Monthly Archives: May 2016

Book Launch: Why Did I Write This Book?

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Book Launch: Why a Book about Mary Rose?

Books about grief, pregnancy and infant loss have already been written. Yet when I was a pregnant woman walking around in a daze of grief after a prenatal diagnosis of trisomy 18, I did not find comfort in books, the place where I have always found comfort. Other than Nancy Mayer-Whittington’s For the Love of Angela, no book was raw or honest enough. In my state of pregnancy-awaiting-death, I wanted truth. I wanted to know how I could survive carrying life and death inside me. I wanted someone to explain the madness of grief that lasted far longer than Mary Rose’s brief life. I wanted to know that my unborn baby wouldn’t suffer.

In my pregnancy I came up against people’s judgements and beliefs about pregnancies with life-limiting diagnoses and life support for newborns. I fought the system to birth my daughter at home and give her a quiet peaceful life. I prepared her body for burial on my own bed where we held her, where she died. In the aftermath of my grief, I came face to face with our culture’s ignorant ways in treating the bereaved. Many kind people comforted us, but once I left my house cocoon and reentered life, I felt silenced and judged for grieving. Some people think that I am angry, but I am not angry. I am writing to speak my truth. Grief can take a lifetime to process. Grief is also infused with joy, as we live again.

To get to that joy, we first need tender love, a way to process our grief (I chose art), and the truth that life and death are inextricably linked. They always were. They always will be. Babies sometimes die. Women sometimes miscarry. I write Mary Rose into a book and send her out into the world to comfort women facing pregnancy and infant loss. I write to support communities – real communities – that walk together through the joys and grief that comprise human experience. Mary Rose’s book is as raw as a pregnant mother buying a casket and planning a funeral. It is as real as breath and love.

Today White Flowers Press launches Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Infant Death. The numbers are staggering. One in four women miscarry. One million babies die in this country before their first birthday. We all know women who have had their pregnancy losses, but most of us continue to ignore them because they are uncomfortable. This book addresses the social awkwardness that we feel around death and grief. It addresses the grieving mother, but also the family and friends that surround her not knowing what to say.

Every page of this book was watered with my tears; I kept writing anyway. I did not walk my pregnancy alone, and I do not want anyone else to be alone in that sacred space. I had my mentor Cubby, my parents, my sister, my closest friends. A therapist. A few midwives. A homeopath and bereavement doula. A son. A husband. A priest and his wife. A shaman. And the blessed nuns who pray in their little rooms for this broken world. Not every woman has a midwife to accompany her to the scariest of doctors’ appointments. How long can my baby live? What do I do next? And so I write for my readers.

In her memoir The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch ends her book with these words:

Listen I can see you. If you are like me. You do not deserve most of what has happened or will. But there is something I can offer you. Whoever you are. Out there. As lonely as it gets, you are not alone. There is another kind of love . . . . This book? It’s for you. It’s water I made a path through . . . . Come in . . .

Yuknavitch is talking about art. The art of words and books and many media. I agree that art is a gift, but the gift is also truth and an open loving heart that loves our vulnerable babies who are miscarried, born still or die soon after birth.

After my pregnancy I did research and found out the most important thing. If Mary Rose had lived, she would not have suffered. Why didn’t my doctors tell me that? I was so anxious in that unknowing. I intend for this book to clear up the blur of getting a life-limiting diagnosis during pregnancy, for it to be a companion as we walk through the fog of grief. You are not alone. Many women have gone before you, walking this path, since the beginning of our myths and stories. And those babies who were miscarried, born still or alive, who lived a minute or a day, their souls are perfect and the stories of their lives will heal our own grieving souls.

Today on the launch of Mary Rose’s book please share this blog post, if our work resonates with you.

I am grateful for your help and support.

To purchase Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Infant Death please click on this link:

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Mother’s Day: Joyously Connecting with our Loved Ones in Spirit

IMG_2298for Nancy Eagle Spirit Woman

People are writing and posting about Mother’s Day and grief, about International Mothers’ Day for the Bereaved, which was celebrated last week, about the lack of response from our friends, family and community in remembering us during Mother’s Day. I have been thinking about how much importance we give one day, one holiday. I have decided to make a safe space for myself this Mother’s Day. I plan to stay home away from pregnant women and newborns who trigger my trauma. I want to be in my garden with mud underneath my fingernails. I want to be with my son, and I want to be with Mary Rose.

Instead of focusing on the separation that we feel from our loved ones in spirit, this year I will call Mary Rose to me. I will welcome her into my day as an ancestor of light and I will spend my day with both of my children. Lighting a candle is one way to remember our children. Planting a flower or plant is another. I will breathe deeply this Sunday remembering her small body, the sacred hour of her life here on earth, as I celebrate the life that she has now. I know that I will grieve my newborn’s death for the rest of my life, but I want to do so joyously. I cannot change the way that I see the world differently after holding life and death in my arms, but I can reinforce the love that deepens for my daughter. I will stay in a safe space where I can cry and remember my daughter while celebrating my continued role as her mother.

I am thinking more with my heart these days. My reality is shifting from a thinking place of lonely loss to a heart place of loving communion. This year I invite each of you whose children or mothers are not in an earthly body to celebrate anyway. It is my great hope that we can celebrate this Mother’s Day with tearful smiles and an understanding that the veil is thin, that our loved ones are still our children from their heavenly place, even the ones who were miscarried.

My connection to my daughter is deeper this year. She has been at my side as I wept and wrote her book that will soon be released by White Flowers Press. I have been through another year of milestones without her physical body, but she is here.

One night my son said to me “I feel Mary Rose in my heart. My heart is soooo big from the love of my sister.” She continues to be a part of our family. She continues to be my daughter. She is an intercessor helping us in our daily lives. I won’t be able to hear her whispers over the clatter and chatter in a restaurant, so I will be outside on our Earth celebrating quietly knowing that all life has its purpose and continues far beyond the life of the human body. I will listen to the birds’ songs, and notice the peony about to burst open. I too am open. Mary Rose, come…

 

Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Infant Death will be released later this month by White Flowers Press.

 

International Bereaved Mothers Day, Eastern Orthodox Easter and Mother’s Day

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It is May 1st and I am with my family celebrating Pascha or Easter. According to our tradition the Last Supper was during Passover and so our holiday comes after Passover each year. It is also International Bereaved Mothers Day, a holiday meant to support women whose children have died, started by Carly Marie. Today women who have faced miscarriages, the death of a child or infertility will be nurtured and remembered. Our Mother’s Day holiday excludes many including the infertile and bereaved, so Carly Marie started this new holiday. However, I’m not so sure that another holiday is what we need. Instead we can open our hearts as a community and remember those around us who suffer from losses with those who have not. If we are united as a community then my own grief is your grief, and we can share in love and joy and sadness together.

As I stood in front of the altar of Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York, this morning, I lit one candle for the dead on one side of the holy doors and one candle for the living on the other side, my two children. I thought about my trisomy 18 communities and all the babies who died in the last few weeks. Some were born still, some lived for a moment. I remembered International Bereaved Mothers Day and I had to step outside the side door of church to catch my breath. I have been walking between the living and the dead for so long now it seems that the veil between the worlds is permanently thin. I live in a space with my living and my dead.

Next Sunday, May 8th, is Mother’s Day in the United States. I will stay home with my son and garden and go for a walk. I will remember Mary Rose and my son next Sunday, as I do every day. I cannot separate my own role as a mother to that of a bereaved mother today to celebrate Carly Marie’s day of remembrance, and then celebrate as a joyful mother of a living child next Sunday. I am one woman, and I wish that our culture could operate as one body where we can share our lives with our fellow co-workers, parishioners, friends, family, etc.

Who is the God does wonders? we sang in church today. Our God, our God, our God is so great who does wonders, we reply. Is Mary Rose a wonder of God? Is my dear, living son? I rejoice often that I was chosen to bear Mary Rose, and the grief that I live with, and will continue to live with, is the price I pay for being her mother. I rejoice often for my dear son.

We also sang Let us embrace each other joyously! this morning. This is my hope and my prayer for Pascha, for Mother’s Day. I pray that we can embrace each other joyously in both our sorrows and our joys. I pray that we develop communities that support each other united as one body, instead of comfortably staying in our cliques and rejoicing with new mothers of healthy living children while bereaved mothers and infertile women feel marginalized. We cannot only support people in their joy. We cannot only offer condolences in the aftermath of tragedy. Grief takes time to work itself through. We are all a part of this earth at this particular moment in time, and we can only heal together. May we learn to sit with each other in sorrow and in joy. May we offer love and tea. May it be so every day of the year.

 

For last year’s post Mother’s Day for the Bereaved click here: http://www.diannavagianos.com/blog/?p=95 I discuss celebrating with our loved ones who have died and connecting with their spirits.