It was the day after Father’s Day and I was especially excited to go to work that morning. The wait was over. I was going to tell my boss and colleagues that my husband and I would be welcoming a hatchling in six months. Due date: January 11th.
Keeping it secret for the customary three months was excruciatingly difficult and seemed ridiculous, even though they weren’t able to find the heartbeat using ultrasound a couple of weeks before. “It’s not uncommon,” the gynecologist assured me.”It’s still very early and it may be too weak. We’ll pick it up next visit. All you’re other indicators are strong.” I believed her. I had to.
I arrived at my office by 8:00am. Once let loose the happy news traveled through the office at the speed of gossip and the morning was filled with congratulatory hugs and taps on the door from the receptionist to the partners. I donned the glow of expected motherhood.
The spotting started just before noon.
I raced back to my office, speaking to no one, shut the door and called my husband first. Then the gynecologist.
At 3:00pm, after drinking gallons of water as instructed on the phone, I was in an outer room waiting for another ultrasound and exam. I was doubled over by the urge to pee and the tumbling with the fear that my bladder might burst right there.
By 4:00pm I was on the doctor’s office phone scheduling a D&C.
I don’t remember the drive home. Only that I spent the next week balled into the corner of the sofa, my eyes swollen shut from crying, tarred by an ache that wouldn’t dull.
A week later I went to work and did my job just like the hundreds of other Mondays before the Monday before.
But now everything was different. Even Mondays. I’d never be a woman who had not lost a child to miscarriage. Once you’re that woman, you are always that woman. And yes, the good news is you go on even on the difficult days. And you heal. But that person, that baby remains woven into your DNA, and your heart.
These XIZOZU were created for you to wear as touchstone of love and remembrance.
In a couple of weeks we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day, which may be the biggest breakfast-in-bed holiday of all time. No one deserves the recognition more than moms and we’re not only thankful, but in total freakin’ awe of every mum, mommy, mama, and mother out there! We applaud every marvelous women fortunate enough to spend the day “any way she wants,” encircled by her loving children—or at the very least surrounded by sweet bouquets and cards they sent.
But our larger mission is in supporting the woman who, for a host of reasons, won’t have giggling children fluffing her pillow and presenting her with a flower-adorned tray of fruit and pancakes. We want those women to remember, you’re not alone. You’ll be among countless women cradling more leaden emotions that are equally sacred.
We’re with you too. We understand. Your journey to motherhood might be winding and complicated. XIZOZU exist to hold space for you, wherever you are on your personal path. And to provide a peaceful point of strength during your fragile times.
These XIZOZU were created to embrace all the shapes of motherhood:
It was impossible to miss the far-reaching impact that the passing of this one woman had in her world.
I was glad to create medals that would be reminders of each of those sacred connections and also containers for the love that could no longer be physically expressed. I poured all my comforting energy into each of those medals.
It’s easy to forget how deeply each of us touches so many others on a given day, in a given lifetime. As I packaged the order up for delivery I whispered a promise to myself to be better about valuing each of spaces I occupy in other people’s lives.
Have you thought about how many roles you fill in your everyday life? The list grows quickly once you start making it. Believe me.
The labor was no more or less difficult than any other. It might have come a day early or been a day late, there was little science in due dates. Breathing and pushing. Groaning. The same old story. A woeful moan. The mother, you could see, was growing understandably weary. How long had she been at this? And had she expected to do it alone? It seemed the only thing that kept her going was the sense that the next push could be the last. That, and perhaps the subconscious certainty that she didn’t want it left there, stuck half in, half out. By the time the head finally presented it took only a few more determined thrusts before the newborn slid out and dropped to the muddy earth. Her moaning immediately ceased. For a time-warping instant the two of them, mother and baby, tried to understand this perplexing new universe that now, for the first time, had the other one in it. Separately. Together. Instinctively the mother moved toward the tiny newborn who was still wrinkled with trauma and wonder, still somewhat paralyzed by its own exhausting journey.
Nose to nose the two introduced themselves. There was no name for the baby on the mother’s tongue, just unattributed gladness for having survived the long pregnancy and the birth. The baby didn’t know what to want first.
The infant, still wet with its mother’s juices but having never tasted her milk, was lifted by a pair of leathery hands that appeared out of nowhere. They had been watching her after all. The man raised the baby to his shoulder and simply started walking away. Of course, she tried to stop him. She ran around him splattering mud all about. She charged forward but it was a bluff and the man knew it; he didn’t flinch. She knew it too. The infant let out a frightened bleat as it was lowered into a green metal wheelbarrow. The man pushed forward. She kept a frantic step alongside them and when the wheel of the cart stopped dead, laden with mud, she hurried to the baby and put her lips to its head. Her pleading moans were dismissed by the man who hollered for her to get away as he hoisted himself up from the mire after freeing the wheel. “Get! Go on!” She retreated and watched him cart away her son. Then she stood still, longer than time did, dolefully crooning in a rich baritone.
In designing XIZOZU Medals of Honor I have to explore some of life’s most gut-wrenching events, and present them in a meaningful design, intended for people who would rather not have earned them.
And while I am reasonably comfortable with death as a broad concept—you know, when it’s quietly slipped into like a favorite robe after a long and fulfilling life. There are all those other instances of death that are impossible to grasp and that make us different people. The loss of a child, of any age, tops the list.
Having no children of my own I can’t come close to comprehending the depth of such a loss. How does one take that unimaginable the first step on the path of recovery after losing a child? There is no road map for this kind of loss. Everyone must wander through their own dense fog of despair in whatever way their heart urges until it finally begins to lift. The inner strength required to simply lift one’s head and look at the world after such devastation is incalculable to me. But somehow remarkably, people—parents—do it.
During design research for my Loss of a Child XIZOZU medal, I came across thousands of pages and posts about working through the grief of this tragedy. (I link to many of them here.) I had to sit in a lot of my own discomfort while reading the poignant personal stories of parents emerging after deeply traumatic loss. Admittedly, my unease didn’t even register on the human heartache scale compared with those I was reading about.
By reading this post: What I Wish More People Understood About Losing A Child, I gained a clearer understanding of the role of those supporting a grieving parent. The author, Paula Stevens, who has experienced this agony herself, offers suggestions for ways to support bereaving parents. Her brief straightforward list is rich in first-hand advice on ways we can best comfort those struggling with this grief, including the importance of understanding that it’s not something that ever fully heals.
I learned how how important it is that their children not be forgotten. That they are kept alive through memories; that they are talked about. After several weeks of producing designs that only came close or outright failed, I finally created one that honors the parent, the child, and the sacred connection they’ll eternally share. It was among the most challenging things I will ever attempt.