welcome

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.

subscribe
categories
search
Powered by Squarespace
Tuesday
Mar032009

Life's Leverage

It's a banner day at the new contributors page for Glow, and one that's been a very long time coming. It now features our first regular contributor who is a father -- please welcome Chris of Elm City Dad.

Chris, daddy to Silas Orion and husband to Lani, has a way of stating simply and beautifully how the world looks after babyloss. In doing so, he makes us all exhale a little and say Yes, yes. That's just how it is. And when we do that, we all feel a little more sane, a little more on-the-right-path. Which is exactly why we're all here. Please welcome Glow's first dad -- Chris, we're so honoured to have you here.

 

These days are brutal. They are less vividly awful than the first days and weeks and months after Silas Orion was born, but these days have a subtle ache and desperation that is deeper and more pervasive than the raw shock of his death. That experience was nearly impossible to comprehend and now, day by day, the specific truths of his absence are revealed in life-sized cascades of loss.

I don't just wake up anymore. I have to pry myself out of bed. I have to slit my eyes open with razors of truth and face the empty day as the pain bleeds away into the active motions of living. I manage to forget that I am wounded to my core sometimes. Sometimes I even have fun. Sometimes I just fake it real good.

Because that's what we do, right? We of this Terrible Tribe. We know things about the World that no one else understands. The depth of our pain is beyond fathoms or miles. Beyond lightyears. Our ache resonates in a space that is the size of an entire Universe.

It is the Universe that would have lived in each of our children's minds if they were here and we could hold them in our arms. If we could watch them grow and teach them about the beauty of the World, they, in turn, would show us everything we had forgotten about this amazing place.

There is a big difference between forgetting and learning, though. How do we hold on to the good that remains all around us while our guts trail behind us like a nauseous shadow? How did we come to this? This limbo? This World where everything is dangerous and uncertain and somehow still stunning? And how, while in this World, do we get up every fucking day and just go do shit that needs to get done?

I guess it's just more interesting to try to be strong and powerful than to just give in. At least it is for us, for now. We freak out and get pissed and cry and rage and then sometimes we laugh our asses off. An example would be sledding down the icy hill in New Hampshire this weekend where we zoomed into laughter and then nearly into the trees. Danger loomed, I felt it. At least we ran towards it knowing.

I see people all the time who don't believe that life can be terrible and I just want to shake them until they see. But that doesn't help anything. The only way to know this is to go through it, and it is nothing I would ever wish on anyone.

My wishes don't matter, though, that's obvious. Everyone will experience loss and pain and tragedy in their lives. We just happened to get shafted early and good. That is why it is so important to celebrate every joy and happiness and beauty that we can find in our daily lives and in our dreams.

Resentment and jealousy leave a stench on my soul that I loathe. I try to push those feelings into calm acceptance. This is the only life I get to lead, and I must do better now for Silas, too. I hold him in my heart every moment of the day, and when I see his stars above at night, I feel their distant heat on my cool winter skin.

I hold Lu's hand and we walk. We push nothing but we pull each other along and somehow have some fun on another brutal night. Today it was Guinness and a snowstorm. Tomorrow, who knows.

What do you do to get by? How do you live in this limbo of pain and hope and healing and rage?  What pries you out of bed?

Monday
Mar022009

glow in the woods awards: winter 2008-09

In her post Auld acquaintance, Erica of I Lost a World explores the babylost parent's re-entry into ordinary life. How do we accept the trudging-along of the everyday, unable to stop any clock, while honouring our missing child(ren)?

She writes: I used to worry that I might forget Teddy, that his memory might flee from me as I walk in the snow, as I decorate the Christmas tree, as I watch the birds at the bird feeder, as I go about the mundane comings and goings of my life, and this terrified me...

The sheer volume of nominations this season made it tough to recognize one -- especially with so many resonant posts. But Erica's lovely reflection stayed with us because of a certain permission she gave herself, all vividly sparked by the lyrics of a song we all know.

+ + +

The Glow in the Woods Awards are back after a reorganization and somewhat of a winter hiatus, and we're thrilled to have a wonderful array of reflections, rants and smiles for you. Now being awarded seasonally, the following nominations for Winter 2008-09 encompass posts from December, January and February -- and the Spring 2009 award (we'll remind you) will recognize the writing of March, April and May. To review all the winners so far, go here.

Nominate any time -- whenever you find a post that moves you, send it us. Thanks for continuing to share your memories as well as your steps forward.

Our glowing nominees for December, January and February, in random order:

B of Shifty Shadow for Bundle of absence

Kirstin of Two Little Birds, Two Little Beasts for Ellery and Olivia

Sally of Tuesday’s Hope for Why Tuesday’s Hope

Erica of I Lost a World for Grief kit

J of Tea & Sympathy for A good day

CLC of Please Give Me Back My Heart for Raising stillbirth awareness

Forever Loves for Samples

Alexa of Flotsam for Scattered

After Iris for Damned lies

Monique of Samuel Marc for Philadelphia bound

Barbara of Burble for Haunted

Sarah of Ezra's Space for Magical walk, Dreaming of babies and Ezra’s great uncle

Elm City Dad for Universal ache

Gal of Growing Inside for Releasing attachment and Just like that

Living a Charmed Life for What shock looks like

Tuesday
Feb242009

that which remains

There are changes afoot in the lineup at Glow, and it's a right and wonderful thing. The contributors page now features a new category called 'glow emeritus' for founding writers whose lives and hearts have gathered enough momentum to bring them to new places from which to reflect.

Two new voices are joining our conversation here and we're thrilled. Today we bring you the first -- the wonderful Gal of Growing Inside. Gal, mother to princess Dahlia and angelbaby Tikva, gives us words that twist the kaleidoscope of this new view, inspiring us to see new colour in this unbidden and often bewildering spiritbaby parenthood. Let's make space by the fire and give her a hearty welcome, for we're deeply grateful to have her -- and you -- here with us.

 

Gray hair has settled in at my temples, clearly here to stay. Lots of it and more every day.

When I wear my hair down, the grays don’t show. But that means I can’t wear my hair back, and I like wearing my hair back. Especially when my hair is long, and right now I want to grow my hair long again. It’s been almost two years since it’s been long and right now I’m feeling the need for that again. Probably because I look younger, softer with my hair long, and right now I could use some of the lightness that comes with youth.

I don’t feel young anymore, not after the past year.

 

When I look in the mirror, I am struck by what I see in the woman looking back at me. She looks familiar, I recognize her but she is also new to me. She looks and feels older. Her eyes carry more sadness. She feels more grounded. Her gaze is more serious, her soul more honest. Along with the grays in her hair, her skin carries more fine lines, her forehead wears those not-so-subtle-anymore wrinkles that aren’t just there for a moment following an expression.

When I do yoga, the skin of my belly after carrying two babies hangs more limply from my core. My small breasts hang a little lower from nursing Dahlia and pumping for Tikva. My thighs… well, they’re just my thighs, jiggly and stretchmarked and still not my favorite feature, but the only thighs I get, so I continue to direct love their way in spite of it all. My skin is the skin of a 37 year old woman who has gained and lost weight rapidly (stretch marks), has had psoriasis most of her life (crusty itchy flaky scalp), had acne in college and still gets a zit or two at least weekly (blemishes and bumps), had shingles (discolored scars where the skin is numb from nerve damage). I still keep my nails short, 33 years after I started biting them, and I chew on the inside of my lips when I’m nervous, bored or focused.

I am full of imperfections, and in that, I am perfectly human. Alive, fragile, nervous at times, relaxed at others. I’m not five years old like my Dahlia, robust, skin smooth as milk, unblemished except for the daily preschool owie, radiantly healthy, at the very beginning of it all. She’s not brand new, and in losing her sister, she has been through more life experience already than most children three times her age. But still, everything is so new. And when I look at her I glow, and I also envy her, just a little, because everything is ahead. She can choose any fork in the road. She has nothing yet that she wishes she could undo.

There is something else I see when I look in the mirror, or when I close my eyes and feel what’s inside me. Like the hairs at my temples, I see the gray in my soul. It’s by no means my entire spirit that is gray, but there are wisps of gray there. Like the gray hairs, I don’t think they will go away, and they certainly can’t be covered up with color from a box. I imagine that I was born with a soul filled with color, and along the way of my life, I added more shades of brightness to my palette, and also introduced white to soften the brightness and black to darken it. I’m not sure if every single one of our souls begins as a full palette of bright colors, but this is what I see when I think of myself at my beginning this time around.

The past year dumped a pretty hefty can of gray paint on my spirit, with some drops splattering to pepper my temples. The gray mixed with the colors that were there – deep red and purple and turquoise and bright orangey yellow. The colors are still there now, just more pale, more subdued. The red is now burnt orange and pink, the purple more lavender, the turquoise now the color of an almost-black sky, the yellow more of an almost-there gold, like that last ray of light just before the sun sets.

I’m more tired now, more weary, and unexpectedly more peaceful. More accepting of what is, less rebellious against what I can’t control. Older and wiser, maybe?

This is what remains now, after losing my daughter. This is what remains after my heart was cracked open from sorrow and also from love. After some of the luster of my existence seeped out of me into the soil between blades of grass at my feet, to mix once again into the core of the universe from whence I came.

With the blemishes on my body and spirit, I am still here. Still vital. Still very much alive. More deeply connected to others, certainly more deeply connected to my most essential self. I have for the most part, most of the time, sloughed off what I no longer need – anxious worry about things that don’t matter, energy extended toward people who make me feel bad and petty things that aren’t good for me, time wasted on anything that is not at its core about love, genuine connection and compassion.

What remains is rougher than before, and also more refined. It’s the core that has always been but which has lost its smooth protective casing and is now more visible, more bare, more vulnerable… but mostly, more pure.

I never expected I would be looking at this woman and she would be me. It’s taking me some time to get to know her, but I do like her. I wish she didn’t have to go through all she’s been through to get here, but I find her quite beautiful. Not in spite of it all, but because of it.

.::.

What remains for you – of you – after losing your baby? What do you see in the mirror? Are you different than before? How do you feel about you now? Do you like what you see?

Saturday
Feb212009

birthday blues

I’ve been struggling to the point of physical sickness this week, obsessing about what should have been. Imagining balloons and cake and hours of smiling video. Sadie would have been one yesterday. It was frankly one the hardest days I’ve had so far.

Everything that’s been mercifully floating around the periphery lately crashed in on me over the last few days. I was back at her bedside. Pacing the waiting room in the PICU. Saying goodbye.

.:.

I’ve been trying with great difficulty to find something hopeful to say here as I’m typically not one to be dark or melancholy. But it occurred to me that this is exactly the place where I will be understood if my armour does slip momentarily. Even the most resilient grow weary on occasion. And truth be told, I’m just really goddamn tired.

I’d like a free pass that says I can shut the world out for a time in order to selfishly tend to myself. Be it sleeping away a day or reading a book in one sitting or walking central London in silence, I earned it when I suffered this loss, didn’t I? My pass would read, ‘Get out of my face and just understand. I’ll be back when I’m ready. I promise.’

Of course it doesn’t work that way. God knows disappearing or shutting out the world completely would try the patience of even our most perservering family and friends. But to drop all pretense on my random dismal days, with friends and colleagues and strangers in the street bearing witness, doesn’t really jive either.

I feel the only thing to do is go back to polishing my metal. Ride out days like this causing as little collateral damage as possible. Look for the next bright one. Wonder if anyone realizes how I'm cursing pretty much everything in my path until it comes.

.::.

My deepest desire, aside from having her here with us, has been to be assured that she knew how deeply she was loved. That she changed my life distinctly and forever for the better. That my heart aches always in her absence. That she knows I would love nothing more than to pull her into my arms and sing, "Happy birthday, Baby," softly in her ear.

.::.

How do you deal with dark days? Are you better on your own, or does it help to be surrounded by people?

 

Monday
Feb162009

The First Lesson

Today's post comes from a guest writer who is dear to my heart. Mani was the student midwife for my previous pregnancy, which ended in a way no one intended it to. I called her Mani-calm-my-heart. She is young, beautiful inside and out, and full of wisdom.

Not long after Glow in the Woods launched, I know I wanted to see Mani write something here one day. I felt that her perspective of her experience of birth/death/loss from that of a student midwife will be so valuable to all.


I have written and deleted this article at least twenty times. When Janis asked me to write something for Glow in the Woods, I said yes immediately. It is an honor to be allowed into this space, and one I don’t take lightly. I hope that as you read, you know that I realize my words are pale and weak. Please forgive me. They are all that I have.

If I tried to make a list of all the reasons I decided to become a midwife, it would stretch for miles. Each reason I could come up with would only lead to more reasons. To condense them into something less time consuming to read, I’ll boil it down to the broad specifics. It’s simple. I love pregnancy. I love birth. I love women. I love babies. I wanted to provide care that was both comprehensive and kind. I was called.

In the beginning, the lessons seemed simple. First, I learned to chart. I learned how to take a woman’s blood pressure and pulse. I dipped urine, checked for swelling, measured fundal heights, and took fetal heart tones. Moving forward, I learned to palpate a baby’s position within their mother’s womb with my hands, how to distinguish heads from bottoms, anterior from posterior, and how to estimate fetal weight. I drew blood and sent in lab specimens. I studied, and when I was done with that, I studied some more.

About a year into my apprenticeship, just as I was gaining confidence and feeling sure of myself, I started participating in the care of a new client, Janis. I didn’t know it then, but the real lessons were about to begin.

One of the things I most love and value about midwifery care is the amount of time we spend with our clients during the prenatal period, and the relationships that are forged during those precious hours. As the months ticked by, and Janis grew round and ripe, I was not just becoming acquainted with her vital signs and the contours of her belly, I was becoming acquainted with a whole woman. I was growing to love her, and growing to love her baby boy who kicked and squirmed under my hands at each visit.

The midwife/client relationship, when healthy, is like all other healthy relationships, in that it is symbiotic. Midwives do not simply care for their clients, providing support and information, they receive, as well. As we teach our clients, they are teaching us. One thing I have found to be consistently true in every area of my life, is that the best teachers are often the ones who are willing to take you to places you didn’t want to go.

There is no training in the world that will prepare you for the moment when everything changes. There is no course of study, simulated scenario, or book that can prepare your mind and heart for the time when a pregnancy that has been textbook perfect ends with a dead baby. The only teachers who can convey the necessary lessons in this arena are the mothers and babies themselves.

The primal part of a person, that part which does not give a damn what you do for a living and what your responsibilities entail, will insist that you feel this pain, that you grieve the loss of this baby, that your heart shreds under the steely blades of a grieving mother’s keening. The primal Self is wise. It understands this need, and if we don’t honor its call, it will do everything in its power to force the issue. To disconnect from this part of ourselves is to become something less. Less than human, less than loving, less than empathic. A lesser care provider.

Meanwhile, though not living, there is still a baby. There is still a birth to attend, and still a client and her family who need you. They deserve full attention. Every ounce of love and compassion that you have must go to them. There will never be anything more important than serving this family during this time, and doing it with your whole heart. While you can’t let go of the primal, grieving Self, you must keep it in check, and find appropriate outlets for it. It is a balancing act, because families who have had a baby die deserve to have a care provider who shows emotion. They deserve to know that their baby mattered. On the other hand, it is not about you, and you cannot make it about you. This is solely about the family you are serving. This is their baby, their experience, their pain.

It has been over a year and a half since I attended the birth of Janis’s beautiful son, Ferdinand. I had the privilege of knowing her son with an intimacy that not many people did, listening to his heartbeat and feeling him kick, during his living months inside of her, watching his birth, and then holding him close to say hello and goodbye. I am so very humbled and honored by both of them for granting me this gift.

Since then, I have continued to walk with Janis. Not as a teacher, not as a student, just as a woman walking with another woman. Sometimes I feel as though I am stumbling along the path, tripping over roots and rocks in the dark, but I am grateful for every step. I know I am lucky to be walking with her, regardless of the terrain. Last month, Janis once again honored me by inviting me into her birthing space. I was present as a doula and friend to help welcome her youngest daughter, Lyra Phoenix.

It just so happened that the end of my time as a student midwife closely coincided with Lyra’s birth. The first lesson is now complete. The first lesson is that we know so much less than we delude ourselves into believing we know about birth, and life, and death, and we must never stop seeking, must never believe ourselves to have all of the answers. If I am to take anything from this lesson, let it be that I remain open and receptive, humble, and in servitude to mothers and babies. The first lesson is a lesson of love.