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#skinonsundays x #ihadamiscarriage

A History of Loss

Seasons
come with rain,
come without.
The silence,
the stunning hope,
the branches fallen
from a storm
that were cleaned up
and hauled off.

The Size of a Blueberry

The soft beat
of a blueberry
when it falls
to the earth
versus
the vacant
silence
on the body’s
pavement when
it’s suddenly
gone.

Unknown

I am walking through
the frozen fields of myself
where I find you
on the other side
of a steel door.
If love were a substance
it couldn’t reach you here.
Only what remains when
love is stripped of touch.

The Soul Doesn’t Start at the Body

The secret: love is bodilessly
(the soul doesn’t start at the body).
The murmur here is like the moving air
left behind starlings.

They are using a tongue
so huge, it will break you
until you don’t miss it.

Five Hearts

Tragedy and love
are filled
with the same
relentless,
predictable
wildness.

Body Broke

The light
in my
body
broke
and the
darkness
changed
me
into
someone
that
could
heal it.

Heart-Shaped Things

A shape
that forms from
your deep wilderness.
It’s not just your uterus.
Your mind,
your fear too
is heart-shaped.
Does that change
how the darkness moves,
how the light?

The Incalculable

Dolor
like love
can be
as infinite
as energy
moving from
one form
to the next.

The Body Remembers

The body becomes the alarm
it has to become. It draws
a map as it wanders.
It will remember that it
was crushed, and that it healed.

Pieces of Your You

The moon
plummets
with pieces
of your you
into some
infinite
elsewhere

Sun, Oct 21, 2018 | Model info | Footnotes
This collaboration with Dr. Jessica Zucker's campaign @ihadamiscarriage seeks to bring awareness, understanding, and healing to pregnancy and infant loss through artistic ritual. These losses are an issue women are too often silenced/shamed about, and as a result, are left feeling alone during a traumatic and heartbreaking time of their lives. Why does society silence (& shame & belittle & fail to recognize & thus create further pain) to women who experience miscarriage or any kind of pregnancy and infant loss? My hope is that representing this loss through physiopoetry can serve as a vehicle in creating awareness for these losses, an awareness that leads to a change in how society treats them. All photos are by @rebeccacoursey_photosandfilm, a spectacular LA-based birth doula and photographer. October is internationally recognized as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with the 15th of October being a special Remembrance Day. On this day at 7pm, people around the world light candles remembering and honoring the losses of these babies in a wave of light that lasts 24 hours. ++ 1. This is Shannon. During her first two pregnancies, she never got to feel a heartbeat. Now, being pregnant again has been filled with profundity and joy, but it also carries with it the weight of anxiety. Loneliness and pain and frustration and confusion and grief have become intrinsically part of her body’s memory of pregnancy. However, there is also hope, in and that hope, there is room for light to enter. This is the first time she has gotten to hear a baby’s heartbeat inside her belly. Celebrating is more difficult with the history of loss that accompanies it, but it is not impossible. It takes courage and strength and vulnerability to even exist as Shannon exists day to day. Thank you Shannon, for sharing this piece of yourself with me, for participating in this ritual to recognize your loss. Many who have experienced pregnancy loss will feel less alone because of what you have shared here. Others who have not will be more available to provide women who have experienced this the support and love they need, because of what you have shared here. I am included in the latter group. I want you to know that because of you, I am now forever an ally with my heart and ears always open to women who have faced the trauma of miscarriage. 2. This is Claudia. Her blueberry tattoo represents her baby that was never born, as that’s how big it was when she miscarried. This is her memorial, a treasure. For some time, the grief was unmanageable, living without her blueberry baby and with the realization that getting pregnant may never be an option. It’s so little talked about, pregnancy and infant loss, that it’s hard to know how to handle the emotions that come with it. Even if you can think in your logical brain that the pain will become manageable at some point, the hardest part is managing it when it is in the present. There are so many facets to this loss, and being hushed by society only makes it harder to deal with. 3.  Trisha never got to meet her baby alive. At 24 weeks, the heartbeat disappeared without explanation, and she was induced into an excruciating 11-hour labor, knowing her baby girl was already gone. She got to meet her, hold her, but then she had to say goodbye just as fast. The depth of pain of that experience. The hole it leaves, she has to live like now. Loss is permanent. Sure you can find a way to move forward, but you won’t be the same. And you shouldn’t be, I suppose. Not only will Trisha’s eyes likely fill with tears every time she thinks of it, but she can’t go back to not having felt those things, and that is a weight to carry through life. Talking about pregnancy loss more openly as a society will make the world safer for those who have gone through it. It’s so easy to be insensitive when we don’t understand something. A person who has gone through trauma, well the last thing they need is insensitivity from others. If we as a society can do something to help people who are hurting hurt even just a little bit less, we should. Talking about it will make us all more sensitive and empathic, because talking about it will give us at least a semblance of knowing how to talk about it more and more as time passes. Even that little thing can help a person who is grieving pregnancy loss. 4. Meet Mary. Miscarriage number 1 gutted her heart, but hopeful, she and her husband tried again. 3 more heartbreaking miscarriages followed due to a uterine abnormality. Mary surgically fixed the issue and got pregnant again, only to be shattered for the 5th time. Maybe for some things practice dealing makes it easier, but I don’t think that’s the case here. Instead, a boat of sadness takes sail in the ocean of your soul. Not long after the last miscarriage, Mary discovered she had breast cancer, and because of the treatment, she can’t get pregnant again for 5 yrs, which will put her at 40 yrs old. That kind of news is devastating, and while you can learn to live with it, freeze your eggs and hope for the best, nothing can erase the depth & darkness of emotion that accompanies so much loss. I say that, but Mary might be an angel. She believes, and I believe her, that her last miscarriage was a physical manifestation of her grief, that the universe and her last miscarried baby saved her life. Without that miscarriage, she may have nvr noticed the lump on her breast in time to save herself. Life is a nearconstant give and take, a forever whirling of emotions, and taking what you’re dealt and becoming your best self in spite of so much grief, that is special. Mary, you are so special. Whether or not motherhood is in your path, your gifts to the world are abundant (please check out her beautiful drawings), and so many of us are beyond grateful for what your presence brings to this earth. 5. Jessica is a warrior. In some way, all women are, just in being women, the same way any group stifled and repressed by society is. But we all have different jobs, different roles, and when I call Jessica a warrior, it’s because of the way she speaks out about what she believes in, how she empowers people with her words. I’m a writer too, so perhaps I feel an extra connection with those around me whose superpower is words. I learned from Jessica that in Texas, doctors are allowed to withhold information about generic abnormalities from pregnant women to remove from them the choice of how to proceed with their pregnancy. I learned about what happens to your soul when you want a baby so, so bad, and the doctor, a doctor you are so grateful for, for telling you the truth, gives you the news that breaks you, that your baby has those generic abnormalities that leave you with the hardest decision of your life, and you decide to terminate the pregnancy. And then it happens again. And that decision of what to do didn’t get any easier. At all. The other two empty hearts in that tattoo on her arm there, those are two miscarriages. The one filled in is her son. And maybe, maybe she will be adding another heart filled in. She’s pregnant now. She writes about all of this breathstoppingly difficult life experience in a powerful and shattering and inspiring way, which, let me tell you, is not easy. It’s not easy to go through it, it’s not easy to express it in a way that provides a realistic, ñmoving portrayal of what you went through, and she does it. Jessica is a warrior, and I want to thank her for sharing her story with me and with all of us, for being a light in her own darkness, both forces which have to exist alongside each other now. I hope you get your sixth heart, J. 6. Paula is a doula. She created WmnSpace, a place for women to gather, speak, breathe unhindered near Los Angeles, California. She also had a miscarriage, and although she made this beautiful space for women, sometimes you still need someone else to make a space for you, to tell your story, to feel heard and supported by way of others rather than your own doing. When Paula was being photographed, she asked that her poem be read there to her, straight from her skin, and in that moment, the ritual of honoring her loss felt like the moon coming out behind a cloud. It felt like there was this tangible thing, the words being spoken aloud, as if the act of this whole project was so much more than what the actions, the emails, the phone calls, the organization, the tears, the writing, the face-to-face meeting, the printing of the poetry onto the skin, the photographs and videos, the hugs, all of it, could possibly add up to on their own. I guess we do things like this for a higher purpose, and in the midst of it, it can be easy to get lost in the process. I feel so grateful for those moments that bring us back into the moment and help us feel the meaning in what we are doing. This art, this ritual, is more than the sum of its parts. 7.  This is Judy. You hear that miscarriage is “normal.” That 1 in 4 pregnant women go through it. That does not make it any easier when you go the ultrasound expecting to hear a heartbeat, then all there is is silence. When it happens again, the grieving multiplies, as does the fear, yet the sadness you keep inside. You don’t want to tell people what happened because you feel ashamed. You wonder if there was something you did to make this happen…twice. And then you find out your uterus is shaped like a heart, and that may be the cause of your pregnancy losses. It seems ironic that a heart-shaped uterus could be behind this, because hearts are symbols of love. Now your heart-shaped uterus has left you in so much pain—physical, emotional, and spiritual—has made you feel ugly. You feel like your body is against you, and the shame keeps piling on. Judy, you said the same emotions of those two dreadful days come in waves. They probably always will. Your experiences make up who you are, not just the happy ones, but the sad ones too. It’s ok to feel angry, to feel numb from what you went through. It’s ok to have a heart-shaped uterus, even if it’s not what you imagined for yourself and how your life would go. When you are ready to share your story with the people around you, I hope they will tell you the same thing. I hope they will hug you tightly and tell you you have nothing to be ashamed of. That you are a beautiful person, that you could have a million miscarriages and still be a beautiful person, and that you are allowed to feel grief forever because of your losses. 8. Miriam's daughter Sofia was quite active inside her belly for so much of her term, that when she wasn’t, it was very noticeable. Having had three healthy children prior, Miriam didn’t feel worried by this sudden lack of movement. She went to her ultrasound with excitement, anxious to hear her doctor tell her everything was fine. But it wasn’t. Sofia no longer had a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter if you have seen your body bring life into this world before, if you blame yourself or if you don’t blame yourself, none of that matters when you and your whole family have been awaiting the arrival of a new baby, and she doesn’t make it. It crushed Miriam, and nothing can undo the hurt of losing her. Miriam had her rainbow baby Daniel (a rainbow baby is the one that comes after pregnancy loss) this past summer, a year after her stillbirth, and I had the pleasure of meeting him and witnessing their bond. A lot of people think the pain of pregnancy loss is lessened somehow when followed by a rainbow baby, not realizing how much harder that sentiment makes it for someone like Miriam to grieve. She will never stop grieving Sofia, never stop missing her, and that has absolutely nothing to do with her immense love for her son Daniel. I think the point I’m trying to make here is that it is not ok to dismiss pregnancy loss for any reason, including if the loss is followed by a healthy baby being born. Losing Sofia has left a permanent hole in Miriam’s soul, so of course she is going to feel fierce depths of sadness when she thinks of her. The compassion we can all provide is inherently linked to understanding that the pain of loss, like love, is incalculable; for Miriam and many other women, I bet it would be less difficult if they didn’t feel like they had to keep their sadness a secret. Loving and cherishing Daniel and missing Sofia to the point of heartbreak are completely compatible. 9. Alissa told me her desire to have a family outweighs the fear with which pregnancy now fills her. Her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage which left her traumatized—in physical pain in addition to the complex mess of feelings that come with losing a baby before it is born. For Alissa, her trauma included not only this self-altering fear, this overwhelming sadness, this crushed heart, but also the emptiness of failure. Because she is a lesbian, she and her partner spent time and money in order for her to get pregnant, so when she had a miscarriage, the hole in her life from where the baby would have been filled with guilt. Science may tell you that 1 in 4 women have miscarriages, so there is nothing to feel guilty about, but the mind doesn’t always listen to the logic of science. It creates its own story that implants itself in you, haunts you, no matter what people say. Maybe that feeling stays, though it probably goes away eventually, though the memory of that feeling remains. It is part of you now, the way that everything that happens is. Thus a happy-go-lucky, worry-free pregnancy is never an option for Alissa again. But fear won’t be enough to deter her from the life she dreams of, to be a mother, to raise a child with her partner. And if for some reason it doesn’t happen, I hope she in the end knows that she is not at fault, that peace will find her in another way, because she attracts it in her very being. Thank you Alissa for sharing your story, for helping to break the silence and destigmatize pregnancy loss, for being vulnerable in the name of shaping a better world and making it a more compassionate place to exist. 10. The reason I became aware of the social stigma of miscarriage & pregnancy loss is because of Dr. Jessica Zucker and her campaign, @ihadamiscarriage . I’m not sure how I found her page, but I am so glad I did. It was her own traumatic miscarriage that led her to create this campaign, and thru her own traumatic experience, it dawned on her: how she was treated even by loved ones goes to show a fundamental misunderstanding society has of pregnancy loss. How grief transforms when a large part of society does not even accept that you have lost something. Before finding Zucker’s page, I had never encountered women who had gone through pregnancy loss, or so I thought, so maybe I would have been one of those ppl who said the wrong thing to a woman who’s gone through it by not understanding the emotional agony that can accompany it. Understanding is a bridge to empathy. There is no reason so many women, yes 1 in 4 pregnant women experience pregnancy loss, should have to feel ostracized and terrorized and ignored by society when what they are already going through is so painful. And what’s more, as Zucker herself so eloquently put it, “This is not just about talking about miscarriage; it’s about talking about ourselves, and how we’re changed by any of the hard things we go through.” On the grander scheme, this isn’t even just a campaign for women who have lost babies, but for encouraging empathy at large. When I found @ihadamiscarriage, I saw a place of openness and understanding and peace within the chaos of this heartbreak, all because of community. Jessica has created this loving community that makes living life a little bit easier, a little bit more beautiful, for a lot of people. She is thoughtful, strong, kind, & wise beyond her years. I have learned multitudes from her in just this short time knowing her. She has impactfully changed the lives of many, including mine. She embraces the necessary darkness in life, all the while creating light in its wake. I am grateful to know her.