My marriage collapsed.
I lay in my bed shaking, gasping for these tiny, fast breathes,staring off at the ceiling. Gone but so terribly here. This is it. Here I am, letting go of the end of the rope I have been clinging to.
I woke him up, because he was able to sleep somehow that night, and told him he needed to take me to the hospital. I couldn’t survive this. I am now officially broken, not just my heart, but my spirit. I can take no more. He rolls over to me and puts his arms around me and reassures Vesta that everything is ok. I can hear almost nothing as I am underwater. There is a part of me that is worried, I don’t want her to see me this way, I don’t want her to be scared but all of that is too far away, I can’t reach it, I can’t bring it to the front. I am breaking apart, crumbling. He is talking to me, trying to explain, saying the things that have saved him in the past. I can’t hear him anymore, I can’t understand his words except that I was right every time. He is explaining and I am realizing how very, very far from myself I have come to make this work. To not lose my love, to not have lost our son and then each other, to not make it through this, to not put Vesta through another trauma. I tried and he has sucked every last ounce of will from my body.
“You have to take me to the hospital. I can’t do this.”
He keeps holding me and whispering to me and I begin to be able to breathe and the shaking subsides but eyes will not engage with the world. He gets up to do something for Vesta. I think, “I’m either going to work or going to the mental hospital.” As the panic subsides, this becomes my mantra: “Go to work or go to the hospital, go to work or go to the hospital.” Live or die.
“Go to work. Get up and go to work”, says this voice inside me that is not me but that speaks to me in these moments. In the weeks that followed Harvey’s death it spoke to me through the numbness and shock: “Go to Nia. Write a book. Adopt a baby.” I heard it then, when I thought I was fully shattered, and I listened. I knew it was showing me the path through this. And here it was again: “Go to work. Get up and go to work.” I thought, as I lay there in timelessness, “Yes. Go to work. Vesta needs you. Vesta needs you to be able to support yourself. Get up and go to work.”
Trembling and crying, I got up and dressed and put on makeup. I swept up the pieces and dumped them into the shell of my body and got there somehow and saw my clients somehow and when they had left, L came and held me as I cried and stared off into nothing and babbled on in shock on the floor of the spa. I am familiar now with shock and, this time, I knew I was in it. I knew this was the easy part. Some very rational, reasonable part of my brain began preparing: “Call Papa and ask him to find a hosipital for you to go to. You can barely take care of Vesat right now with your grief. Now this. You cannot take care of even yourself anymore. Call Papa and tell him you need help, at least outpatient. This is unsurvivable.” And then the irrational, that felt incredibly sane and logical: “Vesta will be fine without you. Better to have no mom than a shell of a mom. Then a broken, lost, non-functional mother to just fuck her up. It’s okay if you die. You can kill yourself and she will be all the better for it.” The rational planner comes back in and I tell L we need to set up a suicide watch. I have to have someone available to me all the time. I’m not going to make it through this.
She also talked to me. Told me things to help me stay here. Made sense. Empathized, loved, supported. But I was still underwater. I still couldn’t hear. Even if I could none of it would make sense. I spent the rest of the evening trying to enjoy the shock while I could. Waiting for the terrible moment when the true gravity of this would crush me.
The next day, I got up and went to work again. Trembling and crying, I got dressed and put on makeup and got to work somehow. I talked to M and I got angry. Really, really angry. I felt the fire of betrayal and the inability to communicate and listen and hear all around me and it burned inside my chest, it flared into my eyes, it energized me with a passion and furvor. Why could no one hear me? How could I let this go so far? Where are the people who are supposed to love me the most in this moment?
I was late now. Spending too long on the phone. I stormed into the lobby of the spa where everyone was waiting. They felt me come in before I was there. They were taken a back by the fire they saw. I wanted to say let’s just do this shit and get it over with. But it was a room full of people I didn’t know, save but one, and they were here to do a ceremony, a blessing on our business. They were here to do some woo-woo mojo and clear out the bad energies in the spa and bring in the good and help us get more of what we want from our work. It was bullshit and the last place I wanted to be: talking about patterns that are keeping us from what we want, places we feel stuck, setting intentions for what we want, creating with our words and thoughts the life and work we desire. Bullshit. I used to believe in all of that stuff and then my son died and I almost died and they couldn’t save my uterus and now my partner has abandoned me again. Fuck creating. Fuck your feathers and stones and sage burning. Fuck your ability to be able to believe that we have any power, any control, that there are forces working to keep us safe and bring us what we want. Let the path of your life that you have seen so clearly, that you have planned on without waiver for years literally disintegrate in front of your eyes and then tell me about your power, about the benevolence of the universe.
But. But I had agreed to be apart of this ceremony. A shamanic business blessing. Five women dressed in flowing skirts and tops, neck draped with amulets and satchels containing stones and talismen, were floating through the space, setting up and preparing. I am used to feeling outside of everything, apart from the rest of the world by now. I am used to just “doing what the humans do” even though so much of what other people find meaningful, what I used to find meaningful and inspiring, is like a foreign language to me. I know some of the words but the weight and signfigance are absent. Black hole absent. I do it anyway. I take that fire and I let it burn away the doubt and the resistance and I allow myself to particpate in what I committed to particpating in.
The have set up an altar. A large, Peruvian, woven blanket is on the floor, covered in precious stones and rocks, tiny statues of animals, gods and goddesses, shells, dry sage leaves, bells, rattles and feathers. They are creating a sacred space. A place where the light can come in, where we will sit and stay present and grounded and connected to the Earth plane while the shamans gallop off into the ether and heal our spa, the building, the land underneath it and the sky above it. They shake rattles made from shells and deer toes and call in spiritual allies, guides, angels and energies to help and support us during this ceremony. They beleive in this and I half-heartedly shake some bells. I close my eyes and breathe and practice being present. Not off with Harvey, not worrying about Vesta, not trying to understand what the fuck has happened to my marriage. I sit quietly for the first time in forever and reach around for the places of me that aren’t broken, for the shards and hold them closely and tightly and try to get through this.
The shamans go off into the space, burning what seems to be an entire sage bush and drumming an endless, strong and loud beat, like horse hooves, literally for hours. thos of us at the altar sit and talk and sing and try not to get lost in the beat of the drum. I start to move my body as I sit on the floor. I start to stretch and roll back and forth on the base of my pelvis and all of the sudden, I recognize the sensation in my hips. Wait. These are my hips. This is what my hips feel like when I move them this way and that way. Wait. These are my shoulders, rolling down and away from ears. This is spine curving up to the sky. All of the sudden, I recognize my body again. I have been living in this body, 5’1″ and 182 pounds of stranger. Nothing has felt the same since Harvey died. Nothing. I struggle to get up off the floor when playing with Vesta. I am swollen and puffy and fat and I don’t know who that is when I look in the mirror. I dance and go to yoga and walk and do all of these things in this creaky, tight, heavy body that is not my body. That I have begun to accept as my new body, my new, old-woman body that will not recover from the loss of my child, from birthing a baby who was dead and nearly bleeding to death on my bed while I wailed for my baby and then again on the operating table when they cut me, again, deep and wide, to save my life. Oh how I have cursed those doctors in the last 30 hours. How I have cursed my son for leaving my body in a way that stopped the bleeding the first time. Oh how much I have longed to have left with him or six months later in surgery and be spared this most recent devastation and all the months before, for that matter.
But now. Now, I feel my body again, as if it is mine. And slowly but surely, I begin to recognize my thoughts. I begin to recognize how I feel. I am not just remembering and recalling who I was. For the first time in 13 months, I am feeling it, I am experiencing it, I am recognizing myself from the inside. Nothing has changed: I am carrying the weight of my body, the seemingly endless losses that keeping coming like ocean waves in a tropical storm, knocking me down again and again and again, just when I think I’ve got some footing. And yet, something has profoundly changed. I say out loud, “I feel like like myself again.” And again and again I keep repeating, “You guys, I feel like myself again. I feel like myself again.” It is already a surreal experience, this altar, these shamans, the lure of that incessant beat to take the mind into a trance but the strangest feel, the most out of this world experience that I am having is feeling like myself again. I can’t stop saying it and the more I say it and the more I feel it, coming back into my body, recognizing myself like an old, old friend who I thought had left to never return, I begin to feel excited, elated, ecstatic. “I feel like myself again.” I have missed me. I have been gone and now, now I am coming back. I don’t know what is happening or how and I don’t care. I don’t care if I only feel this way for a few minutes. I don’t care if the drumming stops and I return to my “new normal”. I’ve been myself for a few hours and I want to stay. I want to stay here and I want to live. I want to be alive again. I want to look to the future and feel hopeful and inspired and connected. And I do. In an instant, I am back and I recognize myself for who I am fully. All of my intricacies, all of my quirks and flaws and strength and conviction. I can feel it in every cell. I am buzzing. I am alive. I am back.
The shaman comes into the room and calls my name, curse and and sharp she says “Monica.” and motions me to follow her. I enter the hallway with her and the drummer and I stand there eyes closed facing her as she billows sage up and down my body and fans me with feathers, all the while the drum of the horses hooves are right behind I close my eyes and I feel my heart…
When Vesta was born, when they put her in arms in the recovery room after the c-section, even in my aenesthetic state, I had a physical expereince of my heart center expanding. Inches from the center of my chest, I felt a force field of pure, divine love expand the space around my heart. It grew to be able to hold this baby, this being, my child inside of it. The love is so great when you hold your child for the first time that room must be made and I was lucky enough to physically feel that energetic expansion.
I held Harvey in the NICU, facing the wall because all of the tubes and wires didn’t allow me to hold him facing out. I stared at the beeping machines and the flashing lights and the medical equipment hung on the wall and I began to understand that my baby was going to die. And I felt that very same feeling except it’s exact opposite. Except that the force field around my heart tore apart. It was painful this time, I could feel each fiber being torn away from the others, like flesh being ripped apart. I felt my heart break as much as it had expanded and I recognized it. I remembered the feeling I had holding Vesta and now this feeling I had holding Harvey and knew right there and then in the fog and shock of the NICU, that my heart had literally been broken, torn through it’s center leaving ragged edges of grief and emptiness.
I stood in the hallway of my spa, being fanned and saged and for the third time in my life, I felt that space in front of my chest as a physical sensation. I felt it slowly but surely, mend. The gaping hole began to diminsh and close, the ratted edges moved closer and closer to each other and healed back together. Not like flesh, not leaving a scar, not a slow knitting together with extra tissue to reinforce. No. The tattered edges of my energetic heart sunk back into themselves. Where it was torn and now reunited, I felt for several moments a glowing, strong pulse, the fabric of this healing stronger than before and then, then it was over. Then I stood there and was whole again. Then my son, my dear, precious baby who had left me too soon, he moved into my heart. I felt him enter and snuggle into the space where his sister lives, too. Where no matter what happens to her, if by a final twist of horrible fate I lose my daighter as well, where she will always live. The essence, the purity of my children, both of them, moved into that space, that pure, divine, motherly love where they are safe and whole and here and cannot be lost. Both of them. Both of them. I have both of them in my heart. Where they belong.
The Shaman said nothing. She said “Done.” and then called the name of the next person to receive her individual healing as part of this blessing. I walked back to the front room and the altar and I said, “That was amazing.” I sat back down and I understood what had happened to me. On that day, April 28th in the middle of the day, my heart tore apart and I left. My baby was going to die and I was his mother and I was going with him. He is my baby and a baby needs his mother. So, I left. A part of me flew out of that whole in my heart to be with him when he got there, wherever “there” is. And I stayed there and I held on to me and he and I lived in both worlds for the past 13 months. And I set up an altar and had ceremonies and got tattoos and wrote this blog and wore jewelery to try to stay connected to him. My husband would say that we all we ahd was his memory to protect and I would think and sometimes say, “No! He is our child and we need to parent him. he is not a memory. We have so few memories of him He needs us to care for him and bring him with us into everything we do.” and my husband would say to me “Vesta is the one who is here and we have to take care of her.” And I would think and sometimes say, “No. They both need us.” I would think, say and beleive this becasue I was living here and I was living there. Because I was tethered to him and he to me. Because I was keeping a person who was not here, here and I was letting myself live partially in a realm that is beyond our comprehension. In that moment, in that miracle moment of healing, I came back. I let go of that rope, that tie, that anchor that bound me to my son and he did the same and we became free of each other. I instantly became able to be his mother and he my son. I instantly became able live in the world again, to make myself and my daughter the priority, to stop parenting someone who doesn’t need to be parented but to remain connected to him. To feel him all around me and inside my heart and guiding my way. I have what I can only describe as a healthy and full connection to the being who came into this world as my son and then swiftly left.
My grief is utterly and fully transformed. I am not angry, resentful or jealous of pregnant women, babies and toddlers. I ask mothers the age of their children who look about Harvey’s age and I smile now instead of take to my bed, imaginng that he would be smiling and laughing and stumbling through his first steps. I have not returned to my support group, to which I went religously, every two weeks for 13 months. I am geninunl;y happy for people who are pregnant or who have a new baby. I can hold them, be around them, coo and gush over them and my heart does not fall to pieces. I will grieve. I will grieve for the rest of my life. I will miss my son and I will wish he was here and I will wonder what he would be like. I will cry and wail and bemoan my plight but not the way I have this year. Not forcing it out onto the world but owning it. Feeling it as my loss, my own unique loss of Harvey Richard Walker, who I wanted, who we conceived on purpose and with great intention. I will greive only for myself and only for that one person who I will never know, who I will never see grow. It is mine and mine alone and by some miracle, by this actual miracle I experienced, I have felt no greater relief than this ownership, than this knowing that is now fully mine and mine alone.
The drumming stopped and we all gathered around the altar and I told them all of this. I told them that I had come back into my body, that I had released my son from his tether to this Earth, that I was myself again and that I was done with all that has hindered and hurt and made worse my grief at my husband’s hand. I told them that in only moments I was free of both my son and my husband. From he who I was to protect and couldn’t and from he who was to protect me and didn’t. They told me that I had experienced what is called an instant soul retrivial which none of them had ever seen, but only heard was possible. The woman who was drumming told me that during my healing in the hallway the Universal Mother, the mother of all of us came there with us. She said that she knows me and she knows my pain. That she feels my exact pain every time one of her children, every time any human, dies. That she is drawing strength and learning from me and that I am drawing strength and learning from her. That we are one. That we are the mother of all mothers. That we have this burden to bear and to transform and to bring good and light and healing into the world because of it. The shaman said she implores me to go out into the world and share myself with it and though no mother who has a lost a child believes she will ever recover, that no mother who ever lost a child will truly ever recover, but that what I am here for is to remind them, us, myself that the impossible is possible. That loss and love are the same. That expansion and tearing apart are the same. They are two leaves sprouted from the same root.
I don’t know how this will come about. I don’t know what my life path will look like and I am not searching for it. I am trusting. I am allowing the path that I thought I was on, the one with two living children, without a wound that won’t heal in my uterus, with a family intact who welcomes another child by some other means, I am aloowing that path to disappear and I am trusting I will step onto a path that leads me into the unkown. A path that I do not envision where it meanders it way to, nor what I find along the way. I have a compass now. My heart center talks to me everyday and I follow that. I listen now, openly and fully, to what it says. To when it feels right and when it feels wrong and go towards the right, even when that feels wrong. Even when the rest of my human self protests with every cell. Now, I listen to my heart and I let it guide me, without a plan, without a vision, but with an intention to let myself unfold