In the recent storms our rose arch collapsed and we mounted an effort to rescue the roses that lazily embraced it. The rescue attempt was more poignant because of one rose in particular, which was planted there before my fingers became green enough to know that a rose bush does not climb. This one holds a special place in my heart: nine years ago, I buried my baby beneath it in a tiny match box. I buried the hopes and dreams and future memories for a life that was never meant to be.
Though I was ten weeks pregnant, the tiny heartbeat inside me had stopped at six weeks. In medical terms, it was never truly human. I knew that there were tragedies in the world far greater than this but this was my tragedy.
I decided not to measure my grief but to feel it.
I cried. I cried a lot. I felt the dragging ache of sadness deep inside me and I allowed it.
The day that I held that positive test in my hand was the day I headed to Brighton for a dear friend’s hen weekend so I had dared to whisper this precious secret aloud. Dared to name my hopes and dreams for this child, a mix of tiny cells and miracles and moonbeams.
The day my baby came away from me, I lost a whole lifetime of future memories: of rushing to the hospital on a crisp February morning; of gazing into the soft face of a nursing baby; of grazed knees and magic kisses; of bedtime stories and precious cuddles; of my proud tears; my child filing away from me for their first day of school; a lifetime of moments, some fleeting, some fateful. All would have woven together a beautiful tapestry of this particular child’s life. All lost.
In the end, I was glad that everyone knew. My grief was open and unfettered and I learned that, probably, the taboo of talking about pregnancy before 12 weeks serves better to protect those around you from the awkwardness of not knowing what to say than the woman who mourns a lost life of possibility. I did find incredible support among my family and friends though and, ultimately, I was glad that my world knew of this fleeting life that had graced us.
At times, as I grieved, I berated myself for my indulgence. Hadn't I already been blessed with a beautiful child who filled me with love and pride and wonder and hope? Wasn’t it selfish to want more? Didn’t others have more to grieve? Deeper wounds? Longer, harder journeys? Weren’t there others with more right to grieve?
I chose not to measure or judge my grief but to feel it.
I felt it as I dragged my heavy soul through the day to day life of a mother. I felt it on a visit to my mother-in-law in France. I felt it flying to Israel for the wedding of my husband’s sister. The heavy cloud of grief hovered over me in every interaction. Then one day, briefly, in the lead up to my sister-in-law’s wedding I felt the fluttering of joy again. I expressed this joy with my husband not knowing at the time that this first ray of sunshine cutting through the gloom would turn out to be my rainbow baby.
In my work with fertility, I have met many women who did not feel they had the space, freedom or the right to grieve their loss. They buried it deeply, carried it privately. But rainbows don’t occur in clear skies.
My rainbow child burst through a tiny gap in my cloudy sky as she continues to do, a child with the capacity for so much joy.
My story is not your story. My grief is not your grief but my advice is the same: do not measure or judge your grief but feel it. Move through it in whatever way and whatever speed is right for you. Allow the clouds and I hope that, like me, one day you will find a rainbow bursting through them.
photo credit: grimeshome <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/73653333@N05/9267662070">Rainbow Across Yellowstone Lake</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>