As Mother to the Dead Hel is given care of those children that are stillborn or lost in miscarriage. This for me gives great comfort as both one that does Her work and as one that has Survived 9 pregnancy losses – 8 miscarriages and one vanished twin. 1 in 4 women have survived this kind of loss and this month is pregnancy loss awareness month. No one ever teaches us how to grieve for a child we never held in our arms, no one talks about how to get through the whole thing. Its a death but its a largely unacknowledged death by most. but with the statistics being what they are I can almost guarantee that you know someone that has survived this loss. I would ask that we give offering to Hel for Her care and compassion for Her mothering to these lost children and for the comfort she gives those of us who Know Her to survive these kinds of loss….
**Original sketch done By Sarah L. Little, Digital manipulation and color original Me
Now I want to share with you why Honoring Her in this facet is so vitally important to me via a note i posted on facebook in summer of 2011 with a few alterations for time…
I have a condition known as RPL…. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss. Defined as more than 2 consecutive miscarriages. At least they finally changed the name they call the problem. They used to just call us “habitual aborters” Yes, really. I’m 43 years old, I had my first miscarriage in July of 1987, I don’t know how far I was, I had been bleeding for close to 3 weeks and just figured there was something wonky going on with my cycle. But alone in my bathroom I sat there cramping and bleeding like I never had before and passed what was clearly more than an embryo. That, sadly was only the first of more than most women have to deal with. Up to 25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it’s estimated that RPL affects 1-5% of couples that are of child bearing age. I fall into that 1-5%, and to be honest I’m pissed. I’m pissed not because of the losses – those, I grieve, those I’m sad for – I’m pissed because of the silence, the unending gut wrenching life altering silence!
The world talks about infertility, it’s not hiding in the darkness or in rooms full of women who won’t speak above a whisper of it because they feel SO utterly alone that they dare not say a word for fear of being ostracized or worse….. The ‘well meaning’ words of ‘comfort’ is what I mean by worse…..
“You can always have another.”
“Now you have an angel looking after you.”
“It’s for the best.”
“At least you didn’t know your baby.”
“There must have been something wrong…”
“Did you do something you weren’t supposed to do?
“I understand how you feel.”
“Have you ever thought of not having children?”
“Be grateful for the children you have…”
Now, these words may SEEM like the ‘right’ things to say but let’s look at it from my perspective – me, the woman who has lost NINE children before I was able to hold them.
Another? I don’t want ANOTHER baby I want THIS baby, “another” baby is not the baby I lost and dreamed and planned for. It’s ANOTHER.
An angel… Thanks, really but my parents are Angels enough for me. I asked for a child not an angel.
Didn’t KNOW? Excuse me?!?!?! What I know is that I was sick every hour on the hour for the time my baby was still inside of me, I KNOW that my baby had a name and a place and a time. The fact that I never got to meet them doesn’t’ make it any better, in fact it makes it much, much worse.
Something Wrong? Such as? With who? How? What could it have been? Was it my fault?
Something I wasn’t supposed to do? Hmm what might that have been? These aren’t answers these only make me ask more questions and lay more blame at my own feet.
You understand… you may empathize, you may even get the process because you have been through it but you can only ever understand your own grief process, not mine.
Not having children… Is this really even a question I need to explain the wrongness of?
I AM grateful for the children I have, it does NOT negate the child I lost.
Then there is the ever present (oh yeah this is my favorite one) “Well, at least you can GET pregnant” from some of the women that have/are dealing/t with infertility.
That one is the really hurts the most. It hurts the most because most of us that survive RPL have done so usually after Primary and/or Secondary infertility ourselves. Imagine for a moment that after long back and forth of IF treatments, ultrasounds, drugs, blood work and finally an ultrasound with a heartbeat. Then you go in the next week and it’s gone. All gone. Nothing. No heartbeat, no baby, it’s just…. Gone. After all the tests, blood work, meds, ultrasounds hopes, dreams and everything else it’s over and now, you have to start all over again. Personally I have dealt with IF, only to have that much wanted pregnancy never feel safe. Not until I am holding a living breathing crying baby in my arms. Can you imagine? Every single twinge makes you want to call the doc or run to the nearest ER or better yet you FINALLY stop having morning sickness but wait you’re not sick anymore, WHATS WRONG?!?!
It may sound extreme but that is how it feels. Trust me, every successful pregnancy I Have had is like that.
But the real tragedy is that SO many men and women live with this dark specter hanging over them and NO ONE ever tells them it’s ok to grieve, its ok to be sad, and hurt, and angry and all of the things that we would be feeling if we HAD met the child we lost before we could hold them!
Where are our support groups at the local hospital? Where is my grief counselor? And why, dear Gods why are you putting me on the MATERNITY floor for the D&C I must have to complete the loss of my very much loved baby?!
I write this for a few reasons but mostly to shed at least a little bit of light into the shadowy darkness that more of us live in than most people realize. But also to make you think, think about the fact that you don’t know what someone has gone through when they ‘turn up’ pregnant or how scared they might be of losing yet another baby. And another part of it is simply fear. Fear that while we have been TTC this time for 16 months to date that this time will become an even longer journey only to end in another loss. I have positive attitude that it won’t. I believe that I have completed the lesson of loss and now have before me a journey filled with no more risk than the average woman who is TTC but there will never be a time that I do this that won’t have at least some fear buried deep inside of it all….
I ended the cycle of loss of a spiritual level in 2010 by getting a memorial tattoo for all of my losses. When i posted the picture of the artwork my friend Candace shared with me a poem that the artwork reminded her of that was read at her stillborn son’s funeral the poem and the tattoo are below.
“This is for all the caterpillars
that never became butterflies.
All the butterflies,
that never caught the
wind in their wings.
And all the hearts,
that had hopes and dreams,
of a wondrous flight together.”
Original Tattoo design is my own, Inked by Sara Huser Castle of Color, Nicholasville, KY