Just the other day I was thinking about my pregnancy losses and how the Trying To Conceive phase of my life was probably over, meaning those losses are officially things of the past. Previously, when considering Life After TTC, I always assumed, “I’ll never forget…” Because those losses have always been such a part of me. They are on my mind every month when my period comes because of the horrible and vivid memory of miscarrying in my bathroom one night. They are on my mind when I call any doctor because even the pediatrician stirs up memories of fearful checkups. They are on my mind whenever I think of my c-sections and how weird it was they were done in the same OR as my D&C. On my mind when I pause in the chaos of child-rearing to remember how lucky I am to have a success story.
But to tell you the truth? In the months since my Dad died?
I think I’ve forgotten.
I think sometimes a heart can only handle so much sadness. At least my heart does. And the grief over losing my Dad seems to have pushed out those regular pangs of sadness over lost pregnancies. Raising kids in general does that, I guess. You lose the ability to dwell on anything for more than 14 seconds before the next disaster. But lately, those 14 seconds, I’ve devoted to my Dad. To missing him and still having to remind myself that he is actually gone. I still don’t believe it sometimes. I still expect him to call on my birthday. Which is hysterical considering he actually forgot more birthdays than he remembered.
But then…someone else had her heart broken. Reading her words, her pain, it all came flooding back. Maybe my Dad was keeping it all at bay for the last few months, those periodic reminders. But reading Michelle describe exactly what I’ve been through, word for word, I remembered. And I’m glad I did. I almost feel guilty that I needed reminding.
But not too guilty.
It’s okay to forget sometimes. Especially in light of new sadness.
I emailed Michelle (who doesn’t know me from Adam) the same link I’ve emailed several women who have suffered this loss. It’s a New York Times article that Chez Miscarriage (I miss her) linked to many moons ago. I’m so glad the article is still there in the archives.
It talks about one woman’s journey toward mourning her loss in a culture that provides more ritual for that than our own does.
I had never previously considered that there is no word in English for a miscarried or aborted fetus. In Japanese it is mizuko, which is typically translated as ”water child.” Historically, Japanese Buddhists believed that existence flowed into a being slowly, like liquid. Children solidified only gradually over time and weren’t considered to be fully in our world until they reached the age of 7. Similarly, leaving this world — returning to the primordial waters — was seen as a process that began at 60 with the celebration of a symbolic second birth. According to Paula K.R. Arai, author of ”Women Living Zen” and one of several authorities I later turned to for help in understanding the ritual, the mizuko lies somewhere along the continuum, in that liminal space between life and death but belonging to neither. True to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, it was expected (and still is today) that Jizo would eventually help the mizuko find another pathway into being.
I’m not a Buddhist (I’m not anything), but I adopted this mindset and the spirituality associated with it in when mourning my own losses. It helped me greatly and I always pass it along hoping it will help other women as well. Today, I think about my mizuko. My lost pregnancies. I’ll think about them in tribute to Michelle and all of the other women who have felt the same pain. I think about it today to remind you all…you’re not alone. It feels like it, god does it feel like it, but you’re not. All of us who have felt the pain of those empty arms, we’re all there with you. Using our empty arms to hold you up.
After my losses I ended up with the family I was struggling to build. I hope that all of my sisters will also have happy endings to the stories they are trying to write.