Back acne and bloody noses. Things that don’t happen normally in my non pregnant self that seem to be part of the daily life of my pregnant body. But there are rituals to cope with them, right? This might be TMI and for that I apologize. Let’s not get further into the details.
I have been thinking a lot about rituals lately. Last week, Valentine’s day. Yesterday, Ash Wednesday. Before that, Fat Tuesday. Between them all, Sunday.
Sundays were full of rituals when I was a kid. Church, and all of the rituals that go with that, followed by Sunday school, followed by visits with family, my brother and I playing Connect Four and the sound of water boiling for pasta.
I think Whitney Houston’s funeral this weekend really got me thinking about this. A parent lost a child. Losing a child of any age is unimaginable to me. But I have lost a child I didn’t meet. Didn’t hold. Didn’t kiss goodnight. Didn’t feed. Didn’t know. Didn't have a birthday party for.
There are very few religions or cultures with the rituals to handle the loss of an unborn or stillborn child. Forget rituals, most of us don’t even have the words to deal with this. The child in my belly will be loved and cherished. But I know he wouldn’t want to be a replacement for her, nor could he be considered as such.
She will not be forgotten. She lives deep within my soul. But I struggle with how I might memorialize that. Few people knew she existed. I’m angry about it. And I realize my need to talk about this is normal (thank you, expensive but wonderful therapist.) I have this urge to tell people about her. While I keep trying to simply stop after sharing my good news. It goes something like this:
Me: “I’m pregnant!”
Person: “Great news! When are you due? Do you know if it is a boy or a girl, or will you find out?”
Me: “It’s a boy. I shouldn’t know that yet but I do, because of all this genetic testing we’ve had. His chromosomes have been counted. See, I was also pregnant last year, with a girl…”
You can imagine how it goes from there. I tell the friend/family member/colleague how chances are, she wouldn’t have made it to birth and if she did, she would have been fed with tubes and I may not have held her, I would have spent every hour saying good-bye, and how she may have been on the earth for only hours or days. Perhaps months, likely not a whole year. I know these are statistics and I think every day how she may not have been one of them. I will think about it forever. Perhaps she would have lived until two or five. But she wouldn’t have lived. She would have suffered. None of us would have been living.
I tell the friend/family member/colleague that I know I made the best choice I could have with the information I had. I know I made the best choice for my family and for my mental health (we can talk about this later). And I know I made the choice that my husband and I made together, after talking, asking, talking, meditating, and crying. And I tell them I am thankful that I had that choice to make. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the response and love I have received from those that I have shared this with.
I hope that, regardless of politics and religion, we may find a way to honor the presence of these babies. Not all unborn babies are unwanted.
Yesterday was the start of Lent. I’ve not been a practicing Catholic in some time and do not typically “give up” something for Lent. But this year, I have decided I will spend this time “letting go.” I’m going to let go of my anger, without letting go of her presence.
And I’m going to write, because that is the only ritual I have ever really found solace in. I will write her a letter every day if I have to. I will write about how I pictured her, about all the things I wanted to show her, teach her and share with her. I will write to her about ice cream and the color purple (my favorite). I will write her stories and poems. I am going through my own ritual of learning to push forward. And I know that when I hold this baby boy in July, a part of her will be there in him.
If you’re reading this, thank you, for being part of this ritual.