Women are the Keepers of our Family Stories
I have reasons for sharing pregnancy news early, apart from my giddy excitement, I told my girlfriends. “What if something happens and you lose the baby early? If you haven’t told anyone, where do you find support?”
That conversation will never be lost from me as it was not that long afterwards that we found out about Zachary’s complications. That was two years ago.
That same group of women and I were spending time together not long ago, visiting and talking about our lives. We asked one friend about her new job and somehow we got onto the subject of children and asked her when she and her husband were planning on trying for their second child.
All of a sudden my friend burst into tears and said she was pregnant but just miscarried the baby two days ago. She was 8 weeks along. She told us how the bleeding started lightly, but then grew heavier, then thicker and when she went to the hospital and the flow was overwhelming, she knew then for certain she said. She knew what had happened and that it was all over.
As my friend told me these things, I felt as if I should have some magic words to tell her. Seeing as I have lived through the loss of a child and know all the things NOT to say, I figured I should know the right words also. Yet I found myself speechless.
We all huddled around this woman and cried together, holding each other like one unit, arms and hands and hearts interlocked in an embrace of gentle care. As I looked around at the faces of my friends, I realized that only one of us had not personally lost a child at some stage of pregnancy. That ratio saddened me to the core of my being.
I drove home that night on the verge of throwing up, my body knowing no other way to express the heaviness of grief for my friend than in this physical manifestation. Truly, whether you lose a child at 8 weeks or 30 or at birth – the depth of loss can be just as great. From the moment we discover we are pregnant our minds map the future of our child and family and our hearts fall deeply into a love like no other. A loss is a loss no matter the stage.
This heartbreak led my mind down a path of reflection. I remember an elderly Grandma approaching me after I lost Zachary and telling me her story. She said she was pregnant and one day realized she hadn’t felt the baby move in a day or so. Her husband took her to the hospital and the doctors confirmed it, her child had passed away. She delivered her stillborn baby and immediately the nurses took her child. She did not even get a chance to see her baby’s face or hold her child, not even for one moment. I also suspect she was not allowed to learn the gender of her child. “That was the way they did things back then,” she told me.
It was clear in every wrinkle on this Grandma’s face; she wanted to know her child, even in its death. I later learned that this was the first time in her 80+ years that this woman had spoken of this event. Can you imagine? Carrying this sorrow locked in your heart for fifty years?
It was in thinking about my friend’s recent loss and the story of this sweet Grandma that I came to a treasure of realization.
Women are the keepers of our family’s stories.
We have come so far as a society. We now celebrate and grieve early life, even at 8 weeks and younger. We openly share and support each other. At the delivery of a stillborn child or at the death of a child after birth, we can capture photographs to cherish and hold our child close to us even if only for a moment – these moments can never replace a life but can endure a lifetime of mourning.
I am so thankful for how far we have come, for the amazing women whom I call friends and even for the new relationships found through sharing my story and meeting other mothers in mourning. We have a special calling, the burden and the blessing of telling our stories, passing these lessons of love and life on to each other and our children and grandchildren if we are so fortunate to be given such gifts.
What are your stories? Please share them here. There is power and grace in this storytelling and we never know what facet of our experience may encourage someone else on their journey of healing and hope.
Love and courage to you all.