Tuesday, September 6, 2016

To the Woman Staring at the Ocean: a letter to myself six years ago

I have a love/hate relationship with the Facebook memories feature. Most days feature my sweet monkeys...pictures of their chunky baby faces and sweet anecdotes I recorded on Facebook rather than more thoughtfully in a journal. Sometimes, the memories from 2008/2009 record my trips to Target or what I had for breakfast. We didn't know what we were doing with social media back then. (Maybe, probably, we still don't, but we do it different now. Cute baby panda videos, anyone?)

This morning, Facebook greeted me with a photo. And did my memories ever come flooding back.

I see the picture of this woman. It looks like a serene yogi practicing pranayama on the sand. The reality was anything but.

One of my recent prompts from Make Blogging Fun Again is to write a letter to your self of a year or two ago (or in my case, six).


Dear Mama,

I see you watching the waves. I know there is a part of you that wants the water to wash up, swallow you, take you to the bottom. Part of you wants to be enveloped by darkness, to have your breath taken away, to shut your eyes and never open them again.

Your body aches as you sit in sukhasana pose. Your heart breaks and your womb is empty. Your baby boy was stillborn five weeks ago.

You cannot believe this is your life. You ask yourself over and over, "Did this really happen? How is this my life?"

It did happen, sweet girl, and the reality of it will crash into your consciousness over and over, like the waves on the sand before you.

You are already planning your next pregnancy. You are certain that another baby on the way will help quell this crushing pain. You know you will be better when another baby, certainly a healthy baby, is conceived. They call them rainbow babies, the baby you get after the storm of miscarriage or still birth.

That baby isn't coming either, but that's a different grief, a different story for a different day. I won't tell you this quite yet.

You don't know how to do this. You don't know how to grieve and you don't know how to live. You don't know how to parent your three living children or be a wife to your husband who is reading a book on the porch of the beach house behind you. You don't know how to laugh and enjoy a glass of wine with the friends staying in the house next door. You don't know how to do this life.

But you do know how to breathe, and so you drag your yoga mat, the one with the lotus embossed on it, to the edge of the water and you sit, legs crossed, breathing. You try not to remember the ultrasound tech's words, "We have a problem with this baby," or the way his body looked so perfect as you held him, lifeless, in the palms of your hands.

"Be still and know that I am God," the Psalmist writes. And you sit still, but your mind rages. "Why, God, why?"


It's six years later and I want to tell you that it won't always feel this awful. It won't always hurt this badly, you won't always want to fall to the bottom of the sea. In fact, six years from now, you'll visit that same beach with the same group of friends. You'll laugh and drink hard ciders together, 'cause that's your thing now. You'll play and do yoga on the beach with your kids and think about how much you've healed.

You'll remember, of course. I'm not saying you'll forget your son, or your grief, or the way it felt when your heart shattered into a million pieces. No, I'm not saying that at all. But I am telling you that you'll find a way to pick up those pieces and string them together, and your heart won't ever be the same, but it will have shape again.

You'll sit again, staring at the sea, and remember this day and how the salt spray and ocean breeze and the rhythm of the waves were part of your healing. You'll be grateful for the ways you've grown and changed from the experience of having been your boy's mama, even if for only a short, short time. You'll recognize the gifts his life brought you, yes. You'll recognize the gifts his death brought, too.

You'll walk on the sand and remember that most grains of sand were once shells, shells that housed something living. You'll be startled by the fact that you're walking on the evidence of death, but then be equally startled by the sand's beauty, the way it glitters with the setting sun. You'll remember that you've heard it's a grain of sand in an oyster that begins the formation of a pearl.

And so it is for you. Death entered into the soft place of your mama heart. It irritated and injured you. And it will take time, believe me. But something beautiful will grow there, something you will eventually treasure, like a rare pearl.

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