The Sacred Circle and the Land of the Giant Slugs

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy loss, infant loss, stillbirth.

It has been a long time between posts, partly because I got busy—with nursing coursework, with family, with starting a new group practice. And partly because, let’s face it, sometimes we have blocks. What pulls me out of this block is ironically something that I would have expected to silence me.

My fourth son died before birth.

I would have thought the grief would cripple me, would leave me without any words—and for a time, it did. There were days when all I could do was lie on my sofa with his blanket against my skin and tears leaking out of my eyes. I had to be told what to do, even something as simple as, “Drink this,” or “Go to the bathroom.” I fully expect that I will have those days, on occasion, for the rest of my life.

But I am in the rest of my life, and as time passes I am filled with things to say. Like, it is possible to be heartbroken and furious and still enjoy things; and it is possible to experience joy and normal life and still be unable to function in some ways.

Because this is not my first experience of grief, and because I know enough about perinatal loss to know how unhelpful most people’s reactions are likely to be, I chose to cocoon myself for the first months after Sweet Baby’s death and birth. I intentionally surrounded myself only with my closest friends and family, people who had walked with me every step of the journey of learning he had a life-threatening anomaly and then that he had died and must be born. They were there in the weeks after his birth, giving me sips of water and prompting me to go to the bathroom, even as they fed my family and helped care for my living children. I talked to them, walked with them, screamed and broke things with them, laughed and gossiped with them, and I didn’t step outside of the sacred circle they created. Until one day I was ready to leave it.

Outside, I experienced what I’d already known: that many people expected me to be destroyed, to have no joy or life left in me, while others couldn’t care less and didn’t feel that it should have affected my family or me as much as it did. Both reactions felt dehumanizing. Both left me struggling.

Somewhere in between the new doula who heard my name and said, “Oh! OH. Did you—have a LOSS?” and the fifth-grade science teacher who said, “We all have problems, but I spoke to you and your son about this assignment every day for a week,” there is a land. It’s not wild, but it’s unkempt; the grass is high, the ground uneven. It’s easy to fall there, easy to be injured, and hard to get up. There are trees that are half-rotten, but there are also flowers, and birds that sing, and the slugs are enormous (and because I am the mother of boys, enormous slugs may not elicit the response any of us expect).

I am here to tell you, this land is a weird, weird place. Sometimes I want to go back to my circle–and as they remind me, I can at any time, for they are always there at the edges of this new territory. But right now, this is where I need to be: exploring the strange country my Sweet Baby has left me, sending out communications to those who don’t know what it’s like.

Yes, my baby died. Yes, I am devastated. Yes, I still have joy in my life. But don’t expect me to meet any deadlines for a while.

I’m too busy with the giant slugs.

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