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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

Many thanks to artist Stephanie Sicore for allowing us to feature her little bird in our banner.

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Monday
Apr272009

losing it. perhaps literally.

“She’s got such a pretty face. It’s too bad she can’t do something about her weight.”

This remark can be attributed to a member of my own family. One I’ve secretly never forgiven.

My love/hate relationship with my physical self started very early. I have a crystal clear memory of being on the school playground in the third grade being called fat by a friend who was angry with me for one reason or another.

I spent high school in a fog of self conscious, shirt tugging anxiety, never happy with myself. Not until someone fell in love with me did I feel remotely confident. That helped, as did the roughly 30 pounds I lost over the summer following graduation. It wasn’t a conscious effort; I simply worked on my feet and rarely stopped to take a breath. Even relatively thin I dressed conservatively for someone my age, feeling as though other people shouldn’t have to be exposed to any more of my body than necessary.

Fast forward, past more than ten years of student and office life spent largely on my arse and I was back to where I was at 15; softer around the edges and thicker around the middle than I’d like.

And pregnant.

By the time Sadie was born at 42 weeks I had gained just under 60 pounds. I was comically rotund but somehow I loved every stretch-marked inch of myself. Even though my knees creaked when I climbed the stairs and I couldn’t get out of bed without rolling out, I felt better than I had ever felt before. My mind was as clear as my skin. Months of clean eating and plenty of sleep had made what I thought would be an indelible impression on me.Within two weeks of Sadie’s birth I had lost 20 pounds. Four weeks later she was gone.

If I’m being honest, I completely lost interest in caring for myself the morning we said goodbye to her.

I’ve spent the past year eating and struggling and drinking and feeling excessively. I joined a gym and went sporadically for two months before abandoning it altogether for three. I suffered from random insomnia and popped pills in all moments of weakness: hangovers, backaches, constipation, and depression. Rest certainly hasn’t come easily for me since her death, not without some sort of help. Whether that was a glass or four of sauvignon blanc or a couple of herbal sleeping pills, it was always something. Like many parents here will understand, it’s when the lights go out and I’m left along with my thoughts and memories that is most painful.

So much for my body being a temple. At the moment it’s barely a lean-to. I can’t decide if I enjoy punishing myself or I don’t believe I deserve to feel good in the first place. Whatever the case, I feel as vulnerable now as that third grader in the schoolyard.

Less sensitive people have been asking us whether we’ll try again for months. Others have tactfully left it to us to bring up if and when we’re comfortable. I have often wondered if Sadie hadn’t been our first, would we be where we are right now. I am doubtful and terrified that my abused old body may not even be capable of making a healthy child. Am I strong enough, physically or emotionally, to try? Am I too far beyond repair to risk it?

My husband has lost more than 20 pounds since Christmas; regularly pounding out God knows how many frustrations at the gym. It wasn’t until he started annoying me with a daily ‘calories burned’ report that my latent competitive streak was roused. Then it got even worse: the bastard started shrinking (damn those men and their superior metabolism). I’ve literally had no choice but to get off the couch and pick up my sneakers.

I’m not making any promises, least of all to myself.

If I were brave I might ask myself why I’ve let the idle lifestyle go on so long. Knowing I won’t allow myself to get pregnant again without being in suitable physical shape first, I might also ask if there is a chance I’ve been using my body as an excuse to put off trying again. But I’ve never been much in the bravery area.

How has your body image changed after pregnancy, and after your loss? Have you ever knowingly punished your physical self, it be with neglect or otherwise?

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.

Thursday
Apr232009

our bodies, grief, and healing

Today's post is an interview with my chiropractor, Dr. Jenny Dubisar. I have felt that my pregnancy with Ferdinand brought me in touch with much beauty and grace, and Jenny is one of those graceful gems. She is the sweetest soul ever, I am so lucky to have met her and be in her care.

She has answered the interview questions in great detail, even when I gave her such little time and at a time when her schedule is choked full. She has really put her heart into the answers, you will find grace and compassion sparling and glittering throughout her answers.

Jenny practises a type of chiropractic technique known as Network Spinal Analysis, or Networking. It is different from the traditional chiro technique, so much more gentler and relaxing. Jenny explains beautifully about her work and the relation between grief and chiropractic health. I am deeply thankful for the time she took to explain and share.

 

How is networking different from other chiropractic techniques?

All Chiropractic techniques are about keeping the information/connection between the body and the brain clear. Since the nervous system is the pathway by which the communication occurs, any interference along this pathway has the potential to disrupt, disconnect, or delay the vital communication needed to heal or maintain the body.

Traditional chiropractic takes interference off of the nervous system by correcting subluxations (misalignment of the spinal bones), and there are many different techniques used to accomplish this; however, most use some form of structural adjustment that makes a snap-crackle-pop sound.

Network Spinal Analysis (ie Network) is a non-traditional chiropractic technique. It is considered non-traditional in that Network first unwinds the soft tissue that surrounds the central nervous system (the spinal cord) and the soft tissue attachments to the spine. It addresses core body tension (caused by physical, chemical or emotional stress) that can create interference, subluxations, compound chronic misaglignments, and/or hyperstimulate the nervous system. Network uses very gentle contacts along the spine (usually in the neck and sacrum) to unwind and open up the breath (which also helps the spinal column receive oxygen and nutrients). Some Network practitioners use structural correction also, but usually only once the body has released enough tension for the adjustment to be less invasive and more productive for the body.

Many times, the simple understanding that we will not be popping necks and backs helps people feel more comfortable with going to a chiropractor initially. Especially when a person is grieving, the thought of being “popped” is often too harsh, too invasive. Network allows us to access a person’s health gently, with respect, and only in those areas of the spine that are receptive.

 

How does stress in a person manifest in a chiropractic system?

There are three primary “stressors” that can cause significant changes to occur in the body and thus affect our health:

  • Physical stress (physical trauma, car accidents, posture)
  • Chemical stress (diet, preservatives, medications, dehydration, hormones)
  • Emotional stress (which affects both the physical and chemical makeup of the body - emotions will affect a variety of hormonal and postural changes to occur, and hormones produced in certain quantities will affect the tone of our muscles)

Stress activates the production of cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones), also known as the fight or flight response pattern. Cortisol also hinders the function of serotonin (a “happy” hormone). Prolonged adrenaline and cortisol levels decrease the ability of your immune system to respond quickly.

If you sit in your chair there, and tuck your tailbone up, roll your shoulders inward, tuck your chin down... can you feel the physical stress in your body? Can you feel the shallow breathing? This is referred to as the fight or flight syndrome, or the sympathetic response pattern, and is a (slight) exaggeration of how our bodies react to stress. This is a typical pattern we adopt when we are feeling “stressed”, or grieving. It is a natural position to protect our hearts, but puts a lot of strain and tension on our bodies.

Physiologically, our body cannot heal properly while we are in the sympathetic fight/flight patterns. The fight/flight pattern should be reserved for the temporary physiological event of escaping from harm. Blood rushes away from the internal organs, and into the arms and legs, and there is an increase in hormones that provide extra temporary energy. However, if we stay in the fight/flight pattern consistently, our body doesn’t slide back into the parasympathetic (ie rest/relaxation) pattern. Sleep is where our body heals. Rest is where our body digests and absorbs nutrients from our food. Relaxation is when blood and nutrients go to our internal organs for their functioning. 

 

How can grief affect a patient's chiropractic health? and how does their chiropractic health then affect their health in general?

Chiropractic health and general health share the same nervous system pathways that transmit the electrical impulses carrying the messages to every cell, every tissue, every organ in our bodies to do what it is that it needs to do, when it needs to do it. These electrical impulses are what carries the information to keep us healthy, and what provides the information to our cells and organs to help us heal.

Grief is an emotional and chemical stressor, but affects the physical aspect as well. Compound the societal fight/flight patterns with grieving, and you have an overwhelmed body that is simply going to experience a greater challenge to stay healthy.


Does stress from bereavement differ from normal daily stress?

Yes. Bereavement has the added components of depression (which are composed of more chemically-charged hormones), and a deep fatigue that goes far beyond normal fatigue experienced from stress. Because of these additional components, the majority of care in the Network modality will be focused on decreasing the overwhelm. In essence, simplifying the transmission of the incoming messages. We’ve all had days where we are bombarded by messages, emails, phone calls, mail, etc. Having someone come in and take out the “junk” messages simplifies for us what we have left, and we can focus more clearly on what does require our attention.

With daily stress, I explain to my clients that our care helps sift out the old programs that are still running in the background and freeing up that energy and usable space for more efficient and productive tasks.

With bereavement, it is more like re-focusing the healing on areas that CAN be addressed, or areas that NEED to be addressed immediately and putting aside areas that still need time before they can or should be addressed. Grief is a process. Network care does not take out any of the process... it simply helps the innate intelligence of our body support our health while we get through it.


Do you think physical treatment is an important part to healing from grief? How so?

I believe that when we are grieving, we forget to take care of our physical needs. When we stop caring to take care of ourselves, our bodies suffer. Carolyn Myss writes about how our biography (our personal story) shows up in our biology (our physical expression). Especially when we are grieving, our bodies are not only experiencing the emotional overwhelm of our pain, but also the chemical changes (increased stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline), and the physical changes of our postures, activities, and (lack of) sleep. This then creates a less-than-ideal environment for our immune system to protect us, and we get sick easier and are more prone to disease.

I also believe that when we take care of the physical aspect of our bodies while grieving, we are providing strength and energy to support the grieving process. It’s about how much you can expect your body to juggle and to still be able to function. By providing for the physical aspect of health, the mental and emotional components are then able to be put first.

 

Has a mother return to you after she has suffered the death of her baby? How can networking help her then? Can you explain the specifics?

This is a difficult area to discuss. There have been two deaths of babies in the past 4 years of my practice. It is never easy to discuss with a mother how some gentle Network care could help, because during grief, our perceptions of the world around us shrink, and all we are aware of is our own world of hurt. I am not comfortable telling anyone that receiving our care will help them... because it is a very personal thing. The care I provide in my office has tremendous benefits... but it doesn’t work for everyone.

I am also not saying that providing Network care is going to take away the grieving, or in any way shorten the duration. Yet, allowing her body that small bit of time to open up, to breathe, to not hold it all inside...I believe that this provides a small window of healing in an otherwise closed system. I believe that it is important to accept whatever support can be offered; because there is so much that others cannot do for you.

 

Do you consider yourself mentally or emotionally or even spiritually involved when working on your patients?

There is a delicate balance in my work. I need to give myself over to listening to my clients bodies. Sometimes this is a mental thing as I am analyzing, assessing, and determining how to best proceed. Sometimes, especially with grief, I am simply able to be an emotional anchor because my work is going to stay very simple and very basic, but it can be very intense for me to maintain that anchor and hold that safe space for my client. Since I am working with the subtle cues of the body (tone, breath), I have to be very in tune to my own body; this can also provide a spiritual-like connection.

Anyone one who has worked in the healing fields has understood that whenever we help ourselves or others heal, there is a spiritual component. It is in our nature as humans to nurture others, and is one of our greatest gifts. The Latin translation of doctor is simply, Teacher. I believe that teaching people they have the healing within themselves not only empowers them to take responsibility for their own health, but promotes trust in their own bodies...even when that trust seems to have failed.

I simply facilitate the body in healing itself. Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal and an innate knowledge of how to do it. What I can add to the equation is the space and the ease for the body to get out of the fight/flight response pattern in order for the healing to occur. 

 

Have you helped a patient in grief heal through networking? Can you elaborate?

I have helped others while they have been grieving. It isn’t easy, on either of us. I have not been able to help the grieving mothers that I have known... perhaps it is due to my inability to communicate effectively, or maybe it is because it simply hasn’t been right for them to receive the care. However, I have worked with others in the grieving process: healing while dealing with cancer, healing from the death of a beloved parent or friend, healing from broken hearts. Grief for whatever reason is still grief. The depth may be different, and the length of time may be different, but it is still a process that the body and mind must go through in order to heal.

Is it sometimes painful to allow that vulnerability when the feelings are still so raw? Of course. Do people who are grieving sometimes cry during their sessions from the full feeling of their grief? Absolutely, and that is ok. It’s more about holding the space for them than anything else.

 (I wish to clarify that I did go back to Jenny for five sessions after Ferdinand died, and they were on the house -- her gift to me. I did not continue with the care not because she was inadequate in any way, but because I was too fragile to go outside. I was too crumble-fragile, but I remain forever grateful for her offers and what she has done for me.)

 

If you have ever help a bereaved through to a time when her chiropractic (or overall) health is restored, how long did it take?

There is no set time. It depends upon so many factors. Is there sufficient emotional support? Is there an optimal diet with healing, healthy foods? Is the person receiving the rest that their body needs? Are there chemicals or medications involved that may necessary, but nevertheless adding chemical stress to the body? Does the person have some sort of spiritual practice to help them deal with the loss? Does the person have some sort of process to work through their emotions? There are also going to be dark valleys encountered along the way. This is a part of the process and shouldn’t be seen as regressions, but as part of the journey. My care is simply to facilitate the process.


Any other thoughts on physical healing?

Only that our bodies are amazing, and our spirits are strong. Bad things happen, and we may blame our bodies for failing us... but our spirits need our bodies to house them~ without our bodies, where would we live? And in the end, I have to trust that our innate intelligence does have access to the infinite wisdom of the universe. It is not necessarily my place to know the how or why of it.


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.

Tuesday
Apr212009

My body's betrayal

One day, two summers ago, about 36 weeks pregnant with Ferdinand and after having spent the previous three days running around like a lunatic headless chicken trying to get stuff done, I thankfully laid down on my chiropractor's adjusting table, desiring relief. She inspected how my spine laid, touched me lightly, and then said, "You have been overdoing it, haven't you?"

And I thought, "Dang! How did she know?! My body must have betrayed everything!"

~~~

About two weeks after Ferdinand died, I experienced intense sensitivity in a few of my teeth. This sensitivity quickly escalated into excruciating pain. I could not eat, for the most tender contact with those teeth sent me into stabbing throes of pain. We wondered if I may have a root issue and contemplated driving back down to the valley to the dentist. But my husband called my mother-in-law and she said she sometimes have teeth sensitivity like that and suggested a couple of homeopathic remedies. I happened to have those on hand and took them, and the pain went away.

But, not for long.

About a week later, the pain in the teeth came back. This time, homeopathics did not help. We tried acupressure while I writhed about in pain on the floor. I caved and took Tylenol, something I never took. (And those freakin' did not help either.) I was so weak mentally and emotionally after Ferdinand's death, this pain was an extra hard punch in my guts. It felt as if I did not have enough pain in my life. I felt the Universe gave me more pain to mock me further. It was like being kicked down into vile dirt and then having my nose pinned down into the smelly dirt as well, my hands and legs tied.

Just take a gun and shoot me! I cannot stand this! I want to die!

I pleaded with my husband R. My two young daughters stood by and watched as tears rolled down my face and my toes curled with agony.

During such a time of intense grief, how could my body hurl me an additional insult and start causing such pain to me? How could my body betray me with pain in grief?

I went to the dentist. He took x-rays, he looked and poked and even though there was no sign of teeth damage or defects, he told me I needed a root canal. I was not going to get a root canal for nothing so I went for a second opininon. Second dentist was honest and said he was totally puzzled. "Everything looks fine!" he said. Then he noticed on my chart that I was pregnant and asked, "Maybe it is the stress from the new baby?"

I shook my head, my lips pursed. (I did not wish to discuss, or reveal.) He smiled, "Yes, yes, I know, new baby is adorable, but you could still be stressed. Lack of sleep, perhaps?"

He suggested relaxing, meditation, deep breaths.

Back home, I hopped online and consulted with my nutritionally-minded friends. Soon, research have been done for me and here's the verdict: Grief is a stress factor. It depletes the adrenals. Weak adrenals can cause person to wake up between 2-4 am (right on). It can lead to teeth grinding at night.

And get this: teeth grinding can wear down dental nerves and lead to extreme pain.

I went to a holistic dentist and he confirmed that. He could detect huge stress being put on those few teeth that were hurting me to death. That could only be caused by my grinding at night, or even during the day, he said, without being aware of it. He apologized for my son's stillbirth and recommended that I get a night-guard made and wear it while fixing other areas of my life so my stress level can go down.

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." ~ Kahlil Gibran

~~~

I am no longer wearing the night-guard. It made me talk real funny.

The thing is, my body was not betraying me. It was sending me alarm signals. When I overdid it, it sent me signals that my chiro could see, so she could fix me up. When the stress of grief got too much, and I was (honestly) just neglecting my health (and that of my family's), my body went on to take even more drastic measures to send extreme signals that I simply could not ignore. It caused me so much pain I had to sit up and take note of how I had been treating it. It was not going to watch me abuse my body, so it sent me a severe warning before all systems crashed and it was too late to do anything.

I wrote about that on my blog. How that crazy teeth pain that nearly caused my death was really caused by the stress of grief. Who knew?

My chiro, a sweet, beautiful and gentle soul read that and sent me an email right away. She gifted me with free adjustment sessions. Please let me offer my help, she said. I keeled with gratitude. For this Physical Healing series, I have also invited her to share with us the special chiropractic technique that she uses, and the relation of grief to physical health, especially that of chiropractic health. She gave me wonderful, detailed answers despite her busy schedule. I am eager to share this interview with you all. It will be posted here on Thursday.

How about you? Has grief caused your body to react with pain, or other unusual physical signs? What did you do about that? How did you connect the dots? How have you cared for your body then?

 

This post is a part ofThe 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.

Thursday
Apr162009

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.

Monday
Apr132009

marked

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.