Shared by: Lemanuel
Written by: Heather
I know we’ve been through some tough times, you and I. No one can prepare you for how hard the process of growing older can be, both your side – the physical- and my side – the mental and emotional. I am so sorry that through all the natural hardship of aging, environmental toxins, and outside psycho-somatic stressors that I also added to your burden by not treating you right. I have consumed alcohol, caffeine, and tons of red meat, stayed up all night, partied, smoked cigarettes, starved you, squeezed you into uncomfortable clothes and shoes…I have even stared at the sun. I have had a concussion, broken bones, and sprained ligaments. I have not taken my vitamins. I have hated you. Through all this, you have supported us. You have protested times of high stress by creating a blood clot, among other things, just to try and tell me how hard this is for you. But, you haven’t given up yet. You rose to the challenge and gave my pregnancy with my daughter at 38 years old. You amazed everyone, including me, with your ability to accommodate what was anticipated to be a nine or more pound baby. You rose to the challenge and labored and delivered that child into the world despite her cord having brought about her death. You kept up your end of the bargain and made milk for her. You gave me aching arms, soft breasts, hips, thighs, and belly as a testament to her. And I hated you for that. I felt guilty. I hatefully resented you because of the reminder, but you were trying to tell me: I am doing this for us – not just us two inside and outside, but three of us including her. She is now a part of you, and you were of her. Her sustenance is in those curves, her cells are in your brain, the muscles and skin of your core bear her mark. Body, we will never forget, you and I. You will carry that memory of her in you forever, and that is a reason for love not hate. I didn’t realize that at the time, but now I appreciate all for which you stood strong. I love you for that. I am PROUD of you for that. I’m taking it easier on you now, as I’m taking it easier on me. I am patient with you, as I am patient with me. I still have a mother’s heart with no baby to nurture, so I am going to nurture you instead. I will honor our process and the time it takes. You will heal and so will I. The world is an unkind and hurtful place, so I will be kind to us. This is our one time together, our one shot. Let’s make the most of it. I love you, always.
In The Invisible Pregnancy, I challenge you as a mother to explore the intrinsic beauty and value of your body. Mothering your mourning requires you to discover that you are valuable, that you are beautiful, that you are worthy. To help inspire you to explore these, your sacred truths, and these challenging concepts of The Invisible Pregnancy, I’m inviting you to write love letters to your body.
These love letters will be held at stillbirthday in the Mothering the Mourning section, and will be mentioned in our May edition of the Fit to Heal column of our newsletter, along with a giveaway opportunity, a random drawing of one letter, the author mother to win a free, prized, awareness ribbon belly ring from Handmade Jillry. Use this link to share a letter. You may include one photo at stillbirthday’s discretion – one of the two photos below will serve as the primary photo for all letters.
I invite you, gently, respectfully, to learn to love your body, as a way to Mother Your Mourning.
The symbol of stillbirthday is the burning zero candle. The original photo was taken at my son’s funeral, after a doctor called my baby debris, and after a popular babyloss bereavement photography organization told me that my baby was too young for their services.
The burning zero candle represents the heart of a stillbirthday. When our children die, at any age (before birth or after), we do not forget the value of their life. We do not forget that they were and are a part of us. Monumental events, such as their birth date or death date, become significant to us. Oftentimes, long after our loved ones move on and forget, stillbirthday parents quietly observe the anniversaries of these sacred, special, painful days.
Zeroes are placeholders; they hold value. They are intrinsically significant.
Stillbirthday’s Zeroes Count project is a call to invite stillbirthday family and friends to craft art pieces that integrate an image of a zero within the piece - the way this is done is totally up to the artist and the spontaneous inspiration that prompts them.
These art pieces are collected with the goal of piecing them together in a book; a colorful, beautiful, powerful collection of womandalas and mandalas. The funds of this book project will help our Palliative Birth Center project, and the inspiration for this project came from The Invisible Pregnancy, a collection of beautiful challenges for bereaved mothers.
“Mandala” is loosely translated from Sanskrit to mean “circle”, a shape entirely similar to the zero. More than simply a round shape, a mandala represents wholeness, a collection of integrated parts gathered around a central source.
Awareness of the mandala may have the potential of changing how we see ourselves, our planet, and perhaps even our own life purpose. ~Bailey Cunningham, Mandala: Journey to the Center
A mandala is…an integrated structure organized around a unifying center. ~Longchenpa
How to make your womandala / mandala:
If you’d like to create a piece for our Zeroes Count project, your only instruction is to allow yourself to freely create an art piece with two things in mind:
- an intentionally contemplative state on your womanhood, incorporating your motherhood, which may include your pre-conception, pregnancy, birth of your baby, death of your baby, your grief, and your journey to healing, and allowing these feelings to prompt spontaneous, authentic art. For stillbirthday fathers or other loved ones, translate this instruction as appropriate to you.
- a desire to include a circular or zero shape, drawing upon the value of the unifying stillbirthday zero.
You can email your piece directly to email@example.com, or use our share your story link. By sharing your photo with stillbirthday, you agree to release copyright permission to include your photo in our Zeroes Count project art collection.
The jar is a circle.
I’ve written about Elizabeth here at stillbirthday before.
Elizabeth, was a very old woman. She waited a very, long time to become pregnant. When she did, she remained in seclusion until her fifth month of pregnancy. And I’ve shared why I believe this is.
To the world,
When you tell me to get over my loss, when you define it for me, when you try to take it away from me, it feels as though not only has my child died, but it feels as if you want me to believe my child never lived. In short, not only did I lose my child, but your empty platitudes serve to threaten my motherhood.
In grief, I can related to Elizabeth hiding, until it was absolutely apparent that she was a mother.
You have an opportunity to invite mothers out into the community to share the pain, the beauty and the power of their motherhood. They’ve already lost a child. Don’t try to take away their motherhood.
For suggestions on how to better come alongside a bereaved mother, please visit our friends and family resources section.
Learn about Mothering the Mourning
Learn about Mothering the Mourning
This is the beginning of this new place at stillbirthday, called Mothering the Mourning.
Mothering the Mourning is a place of short revelations I feel I’m given on my journey. It’s a place where I pause, to note the messages of healing spoken to my heart.
While our Ripples program allows you to identify the ways in which your child(ren)s lives can still create a positive impact, this, Mothering the Mourning, serves to be potentially, deeply challenging, as it is a place where the focus is not on the legacy of my child, per se, but is on the connection I have with him – my grief. It is a collection of observations I make as I daily nurture and daily discipline my mourning, for my healthiest grief.
I believe my mourning needs my mothering. It is not only an entity that needs nurturing – that is, validation, respect, and care, but it is also an entity that needs discipline – that is, structure, wise counsel upon and constructive speaking to.
Like a child, my mourning can throw tantrums - ha! It really can!
But, my mourning, in its mysterious similarities to a child, can make me take pause, make me see its wonder, and, can even make me smile.
Mothering the Mourning holds a radical and revolutionary truth that grief should not be silenced, the love for our children should not be closed up, we should not disengage from our relationship with our children at their physical death and we should not detach from our own reality of love. While grief is the collection of feelings we have, mourning is the outward expression of these feelings. Not all bereaved parents embrace both. I have grief, and I have come to realize that my grief needs mourning, and, my mourning needs my mothering.
Mothering the Mourning is a play on words. Most of my intimate times with my grief, when I am able to identify its goodness, have come to me in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve come to refer to this sacred space as Mother in the Morning. I share about these most treasured moments in my book The Invisible Pregnancy, where I also explore the challenging concepts of nurturing and disciplining our mourning, and other challenging concepts such as recognizing the beautiful truths in what I identify as ec0-thanatology. If these concepts seem intriguing, I’d recommend getting your copy of The Invisible Pregnancy, or consider hosting an Invisible Pregnancy Mother Workshop - and you and I can meet!
Mothering the Mourning is my way of recognizing that my grief connects me to my child, my mourning connects me to my grief, and that I can seek out and find the many beautiful aspects of thes connections.
About the Coloring
Not because I think I have much artistic skill at all (chuckle!), but because the vision of this piece came to me most suddenly the very day I decided to create the Mothing the Mourning section here at stillbirthday, I want to take a look at some of the things that came to me as I was coloring this picture.
I am the tree. Sometimes, I feel grey and withered, as if I cannot muster any life from within me. I feel on a dusty, lifeless plain. While my heart does hold color, and life, sometimes I believe it is too wrapped in darkness for this bright life to emerge. Still, I know it is there.
In contrast to the living seed, the grey tree doesn’t have roots, which seems to represent that the life from the living seed runs deep, is solid, is permanent, while the grey tree doesn’t have that penetrable hold.
As this grey tree, I have spent my own time, reaching, searching, outward, inward, looking for the answers to my child’s death. Not merely the physical reasons, but the spiritual reasons as well. “Why?” I’ve begged to know. The branches of this grey tree, I made with a series of the letter “Y”. As they thin, some of these Ys look like jagged thorns – in my quest, I know I have, at times, hurt others and myself.
I had no idea as I was shading in the black, that I was actually making a jar, but that is exactly what I made. The lifeless plain, everything I see in this darkness, is within this jar, this jar that doesn’t really have definition, it just sort of became there. In my simple view, I can’t see where the darkness ends, I only have a conviction that it somehow, somewhere does. In contrast to the colors above it, I trust that the Great Gardener can see much further across the horizon than I can.
The (invisible) Rain
The rain, from the point of view of within the jar, is tears. Tears of sadness, of pain, of longing, of confusion. The rain though, from the view of the Great Gardener, penetrates through the darkness, reaches to the depths of the roots of the living seed, and it refreshes and helps it grow.
You don’t see the rain in the jar? It’s because so often I recognize that I have a more masculine mourning style, and quite often it’s invisible rain, but nevertheless, is still there.
The Great Gardener
The Great Gardener implanted my child in my womb. His hands are golden, to me the color of holiness. Everything He plants is good. His arms extending from above – I felt a little disappointed as I was coloring, to discover that both arms weren’t extending from the yellow in the rainbow, but as His left arm is extending from green, I am reminded of the chakras, and as His left arm extends from green, I realize that our left arms are connected to our hearts (hence wearing a wedding ring on the left hand), and that what He plants is a labor of His own love. As He digs into the soil, and I am the tree, from my own limited view, I can’t see, but His hands are penetrating through the darkness.
These golden hands also look like my uterus.
The Big Heart
The big heart is the seed of my child. This seed was planted within me, but what I don’t see in my limited view, is that this seed has taken deep root, and, this seed is growing and blossoming.
The roots of this sacred life seed trail into my searching braches of Ys (and whys). There are indicators of the growing of this sacred life, and connect me to the greater view the Great Gardener has, even if I don’t recognize them for what they are. They can bring life into the otherwise greyness.
The swirling, deep roots also look like my hair.
Only a heart can grow hearts. This sacred life seed will only grow more of what it is. This love extends and connects further than the primary stems that are immediately attached to it. This love continues to extend, branch out, reach others, and even overflow beyond the Great Gardeners arms. Such is the reach of this sacred life seed.
I didn’t realize this while I was coloring, but there are seven blossoms. This is a biblically significant number. And, altogether, there are nine hearts. This too seems significant. Nine is the triple of triple, that is, three. This too, resonates with me as biblically significant.
Many families who are trying to conceive a subsequent child after loss often refer to this journey as “waiting for the rainbow” after the storm of their loss. While I understand the sentiment, I have always had a sense that this approach can put at least a little strain of expectation on the trying to conceive journey, and on the subsequent child. I feel that this coloring confirms that the rainbow, of peace, the rainbow as a sign that God is with us, is already here, for each of us, however that rainbow manifests for each of us. Even when I can get a glimpse out of the darkness, all I might see is red, but the Great Gardener can see much further along the horizon than I can. This horizon, it looks like the sun rising. The rainbow, while I purposely didn’t measure the spaces of the colors, I can see that the purple is not as thick as the other colors, because I ran out of paper. Even in knowing that the Great Gardener has a view of the horizon that extends much further than I can, even I can’t see to the end of the rainbow. I believe that someday I will.