Millions gathered this week, drawn to an illusion. There’s something in us that causes us to slow on the highway as we gawk at a wreck. While we truly hope there are no injuries, we find ourselves bracing, peering, for a glimpse of gore, the gasp caught in our throats just waiting to be released.
I had considered myself to have a fruitful womb, an open womb, and was sure I was going to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen for quite some time, breastfeeding my children until they were 30.
And then one day I went in for an ultrasound, and just as surely as I knew that my child was not alive, I was just as sure, that God was going to speak life, breathe life, back into my child.
And then, the ultrasound screen went blank. It seemed that all I could see was darkness.
I had to learn, how to tell my man, that his child was not alive.
I had to learn, how to get up, from the crinkly paper of the ultrasound table.
Everything, it was impossible.
I was in a chasm; I was in the valley.
And so I’ve been on this journey, of making sense of the darkness, making sense of finding light, of being light to others.
The eclipse, it was an optical illusion. It was a stone, a rock, something so solid and so real and so heavy, something that follows us, getting in the way of the majesty, comfort, warmth, protection and life of the sun.
We all gathered. We all gawked. This tiny storm, intruding so enormously, indiscriminately interrupting everyone’s day who falls under its path.
We could even, for a moment, look with our own naked eyes directly at the place where the smaller thing seemed to get in the way, seemed to block out the bigger.
Night seemed to fall upon us. Streetlights came on. Crickets chirped their evening lullaby.
The darkness, while it fell, cast shadows at the highest point of the day, and the atmosphere felt peculiar, supernatural.
For a glimpse of one, shining moment, I saw the treasured diamond ring in the sky, and I couldn’t help but think of the many babies who we’ve helped to dress so tenderly in recreated bridal gowns. Legacy Swaddle gowns – satin gowns appropriately sized for infants of all gestational sizes, lovingly recreated from gifted bridal gowns; this ministry, this act of love, is something stillbirthday did not create ourselves, but which the families we serve often receive.
For a brief moment, in my own, personal faith, it felt like confirmation from the heavens that our beloved babies – all whose parents would appreciate being included in such a description – my child – has in fact been received into the heavens, into the Kingdom, and this shining engagement ring in the sky was as a symbol, a reflection, a promise of faithfulness, of purity, of protection, of love, from the One who received my child.
And I got to behold, witness, receive such a gift, directly overlooking The M0M Center, headquarters to stillbirthday, a place where families from all over the world receive support. It seemed that this gift was in some ways, just for me, just for this mama’s heart, and in some ways, something to give, widely and freely, for anyone else who may align with such an interpretation. If you like it, mama, if you like it, fellow warrior of love, please, take it. It’s yours.
And so I’ve dwelled upon the full meaning of this eclipse in my life. I don’t think that the eclipse is as much about the power of the stone – my stone, of sorrow, the weight of agony – blocking out everyone else’s sunshine and joy. I think our social culture does this – we blame the mourner for bringing gloom into our day – and yet we slow at traffic accidents and yet we gather for the eclipse.
I think we were drawn to the illusion this week because we are all searching. We’re all looking for meaning. This calculable disturbance in the natural day has so many applications. Some might draw from it that if you feel small, even small things can have a big impact. But I drew something different.
It’s about relationship.
Even when darkness fell, we weren’t overcome by it. There was still light. The ring, it was about relationship. It was the moon and the sun for a brief moment, if even by illusion, actually coming together. That one shining life and the other reflecting that light back onto us when we can’t see anything else, coming together for one, single moment.
It’s about community.
Our healing journeys, are a combination of shining life, and of reflecting that light when others can’t see anything else because they’re in the chasm, they’re in the valley.
If you’re wondering if it’s OK to grieve deeply, if you’re wondering if it’s OK to laugh deeply, the answer to both is a resounding, YES.
There is hope, that your brightest days can hold your sorrow in them and that it won’t overtake you. That you can find days that are magnificently joyful, peaceful, delightful, and you don’t have to worry that you are not being faithful to your sorrow. That you can lift your eyes, that you can lift your spirits, that you can rise again.
There is hope, that the things that bring you down the most, that they also keep you rooted; the symbol of darkness, yet keeps you standing. That even in the moments you feel swallowed up by the impossible chasm, you can take a pause, let your eyes adjust, and you will find light.
I think we can tend to spend much of our journeys proving to the unscathed that we do bear scars, and wondering amongst ourselves as scar bearers what it looks like to recognize the sun upon our skin again.
The platitudes are never right. They are Cliff’s Notes to a marathon exam we have to endure ourselves. Trust that feeling the warmth of sunshine does not undo the chasm. The platitudes are never right. You will feel the warmth again but it won’t undo the chill. Sharing the warmth of your smile is not a violation against the tears you’ve shed. It’s about relationship.
Today’s average day in the atmosphere doesn’t undo what happened.
Heidi Faith is the founder of stillbirthday and its headquarters The M0M Center. Stillbirthday is the developer of the Birth & Bereavement Doula® certification and free, printable birth plans for mothers experiencing birth in any trimester, because a pregnancy loss is still a birth, and is still a birthday.