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.Read More
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?
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?
"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." —'Ghostbelly' author Elizabeth HeinemanRead More
Bucking Americans’ typical cultural aversion to death and the dead body, Lisa brought her stillborn son Thor’s body home. She shows him around the house. Takes him for walks. Talks to him. Creates memories. This is the story in the new memoir of stillbirth and loss by author Elizabeth Heineman.Read More