When I was entering my second trimester with Ben, at the tail end of a month of bleeding, I sat with a colleague of my husband’s who, a decade previously, had lost two babies at 5 months gestation. Two. A year and half apart. I remember being uncomfortable hearing her story, hoping that it would not be mine. After stillbirth became my reality too, her words returned to offer me hope and healing. When Ben died, many wonderful women shared their stories of loss with me. With children of various ages and many years since the deaths of their babies, they provided much needed understanding and community as they became my living examples that life goes on.
Several months ago I was lucky enough to find Christa at Carry It Forward thanks to Lindsey at A Design So Vast. Christa has become a dear friend and as she so generously writes, a kindred spirit. I asked her to write a guest post for me – a perspective on her multiple losses almost 2 decades later. I hope you enjoy her wisdom as much as I do. And I invite you to visit her blog (as well as Lindsey’s) if you do not already know them. They are both shining light into the world.
Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.
~ Marcus Aurelius ~
I “met” Alana through a post, I am sure, although truly, I don’t remember. She has become a good friend, my kindred spirit, keeper of space for me. And I hope I do the same for her.
In one of our early conversations, the Baby Lost Mamas came up and I mentioned that I am a member in good standing. And she had questions, lots of questions, about how things look from down the road. Here are my answers, for her and for you. My daughter, my only child, will be eighteen in a matter of weeks, so the timing is interesting. My heart is full of gratitude for what has been and what will be, and full of longing for the lost moments.
And maybe that is a good place to start. I wish I had spent more time enjoying her and less actively yearning for more – more babies, more time, just plain more. It took a very long time for me to see this, and if I convey anything here, just one thing… this is it. I suppose if you do not have a living child, this could seem impossible, but I promise you, if you love what is, there will be more. More, in some form, even if it is not what you are yearning for right now.
Through my miscarriages and other life crises, I’ve come to see that difficult times are always – without exception – an opportunity for growth. I cringe as I type that, knowing how it must sound to you. If, though, you are able to take the time to get really quiet and still, to let your body and spirit heal, to honor the loss, you may be surprised at what you begin to understand. Our culture encourages us to hurry up, to get over it already, to move on to bigger and better things. And that can be hurtful. I am so happy for all of you – and quite envious – that you have each other. Fifteen or twenty years ago, I was not able to talk about my own losses and was told that these things happen, it wasn’t really a baby, all of that. That you speak your truth and have a space and the support system to do that in -safely- is a wondrous thing. Take your time, grieve, hold onto each other and to your dreams for a while. You will know, if you take the time to discern, when it is time to dust yourself off and get back on the path. You will.
Here’s the thing. The baby you lost will always be a part of your story. Always. There are so many explanations – physically, spiritually, psychically based – for what has happened, and far be it from me to decide which of them is right. You may never know. I certainly don’t. However, what has worked for me is to embrace the fact that those children were part of my story. By honoring that, I honor them and the path that my life has taken. Healing does not mean forgetting.
So back to what I know now. I wish I had known that there were gifts – beautiful, extraordinary gifts – that would present themselves over the years. In place of the babies? No. But gifts that I could not possibly have unwrapped if I had had more children. And on the days when I can’t paint, when the words won’t come, when I don’t think I can take one more adventure – I remember those children. And I try to live my life in a way that would make them proud. It is my way of thanking them for their all-too-brief presence in my life.
I’m a little concerned that this may sound crazy or worse, preachy. I get it. I know the depths of pain you are in, and the dull ache that never leaves. I do. I can only tell you what my experience has been. And it has been good. Incredible, sometimes. You may take a different road- only you know what is in your heart. And if what is there is to have more children, call them to you. Keep your heart open, even as it continues to break. Hold space for them, literally and subtly. Let them know that they are welcome if you feel strongly that they are meant to come. If not, listen closely for what is next for you. Just because all those minivans have little decals of a mom, a dad and two kids, a cat and a dog does not mean that your life has to look just like that. Some of the best ones don’t. Truth be told, the overwhelming majority don’t. That’s another thing I learned from my experience. Tolerance. Why people want everyone to be just like them is beyond me. There is room in this world for whatever life you create. Really.
I have learned this, and only this, when it comes right down to it. Life is good – full of good. We only need to clear away all of the stories that get in the way of what makes us happy. Life may not look the way you thought it would, or the way it is portrayed in the movies. It is your life, and only you can dream it, love it, live it well.
Alana–So wonderful to see two of my favorites included here! And you are right, they both shine light into this world.
Christa–thank you. For your perspective and taking the time to share it. I’m saddened that you’ve endured such pain, but so admire your growth through the rubble. Like you ,I believe that each person’s experience with loss is so incredibly individual. The notion that people “should” do anything in a time of loss confounds me. My sister-in-law lost a baby on his birthday–the day he was born. This experience shapes the way she views (and the way I view) the world. Peace, Denise
Alana: what a great idea to invite Christa! And Christa: wow… speechless… not preachy at all I would say. Your words can be interpreted much broader than ‘only’ for BLM’s.
There is room in this world for whatever life you create. I’ll keep that with me on my journey.
Speechless and in tears reading these gorgeous, wise, powerful words. I’m so grateful that you two met, and can sense the intimacy and warmth in your relationship even through these words on the page.
Love to you both.
Thanks for your kind words. I am honored to be sharing space here and hope that this helps bring hope to someone.
It’s been a week of soul-baring, huge work for me, and I really appreciate the support and encouragement. It continually amazes me, what we bring to each other.
Alana and Christa, you have no idea how touching your words are. I am passing this along to someone I know who needs to read something like this. You are both amazing.
wise words that i needed to hear right now. i will carry therm with me. life can be so hard, for so many different reasons, but you are so right, there are always lessons, always gifts.