StorkNet presents . . . Celia Straus'
StorkNet.com > Columns > Celia Straus ~ Prayers on My Pillow
From Grieving to Healing
by Celia Straus
I have mixed feelings about today's date . . . December 30th is my youngest daughter's birthday. Born fourteen years ago, she is my joy and my soul-mate, and I celebrate her presence every day of my life. But this date also reminds me of another event. Fifteen years ago today I had my fourth miscarriage, my fourth in three years. I remember in the weeks leading up to the day fearing what by now seemed inevitable, yet hoping against hope that this pregnancy would be different - this pregnancy would "take hold" - that whatever had gone wrong before was going right this time. For after all, it had gone right the first time.
There was my first child, my Julia, who was then an adorable four years old, and there were plenty of friends and family asking me why I persisted in trying for another? "Let it go," "Give it up," "Be content with one," they said. But we know it doesn't work that way. Each pregnancy is a miracle, an instant bond, a new way to love, a new way to hope. And each miscarriage is a death of a child, no matter when or how or why it happens.
In my case I always miscarried at the end of the first trimester. Multiple miscarriages make women skittish. Upon reflection, I believe they made me more than a little insane. I had had an abortion when I was in my early twenties and now became convinced God was punishing me for my decision. After the first miscarriage, every time I went to the bathroom, I checked the toilet paper for blood. Every time I took a shower, I washed myself, praying that the washcloth and the water trickling down my thighs would be clear.
For three years I went to top specialists who assured me I was healthy. who told me to try again because they could find nothing specifically wrong except that I should try to increase "the richness of my uterine lining." I started with clomid, then graduated to pergonal, not to get pregnant but to stay pregnant. I tried eating like a pig and not exercising. I tried eating healthy and exercising moderately. I meditated, took up yoga, saw a psychologist whose practice focused on the emotional ramifications of miscarriage and still birth, and joined a support group. Yet most of the pain, the guilt, and sorrow I did not, could not share, not even with my husband. Always the cheerleader, I tried to be a good wife and mother, worked full stints as a scriptwriter and producer, and wept alone.
On that particular December 30th, I had begun to stain pink when I first got up, and, since it was a Friday, was able to make an emergency appointment to have a sonogram at three pm. My husband was out of town, scheduled to return just in time for New Year's Eve. I canceled an afternoon meeting, arranged a babysitter for Julia, and drove out to Rockville, Maryland in sleet and rain where the imaging center was. I had to confirm what I already knew. I remember the technician saying, as he slid the scanner around the slick jelly on my lower abdomen, trying in vain to locate any sign of life, that "You must feel frustrated having your pregnancies always end up like this." He was trying to be polite, but I wanted to scream at him, "frustrating doesn't begin to describe what I'm feeling." I miscarried twenty-four hours later. Happy New Year.
Soon afterwards, I was pregnant again, and, while researching a documentary on Native American alternative medicine practices interviewed an amazing woman who was known as a great shaman. Halfway through the interview I found myself telling her everything, half-sobbing as I asked her for advice. for a clue as to what I was doing wrong. She smiled and said, "Don't you understand it has nothing to do with you. It is not for you to choose what to do or what not to do. It is the choice of each little soul as to when to be born and who will birth them. They were not ready, even if you were. Be patient and see how these child souls love you."
And so I became patient. No more frantic trips to fertility specialists. No more trying to second guess what I could do to go to term, and sure enough, a year later on December 30th those little souls did show me how they loved me with the birth of Emily. And so I wrote this poem to celebrate their love and my love for them and her.
The night that you were born, as the clock struck seven
You came into this world, a gift from heaven
And all the nurses laughed, for your face was smiling
To be here on this earth and be so beguiling.
They say you came with dimples where the angels kissed you
As tokens of their love and to show they'd miss you.
And you were blessed with life, a new soul parting
The night that you were born, purest love just starting.
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