Tears of Rachel

*This was the first essay among quite a few essays on motherhood I wrote, my main technique in writing always being to write as much as I possibly can for a few days and then slog thru it all later to see if any of it is worthwhile. Staying on track has always been a bit difficult for me, and this particular piece ended up a bit overtly religious for the essay's (secular) purpose, and was therefor scrapped even though it is my favorite of the bunch. But my heart has been with it the past few weeks anyways. Unwilling to let go.

I would have been due this month, had I not miscarried last June.

It's funny how the heart counts the days, even when the body has stopped.

Anyways, in honor of my child that was not.

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"Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they were not." Jeremiah 31:19

The most heartbreaking thing about miscarriage, I have unfortunately been privy to find, is that no one, not even the sufferer, is ever quite sure how to phrase what, and therefor how much, was lost. Was it an embryo? Was it a baby? Was it, and this hit me like a wall of cold air, simply medical tissue? Having no words for it somehow makes it worse. Maybe that's because I am a writer, and it is thru words that I navigate this life. Clumsy. Slow. First in person and then again thru words.

When it comes to miscarriage there are just...no correct words.

No one knows what to say, how to mourn, or how to measure your mourning when there is nothing to shroud, nothing to bury, and no rites of passage to be said. It is all too vague, neither medicine nor religion giving clear lines to follow. What has been lost? Was it a child or just the expectation of a child?

The doctors, they parse their labels out according to when exactly in development "the loss" has happened; embryo, chemical pregnancy, fetus, clinical spontaneous abortion. Their terminology has always meant little to me; their cold and technical mummering completely outside of my experience. I never got any further than "loss".

All I ever knew was that I had lost.

I was Rachel, weeping for my children that were not, refusing to be comforted. I was Martha, leaving my sister behind at the mourning house to proclaim, "Lord if thou hadst been here..." Lord, if though hadst only been here... I was Job, tearing my robe. Shaving my head. Falling down to the ground.

I know the feeling of empty arms, of an empty womb. I know the salt tears that wont stop running, and the painful knowledge that where once two hearts beat in rhythm now there was only one. I know what it means to be numb. What it means to cry in bed with my husband, wrapped around each other and lost in a sea of grief.

But I also know to keep reading. That grief is never, can never be, the whole story. I know that Job, having fallen to the ground, commenced to worship, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taketh away," he wept, "blessed be the Lord."

I know that Martha, running to meet Jesus at the city gate in her desperation to cry out, "Lord if thou hadst been here!" was not an accusation but a proclaimation of her faith. "I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give thee." she said.

And I know the same. I have made my peace with my Maker and with my fractured body. I wept but I also was soothed.

And of course I know that Rachel, the barren and weeping Rachel... eventually she was given two sons.

And then, so was I. I am the mother of two, perfectly healthy, and more than perfect sons.

But in the most secret corner of my heart. That corner where we mothers of miscarriage take our unborn dead to bury, I am the mother of five children.

Because, even though no one knows what to call it, what terminology is correct, or what it all means, five times life quickened in my womb. Only twice did I cradle a newborn babe in my arms, only twice did I feed that child of my breast, and only twice was I privledged to experience the sharp pain/joy of gradual seperation that is watching that child grow up. But five times I was a mother.


The Butterfields said...

Very well written. Tears in my eyes. I remembered Martha after my miscarriage and thinking the exact same thing. Every time someone asks how many kids I have, I say 3, but my head is silently screaming FOUR. I don't think anyone can possibly understand the pain and loss of a miscarriage but another woman who has had one. Harry reminds me often that we had another baby and he's in heaven with my mom right now, who never got to be a grandmother, and that makes it hurt a tiny bit less.

Anonymous said...

I miscarried eight years ago and although it was before I knew I was pregnant, I felt a great loss. To make matters worse, the doctor spoke to me about the "tissue" and even after I told him that while I understood he didn't consider it a baby, I did and he should speak to me as such. I later switched doctors. Having those around me who sympethized with my loss helped.

Joanna said...

ooops...this is Joanna (above post)

Mel said...

This is so touching and beautiful...

Jennifer said...

I really love this! You are a very tallented writer and have made me feel a flood of emotions. I hope you get to read this piece.

Ann Imig said...

I've never heard/seen that quote from Rachel.


Yes. I have felt this too. Two healthy boys, and a first I'll never know--almost exactly 8 years ago, and today is my 7 year olds first son's birthday.

Thank you.