welcome

Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

Many thanks to artist Stephanie Sicore for allowing us to feature her little bird in our banner.

subscribe
categories
search
Powered by Squarespace
Monday
Nov172014

pieces

I have an image. A handful of brightly colored glass scattered on a wooden surface. Pottery shards, maybe, only the image isn’t of brokenness. Marbles, I think. Or beads. This one is graduation, that one our wedding day. One is Joseph. One is M. Several have the dusk blue glint that is A.

They are pieces of my life that were once strung together. But now there is no binding thread. There is no causality. No Joseph-is-gone-so-M-is-here. No this-is-what-was-meant-to-be.

*            *            *

In physics we learned about billiard balls. How to gauge the angle, line up the shot. How when one ball hits the other, the energy is transferred. In an instant, the cue ball stops and the other ball is propelled… forward, sideways, at a slant.

In college I learned from my Buddhism professor that this is an image for reincarnation. That one life stops and another begins, and it is this—not that person, not that individual, but, say, the energy—that transfers from one life to the next.

I think about this now, not because I believe in reincarnation, but because this is the before and after of Joseph. I am two completely separate billiard balls, with some source of shared momentum.

*            *            * 

I wonder if this is what they mean by living in the moment.

I do not look for signs. I do not analyze cause and effect. There is no divine plan, no tapestry of Fate.

Just this handful of precious moments, beloved people. A collection of me. 

 

I can't stop thinking about this before and after. What parts of me have carried over. What is fundamentally different. 

Who are you now?

Monday
Nov102014

what she stands for

I was there. Right there. Within an inch. No, on the spot.

Precisely, undeniably, absolutely my dart was in the center of the target. That red center, that renders all the surrounding rings meaningless, as if they are merely decorative, their presence adding mere circumstantial detail to the act of throwing a dart. You miss it by a ring, or you miss it by an inch, you have missed it. And I did not. I had set a target for myself with regards to my family. Not consciously, but very, very cautiously. I wanted my second, and last, baby, before my son would be four. I wanted to complete my family while I was still in graduate school. And for the first time in my ten-year-war with my luck over my reproductive wishes, I hurled the dart on the spot, and got pregnant effortlessly at the beginning of the fall of my second year. I would have her right at the start of a year-long fellowship that would allow me to stay home with her. I would have her at the end of two years of staying apart from my husband. And most importantly, I would have her and complete my longed-for family of four. I was done. I could move on. I could make plans. I could focus on the career I had forsaken for ten years. I could focus on raising my children, and be the ‘whole’ mother to them I had longed to be. I was done making babies or trying to make them. I was there. I had hit the bull’s eye.

So accurately, that I was blinded by the beauty of it.

 

I stepped in. Hesitant, unconvinced, nervous. I could not believe I was one of them. Oh, finally.

I had wondered often how high the fence surrounding the playground was, willing even to swing my feet over it, only to feel once what it was to belong. A poor little girl, who had been standing outside the playground gates, longing in her eyes, for years. We all know her, passing by a neighborhood playground, many of us have seen her. A girl in rags, with a dark, unclean little face, bright eyes, dirty hands, hair in lumps, holding on to the wires in the fence. Eyeing the kids playing in the playground, and the candies in their hands they wanted and got, with pain and hope in her eyes.

And yet, on that autumn day, the door opened to me. Somehow, I got to come into the park, and with trepidation and disbelief, I felt like maybe I was indeed one of them. Someone handed me a candy, but I was told that I, unlike the other fortunate kids, would have to pay a huge price for it. I was willing to do anything to have a taste of the candy, to have a taste of belonging. I went through fire with the candy held firmly in my hand. I reached the other end of fire, and the candy was snatched from me.

I was thrown outside the park again, and the world didn't even look back at me, lying there in the ground, crumpled like a piece of discarded paper, my clothes still warm from the fire, my face covered in ash and soot, hot tears rolling down my streaked cheeks, my heart heaving from the fall. I missed the smell of the candy, and would happily cross a few thousand fires again to hold it again within my two fingers.

But I cannot. I was never one of them. I never belonged. It was a charade, I was only a clown, meant to entertain, meant to be made fun of. To be handed a coveted prize, only to be made aware what it is like to never, ever, be able to have it.

But I was there. I belonged. Only I came so close that I was burned by the fire.

 

I saw a butterfly. I believed it was there, fluttering away within the crevices of my belly, around me in the expanse of my dreams. I believed it came from me, and I believed it came for me. I let this thought, this faith, flutter in me too, that it brought beauty and freedom to my life, and that all would be well now. After years of warring with an adamant and invisible destiny, that seemed to be harboring some ancient and strangely esoteric grudge against me, I felt free from its clutch, free from the diabolic predictability of nothing ever working out. In a conscious, tactile moment of certainty, it felt wonderful to finally cease to be cynical, cease to feel trapped by unseen forces.

Finally carrying the girl I had always wanted, I began to believe in what had increasingly become an unattainable fairytale for me – that I could be a very ordinary woman now, with a little family of my own, able to live with my husband under the same roof. I did not care that this meant I would be severed from my work environment again, all I cared about was that my girl was here, we would be together, all would be well. I trudged on with the pregnancy, alone with a preschooler in the Chicago winter, looking ahead at summer, when my family would be complete, and the light at the end of the tunnel would lead the rest of our way.

I believed in my life. I soared high in faith. So high, so high, it unraveled me, bit by bit, on the crash down.

 

A feeling of having achieved the target of completing my family. A feeling of belonging with the more fortunate, who got what they wanted, especially in matters as natural as motherhood. A restoration of faith in my own life, the faith that everything will now be alright. My little girl, apart from being a beautiful, bright-eyed, intense, fragile little person, was all of this to me. She stood for the fulfillment of achieving my target. She stood for the patience of waiting for my turn to belong. She was my symbol for the faith that things can turn around in one moment.

She was here. My strength, patience, faith were here. For a few moments of music and magic, my fairytale had come alive. Only to turn into a darker tale of blank horror.

I cannot remember what it was like to not hit the target, to feel like I don’t belong, or to not have the faith in my life. And I cannot forget how, even as I was carving out her place in my life, in our family, I could see the coming together of my whole life, my deepest emotions and values, in her.

No, losing her is not the meaning. Having her is.

 

What do(es) your lost child(ren) symbolize in your life? How has having, and losing them, altered the meaning (or lack thereof) you ascribe to life?

Monday
Nov032014

dead metaphor

We are honored today to present a guest post by Romina. She is a sometimes teacher, all times mother, living with the loss of her third son. Ellis Tilde Asuro was born still on November 21, 2013.

 

I gave birth to death.

That is not a metaphor.

I gave birth to death

and I don’t know how to wean him.

 

They hint at it. It’s time to let him go.

They don’t speak his name.

I’ve been told he’s getting too old for this.

If I don’t do it now, this may go on forever.

 

I pushed death out of me and he stopped being mine.

I pushed death out of me and I stopped being his.

 

In the nine months since, I could have made a living child.

And in the nine months since, I could have learned to let him go.

 

But in a whole lifetime, I could not create enough life to

bring him near. I could not transform him into the living.

 

Has anyone told you it's time to move on? How do you respond? 

Monday
Oct272014

burn

 

Staring into the bright flame,

a Christmas candle.

Fat, jolly Santa Claus glows red

and flushed.

 

My sister’s face leans over the candle with me,

and other small faces shine, too, long forgotten,

hanging on the edge of memory.

 

I have a bead,

transparent green.

I am worrying the ridged spirals under my fingertips.

I drop it into the candle,

plop,

where it nestles in the soft wax

against the stiff black wick.

 

            I am two or three and I love beads.

            I carry them around.

            I stick them in the dark crevices of skeleton key locks

            and put one up my nose

            for safekeeping.

 

I reach down into the candle,

through the flicker of yellow and blue—

 

 

 

There is the moment before—

 

A candle, a warm glow, a dancing spit of light.

 

And there is after.

 

I learn the word fire. The word burn.

The world will never be the same.

 

Sitting on my father’s dark heavy desk,

my fingers wrapped in ice but still

unable to escape from the pain.

 

It is this way with Death.

 

In an instant,

a howl of pain,

the world is divided.

 

There is before,

and there is after

 

You sit, embedded in my chest,

irretrievable,

a bright, hard bead.

 

 

 

What came before? What came after?

Thursday
Oct162014

ghostbelly - part II

This is Part II of my conversation with author Elizabeth Heineman about her memoir Ghostbelly. Scroll down or click here for Part I of the conversation.

 

Burning Eye: Reading Ghostbelly I was struck by how certain you seemed to be of everything you did—bringing home Thor's body, giving him experiences. After Joseph was stillborn, I had no idea what I wanted. For months. How in the world did you know what you wanted? Would you call it "intuition"? 

Lisa: That’s one of the big mysteries, even to me. How did I know so clearly what I needed to do—and at such a critical early moment? One of the things I hear most frequently from bereaved parents is that they wished they’d spent more time with their child’s body, but they were so stunned they just let the hospital or funeral director take over. By the time they realized they needed something different, it was too late. How did I know what I needed before I’d had a chance to think things through?

Maybe that was the key: I had no time to think, no time to over-intellectualize or get tangled up in the pros and cons of various options. Maybe “intuition” is exactly the right word. In any case, I was incredibly lucky that my intellectualizing brain shut up and my intuitive brain took over. I didn’t do it on my own. If my funeral director hadn’t let me know that taking Thor home was an option, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask. But once he put that option on the table, I didn’t lose a second mulling over the question of whether I should do it or not. I knew immediately that it was the right thing to do.

 

Burning Eye: You have such a certainty that Thor's body was Thor. Yet for me, Joseph's stillborn body was the absence of Joseph. We held him hesitantly and looked at him (but didn't unwrap the blanket) and thought, "This is not our baby. This is just his body. Our baby is already gone."

Thor died unexpectedly during birth. But Joseph died two days before he was born, at 35 weeks. I've been thinking a lot about that difference in our stories. You didn't know going into labor that he was going to die. I knew I was giving birth to a dead baby. It's almost like you had this momentum of life going, expectations of bringing your baby home, that helped you shape the next few weeks with Thor. But for me, everything stopped the moment we found out Joseph had died. Everything went dark, like sleepwalking underwater.

Do you think there's anything to this… that maybe the timing of our babyloss (and I'm speaking generally now, not just about you and me) could affect the trajectory of our actions, our reactions, our shock?

Lisa: I wonder whether this is why you felt from the beginning that this body in your arms wasn’t Joseph, while I somehow felt that the body I was holding was Thor. You knew ahead of time that Joseph was dead; you still had to deliver the body, but you’d already started to come to terms with the fact that he was gone. I went into labor, delivered a baby, and then discovered he was dead. But this was the baby I had.

This was my initial impulse: to get to know my baby. We didn’t even know his biological sex till he was born. So we discovered he was a boy. We discovered that he had thin dark hair, and that he was big. We discovered that he was dead. We were discovering all those things at the same time, and we wanted to get to know him, with whatever characteristics he had.

 

Burning Eye: One of my favorite parts in Ghostbelly was the funeral home director, Mike, and what you call his "complete lack of orthodoxy." We don't typically think of funeral directors as being genuinely comforting or helpful, but Mike was really there for you.

Lisa: Yes, Mike! Everyone who reads the book falls in love with Mike. In a lot of ways, he really is the hero of the story. He’s the one who let me know that I could visit Thor in the funeral home and even take him home with me. But his personality was just as important as the fact that he passed this information on to me. He was so unorthodox, so allergic to cliché; he even managed to be funny. About a dead baby. It was a way of integrating grief into real life.

 

Burning Eye: Reading about Mike made me think of a sort of unorthodox encounter I had. Six months after Joseph died, I went to my 10-year college reunion. Standing in line to get pizza at our class dinner, I was talking to this guy I'd vaguely known through a friend. He always struck me as this brilliant, crazy egomaniac. He looked at my necklace and asked, "Who's Joseph?" When I told him Joseph was my baby who died, he said, "Fuck! Man, that sucks!" It was such a different reaction than the doe-eyed looks and calm, sweet words of sympathy I'd gotten from everyone else in my life. And I thought, "Yeah! Fuck! Fuck this! This does suck!" It was the exact right reaction, and one of the most memorable moments from that whole weekend. I wonder, are there any other people, besides Mike, that were unexpectedly there for you, or who said something unexpected to you that ended up being just the right thing to say?

Lisa: My other extraordinary experience of getting-past-cliché didn’t make it into the book. A friend who knew I was writing about my experience put me in touch with an extraordinary playwright, Jen Silverman. I think Jen was initially a little skeptical—she wasn’t interested in writing a conventional tear-jerker—but then she learned I’d brought Thor home, and that story tapped into her fascination with the bonds between the living and the dead. After a lot of conversations between the two of us, Jen wrote a play, “Still,” that moves in the realm of the fantastical. It involves a middle-aged grieving mother (an entymologist!), her midwife (who’s considering a career change), a dominatrix (pregnant with a baby she doesn’t want), and—walking around the stage, chatting up the audience—the baby (who is befriended by the dominatrix but is really searching for his mother). The play is incredible—it’s won a couple of major drama awards in the meantime. For me, though, the process of collaboration created a space for talking about death in a way that felt much more honest than ritualized phrases and hushed voices.

 

Burning Eye: Wow. That’s pretty amazing, about the play. I’m honestly a little jealous you were able to participate in that collaboration. Writing is such a solitary venture. Grief is solitary, too, even if we are surrounded by supportive loved ones. It’s rare to have a space to talk about death, like you said. I think that’s one of the special things about Glow. 

Are you still writing about Thor, about grief? Or was this book everything you needed to say?

Lisa: It’s hard for me to contemplate writing a new essay about grief. I don’t feel the same urgency about writing about Thor that I once did. And I really did say what I wanted to say at the time.

But that doesn’t mean the story you read is the final word, because my relationship to Thor and my thinking about that time continue to evolve. Many people say you shouldn’t write a memoir until a lot of time has passed—say, fifteen or twenty years—so you have some distance from the events and from the person you were at the time. But what I wanted to convey was the immediacy of grief, and if I’d waited, I would have lost that.

 

Burning Eye: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, for writing your book, and for being willing to engage in this conversation here at Glow. Usually at the end of a piece on Glow, we invite the readers to respond, and Lisa has generously agreed to continue the conversation with our readers here in our comments. 

If you'd like to know more about Ghostbelly, it's been added to our bookshelf. You can also visit The Feminist Press website or the book's Facebook page.

How has writing helped you in your grief journey? How has reading others' stories and memoirs helped? Continue the conversation with author Elizabeth Heineman--questions, reflections, reactions--here in the comments section.