The passing-through of necessary spaces

photo by  Cari Ann Wayman

My wife is so amazing
My wife is so strong
My wife really knows and trusts her body
...and so for her, birth went beautifully.

At the bottom of my spine, where the fists of a soul grip gravity and root to the earth, something rumbles disagreement. I stare at it, this familiar but still unidentified thing. Is the rumble a fair truth disguised as hurt, or hurt disguised as a fair truth?

After a pause, I have decided. It doesn't matter what it's called. It simply is.


How sad, some people have said. You think less of birth—this event that says so much about who we are—just because your baby died.
(...yes, because my baby died.)

How sad, that you turn away from this hugeness.
(...what's huge to you is no longer huge to me. The same goes for small.)

How sad, that you make this so 'Us and Them'.
(...this space is not for them. It is for us.)


Baby A is such a fighter. Baby B—what a miracle! Baby C? Which Baby C? Oh, that one. He did not survive. He just wasn’t exceptional enough. When it was all done Don Cherry asked him what happened out there on the ice and he shrugged and said “I guess the other guys just wanted it more than I did.”

People anoint bodies in hospital beds with words like 'fighter' and 'miracle' and 'goddess' because of the cultural urge to wrap up formative life events with neat little bows. But in doing so, they silently demote everyone else who dies. Or who screams for an epidural, or who falls apart at the incubator of a one-pound child.

We do not exist or fail to exist—or birth and 'fail' to birth—because some are stamped with a rubber imprint of GOOD or STRONG or WORTHY and some are not.

This is why 'Shit Happens' is such a popular t-shirt.


A friend writes:

It seems to me that part of the need for a community like Glow is that parents don't have a safe place to share honestly about their grief without being judged by the standards of political correctness and good manners.

It's not a process that fits into people's definitions of 'compassion for others', but by refusing your community the opportunity to pass through those necessary spaces, and those dark emotions, we deny compassion to you.

Necessary spaces. Necessary spaces.

For a while, there is the hatred of one's own body. The inability to have sex without sobbing. The despair that throws you so violently that you vomit it or drink it or isolate it or punish it away. The jealousy of others we perceive to have been spared. The envy of women whose birthing complaints amount to pissing a little each time they sneeze. The tsk-tsking of family members who would prefer that we get over it already, and the uncontrollable urge to pull their lower lip up over their head and tell them to blow. The fleeing from pregnant women in supermarkets. The intolerance for chickenshits. The cremation jokes that leap unbidden out of our mouths, shocking us and cracking up our spouses for a change as if to say Jesus Christ, this year has sucked. If I don't laugh, though, I will explode.

None of it sticks around forever, all of it reverberations. For a while, it just is.

Fuck grace.

So says the anarchist in me, she who wants to protect the right of babylost mothers and fathers to be self-pitying, unnavigable motherfuckers as long as they need to be. Because nodding to the gracelessness, the ugly, the voidthat's the only way to allow it to get on with its business, to scab over. It is a necessary space, a state of mind that is honourable and normal and not to be denied.

One day, you breathe. And you know that, despite not being fashionable or palatable, you are more compassionate now than you ever were before. You know how surreal it is to cradle an urn in rush hour traffic. You are all at once a giant and a meek, trembling, spitting thing. You know now to embrace both. You know that it's not your fault that some people can't bear the taste of black licorice.

One day you breathe, and it almost feels like oxygen.

What words have been pinned to your back, and why? How do you feel about them? What words make you feel small when you hear them, either applied to you or to someone else? Tell me about the words you’ve reclaimed that make you feel like a giant. Help me redefine the ones that leave a sour taste in your mouth as well as mine.
Tell me about your necessary spaces. Tell me how you protect them.