Love Wildly! Love Wildly is an exclusive healing retreat that gives loss-mom's and doula's the tools to stand strong when birth and bereavement meet, opportunities to share personal loss stories, and to learn more about giving support in all birth outcomes. We were taught how to bathe babies born not alive in all trimesters, we discussed options to give mothers whose babies are not going to be born alive- whether that is support, farewell celebrations, etc.., and we were taught how to dig into the muck of loss & shame to find the joy.
The founder of Stillbirthday, Heidi Faith, came all the way to Germany to lovingly host this workshop. Heidi is a one-in-a-lifetime kind of person- she exudes light & love! Meeting her and being invited into her personal story of loss was such a privilege, and the light she exuded will stay with me for the rest of my life! She is an instrument of God and you know it the second you meet her!
I volunteered to take pictures for the event because I wanted to practice and because I take pictures of everything (I'm kind of obnoxious like that). I was discouraged on Saturday because I only managed to get a few okay pictures, despite the incredible amount of sunlight in the room we were in, but on Sunday I seemed to get into a groove and had better luck. I am actually really excited and proud of the pictures I managed to get! I've come a long ways in my picture taking and I'm really proud of myself :o) I connected with a wonderful, loving German woman who is getting me started in the German 'Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep' organization (http://www.dein-sternenkind.eu/US/US.php) and hopefully I will start using my loss to help others- maybe my perspective will be comforting...? She thinks I'll be really good at it! I'm excited that she thinks I'll be good at it! I'm too harsh and critical of myself, and I'm so new to taking pictures that I get embarrassed really easily, especially with actual photographer friends peeking at my blog every so often! But I've got to start somewhere, right?
The weekend was filled with healing activities. For one activity, we drew whatever came to mind with chalk on our bodies- reminding us that our children are with God, that our paths are beautiful, and that beauty can come from our pain.
"And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." ~Ecclesiastes 12:7
Ice breaker massages! It was a great visual activity that helped to see how when giving it's okay to receive; that we shouldn't forget about our needs and our comfort when we are in delicate situations like doula'ing a birth of a baby that will not be born alive.
We were taught how to wrap our tummy's! There are lots of different reasons why wrapping the abdominal area is important- supporting a heavy pregnant belly, guiding the muscles back into place if there is Diastasis, and, sometimes, our uterus needs a hug.... except mine, because mine is just a b*tch.
In between activities we were given opportunities to share our stories of loss (I managed to boo-hoo my way through mine) and in those stories we formed a bond that will last a lifetime! I was surrounded by women who have suffered loss in all sorts of ways, and their strength was astounding!
Barbara Martin attended Love Wildly and I have to tell you... she is a trailblazer in the German pregnancy loss community! Her & her husband have lost 3 children, at the time of their losses German law dictated that babies born less than 500 grams were not considered human, only tissue, and not documented in any way.... in the eyes of German law those babies did not exist.
Barbara and Mario Martin got a petition signed with over 40,000 signatures to change the law so that the decision on whether the baby exists or not is left up to the parents. Think about that number for a second... 40 thousand signatures. 40 thousand people affected by stillbirth. 40 thousand people affected by stillbirth in Germany, alone.
And they did it! They changed the law! Now, families that have lost their infants weighing less than 500 grams can add their children to their family books- families that lost their babies 20 years ago can now add their children to their family books! This is just INCREDIBLE! What an honor to meet her and hear her story!
Bathing a baby born not alive is much different than if the baby is alive, I'm sure you can imagine that it is a much more delicate process; learning how to do this was essential for our training. Look, I know that the thought of a baby not alive is a tough thought to put in your head, and especially on your heart, but it is an absolute essential aspect of our job and training. The baby mannequin ("Sam") is a medically accurate baby of 25 weeks gestation- about the same size as my son, just a little bigger.
If you've been reading my blog for a little while you know about my story, and I'm sure you know that Eric & I suffered our 5th miscarriage last month. I have carried the sorrow and shame of pregnancy loss since the stillbirth of my son almost 13 years ago. I have navigated the path of losing a child mostly alone since that day and I've done a pretty terrible job of it. Love Wildly helped me to navigate my loss story and I came to realize that I have allowed shame to steer me on my path, and so many times that shame gave way to bitterness.
I think it is so unfair that my son died. It is so unfair that I have to miss out on a lifetime of being a mother to him, when my entire being longs to just... be... his mother. I think it is so unfair that Eric and I have had to watch four heartbeats stop beating and not be able to do anything to bring them back. All Eric wanted in those moments was to fix his babies, but he couldn't, there was nothing he could do and it broke him, and I think that that is so unfair. I think it is so unfair that Eric and I will never have a biological child together.
Being a little bitter is a normal part of grief- but I have let it cloud my eyes to God's plan more than I'm afraid to admit. I have fueled that bitterness every time someone said something stupid like "God needed another angel," or when other women have kept their distance from me at get-togethers because you know...I'm the one with a poisonous uterus and it might be contagious.
Yes, I look for the joy, yes, I pray...constantly, but I'd be lying to you if I told you that I didn't hurt so immensely a good majority of my days, and I HATE that pain. I just. want. my son. Combine that hate with bitterness, shame, & a deeply broken heart and welp... you've got a very broken lady sitting here.
Digging through the muck of shame to find the rainbow!
On good days, I have mistook bitterness for strength and gone about my day thinking I wasn't doing half bad, all the while being mostly just pissed that my heart hurt so much. On bad days, I'm just a wreck. I have allowed the bitterness of losing 5 pregnancies hold me up and be my foundation because I hurt too badly to dig through the muck that was created after the death of my first child to see any good anywhere. I let the shame of his death prevent me to see that God had placed my feet on a very sacred and special path. I let the stupid comments like "your baby is in a better place" (because you know... my arms are not a good enough place for him to be) make me feel shameful enough to not talk about my son for years.
I know that I will always struggle with our losses, it just is what it is, but what I know now that I didn't before is how to dig through the muck when I am struggling so that I don't hurt quite as much! I learned how to focus on my emotions in a healthy way, I learned that I am not alone, and I learned that my son is precious to so many people- he is precious to an entire community! Do you know how valuable that is?!
I am not alone and pregnancy loss is a worldwide issue... think about that for a second....worldwide. Pregnancy loss is not just something you hear about every once in a while, I am not the only person you know that has had miscarriages, it is happening every day, in every country. We walk among you. This means that support and compassion towards the pregnancy loss community is essential! Laws are being changed, guys! Laws are being changed! Laws are being changed because a loss-couple did not allow shame to silence their cause!
For me, Love Wildly and the women I met was a magical combination! I feel stronger today. My life is forever changed because of this incredible community. Heidi Faith, Stillbirthday, and loss survivors have given me the strength I never knew I had! And for the FIRST time my son's existence was alive!