A year ago I lived in a gleaming shell. It was warm and cozy and protective there. I functioned in the realm which women planned, chanted, hypno’d, visualized, read up on, and lived and breathed their through peaceful, empowering, non-interventive birth experiences with good outcomes.
Occasionally, Birth would rear her mysterious and mythological head and the birth that had been planned would unfold much differently: perhaps in a hospital instead of at home. Perhaps with an epidural asked for during the spirit-compressing moments of transition. Or perhaps with a baby removed from a cut in the belly instead of slipping through the yielding folds of a yoni. In those such instances, I understood the mamas who mourned a different rite of passage, one they had not anticipated or maybe had not been emotionally prepared for. Grateful to hold my healthy baby, I was one of those mamas.
I walked my healing journey knowing all along that the light at the end of the tunnel was actually the baby in front of my face. Indigo functioned as a safety net for my grief, a tangible being I could kiss and embrace even in the shivering depths of any mourning. I didn’t need to walk far on this healing path, nor alone, for I had her at my side. But the shell kept me safe, expanding even to make room for this new life in my arms.
But the world I lived in was rocked on May 5, 2007 when a radiant friend of mine experienced the too-early birth of her twins.
On June 15th, just six weeks later, it was shaken again to its core when her Liam’s heart stopped beating and he joined the light that filters through the trees. Ripe with my own child, my Indigo was to greet me – covered in blood and my grateful breathe and joyous tears – only 8 days later. Some of the tears I wept would fall just for Liam and for his baby-lost mama.
But then on July 29th, as I lay in bed nursing Indigo, I could barely hold the shell of my home up as I learned of another mama-friend who welcomed her sleeping baby into the world with a river of grief. Ferdinand had already begun his star travels, as his mama wailed for her only son, the one she’d never nurse.
I still live in a remnant of that shell, only it’s been cracked and broken and battered with the raw words and mourning of these mamas. I cling to the pieces still intact. Sometimes, Liam’s light pours through those holes, snaking its way into my heart like heat from the sun. Other times, the glowing dust from Ferdinand’s star sprinkles down onto the top and covers my home with magic and projected longing.
Holding a living baby in one arm, and the weary heart of a childless mama in another, is like being the fulcrum of a balance scale. Constant attempts to meet equilibrium are fought by the forces upon each end of the scale: do I grab on tighter to my baby or surrender some of that attachment in order to be fully present for my friends? And yet I realize that the childless mama must feel the same; having to carry the weight of a never-known baby on one side and a desire to function in a world without solid answers on the other. And I think, is equilibrium even a reality or a possibility?
I feel twinges of guilt and confused conviction over my now-quieter – but still deeply impressed – belief in the power of our birth experiences. The riveting births I bear witness to keep my conviction from falling to pieces, but how long until another devastating loss sends me questioning my inherent belief for good? I hold the space at this precise moment for a mama walking her own labyrinth of healing, fresh from the twisted fate of a birth experience that left her with a healthy baby yet a tangled heart. Guilt washes over me when I breathe a sigh of relief over the long straw I drew to birth a healthy baby. And yet I will choose this guilt every day – every moment – over the indescribable heaviness of baby loss that I can only glimpse between the words my friends have written. The point is, I recognize that I even have a choice.
For those mamas who don’t have this choice, I honor them tonight with the flame of a single candle on the eve of the launch of this tender web-space: Glow in the Woods.
For Liam, Ferdinand, Finn, little A., Maddy, Niobe’s twin spirit-babies. For all mamas who wander this earth hoping to sneak a peek of their lost babies around a corner, or in the sky, or in the eyes of their subsequent – or surviving – children.
For all of humanity, that their words link us together in the monochromatic canopy of grief and the technicolor glimmer of hope.
We are moths to the flames of their Glow.
“It was still quite light out of doors, but inside with the curtains drawn and the smouldering fire sending out a dim, uncertain glow, the room was full of deep shadows.” – Kate Chopin