Friday, October 18, 2013

Seven quick takes on Good Reads and Heavenly Kids

1.  For me, the biggest obstacle to blogging is having a computer that isn't working.  For real.  And few things are more frustrating than knowing what to write, having nine minutes to write it in, and a laptop that does not desire to load, connect, behave, whathaveyou.  But since technology is being favorable to me at the moment, I'm gonna ketchup...

2.  I want to get caught up on my October photography project: Capture Your Grief, hosted by Carly Marie in commemoration of Baby Loss and Remembrance month. Yes, I know: this does not sound particularly uplifting. And prior to my loss in March, I would have questioned both the necessity and the sanity of such a project.

But now... I get it.  Greater awareness leads to greater compassion, more acknowledgement of the grieving hearts of so many moms around us, and hopefully further research to help make stillbirths and miscarriages less painfully frequent.  Pretending that these tragedies don't happen does no one any favors in the end.

3.  One of the first articles which opened my eyes to the prevalence of stillbirth was from the Motherlode. Besides demonstrating to me that stillbirth was not nearly as rare as we all would hope it to be, it addressed how to answer the question, "How many children do I have?"

And my answer to that is, "I have six children, four living."  Here's one of my favorite pictures of that idea: four kids, two spots of light.

As the article relates, this sort of answer used to be a common one, as child mortality was quite high before today's vaccines and penicillin; (whatever your current opinion of these are, they have in fact saved countless lives.  Walking around a cemetery, you can find a decreasing number of children's graves starting around the 1950's for this very reason.  Personally, I vaccinate with caution, spacing them out, skipping some in favor of others, and I'm mighty grateful I live in a time and place to have such options.)  But I digress...

4. My main point is that it used to be easier to talk about death.  Villages would celebrate births and deaths with song.  When a child died on the prairie, the women would gather to quilt the final blanket.  It was never easy I'm sure, but it used to be more widely acknowledged that we are mortal, and that sad things can happen to otherwise happy people.

But somewhere along the line, it became "inappropriate" to talk about, say, miscarriage. Part of it might be due to the American dislike of discomfort, or a lowered respect for the value of human life, or simply WWII coping mechanisms being passed down for generations.  That somehow, if you don't say anything, if you force yourself not to think about what you lost, you get better, faster.

My grandfather spent years fighting in a tin can submerged in the ocean: a submarine.  Few jobs at sea were more risky or more unpleasant; he deliberately chose this position for the high risk pay to support his widowed mom and orphaned sister.

I'm told the military's advice at the time was to block out unpleasantness, to try to forget tragedies.  And never talk about them again.

5.  When it comes to my daughter Perpetua, I don't find this tactic desirable or even possible.  Isaiah 49:15 comes to mind: "Can a woman forget her infant, or have no compassion on the child of her womb?"  And, what do you know, I can't forget her.  Furthermore, however painful it sometimes is to acknowledge what happened, I don't want to ignore it.  I will talk about her when it seems appropriate to do so, and be proud of my little one in heaven.  I am hopeful that those who listen can try to understand why pretending she never existed will not change her existence for me, with all the sadness and stunning graces left behind.

I've so appreciated the support of being able to grieve along with "the loss community."  It's been so helpful for me to read books like "Still" by Stephanie Paige Cole (who graciously sent me a copy of her book when I shared my loss with her), and the blog of people like Lori Dente, whose book "With Just One Push" will be coming out soon.  I read her blog before I knew I'd become a "loss mom" myself.  The strength of other women in these circumstances continues to inspire me.

It's odd but necessary to have a mommy group for those with children in heaven.  Such children still make us parents.  If we believe life begins at conception, and believe life continues eternally after death... why on earth shouldn't these little ones be a part of who we are, affect how we live our lives, and at times come up in conversation?  It just makes sense.

6.  As I've mentioned previously, I've had a hard time facing the oncoming cold and darkness.

Yes, I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder... but it's much more than that this year.  I'm re-entering the season I held "Pepper" here on earth for the first time since her loss in March.  And while fall is usually my favorite season, I'm dragging my heels like never before.

I feel like begging the leaves not to die, not to fall, for everything to stay warm and sunny, alive and full of light. Please. Please.  I don't want to relive this fall and winter season without her.

I think she knows that.

How do I know that?  Well... I can't prove the connection, but I've had an interesting few months of certain things just "working out."  And I don't just mean the Cajun spice set and Kindle childproof cover (never mind, I'll get the actual Kindle sometime I'm sure) I won from the last blogathon contest, or the fact that my blog crush Simcha Fisher (gee thanks, blush) shared my last post...

You see, as I've mourned the loss of summer and dreaded the coming of winter, I've also gotten nervous about the holidays.  I like the emotional recovery I've achieved, and don't want to go back "there"; and holidays are rather infamous for providing an emotional dip for those experiencing a loss.

I'd been hemming and hawing over how to make this Christmas somehow different, a bit more distracting perhaps.  So after going back and forth as to whether to try it or not, completely on a whim, I decided to have my kids audition for the Christmas Carol this year.

Now... I do this every year.  And every year, we aren't cast.  We kinda do it for the fun and experience of it all.

My kids were fantastic, if I do say so myself.  They sang very well.  Their lines were down pat.  Annemarie did a mystical impression of the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Claire did an absolutely hilarious monologue from Scrooge himself (her choice.)  Picture in your mind's eye a young girl of nine, earnestly telling the audience that her "life before her is her own to make amends in," wildly praising "heaven and the Christmas time" while shouting promises of conversion to Jacob Marley, and then dancing about with heel clicks declaring, "I'm as happy as an angel!  I'm as giddy as a drunken man!"

Silently, I had snuck into the last few minutes of her audition, and then collected her to go.

"We're still doing adult auditions, by the way.  We love your girls, and they said you can sing?"

I hadn't prepared one thing, my friends.  Not one.  I was chewing gum.  My makeup had worn off.  I had a sweatshirt on, which on close inspection appeared to be garnished with what looked like... chocolate.

I'd never been less prepared for the stage. I grinned. "Sure!  What do I read?" I got to act out a cockney version of Mrs. Cratchit.  I sang.  I went home dizzy and giggling, saying, "What did I just do?" to the kids, who were squealing with glee.

A week later, I got the email.  All of us were cast.  And for no less than ten performances at Park Theatre, I am Mrs. Crachit.  After years of on and off drama attempts, it's the biggest role I've landed since college, and at the least likely time.

It feels very weird.  It feels very perfect.  It feels very like someone is looking out for her family, and knows they need something a little different to get them through this Christmas.

I've gotta say it: it's so cool having your own personal little saint.

7.  I celebrated her, and my earlier miscarried little one, on the 15th, which is the official Baby Loss Remembrance Day.  I remembered my only niece or nephew too, who was also miscarried that same day a couple years back.  I thought of all the babies gone before us as I gave my presentation to the hospital council; it was strange to be dry-eyed in my focus while watching doctors and nurses reaching for tissues.

I came home just before 8, when the hour of candle lighting for my time zone would end.  Taking the candle my kids had recently made at a Yankee Candle Factory trip, of which I have some evidence:

I lit it, leaving it in the kitchen to fill the room with the scent of "True Blue."

Just before I put it out, I took my candle out the back porch into the night, silent except for the sounds of crickets.  (Click here for the real sound of crickets... woah!!:)  The almost full moon was extremely bright, but currently under a slow moving cloud cover.  Right above me, in an almost bird-shaped pocket hole in the clouds, shone one bright star, set in a perfect piece of deep blue sky.

I looked at the single star, peeking through the immense cloud bank.  I looked at the single flame in my hands.

Light to light.  Love from love.  Earth and heaven.

"Where is my camera???" was my first thought.  It was really too cool a moment to adequately describe with mere English.  But rather than risk losing the moment to search for my most inadequate photography equipment--and risk more kids finding me--I just looked into the perfect night.

Alone.  And not alone.

"I mean... this candle is pretty and all, but yeah.  I know, baby girl.  You win.  You've got a star."

"The world is more than we know."  --Ben Hur


  1. You and the kids are in A Christmas Carol?? That is PERFECT!!! I want to come see it and will applaud madly!

  2. Congratulations on your play roles! That is awesome!

    I loved the last part of this blog, especially. And, it is really cool to think about your family's own personal saint in heaven, interceding for you.

    Oh..and I tagged you in my blog for scrumptious blog award. :)