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 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.
As it should be.