you keep on walking

Natalie of Lunardreams is mother to Devin, her first child conceived through IVF who died after 35 weeks due to a rare case of amniotic bands constricting the umbilical cord. Natalie has become a passionate infertility and stillbirth awareness advocate, among other things, and joins the 'Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa' blogolympics table as a lifelong Atheist.

Natalie has a love of all things facts and figures—computer programming, physics, astronomy and math. “I see beauty in the world around me in these numbers and random patterns,” she explains. “There may not be a purpose or a guiding hand, but there is still beauty. I feel like I'm walking away from this tragic loss a wholly different person than I walked in. And yet, underneath it all, the foundation remains the same. I just have a different perspective now. Life seem a little more gritty, a little more real.”

I have always been an Atheist. I had some brief introductions to religion, but on the whole I was raised on science and facts.  That is how I lived my life.

So when my son died I had no spiritual anchor to latch on to. There were times when I contemplated a deity, a plan—times when I tried out these ideas that others told me would bring peace and enlightenment. I understood then why people cling to their religion. I know too well now that in times of great grief you hold onto any bit of sanity you have... any thought that makes you feel even a little bit better, you hold on for fear that you will lose your mind. I understand why. But they all seemed disingenuous to me, the lifelong Atheist... like I was trying on someone else’s clothes.

Instead, I enveloped myself in the data: information about stillbirth, amniotic band syndrome, loss. I calculated percentages and risks. I took comfort in the numbers, as if understanding the calculations brought me closer to understanding the situation, closer to coming to terms with this horrible, unspeakable thing.

Some days I feel like the grief that overwhelms me is unique to the Atheist.

My son is not in heaven, I will not see him again, he is not in a better place. He is simply gone, erased from our lives leaving behind small physical scars and gaping emotional ones. Frequently I felt overlooked when people came offering their condolences. I know they came from a kind place, a caring place, and I tried to take that for what it’s worth, but how do I react when someone says my son is in heaven? Or that god had a plan? I don’t believe in heaven or god. Instead of feeling comforted I would find myself fighting the urge to explain my religion. To say No, you don’t understand.

We were uncomfortable with the idea of a funeral or wake—uncomfortable beyond the fact that we didn't really know what was acceptable for a baby who had been born dead. Our families had never dealt with this before. There was no path for us to follow.

So we made our own.

We invited family to our house on his due date. I framed his photos, a poem, I set up a table with the little baby items that meant the most to me. I wanted people to understand him. Above all, I wanted them to know who he was. Then at 7 PM—the time of his birth that day he was born so quietly—we gathered outside in our yard to plant a tree. This was our service, this was our acknowledgement of the cycle of life.

I wept as the tree roots were covered with soil, wept for my son who would be buried in the ground soon enough.


One thing became very clear to me when Devin died: it’s the people left behind who suffer. I do not worry about Devin, his flickering conciousness extinguished before he really gained a sense of self. He lived and died whole, cradled in my womb.

It is me who is broken. It is me that I weep for, and my husband and our families.

We will never get to see our child smile. We will never get to hear his first words. But more than that, we will never know what kind of person he would have grown up to be. It is us left holding the empty bag of promises, us who carry around the questions that will never be answered.

Over the past seven months I’ve often asked myself what keeps me going. Why wake up in the morning when there really are no guarantees? Bad things happen to good people for no reason, when you least expect it. The loss of my son feels like a huge, gaping hole that will never close—and there is nothing, no one, that can close it. There have been many times when I thought about how it would be a relief to stop feeling anything. A relief to go to sleep and not wake up. Not to be with my son, but simply to stop the pain.

But every time I start thinking like that I realize that what seems like a choice really isn’t.

This is my life, my only one—this is all I get. I do not get to pick and choose what I get to experience. I know that one day I will experience joy again—not the same type of unfettered, naive joy that I did before, but joy nonetheless—and the only way to get there is through this hell. Just as I know that bad things can strike out of the blue, so too I know that it can’t always be all bad. The dice will come up both evens and odds—sometimes more evens, sometimes more odds.


I understand grief now. You must rant and cry and turn it over in your hands, throw it against the wall. You’re always stuck with it in your pocket, but after a while you start to become more familiar with it. You mould it like clay. You poke holes in it, stretch it out, roll it out flat. And then you keep on walking.

After all, no matter what our faith (or lack thereof), no matter what we believe is the why or how, that is all any of us really do.

the wave of light

When a baby dies, things tend to go dark.

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the US. The Wave of Light that marks the day is an international affair, something everyone can be part of. At seven pm local time, across every time zone, all are invited to join in lighting a candle in remembrance and honour of little ones loved and missed.

A wave of light around the world may only go a small way to brightening the darkness and silence of babyloss... both as an individual experience and as a taboo subject. But it is a beginning. May the light illuminate and honour, and if it is bright enough, foster discussion, research and prevention, empathy, and support for those who grieve.

Join us. And spread the word. We may be medusas, turning polite conversation to stone, but only while our stories and our losses remain in darkness.

photo by ul marga

no two are alike

Lori of Losses and Gains is a mother of five, as she says: 'three on earth, two in heaven'. Prior to her struggle with infertility, the loss of two children and the unexpected death of her father, she describes her Christian faith as '...bright, shiny and built on a sincere pursuit of knowledge and understanding' that was rooted in her Protestant upbringing and developed by her earnest study of religion in college. It felt solid, as she describes: impressive from the outside, but untested.
"It's not nearly so shiny now," she says.  "All I can say is that I hope my words will only be read for what they are, my personal experience of faith, and that anyone reading this will intuitively understand there has been nothing easy about any of this. For those who are new to this journey of babyloss, and for those who have traveled this road for some time, please know that my heart is with you."

photo by captpiper

It was January and it was snowing. Great big fat flakes were floating down and, even more exciting, they were sticking to the ground. It was enough to make two young boys nearly hysterical.

I helped them piece together whatever suitable outdoor clothing we could find and sent them out the door in ill-fitting snow boots from last year and adult sized stocking caps that kept falling down over their eyes. They whooped and hollered and started scraping together snowballs from the wafer-thin blanket of snow that had accumulated on the grass.

I retreated upstairs to my bedroom, my sanctuary, and leaned on the windowsill watching them from above. It had been less than three months since I had birthed, held, loved and said good bye to my other two - the two that now existed only in my dreams. Silent tears slipped down my cheeks as I struggled yet again with my inability to find joy in a scene that was nothing less than joy-filled. Two glorious, living, breathing, sturdy boys. Mine. But my thoughts were consumed by the two that were missing.

During those long three days in the hospital prior to Joseph and Molly’s birth, and then death, I felt held. I prayed only for God’s presence and He was there.

He was there in the nurses who ministered to us with such tenderness and mercy. He was there in the family members who waited with us in silent support even when we refused to see anyone. He was there in our friend, an ordained minister, who abandoned all of the duties of her own life to come to us in our time of need. He was there in the remarkable peace that surrounded us during the hours we held our babies, loving them, memorizing them, struggling to figure out how to let them go. I felt sustained by the prayers and rituals of our faith that were offered up on our behalf. Tears were everywhere, but so was grace.

I thought that presence that had been so easy to recognize in the hospital would follow me home. It didn’t.

I thought the peace I had felt when my babies were here would continue in their absence. Again, no. Life moved on so quickly, it had to.  Boys at the ages of five and eight don’t understand periods of mourning, or a mother who can’t find the energy to help them with their homework or to volunteer in their classroom. Guilt heaped on top of grief and I found myself drowning.  

Through it all I tried to pray. I tried to cling to all that I had always known to be true in the hopes that it would bring some kind of comfort. I tried. But most of the time my prayers didn’t get any further than, God, please help me...

Help me what? Help me heal? Help me still be a mother to the children who are here with me? Help me stop torturing myself with all of the things I believe I should have done differently? Help me stop doubting my babies value, and my right to grieve their absence? Yes, all of that. That, and so much more.  

I gave into many demons during those days. I agonized myself with all that I had done wrong, and shut myself off from everyone who cared. But the one voice I never gave credence to was the one that tried to claim this was God’s will. The devil didn’t win that one. I had reconciled long before this tragedy that I was a part of a larger story; a story of a broken world and a broken relationship with God. Accidents, illness, disease, all evidence of a creation gone wrong. Death is not the work of God. As a Christian, I believe the Incarnation and the Resurrection restored our relationship to God, but Creation is still in need of repair. The Kingdom has not yet come. The world is still broken and we see that brokenness in a thousand different ways every day.

Leaning on my windowsill that snowy afternoon, I felt myself slipping into doubt, into despair. Over and over I thought of the cry of that anguished father in the Gospel of Mark: Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief. And in that moment I felt something. It wasn’t peace. It didn’t erase the sorrow in my heart. It was more like awareness, a window opening to a place that I hadn’t seen before.

In that space, for just a moment, I heard His voice.

I’m here. They mattered. They matter to me. They were my beloved. You are my beloved. They are with me and they are perfect. You will be okay, I promise. I am here... I am always here.

In the quiet of that blessed assurance I looked out the window and saw my boys working together to try and gather every ounce of snow they could find to build a miniature snowman. From the depths of my soul, I smiled.

It’s been almost five years now and I still hold onto that moment of clarity.

It is the voice that tells me it is okay that I am still here, still writing about them, still remembering them, still missing them. It is also the voice that tells me it is okay that I am happy again, that joy returned. It is the voice of love in all its forms. The love that weeps over those we miss, and the love that rejoices in the blessings of today.

I believe in love.  I believe that God is the source of that love. I believe we are called to love and that in doing so we assist God in repairing the world. And I believe that my babies, my son and daughter, are wrapped forever in eternal love - both mine and God’s.

I believe.

gone is the ultimate goal

In July 2006, Rosepetal’s first son V was stillborn at full term—one day before her scheduled induction and three days after a check-up with heart rate monitoring and ultrasound showing that all was well. She discovered the world of baby loss blogs shortly afterwards and began her own—Moksha—and joins us for Glow's Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa blogolympics.

Although Rosepetal’s family is Hindu, she was not brought up in a particularly spiritual way. There were no daily prayers within her household, no shrine in a corner of her childhood home and, at the time, no local Hindu temple in her hometown.

"I spent a lot of my childhood rejecting all things Indian, not being interested in Hinduism and just trying not to be different," she explains. "I have no spiritual leader, and patchy beliefs and understanding. When I was approached by Glow in the Woods to write a piece, I felt a little bit fraudulent being put forth as a Hindu voice. But this gathering is all about context and not credentials, and so here I am."

Rosepetal was born to Indian immigrants in 1973 in England, and lives now wih her husband and living son in Europe.

It is in our hands to plan and do everything to the best of our capabilities but the results are in the hands of God. The way in which every living being comes to earth depends on accumulated karma. The better our deeds, the better the opportunities we get in this life to perform better deeds. In the end some pious souls get freed from this cycle of rebirth.

I believe that your young son was one such Divine Soul who only needed a short time before being freed forever from this cycle and will now become one with God. It is called moksha, the salvation. You [and your husband] were both the chosen ones for this to happen.

So wrote my cousin in India after the unexplained death of my son at full term.

Comfort was in very short supply and this was one of the only letters I found comforting at the time. It presented V as having his own thing to do, his own destiny, one which I could not—and maybe even should not—have prevented.

There are two main views on what moksha, the ultimate goal for Hindus, is like. One states that the soul retains its own identity upon attaining moksha and continues to exisit in an enlightened state of perfection. The other states that the soul loses all individuality and becomes at one with the whole—you might call the whole God—and is indistinguishable from it. A useful analogy is that it is like an individual drop of water falling and merging into the ocean. It is the latter which I believe makes most sense.

When my father died suddenly less than a year after V's death, I sobbed to a friend that I must have done something really awful in a previous life. But the truth is I don't really understand how the paths of different souls intersect in this way. How come V attained moksha and I became the mother of a dead child?

Today I find the idea that V attained moksha both comforting and distressing. Comforting because that is the ultimate goal for any soul. Distressing because it means he no longer has any attachments to me and no longer even exists as individual entity. Whereas once I felt sure that I would find him again after death, that the mother-child bond was that strong, now I fear that it is in fact impossible. Maybe that explains why these days I feel so very far away from him.

But there is a small beginning of a grain of understanding of what it must take to attain moksha. As I cling to my individual self, I see that I am nowhere near.

stung by the thorn of a rose

Omar was gregarious, a magnet. I’d pepper my friend with questions about his origins, his culture and religion, all so foreign to my own. What he shared with me so many years ago was deeply lyrical, simple and complex at the same time.

"Muslims don’t have a Sunday," he’d said to me one day. "Every day is holy. God is God. He didn’t need to rest."

How would the loss of a baby be integrated by this poetic, unresting Allah and his passionate, deeply faith-living people? As we stoked the fire for the Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa blogolympics, I wanted to know.

Souad, Moroccan by background and living in Germany, is a key figure of support and sisterhood on a very glow-like message board for muslim mamas—a gathering of voices so familiar, and yet so unique. "The only time Fudayl ibn `Iyad was ever seen smiling," shared one mother, "...was after the death of his child. His reply to those around him was: 'Allah loved something and I love what Allah loved.'”

Five years ago, Souad’s first pregnancy brought her Sarah, born and lost at 22 weeks. "I was crying in disbelief," writes Souad. "I held her and kissed her, touched her little fingers and toes. She was so perfect but too small to live."

photo by dysonology

Assalamu aleikum, peace be to all of you.

Two days after we lost Sarah we buried her on the Islamic cemetery close to us. It was such a horrible event. I wanted to be buried with her—how could I leave her in that hole by herself? How could I dare to go home? I felt my heart breaking in parts and I wished for death, may Allah forgive me. Then depression followed. I closed shutters and doors and stayed in the dark room all day. I didn’t eat, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep. I just stared at the walls and cried.

People outside lived their lives like nothing was going on, I thought that they were very rude. I thought the world had changed and everybody was in grief, but it was only me who had changed. My husband and I cried every day.

When I knew I can’t do it by myself, I was lucky to find a muslim therapist who had lost five babies herself—she knew how to deal with me. I am always thankful to the One and Only God that He connected me with her. She showed me this saying of the last prophet of God, Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him):

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, said, “Indeed the miscarried fetus will confront his Lord if He enters his parents into the Fire. So it will be said to him, ‘O fetus which confronts his Lord! Enter your parents into Paradise.’ So he will drag them by his [umbilical] cord until he enters them into Paradise.” [Ibn Majah]

She showed me my religion all over again.

I was born muslim but I didn’t practice the way I should have. We talked about how faith in God was important and how patience plays a big role in life. We went over the story of Mary and how she got pregnant through a wish of Allah—in a time when it was a catastrophe to become pregnant out of wedlock. Mary left her home to have little Jesus (in Arabic his name is Isa, and in Islam he is a prophet only, not son of God) all by herself and return with him. No one believed her until Jesus spoke from the crib. Allah made her the most pious woman of all time. She managed her trial with strength and faith in Allah, not fearing anyone.

I have grown since then. My faith in Allah has grown—I feel His presence every day. Just having passed my 5-year anniversary of our loss, I see now how much I have changed. I think of her with such joy, and thank Allah for blessing me with my two living girls for this life, with my little Sarah at my gate to Paradise, God willing. My little Sarah is with Abraham and his wife Sarah, being taken care of.


In Islam, religion is not part of our life. Our life is part of our religion. Allah tests our patience and our trust in Him. Are we going to have faith in Him and get over it quickly and accept it? Or are we going to challenge Him, be mad at Him?

The believer is like the grain crops—the wind continually beats it back and forth. And a believer continues to be afflicted with trials. We have to bend with our trials—not be like a strong tree that would break with a stronger wind. Trials cleanse our souls from past sins, as the saying goes: we are not stung by the thorn of a rose without some sins being forgiven for the pain.


We are allowed to grieve for three days. We can still cry after that, but must get ourselves together and go on with life. Visitors come every day with food and drinks, and to talk. You are never alone. If we have a strong faith in Allah, we know that everybody has to leave one day and that this life is not what we are here for to achieve. We are here to work for the next life.

Still, it took time to heal. I went through the same things that might be familiar for you—I saw pregnant women and newborns all around me, remembered the foods I used to crave, had milk leaking from my breasts, suffered postpartum contractions and had baby clothes at home but no baby.

Many years and two children later, I feel blessed with everything that has happened to me. There is wisdom in losing my child. It was a loss for this world, but a gain for the next.

In the absence of miracles

Today we welcome Kristin, a.k.a. Msfitzita of Certainly Not Cool Enough to Blog, to the Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa blogolympics table.

Kristin finds it hard to describe herself these days. She is a writer by trade and a mourner at heart. After losing four babies to miscarriage and her sweet son Thomas to a placental abruption during delivery in March 2005, she spends much of her time trying to make sense of her childless world and peacefully dwell within it.

She also bakes, crochets and gardens with ferocity. Because, she says, she is happiest when she’s creating something - be it with seeds, yarn, flour or words.

She lives a quiet, determined life with her husband and their 12-year old cat just outside of Toronto, Ontario.

When I lay on the operating table muttering frantic prayers into an oxygen mask while they bagged my son and tried to stop the bleeding that threatened to take me too, my relationship with the God I’d always known and taken comfort in cracked, crumbled and eventually simply fell away.

He had deserted me. I begged for my son’s life and buried him 8 days later while God and his whole company of angels sat idly by watching.

God was a big deal in my house when I was a child. One of my earliest memories, hazy and sweet, is of being cradled in my Mother’s arms in the glow of the early morning sun while she softly sang “Jesus Loves Me” and rocked me back to sleep.

Although only one side of my family is Catholic, both sides were devout, involved in their respective churches - specifically in the choirs - going back generations. And I happily followed in their footsteps, singing and worshiping and believing. Not always following every single rule (and often questioning those that I did), but doing my best just the same.

And then, in an instant, the foundation that I thought was as strong as bedrock rumbled, shifted and knocked me off my feet.

After all I’d done all my life to try to live up to the sometimes impossible standards he’d set, God vanished when I needed him most. He denied me my miracle when, to my grief stricken mind, it seemed that he freely doled them out to others. To others who maybe hadn’t tried as hard as I had to follow the path he demanded.

It wasn’t necessarily that I thought I deserve miracles more than someone else – I’m flawed in a million different ways - I just thought I deserved them too.

I’m still very much living in the aftermath of this perceived betrayal. I’m a tentative believer now. Wary and cautious. My church is made of eggshells and glass, and I live with the feeling that the slightest tremor could shatter it.

I’m awed by others who were able to run towards their gods and churches and traditions when I ran from mine. And I wonder what it is that gives them the confidence and faith that I lack.

Sometimes, in dark moments, I have even wondered if this is why I didn’t get my miracle.

Immediately after Thomas died, while I was still numb and thoughts refused to reveal themselves to me in useful ways that made any sense, I took comfort in the formal rituals of death that I knew and understood. Contacting the priest. Arranging the funeral. Going to the Mass. Wrapping myself in the security of the traditions and practices I knew and understood dragged me through those first horrifying days.

This was the only part of Thomas dying that made any sense. It was the last time I knew what would happen next. Or what, as a grieving mother, I was supposed to do.

When he was finally buried I had nothing left. No rituals to cling to and nothing but empty space and endless time.

And that’s what I discovered that God was absent.

Simply gone.

I looked and couldn’t find him. I asked and received no answer. I begged and pleaded and cajoled and was, each time, summarily denied.

And this abandonment fueled an ugly, seething rage within me. I continued to go to church, but I was suddenly an outsider in a world I that I used to feel so much a part of. I went simply to challenge God. To force him to deal with me. To taunt him with my anger. To let him know that I hadn’t vanished like he had, and wouldn’t go away without a fight.

Admittedly, I also went to church because I was too scared not to. This new God killed babies. My baby. And I was utterly terrified at what he might do next. So I went to Mass filled with hate and fear. For months.

I waged an epic battle with God.

There was no one great moment of clarity – no startling epiphany - that changed my thinking. I just slowly, quietly started to notice the anger seeping away. And in its place, a longing to belong again. To find peace. To make amends.

There is still a hole in my soul. There are band-aids and sticky tape and staples and glue bearing the weight of my fragile faith.

But I can accept this. If it takes a lifetime to grieve for a lost child, it makes sense that it might also take a lifetime to repair some of the relationships that were lost with him.

I have nothing but time. I can wait.