The below was written by Bridget Rush Garavaglia.
A few days after learning of our second-trimester loss of our son, Josiah, my husband, two-year-old son and I were walking down the street. My belly was swollen, and a mentally ill woman passing us said emphatically, “Ah, look at the happy family of four!” In angst, my husband and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows, shrugged and went on. “If only she knew what we were going through,” I thought smugly. Looking back now, I realize that she did know. We were a happy family of four. We still are. However, not everyone “sees” Josiah the way I do, I have to use my heart to feel him. I have to open myself to his spirit in order to hear his messages, have a relationship with him, to be his mother.
It has been almost four years since we learned that our baby died due to a partial-molar pregnancy. Relief comes after having worked through the most confusing and sorrowful emotions that came the first few years after the loss. I am touched with comfort now when I think of the deep love that people offered me at the time. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with my needs, get support, and validate the fact that we did have a son.
After learning about our loss, I came home and flopped into a chair in our living room. My state of shock led me to some familiar rituals that comforted me in the past. I reached over and opened the family bible sitting on our bookshelf and opened it. I read of a son named Josiah, and I knew that we had a boy, even before the doctor’s confirmation. It’s nice to know that I can trust my instincts and the signs around me.
The next morning, I knelt on my yoga mat, as I always started my day, in prayer. I felt the warmth of the sun, a light warming me and I heard his voice say, “Mom, I’m happy now.” I questioned whether that voice was merely a figment of my imagination. When I confided my question to a good friend, she, in tears, replied, “You know that voice was real.”
Support was essential to me at the time of my loss. I was fortunate that a dear friend worked for Share and introduced me to the staff and the support groups. I was able to sort through the layers of confusion and pride with loving caregivers. My husband and I were able to create a farewell ritual presided by a trusted friend and attended by family. I worked on art for the program; my husband chose readings and a park setting where he felt his presence. We felt good about honoring Josiah in this way.
My relationship with Rob, my husband, was integral to my healing. He handled the crisis with calm and acceptance, which are qualities I admire in him. We were able to share our reactions and feelings each day and that brought us closer to one another. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I was wheeled away for surgery following the loss. It looked like his energy had been depleted and his countenance showed great concern for me. The strong wave of love that welled up between us was binding. I’m grateful for the tenderness and strength that this experience added to our marriage.
I knew that I needed to get in touch with my body and sit still, so I tried a yoga class. To my surprise, I was blinded by jealousy when I saw a pregnant woman in the waiting room at the yoga studio. Ironically, the teacher for my class began with a quote about a baby in the womb. She was a loving teacher, and she knew about my loss. Although I could not concentrate during the class, during the final resting pose, I felt peace for a moment. Ah! It had been awhile since I’d experienced that. As I was lying on the floor, I felt our son’s spirit lingering above me. And in that moment, I was okay with his spirit being above me …with his spirit being “there” and me being “here.”
I traveled to Denver, CO, soon after our loss and asked a relative if she knew anyone who could help me with my physical healing. She found the perfect match, a Native American Healer and Acupuncturist. Debbie had experienced many miscarriages herself, and her eyes told me of her compassion. She performed a healing ceremony with my husband and I and gave me some herbs for my recovery. She helped me answer some of the questions that were plaguing me. She suggested that I spend time in water, which can elicit joy, in a healing bath, or a swim with my son. Following through on these suggestions gave me comfort and the ability to focus on the present moment as I healed. She gave me hope when she assured me of my son’s continual presence in my life.
Still, the depression that set in as the months wore on led me to my counselor, Heidi. She was a compassionate, feisty woman who was kind and soothing at our first meeting. She said, “I’m going to treat you like a parent who has lost a child, because you are.” It was consoling to be held with such reverence and understanding. She challenged me, “How are you going to be Josiah’s mom?” I set aside time to take walks and contemplate my relationship with him. I was able to voice to Heidi the pains and pleasures of being Josiah’s mom, and it felt good to have a safe haven in her. She said, “It’s like you’re holding a crystal ball and it’s grey…there is both good and bad in this experience.” I claimed the beauty and the heartbreak, and in this truth, I was given the courage to reestablish friends that I had estranged due to my inability to cope with their pregnancies.
I knew the month of Josiah’s due date would be hard. I woke up on the first day of that month with a feeling of dread before I was even fully conscious. I was pregnant with emptiness. Suddenly, my two and a half year old son twitched and sat up startled, asking, “Where’d that baby go, mommy? Where’d that baby go?” He then crawled over to the window, and waved, saying, “Bye-bye baby…bye-bye baby.” Again, he was making his presence known.Although the emotions that followed the loss of our son were heartbreaking, I am so glad that we have him. When I consider the gifts that he brought to our family...those of compassion, the ability to let go, connection and community, I see that who I am today is because of him. As Heidi concluded so precisely one conversation, “And so you go on as family.”