So I was told, and ever since I have found myself at times performing this wordless gesture, giving an inward nod to my mizuko. While the English language does not have a word for an unborn baby that has passed from this life, the Japanese do.
"Water child." A child whose life began and was left in water. I'm sure there's more Buddhist meanings to be found for it, but the simplest version is what I will take from it.
The odd appellation has a soothing quality for me. Water is peaceful. Purifying. Necessary.
Like Perpetua is to me. While I will probably never be immune to bouts of tears over her loss, she is a source of peace. Her life and loss was a purifying experience, highlighting what matters most. And she is very much a part of who I am now.
Today was the last due date the hospital gave me. But I feel in my heart I would have had her, by now. I felt this, strangely and strongly, around my father's birthday mid-month. And while August was crushing me before that point, I felt somehow better ever since. I no longer felt that I was "supposed" to be pregnant.
Either way, by now, my body would have let her go.
I sometimes imagine that her departure was nothing less than that she was given the promotion of a lifetime, an opportunity she absolutely couldn't pass up. Called by the King of Heaven. And while she can't write or call, I still know she is happy.
Most of the time, that is enough.
And so we both live, ever united yet--temporarily--ever apart. Our thoughts reach for each other. We communicate in a way only known to those who have lost a piece of their heart, thereby gaining the experience of love being stronger than mortality.
With my soul turned inside out and sewn back up again with ragged edges, it is strange, so strange, to feel the unspoken taboo. Don't talk about it. Move on. Get over it. All utterly laughable when miscarriages change who we are, literally. When there's a child who's alive and well somewhere else because of a mom here.
In a 2002 New York Times article, "Mourning My Miscarriage," Peggy Orenstein expressed this well:
Even in this era of compulsive confession, women don't speak publicly of their loss. It is only if your pregnancy is among the unlucky ones that fail that you begin to hear the stories, spoken in confidence, almost whispered. Your aunt. Your grandmother. Your friends. Your colleagues. Women you have known for years -- sometimes your whole life -- who have had this happen, sometimes over and over and over again. They tell only if you become one of them.
I have been grateful for this outlet to facilitate speaking about the mizukos that mean so much to me. When I sit dripping tears all over the keyboard tapping away, I don't have the anxiety of gauging your expression. For someone who loves to make people laugh, it has been difficult to know I've made people cry. And profoundly touching.
Thank you for reading all these months, for grieving with me. I don't think pregnancy or infant loss should have to be relegated to a select club of mourners. To love anyone deeply is to take on the risk of profound loss. Loss is a theme in the human experience this side of eternity. While it's not necessary to dwell on the pain, it is crucial to honor such searing love, felt however briefly here. Their lives deserve remembrance. And their mothers deserve to remember.
So let us remember the water children. At times, let them gently touch our conversations with a sigh, a hug, a tear. Do not feel the need to distract or detract, minimize or brush away.
It is not awkward to love what was always meant to be loved.
"The memory of the just is blessed." Proverbs 10:7