Guest Writers

Finding Life in Death

5 Comments 12 June 2012

It’s been almost a year since I spent the morning in the hospital waiting for someone to tell me what I did not want to admit to myself: that I wasn’t pregnant anymore.

And that day I went from focusing on eating enough protein to wandering through a place I’d never been before, with no map, just taking each step not knowing where my foot would land next.

I felt a particular kind of sadness I had never experienced before, not ever.

I even had thoughts like ‘I do not belong in the Mother’s Club anymore because I failed’, and ‘I am broken’. I was angry, embarrassed and frightened, and my body was, hormonally, having a baby. I wanted to find a dark and quiet place away from everything that didn’t make sense anymore.

Three days passed in between the doctor telling me there was no heartbeat and the night that I woke up, went to the bathroom, and a gush of everything came out.

I flicked on the light and the contrast from the dark burned my eyes, so I immediately turned it off. I thought about thrusting my hand in the toilet to see what it was but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there in a bizarre cosmic pause, listening to my breath. I began to notice the perfect quiet of the early summer night air, and the stillness of the boys sleeping in the next room. And from there, I asked, What now?

I heard a voice that said, ‘go back to bed’. So I did. I went back to bed.

And that was it. That was the moment that Willow Priya was born.

We don’t talk about miscarriage.

It’s a horrible scary thing for a baby to die and people don’t like to talk about it.

In fact, some might say I only lost a pregnancy, or the promise of a baby. I didn’t know how to feel. I had to go searching on the Internet just to find some validation that the deep well of sadness I’d fallen into was called grieving. But grieving for what?

With nothing to bury, there was no funeral.

Only the awkward silence. The Sicilian in me wondered why people weren’t showing up at the door with food, because I was more than certain that someone had died. People tried to be helpful. They said, ‘don’t worry,
you can try again’.

In those first moments, all I wanted was to skip forward past all of the heartbreak and just get that spot filled up again. I didn’t want to feel that complex cocktail of emotions that so desperately needed my attention. I just wanted to zoom through the empty to the
full.

I’m aware now as I approach the year anniversary of Willow Priya’s birth that the empty is where the transformation happens.

With all the work I’ve done around this event I know, I really know, that this experience has greatly expanded my range of emotions.

And when I allow myself to just be in that emptiness, I feel really humble, because I experienced death within my own body. And now I think, what an amazingly profound way to connect with life.

From that thought I can access an entirely new and more empowering meaning.

I feel grateful for the amazing and nurturing women that have come into my life because I reached out for their care and connection. I feel amazed at the awakening that happened in me, and compassion for myself and all the other women who know what it is to lose a baby. Feeling that gratitude, awe, and compassion gets me to the new meaning. And here it is:

The past does not define us (unless we let it). From my greatest pain, I can draw my greatest source of strength.

That you are reading this right now is a sure sign that I found a way to a more empowering meaning. A big part of that involves speaking about it, because when I learned that there are as many as one in four women dealing with this, my mission became apparent: connect with this strength and inspire other women to do the same.

The more I speak with women who know about this first hand, the more I realize that finding a way to normalize it is key to finding new meaning.

Miscarriage is a natural part of the life and death cycle, but it doesn’t seem normal because it’s invisible in our culture.

I’m convinced that if we give it a rightful place in the natural order of things,we can work through the feelings of loss, and be able to embrace the other part of a miscarriage: the birth.

There’s this bizarre thing about a miscarriage: it seems to be all in the wrong order. Usually, we get born, then sometime later, we die. What happened for me was that part of me died, then I waited for it to get born. Somewhere in this uncharted emotional territory, I found a new life.

**

Have you found a way to get a new meaning from your experience with the loss of a baby?

Andrea Naveena Valley is mom to three year old Sacha and works as a Massage Therapist and Coach. Before Sacha, she was a documentary photographer and taught yoga for many years, and she is still fiercely devoted to her daily practice. She is passionate about all things home birth and continuum parenting, enjoys biking, and loves to grow vegetables in the garden and experiment with fermented foods. Her mantra: Laugh at your limits–Redefine what’s possible. Connect with her at anaveenavalley@gmail.com

Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Mishka B says:

    I had a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. It was an extremely unpleasant and sad experience, but had the most profound impact on my life. I gained a new respect for what my body was capable of. Before the miscarriage, I had no confidence in my body’s ability to do anything right. Ironically, the miscarriage gave me faith that this body in fact knew exactly what it had to do and needed no help from anyone.

    If I had never experienced that, I would never have believed I was capable of giving birth unmedicated and had I never given birth unmedicated, I would never have discovered my calling to serve women in childbirth.

    The miscarriage was the beginning of an incredible journey and as such, has brought incalculable meaning to my life!

  2. Sally says:

    Your story really hits home for me and I can completely relate to you. I’ve suffered two different types of miscarriages and both times I felt like my body was deliberately not functioning the way it should. Miscarriage is hard because we often only have a memory to mourn and nothing physical. I’m glad you’ve been able to worm through this saddness; it is something I have found ill never truly recover from.

  3. Sheila says:

    Andrea, I see your strength, your humility, your pain, your wisdom. I know this need to quickly fill that hole, the realization that there is no getting back to that point before….there is only moving forward. And it seems clear that we have both moved forward. May we be blessed and better for it. Thank you for sharing your story.
    ~sheila

  4. Sheila says:

    Had to go back and read my own miscarriage post. So many of the same elements. I have the same desire to normalize this losing of our babies and the grieving process surrounding that loss. Thank you for using your voice to help others…

    http://alivingfamily.com/2011/08/31/ritualizing-loss-my-story-of-miscarriage/

  5. Andrea says:

    Sheila, I read your story. So much of that was similar for me when I had my ultrasound, so many people, and waiting, and then when there was no heartbeat, they wouldn’t look at me, they wouldn’t answer my questions. Having already had an ultrasound with my son, I knew that if there had been a heartbeat that they would have elatedly showed me the screen. But there wasnt, and they wouldn’t even talk to me after that. Had to wait for the doctor, who wasn’t even in the hospital, to call me in the nurse’s library (my doula was with me and said at the time, ‘if you told me this story I would never believe it’). And then it was all about the pressure to decide in the next three days if I wanted to get a D & C because ‘we will need to get out the tissue’. Hold the phone, doc. That tissue was ‘the baby’ five minutes ago. Let’s all just take a minute to breathe.
    I went home and it all happened naturally and I never went back for that D & C. Essentially I knew that I wanted this to be a homebirth.
    Thanks for sharing your story, Sheila. We all have to keep telling our stories.


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