I’m stuck indoors, amidst the mass of smoke clouding over the landscape, suffocating the lungs, drowning the air. The whole west coast is on fire, a dystopian new version of the reality we’ve always known was coming, the desolate predictions of climate change here now. What a time to be alive, the grief over the unknown fate of this grim world hanging on to every one of my subconscious thoughts. What a time to find out a new life is developing inside of me, even amidst all this death and chaos.
Hanging on the wall in that lonely corner of my home are my wooden music-makers, guitar and violin, once the very definition of my existence and now hardly an afterthought. I feel bad for neglecting them, those dusty bodies, those tuned-out strings, that cold mahogany. Let me feel your steel strings digging into my softened finger pads, that old pain of being a novice, the sting and simultaneous joy in familiar chord patterns; my mind has forgotten but my fingers know the way.
Stuck indoors, and old tunes come rumbling back to my lips and to my fingers, old songs of times of exile, old songs of times of wanderlust, old songs of times of broken hearts & dreams & lazy days before responsibilities set in.
My wide-bodied guitar sits flush against my torso. Vibrations reverberate against my rib cage; I can feel these songs. If I can feel them, so can you. These songs I sing for you, little one, just cells now but growing more every day.
When I was pregnant with my first, I started a collection of “Songs For Little”. I had fantasies of singing these songs to her in-utero so that she could come out having a familiarity of these tunes as she lay beside me, spellbound by the enormous cacophony of earthly life. Now they sit as a pile of papers at the back of my desk, waiting, collecting dust, collecting memories, collecting dreams.
I let her go as my “should have been” earthly child.
She is beyond this life now: in the ether, the alder leaves, the first rose petal of summer, the birdsong at dawn’s break, the bright star in the sky. I am, in one peculiar way, a lucky mom, because wherever I go she’ll always be here with me, in this illuminated world.
And here I am again: pregnant, a new life growing inside of me.
In the place that housed death. The place that housed my daughter. The place that has been scraped and suctioned and snipped and stretched. The place that is resilient, the well of life and death, the well of humanity. I respect my uterus. She isn’t perfect–far from it– and in fact, sometimes I wonder if she cares that I chose to get her surgically altered from her “natural” state. As if to say that maybe birth defects are just nature’s way of fun and unique alternatives.
Until they kill.
The familiar stretches and growing pains have set in, as my fresh little embryonic person is making a cozy, spacious home for the next 8 months. I wonder how it will turn out. I wonder if I will be pregnant in a month, in six months, in a year. Through all the doctor visits, the surgeries, the timing of work and life and grief, I find it both strangely comforting and heart-achingly tragic how both these babies were conceived within two weeks of one another, a whole year apart. The season of fishermen’s homecoming, the season of harvest and bounty.
I am choosing to approach this pregnancy with full trust, full surrender.
Because I have lost, I will not timidly wade into the sea of life; I will unabashedly jump in, I will become the sea. I will praise life, praise my baby who has died, praise my current growing baby. Because I have lost, I choose to celebrate each day of pregnancy as wonder, miracle, fortune. Because I have lost, I continue to live the life I want to live, to take care of the me that makes my baby even possible. Because I have lost, I will live with fear consciously, not let it take permanent residence in my heart. This babe’s shoulders are too small, too precious, to carry the weight of my attachment to a “happy ending”. This pregnancy is not the savior, this babe is not the savior; the savior is me. I pulled myself out of the well of grief and despair, I live every day with the realities and beautiful complexity of my awesome life, and I am damn-well strong enough and resilient enough to even step into this place again.
Because this is what grief, that wise teacher so many of us fear, has taught me to do.