Dear Baby Weight

Dear Baby Weight,
You seemed so cruel at first, because you arrived, but delivered no baby into my arms. When they took the baby out of me, they left you. It didn’t seem very fair for my pants not to fit for no reason except I helped myself to extra tacos when I started expanding in baby love.  There was an implied promise that the tacos would go to the baby, not add to the sadness.

Now not only do I have grief, I have self-consciousness and body image issues. Thanks a lot.

However, though I fight bitterness toward you, I want to thank you. You remind me that I was pregnant. Twice! You won’t let me try to brush it under the rug or rush ahead to happy feelings. You say to me every day, “That happened. And it was sad.”

I need to remember it happened. In some ways, I never, ever forget for even one second, but in other ways, I try very hard to push it out of my mind. But I am reminded of it every time I put on pants or think about swimming (Texans think about this a lot actually once May gets close).

You make me do things that are healthy for me to do in a time of grief–get out of the house and move. I’m running. Running! I hate running. But exercise is good when you’re sad, they say. It magically makes me feel productive and in control and filled with adrenaline. It gets me talking with JD as we walk around the track after the run. We need to talk.

You also make me choose kale instead of pizza (I still love you, pizza), which is good for my brain and my sleep and my digestive system. I choose water in the morning instead of a 3rd cup of coffee (love you, too, coffee), and I think about my sleep. For awhile, I laid awake for hours and my eyes felt like dried out swimming pools, but now I want to sleep better. And I do because of that running thing and the fewer cups of coffee thing. I think less about my life being a big bucket of sorrow in the light of day, so thank you for rescuing me from the night.

Sometimes I think you’re whispering to me, “Shaaaaame.” But then sometimes it sounds more like, “Shhh…amazing grace.” The second whisper is coming around more frequently.

So, Baby Weight, thank you for sticking around. I needed you more than I thought I did.

Death and Life

Some back story: A day before JD and I left for a school trip to Europe a few weeks ago, I went to the doctor for a routine check-up. I was 9 weeks pregnant. During the ultrasound, the doctor told me the news I had tried to keep myself from fearing for the past 2 months: the baby was dead. It had no heartbeat. I had the option to stay home from the trip to “take care of it” and grieve in private, or I could go on the trip and have it taken care of after we got back. We chose to go. In a way, I was able to grieve in a unique space, and I’ve reflected often on bearing that tragedy in the midst of two vibrant cultures different from my own.  What follows is a bleak reflection on that experience, written a couple of days ago.

I have hesitated to post anything about this second miscarriage because the devastation has been so much darker, and really, I think we have enough darkness filling up our Facebook feeds. But as getting through the day is sometimes a struggle, I think of the women in my life who also have unfulfilled mommy dreams. I remember how comforting it is to know I am not alone in my frustrated desires when all I see on my feed is pregnancy announcements. One of the most powerful weapons against despair this past month has been conversations with people like me, so in the spirit of kindred longing, here we go.

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I walked around Rome and Athens for a week, teeming laughter and cappuccino sipping living next to the thousand-year-old ruins. Death and life are neighbors, seamlessly blending together. I walked around with a bulging belly, full of gelato and pizza and a dead baby. I laughed alongside the Italians and sipped countless cappuccinos with the Greeks, but inside I felt like I was dying.

Italystreet

There I was–in the belly of history and culture and civilization’s memory, and all that I could think about was the dead baby inside my belly.

As a literature teacher, I knew there was some kind of irony, some kind of tragic significance of carrying a dead baby inside as I waited for my body to realize what my heart was trying to process. I knew this, but I did not appreciate it. No one sets out to be a character in a tragedy–they just kind of find themselves in a terrible, senseless cycle and deliver haunting soliloquies.

I was waiting for the “sorrow and love to flow mingled down,” the blood and tissue to be flushed out and carry with it part of my life. My love, my sorrow.

What is it like to carry death around? It feels like a boulder on my chest, and my heart, trying to escape the boulder’s pressure, breaks apart bit by bit into my stomach, landing with a thud as it turns to stone on the way down.

A dead baby–the second life my body has destroyed in six months. I thought about the hostile environment my body must be. To take two lives without me even knowing, and with them, a part of my life–it feels like we’re dealing with an evil genius or a thief in the night, robbing me again. And the spark, the spunk, the light inside me? The robbers got it, too. It flowed out with the life blood, or rather, the death blood.

church fresco

To carry a dead baby inside me around the ruins of Delphi and Rome gave me an eerie sense of camaraderie. Like in a group full of familiar faces, I relate most to the stone on the ground. A remnant of a life past, this is my kin here–ghosts of a thousand years.

I ask myself when I feel brave enough: is this what it feels like to die to self? To carry around the death of Christ in our body? To feel such raw pain and numb listlessness in the same moment? I stood in front of a statue of Mary–mother of all mothers, even the almost mothers–in one of the many Catholic churches and asked her to pray for me. Mary, could you ponder a few things in your heart for me? They are too painful to consider right now.

MotherMary

The Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes told us to hold fast to dreams because without them, we are like a broken-winged bird. But, Mr. Hughes, what if holding dreams, cradling them like a baby, broke my wings?

And Prophet Isaiah, how do you rise from ashes even though you know that means the fire’s out and nothing is left to burn? How do you believe in beauty from ashes when the ashes hold the remains of a life not lived?

colosseum

How will life come from death? Will I build a new life on top of the ruins like the old settlers of Delphi? Or will I let death live alongside my every day like the fashionistas in Rome?

How do you recover from carrying a dead baby around, the size of a Greek olive, as you walk the streets of Europe, trying to find one moment of respite, one moment in which you can actually breathe?

olives

How do I find my life again after I’ve lost it twice? Will I still feel like a dead woman walking around when I carry new life in me again?

There I found myself, among the ellipses and the question marks. I touched my hands to the ruins, holding my breath each time, hoping for an answer, a breeze, a sense of anchoring, but instead I heard a foreign language spoken and realized the group was moving on.

My life still feels like this even though I am back in my country. I encounter ruins, I hold my breath, I listen. What I hear is incomprehensible. What I see is people moving on.