my body electric

It’s time. It’s spring. It’s time to plant.

I take it out of the freezer where it’s been since last June, since Tikva’s birth.

I put it in the refrigerator and after a few days it has thawed.

I take it out again, open the top of the plastic container, and pour it into a bowl.

I look down on this magnificent thing – deep, dark red blood, a mass of veins, a symbol of life.

Tikva’s placenta, a few inches of her umbilical cord, and the amniotic sac that surrounded them and my Baby Girl. Incredible.

I need to cut off a piece of the placenta and put it in a sterile container. It’s going to a doctor who is researching the possible genetic causes of congenital diaphragmatic hernia. She may be able to isolate Tikva’s DNA from her placenta and include her in the study. Maybe tell me something that might explain… something. Perhaps. Before losing that opportunity, it’s worth a try.

So I dig my fingers into its softness, marvel at every inch.

My body made that. My body made that for my Baby Girl! That which nourished her while she was inside me, helped her grow. I can’t help but wonder at how amazing that is – it is not diminished by the fact that something still went awry as she grew inside me. In this beautiful thing in my fingers, I see what my body did for Tikva – I see how hard my body worked to nourish her and keep her well.

I cut off a small piece from one side, then another piece. I take a piece of the umbilical cord, and some of the blood, and I put them all into a small sterile container. Tikva’s DNA in a plastic vial. The rest back in the big container, back in the refrigerator. My hands under the flowing water, I watch the red of the blood run down the drain.

A few days later I plant the rest of the placenta underneath a new rosebush – golden yellow and orange roses with some pink. The best kind of fertilizer to help them grow and blossom. The roses are going to smell amazing when they bloom. The colors make me think of Tikva… warm and delicious and delicate and soft. So sweet.

photo by sleepingbear

I can’t help but be amazed at what my body is capable of – both the magic and the messy stuff. I’ve struggled with illness, with being overweight and underweight, with the constant practice of learning to love my body in spite of the jiggle and flab and blemishes. I haven’t always treated my body like a temple… I certainly haven’t always loved my body unconditionally.

But the three times I was pregnant I treated it like the Taj Mahal.

I took for granted the magic when Dahlia grew perfectly inside me and was born with relative ease. I was stunned with disbelief – Me? No way! – when I miscarried at ten weeks a few years later. Miscarrying felt like small potatoes when I learned that Tikva had a potentially life threatening birth defect – My baby? How can that be?

I’m honestly not sure what to make of it all – all that my reproductive body has created. I have planted two placentas: Dahlia’s with fuchsia colored dahlia tubers and Tikva’s with orange yellow roses. I planted the remains from my miscarriage with yellow dahlias.

Lots of flowers that are now in other people’s gardens.

One radiantly healthy living child asleep in my quiet home.

My slightly deflated spirit housed in this familiar almost-38-year old body that is both charged by what it is capable of and apprehensive about all that can go wrong.

My body actually feels strong, healthier overall than I have felt in years. It also feels – and certainly looks – older. I can’t say I really thought very intensely about being in my late thirties or even really noticed my aging body until this year – until I lost Tikva. It’s like someone polished the mirror and held it up to my face and said,

See? This is you. You are older. You have been through a lot. You are now even more weathered than you thought you could be.

Remember the movie Fame from 1980, at the very end when they do their senior performance and sing and dance all together…

I sing the body electric. I celebrate the me yet to come. I toast to my own reunion when I become one with the sun.

I sing the body electric. I glory in the glow of rebirth. Creating my own tomorrow when I shall embody the earth.

And I'll look back on Venus, I'll look back on Mars and I'll burn with the fire of ten million stars. And in time, and in time we will all be stars.

That song has been in my head the past few days as I have checked in with my own body electric. As I have thought about the possibility of rebirth after loss. About the kind of tomorrow I want to create – if indeed some of the creation is up to me.

I have been talking to my body, assuring myself that trust is still there between us – that body and I still believe in each other. I have felt pangs – my eyes have moistened – thinking about how incompatible with life Tikva’s beautiful body was. I have asked so many times,

What does it all mean? Why does it work only sometimes?

I have more questions than answers, of that I am sure. Yet I still feel like I have a lot to celebrate about my body…

My body that has given life, however fragile.

My body that is the only vessel I get this time around for my mighty and sometimes weary soul on this mysterious winding road.

My body that is – like Tikva’s – perfectly imperfect. Or is it imperfectly perfect?

I feel tremendous gratitude for my body electric – and the force of energy it both contains and creates.


What are you thankful for about your body? What brings you awe? What are you inspired to create when you look in your mirror?

This post is a part of The Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.


When we found out Lu was pregnant last January it was one of those rare moments where we knew beyond any doubt that our lives had just changed forever, and that the transformation would be an ongoing process for years, forever, really. We were right about impending change, but wrong about the true nature of what was to come.

Now, over a year later we aren't even back to where we started. I am not back to any place that feels anything like the life I used to have. Everything appears exactly the same and that sameness feels utterly wrong. I look the same, my life rolls on the same way as always and yet within I have been transformed.

It is as though I have been enlarged by grief, and I'm still learning how to carry all this extra soul-weight on body that was used to moving lightly through the world. I had no proof of this, though. No son to show around that says "Now I Am a Dad." That expansion was supposed to be Silas and parenting and a whole new, challenging and invigorating way of life. Instead, that expansive, beautiful life was turned inward and invisible, into a black and dense weight that lives at the center of my being. My tattoo is a physical expression of that pain and loss, and it is helping me.

Lately I have felt less angry about people not remembering or not knowing about Silas. I can't just bring him up, but yet at the same time I cannot go through every day distant and angry, waiting for someone to acknowledge my loss, to speak to me about him. Oh the seething rage or sadness sometimes can't be denied, no doubt, but I work hard to face forward and get through it. In the end, other people can't help me if I can't help myself.

My tattoo in honor of Silas is a way to do that.

Since the tattoo is in a very visible place I know people see it. I am certain that they are aware of the mark and I like that. It is sort of like I'm sneaking Silas into the conversation. He's accounted for, whether they realize it or not. I'm surprised, though at how many people have not asked me about my ink. I figured it would be something people mentioned, but now that I think about it, I can't recall a single time I've asked someone what their tattoo meant.

I guess I just figured if I asked someone about their tattoo that at the least it would be a banal response about alcohol and spring break, or at the worst, well, me I suppose. Our story. And who wants to hear that? So I guess it makes sense that people don't ask me what it means. I'm not even sure how I would respond. I suppose some would get the truth while others I would be more gentle.

"It is to honor someone very close to me that has passed away," is probably the simplest way to put it, but the lack of specificity reduces that sentence to near-garbage. But on the other hand, "it's for my son, who died the day he was born," is so brutal and awful I can see people's souls short out when the words hit their ears. Their gaping, moving mouths and wide eyes make them look like a fish drowning in air. Which, incidentally, is how I always feel anyway. Welcome to my world. Here, have a sip of this. Cheers. To Death, that creepy, invisible intruder that rots the couch and bends the bed springs.

This tattoo is a talisman against the decay of memory and the reductive friction of time.

In a way it's a booby-trap, too. It is there to be seen and wondered about, but god help you if you ask. You just may get the truth. We're dangerous like that these days. There are a lot of things you don't want to ask us when you first meet us. And I worry about that now, in a way I never have before. I always looked forward to new friends and fun parties but now those situations are rife with potential disaster. Kid conversations are out whether it's about your new one or if we have any. Complaining is not an option as idle chit-chat with me. Can't handle it, don't care, will walk away if you keep it up. Plans for the future? Oh yeah we have one, but we had one last year and look where we are now. So we can do movies or music or better yet we can just talk about you because you don't want to know me. But if you do, if you really think you want to be my friend, go ahead and ask about my tattoo and I will tell you everything.

The tree is based on designs of the Tree of Life because Silas means "of the trees." This tree is dark though. It is black and gray and it swirls with an alien strangeness that I thoroughly enjoy. And although this Tree of my Son's Life appears dark and dead, tiny yellow fruit adorn several of the branches. Their pattern reveals the constellation of Orion--Silas' middle name--which rises in the autumn and rides high in the sky through those cold winter nights.

Silas was born on September 25th, so we were looking forward to teaching him about his stars as his birthday rolled around every year. Now that distinctive pattern of stars mocks me as the shape of a man he will never become. All winter those stars were brighter than the sun to me. I could barely look at them without the endless chasm of grief cracking open at my feet. I hate them and love them and drown in their cold starshine whenever my eyes capture their interstellar glow.

There is a heart hidden in my tattoo. That is because Silas is my heart. And because he is hidden, too. Around the edge is a pattern, a border. It is an S repeated over and over like the way I say his name to myself over and over, all the time, but it is also an Eternity symbol that is broken to reveal how he is lost to us.

This tattoo represents a private part of my soul that I demand to have revealed. I require this mark as a feature of who I am because without it, without a conjuring of Silas, I am not complete. It is a channel for my sadness. It is a badge despite how fucked up that sounds to me sometimes. It is a symbol for his life because that's all we have. We don't have his life, so a symbol is used as a poor, paltry placeholder. It is memory insurance.

So far, no stranger has asked me what my tattoo means and I was surprised by that, but it makes sense now. Yet, in the last week three people have out of the blue stopped me and told me that my tattoo was beautiful. I thanked them and smiled and they continued on their way. Inside I whispered over and over that it is, but you should have known my son. This is nothing compared to him.


Do you want people to ask you about your lost child? Do you initiate conversation about him or her? How do you commemorate your child? Necklace? Ink? Photographs? What objects or images link you to your child?

This post is a part of The Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.

7 by 7: the body shop

If there's any time of the year to take an inventory of physical healing, spring is it.

April is Body Shop month at Glow in the Woods -- in our posts, we'll be exploring what we've done and not done in an effort to occupy these bodies with grace after babyloss. To kick things off, it's a new 7 by 7 -- join in, won't you?

Our answers are here -- if you have a blog, copy and paste these questions into your own post, link to us, and share the link to your answers in the comments here. If you don't have a blog, please answer directly in the comments.


1 | Give us a few words you would have used to describe your body, your health or your sense of physical vitality before the experience of babyloss—and a few that you’d use to describe it now.

2 | What do you do to take care of yourself? Has this changed?

3 | Give us one or two words to describe sex or physical intimacy before, and then after the loss of your baby.

4 | Has loss and/or grief left a physical mark on you (a scar, a chronic condition, insomnia, a tattoo)?

5 | Do you medicate or control your emotions with food, wine, altered states, prescriptions? Without judgement, what have you gravitated towards in an effort to heal, and how do you feel about it?

6 | Was physical healing important for you in the first year after your loss? What did/does physical healing entail and how did/do you work towards it? If physicality hasn't been a priority for you, what do you do that makes you feel stronger or more able to cope?

7 | If you could change anything about your body and/or health, what would it be? What would it feel like to be either at peace with your body, or at peace with this babylost state?


(to comment and partipate, please leave your answers and/or link on this month's 7 by 7 page)