Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

Remembering all the beautiful babies that have been lost far too soon, and all the grieving parents wishing they could hold them again. I hold you all in my heart and in my thoughts today.

This is something I've read and re-read lately, because since I got pregnant again, Gabriel has been more firmly on my mind. Reliving his pregnancy, reliving his birth, trying to remember the beautiful moments and not just the scary ones. Now that more people are learning of my pregnancy, people who don't know about Gabriel or understand the dangerous path I'm walking right now, I find myself reading this again and nodding along.

It is of course from my dear Elizabeth McCracken and her memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and if you have never read it - do. A brilliant writer who carries you into her world of loss and grief in a beautiful, honest, funny way. She captured so brilliantly the things I wanted to explain to other people, and I will never forget buying it about two years ago and opening it while I waited for my to-go order and standing in that line simultaneously laughing and crying out loud because this was a kindred soul.

How she speaks of loss and her Pudding here, this is how I feel about Gabriel today:

"I want it, too, the impossible lighter-side book. I will always be a woman whose first child died, and I won't give up either that grievance or the bad jokes of everyday life. I will hold on to both forever. I want a book that acknowledges that life goes on but that death goes on, too, that a person who is dead is a long, long story. You move on from it, but the death will never disappear from view. Your friends may say, Time heals all wounds. No, it doesn't, but eventually you'll feel better. You'll be yourself again. Your child will still be dead. The frivolous parts of your personality, stubborner than you'd imagined, will grow up through the cracks in your soul. The sad lady at the Florida library meant: the lighter side is not that your child has died -- no lighter side to that -- but that the child lived and died in this human realm, with its breathtaking sadness and dumb punch lines and hungry seagulls. That was the good news. She wasn't going to pretend that he hadn't, no matter how the mention of him made people shift and look away.

A stillborn child is really only ever his death. He didn't live: that's how he's defined. Once he fades from memory, there's little evidence at all, nothing that could turn up, for instance, at a French flea market , or be handed down through family. Eventually we are all only our artifacts. I am writing this before our first child turns into the set of footprints the French midwives made for us at the hospital . . .

. . . I don't want those footprints framed on the wall, but I don't want to hide them beneath the false bottom of a trunk. I don't want to wear my heart on my sleeve or put it away in cold storage. I don't want to fetishize, I don't want to repress, I want his death to be what it is: a fact. Something that people know without me having to explain it. I don't feel the need to tell my story to everyone, but when people ask, Is this your first child? I can't bear any of the possible answers.

I am am not ready for my first child to fade into history."

Love to all of you mothers and all of your children, present with you or not.


Kate said...

I love that book, it was the first book on babyloss/grief that I read very soon after Joseph died. Rereading part of it in your post has made me keen to read it again.
Remembering your Gabriel Ross, and my Joseph Gabriel today. xo

Aoife said...

Love to you and Gabriel xx

Catherine W said...

Oh Eliza, I have never actually managed to bring myself to read An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. My mother bought it for me, read it and then hid it from me. This excerpt is so pitch perfect, I really must try and coax my mother in to giving it back to me! Thank you for sharing it here.

I'm glad that you are finding beautiful memories of your pregnancy with Gabriel and of his birth. It is very difficult to embark on a pregnancy when the path is so uncertain. Thinking of you, wishing you peace in your pregnancy and remembering your precious son xo