October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Loss and grief are hard subjects, and when that loss is intimate and hidden from view, like a miscarriage, it may not be an easy topic to talk about. More Canadian families have experienced this type of loss than many of us might realize, so the New Leaf blog would like to remember those empty arms and arching hearts with the contributions of two bloggers who have shared their journeys: Leah Perrault and Andrew Stephens-Rennie.
If you have experienced this type of loss and are grieving in silence, please reach out to us at the New Leaf Network, or follow this link to find support or regional events where you can meet others who can share your journey.
I have been wading barefoot into silence for the last several weeks, not having adequate words for the weight of things. Just days after writing about carrying each other, our world crashed into silence with the delivery of our baby at just ten weeks. We held her tiny body and cried. Held by the silence. Early in the morning, before the sun rose and our kids filled our home with rising sounds, we named her Claire.
Time seemed to stop with her heart, but the sun rose anyway. It took my breath away that the world could be so beautiful without her in it. Without her inside me. When our oldest was born and we drove her home from the hospital, I remember being overwhelmed that the whole world didn’t stop to notice the miracle in our car. And people got up and went to work and drove past me on the road just the same now, oblivious to the death of a miracle.
Her birth was every bit as holy as the those of my three living children: anticipated, aching, and real. The thing I love about birthing is the way I cannot be anywhere else, the way that giving birth takes me over completely. And this time, I was overtaken by death instead of life, a death that passed through my body, which I cannot leave behind.
There are no adequate words for the pain of losing a child, no explanation that removes the suffering. In just ten short weeks, half of which we had only hoped for her, she had already changed our whole world. We imagined the places in the house that she would occupy, the rearrangement of seating in the car and at the kitchen table, the adjustment of summer vacation plans. Our hearts had already loved her into the sandbox with the cousins and friends that will be born this summer and fall. Silence will fill the space that would have been her voice crying for us in the night or fighting with her siblings.
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How do you write about death? How do you write about death in a culture that fears it, displaces it, sweeps it under the rug? How do you write about death with the slightest coherence, when there aren’t any words you can utter, any words you can invent to put it in context?
How do you write about death when the death you write is the death of your very own child?
I’ve tried to write this post a thousand times, and in a thousand ways, and each time I’d get caught up in the words, convinced that some sort of poetry would be the way in.
But there is no poetry in miscarriage. There is no poetry in death. Its shock, surprise and torment cannot be made beautiful. It is ache. It is absence. It is loss beyond words.
I can remember it like it was yesterday, earlier this morning, five minutes ago. I remember as clear as the day.
And it was awful. It is awful. God, it’s just awful. But let’s back up a step first. When we’d first found out, we stared at each other in disbelief.
When we found out that we would be parents, we were over-the-moon-excited-and-delirious. Parents. We would be parents. You can imagine what that was like. Perhaps you’ve been there too. Perhaps you’ve been there to the place of utter ecstasy and joy and disbelief.
Staring in the face of your partner, eyes wide open, jaws to the floor when you realise a baby is on its way. A baby is on its way, and it’s ours. This changes everything. And it does. At least it did for us. Dreaming, imagining, planning. Name books and appointments one-after-the-other. Trying to keep the secret. Unable to contain it all.
Home for Christmas, we surprised her parents with a card. Congratulations Granny & Gramps! A copy of the ultrasound. There it was. Proof. Proof of life. Proof that a baby was on the way. Like I said, it changed everything.
Everything about our life together, its direction. It changed our conversations, how we thought about and acted towards money. Our focus had shifted towards someone we did not yet know. Someone we would never know, except by their impact on our lives.
It was early January when we went in to the midwives’ to hear the heartbeat. It was early January when we went in to hear what we already knew to be true. A baby was on its way. This baby was ours, and together we would be a family.
We went in to hear a heartbeat. We left with heartache and an appointment for an ultrasound.
Stomachs in knots. Hoping against hope. Holding hands. Unwilling to let go. Barely breathing. The technician mechanically maneuvered the wand as we stared at the screen, looking for hope. We asked questions the technician refused to answer. Instead, these words:
“The doctor will be with you shortly to explain.”
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