women going through pregnancy and baby losses, and that we at Indie Birth can provide support for these experiences as well.

via A Miscarriage Story.

These stories reminded me of my own past post:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

via Birthrites: Miscarriage | Talk Birth.

And, of a healing experience with story and sand tray therapy at the ICAN conference in St. Louis:IMG_8501

While it might be hard to see everything, I chose the bridge to symbolize my feeling of having crossed the bridge to the “other side”—meaning first the fact that after Noah and my second miscarriage, I felt separated from women who had not experienced loss by a bridge and as if I’d crossed over into new territory and left my old, happy, naive pregnant self behind (along with the other non-loss mamas. A little more about this bridge here). AND, that I also felt like with Alaina’s birth that I crossed a bridge into the unknown and to the end of the pregnancy-after-loss journey. Her birth represented the “other side” of PAL. So, at the end of the bridge I drew a question mark in the sand, representing all the questions I had to get past and over in order to get to my new baby.

via Sand Tray Therapy | Talk Birth.

We also need to remember how many women have stories they are holding close to their hearts and that our casual inquiries or thoughtless remarks about family size may leave further scars. This essay is about miscarriage at ten weeks and is a reminder why biting your tongue before casually remarking on someone else’s family size or fertility is a good idea:

During a recent girls’ night at a friend’s house, I sat cross-legged on the living room floor sipping coffee and catching up with four other women. One friend had just finished sharing the antics of her toddler who gave himself a haircut during quiet time when another friend announced the pending arrival of her third child—”a complete accident” as she described it. Then she turned her attention to me and assured me in front of the other women in the room, “It’s okay if you hate me. I understand.” I was stunned and mortified. I knew this was not her intent, but her statement minimized my loss in such a way that I felt small and petty for struggling with infertility.

via Bite Your Tongue | Brain, Child Magazine.

So, is there anything to say, or to do for those who are grieving? For people I know, I mail little gifts—usually jewelry—so that they know that their loss is real to me too and that they are not alone. I recently found this little handout on “how to help” (not miscarriage-specific, but for anyone going through a hard time):

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

via How to help – Reese Dixon.

I was also touched by this article by a bereaved mother about what she wishes people would say after the death of her daughter:

…Nothing at all when I start crying. I do it every day. It’s my normal and if you give me a minute or two, I’ll probably be able to put on my social mask again.

Some kind words to accompany those pictures of a new family member that you’re sharing with me. To bereaved parents, seeing a newborn can be a cruel shove back to the time when our world was safe, when our late child was an infant, like the one in the pictures you’re showing me, destined for a future full of love and full of light. An infant that blossomed into a gorgeous girl. A girl that left this world about 70 years too early…

via A Bereaved Mom’s Plea to the Nonbereaved: ‘I Wish You’d Say …’ – Mothering Community.

My own family is coming up on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I’m teaching three classes again this session and it is a lot to manage at once. I felt pretty stressed in advance about my Fort Leonard Wood class, Working with Families, because last time I was teaching it one year ago was during my grandma’s sudden and brutal illness and it was unbelievably hard to be teaching about families while my own family was experiencing so much stress and sadness (and then also planning a trip to CA and helping with a memorial service, etc. while trying to grade papers and finish class.) Three weeks ago, on the first night of class, I found myself acknowledging the upcoming anniversary to my class and sharing a story about my mom texting me while singing to my grandma at her bedside, which prompted a brief tears-in-front of class episode which caught both my students and me by surprise. I feel like there is “work” to do here in my own family during this anniversary month and yet the hustle and bustle of kids and responsibilities is making it hard to settle down and sit with it. 😦

Thesis Tidbits: Birth as an Initiation

“We owe it both to our children and to the world, to conceive, birth and welcome our children with as much love and prayerfulness as possible.” –Jackie Singer (Birthrites)

“Childbirth is a rite of passage so intense physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, that most other events in a woman’s life pale next to it. In our modern lives, there are few remaining rituals of initiation, few events that challenge a person’s mettle down to the very core. Childbirth remains a primary initiatory rite for a woman.” –from the book MotherMysteries

via Thesis Tidbits: Birth as a Shamanic Experience | Talk Birth.

I recently finished reading a short book called Return to the Great Mother, which is very specifically focused on giving birth as an initiatory event. It includes a variety of birthing women’s voices and experiences with accessing the energy and wisdom of the “great mother,” be it archetype, an inner resource, or one face of the Sacred. The author, Isa Gucciardi, writes:

Giving birth is one of a series of important initiations a woman may experience in her lifetime. Initiations are intimately tied https://www.sacredstream.org/components/com_virtuemart/shop_image/product/b0e92ae33095ca07867acb0a841a9f05.jpgwith change. They bring the initiate from one state of being into a new state of being. Initiations accomplish this task by putting the initiate through a series of experiences that challenge them in a particular way and bring them into new ways of being and of understanding. The initiate must meet these challenges and overcome any obstacles in order for the initiation to succeed in bringing about these changes.

Today, many people going through initiations and many people managing initiations do not have a clear understanding of the nature of the power and vulnerability that is at the heart of initiation. Initiates must render themselves vulnerable to initiatory processes in order for initiations to become complete, and the power in that vulnerability must be managed carefully and thoughtfully. Most importantly, for an initiation to be successful, that power and vulnerability must be safeguarded and dedicated to the initiate.

The process of meeting an obstacle and overcoming it in order to ultimately gain greater insight and power is described by Joseph Campbell as the “hero’s journey.” The “hero’s journey” is an initiatory experience. Every woman takes this journey when she gives birth and it can be the primary initiation a woman undergoes in the course of her life.

Often a woman encounters herself in an entirely new way during the process of giving birth. She may encounter the effect of traumas long buried, or she may encounter fear long denied. She may also discover power deep within herself that she had never imagined.

When the processes of birth are allowed to take their course, a woman with the proper care has the opportunity to come to terms with whatever may arise. In doing so, she may experience a shift into a new way of being or understanding. Yet, when the birth process is interrupted, or not properly held, the power of the initiation is often lost or distorted… (p. 10)

We know that women do not always have full and free choice when it comes to decisions about their birthing bodies and childbearing years…so, how does this impact the initiatory process? Isa writes:

In modern births, the power of the initiation of birth is often co-opted by doctors, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and hospitals. It is also co-opted by the fear of pain and the influence of friends and family. It is difficult for women to hold onto the power of the initiation of birth under these circumstances. The unfortunate implication here is that the subsequent initiations of women interrupted in this way will be affected by their inability to hold onto the power of their birthing process.

Based on the level of interruption of the birth initiation caused by unnecessary interventions in the birthing process today, it seems reasonable to suggest that many women experience incomplete initiations when giving birth…

(Personally, I would clarify that it is not that women are unable to hold onto the power of the birthing process, but rather that it is often systematically stripped from them.)

Each of my children’s birth experience was an initiatory event for me, but in varying ways. With my first, it was the initiation to motherhood, the mystery and anticipation of giving birth. The crucible moment for me with him was actually my journey through the harrowing landscape of postpartum. With my second son, giving birth rapidly and with great intensity and power, the initiation felt like it was in letting go and hanging on for the ride—letting my mind stop and my body go. With my third birth, which was my first miscarriage, the initiation was in the physically grueling and bloody aftermath of his birth and then the broad, deep, unknown, transformative path of grief and change. I still feel as if this was one of the most powerfully initiatory experiences of my life. (And, I did have an encounter with one face of the great mother.) After Alaina’s birthday this week, I was talking to my husband about my memories of this last birth and telling him that I do not review the details of her birth with the same sense of power or initiation as the births of my other children. It doesn’t hold that same “touchstone” energy for me as the births of my boys—experiences that I continued to draw strength from as I went on into other events in my life. I don’t return to her birth for strength or courage the way I remember returning to the births of each of my sons. And, then I said it was because with her, the pregnancy was the initiation. The long, long, path of pregnancy after loss and all the fear and all the hope and all the strain of feeling the feelings and doing it anyway. Her birth itself was the moment of relief. The end of a trial, rather than the triumph or peak experience of the births of my first two babies. So, while of course I still carry powerful and potent memories of her birth as well, it was the journey of pregnancy that holds the talismans of initiation for me.

In her classic book Shakti Woman, Vicki Noble describes giving birth as a central shamanic experience and perhaps the root of all shamanism:

“I believe I underwent an initiation of the most ancient variety, birth as a shamanic experience, the central act of female shamanism—the quintessential act that offers a woman a completed experience of facing and moving through her fears to the other side. It isn’t that birth is the only way for a woman to experience this initiation—many women climb mountains or face other kinds of physical endurance tests and also come through it reborn into their power. But biologically birth is a doorway, a given for most women on the planet. It is fundamental opportunity to become empowered. Most of us giving birth today do not have the full experience, which is co-opted and distorted beyond recognition, changed from an active process into something that is done to us, as if we don’t know how to do it ourselves. Reclaiming the right to birth in our own instinctual way is a shamanic act of courage that has unfortunately become as remote to us as our ability to fly through the night in the form of an owl or heal the sick with the power of the drum. It wouldn’t hurt if we began to think of our birthing and child rearing as central parts of our shamanic work…” (p. 223).

via Thesis Tidbits: Birth as a Shamanic Experience | Talk Birth.

I just finished a new sculpt for a medium sized version of our classic birth goddess pendant and Mark cast and finished some of them last night. I woke up this morning with a phrase from a past piece of poetry floating through my mind over and over:

Soft belly January 2014 088
no longer bearing children
I am pregnant with myself
ripe with potential,
possibility, power
I incubate my dreams
and give birth to my vision…

I also thought about what I hope to communicate to others through my sculptures and when I took the new pendant down to the woods with me, a little song emerged to go with her:

Birth mama
birth goddess

reaching out
to join the circle of mothers

feeling her way
finding her place
in the web of women

Birth mama January 2014 050
birth goddess

hold strong
hold steady

make way for baby
make way for baby

Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

Birth mama
birth goddess

she’s finding her way
she’s finding her way…

Disclosure: I received a complimentary digital copy of the book for review purposes.

Birthrites: Miscarriage

August 2013 048

Miscarriage is a death in the heart of life, a death that happens inside the body of a woman. Sometimes a child just brushes the earth lightly, and is gone before the embryo is anything more than a few cells. Even so, there may already have been a strong connection, love, the beginning of hopes and dreams for the child. Later in a pregnancy, when the being has made itself known through kicks and a visible bump, a whole community may have already begun to make a place for it. Whenever a miscarriage happens, it is a loss that cuts deeply, and needs to be grieved…

–Jackie Singer

This quote from Birthrites touched me and made me think of the many women I’ve known who have walked the long, long path of grief. Singer then goes on to share some words from a mother of miscarriage:

“…When you miscarry, the body has already broken its ties with the baby, but I’d already put this child into my family in my imagination. That was what was hard to break…”

It my own experience, my body letting go of the baby was profoundly meaningful. My body’s later reluctance to let go of the placenta—to finally finish breaking the physical tie to the baby—was pretty traumatic. Acknowledging my own miscarriages through ritual, writing, ceremony, and memorial jewelry was very important to me and while these experiences are now past and do not hold the same fresh, raw, intensity as they once did, they are still inextricably a part of me and have shaped my identity and outlook today. I am always on the lookout for miscarriage resources for others and always, always take note when the experience of miscarriage is honored and included in a book.

As previously shared from Wild Feminine

The red of my blood confirmed what my body already knew; miscarriage is birth and death simultaneously. Miscarriage is ecstatic connection and unquenchable loss. The uterus dilates and contracts, as in the process of birth. In its wake follows something ancient, something from the hearts and lives of the grandmothers and women who have walked before, pouring forth from the uterus…

via Wild Feminine: Miscarriage Wisdom | Talk Birth.

Some other past posts about honoring the experience of miscarriage:

Sept 2013 021

Footprints symbol that held such healing for me and that I make sure to keep available affordably in my etsy shop.

Honoring Miscarriage

Tuesday Tidbits: Miscarriage Care

Miscarriage and Birth

Blog Circle: Tender Mercies, Unexpected Gifts

The Amethyst Network February Blog Circle ~ Sharing Our Stories: A Confusing Early Miscarriage Story

This post is part of a short series of posts from the book Birthrites by Jackie Singer. The first was about ritual and the second about birth as a rite of passage and the third about cesareans.

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!

December 2013 002

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.

August 2013 001

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)

Sept 2013 010

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…