Forget Your Perfect Offering – 10/23/15
Six years ago, I had a miscarriage that rocked my world with the simple, straightforward grief of it. The unexpected loss of potential we were only just beginning to process. The depth of feeling for this being who was barely bigger than a grain of rice. The ocean of tears I cried every night for a week, filling up our bedroom, setting us afloat as we held onto each other like life preservers. The puzzle of how we could be so separate in our sadness while we lay heart to spine, our fingers pressed together like coral reefs. For months, there would be days where I caught myself only going through the motions, barely present, hands pressed over my belly in a desperate attempt to deny its emptiness, and I would be stunned all over again by how much it hurt. I healed eventually, we always do, but it was a dark winter. When summer came, I would sit in the sunshine, and think of that Leonard Cohen lyric
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
A month ago, I had a miscarriage that rocked my world with the way it barely registered, a 2.9 on the Richter scale, “felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings.” I was four days late, I hadn’t even tested yet because I just knew. I fell into a fitful sleep after sending my oldest to school, and it happened the way it happens so many months — a dream of blood followed by a first day flow like molasses. But by evening, it was everywhere, and I stood in my bathroom, holding the end of this particular path in a hand stained scarlet…and felt nothing. It could have been a pebble, it could have been a star, it could have been anything that mattered to me in that moment and it still wouldn’t have mattered.
Because the only thing of any importance that night was that my mom was dying downstairs. I didn’t know how close it was, yet, I couldn’t know that less than twenty-four hours later, I would be without a mother, rudderless, utterly at sea. Her cancer a cannonball, a direct hit tearing through the sails of my soul. I found myself looking out across the horizon for something to hold on to, mouthfuls of tears filling my lungs, the burning beat of a heart with no air. Pulling these tired limbs up out of the water, washed up on the shore of somewhere empty, but achingly familiar. Words falling flat on paper, ashes made of mountains: after dinner, I passed a huge clot of tissue and blood. a tiny death, a palm of unspoken promise. this is my life, in this season of grief. And it was. And it is. It was a crack, a deep one.
Yet another crack this morning, sitting on a cold toilet seat, slants of early morning sunlight creeping in around the windowpane. Miscarriages can wreak havoc on your hormones in subsequent cycles — I’d been halfway convinced I was pregnant again, allowing myself tiny slivers of hope here and there, babies coming to me in my sleep breathing their names in my ear. Symptoms I hadn’t had in years showed up in spades. The drive to create life again in the face of death is fierce, and I clung to the possibility of it in the darkest hours of the night, the whispers of this old house a lullaby.
But I knew last night when I went to bed: the heavy pelvis, the aching sacrum. I woke up with that peculiar sense of loss that accompanies most months on mornings like this — the biological imperative denied, how it sits in your heart like a stone — and I cried with ugly abandon. I cried for my mom. I cried for that first miscarriage and for the second that I barely had time to acknowledge. I cried for promises broken and plans gone awry and I went ahead and cried for myself, for once, at last, I let pity for the lost parts of me wash through my bones like salt water in a wound.
I’m so sorry you are entirely motherless, self.
I’m so sorry you are entirely fatherless, self.
I’m so sorry you are two babies short, self.
I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
And I don’t know, there’s some kind of magic in apologizing to yourself for things you can’t control. It’s permission to grieve in wholly unlovely ways. It’s offering a handkerchief you know you’re not going to get back. It’s not minding snot stains on your shirt. It’s saying, unreservedly, yes, this is terrible, and not following it up with a “but…” It’s accepting that some valleys go on for miles and miles but if you squint your eyes and look really hard, you can still see the mountains. It’s being still and knowing that this, all of this, is how the light gets in.
And I am one bright motherfucker.