There Is A Brokenness
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
A shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
Beyond all grief which leads to joy
And a fragility
Out of which depth emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
Too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness we are sanctified into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
Whose serrated edges cut the heart
As we break open
To the place inside which is unbreakable
My friend, Natalie, gave me permission to share the stories of her pregnancy losses with you. Update, July 2013, Natalie now has two thriving daughters. Gloria
We sisters tell the stories of our moon time, of making love and of birth. We share the passing of our grandmothers, our mothers and our friends. But we keep secret the death of our own babies, which increases the feeling of isolation for other women who think that they are alone. It has become taboo in our culture – This leaves us feeling broken and our loved ones struggling to understand. May we learn to share our stories and in doing so, honour the babies who join us for a short time on this journey and the many women who will follow in our path…
I offer my story to the countless women who have found the courage to share with me their stories of pregnancy loss, to my family who have wiped my tears and accepted my empty gaze, to the friends who have both listened and sat in silence, to the wise women in my life who have brought herbs, rubbed my back, cleaned up blood and trusted the process, to the thousands of women who are silenced by their own loss and most of all to Ekubbo and Kali who have shared with me their wisdom and love.
Ekubbo was our first baby, he came to us in the spirit of a boy and we cherished his presence for 8 whole weeks. I realized I either had malaria, or was pregnant. I went to the doctor on my own, squatted over an Indian style toilet and was given a small stick with a tiny blue line and a bag of folic acid. I left the clinic in a daze and rode on the back of the boda boda (scooter) with tears flying off my cheeks all the way back to Bujagali. At the time I was living with a friend at the side of the Nile at Bujagali Falls in Uganda. Over the next few weeks I held the baby over each bump in the road, huffed my way up the hill from the Nile each day after my shower and made plans to come home.
But our baby had other plans. The week before I was scheduled to leave, our home was broken into. The next few days were a stressful succession of enraged locals on a lookout for our things, a series of cash bribes to hunt down the boys who had violated our privacy, tearful conversations with locals convincing them not to beat the boys and lengthy arguments at the Jinja police station. Then one day as Rebecca and I were sitting in the police station it all became too much – a man who had been sitting on the floor in handcuffs stood up to reveal the blood dripping down his head. I turned my head out the window and took a few deep breaths, rested my hand over my baby and rushed out of the room – passed the outstretched hands reaching through the jail gates – and felt his spirit leave. I could hear Rebecca behind me as I ran out telling the chief of police to let me be. It was the first time I had ever heard her raise her voice – I will never forget the mother in her, protecting the mother in me.
A few days later, I met with Julius in Kampala and before leaving to take the two hour journey back up to Bujagali, stopped to go to the washroom. I was spotting. Instead of taking the regular matatu (bus) back, I hired a private taxi and prayed the entire way back up to Bujagali, smiling at the nice driver who was interrupting my mantra with his conversation. By the time I was there it was dark, I had severe cramps, intense back pain and was crawling my way to our fly infested, dirt hut of a toilet loosing blood the entire way. Rebecca connected with the women who ran the resort next to us and they gave us a banda (a beautiful hut overlooking the Nile that had a toilet and running water) and came with tea, love and gentle smiles. It was late, there was no doctor in the village, we had no idea what to do and the pain had me rolling around in the bed. I sat on the open-air toilet overlooking the stars at the side of the Nile and felt my baby slide out of me into the water. After that, everything went numb. Friends came in throughout the night to check in and I spent the night watching the storm flash over the Nile and light up the sky – taking my baby up and away…
I don’t remember the flight home at the end of March, or the next few months for that matter. We had a blessingway – the women in my life gathered to honour the baby – we shared stories, prayers and our female lineage “I am Natalie, granddaughter of Alvie, daughter of Cheryl, sister to Annette and mother of Ekubbo” Julius and I decided over the phone to name our baby Ekubbo – meaning ‘path’ in luganda (the local language) He had shown us the need to surrender to the path which had been laid out before us…
I couldn’t do yoga, meditate, pray or look at my empty belly in the mirror. I did everything I could to avoid the painful experience of watching friends struggle for the right thing to say. In April, a friend bought me a plane ticket and dragged me to the 2007 yoga conference in Toronto. I reluctantly rolled out my dusty yoga mat, rolled my gaze up to my disconnected third eye point and decided to face my pain and begin my journey towards healing…
A year went by – mother’s day, the expected due date, all of the reminders that pulled at our hearts. Students and birth clients asked, “Do you have children?” I attended homebirths, water births, and blissful births and supported other women in the gentle welcoming of their own babies. Slowly I began to take in the world again, to listen to conversations instead of just pretend. Ekubbo came to me in rainbows, in the flicker of his blessingway candle and in laughter. And with any challenge that came up, he was right there –“surrender”. Still feeling the very raw pain of losing my first baby, by the winter of 2008 I began to have visions of a girl. She was very much a part of my life by the time I left for Uganda in July.
For this baby we prayed. I knew within four days that her spirit had come to us – the women I was with knew, Julius knew. And yet, we knew it would be a few weeks before we found out. Julius and I exchanged smiles – he had a sparkle in his eye, but he didn’t say a thing. I flew home – Waited what seemed like an eternity and then finally took the test. It was too late in Uganda to call Julius, my mom and sister were in Toronto at the time and I didn’t want to surprise my dad all on his own, so I ran to the store to buy another test – just in case – still a baby.
The next few weeks were sacred. We rested in the silence of ‘knowing’. I took time to love myself and my baby and Julius offered his prayers from afar – when the only thing you can share together is prayer you REALLY feel it!
The time seemed to creep past 8wks, 9, then 10. We began to tell family and close friends – everyone had already guessed. 11wks. We both felt the presence of a girl and I began to have visions of kali – the goddess of creation and transformation – eternal mother time. At 12 weeks we celebrated – on the phone, with friends, with family and with god. I could feel my students staring at my growing belly and used all of the courage I could to not tell them. I sent Julius pictures and we laughed together over the phone. I scheduled my second appointment with my midwife, made plans to pick up maternity clothes from a friend, drank herbs and did yoga.
Then at the end of the 12th week, I began to spot. I went to bed and stayed resting for the next few days. However, our baby girl had other plans that would take her spirit away from my body and to her new journey. On Tuesday, after a day with no bleeding, I decided to go vote. When I came home I went to the washroom and found bright red blood. I had a good cry and went to bed repeating a welcoming affirmation for our baby to let her know how much we wanted her to stay, “We welcome and honour you as a part of our family”.
Wednesday was the first day of the 13th week. I had mild cramping on and off throughout the day, but was able to breathe it away and kept myself in bed. It was a beautiful, sunny day, my girlfriend, who was staying with me at the time decided to head downtown and left about 3pm. Shortly after, the cramping became consistent. By 6pm the pain was too much for me to handle on my own – I asked my mom to come from work to sit with me. I needed someone else present to help me from spiraling away from myself instead of into myself. I went to the washroom, stood up, and all of a sudden felt a release as bright red blood splashed all over the bathroom floor. Mom came right at this moment and found me sitting on the toilet in tears, watching the pieces of lining that had supported and nourished our baby empty out into the toilet. By then, I was moving about, moaning and trying to send the sensation out.
She helped me into bed. Kristen came home, lit the blessingway candle for my first baby, turned on my chanting music and sat at the edge of the bed with her hand resting on my leg. I was lying down, wanting so badly to move with the sensation, but avoiding any movement that would create a rush of blood. I called my midwife – it wasn’t until this moment that I accepted the fact that we had lost this baby. Kristen and mom both took turns holding my hand while I rolled around and tried to moan out the pain. I felt as though I was releasing an ocean of blood – down my body into the bed. My midwife was there by 9pm, it was perfect timing because both mom and Kristen were starting to step into fear. It was both a relief and a loss to see her because we had both wanted this moment to come months later with a healthy baby. She suggested I get up and try to release some of the clots to stop the flow of blood. As soon as I got up I felt a weight, sat down on the toilet and tried to relax. My midwife stood right next to me, reminding me to breathe into it – her hands ran down my back encouraging me to let go. She left to get something from her car, mom went downstairs to get more towels and I sat there alone on the toilet still feeling the weight resting inside my body. I closed my eyes, relaxed my pelvic floor and began to birth the last few months, the baby that had become a part of our lives and the home that she had created for herself in my uterus. I sat there with my hands shaking in the toilet bowl holding it all, afraid and not ready to let go. I tried desperately to relax and release the rest that was still hanging from my body. The sensation was extreme, my limbs went numb – I knew I was resisting letting her go, so I leaned forward, placed my hands on the floor to ground myself and repeated over and over, “I Open”. It slid out, my midwife grabbed for a bed pad for me to place it into and I sat there on the toilet with blood running down my fingers in another world.
Once back in bed, I was given herbal tea to stop the bleeding. As soon as I took a sip I sat up, “I’m going to throw up – no, I’m going to faint”. The next thing I remember, I was throwing up all over them, the bed and myself. I went into the shower while they cleaned up the room and sat there at the bottom of the shower, talking to her spirit. I knew there was still something I needed to birth and very slowly began to birth the placenta. I sat there in one corner of the shower, staring at it sitting there across from me with tears and water pouring over my face. As soon as it came out a wave of energy came back and it was over. I got back into my warm, clean bed and began to realize that I had lost another baby, another life, another dream. The first time in the night that I wasn’t overwhelmed with pain, it gave me the space to connect with what had just happened and the tears began to flow.
I’m grateful that it happened at home, by candlelight with the people I love. I painted the next day and stamped the blood from the placenta on a canvas and then put it aside to dry. I lit another candle for this baby and gathered all of the courage I could find to call Julius and tell him we had lost the baby.
Together we cried and we prayed – it felt as though he was right there. We named her Kali – Kali represents renewal and change. In order to create, we must also destroy, or release. She is a powerful goddess and gives birth to endless reality.
Now on my altar there are two candles, for my two babies who have taken me on a journey that I didn’t ask for but has brought me closer to truth and through that closer to love.
A friend sent me an email with a quote last week: “I am not ok, you are not ok and that’s ok”. It represents so well the reality of miscarriage, of not needing to forget or rush the healing process – but to have the courage to sit in the darkness for a while. Many people say “you’ll have another baby”, what they don’t realize is that each baby has a spirit and a message of their own that is never filled with another child. Through this journey I have learned that most women know of other women who have lost babies – we may not know her story, but SHE will never forget it.
love + light, Natalie