Month: October 2014

Sober October

October is a month set aside for Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance. Many people will mark the passing of children who left too early, and writing is therapeutic to some.

Like me.

I have had ten miscarriages, a number that will seem, to many, as ludicrous as the number of our living children. Ten? That’s just crazy. Am I in some sort of sick competition? Am I a glutton for punishment? A miscarriage masochist?

None of the above.

With the first (if you are very blessed) you get a modicum of sympathy and understanding. People step forward to tell you about their own experiences; there is a shared community of suffering. As you have more, however, people step back. I don’t know why. Most likely they just run out of things to say.

My own mother fell into this camp. A devout Catholic woman, she was fully vested in our decision to give our reproductive processes up to a higher power, but with each successive bodily betrayal, she grew frustrated, and that frustration was directed at me. I sat drinking my third beer as my body expelled the baby it didn’t want*, and she fussed at me over the phone.

“Well, at least you should be used to it now,” she finally sighed.

Used to it? Used to bleeding into the toilet the life I thought would develop into a breathing soul? Used to the feelings of abandonment, the certainty that I was being punished? Used to the bitter loneliness as I faced the moments in the bathroom alone, struggling to make sense of it all?

These aren’t things you get used to.

She didn’t mean anything by it. She just didn’t know what to say. Having successfully carried five children of her own with relative ease, she is uninitiated into the darker side of pregnancy.

The thing about miscarriage is that you don’t get better at it the more you have. In fact, the pain and sorrow become increasingly horrific. The guilt and confusion multiply, they don’t divide.

With one of our later miscarriages, I birthed into my hands a sac five inches long. A space capsule enclosing the body of its voyager, I could not see the contents and didn’t want to probe the silent depths, but I was certain it was a girl. I wrapped the entire thing in maxi pads and carried it breathlessly to my husband. He suggested we have a burial service at my childhood home.

A month later, we did so. My parents were the only ones aware of the loss besides my husband and me, and they left us to hold our small service in private. My husband held my hands and we prayed over the pathetic remains beneath their flagpole. I named her Zoe, which means Life. It is a special, healing memory, and I strongly encourage anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss to hold a service of some kind, even if the pain is decades old.

It’s amazing how raw and fresh that old pain can feel, and how simple the things are that can administer relief. An acknowledgement of the loss, or a moment of shared silence while you hold someone’s hand…these are the things that a month of remembrance hopes to encourage.

It is a sad and bereft place, the infant and pregnancy loss camp. It’s not a place anyone chooses willingly.  For those who occupy its halls, a kind word goes a long way.

*this is NOT recommended, by the way. Elevated alcohol levels lead to increased chance of hemorrhage, something I cared very little about at the time.

A fable of sorts

Once upon a time, a man strode across his acreage with single-minded purpose.

He had things upon his mind, this man did. He was busy, with many distractions. His job as an executive in an oil corporation kept him consumed from morning until night with responsibilities and duties; he was, after all, expected to find oil, above and beyond all else, in the unrelenting earth that surrounded him and those who occupied the world at large.

If he did not find it, then his existence was in jeopardy, or at least his subsistence, which to his mind was almost the same thing.

He strode upon the earth that was his: the earth that he had won–hard won, mind you–in an auction where other voices had matched his tone for tone and caliber for caliber (urgent and wanting) and yet he had prevailed above all others and now it was done. The ground was his, the dirt was his, the hard-packed Oklahoma clay that yielded little and yet would (perhaps) give to him what he wanted, awaited his touch, only his touch, to bend to his will and give up its secrets. Perhaps even now it was germinating the same idea that he had–that of provision and affluence.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps it designed to keep from him all that he knew it could yield. One factor–the amount of sunshine, or the quantity of rain, the chemicals in the soil, or the infinitesimal creatures that inhabited its granular substance, could interfere with prosperity and happiness, and all his work would be for naught. No matter how many times he circled on his Massey Ferguson tractor, no matter how fluffy he yielded the hard packed soil, there were no guarantees…and yet…he would try…for the desire was less a desire and more an obsession.

Alongside his obsession, there were small people who complicated matters.

He told himself that all of this was for them–all the endless circling, all the churning and strife–but he knew that, ultimately, it was only for himself that he did it, for he loved the solitude that the tractor afforded him, and as the setting sun cast its golden rays upon the sculpted field, he knew his suspicions were correct and the urges were for him alone. Then, falsely rested all the arguments upon his mind, and restlessly did he sleep.

He had a small daughter, he did.

She looked upon him with adoration and fear and nothing less, that much was true. It frightened him, the awareness of her adoration, and so he buried it, as he buried so many things, deep within his psyche where there rested a million unresolved feelings and expectations and desires, and he told himself that it didn’t matter, not really. Not really.

But it did.

Because that small girl, she looked to him for comfort and solace, and found instead a vast chasm of nothingness to greet her questing heart.

And one day, as they strode upon the red clay, her small legs churning to keep apace with his strong, adult limbs, that she noticed the seething storm that gathered on the eastern horizon, the darkening billows that built ever larger upon the skyline, and she panted as she sought to keep up:

Daddy, what if lightening comes?

And her fear was answered by his strong, sure voice,

Why, then we will be with Jesus, in Heaven, and we’ll be all right

And for that, no matter how much error was in him, no matter how fraught with terror his presence was, no matter even if he himself believed the words he spoke, he had gifted her with the feeling of reassurance, and the thought that things might be–just might be–better in the great hereafter, and so she trusted that they would be.

So the child clung to that reassurance and tried to make her way in the world, for no matter how improbably it played out, she could not, would not forget those words, nor the assurance that accompanied them. She could not forget the feelings of joy that had flooded her small frame at their utterance, nor the peace that they had given her heart. For that, she would always love him, for all his horror and hideousness. For that, she would always crave his approval, for all his flaws and foibles.

For that, and for that alone, perhaps, would she cling to faith.

Matt. 7:11

 

 

 

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