Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Death and Birth and All Things in Balance

Occasionally, and not as often as I would like, I am able to get myself to a prenatal yoga class. The class is amazing, the women are beautiful, and the teacher is not only gifted, but she is a friend. And on the nights when my crazy life doesn’t get in the way and I am able to make it, I know without a doubt that both me and my baby are better for it. There is a moment, in these classes, where she has us lie in savasana and picture our ideal birth. I love this. I am GOOD at this. I picture myself in my home, surrounded by candles and soft light and family and support and joy. After we do this, she has us open ourselves to the possibility of other birth outcomes: in these maybe I am transported to the hospital, or need to have a C section, outcomes I would understand but admittedly be disappointed by if they were necessary.  And finally, she has us hold these two things, this dichotomy, both in our hearts at the same time. At first, I struggled with this idea- this embracing of two different things and two very different emotions at one time.

I find myself now with the same struggle. Two weeks ago, my mother died, following a long battle with depression that has left us all with scars. It was unexpected, and it was tragic, and we were all and still are shaken to the core and instantly, in that one moment, forever changed. Yet, I am still pregnant. It is likely that in less than two weeks, I will give birth to my new son.  And this baby and his birth are things that deserve joy. So now I walk through my days trying to find the line between mourning a loss and preparing for a gain. Now I carry this very personal dichotomy inside my heart every moment of every day. I am afraid that if I fall off of that tightrope and embrace the sadness, my baby will suffer. And I am afraid that if I embrace only the joy of the birth, my loss will not heal. So I embrace both, in my heart, together. And I get it now- the reason why we HAVE to be able to do that. It's easy (and so powerful) to visualize what we want to happen- that beautiful ambient birth in my home, for example. But we also have to open up to and carry other possibilities, so that when life occurs, we don't crack and split in half with the weight and disappointment of it all.

Made by my daughter for her grandmother. 

I came across this beautiful and timely quote last night when I wasn't even looking for it, and it stopped me in my tracks as I felt it move into my body with my breath and settle right into my core as truth:
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

Telling the kids we were going to have a baby, eight and a half months ago, was one of the most joyful moments of my life. I knew that practically I should wait to tell them, I knew nine months was to them a lifetime to wait for a birth, and I knew that by telling them early, we risked disappointing them with a heartbreak if a loss should occur. I also unequivocally KNEW that I couldn't wait, and I told them in this rushed flurry of tears and hugs and ear splitting grins. Similarly, when my Mom (their Nona) died, I knew I had to tell them, and I knew it had to be real and honest and soon. Telling them was one of the hardest things I have ever done- again, amidst tears and hugs and a rush of words that somehow were simultaneously SO hard to form yet impossible to contain. Later on in the week, as I tucked them into bed at night, I told them in a calmer and gentler way how I truly believe that this life is about balance, and if you watch for it, you can find it even in the shadows of the highest highs and the lowest lows. I told them yes, we had lost Nona, and I knew that was SO very hard. I told them that it was normal to feel sad, even angry, and confused. But also, if we looked around, we could see love, and life, and even happiness rushing into the vacuum her loss left. I reminded them of the absolutely amazing beauty we had seen and experienced in the form of support of our family, our friends, our neighborhood, and our community. I have no doubt that these people honestly CARRIED us through those first dark days with their gifts: their presence, their food, their cards and messages and thoughts and wishes, their hugs and touches and remembrances.

I left my house Monday morning to attend my mother's funeral. I walked out of my house leaving it dark, lonely, and more than a little sad. While I was gone, while I prayed and cried and hugged and took communion and sat in the front row of a church packed FULL of people sending up love, women came into my house. They filled it with food and drink and candles and light and support. I came home and walked directly into my house looking exactly like that room I had always pictured while I lied in savasana, visualizing my ideal birth. I realize now that what I had focused on, lying there in my post prenatal yogic bliss, was what it would feel like to be held up in support. What I experienced last week was what it felt like to be held up in support. 

I know now that there is room in this life, in this family, THERE IS ROOM IN ME, for all of this- for love and for loss, for anger and for unbridled joy, for sadness and for gratitude. I have lost my mother in this earth but I also have grown a new life. I have grieved and I have shed tears for my loss (and will shed many more), but I also have looked around my house and my life and my womb and seen it filled with love and ambient light and HOPE. Last week, I lived through a death. Someday soon, tonight or tomorrow or next week, I will give birth. I will struggle in these next few weeks, I will fall down and I will burst into tears at inopportune moments and I will ACHE with raw loss, but I will also laugh and embrace and hold my baby to my breast and shed tears of simple joy. In times of great loss AND in times of great joy, we are only human, and yet we are so very AMAZINGLY human.

To all of you, the people of my life who have held me up and loved me and thought of me and CARRIED me, thank you. To my mom, whose face and laugh could dictate the mood of an entire houseful of people, I miss you. And to my boy, the baby who we soon will meet, I already love you. I can carry all of this in my heart at the same time, and I will. 

I already do. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written as usual.
    Life IS about balance I think you are amazing. Although my life is carrying me and I didn't share my love and sympathy before now, you and your family have been on my mind and in my prayers.
    Lots of love to you sweet mamma, you are a blessing!