A Chapter Laid To Rest - Chapter 5

“They didn’t come and wake me up, no one called, how long have you been awake for? Have you been alone? Has the doctor come yet?” I heard my husband say in a sleepy voice trying to stay calm. I stared out the hospital room window with nothing but silence inside me. “The doctor was here but I was still pretty groggy.” I said. “I’ve only been awake for about an hour. A social worker came too babe.” Actually the social worker was there beside me as soon as the doctor left. She was sweet and kind and brought to my bedside the love of a grandmother. I was surprised and grateful for the quality of care. How lucky was I. Not many have so much thoughtfulness with them as they wake from a shocking situation. To this day I feel gratitude. Imagine a world where all of our systems are set up to support not only logistics but the heart as well.

    Quiet filled the already sombre room. I needed to slow down time, to still feel like our life was the same…for at least another mere moment. My lover sat beside me, stroked my hair and kissed my forehead. I breathed him in. Everything felt so slow - so timeless. I looked at him hoping to sneak one more vision of our future children in his eyes. Brady was gentle and quiet. He had slept in his truck all night waiting for me to wake from the anaesthetic. He was still wearing his work clothes, had bags under his eyes, and was clearly trying to be strong for me. Funny, eh. I’m trying to be strong for him - him for I. We do our best to love don’t we. Not always pretty and fresh, or clever and romantic. Sometimes love smells of a diesel truck. A thought caught my mind and away I went again - into the window, into the quiet. Brady was patient. I spoke into the quiet, “She told me I won’t be able to conceive anymore Brady”. I kept staring out the window not wanting to see the reflection of pain and fear on his face. I took a breath and prepared myself to meet his eyes. I was right, I saw my lover’s heart breaking.

    Five hours later we were getting into the truck, leaving the hospital after my surgery when my back went haywire. It spasmed right up like a jammed in screw. I couldn’t move or breathe without excruciating pain. All I could hear in my ear was the surgeon’s voice saying “there was no point in trying to save your fallopian tube. We just popped that embryo and your tube into a baggie and that was it. Don’t know how you made it that far along like that”. She was lightly laughing like she was talking to a colleague or something. I get it, I was lucky to be alive. The thing is though, she was talking to a woman who just lost her baby and her fertility after three patient years of waiting for that pregnancy to arrive. I was stuck half in the car, half out, not caring what I looked like but freaking at the pain. Even amidst the panic, I knew my body was responding to my holy terror. Yes, I mean holy. For when everything in your life changes in the blink of an eye it gets holy fast. I didn’t want to leave the hospital. If I left, “this” would be real - not a nightmare or a movie - this would be my life, my journey to face. I couldn’t breathe knowing that I had no choice in the matter. Eventually we got to Brady’s moms house.

The following day, with a high style of love, we went to Glenda the Good Witch’s house. It was the perfect place, if one has to peek out at the world at some point or another, to come out into a world so different and yet so relievingly the same, a joy filled, compassionate, playful, understanding environment. With the bunch of us together mixed with their two sparkly little girls, avoiding laughter is impossible. We must remember to be kind to ourselves in these times of strife and uncertainty. Even amidst chaos, love is an available option. Brady went back to work the next week. That’s when my rage arrived.

    I still couldn’t move too much, so most of my time was spent in bed either crying or staring at the wall - empty. That’s when it hit me like a seagull in the face (I had one smack into my head whilst in Cornwall, England as it dove for my yum cornish pasty while I sat with a friend at the beach). That loopy moment would have been lost on me that week in bed but now, laughter helps me remember life is what we make of it.

    Get ready for serious…my face changed drastically, eyes wide open, jaw dropping…my lost in shock face turning quickly to rage…“My body did this to my baby. My body. The one that I have cared for, and respected, and appreciated so diligently my whole life killed my baby”. I know what you’re thinking. It’s okay though. Sometimes the truth of what arises in our minds is intense. Well, I’m sure you already know, sometimes life IS intense. Love is intense. It’s okay. I’d listened, loved, and guided many a human through this kind of rage before as a professional and a friend but, never had I felt that way. I literally wanted to burn my body. Burn. Poor the gas, light a match and “watch” my flesh go down. For a day - one day - I HATED my body as I had never hated anything. “I can’t say this. No one will take me seriously. No one will understand that I have to make my body suffer for this.” Before I knew it my hand was dialling. I heard my best friend's voice - soft and tender waiting for my words - “It’s okay Jamie. What’s happening darling? It’s ok you can talk to me”. She heard my breathing. My friend is like me - okay with the dark. Against my will I broke down (I don’t like being even a little negative, let alone hey thanks for picking up I want to burn my body and all I feel is hate. How are you?). With the medicine of a master, my wise dear friend embraced my darkness and loved me through it. She didn’t try to convince me out of my hate and my serious deliberation - she apologised that it was a decision I felt justified to make. It was the darkest I had ever and have ever been in my life. And my friend, my wise wise friend, truly that day the goddess in flesh - came into my darkness with me - and even though we were 14 hours apart - she held my rage with love until I too could touch the compassion she’d wrapped me in. I learned to feel both rage and love together.

    Brady left and I was alone. I was alone. But again I didn’t need to be. My mother, across the country wanted to come to me but I, in my struggle to fight off weakness - told her I was OK (Brady’s mother was there so I used that as an excuse to make my mom feel better about not coming). It wasn’t. I needed her but I couldn’t even say that to my own mom. I felt too uncomfortable with the idea of putting her and dad out. My dad had always worked into us kids to be tough. He’s uncomfortable with emotions and surely the kind generous man still believes life without too much color is safer. So I tried to be strong. I tried not to let my misfortune affect too many others. I wasn’t strong though and I wish I could have “let others make their own decisions about supporting me or not”. I wasn’t strong because it wasn’t a question of being strong or weak - it was just life. A massive transition, unavoidable for us as humans. It was hurt and pain and fear and loss and mystery and confusion. It was intense and deep and spiritual and meaningless. It is what brings humans together if we let it, I didn’t. We have this weird thing going on where we think just because loss is normal we avoid the pain that comes from it. We attempt to hide and filter and reduce our time on the negative side of emotions. As though the fact that we are suffering means something about us. That we’re less than or tainted or, or, or. Or maybe that was just me.

    The day after my date with hellfire, a large, stunning bouquet of red roses arrived. Flowers from my family was foreign especially since my family is NOT particularly good at communication of any kind. The note read “You are surrounded by love even though we are miles apart. We love you, Mom, Dad, Sean, Carrie, Derrick and Wyatt”. That one gesture made me feel like I was going to be okay. I was loved. My family, even my siblings, did care that I was suffering. An intricate dance exists between mattering and not. As a creature in this vast universe we matter as much as any bug or fish or squirrel - which is both a whole lot and not at all. From an enlightenment point of view one can say nothing matters, including us, and everything matters, including us. A dance I feel appreciative to know. I held onto those flowers like I held onto the “blankey" I used to use to suck my thumb with as a child. The rich red of the roses was the blood of my family, the softness of the petals my mother, the extravagance of the big bunch my father, the group together my family, my strength. Perhaps it sounds strange to some of you but, again like having my sister-in-law next to me at the ultrasound - my baby had family - and her family cared that even for a mere moment, she existed. I needed my baby to be honoured. As a mother, I needed the “universe” to acknowledge her life. My mother-in-law too knew this loss. Except that she had to go through labour expecting to meet her healthy first child. I thought how often she must think of her perfect boy whose lungs just weren’t build for breath. How she might still yearn to have his name used these many, many years later. What loving loss have you buried deep, or cast aside, or visit only in your mind - not leaving a trace for others to see. Do you think you need to act this way? Do you assume no other options exist for you? They do. I know it might not be easy to imagine a different approach, trust me I know. Even four years after while writing this I’m still wrestling with expressing extremes. This life is your playground as much as it is your learning ground, your time to hash out past karma, or any other beliefs you may hold. Build it up, hash out your own rules, and start living. Craft your playpen even if your next chapter of living is healing from the brutal realities of life, so you can get your sparkle back and remember how to play!

    About two weeks into my “new life” (jeez this sounds like it should be exciting) I had a phone appointment with one of my fave gals. If I didn’t mention it yet, I was a zombie. A symptom of shock or/and serious trauma is that there is no one home in the eyes. I was not home. I’d look for myself in the mirror but the reflection was absent. I knew I was in shock but that was as far as I could take it. I’ve handled shock for many and know my way around it well but - I was too far gone to get a hold of myself, so I made an appointment to get help. My sweet friend, a magical medicine Goddess from Vancouver, {Madam Colleen Robinson if you’d like to explore} over the phone, brought me home to my body (energy knows no bounds - get that and you’ll stop feeling crazy when you feel weird shit). Any earlier and I probably couldn’t come back to the body I was enraged with and hurt by. Timing matters my loves. Anyway, I was thinking there is no way this presence will last. “I’ll get there in time” I thought. The next morning I was still “there”. A few days later, I finally accepted that I was back. The past few weeks I had been living off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s a day. It was all I could digest. Now I was ready to participate in my healing. I was ready to “stand up”.

    I had to stay in Edmonton for nearly two months, until I was approved to get on with things. Over that time I took advantage of the grief counselling for families that lost babies. It was a big deal for me to go - and it turned out I really just needed someone to tell how lost I was. To tell my story to. Not to help me move forward, or fix my body, or or or - I just needed to talk. After a few sessions the grief counsellor asked me if I had noticed the pile of teddy bears in the corner. I hadn’t, but smiled warmly at the sight. She told me that years ago, a couple had lost their baby shortly after he was born and a stranger overhearing this while the woman was still in the hospital, brought her a teddy bear and said “you don’t know me but I overheard your loss, this is to acknowledge your baby”. Since then that couple started a foundation where strangers and the like can buy teddy bears for the grief program and mothers and fathers would be able to choose a bear out of the pile of stuffy love for their baby. I carefully chose one. I took that teddy bear everywhere I went for the next month, his name is Emmett. The couple who bought and named him, added him to the pile of bears after they too took home a bear when their new son died. I loved him like he was both my babe and theirs in one. I felt joy that I too could love their son, could remember their son and know he existed. Life is such a cocktail isn’t it. We get to experience joy and ecstasy and fear and laughter and timelessness and hope and love and rage and relief and excitement and creativity and and and. Each one of us is a symbol of all that we have known, seen, felt. How grateful I am to be alive when I look at life this way.

    Not many people know this but, since I’m sharing I might as well share openly. The local crematoriums also had a foundation to support parents who’ve young never got to leave the hospital. We were asked if we wanted to take our baby bean home and they would have her cremated for us. For a moment, I felt embarrassed to say yes. My Brady, the proud father said yes before I could even raise my voice to claim my need for completion. We were overjoyed that we could take her home. If we could, we would have just buried her in the forest somewhere and given back to the earth after our years of consuming. Alas, systems and protocol and research, we didn’t want the chemicals in the earth so we cremated her. It was honestly quite magical that the world that is used to death was happy to honour the unseen and unheard of humans. In the world of death - we felt included. To the world we weren’t/aren’t parents but, to the world of death our place in this unborn child’s life was that of parents. We got to make decisions as parents. It was surprisingly fulfilling. Cremating our baby bean helped us grieve. Part of that process was getting to go and “pick her up” at the hospital. We had to go down to the lab with our legal paper declaring we were “her” parents and retrieve her. We kept this quiet, as we felt too many people would not understand the depth of our hurt and our need to grieve properly. We also worried that people would judge us because "I hadn’t given birth and the pregnancy was so young". I was 8 weeks when our bean was removed from my fallopian tube. No matter what point we were at, this baby was ours and we were her parents.” Together, as Mr.Brady and I often do things that matter, we arrived at the window prepared for who knows what, picking up a dead embryo. I could even feel myself trying to be a bit clinical in the process thinking the staff might be judging us for over-emoting. The two woman at the window read our paper, softened like the pink sun at the end of the day - and said “we’ll be right back darlings”. They came back with a mini coffin and our precious deceased baby in a homemade quilt wrapped in light purple ribbon. Mr. B & I cried, and then cried more. “We cried so long we got a parking ticket.”  We felt seen, understood, and encouraged. We were complete. We did the best job we could do as parents, and we finally felt some ease. Brady came home to me from up North to both pick “her” up at the hospital and to bring her to the crematorium. In the meanwhile, she was with me and teddy bear Emmitt. For a solid week I burnt candles, sang lullabies, wrote poetry (poetry helped me understand what was happening inside my heart. I wrote for months), listened to soothing music, and ate simple nourishing foods. I took that sweet little casket upstairs and downstairs, I couldn’t let it out of my sight. Father and I both had this “strange” need to know where “she” was at all times. I guess our instincts are always there, no matter whether our children are dead or alive.

    One day in particular it snowed all day and the fresh snow insulated the air around me. I smiled. Tomorrow morning then I thought. “It will be perfect”, I said to myself. The flowers are still fresh, the ground will be fluffy and pure, the air quiet. Morning came, I turned over to look at the small wooden box beside the bed. I slowly walked upstairs, made some herbal tea, lit some candles, grabbed the still blooming bouquet of flowers, draped myself in a warm blanket and stepped outside. With our babe (that small wooden box) still in hand I found the most pristine snowy place in the yard, close to a tree, and placed my baby bean. I then took the flowers and one by one gently and gratefully released their petals onto the snow I was kneeling on. In every flower I touched, I felt my family. My mother, my father, my sister and brother. In my mind I sent the flowers away to be free with “her” - our unborn One. I sent “her” to feel the snow, the quiet, the space, the fresh air, the perfect tree, her family. In my mind I said you’re free. Out loud I whispered Thank You. I decorated the snow around her small wooden box with rose petals and greenery - appreciating the beautiful contrast between bright plants and the pure white snow - settling into itself like the quiet and unknown potential of death I was just now honouring.  Rituals are like an energy boost to the spirit. Rituals fill us up with a sense of hope and possibility. They relieve our thinking minds and add breath and view to the way we see the world. If you’ve had a loss, if to you it was a loss - no matter 70 years ago or last month, consider stopping to pause. Consider pausing father time and gifting yourself the space to complete, to mourn, to say goodbye. Good-byes, when truly “spoke” - are the doorways to new beginnings.

    It was about time to make the 14-hour drive home. In one week I would leave. I had my final appointment with the surgeon. I walked in quiet and hesitant to see her again. Not a moment later two pregnant mothers with their children walked in. They started chatting about how one was on her fifth kid and the other her third. Rubbing tummies and sharing in their third-trimester fatigue. I tried desperately to calm myself, but I couldn’t. It was too soon. I hid away in a room and left as soon as my check-up was finished. I wrapped up visits with some of my closest friends - feeling safe enough to bring my heavy, quiet, depleted self to the table. One visit, with two dear friends, a decade younger than myself had thanked me for sharing my darkness with them. These ferocious goddesses I had seen grow and develop into remarkable young women. I had always aimed to be an example of strength and possibility for them. This day, they lent me their strength. That love bomb was exactly what I needed Miss Tanis. At Brady’s mom’s I packed the car full, filled my to-go cup with hot tea, and propped teddy Emmett up in the passenger side of the car. Brady would be working up North still for a month or two. I needed to go home and start moving on. The last thing I grabbed was the bristle board I drew on that playdate with my girlfriend (the one soft as cotton). The bristle board I drew a uterus on and stuck angel stickers on before I consciously knew our babe was not destined for life outside of me. All of a sudden I got dizzy, my vision blurred, my stomach got nauseous and I flipped it. I started crying and screaming and moaning sounds I hadn’t heard from me before. I took that bristle board, found a marker and wrote my pain all over it. I wrote my anger, my fear, my thoughts. I wrote like I would for clients - like a mad scientist writing pieces of my puzzle all over the blue piece of bristle board. I was determined to unravel clearly what had happened - to make life my bitch instead of how I felt, like I was its slave. I wrote things I’d felt as a child, things I never could say, I wrote that I wanted our baby back, I wrote fuck you to the world. I scribbled madly and ferociously hate and hurt and sorrow. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave. I broke down for the first time in my life. I called soft as cotton sobbing and impassioned, her home, like her, is like a quiet beautiful cabin in the mountains. I said I can’t do it. I can’t leave. “Can I come sleep over?” Of course soft as cotton said stay for as long as you like. I took three days in her love nest. Turns out I just needed to remember what sweetness feels like. Her sweetness was my fuel.

    I was ready. I took hold of my nervous system, in reliable Jamie style and I focused my brain with one outcome - get home. I played loud music, I stopped to take selfies of me and teddy Emmett in Jasper and in the Kamloops Valley to send to my angels with pride. I breathed full, opened my heart, and treated my drive home like the test it was; My challenge to stay true to my vision of life. Closing in on Vancouver the rain poured down, the roads, 11 hours into my drive a blur of car lights in the dark, mountain shadows and bouncing water from the sky. Honestly, I drove a bit dangerously, driving fast and passing cars on the curvy mountain highways with little vision and wet roads. My only option was to keep going. Getting closer to home I felt the immensity of my next chapter, so I told myself repeatedly keep focusing. Stay connected to the road and drive. “We’ll figure the rest out when we get home,” I said to myself. I made it. I stood in the rain before grabbing the handle to my door, lifted my face up to the water and prayed.

    Confidence is built by the choices we make and the actions we take. January to March I suffered. I suffered hit after hit of brutal. Life was fuck load after fuck load of hard but - life is so much more than hard chapters in a real story. I am a medicine woman. I’ve always known it. What I do and how I heal comes easy to me. Before this chapter in my story, I had always attempted to remain in the light of life. Spreading joy, cheer and encouraging optimistic participation everywhere I went. I was fiery and ambitious and fought for people to believe that life holds goodness. Now I knew if anything could come from my loss, I would have to dive straight into the darkness with nothing but bare bones and love.

The Surrender Story

When Heaven & Earth Collide

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