Tomorrow marks a most horrific anniversary.
I think 2012 decided that life had been too good for just a little too long. It trained its End-of-the-World-promising eye on me and saw a gal with a great partner (who also happens to be my baby daddy), a weird and funny smarty-pants kid (who also happens to be the cutest kid in the world and no, I’m not saying that just because I’m his mom, it’s Science Fact), a gal who makes a little bit of money here and there doing what she’s supposed to be doing (no, not playing slots, writing). Nice house. Cute dog. Things looked like they couldn’t get any better when, on Valentine’s Day of all days, we found out we were pregnant. This seemed meaningful and romantic until, at around 9 weeks pregnant, we lost the baby. So, yeah, Valentine’s Day is kind of screwed up now too. Now all the red hearts and roses seem even creepier than before.
Surreal. That is the most appropriate word for March 12, 2012. For one thing, this sort of stuff doesn’t happen to me. The only reason I even knew where the hospital was located was due to the fact that we had just been there two days earlier for an ultrasound, listening to the baby’s heart beat for the first time. We even got the little picture, resembling a tiny pixelly white lima bean, which I promptly hung on the fridge. Other elements that made it surreal: The fact that it happened at a shooting range (before I knew I was pregnant I’d gotten my honey a Living Social Adventure called “Shootin’ and Drinkin’” – a trip to a shooting range and a brewery. I figured I could neither shoot nor drink, but the party bus would still be fun, and it was, well, would have been). The lavender Converse my inappropriately handsome gynecologist was wearing. The fact that my gynecologist was inappropriately handsome. The fact that we’d named the baby already (Justine) and the night it happened we got MELANCHOLIA on Netflix. Perfect miscarriage film. The opening scene? A black screen with one word across it: Justine.
These are the things I remember, the things that are safe to remember. A lot of the horror of it is gone. Or is it gone? I think I carried a lot of it secretly around with me in the form of the twenty pounds I gained last summer, the first ten from all the Nutella I couldn’t stop eating when I was pregnant (I’ll never touch the stuff again) and the second ten from not being able to walk for ten weeks. Oh, did I mention that I broke my foot in three places two months after the miscarriage? Gone was the hope of being able to lose the Nutella weight by getting back to running. Few things are more humbling than having to wear your maternity clothes for months after your miscarriage. Although, I couldn’t bring myself to wear my “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant!” tee-shirt. It seemed less funny once I was, actually, just fat.
One of the reasons I suspect that I carried dark memories and unrealized emotions in that twenty pounds is that, as I’ve now lost the twenty, plus another ten (the remaining baby weight from Ellis – and it only took me six years!), I am finally starting to feel the loss of the baby. Could it be the fact that tomorrow it will have been one year? Or could it really be that all of that extra weight was like armor? Something for me to focus on instead? Something for me to keep from letting go?
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to learn how to meditate. If there’s one thing the miscarriage taught me is how woefully out of touch I am with my emotions. I treated the miscarriage, from the first drop of blood to the realization that I didn’t need those maternity jeans I’d gotten off the sale rack at Target, to finally taking the pixelly picture of that little speck of life off of the fridge, much like I would treat a situation in which my car needed to be fixed, or the gutters needed to be cleared out. Methodically, logically. At one point I remember asking my husband if it was really bad that I didn’t feel all that terrible about it. Months later I would see Luke Wilson holding a sobbing Laura Dern on Enlightened, crying over the loss of their (characters’) baby—I remember thinking to myself, oh, shoot. We never did that. Were we supposed to do that? They always show that on TV when people lose babies. How did I forget to do that? I have, to date, cried twice about the loss, I mean big cries, sobbing alone in the house kind of cries. Shouldn’t there be more?
It seems I operate exceedingly well on auto-pilot, pushing less desirable feelings deep down inside in a place only Deepak Chopra can touch. And he did. Thanks to a dear friend of mine, I was introduced to his 21-day meditation challenge hosted by the somehow simultaneously ethereal and down-to-earth Chopra.
Now, here comes the woo-woo part.
I had been meditating for 8 days, and during each one I’d experienced, on a good day, visions of light and a spinning sensation, on a less intense day, just an extreme calm. But, on day 9, I felt someone hug me. I can’t put it any more clearly than that. It was a true physical sensation of someone hugging me from behind. Of course, I knew it was my daughter. Then I heard a voice say:
“I can help you better from up here, Mom.”
Now. It’s hard to tell, especially if you are, like me, as I mentioned, chronically out of touch with your subconscious and your emotions, how much of what happens during meditation is imagination and how much is ‘reality.’ It’s hard for me to trust a touchy-feely moment like that.
The answer came for me the very next day, arriving via Facebook as do most important life-changing answers in my life. A faraway friend of mine in whom I had confided about the loss of the baby, messaged me, out of the blue, to check in and see how I was doing. Remembering the loss, she wrote (again, out of the blue):
You WILL meet the child you lost last year. And that child will embrace you and say “Mommy! I have waited SO long to hug you!” That child watches over you, Jenni.
That was the second time I cried about Justine.
The first time:
About six months after the loss, a friend of mine posted the following poem on Facebook (I told you! All answers come from Facebook), and reading it I was shocked to find myself sobbing. I realized I hadn’t thought about the baby for months. I felt remiss. And I felt the intense relevance of Rumi’s words.
(Note: I can’t remember who posted it, so I don’t know who to thank–I saved it to my computer and then promptly lost it. Today I Googled it and found it, but had to copy and paste it into Word and change it to Arial because I could not in good conscience link to a site that would present this deep and provocative piece, as they had, in Comic Sans font. Comic Sans? Come on, people! For shame.)
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~
One thing that happens after you lose a baby, is you realize how many of your friends and family have had the same experience. On an emotional level it’s baffling. Why? Why all that hope and promise only to have it dashed to the ground? Only to have it literally flushed down the toilet?
On a biological level it, simply put, falls into the category of shit happens. I’m beyond regretful that so many I love have had to go through it, but am intensely aware that I’ve joined, albeit involuntarily, a weirdly strong *fellowship, one that has the capacity for hope and promise and one that, unbelievably, manages, time and again, to allow the cautious return of that same hope and promise.
*(Sorry, I just can’t use the word sisterhood.)