Sunday, February 6, 2011

Put it down, if only for a moment

"You haul around this grief, all the time, and there's no place to put it, no one to help you set it down."

This sentiment so perfectly encapsulates what I feel that when I read it, I had to read it again. And again. And again. I could have written it. I didn't write it. David Hlavsa in They Were Still Born did. This is an incredible collection of personal stories from bereaved parents of children who were born still. I was at the library yesterday with my son on one of our regular weekend excursions to return books and discover new ones. I approached the section of "new non fiction" and this book was sitting on the shelf. As I saw it, everything else slipped away and this book was the only thing I was aware of. To see a book about stillbirth sitting on the library shelves where so many people could see it, borrow it, read it, share it. I felt that book had been placed there just for me. It's what I wanted to see after my first baby died in 2003, and I couldn't find books from parents who had lost what I had lost. What a long, hard journey we've taken to get to the point where not only are these books published from mainstream publishers, they are common enough to be placed prominently in a library. And, while my births aren't called stillbirths in the medical community, I also birthed my children. I feel the pain these parents feel. I recognize their grief as my own.

I was drawn to this book. I carried it around in my arms barely aware of what else was going on around me. And, while I knew it would wait until I got home and was in the privacy of my bedroom before I read it, I couldn't wait. It was like a gift that was begging to be opened. I sat down in the cozy armchair in the children's section, and I began to read the stories. As I sat in the library reading this book while my son played with the train table, I was deeply aware that I was going to cry. I tried to hold back my tears; I don't want to cry in public, with my son nearby. Those are the two things that cripple me and cause me to shove my pain down deeper - the fear my pain will be on display and I'll have to explain it to people who won't understand. In that moment of holding back the tears so much that my head felt it would explode, I decided to let it be. Let my pain be. Let my grief be. Let my sadness be. Let me be. I cried. Not shoulder-sobbing or ugly crying; simply tears welling up in my eyes and dropping slowly down my cheeks. And, it was freeing.

When I came to the quote from David Hlavsa in the third essay of the book, I felt understood. Somebody, a man even, had perfectly captured a feeling I've had for the seven years I've been conceiving, birthing, and grieving babies. My arms are tired, my soul is exhausted, my heart is heavy. There's nowhere to put down my pain. There's no escaping it. I've thought about my babies every day since they left my body. I can't even escape the pain when I sleep. I dream I'm pregnant. I dream I'm not pregnant. I dream I've had a baby and someone has taken her from me.

There are people who do try to "help you set it down." There are people who see my pain, may feel it themselves in their own way, and want to relieve me of it. I received a card after my last miscarriage from a family member who I haven't seen in a long time. She has grieved her own children over many years, and she was kind enough to reach out and acknowledge what I was going through. She said she knew how painful the experience was, and then she shared her own stories of loss. She held on to my pain and made it lighter for me, if only for just a little bit. She'll probably never know how much that support meant to me.

We have to create ways to put our grief down, to let our pain be, to let ourselves be lighter. If only for a moment.


Reese's mama said...

Cynthia - your posts help me to put my grief down, if only for a moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea how grateful I am.

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