Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday Reading

Not so long ago, something happened to me for the very first time: my writing was published in a book. I’ve hardly spoken about this to anyone, mostly because the past year of our lives has been all upheaval and traveling and new experiences and adventures. I just haven’t had the time or energy to focus on the release of the book. Inevitably there’s the other reason too: an essay I wrote about my miscarriage was published in a book of essays on infertility and miscarriage. So that’s a bit of a downer: saying with excitement, “I’m going to be published!” Oh?! What for? “Well, I wrote about my miscarriage….” and then no one knows whether to be happy for your accomplishment or to offer their condolences for your loss. 

Emails and updates came from the editor, but it wasn’t until our most recent trip to Los Angeles that I found the book waiting for me at our old address, packaged in a brown manila envelope. I instantly liked the way it felt in my hands, and commented to Sean, “Ah, the type! The type is perfect.” That has always seemed most important to me—how does one enjoy even a well-written book when the physical form of the words is ugly? Then I saw my name in print, read my own words back to myself, and put the book down—ready to focus on our trip, our friends, and not an old grief.

Flash forward to today: Holy Saturday. A quiet day. A day of waiting. A day to be still and watch the sunlight move across the carpets and painted walls and to read, and pray, and wonder. The book, sitting on our coffee table, caught my eye and I picked it up, finally, to read in its entirety. 

This book seems to me the right book to read on such a day. Personally, I am no longer in the Good Friday agony of my grief over the loss of our baby. The blood, the death, the fear of Good Friday and of our miscarriage have subsided into quiet, bittersweet memories that simply sit, still, within me, as we sit still on Holy Saturday and wait. Sean and I haven’t had anymore pregnancies and so we do not yet know the metaphorical joy of Easter and new life in this child-bearing area. Holy Saturday fits my place right now: not grieving, not joyous, just waiting and still, wondering what is to come; hoping, but for what? 

The book I am published in is called Not Alone, but it’s original title was Empty, which—while definitely bleak—I appreciated because the only adjective I had to describe how I felt after my miscarriage was that: empty. I had been full, full with life, and now I was empty; there was nothing inside. I took many months, if not a year, to grieve the loss of our child, and while I did it felt like the emptiness inside me grew to the size of a cathedral, opening up spaces inside of me that I did not know existed. And then, as so often happens with grief, one day that emptiness inside of me was just space—space that allowed me to breathe more deeply, to see more clearly, to welcome others into my heart and home and to empathize with their pain in a way I hadn’t before. My emptiness, those vast caverns and soaring ceilings, weren’t so much filled as they were transformed. And I gave thanks. 

When I think of the future, much is hidden, but I know a few things:

First of all, a tiny piece of me will always remain hollow due to the loss of my first child. I look at my friends’ children and I wonder what our baby’s personality would’ve been like, the person he would have become, and I know that is lost to me forever on this earth and that is a real loss. I have to name it and accept it and sometimes ache for it. Our baby, who we believe was a boy, would’ve been four years old this month. Four years is a long time without someone you love. 

Secondly, if I do at some point in the future carry another child within me, I will do so with a heightened sensitivity to those who feel empty in this area. There is simply too much regard for the joyous fullness of motherhood and not enough respect and empathy for the utter barrenness some women (and men) experience. And really what is more valuable? To be empty? To be full? What gives us worth? What helps us be better to one another? What makes us human? It’s certainly not an either or situation and giving birth to a biological child is not the only way to experience motherhood, to be maternal, or to act in a way that is life-giving to another person.

And the last thing I know, most surely of all, is this: the joy of new life by the birth of a biological child may never come in my life. I have no reason to believe that it won’t (seriously, for all those wondering, we’re not struggling with infertility; we’ve just chosen to put childbearing on hold currently) but this is an uncertain world and I don’t like to count my chickens before they’re hatched. But I know that the joy of Easter will come to me, to my husband, to the children of God no matter what barrenness we experience on this earth. Easter has happened and with it the promise that death holds no power over us because Christ triumphed over death. We get moments and glimpses and sparks of this joy now, and tomorrow we will feast and rejoice and celebrate because Christ is risen and because of his life, we have new life. And tomorrow and every day until we breathe our last, we will hold onto the words of the Creed as we wait in the Holy Saturday of the present and "we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."

We wait in hope, on Holy Saturday, and on all days.