When we lose someone we love, we typically have memories to remember them by; the smell of Grandpa’s cologne, Grandma teaching you how to bake, the shirt Dad slept in all the time. We grieve the loss of the love we can’t show them anymore. There’s no more late night conversations over wine at the kitchen table with Mom or hugs after lunch dates with your best friend. We hurt deeply because we’ve lost that piece of our heart we gave away to that person and knowing we will never make new memories together burns like Fireball coating your throat. That person can no longer love us back either; no wisdom to share, no fun to be had. The relationship, that give and take that makes living so damn wonderful becomes one-sided. So we take these tangible memories and recollections and we hang on to them like clothes hanging on the line. Like the clothes, we cling to those memories and when the wind blows, we cling harder. As time goes on and new memories replace the old; we cling with that tiny clothespin that they’ll remain as close in the remainder of our hearts as the day they left this world with that piece you gave away.
That’s what holding onto a memory is like. Unless you lose a baby in utero. If you miscarry, you have NOTHING to hold on to. No extra weight, no stretch marks, no knowledge of the kicks to your ribs. All you’ll have is the the hollow spot in your heart, perhaps an ultrasound picture and a drawer full of positive pregnancy pee sticks with the dates written on the back, you know, so you can keep track of them all if you’ve had many like me.
When you lose a baby mid-to-late pregnancy or have to deliver a stillborn angel, you have tiny feet, paper thin eye lids, a small weight to press against your chest. Time feels like it’s flying by as you race the clock to commit to memory every.single.teeny.tiny detail before the nurses take her away. You fight fiercely with yourself to ensure that you NEVER lose the memory. Because memories are all we have. And you only have minutes, maybe hours, to be with that tiny life and make the memories to cherish and hang on the line. But it’s not the same as when you lose someone you’ve made memories with. It’s worse.
For me, my memory of my third angel baby is of morning nausea and sore breasts. I won’t have the kicks or the first pangs of labour. I will never hear baby’s first cry or see her squirm after coming Earth side. I will get NOTHING of what that life was suppose to bring to my life. That’s a difficult reality to swallow but reality it is and therefore, we must find a new way to be in the world; childless and aching to find a replacement valve for the hole left in our hearts.
It’s been almost a month since we lost our third angel baby. It’s been quite the roller coaster of good days and angry days and days where I have almost forgot the despair I felt. (If you haven’t been following along, you can read what happened here). But today, as I write this, I am okay. This is why.
I gave my baby a closing ceremony of sorts. My eight week, sesame-sized little blip received the goodbye she/he deserved.
As humans, we LOVE rituals: bringing food during hard times, getting married in white, celebrating Thanksgiving with turkey feasts etc. We also love closing ceremonies and opportunity to let go, release and say goodbye. When the Olympics are hosted, there’s a closing ceremony. When court is adjorned, it’s marked by the rap of the gavel. When someone dies, we give them a wake/viewing, a funeral or a celebration of life and an honourable burial. When we break up with a partner, we give back their things or burn them, whatever. We NEED closure in life to move on. I believe the same goes for miscarriage (and infancy loss) regardless how early the pregnancy was. If it affected you in any way, you need to do something.
Some people plant a flower or tree or shrub in honour of their angel babies. Japanese Buddhists perform a mizuko kuyos: a ceremony of creating a token in baby’s memory, chanting to Jizo, a deity similar to a saint for children and then placing the token on a statue of Jizo. Others wearing necklaces containing the birth stone of when baby was lost/died. Some make photo journals. Some get baby’s hands and feet imprinted into clay. The list goes on. It feels good to honour baby but it also serves as a remembrance to the tragedy of the loss and the subsequent rise from the ashes. Mothers who lose babies are Phoenixes; true heroes who learn to live life in a very different way with very different wings.
Shortly after the completion of the miscarriage (I took misoprostol to induce my body to open and shed itself) and my daughter and husband had left for the day, I smudged the bathroom with sage asking that all negative energy be released. I lit candles (gifts from friends) and nag champa incense. I plucked rose petals from a bouquet I received from another friend and made a flower satchel containing dried flowers. I ran a hot bath and poured Himalayan sea salt, lavender essential oil into it and added the rose petals. I added the satchel when I got in.
Water reacts to sound and intention so I charged the water by thanking it for being available, clean and hot. I told it I loved it and was grateful it was there to help me in this closing ceremony (yes I know, this is all ridiculously woo-woo but I was ready to move on in life and was willing to do WHATEVER necessary to facilitate that-even talk to water! If you think I’m nuts watch the documentary What The Bleep Do We Know). I poured water over my head, repeatedly asking for the cleansing energy of the water to cleanse my heart and soul. I did a meditation with my body full immersed in the water, envisioning my body cloaked in beautiful, loving, healing light. I used the rose petals to wash my skin. I rubbed the satchel over my body as well. I placed my hands over my womb and said thank you to baby for choosing me and believing I was strong enough to endure the loss. I finished my bath by thanking the powers that be for holding space for me to heal and let go and I said goodbye to baby.
I finished the ceremony by gently massaging body cream into my entire body, rubbing homemade heart oil from my sisterhood circle into my heart area and then donning my big, fleecy, comfortable robe. I opened the front and back doors of my home and smudged my entire house, again asking that all negative emotions/energy leave and that only loving, peaceful energy of the highest good was allowed in my space. I bowed to the four directions and that was it.
You can do whatever you want to honour your loss, but honour it nonetheless. Give baby a name. Put your ultrasound picture in a safe place. Cry in the bathtub. Scream at your God. Blare heavy metal music and release that energy through head banging. Just do something. It will give you closure to move on and make the days to follow a little easier to manage. I know it has for me.
United We Rise,