Mother’s Day Unspoken

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Four years ago, on Mother’s Day of 2011, I spent the day shuffling between my bed and the bathroom as I miscarried my first child.  What I remember about that day is my unending flow of tears… the uncomfortable cramping and heavy bleeding… holding what was left of my baby in the palm of my hand and not knowing what to do…the absence of tenderness in my breasts… the emptiness of my barren womb…. and an overwhelming feeling of utter devastation.  The stark white bathroom tiles offered little comfort as I laid on the floor next to the toilet, begging God to reverse this sick joke and give me my baby back.  Surely women don’t miscarry on Mother’s Day??? Oh yes, dear, oh yes they do.

My heart was already thick with grief having lost my mother to ovarian cancer just before Mother’s Day in 2010.  The news of my first pregnancy had buoyed me through the first anniversary of her passing, giving me comfort and renewed hope for the future.  While my husband was cautiously excited, I was beyond certain that this baby was a divine blessing and an answer to our prayers at a time when we needed it most.   What I hadn’t expected was that this pregnancy would end in miscarriage– that the little soul who had built a small nest in my womb would take flight much earlier than I expected.   Curled up in fetal position, I comforted myself by envisaging my child, whom I named Gabriel, joining my mom in Heaven.  She had always wanted to be a grandma, and she finally had a grandchild to call her own.

After my miscarriage, I felt shattered in a way I had never imagined.  I struggled to socialize or work as I attempted to hide my fragile emotional state.  Only a few friends had known that we were expecting, so telling people about my miscarriage also meant telling them that we had been pregnant.  Inevitably, this would lead to questions about us trying to get pregnant, which I just couldn’t handle.  I stayed close to home and grieved in silence, until I finally felt like I could open up about my loss to more of my friends and a few colleagues.  Many of them reacted with empathy and compassion, validating my grief.  One friend brought us a meal, which was a touching gesture that I will never forget.  Not knowing what to say when I shared the news of my miscarriage, some friends made comments like, “At least you know you can get pregnant,” in a feeble attempt to offer me hope.  One friend reacted thoughtlessly by saying my baby wasn’t really a baby- her underlying tone was “get over it.”

But I couldn’t get over the loss of my first child, and frankly I don’t think I ever will.   About 6 months after my miscarriage, we conceived our “rainbow” baby (a rainbow baby is a baby conceived after a loss).  After experiencing some light spotting not long after my pregnancy had been confirmed, I drove myself in hysterics to the OB-GYN’s office for a repeat HCG blood test.  While I anxiously awaited the results, I sobbed on an exam bed, begging for God’s mercy.  I felt absolutely certain that I was miscarrying again.  When the nurse explained that my HCG levels had tripled overnight, I looked at her in disbelief, and my tears of anguish transformed into tears of gratitude.  Although the spotting only lasted a day, my OB-GYN took every precaution with me during the first trimester, which included supplemental hormones, regular blood tests and ultrasounds, and a long list of things NOT to do.  The usual “laissez-faire” approach to pregnancy wasn’t an option for me.

Needless to say, I was a complete mess through most of my pregnancy.  I felt horribly guilty that I wasn’t more excited about my pregnancy—I absolutely wanted to be pregnant, but I was still traumatized by my miscarriage and the anxiety associated with a “high-risk” pregnancy.  I realized that I would never experience the same carefree excitement that most of my friends experienced during pregnancy.   In losing my first child, I also lost my innocence as a mother.  There would be other losses, but none would be as devastating as my first miscarriage on Mother’s Day.   The way I viewed the creation of human life was forever altered.

But maybe this was just the lesson that I needed to learn, although I would have preferred a gentler alternative to this emotional triple shot to the chest. Because what I gained through my miscarriage was a greater appreciation for life: how miraculous it is, how fragile it is, and what an extraordinary gift it is.  The miracle of Gabriel prepared me for the miracle of my take-home baby (aka Toots).  Because of Gabriel, I became acutely aware of just how badly I wanted to become a mother and what I needed to change to make space for another miracle to unfold in my womb.  So, despite all of my anxiety while pregnant with Toots, I also felt (and still feel) tremendous humility and gratitude– I knew that the life growing inside of me was such a divine blessing.

What I also learned through both my mother’s death and losing Gabriel is that a mother’s love transcends all boundaries.  While we often crave physical presence, the love between a mother and her child flows freely, unbound by the human form.   Nothing ever stops us from being in the presence of our mother or our child.   Experiencing this spiritual connection has comforted me during times of grief and heartache, reminding me that their love is not confined to this physical world.  All I need to do is find a quiet place, close my eyes, and connect with their love… God’s love… a universal love which floods me with its golden-white light and soothes my soul.

So, when Mother’s Day rolls around, I prefer to spend the day in quiet reflection, soaking myself in maternal love.  I hold my precious son tightly in my arms and whisper my deepest thanks for the miracle of his life.  I thank God for choosing me to be his mama and trusting me with his life.  As I hold him, I silently honor my angel babies, as well as my mother and grandmothers who are no longer of this world.   I step into their presence and feel their love and encouragement surrounding me.  Then, I take some time to remember my friends who too are missing their moms and angel babies. Sadly, several of my friends have lost their babies in utero, just after birth, or as children:

  • A resilient friend who experienced multiple miscarriages before the arrival of her baby boy. She was the first person to openly talk about miscarriage with me.
  • A high school classmate who has publicly shared her stories of miscarriage and infertility through her blog and newspaper column. She is now the proud mama of twin girls.
  • Two courageous girlfriends whom lost their first daughters in utero and were induced to deliver their stillborn angels. Both friends went on to give birth to rainbow baby girls who are the lights of their lives.
  • A dear friend, who is a mom to two teen boys, an angel in Heaven, and a preschooler. She lost her sweet daughter to a heart defect when she was just a baby.  A few years after her daughter’s death and a few miscarriages, she gave birth to her fourth child (another daughter).
  • My childhood friend, Sarah, who lost her son, Jack, to pediatric cancer.  His legacy lives on through Gold in September and the I Back Jack Foundation.  She is also the mother to Annie (Jack’s twin) and little Tommy.
  • All of my friends who are still waiting for their rainbow babies. If I know your story of loss, then I remember you and your angels and I pray for your take-home baby to arrive soon.

To these friends I say:  Although our society may not recognize you as a mother or may not recognize ALL of your children, I hope it comforts you to know that I do.   I hold you and your babies in my heart today.  May you find time to quietly honor them and experience that unbreakable bond between mother and child.

XOXO

Christina


Have you experienced pregnancy loss or the loss of your child?  How have you coped with your loss? How do you feel on Mother’s Day and other trigger holidays?  How do you honor your angels and connect with their spirits?

If you or a friend would like support in dealing with pregnancy loss, here are a few resources in addition to joining a local or online community:

http://miscarriagesupport.com/

http://www.aplacetoremember.com/

www.fertileheart.com

For family and friends who want to support you:

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-loss/supporting-others/

Are you struggling to conceive after a loss? I’m here to listen and support you.  You may also find my FREE download with tips for improving your fertility naturally helpful when you are ready to start trying again.

 

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Tis the season of grief?

I’m sitting down to write on this snowy evening while Toots is asleep in hopes that I can finish what I have drafted over the past few weeks.  I rarely find time to write, and, when I do, I tend to write in short, sprinter-like bursts.  Tonight I want to write like a runner on a meandering trail through the forest, with no one to impress and no “personal best” to beat.  I just want to speak my truth and let it echo through the trees.

………

mommy and me

My mama and me

 

This time of the year reminds me so much of my mom:

the start of a new school year followed by her birthday in late September,

crafts made from autumn leaves and pine cones and desserts filled with pumpkin and cream,

the silliness and make-believe of Halloween,

her childlike excitement over the first snow fall,

her way of bringing families together at Thanksgiving and how she would lead us in giving thanks,

and the way she celebrated the birth of her King at Christmas.

Whereas spring reminds me of my mother’s death, autumn and early winter remind me of her life, specifically HOW she chose to live her life.  As a teacher, an artist, a mother, a homemaker and a Christian, her spirit shined brightest during this season.   A glowing yet humble star adored by many, and especially by me.

Unsurprisingly, at this time of the year, I am just as aware of her absence as I am of her presence: that motherly love which transcends all boundaries.  Although we can no longer engage in an earthly mother-daughter relationship, I sense my mom’s spirit surrounding me, influencing my environment and my way of showing up in this world.  I hear her voice as I speak to Toots, using the same expressions she used when raising my sister and me.  I re-create my mom’s dishes using the recipe book she made for me before she died, one of the many gifts she made in anticipation of “that day.”   I buy the same household cleaners so my house will smell the same as hers did.  I bundle myself up in her bulky sweaters to feel her embrace, to fall back in time.   Every night, as I put on my frumpy yet oh-so-comfy pajamas, I catch glimpses of my mother’s body in the mirror: we share the same broad hips and fleshy thighs, passed down by our Scandinavian ancestors who farmed and birthed lots of babies with ease.  It’s impossible to despise your hips and thighs when they belonged to a woman you loved so very much.  As I pull on my pajamas- the same style she loved to wear- a fleeting, unanswerable question scampers through my mind:  will I also meet her same demise?

Despite feeling her love surrounding around me, I still long for my beloved mama’s earthly presence—to hear her voice, stroke her silky cheeks, feel the weight of her arms wrapped around me, rest my head on her shoulder, lay next to her in bed for a chat, brush past her in the kitchen as we make dinner, hold her hand in church, and so much, much more.   My heart aches that I cannot call her and have a two-way conversation, that I cannot ask her the millions of questions that I wished I would have asked her when she was still alive.  My heart aches that Toots will never know what it feels like to be held by her, to be loved by her as he grows up.  Although I take great comfort in knowing she lives eternally, the little orphaned girl inside of me finds her absence completely grievous.   This little girl is still sad–and frankly, pissed off– that her mama’s gone.  Like Toots when he throws a massive fit because I won’t buy him another Matchbox car at the checkout, my inner orphan SCREAMS for her mama and won’t settle for anyone else.  She wants the physical, tangible, earthly version of her mama, not a spiritual stand-in.

Why now, I ask? Why this tsunami of grief which has flooded my world over the past month? Just when I thought I was in a good place, finally feeling at peace after years of loss after loss.  Just when I was starting to get my professional groove back… Is my grief simply prompted by “the time of the year” with its traditions and holidays?  Or was I unexpectedly triggered as I read Cheryl Strayed’s account of losing her mother in “Wild” and found myself bombarded with memories of my own mother’s battle with the big C?  Or is this just part of the grieving process: a tidal wave, followed by still waters, followed by a tsunami, followed by still waters, repeat cycle until heart no longer aches? As much as I want to stop myself from this downward spiral, as much as I want to scream “I’m DONE,” as much as I want to silence my inner orphan, my heart says otherwise.  My heart tells me to let this wounded part of me throw a tantrum and grieve whatever it is she needs to grieve.   Give her time, space and an abundance of maternal love. Then let her go, just like everything else I’ve learned to let go.  INNNNHALE, EXXXXHALE.   Let GOOOOOOOOOOOO….

(Total side note: Is it just me or do you also hear that bloody “Frozen” song every time I write about letting go? Embarrassing and distracting. Blech!)

When I lie very still and quiet the constant mental chatter to deeply connect with Spirit,  I can hear my mom’s voice whispering that it’s okay to let my grief go, that it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten her or don’t love her anymore.  I know my mother’s right (of course she is!), but I also know that my inner orphan isn’t quite ready to move on.  For the moment, this little orphan girl needs my love and acceptance.  She needs to know that I’m not going to shut her out or abandon her.  She needs me to honor her feelings, to hold her when she cries.  She needs me to trust the process.  With this simple acknowledgment of her needs, she rests her head on my shoulder in peace to soak up the maternal love she misses so much.

XOXO

Me