strong threads

I don't remember how I found her...clicked over from a comment at another blog, probably.  Her story was familiar - a son, stillborn, his absence huge and bewildering - and yet utterly particular little face missed, one particular family sorrowing, one particular struggle to resurface.  I was in a quiet place in my own grieving and surfacing, and the I hear you.  I feel you.  I'm so sorry that resonated in me never found a voice.  But I clicked back now and then, because her words moved me and her story felt like kin, her Callum an ephemeral brother to my Finn in this strange circle that binds us, the babylost.

Then she shocked me into speech.  Callum's anniversary, and a link to a series of baby slings by the company she started, then sold in the aftermath...slings that are being sold this month under the wry banner of Carry On My Wayward Son, with all proceeds donated to stillbirth research.  Carry on, indeed.  And oh, how I laughed, having howled that cockrock anthem beside moonlit bonfires, choking on smoke and the high notes - the perfect title.  But then I clicked through, and saw the label on the slings, and tears began to burn behind my eyes.

Because in early 2006, pregnant for the second time, still raw with grief and hospitalized on bedrest four hours from home, isolated and in despair at what felt like the hopeless cause of ever bringing home a live baby, it was her sling, made by her own hands, that happened to be the first baby item I ever dared purchase.  It was an act of defiance and an act of hope, clicking "buy now" there in that awful Craftmatic bed.  I lay still, eyes darting to the door, afraid that someone would catch me red-handed in the ridiculous, preposterous act of imagining myself with a happy ending.

I got my happy ending, that time.  The baby came safely, as did the sling.  It was the cocoon from which I introduced my son to the world during his early days...and since September, it's been doing the same for his sister.  It's made of strong stuff, well-sewn.  Of all the accoutrements of parenthood that have cluttered my house over the past few years, it's the one that I value most deeply, the one that testifies  to how tiny my babies were when they nestled almost invisible within it, the one that symbolizes my hard-won motherhood for me.  But realizing that C. sewed that sling - C. who did not get her happy ending with Callum - knocked the breath out of me and made me weep.  My heart sang out to her, You! You helped me heal! and I knew that she would understand.  And yet I would not wish anyone in a position to know how much that means.

Connection matters.  A year ago this weekend Kate and I first met face-to-face, and sat together and talked into the night of our sons and of Medusa-hood and of community and grief and love.  Glow in the Woods is the progeny of that night, thanks to Kate's tireless work and the contributions of everyone who writes here and visits here and comments is, more than anything, a place for connections.  The threads that tie us within this circle of babyloss are messy threads, narratives of sorrow and brokenness, healing and resurfacing.  When the threads are all woven together, connected, our hope is that they make the circle a less lonely place to be...and make it easier to carry on.

What role have connections with other babylost parents - online or in person - played in your own coping and healing?  Have you had any random encounters or small-world experiences where your babylost identity and the rest of your life have collided, as I did with C?  Have you met many people who share your experience outside the ether of teh internets?


strength in the ashes

Angie of Bring the Rain brings our Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa blogolympics to a close, rounding out a month of new voices that's left us all deeply moved, comforted and invigorated in the heart.

Angie lost her first child to miscarriage in January of 2002, and lost her fourth daughter Audrey Caroline shortly after birth on April 7th, 2008 due to conditions that made her incompatible with life. In her writing, Angie has shared what often feels like an intimate conversation between God and herself, a Christian walking the path of spirit-baby motherhood.

Speaking to the extraordinary response she received on her October 15th post to acknowledge the sisterhood (and brotherhood) of babyloss, she writes: "If you believe in Him tonight, you will know what it feels like to trust completely in the One who holds you high above the discernible ground. You know that it isn't always perfect, and it isn't always easy. It is entirely possible that something will give way and you will fall, head first into the ache that is this life.

But on the other hand, you'll never know unless you jump."

"Jacob, where do you find the strength to carry on in life?"
"Life is often heavy only because we attempt to carry it," said Jacob. "But I do find a strength in the ashes."
"In the ashes?" asked Mr. Gold.
"Yes," said Jacob, with a confirmation that seemed to have traveled a great distance. "You see, Mr. Gold, each of us is alone. Each of us is in the great darkness of our ignorance. And, each of us is on a journey. In the process of our journey, we must bend to build a fire for light, and warmth, and food. But when our fingers tear at the ground, hoping to find the coals of another's fire, what we often find is the ashes.
And, in those ashes, which will not give us light or warmth, there may be sadness, but there is also testimony. Because these ashes tell is that somebody else has been in the night, somebody else has bent to build a fire, and somebody else has carried on. And that can be enough, sometimes."
—Noah benShea

I was about 18 weeks along when they told me she wouldn't live. After the diagnosis, the doctor asked me how I felt, and I replied, "My Jesus is the same as He was before I walked in here." I believed it. I still believe it.

But it hurts.

We decided (against medical advice) to carry her as long as possible because we wanted to leave room for God to perform a miracle. I spent the next several months answering difficult questions from strangers about when my baby was due, what we were naming her, whether or not she would have red hair like her sisters, what were we thinking to have another baby when we already have three daughters aged 5 and under. The sweet shape of my growing tummy belied the truth. She wasn't going to be ours. Not the way we wanted her to be.

I spent many, many nights in tears of panic and desperation. I realized something about my faith that I hadn't known up until that point in time: I really believed in Him.

It's one thing to say it. It is another thing entirely to do it.

I found myself curled up in bed after the kids were sleeping, talking to the Lord like He was a friend sitting beside me. I told Him about Audrey and the way I loved her. I told Him I didn't think I could live without her, that I wanted it to be a dream. He never failed to meet me where I was, when I had nothing else that spoke to me. And so, in the darkest season of my life, I found myself falling head over heels in love with the God who held her life in His hands.

I think that as Christians, we are sometimes tempted to believe that if our faith is where it is supposed to be, we won't fear, we won't be disappointed, we won't mourn what we have lost in this life. Well, I am here to tell you that I have been through the worst of it, and it was, well, the worst of it. I didn't walk around life exclaiming my joy about the impending birth (and death) or my daughter. I remember driving home from (of all places) a baby shower for a good friend of mine. The rain was splashing all over my car and I started screaming and pounding the wheel. "You can FIX this Lord. You can heal her! DO IT! HEAL HER! HEAL HER!!!"

He talked to me about Who He was, and He led me to Scripture that I could press into. He earned in me a faithful follower, and in return, He taught me the power of ashes.

On April 7th, 2008, we met our sweet Audrey. She went to be with the Lord after about 2 hours, and it was bittersweet to say the least. We studied her bellybutton, the bottom of her feet, her rosebud lips. We held her, sang to her, prayed over her. We loved her as if we had always known her, and then, in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

We held her for many hours after she died, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't have it out with God during that time. I would be lying if I said I haven't had it out with Him every day since then. Yes, I believe. Absolutely. I don't know how to not believe.

But I don't understand.

I want you to know that if you have made your way to this site because you have walked across a cemetery to spend time with a child you cannot parent, I am sorry. If you have miscarried so early that you don't even have a physical marker of your sweet baby, I am sorry. If you are a mother who is without your daughter or your son tonight, I want you to know that I am praying for you as I type these words, and I am broken because I know the hurt of an unrealized dream.

We may not believe in the same God, and we may not attend the same church. We may not ever meet in this life, but I want you to know that from the deepest part of me, I am sorry that your hands have had to dig deep into the earth alongside mine, desperately searching for coals. We are united in the most undesirable of ways, but tonight, I am grateful to have women who remind me that I have permission to feel the way I feel, and above all, whisper in the dark of night, You are not alone.

And sometimes, that can be enough.

...and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair...
Isaiah 61:2-3

opening windows

David Spinrad of The Unorthodox Rabbi is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, the seminary for the Reform (progressive) Jewish movement, and a personal trainer living in San Francisco. He is the husband of Gal of Growing Inside, whom we've honoured here at Glow. In the words of big sister Dahlia, Dave and Gal have one 'princess daughter' and one 'angel daughter'. Their youngest, Tikva, passed away in August 2008 of a diaphragmatic hernia diagnosed during Gal's pregnancy.

Dave joins our Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa gathering with this caveat: "Even though I am a rabbinical student, I cannot promise that my perspective will be entirely Jewish. And even though I am a man, I cannot promise you my voice will be male. I will promise you that whatever I contribute will be a reflection of me, uncompromisingly honest and from the heart."

Do I really want to be a part of the Dead Babies Club? Can't I just do this myself, keep my feelings and perspective away from anyone or anything that I feel like I have to defend against?

I could be in the park right now. Sun, shining down. Me, dreaming up. Blue sky, above. Green grass, below. Is not this the purest connection to God? A clear head, feeling no differentiation between me and God and no distance from Source?

Sounds great.

Who are you kidding?

I hear You. It actually sounds boring.

I do like this ride, although I don't know about the DBC.

Afraid? Why make life experience conditional? Why not dive into all of life?

This is the Jewish way.

I did come here to mix it up. I came for experience and expression. I am alive to explore. I live to be here, desire there, find peace in the here and enjoy the journey to there.

But where I am is no longer here and not quite there. A liminal state of being. Can I enjoy being neither here nor there? Can I trust where I am even if I don't understand it?

You can, if you let yourself be where you are.

Does this lead me to becoming a better rabbi, too? More questions than answers. My response to a person saying, "This will make you a better rabbi," is "I would settle for becoming eighty percent of the rabbi losing Tikva will make me," is a lie.

I will settle for nothing less than the fullness of life's experience. Tikva's passing is, on a feeling level, exactly the depth of life I desire. I wouldn't have asked for the conditions in a million years, but the 'why' of it isn't for me to answer. I can give that question over to God simply because there is absolutely no way for me come to a satisfactory answer. I'm totally off the hook for that one, and making myself crazy or miserable isn't my way.

It unsettles me to admit this, but when I take the labels of 'desired' and 'undesired' off the piles of life, I have so much more freedom in my life.

In the Torah, upon sending Abram upon the adventure of his life, God says to him, 'Lech lecha'. In English, it translates to, 'Go for yourself'. Or, we can translate it as, 'Go to yourself'. Every journey to ourselves is for ourselves. And Tikva's life gives me gifts for my journey to self that I am only beginning to understand.

Whether I want to be or not, I have a lifetime membership to the Dead Babies Club. Since I'm stuck here, would you mind if we open up a few windows? And while we grieve, I'm going to throw out a few thoughts.

Losing a child is not my whole life. Do you know how uncomfortable I am that there are all these people out there who only know me from this experience, only know me as Tikva's dad? I am so much more, way, way more than just her dad. I am made of the same stuff as sunshine between tree branches and nothing less than the moon rising above the Red Sea.

I am a part of God. Without me, there could be no You. The Sh'ma, whose words carve the foundation stone of Judaism, demands my particpation in comprising God, declaring: "Listen, you who wrestle with God, the Unity that is our God, God is One." You need us. And we, as a part of You, are eternal.

So why so much attention on this one little soul, this little piece of God consciousness who projected herself into a body that gave her exactly the experience she, and our collective consciousness, desired? Because if we're going to give her all this attention, let's look at the glory of the life she lived.

How many people do in eighty years what Tikva did in eight weeks? How many of us inspire hope, real hope, real oh-my-God-oh-my-God-oh-my-God hope in our lives? Tikva doesn't only mean ‘hope' in Hebrew, Tikva is hope. That's what she was and that's what she is. And I got to be the parent of the physical manifestation of the feeling of hope. I got to hold Hope in my arms.

And you want me to mourn that? Are you kidding me?!

And yet, I grieve. And that makes me feel so mortal. So ordinary. So. There is no escaping it. There is no winning in life and no losing in death, only love and our capacity to give and receive it.

Tikva's middle name is Ahava, ‘love' in Hebrew. And the only love worth a damn is unconditional love. It's a real thing and Tikva gave me the chance to feel it. I'd heard all about unconditional love in the past, but I was never able to separate the message from the messenger. I always suspected that deep down inside the person yammering on about unconditional love was really trying to set himself up to get a piece of ass. Nothing wrong with that, but don't kid yourself about unconditional love. Until you've lived it, you can't know it. And the separation between those who can grasp the concept and those who have held the feeling is a yawning chasm that nothing but experience can bridge.

Until you love your child without ever knowing whether or not you'll ever get to hold her, you don't know unconditional love.

Until your love for your child is greater than your need for her to live even one more day with anything less than the dignity she deserves, you don't know unconditional love.

I grieve the loss of Tikva, but can't and wouldn't change a thing. It doesn't all make sense to me and it feels like it never will, but in Man's Search of Meaning, Victor Frankel wrote this from the concentration camp in which he was held:

The last freedom is ours - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

of magic and faith

Kara L.C. Jones joins the Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa blogolympics as a Wiccan practitioner who was raised Roman Catholic and spent 18 years exploring world religions. These days, she is not part of a coven or formal community, but follows an eclectic path of honoring holy days like Solstices and full moons, holding sacred the 'green' view of air, fire, water, earth, and spirit. Early influences of Virgin Mary still reach across, though often in the form of varied Goddess iconography like Kali, Venus, She-la-nagig and others.

Kara is interested in bereavement rituals like Day of the Dead and memorial henna painting, which came after the death of her son Dakota. As part of her grief path, she has written extensively about her life as a different kind of parent. She and her partner Hawk co-founded KotaPress to publish a grief blog and website, and to distribute her books Flash Of Life as well as Mrs. Duck & The Woman. Her art lives at The 1,000 Faces of Mother Henna.

Dakota's entire being was made up of faith and magic.

I first visioned this child as a young girl, showing up randomly in my dreams and meditation. She gave her father and I the same night time dream one night. We were both floored to discover we'd had the exact same dream, down to the details.

We went up to Paradise at Mount Rainier, and there in the snow, in all capital letters: DAKOTA. We drove up to Neah Bay, stopping at an overlook along the way, and there on a boulder, in all capital letters, spray-painted in blue: DAKOTA.

We weren't going to get married at first. Instead we tried for two years to just get pregnant. Nothing. Then we decided that our love, our partnership was worthy of commitment. The day after our wedding ceremony, we got pregnant. Summer Solstice pregnancy. Spring equinox birth predicted for our child who turned out to be a son. Every moment seemed like magic. I had faith in the magic.

And then I heard the words this baby is dead.

To say I shut down is an understatement. I was so angry at the Goddess. First for taking my child from me. And then extraordinarily angry at Her because I realized the grief was overwhelming, and I would need Her help to make it through this. The last thing I wanted was any help or renewed sense of belief in a Being who betrayed my dreams so deeply. How could She do this to us? How could she take my devotion to beauty and leave me transformed into a mad woman with a head full of snakes that seemed to turn people into stone?

People would ask how I was doing, and I would scream. They stood dumbfounded, staring at me.


People would ask when are you going to try again? and I would scream that another child would not fix anything. They stood dumbfounded, staring.


People would say Okay Kara, it's been three years, now it is time to move on and I would scream.


I became incapable of maintaining or forming relationships because others would look at me, especially others who were happy or pregnant or had living children, and...


Ultimately, I did not just lose my son. I lost myself. We lost relationships. We lost everything. We found ourselves homeless in our car on the infamous September 11th. There was nothing left to lose now except my mind.

At that point, we found our way to this magic little island in Puget Sound where I met a few other mothers of the Earth. Friends who understood what it meant to make ritual a part of every single day. Magicians who led the way to everyday miracles, Reiki, retreats, re-engagement in a sense of being part of the air, water, earth, fire, and spirit.

The Internet also had been a continuous blessing as bereaved parents from all over the world began contacting us about our books, offering to contribute writings to our site, to the Dictionary of Loss, and to the Different Kind of Parenting zine we'd created. It was through the MISS Foundation that I reconnected with my ability to create relationship. Dr. Jo from MISS reached out to us and her model of living life in the presence of grief changed everything for me. I began writing with her and Dr. DeFrain. Hawk and I began offering creative arts sessions at the annual MISS conferences. My online relationships were becoming flesh and blood.


It was probably the gift of my good friend Lisa that brought me the whole way back to magic and faith. She simply asked me this:

What if we behave
make choices exactly where we are
given the options open to us in this moment
as if we are living our most cherished dream?

This little tool was the first that didn't try to fix what happened. It didn't require that I give up my different kind of parenthood. It acknowledged the grief and at the same time explored life after the death of a child, rather than make grief and life mutually exclusive.

It simply said This is where you are. This is what has happened. Given exactly where you are, with exactly what you have at hand, how do you cherish your dreams again? How do you dream again?

And so I found myself back in the present moment. If there is a Goddess, She could take care of the past and the future. All I have is right now. And if I think of NOW as my most cherished dream - always as my most cherished dream, then anything is possible again. Even happiness and play.

My son cannot be brought back. I can never be my pre-grief self again. The dreams of that previous self do not hold meaning here now.


In this moment, I have a sink full of dirty dishes. So in my most cherished dream, I take the time to play with the soap bubbles. In this moment, we have a house full of hungry people. So in my most cherished dream, I take the time to make pancakes with our grandchildren. In this moment, I miss my son. So in my most cherished dream, I take the time to play with sugar, beads, foil, and icing and make sugar skulls for his altar.

The energy and experience of my different kind of parenthood has come back around to being part of everyday sacredness. And though Dakota is not here in the ways I originally visioned, he is still here - in all capital letters - he is still a being made up entirely of faith and magic.