Why I want to write my story about Levi:
I want to write my story because his birth was the most shocking thing that has ever happened to me, something that doesn’t happen to many people. So many parts along the way surprised me.
I was surprised when I met that other woman at the qigong conference who had an almost exactly parallel experience, but was tortured by it. We sat on the floor in the huge convention center room after one of the breathing meditations, and she told me about how her life had derailed and fallen apart after her tiny son was born and died. She was so bitter. I suddenly became aware that how we navigate life matters deeply.
I was surprised that my broken heart connected me to others.. I had previously thought I was alone. But all these people in my life stepped out of the woodwork to show love. People loved me. They cared. They saw. They reached out. I wasn’t an island.
I was surprised by how it opened Jason and I to each other. We were trying to be husband and wife, and it was not turning out to be what I had hoped for or expected. But with this shared life experience, a door opened in each of our hearts and we turned toward each other. We were being rocked to our cores and we found intimacy there.
It surprised me that I wanted to follow Levi and die too.
It surprised me that I didn’t go into the hospital when I was feeling “cramps” every 10 minutes. The word “contractions” only whispered in the back of my mind. I didn’t know what what happening.
It surprised me that the women in my family didn’t say to me that night, “Go in. Now.” Hindsight 20/20 is real. That I needed a doctor wasn’t obvious in real time. That Levi was born too early wasn’t my fault.
I was surprised by my wailing in the hospital room when it was time to say goodbye. That sound. Was mine. I have never been so loud.
I was surprised by my anger at the chaplain. The strength and animal fierceness that rose up in me for those 15 minutes was primal and powerful and didn’t recede until he left my bedside.
I’m surprised by how absolutely joyful we were when we held him, alive. That moment lives on inside me.
I was surprised by the physical sensation of him slipping out of my body. It wasn’t an excruciating crowning, so I really felt it. Like a fish, he slipped out.
I was surprised that my milk dropped and that it was so painful. I felt so alone in my body with Levi no longer there. I don't remember Jason touching me. He took a picture of my large, tight breasts because it was amazing how large they were. They finally approached our culture’s image of what a desirable set of boobs should look like, and he was impressed. I was impressed too, and we laughed about it together. Then I pulled down my shirt again, and winced my way through the day. Engorged breasts are painful.
I was surprised by the gifts of grief. They were everywhere, but two stand out. First, it was the intimacy of seeing people’s hearts and showing mine at last. Being sad together was finally acceptable, and I could be honest, like sadness was my natural language and it finally had permission to come out. The second major gift was slowing down and dropping the hustle, to actually respond to myself with care instead of standing at attention to all the expectations everywhere.
I was surprised to respect myself for the first time, because there was no map for this and I was listening and navigating independently. Living off-map is such a powerful state to be in. The only way forward is to listen deeply and then take the next step. Grieving a baby who was born alive, too early to be helped by modern medicine, wasn’t something I had ever heard of before. There were no footsteps to follow. I was in the dark, earthy underworld of women, where all you can do is listen deeply and respond to what you hear. I found it to be sacred ground.
Then I was surprised that I didn’t want the grief stage to end, but it did. The sacred opening began to close. Jason and I were no longer moving to each other’s side at the dinner table to lay our head on the other’s lap and comfort each other. We no longer welled up looking at each other over dinner as we moved food from the plates to our mouths, chewed and swallowed. We stopped clinging to each other in shared sorrow and began re-entering the world in our very different ways. I grieved for the grief.
Then I was surprised at how the grief would hit me at unexpected times. The smallest thing would shock my heart and I would gush uncontrollable tears in public spaces. It didn’t feel appropriate. I was disabled in this way and just had to accept my loss of control.
I was surprised that the little sleeping santa doll Dr. Gearheardt, my foot doctor, had given me when I was a small child finally made sense. I always loved that funny little doll and at last it had a purpose in my life. I pulled it out of the storage box and slept with Little Santa every night. He was the same size Levi had been.
I was surprised by what people claimed to know, spiritually speaking. Allen, an art teacher I studied with when Jason and I drove off in our orange VW bus for a year, claimed that every soul had a choice about whether to be born or not; that Levi was too high vibrational to live in this world; that he came to us as a gift and then chose to move on. I was referred to an intuitive healer by Allison, a jewelry-maker I worked with during that year we lived in our bus. This intuitive healer claimed to know all the things my body needed in order to replenish. She told me strange things to eat and strange things to bathe in. I bought like 20 boxes of borax and 30 boxes of baking soda and innumerable bottles of hydrogen peroxide. Submerging in these long baths would detoxify my body to prepare the way for another baby, she said. I was baffled, but I did it. The results were good. Someone told me that Levi would return to me in this life, as another child, or grandchild, or…they didn’t know, but that I would encounter his soul again. I find myself wondering still, will I recognize him? Is that even true?
I was surprised by how good mom’s comfort felt and how completely she was there for me.
I was surprised by people’s fear that they might say or do something that would hurt me, like my grief made me fragile, when really I was just in the alternate dimension of sacred ground. I realized that people fear grief and go to truly great lengths to avoid it. What if they knew that grief wasn’t equal to death? That it could be sacred?
I was surprised that I knew with absolute clarity what kind of memorial I wanted. I rarely know anything with absolute clarity.
I was surprised when the word “abortion” entered my own personal sphere; surprised that the beliefs of other people who didn’t even know me were changing what hospital I could go to and how the birth of my first child would unfold. We had to go to a different hospital in order to protect my health. I was surprised that my own life was at stake, and that my ability to have future children depended on getting around abortion laws. But I just went to the other hospital that wasn’t as locked into religious politics. I just paid more money since the second hospital wasn’t covered as fully by my insurance package. It was a small navigation point, thankfully, but one we had to make nonetheless, because of the insanity of people's desire to control life.
I was surprised that I had been prepared for this great loss. I saw later in my journal that the last entry before Levi’s birth was about an Alan Watts interview that had crossed my path. He interviewed a rabbi who’s whole message was that gratitude is the highest act of faith. Gratitude for everything, even the things we might find to be unacceptable, is faith in action that all things are held and guided by the Great Mystery. This was radical and went into me surprisingly deep. I was held and prepared with a practice of gratitude fresh in mind; a navigation system for what was coming.
I need to write my story because I loved Levi and I missed him and my arms longed to hold him afterward. He wasn’t there, so I tended to the rosemary plant from Dan and Brie that sat on the hardwood floor in front of the sliding glass door, amongst all the other flowers that kept getting delivered from so many people.
I need to write my story because I was surprised by the depths of grace and help I experienced through the dark pitfall places. People were there to lift me up when I was getting sucked down. I was able to grab their hand tightly and let myself be lifted back up.
I need to write my story because it changed me and the way I live.
Hi friends and family! This is where I'll share excerpts of my writing and bits about my writing process as I bring it all together into a book . Thank you for sharing in this process with me! Fellow writers, I encourage you to share your words, too. Sharing our writing is an important and generous act. We humans find our way together as we share stories from the heart.