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IMG_5161I want to be very clear. I was not able to write these stories while mothering on the other side of visibility. What I mean is, I was not able to be so transparent and vulnerable in my words when my complete narrative of mothering had never made it past the first trimester.

A friend once asked me if I was waiting for a “happy ending” before telling my story. I don’t remember being able to answer her. I thought it was an extremely unfair question because she had a child and didn’t know what it was like to muster faith in the shadow of recurrent loss. How could she fathom the silence weighing on my spirit? There are things the invisible mother is afraid to speak of.

But I did want to write about these journeys before now. I just couldn’t. The words were out of my grasp, and the courage to speak them, nonexistent. Even more than that, the intermittent hope I cultivated was routinely eclipsed by fear. At the bottom of every joy was always one paralyzing truth: that two pink lines did not necessarily mean baby. Just definitely, maybe.

Last night I was working on a homework assignment for my online course, Storytelling for Change. I was writing about one of my miscarriages. The munchkin was squirming in my lap, drooling all over my notebook, and trying to take my water bottle from me. While I was remembering details from that time, I came across the poem I’d written during the peak of pain. It was about surrendering and not fighting it this time. I called it “Transitions,” and posted it on another blog with an image of a forest at night.

It was so surreal to be reading the old words and holding my blabbering son at the same time. When I had written those words, I was going through the very physical part of the loss. I was breathing through the contractions, sipping dong quai tea, positioning and repositioning the heating pad. Nothing helps. Before starting the next episode of whatever season of whatever show I was watching on Netflix, the poem’s words kept running in my mind. I just needed to write the lines down and revisit the grieving later. By this time, I had learned the best way through a ruptured dream: to be present with the birth even as something died. To appreciate that this was still my labor, even though there’d be no child.

The munchkin leans over my arm until he almost falls. I pull him back up and this brings a smile. His delight in life is so accessible, so generous. I glance at the place where I am stuck in my paragraph and he uses his whole body to tug on me again. In that moment I am overcome with a rush of love and gratitude, for all the turbulence, for all the uncertainties, it has taken to get us here.

It’s an infinite blessing to be able to write about challenging and uncomfortable things with the munchkin’s energy moving all over the place. In fact, I needed him to help me find my words. I needed to meet the mother within before I could really process what life was like without her. Even when I was pregnant, I was afraid to write these stories. And honestly, there are moments like now, with my five-month old snoring softly in my lap, when it takes great effort to admit where fear remains. I still want to have more children and I sometimes worry about making my thoughts so tangible inside the permanency of what is published online.

But I don’t know if not acknowledging your fear is the same thing as not having that fear. So, I continue to push myself to write about the parts of my journey that don’t fit neatly into boxes of past or present, of miracle or misfortune. These feelings don’t all have names, and yet they take up space in my body. I am still figuring out what it is to explore loss from this space of new life. Much of my mothering has been so unseen, and I am just now beginning to unearth the language for those stories too.


This is the poem I wrote that night, Transitions

I will walk quietly through my night

its black its depth its pit its might

I will go gently through the fall

its weight its back its face its all

I will step forward into unseens

the hows the whens the whos the means

I will cry long a river too

its love its life its heart it’s true

and when for sure I am still here

the dawn the day the breath the clear


Check out more of my mothering journeys and read other related conversations, essays, and art explorations in the Motherhood collection.